This weekend was Willcon 20, the gaming and genre convention I run from my home that is absolutely not just a party like it looks. We have a schedule! We have a con suite! We have mismatched uncomfortable chairs scattered around tables!

Sometimes it’s even outside.

Among the things we do at Willcon: role-playing games, board games, computer and console games, eating, cooking, drinking, crafts, paintball, watching movies, visiting national monuments and Shenandoah National Park (when we lived in DC), visiting Kennedy Space Center, visiting bookstores, and once we had fire dancers come.

Yes, they were professionals.

I’ve run this event 27 times over twenty discrete years since 1997, so the reckoning of exactly what we should CALL this Willcon is hopelessly fucked up. We used to do it a couple of times a year, and there have been years when we couldn’t do it because of pandemics and parenthood (not mine, don’t worry), so…whatever.

There’s a lot of love at Willcon. No, really.

I started Willcon because it has always been tricky to find people who enjoy weird things like role-playing games, computers, writing, science fiction, horror, and fantasy without being batshit crazy about it. To be fair, there are fans of scuba diving and football and political parties who are also batshit crazy about those, too.

Some perfectly normal people keeping it all in proper perspective.

(I think the world is being torn apart by fandomization in many ways, everyone desperate to prove their commitment to some specialized passion without any sense of proportion. That’s why Gen X isn’t fucking up the world: we don’t care enough to bother.)

Over all those years, somewhere near eighty different people have come to my home for games, food, interpersonal drama, and a captive reading of my writing. Of those, a good dozen or more no longer speak to me because I divorced their family member (which I completely understand). Another two dozen have gone on to other interests, which also makes perfect sense and I wish them well. Four are dead, which shows a disappointing lack of community spirit.  

Mother and Larry were basically our version of Meet the Press.

The remainder continue to drift in and out of Willcon’s orbit, and when we reunite around the table and some dice, it’s like we never left. This year, we had a guest return after seventeen years away, and it was great to see him.  

I sometimes have actual dreams where everybody I’ve ever cared about comes all at once to a Willcon, and I’m sure there’s some clumsy metaphor there about creating a family. Okay, sure, I’ll accept that.

It’s easy to assume from the name “Willcon” that the abiding interest I’m hoping to cultivate is one in me, and yes, I do read from my fiction sometimes around our campfire.

Story readings are voluntary, I swear!

But the real reason it’s still called Willcon (in addition to tradition and lack of a better name) is that it’s my honor to be the locus where this family (including my entire actual family who also come to Willcon) can come together and share things we love.

(In proper dignified proportion, of course.)

I don’t often say that, and I wanted to mention it publicly.