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Saturday, August 18, 2018

Worldcon Report (Day 3––About Day 2)


So this post is actually about Day 2 (Friday), which was filled to the brim with panels and bereft of even time to grab a sandwich, but I crammed them in anyway because I didn't want to miss a minute and just tanked up on breakfast and brought power bars to get me through.

I also just went and went and went and went and got home and fell over. Unless I start making WAY more money from writing, this was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I didn't want to miss a thing, so apologies for being a day behind.


Representation in Geek Media- 

This was a great panel for "examples." The panelists really wanted to tell us the shows and books that they really liked.

The point that came up again and again and again was how vitaly, critically, desperately important it is for people to see folks like themselves in media. It just....changes so much about their relationship to that media. They become fans. They imagine their possibilities.

A couple of the points they made they circled back to a couple of times. Ultimately diversity injects new life into fandom and struggling against it hurts fandoms. For purely selfish reasons, creators don't want to listen to the very vocal minority of people objecting to diversity.

The second point is that came through was that people would prefer no representation to bad representation and simply seeing people like them (but not bad representation) to no representation. It was subtle, but they drew clear distinctions between problematic representation (like queer baiting or Apu) and the kind of representation that would ENDANGER them via the cultural perception of created after a constant stream of shitty stereotypes.

The hopeful takeaway is that getting representation right wasn't seen as an impossible needle to thread by anyone. Asking for some people's sensitivity reads (and either paying for, otherwise compensating for, or at minimum gushingly acknowledging their labor), usually brings up the level of representation to the point that it will work well.


Pronouns Matter––Gender Courtesy for Fans

I got a bit of a wonderful surprise when it turned out that Ann Leckie (of the Ancillary Trilogy) was the moderator for this panel. I don't fan out too hard––I think that's a side effect of seeing writing as hard work instead of ineffable––but that was pretty cool.

We hit a lot of nuance in this panel and one thing that kept becoming clear is that there wasn't always a single answer. When and where and WHY to use someone's pronouns (or possibly not) were all very personal. Outing someone, even just by asking their pronouns, could conceivably put them in a pickle. Learning to read a room is important. English is an aggressively gendered language, and that is baked into the linguistics, often even more than other power dynamics.

But everyone agreed on a couple of things. 1) If you misgender someone (assuming it is unintentional and not malicious) just apologize, fix it, and move on. The out of control, obsequious, gushing centers the person who did the misgendering as the party that feels "so bad." 2) Moving towards gender neutral language (folks instead of guys, for example) is probably nothing that's going to change the world by 2020, but it's a step in the right direction and greatly appreciated.


Geek's Guide to Literary Theory

This was a fun lecture (it wasn't a panel), but it was little bit like having a 1 hour review of my entire 12 week Literary Theory course in college. I've discussed literary theory here when it comes up (though it should never really be something consciously in one's mind while writing), but we didn't really get into the GEEK part. More just a one hour review of various schools of thought. Fun, but likely because it was not new info for me, and I'm a total nerd.

I also think deconstruction is quite a bit more involved than linguistic pedantry. [Time (n) flies(v) like an arrow (A.P.). Time(v) flies(n) like an arrow (A.P.) Time-flies (compound n) like (v) an arrow (object).] But maybe that was second hour stuff.


New Ancestral Myths

I actually left this panel after only 25 minutes or so.

It was standing room only and I hadn't had lunch, and frankly I might have been more charitable if I were sitting and fed. The beginning was really interesting––the super diverse panel pointed out the way "religion" is given to Judeo/Christian traditions and everything else is called "mythology" whether it is a living religious practice or not, and there was also a really neat point about how the "ancient mythologies" well known in the English speaking world (Greek and Roman) traced a path through what was often considered to be whiteness. And the religious beliefs (even dead religions) of people of color are almost never as well known.

Unfortunately the moderator was having some trouble keeping the panel reigned in on the topic and as we drifted further afield I found the thread of motif more and more confusing and eventually just left.


Tapping our Mythic Past

The interesting thing I saw here was what was agreed and disagreed on. The panelists disagreed furiously about bringing myth into fiction (but were incredibly civil about it). One called appropriation the "third rail" of writing and made the point that writing backgrounds they weren't from and who talked about their backgrounds meant doing one's due diligence through research and sensitivity readings, never being a stranger, avoiding stereotypes, and always treating your characters as authentic and genuine people. Another panelist was very uncomfortable with that idea, even really eschewing doing much writing about their own cultural myths. Everyone on the panel related the experience of  being called out regarding their own culture. The demographics of who came down in which camp are probably not what you might have expected either.

There was also a problem with one panelist who seemed like maybe they were a bit anxious and had some trouble with repeating themselves. Of course they also did a lot of jumping in on the questions. So we had a lot of redundancy.

However, the thing they agreed on was also interesting––that trying to find the "decoder ring" of myth ultimately undoes the myth, and the central idea they walked away with was this idea of personalizing mythic past. That is you tell a story that portrays people and tells a story, and you maybe show how that myth influences them, but you don't appropriate the myth itself as true or not. That contradictions are essential. That there is truth without facts. (Much like fiction itself, I noted.) That being okay with not knowing is an important part of indigenous myth and antithetical to colonialists and Judeo/Christian myths where everything needs to be codified, classified, turned into binaries and some truthy truth rooted out. Myth had a power that danced outside of their ability to touch it even if it wasn't "true" in the desperately objective sense of the word.

"Mythology is," one panelist said to the delight of the entire panel, "the human mind trying desperately to understand itself.


Stress Management for Creatives

Got some great ideas from this panel that will definitely show up in an upcoming post.


Afrofutureism: From Octavia to T'Challa

This was an incredible lecture with an A/V presentation and I will cover some of the points in time, but 1) it is too much to go into in a post like this and needs its own space and 2) I heard that Steve Barns might be putting up an online version and I wouldn't want to steal his thunder at all because he put a shit-ton of effort into an incredible presentation.


Imposter Syndrome: You DO Deserve To Be Here

This is another panel that will definitely transform into a future post. Good advice. Good insight, but too much to write it all out in an encapsulation.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Worldcon Report (Day 2––but not day 2)

Unfortunately today was my busiest day––longest day and with the smallest number of breaks (only one hour out of 9) and I'm falling asleep trying to write today's shenanigans up.

So I'm going to get some sleep, and tomorrow I will get up today's write up and probably be a day behind.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Worldcon 76 Report (Day 1)


A series of miracles means I get to go to Worldcon 76!

We had to drive today and get set up in the house where we'll be staying, but it was a pretty low-key day at the convention. Tomorrow is going to be the outrageous schedule. The only time I have open from nine to seven is the hour from five to six. Sunday and Monday are a little easier, but I sure did find a lot of panels I wanted to see.

My first panel was about Utopias and Dystopias and was probably the best of the day. We spent some time taking a moment defining the difference between the two (and anti-utopia) as well as why one seems to be harder than the other, and I can, and will, go into that in a future post but really the interesting conversation happened because of one panelist named Libia Brenda who had been added at the last minute as part of a con-wide effort to bring in more Latinx/Mexicanx perspectives. She hip checked some of the white guys on the panel (particularly one older dude) who wanted to say things like dystopias were where individuality was being stripped or that politically things maybe weren't great, but we were essentially––big picture––living in a utopia because of cell phones and technology.

No, Brenda said. First of all the US-centric idea of losing individuality wasn't necessarily so dystopic for everyone, and widening out a dystopia to incorporate other perspectives of what would be terrible could lead to superior storytelling and it might be that the utopic individuality of one culture created a dystopia for others. No, Brenda said. The cell phone is wildly powerful, but it gives you access to information, not necessarily knowledge. No, Brenda said. The white male experience in the US might be pretty cool, but the cost of even a cell phone in exploitation, conflict minerals (the warzones where a lot of minerals essential to modern cell phones are mined), and environmental damage had a dystopic dynamic to it. No, Brenda said. If we were in The Hunger Games, most of the people in the room of a convention would be the people in the CAPITAL, and writing to learn to empathize with the folks in district 12 is a vital perspective.

I was so fucking glad they added her. The moderator was doing great, but sometimes that sometimes there needs to be a stronger push back on white guys not quite realizing they are seeing things only from their perspective and she really brought the well articulated and erudite thunder. It was spectacular.

My second panel was about Reboots, Reimaginings, and Retellings, and it kind of fell apart as a panel into a bit of a free for all. (I heard lots of "I don't have a question. More of a comment really..." from the audience, and we spent a big chunk of time on whether Doctor Who's first woman Doctor was brilliant trailblazing or lazy writing. 

To his credit, I think the moderator did try to bring the audience in on some of the central questions he'd identified, like whether a retelling of a story (rather than telling a new story) had any sort of obligation to the old version. Sadly, I think the effort to have a conversation broke down too much into whether or not various people liked the all-women Ghostbusters, the reboot Star Trek movies, or the new Battlestar Galactica, and once the panel opens up to the audience, everyone wants to get their two cents in.

I wanted (and tried) to ask a question to the whole panel about whether or not humans simply retell stories shaped and framed into their own cultural value system and their own styles, and I thought the panel really gave some interesting answers about the artist vs. the profit motive, but we quickly went from profit motive into another "And you know another remake they shouldn't have remade?" and that was that. We ended with about four people in the audience kind of showing off how smart they were more than enjoying the conversation, and even though the moderator was doing the best with what he had, I think the audience was just too big for the format he really wanted.

Last I did a 101 panel on self-publishing. It was a LITTLE too 101. (Mostly stuff I've already written about and already knew.)  Also, the whole panel consisted of hybrid authors who STARTED in traditional publishing and then went to self-publishing, so I'm not sure that their "six figure" bragging and tepid interest in crowdfunding sources like Patreon were entirely realistic for a new writer.  They tossed out some more specific information (which I will try to get to in a future post) including a really good "What would the first step be" question, but I've covered most of their gestalt in previous posts––ideas like how to promote oneself, find beta readers and editors, and keep authentic content that connects them to fans.

Most of these panels will eventually end up being a post of some shape or form down the road, but for now I can only do broad brushstrokes. It's time to get some sleep now!

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Worldcon 76 Report- Prologue

Our regularly scheduled programming around here (such as it is) is going to take a few days off while I bring you reports from Worldcon 76.

I'm going to Worldcon this year!

For those who don't know, Worldcon is a convention for writers. And while it has some overlap with costuming, and a lot of other general nerdery going on, it is specifically for writers. Topics of events run from how to self publish to including diverse voices in one's writing.

I never really expected to be going to Worldcon. Maybe in some halfway pipe dream future where I've got way more income going on than I do today. I like gaming conventions even though they're usually a bit more peopling than I am able to handle. I've heard stories about Worldcon that made me envious of the panels and stuff, but it is really outside my budget. It moves around the world and even when it's in the USA the travel expenses, ticket price for the con itself, and hotel booking for multiple days pushes it up to easily over a thousand dollars. That's big bucks for a little fifth rate blogger like me. And while Worldcon definitely sounded cool, I probably wasn't going to drop a thousand bucks on ANY vacation until I'd been to Disney World.

Then the perfect storm happened. The perfect storm....of awesome.

Worldcon is in San Jose this year which is only about an hour drive south from where I live. Cap is going there to do some work making the world a better place, and has a friend with crash space for the both of us. And she bought me the ticket for an early birthday present. I'm one of those people who sees what's possible and carefully manages my expectations. Cap is one of those people who says "Let's go get what you want––we'll find a way!"

And she did.

Thus, instead of our regular fare, I'm going to try to write a report every night. I'll do this like I'm a serious writer/blogger type, and pack a notebook and pencil and everything. I'll take notes and shit to write up in the evenings about the events I attended and what they were like. I'm not sure exactly how much time I'll have at the end of each evening, but I'll get as much up as I can and if there are lingering thoughts I'll put them in some subsequent write ups.

Sound good?  Okay, I need to pack. See you at Worldcon.

Day 1

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

REMINDER: Seconds Needed (Best YA not by a Cishet White Man 2000-Present)

What is the very best YA book or series written by a woman or POC or member of the LGBTQ+ community from 2000-the present?   

This poll is from our Year of Diverse Polls. Please check this page out if you have questions about the narrowed focus.

So we're headed into a bit of a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants spot here. Starting tomorrow I'm going to be talking a lot about Worldcon 76 since a perfect storm of factors means I actually get to go. I plan to go, and write a little about what I see each day. Then on Monday this poll is going live.

And it's absolutely going to need seconds. (And thirds...and fourths.) Remember, I no longer run quarterfinals and elimination rounds. I will at most run ONE semifinal round. So I will pick between 8-22 of the titles with the most "seconds." 

Please go to the original post for rules, to check out what's there for seconding, and to drop your nomination. The poll will go live on Monday.