NerdCon: Stories

How many times can you dream about Patrick Rothfuss before it casts a weird, creepy, shadow over your future best friendship? Asking for a friend.



I saw the announcements for this Con back to back from Pat and Hank Green, two of my most favorite nerd muses. Last June I presented a paper on parasocial relationships in dystopian worlds at a scholarly conference associated with the Anime Convention A-KON in Dallas. So professor me wanted to go.

But I’ve also been working like crazy on this latest novel, and starting projects like Lucky Dark press, and thinking about story phone hotlines and Billy Murray themed adventure dating apps and so creative me wanted to go too.

And then I saw it was in Minneapolis (a place I continually mispronounce MINN-E-AN-APPLE-IS). My cousins moved there about a year ago! I could stay with them! Done and done.

This was one of the most inspiring trips I’ve ever taken, for a number of reasons. I saw people I knew I found inspiring, like Pat, the Brothers Green, Lev Grossman, and Paulo Bacigalupi. I saw people I wasn’t familiar with but who I now find very inspiring like Darin Ross, and Nalo Hopkinson.

The panels went beyond surface things, although there was much levity, and explored topics like how to earn a living as a creative person and what a story teller’s moral duty is to their audience. Here’s some district things I remember:


My cousins were both working when I got into town so I successfully used google maps to navigate the public transportation system to my their apartment. I walked up three flights of stairs to find a lovely place full of books and bikes. All the windows were open because the fall air was perfect. I collapsed on an air mattress and had one of the three best naps of my life.

I woke up right before my cousin, little Ian, came home. He’s called little Ian because my Dad is Big Ian but he’s not very little anymore. He burst in the door in his bike kit with his bike over his shoulder, he carries it up the three wooden flights of stairs every day. He’s all blonde locks and smiles and gives me a huge hug and makes tea because that’s what my family does. I had forgotten all the tea. It’s been too long since I saw most of them. He starts cooking too, pulling a paper recipe card out of a little box as we try and squish five years into minutes of conversation. He is leaning against the counter with the window and the city behind him while we waited for the oven to warm when he interrupts himself in the middle of the sentence because he recognizes his wife’s squeaky bike brakes. Without turning he leans to the side and calls out the window “Hi, Bean!”  and she calls “Hullo!” back up to him. This is one of my newest favorite family memories. And then she’s there too with another bike on her shoulders and there’s more hugging and more tea and more food and I’m in a new place but utterly and completely at home.


Every day at NerdCon stories someone is asked to give a talk about why stories matter. These ranged from very funny to incredibly touching . I was especially impressed with Dylan Marron’s presentation. I was familiar with his “Every Single Word” series which is such a simple and elegant way to illustrate the need for more diversity in stories and movies. I watched the presenters at these talks but I also watched the audience. There were a lot of young people there, but not all young. There were a lot of friends and parents and families and of course I was there alone but I never really mind being alone and especially when my mind is set to full absorb settings. I wander around, listening and thinking, and I have the feeling that all of this is feeding ideas that will emerge fully grown at some point in the future. Walking around, feeling like I’m bursting with things to write and say. This is one of my favorite feelings.


Patrick Rothfuss is a great speaker and a bad moderator. It looks like it pains him to let other people talk sometimes. I know, because he said so, that the panels he is moderating are ones he pitched originally. You can tell he’s been thinking on these things a lot and has a lot of amazing things to say. Pat doesn’t talk in words so much as paragraphs and pages. That man must bleed and cry stories. He seems cranky much of the weekend, but in an intensely passionate way. I watch him bring every possible person into the room without breaking the rules. He asks us to squish, he puts the extra panel chairs into the audience. You can see how much he hates to see anyone left outside. He speaks often of his kids, his fans, his journey. I’ve heard some of his stories before, because I pay attention. What do he, and John Green, and so many of these guests have in common? They are so very them. They make things and they are themselves and I want to do that so much it hurts a little.


I dont do the evening con things so I can see my family. I miss the birth of the guacanati, but that’s okay. One night we cook for their friends, and everyone comes over with full happy hearts and full glasses of wine. We eat and we laugh and me and Ian both doodle and then switch pages to change each others drawings. Christine has a way of tucking herself onto the couch with her friend that I recognize from sitting by so many of my friends. I’m slightly homesick for Ashley’s big hugs, for my epic conversations and creations with Seth, for cuddles and bad TV  with Margaret. I marvel at my ability to find the best people in the world for friends. I see it’s a trait that runs in the family. At night Ian reads to Christine to help her fall asleep. He reads to her because they fit perfectly in each other’s hearts. He reads Neal Stephenson because he has excellent taste. I leave Name of The Wind behind when I leave, taking out the page Pat signed. I’ll hang it on the wall next to the desk where I make things.


Hank Green talks about having a negative bank balance and Darin Ross talks about being a single parent on the How Do You Make Your Money panel. I have a moment where I realize that my feeling successful in creative endeavors has never been tied to my bank account balance. In my mind, I perform some made up voodoo to disconnect those things entirely, to be put back together in a new configuration later. When I get home I’m going to publish a book, make a podcast, start a creative collective, take over the world. I truly believe, for the first time in a while, that I will reach a point where I can make things all day and pay my bills too. This is the most tantalizing thing that’s happened in my brain in a long time.


When I get home this evening the sun is setting and the city is so crisp I want to eat it like a cracker only with my heart instead of my mouth or something else I can’t even express very well because I’m drunk on midwest autumn. We are going to dinner at a friends house. they show me the secret on the front stoop, someone has written in the cement “to call the doctor press here” with a thumb print circle. I press it. Of course I do. I am put on the back of the golden tandem bicycle with Cousin Ian. Christine has another bike and an epic backpack with a german potato dish nestled in it somewhere This is how the cousins get around. This is how they do. We ride by the string of little lakes, we sit on a porch and talk and talk of stories and schools and kids and Texas. The night fades so gently and a single bat flies out and I think of how happy I am in Austin. I sleep so well and in the morning I go home. When I walk in my house I make tea and I make plans.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s