NerdCon: Stories

Hi Tumblr, Ling Space director and co-writer Adele here! I spent last weekend at NerdCon: Stories, which was an absolutely amazing event that I am so glad I got a chance to attend. When I first found out that Hank Green was going to organize something a bit like VidCon but about stories and story telling, I knew I had to go. Stories are how we communicate, and educational video is no exception: every episode, we try to make a thing you’ll walk away from having learned something new, and a lot of my work as director is about fine-tuning the way we tell the tale. Plus, as a speculative fiction author myself, I was excited about the idea of panels and signings with writers whose work I really admire, of which there were a ton on the guest list. So I packed up my stuff and hopped a plane to Minneapolis! (more under the break)

The con lasted two days, and each day had a bunch of mainstage events with a really exciting variety of stories and creators and formats. A few different guests took the stage on the theme of “Why stories matter”, including Hank and John Green, Desiree Burch, and Paul and Storm. Desiree Burch is also one of the amazing people I interviewed for the Ling Space, so look forward to my con report video going up next week on our YouTube channel!

There were smaller panels being held in rooms off the main auditorium, which were both (a) awesome and (b) brutally hard to get into, because of everyone agreeing about how awesome they were. I did get to sit in for one or two of them, including the tail end of a wonderful writer-oriented one with Holly Black, Stephanie Perkins, Lev Grossman, Nalo Hopkinson, and Paolo Bacigalupi, aptly titled “Honing your craft: Embettering your word-doing”. Yessss.

NerdCon also had a signing room, with a pretty solid only-line-up-an-hour-before-no-seriously-shoo system that pretty much prevented people just camping out in the space, so that was good. I’ve basically never gone to signings before, but in this particular case I had a particular goal: I wanted to go tell Hank Green that if he and his brother didn’t do the things they did, like Crash Course and SciShow, then there’s no way Moti and I would be doing what we’re doing. Which, you know, we love doing, so I just wanted to thank Hank for that. And I did!

He also autographed my plushie Hanklerfish’s butt! Yay!

Oh yeah, I also got my programme booklet signed by Lev Grossman’s evil twin. So that was fun.

The last mainstage event of the con was a performance by the New York Neo-Futurists of “Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind”, which I had never heard of before but that my editor friend Arwen recommended with such glee that I had to go check it out, and which was incredible. It’s a fast-paced series of vignettes, written by the cast, presented in an order determined by the audience, often funny, sometimes political, and always powerful. It was an amazing way to wrap up NerdCon Stories, and now that I know they put on a performance of it almost every Friday and Saturday night in New York, I’m definitely going to try to catch it next time I’m in the city.

Why stories matter is something I found myself thinking about again and again during the weekend, and that’s still rattling around in my brain now. I think we underestimate just how much of our daily lives are built out of stories; the way I define myself is a bunch of stories, and the way I think about other people is too. Every worry and anxiety that clamps down on my brain is born from a story I make up, usually not on purpose. Narratives are much more than just creative writing, and my experience at NerdCon really brought that home, both through the events themselves and through the thoughts and conversations that sprung up around them. 

A bunch of us wandered out into the daylight, on Saturday afternoon, and discovered right across from the Minneapolis convention center this amazing construction dubbed mini_Polis. A model of the city out of planks and paint and stencils, it was made by local artists as an interactive space, with chalk lying around so you could add to the message, which NerdCon attendees did with creativity and enthusiasm.

There was also a box there, a weird old arcade cabinet with buttons that didn’t seem like buttons but that started speaking when you pressed them. They spoke with the voices of the people who had worked together to build mini_Polis, people who had lived in the city, and who had filled the arcade cabinet – and the model itself – with their stories. It felt to me like a summation of what NerdCon was about: people are made of stories, and so are cities. I grabbed a piece of pink chalk, and added my part to the message of mini_Polis for that day.

Thanks for all the stories, NerdCon. ❤

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