Using Science Fiction Conventions to Inspire Ideas
Category : Behind the scenes for Readers
By Leslie C. Halpern
As if attending a Star Wars Celebration, Worldcon, Dragoncon, Necronomicon, Comic-Con, MegaCon, or other similar event weren’t inspiring enough, these conventions can inspire out-of-this-world ideas for your writing. The trick is combining your powers of observation with your powers of imagination.
It’s taking a step back and becoming an observer instead of a participant and using your senses to take in the entire spectacle for a different take on what’s happening around you. It’s making connections between dissimilar things that momentarily create meaning. Writing sci-fi convention previews (such as scheduled special guests and presentations) and reviews (including panels, lectures, and exhibits) are standard ways of writing about these events. Try taking it one step further into “What if” territory by elevating the experience to inspire new fiction and nonfiction writing ideas.
A World of Inspiration
Take Worldcon, for example. I was lucky enough to attend the 1992 World Science Fiction Convention (MagiCon) in Orlando, Florida in 1992. I was on assignment for an entertainment publication to cover a meet-and-greet with director Francis Ford Coppola about his newly released movie, Bram Stoker’s Dracula. In addition to the assigned film article, the dynamic atmosphere inspired years of writing ideas, including an article about screenwriting for a writer’s magazine.
The quotations and observations also came in handy when I recently wrote the book Scantily Clad Truths (where I wrote a humorous personal essay describing my weekend at MagiCon), and in my previous books Dreams on Film (where I discussed Dracula’s ability to make victims sleepwalk in a trance) and Passionate About Their Work: 151 Celebrities, Artists, and Experts on Creativity (in which I used Coppola’s direct quotations).
Photo copyright 2009 Leslie C. Halpern. MegaCon costume contest.
Sources for Ideas
- People Watching: Regional fan-based science fiction conventions may attract 5,000 or more people while major international events such as Stars Wars Celebrations often bring in 70,000 fans. Either way, that’s a lot of potential people-watching. Each person has a story – whether you ask for the real one or imagine your own version of it.
- Costume Contest: Sometimes there’s an official contest, and sometimes people just dress up for fun. Does the personality of the character seem to match the person? Does the outfit go with the body type? How much craft went into making the costume? How much creativity went into the concept and design?
- Exhibit Hall: When the event is in full swing (typically on a Saturday), shoppers, sellers, and celebrities (selling their photos, books, and autographs) are most abundant in the exhibit hall. Exhibitors become increasingly desperate to sell their wares as the final day draws near so they can avoid shipping costs and transportation hassles of unsold merchandise. This is the perfect setting to observe, listen, take photographs, jot down notes, ask questions, and talk to as many people as possible.
Science fiction conventions provide terrific sensory stimulation – amid a temporary mass mingling of diverse segments of the population – for generating book, short story, article, essay, and poem ideas. See what inspires your writing at the next convention you attend.
Leslie C. Halpern is an award-winning poet and author of several books, including Scantily Clad Truths (2018), 200 Love Lessons from the Movies (2016), Passionate About Their Work (2010), and Dreams on Film (2003). She has written more than 4,000 articles, reviews, essays and poems for a variety of publishers such as The Hollywood Reporter and Daily Variety. Leslie also teaches a film course in the Senior Tars Enrichment Program at Rollins College.