What is Potlatch, Really?

Someone interested in the writer’s workshop, but unfamiliar with Potlatch was asking for more information about the events at Potlatch. I had to think it over, as the listing the events does not really capture the spirit of Potlatch. Instead, I wrote this:

Potlatch is a small convention for writers and fans; it is a single track of programming usually centered around the “Book of Honor” — which this year is Walter M. Miller Jr’s “A Canticle for Leibowitz”. Potlatch is a “travelling con” — it is always held in the pacific northwest (we include San Francisco as an honorary member of our region), with a visit to Seattle every 2-3 years.

Other events include a banquet, an auction, lots of member-driven, informal events, and good times to be had in the hospitality room.

It’s hard to describe Potlatch by the events, however: what makes Potlatch so rewarding for people who like the literature of science fiction is the real conversation with other smart, creative people who also love to read science fiction. It’s not about the industry, it’s not about the politics of fandom, it’s not about movies or tv, it’s not about costumes or games. I love all that stuff too, and I love conversations about all of that stuff, but Potlatch is a time away from all of that to share our love of the ideas in science fiction literature. Our love of the writing, the craftsmanship, the history, the future.

Potlatch can best be described as a single, swirling conversation, hopefully sparked by one book, and often thematic around the ideas of that book… but a conversation that travels far-flung interesting terrain.

Bigger conventions can accomplish these goals, too, of course. But many writers, and many readers are introverts. The big crowd of big personalities can become exhausting. Again, Potlatch, as a smaller gathering, is far more friendly to most readers and writers. I find that I, along with many others, come out of a Potlatch more excited to write and with more energy, enthusiasm, creativity, and new ideas than when I went in. And that’s not the case for most cons I go to.



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One Comment

  1. Posted January 7, 2012 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    There isn’t much I can add to this, except to say that Blunt’s take on this is far from unique. Despite the fact most conventions are perceived in nearly as many different ways as there are attendees, just about everyone who goes to Potlatch fondly remembers the conversations. Thought-provoking, interesting conversations with smart people who know what they are talking about.

    Personally, I think this is one reason why we work so hard on the hospitality suite every year: to make a comfortable place for those conversations to happen. But I think they would happen anyway, in the bar, in the lobby, in the hallways. In nearby restaurants. On the sidewalk outside the doors…