Geeks in Love: Finding Love in Fandom: an ApolloCon 2007 panel

Description in the program book: Maybe it’s flirting; maybe it’s friendship; maybe it’s a lifelong relationship. Finding romance in all its forms and guises in the ever-surprising world of fandom.

Panelists (I will refer to them only by their initials, because they discuss they personal life here): CC, JG, BL, GL (moderator), TM, VV

What it was like: pretty much as advertised, only I was hoping it would have more quirky dating stories that are only likely to happen to geeks. In comparison, Eric and Cathy Raymonds’ panel Dating 101: Remedial Flirting at Linucon 2004 was funnier.

Not surprisingly, common interests play a part in geek dating

All of the panelists met their significant others in the SF fandom, or, in the case of TM, because of shared interests and sense of humor. TM met his wife in high school and fell in love with her when she laughed at one of his jokes — unlike the majority of the population, who doesn’t get his sense of humor. She was also into Dr. Who. “Imagine that,” he said, “a girl who had the same interests!” VV and CC… well, I don’t remember how or where they met, but CC said his love for VV was clinched when he made a vaguest reference to a Disney kids show, and VV responded by singing a line from the theme song of the show. (Or something like that.) BL and GL met at DuckCon at Chicago 2 or 4 years ago. They were each an independent music guest, and they met in a music circle. They ended up hooking up again at a folk music festival at Winnipeg. JG met his his wife at a convention, but he had some experience with fannish women long before that: his first serious girlfriend, when he met her, was wearing a Don’t Panic t-shirt.

JG (left), BL and GL, the latter two being one of the two couples that were on this panel together

JG (left), BL and GL in the Finding Love in Fandom panel at ApolloCon 2007
CIMG6500 JG (left), BL and GL

So, common interests fueled the attraction these people felt for their mates. As BL said, it’s hard to explain her interest in filk to somebody who’s not a musician (or even to some fellow musicians?). The panelists valued the “he/she gets me” factor so highly that one of them even asked the audience, has anyone here ever had a successful relationship with a non-fan? TM compared an interest in things fannish to an interest in politics. He knows couples where one is hard left and the other hard right, who work a lot better than couples where one is politically very involved and the other doesn’t care at all. Because in the first case at least both understand each other’s passion for politics. I, a sole contrarian voice, argued that a success of a relationship has little to do with whether the other person is in the fandom. But of course I have only one data point — myself, and can’t speak for the whole fandom.

But it wasn’t just the geeky or fannish interests that brought those couples together. GL said when he saw dogs listed as one of BL’s interests on her LiveJournal, it clinched his interest in her, since he had been a dog trainer himself.

How hard or easy is it to find romance at SF conventions?

CC. When I first started coming to conventions, in the mid-80s, there were a lot more women than men. And then you tried to meet these women, and everyone’s shields were up. They were like, here is one of those assholes. Nowadays it feels OK to meet people. Does everyone feel it was like that? Women go to cons to have fun, and those geeky guys come to them and say, I roll hundreds on <some kind of RPG?>! Let’s go have a coke!

A young woman in the audience: it’s the opposite for me. I work in theater and I don’t go to bars, so my pool of available straight men is not very big. So I hope that a nice geeky guy will come talk to me [at a con]. But it doesn’t happen often. They happen to be libertarians.

TM. There is a reputation that fandom in general is a big open tent [?]. In the 70s and 80s everyone in the fandom was considered an outcast. So geeky guys thought that the girls in the fandom would automatically accept them, and then they discovered that the general rules of dating still applied even in the fandom.

So maybe there was a reason why this panel did not have much of a novelty factor: geek dating isn’t very different from mundane dating.

TM (left) and VV

Finding Love in Fandom panel at ApolloCon 2007
CIMG6492 TM (left) and VV

Some said a difficulty of finding a romantic interest may also vary from con to con. One in-the-know fan in the audience dropped names of conventions that have reputations of being events where people go to hook up. JG said that he had never experienced a hookup party at any convention. “Either I’m doing something wrong,” he said, “or it really doesn’t work this way.”

Also, BL reminded, a lot of people you meet at conventions are from out of town, so if you find romance, it’s likely to be long-distance. That comes with its own challenges, and the odds for it surviving are not good (although a long distance relationship did work out for BL and GL). On the other hand, GL added, if a relationship ends, the distance makes it less likely that you’ll run into that person at future conventions.

Common sense advice, or conventions as churches

Overall, any advice given in this panel was only common sense. The panelists gave plenty of reminders for the guys to keep bathing and brushing their teeth if they ever want to get a date.

CC. It’s a truism: a lot of guys come to a con and decide it’s a 3-day excuse to abandon all hygiene. But [there are also] fans who go to cons try to socialize others, in the sense of teach them acceptable behaviors.

TM. Remember the 5-3-1 rule: you have to have either 5 hours of sleep and 3 meals, or 3 hours of sleep and 5 meals, and 1 shower a day, and this will get you through the convention.

CC. The tub in your room doesn’t just exist for icing down beer.

VV (left) and CC, the other couple that were on this panel together

VV (left) and CC on the Finding Love in Fandom panel at ApolloCon 2007
CIMG6489 VV (left) and CC, the other couple that were on this panel together

Other pieces of advice:

GL. One of the worst things you can do is come across as desperate. I was pretty much resigned to being single, and I was OK with that. I just had to bump into someone who I thought we can be friends with, but it progressed beyond that. I have no regrets about that. So, be yourself.

TM. Don’t look at cons a a singles bar: look at them more like a church, where you go for a some other purpose, but may meet people.

JG added that some people treat church as a singles bar.