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The young woman, a newcomer to writers' conferences, stood up to ask one question in the Malice Domestic expert panel on trace evidence but found herself voicing another. "Is it always like this? Conferences, I mean. Everybody seems so friendly." 

Conference and convention veterans smiled behind their hands. Most of us have attended cons for years, because the overwhelming majority of the folks you meet at a sf/fantasy, mystery, romance, nostalgia cons are friendly. Cons allow people from many backgrounds to connect through shared pleasures, not the compulsory camaraderie of the office or assembly line. 

Cons also remind us that we are more than our workday selves. In our imaginations we can be anyone, and we retain that ability until the day we die. We reaffirm it every day with the personas and connections we create in our various electronic universes. But human beings remain social animals. We need our physical communities, our towns and cities. 

We need to meet each other. Cons are one of the best places I know to do that, whether your pleasures run to dissecting the murders of Richard III, selling your romance, or getting a TV star's autograph.  

If your taste runs to science fiction or fantasy, you might even run into some of the Crescent Blues writers at DragonCon in Atlanta in a few weeks. I might be taping bags for patrons of Teresa Patterson's art show, trying to get the skinny on her next big writing project, or staring covetously at Judith Rauchfuss's masks. Or maybe you'll find all of us, sitting wide-eyed and quiet in the back of the room where Anne McCaffrey is talking about the Pern television series scheduled to bow in the Year of the Dragon 2000. 

We'll be enjoying ourselves, wherever we are. For us, 'tis the season of summer and cons. 

Jean Marie Ward