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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!

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