Thursday, August 23, 2018
Worldcon (Wrap Up, Review, Ruminations)
It was an amazing four days even for this stone-cold introvert. The panels were informative and interesting even if I hadn't been attending many with the intent of mining them for future blog posts.
My philosophy about these events hasn't changed. If they don't sound like your cup of tea, you aren't missing out on the writing opportunity of a lifetime or anything to skip them and stay home and work on your novel. I don't think I emerged a better writer or that a convention (or camp or literary event or whatever) is a necessary thing for a writer to attain success, or provides networking they can't find through more-their-cup-of-tea means. Most of the useful information is online and accessible to an even mildly determined researcher.
Worldcon is an all-volunteer convention with no paid staff so in this case, the organizers aren't making money, but even so the convention center, the local hotels and restaurants, and a whole lot of vendors made money. It's worth it for a writer to remember what direction the money flows in these events, that they are not a vital part of being a writer, and really only attend such things if they WANT to attend such things. I was staying with a friend of a friend (and coming in on the light rail every morning), brought my own food, and got the ticket as a gift and I still walked out with a much lighter wallet.
There's still a palpable Sad/Rabid puppies vibe. The white guys who are annoyed at all this "diversity stuff" don't outnumber EVERYONE else, but they are the largest single demographic and they sure do take up a lot of space and suck up a lot of oxygen wherever they go. A few of them wound up on panels and a lot of them dived into the Q&A sections with "more of a comment really." You could really feel that schism and their resentment at losing hegemonic control of the narrative. But everyone else was also pretty cheerfully ignoring their bullshit, so that was kind of awesome in a way.
I also noticed something else when I was there and I'm going to try to blog about it and even bring in some paid help to get it as right as I can. I definitely have the topics I'm interested in and gravitated towards those panels, and so I spent about 14 hours doing panels of some flavor or another of representation, appropriation, social awareness, or inclusivity. Over and over and over again in these panels, sincere white writers (as in not the ones outside in the red hats) would ask how to get their characters right, how to thread the needle between representation and appropriation, and how they could do right by other voices.
Last thought, and it's just a tiny bit catty: every time I asked a sincere question, I ended up getting a clever joke as an answer instead of an answer. Not a clever joke and THEN an answer, but a flip quip and then the panel moved on. And it wasn't just me––my questions aren't just extraordinarily esoteric or weird. It was about half the questions I saw asked during the entire convention. Yet every panel and panelist and even folks in the audience say they are annoyed by the ubiquitous plague of audience members who don't ask questions but instead offer up their own insights or anecdotes. I can't imagine those two things aren't related, to be honest. Panelists trying to make a clever joke instead of actually answering a question create an ecosystem in which a sincere person with a question who is maybe feeling a little unsure of themselves isn't going to bother if they're essentially going to be blown off. Guess which overconfident hands are left raised high and proud?
Still the whole thing was breathtaking and I had a wonderful time, shunting off every day to a new line-up of interesting panels. I only wish during a few hours I could have had a time turner to catch two or three panels that all looked just as good. It's a shame there's basically no chance I'll be able to go to Dublin or New Zealand for 2019 or 2020 respectively and very little chance of getting to one in the US unless I am making considerably more than I am now.