Saturday, August 18, 2018
Worldcon Report (Day 2)
I'm going to Worldcon!
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.
On to day 3