Forgive me if I’m a little brusque but I had this whole entry written out, then wordpress decided Save & Continue Editing meant delete my whole post. AUUUUUUGGGHHHH!
So the WisCon Programming Sign-Up is newly up and I’ve already signed up for way too many panels but I mentioned in the notes at the end that my maximum was 6 -7, which I’m kind of regretting now because there are so many kickass panels but I know will be better for me at the Con because I’ll actually get to hang out with people and talk instead of always rushing from panel to panel. So for those who don’t know the way you sign up for panels at WisCon is on a Yes, Please & Moderate system. Yes means you want to be on the panel, Please means you have to be on the panel and Moderate in conjunction with either Yes or Please means you would like to moderate the panel. So without further ado here are the panels I clicked on separated into Yes & Please. The ones in italics are the ones I offered to moderate and the one in bold are the ones I suggested in January. Warning the list is a mite long and I actually cut like 20 other panels I was interested in from the list before I submitted it because even I knew it was too much.
092 The Slayer’s Legacy: Ten Years of the Buffyverse
Ten years ago, the television series Buffy The Vampire Slayer debuted, headed by Joss Whedon, a self-proclaimed feminist. The show created spinoffs, academic disciplines, and a fiercely loyal fan community, and embraced ideals of cooperation, alternative sexualities, smart heroines, and the mix between monster and human. Buffy fans embrace all types, from academics in linguistics and gender theory, theologians, writers, ceremonial magicians, artists, bloggers and more. Buffy is still a viable site for discourse and inspiration ten years later and it came in with feminist ideals–there are even Buffy discussion groups at feminist bookstores today. How does this change the landscape of science fiction today — what is the Slayer’s legacy? We’ll look at how feminist ideals of cooperation have spread to the support of the WGA strike, and how Buffy has created a new kind of fan, actor, writer, and artist. We’ll look at the links between fan culture, feminism, academia and how the Buffyverse has shared feminism and feminist ideals with the world.
093 What Can’t We Forgive?
SF/F fans can be forgiving sorts; we’ll let violations of physical laws go by without too much notice, permit battles with armies too large to be supported by their populations, and so on. What won’t we forgive and read on? Some people won’t forgive Orson Scott his personal politics, while some won’t forgive the moral worldview of his fiction. Some won’t forgive Anne McCaffrey her tent-peg hypothesis, while others won’t let Heinlein get away with any of a wide variety of sins. Some people can’t forgive China Mieville’s preaching, or Samuel R. Delany’s depictions of underage sex. Where do people draw the line, either with regards to an author’s work or their personal behavior, and what does it mean when we can’t forgive?
102 Alternative Characters, Universal Stories
Sometimes, a character is different, but that difference isn’t the point of the story, just a thread in a larger tapestry. The courageous knight who happens to be a lesbian, the dashing ship’s captain with African ancestry, the beautiful transgender vampire…real and theoretical examples abound. What are the advantages and disadvantages of this particular sort of storytelling emphasis?
109 Why Isn’t Firefly More Asian?
Joss Whedon’s imagining of the future is gritty, it’s Western, it’s a mix between US and Chinese cultures, it’s…almost completely devoid of Chinese people. Why doesn’t the show include more Asian people, and what could’ve been done to make the show better?
117 New Age Atheism
Can a person be an atheist and spiritual at the same time? Many feminists have rejected traditional spiritualities because of this dichotomous way of thinking, preferring instead New Age pursuits such as tarot cards, crystallography, astrology, parallel universes, and divination. This workshop explores how the New Atheism approach of prominent non-believers such as Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and Sam Harris offers another alternative.
131 The Rights of Simulacra
The discussion of the rights of people who were made rather than born is an old theme in SF, going back at least to Helen O’Loy if not Frankenstein. Still, our sense of the possibility and likelihood of artificial conscious beings has arguably shifted over the last decade; we have both a clearer sense of what intermediate forms would look like (talking realdolls? insidiously clever spambots?) as well as a wider sense of what the endgame might be (what are the rights of personalities that can fork into separate entities as often as they like?) Perhaps it’s time to talk again about the legal and ethical rights of made people, both in principle and in terms of how they might evolve historically.
132 War for Water
What if Saudi Arabia (who controls more than 20% of the world’s oil) were to make oil exports illegal? Might there be intelligence suddenly suggesting that the Saudis had Weapons of Mass Destruction and we need to go save the world while we just so happen to ‘safeguard’ their oil reserves? While this scenario is clearly science fiction, ahem, there is currently a country that controls more than 20% of the world’s freshwater and has made water exports illegal. Just who is this nefarious rogue state? Canada! Wars have always been fought for scarce natural resources–gold, spices, oil, and soon, water. Rather than plan our Canadian invasion strategy, let’s discuss how SF has dealt with these issues and which could conceivably happen in our own world.
165 Time To Put Down The Laptop?
Everyone and her sister/brother/dog seems to be blogging these days. Do you find blogging a waste of creative energy and a bane to more polished fiction? Does talking about your process keep you from engaging in it? Counting your words rather than crafting them? Or do you think this is a false economy of scarcity? Does blogging actually help you write more, better, faster, better-crafted? If so, how?
178 Dissecting Privilege — Let’s Look At The Guts
Few words are more likely to provoke a rapid, vehement response than ‘privilege,’ whether it’s agreement with, an accusation, or a fervent denial. What made this 9-letter word a 4-letter word? From its beginnings as ‘private law’ to the current bugaboo, panelists will discuss what privilege does and doesn’t mean, determine how we can get past fighting about the word itself, explore the situations and structures that lie behind it and reflect on the implications for societal change.
188 The Conscious Object
Fantastic fiction and mythology are full of objects that have will or consciousness — Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Tolkien’s ring, the Grail, robots, crystal balls, magic mirrors and ventriloquists’ mannequins are examples of such objects in speculative fiction. Conscious objects is also an apt description of the situation of of women and other recipients of the (usually male) gaze — slaves, sex workers, victims of child trafficking are all seen as objects for appraisal and potential consumption as commodities; they are “objectified,” yet they have consciousness. How are conscious objects in fantastic fiction used to explore the predicament of the person, objectified?
192 The Other Racisms: Beyond Cultural Appropriation
Cultural appropriation is a perennially thorny topic at WisCon, but it is not the only form racism takes in SFF and SFF communities. What are some of the subtler manifestations we may be missing, such as confusing race with culture, ignorance of other cultures, races and languages, condescending behaviors or attitudes or lack of insight into our own prejudices?
193 The Temptation of Torchwood
The New Doctor Who spinoff Torchwood is sexually going where no SF on television has ever gone before. Boldly leading the way is omnisexual romantic hero Captain Jack Harkness, who eagerly pursues sex with men, women, and aliens, so long as they are gorgeous enough. Captain Jack comes from the 51st century where, apparently, identities like gay and straight–though not male and female–are considered quaint. Is Torchwood creating new ground for sexual discussion and acceptance or does it leave those of us who aren’t the “beautiful people” in the dust?
198 The Double-Edged Sword of Identity
We like to be appreciated for our appearance, sometimes, but we often don’t want to be appreciated for our identity: ‘You just want to hang out with me because I’m a lesbian!’ ‘If we weren’t both SF fans, we’d have nothing in common.’ Why is it okay to show attraction to someone for some aspects of who they are, but not for others?
199 Do We Favor Pros?
Even at a class-conscious con like WisCon, we still tend to give a lot of cachet to published authors. Is this a class issue at heart? Are voices that haven’t been in print yet less favored than those that are? Can WisCon give a voice to everyone? How?
008 How Much Is Too Much?
Unless we’re reading or writing about a utopia, the societies in our fantasy worlds are going to have problems. In fact, a culture without problems invariably comes off as shallow and unrealistic. Does this mean we need to include things like sexism and racism if we want to tell a believable story? And if so, are we, as authors, guilty of perpetuating whatever-ism in the real world?
012 Male Feminists: You Don’t Get A Cookie
Allies are an important part of any movement and there is always a level of satisfaction when someone takes a step down from their role as oppressor and attempts to throw off the benefits of male privilege. However, do we somehow give the voices of male feminists a greater weight than women with the same opinion? Do we allow male feminists a pass where we would never allow the same behavior/sayings in other men? Some male allies never choose to examine the way male privilege impacts their lives and their social interactions. From arguing their right to enter women-only spaces to talking over female colleagues and taking up much more than their fair share in conversations. This is of course not true of all male allies but it does seem to be present in a significant number. How can we deal with their presence? Are there ways to spot and deal with these allies in a way that educates and doesn’t alienate? Most of all how much cachet do you deserve for deciding that women should be treated as human beings?
027 Captain Jack’s Big Gay Torchwood
‘The 21st century is when everything changes, and you’ve got to be ready.’ Is Torchwood breaking new ground, or just depending on our prurient tastes to grab viewers? Or both? Or neither? How do the gay relationships on the show compare with the straight ones? Finally, let’s hold a comparison among the various gay kisses portrayed on the show.
035 Fantastic Groves of Academe
How do the characters of fantasy and SF receive their education? On Roke in Earthsea? At Unseen University? Lyra’s Oxford? Hogwarts? Miskatonic U? Saganami Island? Breakness Institute? Stevermer’s College of Magics? Where would you like to have gone to school, and why? If you are an education professional, what’s your critique of the curriculum?
037 Faux Diversity vs. Actual Diversity
Firefly was set in an Asia-dominated future that mysteriously contained no actual Asian people. More recently, The Last Airbender features a rich variety of cultures and societies with details taken from many Earth traditions, predominantly Asian–and almost no characters who are identifiably not white. What is with shows that use other kinds of diversity (or just the trappings of diversity) to stand in for racial diversity? It may come from good impulses on the part of show’s creators, but is wrong, wrong, wrong in execution. We can talk about this in terms of racism, worldbuilding…possibly even (dare we say it?) cultural appropriation. Let’s discuss any and all shows that come to mind, either as bad examples or (hopefully!) as good ones.
051 Martha Jones: Made of Awesome or Disappointing Stereotype?
The third series of the new Doctor Who heralded the addition of Martha Jones as the main companion. Fans of color cheered the news and many loved her first episode. But as the series went on, some fans found a lot wanting in Martha’s character and put the blame squarely on the shoulders of the writers and producers. Now that Martha’s Series Three character arc is complete and her guest episodes on Torchwood are also complete, we can examine her role in the Whoniverse.
060 On The Lifespan Of Genres
In the October ’07 issue of Helix, John Barnes argued that genres have a natural three-generation cycle, which takes them from raw, radical innovation, through a development of techniques to virtuoso polishing; after that, a genre has done its ‘cultural work’ and it now is dead or ‘undead’: A genre is alive if new works can [still] change the genre fundamentally, and not if the reaction instead is to say, ‘Well, that’s not really in the genre.’ Does it make sense to think of SF/F — or at least some subdefinition of SF/F (the literature of the heroic drama of figuring out how the world works and applying that knowledge?) as nearing the end of its natural lifespan ? As having accomplished its cultural work? Or is Barnes’s alive period really a kind of adolescence, and what SF is actually reaching is maturity? What does it really mean to say pottery, knitting, and opera are lifeless, and is the idea of valorizing genres which are still capable of drastic change, and which are at the center of cultural attention, suspect from a feminist perspective? Is SF being subsumed into the mainstream, so that its tropes and techniques will live on vividly beyond its official boundaries? Will it, like tragedy or the gothic, change from a genre into a mode? And if so, which parts of SF will survive beyond its walls — the outward manifestations, the robots and time machines? Or the habit of rigorously imagining the possible?
065 Powerful Protagonists or Fetish Fantasies: Female Roles in Modern SF Television
This is a panel discussion about modern SF shows with strong female characters such as Xena, Buffy, Firefly, Battlestar Galactica, and Doctor Who. We will look at how these shows portray women and debate whether these are truly feminist characters.
080 The Appropriated Magic User
Shamans appear frequently in recent fantasy, horror and even science fiction, many of them not at all representative of the root cultures from which they are drawn and often to serve in roles once filled by ‘wizards,’ ‘sorcerers,’ ‘witches,’ and so on. As the image of the fictional shaman becomes stereotyped in entertainment media, does it have repercussions for cultures in which shamans still practice? Or is it simply a different take on magic users in general? And if the latter, how is the shaman/ness, different from an enchanter/ress, sorcerer/ess, witch or wizard and the cultures from which they were long ago drawn and stereotyped?
086 The Unbound Feminine Id: Unicorns And Cock Rings
Anne Bishop’s fantasy novels have found a ready audience for her tales of talking animals, male sexual slavery, and tragic, abused orphans. Distressingly transparent tales from the id, they remain nonetheless compelling even to the critical reader who cannot believe she is reading this thing. What’s with that?
104 LGBTQ Fiction: Are we ready for the Mainstream? Are they ready for us?
A discussion with authors and readers on the future of LGBTQ centered fiction. Heterosexual content is generally taken in stride by gay and straight people alike, but some straight readers are still uncomfortable reading LGBTQ fiction. Does fact that a film like Brokeback Mountain can be as successful as it was mean alternative lifestyles are seen are more acceptable in the public eye? Despite the success of shows like The L Word, are certain types of fiction, such as gayfic and menage stories more easily marketable than lesbian fiction? How do we market ourselves beyond our own community? Would doing so do more harm than good? Is there a there’s an audience for such stories beyond the LGBTQ community? And does success on television translate to success in print?
114 Defining God
“What would it take to get you to believe in God?” Omnipotence? Intelligence? Enlightenment? Benevolence? This workshop explores the definition of a “higher power” in an increasingly technological world. What if human capacity rose to this level? What about computers? Will our concept of “god” change as technology grows?
177 Black (and Latina or Latino, and Asian, and…) to the Future
Science fiction, for all its predictive power, has a tendency to whitewash depictions of the future. For those SF writers who want to accurately depict near-Earths and future-Earths in their work, what will global societies look like, demographically, culturally, and otherwise? Why is it important that writers try to get it right? Do readers actually care?
179 Elves and Dwarves: The Racism Inherent in Fantasy
Elves are slim, tall, light-skinned forest-lovers. Dwarves are stout, working-class, good craftsmen. Asians are good with math. Jews have a natural gift with money. Issues of racial stereotyping in fantasy are generally passed over pretty lightly. If a race of lizards are portrayed as slow-moving and lazy, well, that’s to be expected, they’re cold-blooded, right? They’re biologically different from the rest of us. Is it OK to casually make generalizations and judgments about cultures and races in SF/F, whether real or imaginary, or this dangerous racism? Do responsible authors owe it to their readers to avoid using simple biological imperatives instead of carefully developing alternate cultures? And what of the characters that rebel against the norm? Are they brave iconoclasts, or merely the exception that proves the rule?
189 The Invisible Spaces Where We Intersect
SF/F writers have provided us with a small but growing number of strong, vivid main characters who are women, people of color, LGBTQ or others who are marginalized in our current society. But where are the characters that have the intersecting identities that so many of us live with day in and out? Are they absent because of a fear that a book based around such a character will not sell or be accessible to other readers? Or is it because we don’t have the language to portray these complex intersecting identities as they need to be written? Come discuss/brainstorm around these issues.
201 Some of Us Are Brave: Identity Intersections in an Election Year
With the Clinton and Obama candidacies, there has been a great deal of discussion in the press about race and gender. Unfortunately, this discussion is often framed in terms of which is the so-called bigger issue. Black women in particular have been singled out as facing a perceived dilemma in terms of identity framed as an either/or situation. This panel will look at identity intersections–ands instead of ors–using the discourse around the Clinton and Obama candidacies as a framework.