So, ten years after I first attended, I returned to Wiscon. I haven't been since Wiscon 32, for a lot of reasons, some personal, some having to do with the homophobia, biphobia, fat hate, and racism I both experienced and saw others experience at the three Wiscons I did attend, but a couple years ago, my writing group decided we should do a reunion at Wiscon 40, and I have been looking forward to it ever since. I am so, so glad I went. The highs were unbelievably high; the lows were terrible. Some of each is due to personal reasons, some to other people's shitty behavior, some to my own crazybrain.Thursday
Drove up to Madison via Chicago to pick up Robyn
at the airport. All was well (minus the broken AC in the Charger) until just outside Chicago where a giant accident left us at a standstill for ages. My carefully planned trip to avoid rush hour traffic turned into driving through rush hour to get to the airport thanks to that delay. Not super fun with no AC. But it was great to see Robyn again, and we had a blast talking on the drive to Madison.Allison
were kind enough to let me crash their hotel room when my original plans didn't work out. I haven't seen either of them in many years, and I was so glad to spend time with them again. (Candra is a huge part of the reason I survived law school; getting to know her and spend so much time with her, and through her meet Allison, was one of the biggest benefits to going to Michigan.)
Later that night, Robyn and I met Karen
at the airport and then had an adventure finding her food before we all headed back to the hotel.Friday
Writer's workshop in the morning. I attended Mikki Kendall
's comics writing session, which wasn't a traditional workshop format where we exchanged projects and critiqued them, but a lot about how to get started in comics writing, tips and tricks, fun stories from her experience, etc. It was really interesting, and a nice change of pace for me from the traditional format. If you'll be at Wiscon 41, I highly recommend checking out the writer's workshop; no matter what sessions exist, I think it will be fantastic.
(At this stage in my life, I have a solid critique group I trust and a good set of early readers, and my focus is on them more than other traditional workshops.)
After, Robyn and I hung out at Michaelangelo's for a bit, a nearby coffee shop where the writer's workshop after party was held, and got to chat with some people, including someone who attended the session led by Elizabeth Reeve
and who has a werewolf story I am seriously dying to read at some point, it sounded SO GOOD. (Because I am talking about unpubbed work, not naming names here without permission, but oh, god, it sounded so good, I want to read it immediately.)
I briefly hit up the Gathering (nail polish swap, anti-abuse team table, and book swap, where I picked up the only two physical books I collected at Wiscon, a new low for me!), and then the rest of Friday was pretty much shot. I read a lot, and eventually took off in the Charger to find food and because I needed to get away for awhile. (Nothing the con itself could have dealt with, personal stuff.)Saturday
I made some REALLY GOOD panel decisions on Saturday, you guys! I doubt I will write up any full panel reports, but I did want to talk a little about the highlights.
Princesses and Ladies within a WOC Framework: Mikki Kendall (mod), Chesya Burke, Jennifer Cross, De Ana Jones
Description: Some feminists decry the term "ladies" and have blanket disdain for Princess Culture. But how are these and other terms and aspects of culture seen from outside of typical white middle class feminism? They carry different weight and meaning for women of color and their daughters.
This was such a good way to start the morning. It was hilarious and thoughtful and filled with wonderful discussions, and I had such a great time. This was my first time attending a panel with Twitter and hashtags playing such a big role in, well, everything, and this is A+ my favorite way to participate in a convention. I particularly liked the discussion of how frustrating it is that WOC characters are so often given white male love interests as the diversity default and the problems with it.#PrincessLadyWOC
#KeepYAKind and Other Nice Tools of the Oppressor: K. Tempest Bradford (mod), Becky Allen, Betsy Haibel, Justine Larbalestier, Mark Oshiro
Description: There is always a point in the midst of heated Internet discussions where someone lifts their voice to make a call for Kindness, Niceness, Civility, or any other adjacent concept. These calls often go up when the issue at hand concerns an individual with privilege being called out by folks with significantly less privilege or cultural power. And Kind, Nice, and Civil become synonyms for Keep Your Mouth Shut. When this happens again, what tools can we use to dismantle this toxic dynamic and get back to the core matter? Are there secret code words we can deploy to neutralize the terms?
Another excellent panel. They touched on some fantastic parts of #toxickindness without limiting it to any one example of where these attacks happen. (#keepyakind is but one example, really.) Tempest storified the hashtag: #toxickindness
Childhood is Not Precious: Justine Larbalestier's YA Worldview: Rebecca Holden (mod), Alisa Alering, Karen Healey, Scott Westerfeld, Kate O'Brien Wooddell
Summary: The girls at the center of Justine Larbalestier's novel Razorhurst have had to navigate a harsh world before the narrative begins, neither having the privilege of an ideal or "normal" childhood. This is typical of Larbalestier's protagonists, young women who, instead of navigating a disruption to normal, comfortable, or stable life, face difficult choices as teens that stem from an already difficult environment or situation surrounding them (that isn't a dystopia). Let's talk about how these narratives challenge our cultural narratives about teen life and childhood.
I went to this one even though I haven't read Razorhurst because I love a couple of Larbalestier's other protagonists and also, I really love hearing Karen speak, and this was the only one of her panels I could make work with my schedule. I'm so glad I did! There were a lot of interesting things said about children and teens and how all adults are fighting to teach them what that individual adult believes, whether we feel like we think any given adult is on the "right" side or the "wrong" side, and how we need to look at who actually benefits from gatekeeping the children, and so much more.
I'd like to the hashtag anyway, as I've done above, but it also basically functions as my panel write-up, because I'm pretty dominant in it. (Let's just say my phone autocorrects to it now. Whoops.) #ChildhoodIsNotPrecious
Finally, Saturday included the one panel I was on this Wiscon.
Fat Characters in Sci Fi/Fantasy: Robyn Fleming (mod), Alex Jennings, Kenzie Woodbridge, ME
Summary: There are some fat folks depicted in the genre, but most of them are scenery rather than fully realized characters. Where are my fat protagonists? What are their stories? Let's talk about the ones that do exist and brainstorm ideas for new ones.
This was an interesting panel because when we all brainstormed via email, we didn't come up with a ton of examples that were super useful. (My focus is always YA, and most of what I could think of involved contemporary stories, not SFF, for example.) I had a couple people rec things to me, which I tried, and we talked about good and bad portrayals, our frustrations with how things are or are not handled, etc. I specifically wanted to talk about how Karen handled Ellie in GUARDIAN OF THE DEAD, her debut, and how "bbw" has been co-opted by marketing uses in romance and erotica. (This also gave me the chance to rec Lauren Esker's HANDCUFFED TO THE BEAR and GUARD WOLF.) (Also linked my work as Carla to my work under the pseud, which is always a fun but weird moment for me.)
I liked the audience interaction a lot and thought the conversations went well, but I also felt like I talked a lot more than I had intended going in. Ah well.Finally
got to meet up with Cabell
again for the first time in years (this is an ongoing theme) for delicious themed drinks at the hotel bar, and then we joined Allison and Candra for dinner and drinks at a new wine bar before they headed off to panels and duties, and Robyn and I went swimming and hot tubbing for awhile, then sat around talking about our writing and old adventures and various things, as we do. She said some very kind things about my work, both as Carla and under the pseud, which was nice.
We later caught the last hour or so of the vid party, which ended with one of my absolute favorite fanvids ever, Starships, a multifandom space vid by Bironic
I'm sad I missed the DDP Yoga/Dance Party, but I was in a rough place and could not handle people. (In fact, I took a long break before even being able to sit in the back of the room for the last part of the vid party.)Sunday
I had good intentions of going to panels, but I could not. I was still dealing with some personal, emotional stuff, so instead I sat around in the room with Candra and Allison for awhile, catching up, and then went to brunch with them. I spent some time hanging out with Cabell in the lobby, hit up the art show again (I visited three times, and bought art twice), hung out with Robyn and Marianne
, and went with them to raanve
's impromptu fanfic AUs and tropes panel, which was so much fun. (And I had to chance to say hello to nwhepcat
and tell her how much I loved her scarves in the art show. I bought one as a gift for a friend, too.)
Then I volunteered in the con suite for a shift. There was some seriously shitty treatment of POC con suite volunteers this year, which is really messed up, especially at a convention that purports itself to be welcoming and diverse and focused on equality, etc. etc. etc. I'll be linking to some things at the end of this about what happened, and the changes within Wiscon itself.
Got dressed up a little for the dessert salon and GOH speeches, and headed down with Allison and Candra. This is the first year I've gone to this part of the con, and wow, it was seriously packed. Candra and I found seats at a table near the wall, with a great view of the GOH speeches but with enough space I felt a little less crowded, and I'm so glad we went. All three speeches were wonderful, but Sofia Samatar said some things about writing and making space for ourselves in our genres that hit me hard and were things I desperately needed to hear right now. I hope transcripts go up, because I think some of my writer friends who didn't attend will really benefit from it, too.
Then I ran up to Marianne's room to check on her, and ended up hanging out there with her, Julia, and a bunch of their friends for most of the night, which was fun, and allowed me to both socialize and be quiet and listen to other people tell stories, how I socialize best in groups. (And gave me the chance to catch up with Julia and thank her in person for all the work she did with the con suite.)Monday
Sad good-byes with Candra, and then one more trip to the art show to buy gifts, meeting up with Robyn, and heading out. We grabbed food on the road, and then dealt with terrible traffic between Madison and Chicago, damn. Once I dropped her at the airport, traffic was fine the rest of the way, but I drove into and out of big storms most of the trip down Illinois and Missouri.
So that was my Wiscon 40. I've already reserved a room for Wiscon 41, Candra and I have both talked to a friend of ours about coming, because we think he will really love it and get a lot out of it, and so odds are good I will be up there next year, too. It's obvious that this is still a transition period, and there are people who are not happy about making the convention more welcoming and diverse. That sucks. But there are people doing good work to make changes, and taking on far more than they should, and being absolutely amazing. Wiscon felt more welcoming and diverse and more true to the ideals it claims to believe, and I think it will continue to improve, but god, is there still so much work to do. (The con suite bullshit. People being terrible to hotel staff. People saying horrid things and hiding their nametags while they do so they can't be called out. It goes on and on, because so many people are terrible. But Wiscon 40 reminded me that there are wonderful people, too, people who fight for change, and I want to support them.)
So many thanks to the con com and the volunteers and the people who keep working and fighting not just to keep this convention going, but to make it better. Thank you
.LinksMikki Kendall's WisCon 40 Highs, Lows, & What The Actual F*ck?K Tempest Bradford's On WisCon, and Who Is Allowed To Feel WelcomeMark Oshiro on his experience at Wiscon 40, his first visit.
(Related, Mark's experiences at ConQuest 46 in Kansas City, which is one of my potential local cons, is why I will not be attending until major changes are made.