Conflux was an incredible experience, and I can’t speak highly enough of the job that the organisers did in putting it all together. It was more than worth the expense of the trip up, both in terms of my development as a writer, and just as an enjoyable social occasion.
There were a number of factors that I think contributed to its success.
An excellent committee
It’s often a thankless job running an event like this, so I want to mention the committee first up. It was obvious how hard working and dedicated they were, and it was a pleasure dealing with them in the weeks leading up to the convention, and during it.
An engaged local community
I was really impressed with how vibrant the Canberra spec fic scene seems to be. There were lots of really passionate and committed writers and fans from the area supporting the convention. It was also great to see a sizeable NSW contingent there as well.
Well constructed program
Again the committee deserve massive kudos for this. The program had a great mix of things to help writers develop their craft, and more pop culture type panels for fans who wanted to chat about their respective passions. It’s a hard thing to get right, but I think they nailed it.
Very strong guest lineup
All the guests at Conflux were engaging and informative, and were experts in their field with lots of knowledge to impart. And, very importantly, they made themselves extremely accessible to the average convention goer. No sequestering themselves in a secret VIP room between engagements, they were always to be found mingling with the con goers and making themselves part of things. There was no feeling of “us” and “them”, just “us”.
The social atmosphere
As I have mentioned a few times, one of the great strengths of Conflux was the central area where people could grab a coffee or some booze and pull up a couch, meaning that it was a constant hub of social interaction. I not only met up with people I had been waiting months to see again, but made new friends without even trying, because that area lent itself to mingling so well. And really, that’s why you go to cons, to meet people who share your passions.
A recurring conversation I seemed to find myself in was how welcoming and inclusive the spec fic scene is. A social group where people have known each other for years (decades in some cases) can quite easily lend itself to cliques, but as a relative newcomer and someone who really hates trying to mix in new circles, I have been constantly and pleasantly surprised by how people go out of their way to include new faces. I was talking to someone who had never been to a spec fic con, but had been to many more literary gatherings, and he talked about the contrast, where one was about egos and competition, Conflux was about enjoying mixing with likeminded people, and celebrating their achievements.
My theory is that most genre writers are still fans at heart, and that is what motivates them to write. So, it’s about sharing their passion with others, not hoarding their knowledge as if there is only so much success to go around. That’s why you saw so many of the big names of Aussie spec fic and writers at the very start of their journeys deep in animated conversation, drawn together by their common interests. It was funny how a love of spec fic managed to trump all the differences of ideology and politics, it was certainly a very diverse crowd!
So, I came away from Conflux with a heap of new friends and contacts, new techniques and methods to apply to my writing, and energised and motivated to take the next step. Oh, and with a bad case of withdrawals that will only be fixed going to another Con as soon as possible!