Monday, August 20, 2018
Worldcon Report (Day 3)
Back to the beginning
Saturday was a little less busy than Friday, and it got a lot less busy after I screwed up my schedule a bit. There was a panel on "epic stories" that I chose to skip. It sounds neat, but I don’t have any grand designs to write an "epic" anytime soon. There is one creeping around in my head for the "someday" pile, but if I'm being super honest, as great as the panels are, they can only broad brushstroke a subject in 50 minutes, and I kind of trust my craft instincts to that degree. Plus this epic I am thinking of is very I-thought-this-was-awesome-when-I-was-in-high-school-and-brimming-with-unchecked-privilege-and-too-many-80s-movies, and would need a lot lot lot lot of work to even be back on the drawing board.)
Anyway, I there were some chairs and outlets waaaaaay down the hall, so I took the time to get a little writing done. And it had actually been so long since I'd had a good writing session that I got distracted and carried away and ended up missing the NEXT panel too (on Space Operas). Fortunately after that I was back on track.
Mental Health and Craft: Creating with Depression and Anxiety
This was a great panel with a lot of wonderful ideas and insights that will definitely show up in future blog posts. But just right off the cuff I can tell you that you're not alone. It was standing room only and packed to the gills. You are not alone.
Alien Minds: What is Possible and What Can We Do with Them?
This was a really cool panel, but possibly an example of why you want your panelists to have slightly differing views instead of opposing ones. The panelists even rejected the central conceit of the panel's description (that our brain, as an evolved organ, evolved to be able to deceive and detect deception in groups of primates.
There was a surprising amount of philosophy in a panel about alien brains. We spent a huge amount of time trying to define consciousness and coming to the conclusion that we can detect it more easily than we can define it.
However once we got to the "Would be be able to talk to them?" the panel kind of went to war. One panelist made a series of assumptions about collectivism and mathematics that presumed the fundamentals of communications with what would probably be technological beings. The other panelists had a real problem with these underlying assumptions. They pointed out that communication is difficult with other HUMANS and that we might only really be able to realize that their method of communication (involving something like releasing pheromones or waving their phygellus) was perhaps not an involuntary act, to say nothing of how they communicated.
I think there's something to the idea that the lone panelist was a white guy. Like I didn't get the feeling he was a racist or sexist or anything but just that white dudes tend to find communication direct and easier and it is other folks who learn all kinds of code-switching, subtleties, nuances, and double meanings.
Two of the panelists really disagreed on basically every issue and though they were still joking when our time was up, the jokes had taken on an edge and were starting to feel uncomfortable. I think if it had been a 90 minute panel, we'd have had to watch them fight.
Stop Killing Us
This 10/10 panel was probably the highlight of my day. It was all about how there are identifiable patterns of marginalized groups whose sole representation in modern media frequently get killed.
I've written about fridging before (even its plasticity as a term that goes beyond just women), and how across media it time and again creates a "triage of human worth" but there were more dynamics drawn into this panel that are worth further exploration, so clearly I may need to cook up another article.
In particular one charming and outspoken member of the panel brought in a lot about disability intersections and pointed out how insidious and ubiquitous the trope of the disabled person who WANTS to die can be and how disabled folks are completely erased rather than AUGMENTED in most utopian fiction.
There's a lot to dig into, and I can only poke at it here, but one thing I had begun to notice at this point was an intense anxiety among the white writers who genuinely cared about getting representation right that they didn't know how to do avoid all the pitfalls between appropriation, representation, and bad representation. So I'm definitely going to be trying to write a bit on that in the coming weeks.
Geek Identity, Policing, and Gatekeeping
This panel started with a good foundation and the introductions talked a lot about folks who experienced gatekeeping in the geek world along their marginalized identities (race, sexuality, gender), but like a lot of panels (actually a LOT of them, I noticed) it quickly delved into questions of representation within geek MEDIA and drifted away from it's actual description. The questions kind of kept trying to pull the panelists back to the issue of how to fight gatekeeping and what damage rather than good the elitism did to a fandom, even just for its own sake (to say nothing of being clearly expressed along lines of bigotry), but the panelists wanted to go where they wanted to go, so we talked about representation again.
And as I've said over and over again, that is clearly something that needs more written about it.
Author vs. Fan Ownership
I picked the panels by topic, but it was cool to end up finding out that John Scalzi was the moderator. Also, I don't think I've ever heard the word "liminal"used so often during the entire rest of my life combined.
This panel touched on ethics and legality of fanfiction and it was spectacular. We talked about how writers have created room for fan fiction in recent years and how the fan fiction has existed in some form basically forever. Even most published work is some sort of fan fiction, perhaps with the serial numbers filed off.
The fanfic authors themselves often have deep philosophical debates about where their responsibility to characters starts and ends and what sorts of things are acceptable to do with the IP they are using for their story.
The thing I noticed, which I have mentioned before, is that the point kept coming up that there was some purity in fanfic. Folks who write fanfic do so knowing they won't ever get paid. And it is actually the idea of OWNING a story (in a capitalistic way) that is the more unusual idea for pretty much all of our history as a storytelling species. And of course the feedback is almost immediate and deep and often more engaging than solicited reviews. In a way fanfic is a more pure expression of art and artistry for its own sake and and who we are as humans.
More coming tomorrow.