Paul’s Thank You for Gen Con
We can’t thank you enough. Your support has been fantastic. We must have one of the kindest, smartest and funniest communities on the internet. We want you to know we appreciate that very much.
Paul: Thank you for Gen Con, everyone.
What I thought would happen when I got back from Indianapolis would be my sitting down at this desk to collect my thoughts together and then write some words of appreciation. What actually happened was that I slept for twelve hours, peered at the world for about four and then slept for another eight. My first Monday back is a day that I will never know anything about. After, I had the worst (still ongoing) case of writer’s block in a year and I found collecting my thoughts on everything that happened was actually a lot like trying to separate salt from sugar.
Gen Con was extraordinary. I started writing professionally in 2001 and, back in something like 2002 or 2003, someone wrote a letter to PC Format magazine to very gently disagree with a review score I’d awarded. I don’t remember much about the letter beyond it being pretty much the first and, back then, only example I had of audience feedback. A person actually responded to something I was doing.
A figure in the staff listings said that, in those days, PC Format was selling nearly 100,000 copies a month and, I believe, advertisers were told that an average of two people would look at every magazine. I don’t for a moment believe that 200,000 people were reading my work, but for all I know my monthly readership could’ve been thousands or it could’ve been two very bored human beings. To me, it was like making paper aeroplanes and tossing them out a skylight. I had no idea where anything I wrote went or who it found.
Gen Con wasn’t like that. For Shut Up & Sit Down, the climax of Gen Con was (more than) three hundred people turning up to a twice sold out live podcast session, a chance to see and meet and speak with all sorts of fantastic folks who were so kind to us and who had all manner of stories to tell or jokes to share. It was a chance to connect and to talk about enjoying a hobby together and, perhaps most of all, to properly share how much we just like to play and what that has done for us.
It was a privilege and not an experience I take for granted, either. When I was a kid, there were certain times in my life when I was regularly bullied, times when quite large, influential groups of people turned against me, excluded me, decided that they disliked me very, very much and often tried to get others to act the same. It was enough of a problem that strangers, schoolkids I’d never even met before, would be in on the regular repertoire of jokes and insults levelled against me. It meant that, every day, new people could appear, seemingly out of nowhere, to laugh at me and taunt me. It didn’t end at the school gates and I could be mocked and harassed on the street, while in town, while even taking a walk to the shops.
The success that my bullies had meant that their efforts were worth their while. They had a good thing going and were happy to go on and on. I found out, plenty of times over, just how much I was a fool or an idiot or how I wasn’t cool or how I was ugly or dorky. I didn’t like the right music, I didn’t like the right women (because I didn’t have any interest in the late 80s ideal of enormously-breasted and over-tanned lifeguards), I wasn’t macho or aggressive or competitive enough, I didn’t like the right trainers (I didn’t even know that people liked particular trainers) and thus I was almost certainly gay and, by the way, also had AIDS. As I got older, the bullying lessened, though other exclusions and belittlings came and went, and I was lucky when I met the friends that I did. They liked me as I was. A boon, as I was terrible at being anything else in spite of the constant disapproval.
Most of all, beyond how dumb or ugly or uncool I was, I wasn’t worth listening to. You exclude someone because you don’t need them, because they’re not worthwhile, and that’s what I was to these people, unworthy of anything more than jokes. Even now I still find the idea of people being ostracized, of being entirely ignored, one of the most unpleasant possibilities, and so much so that I find it very hard to do myself. To be ignored, to be completely irrelevant, is the ultimate pointlessness.
The total opposite of that is to be sat in a room with hundreds of people cheering at you.
It’s a little unusual, because something inside of you still remembers being that person who nobody much cared about or wanted to hear from, even if that was twenty years ago. You never really buy into the change, you take everything with a pinch of salt.
I don’t feel like I need mass approval and popularity or celebrity is not something I particularly rate, but I know that I do like doing good work and if that work excites or interests or pleases or even just informs people somehow, that’s good. And I realise now that I like entertaining people, too. If they give me their time, I like and want to make it worth their while. Most of all, I might just like meeting people and listening to them, to their stories and their ideas. I rather like it when other people do the talking.
Returning to England was rubbish. The crowds at London Bridge were worse than anything at GenCon, thicker, faster, meaner and entirely devoid of smiles or pleasure or delight. In the middle of August, it was twelve degrees Celsius, windy and overcast. My rent is high, I have to pay a large dental bill and my landlady is selling the flat I live in.
Maybe that doesn’t matter so much anyway, since everything here costs so much, I’m sick of London and weird things are starting happen where I live. I don’t much enjoy this city, which is harsh and dour and asks for so much and gives nothing back, and I’m not sure I enjoy this country so much either. I have no idea what to do next and three months and no money to help me make that decision.
(I also have too many things crammed into my flat. I’ll be selling off or giving away a bunch soon, depending on if people still buy things in our post-freecycle economy. I’ll possibly post some up here. If you want any of them, drop me a line.)
So, thank you for Gen Con. While not everything written here is cheery, this isn’t a negative, pessimistic or frustrated post. It’s a post that appreciates how far things have come and how far things have gone. It’s a post that says that when you toss those paper planes out the window, the internet can be a breeze that takes them very far. It’s a post that reminds me that there’s a lot of fun to be found in all sorts of spots and with all sorts of people, that there are always Other Places. It’s a also post that also reminds me that, fortunately, being nothing but myself worked out okay in the end.
Thank you. I hope you had a good time at Gen Con. I hope you had a good time at our podcast panel and, in particular, I hope you find Shut Up & Sit Down to be a place where you can both enjoy yourself and be yourself. The privilege I feel and the fun I have come from a very special team and a terrific community. I appreciate it very much and I hope, in some tiny way, that I might be being some of the change I want in the world.