Category Archives: conventions

World Science Fiction (Renovation) – Here I Come!

So I will be attending my first ever World Science Fiction Convention this year! 2011’s con is Renovation in Reno, NV. I’ve always wanted to attend a World SF Con and with it being so close geographically this year and a couple of other things that came together it looks like I’m gonna make it! There’s still the matter of rooming to be worked out (if you need a room I have slots, please be not-a-serial-killer, smoking I can live with a knife in the back not so much). Hope to see at least some of my friends from WisCon and World Fantasy there. I’m also going to be on 7(!) panels. Exciting and nerve-wracking.

Here are my panels for the Con:

Thu 14:00 – 15:00, Science Fiction, Gender, and Social Change(Panel), A03 (RSCC)

The workings of any society are a confluence of many different forces and movements. As society changes, its literature and arts (including SF) reflects, anticipates, and perhaps influences the direction and scope of change. How has SF influenced and reflected the changes in gender and gender roles over the past quarter century? As we look back to the work of writers such as Ursula LeGuin and Joanna Russ in the sixties and seventies, what can we say about their impact and
that of their heirs today?

Alexandria Brown (M), Ctein, Amy Thomson, Mari Kotani and Naamen Tilahun

I’m very interested in who we think are the heirs to LeGuin and Russ. Not just authors with a feminist slant (while many authors tend to deny this label) but authors where feminism and gender roles are central to their work in many ways.

Thu 15:00 – 16:00, Why We Still Love _The Twilight Zone_ Fifty Years On (Panel), C1 (RSCC)

While science fiction for kids filled the TV screens of the ’50s, Rod Serling’s _The Twilight Zone_ was, arguably, the first SF show for adults. Featuring sophisticated themes, good writing and a surprising number of young actors who went on to be stars, _The Twilight Zone_ is a classic of the genre everyone should be watching. Our panel talks about some of their favorite episodes and why they’ve lasted.

H. G. Stratmann (M), Gary Westfahl, J. Steven York, John DeChancie and Naamen Tilahun

Okay, admission time. The Twilight Zone freaks me out! Don’t get me wrong, I love it but it still freaks me out. It is one of my mom’s favorite shows so I was exposed to it a lot growing up and I still feel terror over certain episodes (mostly more obscure eps like the one with the bus stop and the doppelgangers). Amazing show, effective and creepy and oh so sci-fi.

Fri 10:00 – 11:00, SF We Love by Writers of Color (Panel), A03(RSCC)

Are you curious about SF by writers of color. How do you
find the good stuff? There are many reading options, and many ways of connecting with the various communities of color producing excellent SF. Join us to look at reading lists from the Carl Brandon Society and other sources. And bring your own suggestions and your squee.

Naamen Tilahun (M), Vylar Kaftan, Anne Gray, Bradford Lyau

Definitely have authors that I think are getting some attention but deserve a lot more. Readying a list.

Fri 11:00 – 12:00, Minority Representation in SF Art and the Ugly Reality (Panel), D05 (RSCC)

Minority representation needs to get better in our visual SF, including casting in film and TV and the design and selection of cover art. A discussion of what’s wrong with the status quo and how the industry can and should improve.

Lee Moyer (M), Aliette de Bodard, Lee Harris, Naamen Tilahun

I have examples I can bring! Examples from multiple decades! Gotta dig through my books and pull out my old copy of Butler’s “Dawn”, Emily Deveport’s “Larissa”, Laurie J. Marks’ “Fire Logic” and of course bring up the recent controversies in cover art and the idea that asking for accurate and inclusive cover art is somehow being a problem author.

Sat 14:00 – 15:00, Unsuppressing Women: The Work and Legacy of Joanna Russ (Panel), D05 (RSCC)

Joanna Russ was one of science fiction’s first
feminist writers and a leading literary critic. Our panel looks at her fiction, reviews, and critical work, and assesses her lasting impact on the field.

Farah Mendlesohn (M), Teresa Nielsen Hayden, Naamen Tilahun, Gary K. Wolfe

Love, love, love Joanna. I’m doing a series over at Feminist-SF The Blog called Remembering Joanna about reading four of the more obscure works she wrote. Only the first part is up so far but I’m hoping to get at least one more up (if not the whole sequence of four) by the time I leave for WorldCon.

Sat 15:00 – 16:00, The Paranormal as Metaphor (Panel), A16 (RSCC)

Paranormal fantasy, including urban fantasy and paranormal romance, is among the most popular genres within speculative fiction. One intriguing aspect of this type of fantasy is its role as a stealth route toward social commentary and change. What are the issues being examined and how effectively are the experiences of various groups presented?

Naamen Tilahun (M), Lucienne Diver, Carrie Vaughn, Rose Fox, Patricia Briggs

Really like the idea of this panel, totally had the discussion of metaphors of vampires and werewolves and witches in on of my classes last year and really enjoyed it. Also sort of want to bring up the opposite effect in metaphor. The way in which Twilight and some other YA works attempt to rework the mythos of these creatures into something that is safe and somewhat non-sexual when their initial metaphor had such a sexual connotation.

Sun 13:00 – 14:00, Feminism in Science Fiction and SF Fandom (Panel), C1 (RSCC)

Feminism and feminist themes are an integral part of SF and Fantasy. There is major annual feminist SF&F convention (Wiscon). Last year the _The Secret Feminist
Cabal_, a cultural history of science fiction feminisms was published. What role does feminism play in modern day science fiction and fandom, and how is that role traceable the seventies and before?

Renée Sieber (M), Ellen Klages, Joan D. Vinge, Naamen Tilahun, Jed Hartman

Loved The Secret Feminist Cabal when I read it when it came out. Gonna try and re-read it before the Con so all of it (or at least the more pertinent bits) are fresh in my mind.

So that is my WorldCon schedule. Hope to see some of y’all there!

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Promoting: The Con Anti-Harassment Project

There’s been a lot of talk of cons and sexual harassment since Comic-Con especially when one person learned that the Con actually has no statement against harassment or any rules for Con-goer behavior. Part of me wonders if that’s why it’s so popular but then again I’m a cynic. Anyway, yes, sexual harassment happens at Cons (sometimes even perpetrated by guests of honor themselves *cough*) and more often than not unless the victim of the harassment wishes to come forward to the police (and be villified if their attacker is “a name” in Sci-Fi) and file a report nothing will be done.

I don’t know if that’s why The Con Anti-Harassment Project was started but its something we definitely need.

The Con Anti-Harassment Project is a grass-roots campaign designed to help make conventions safer for everyone. Our aims are to encourage fandom, geek community and other non-business conventions to establish, articulate and act upon anti-harassment policies, especially sexual harassment policies, and to encourage mutual respect among con-goers, guests and staff.

The convention experience is often a fun and rewarding one; we want to do our part to make it fun, rewarding and safe for everyone involved. Conventions can’t eliminate harassment, but they can reduce it, have ways to deal with it when it happens, and make it clear that it’s unacceptable in our fun con environments. Our campaign is based upon a three-part action plan we encourage con committees to adopt and adapt for their own con atmosphere and environment.

Go check it out.

There’s a list of things you can do to help out, lists of Cons that have anti-harassment policies and links including one to Open Source Women Back Each Other Up Project (and Gentlemen’s Auxiliary).

Very cool

WisCon Day 5

The last official day of WisCon began with a whimper. With aches in my body and bank account Jackie and I headed down to the People of Color Wrap-Up/Breakfast. We were late because we read the time of the flyer wrong but there was still a good amount of folks there.

Then it was time for, you guessed it, more shopping! Thankfully there wasn’t much I wanted that was still available (that I hadn’t already bought). Then it was off to the Author Sign-Out which had amazing authors everywhere and where I got a bunch of my books signed. The book signing at WisCon is so different from books signings elsewhere because for four days you’ve already interacted with a bunch of the authors. They are fellow con-goers, just regular folks that you’ve argued with or sided with all weekend. So unlike bookstore signings there’s a lot of talking with the authors and laughing and joking around. Sometimes it makes for long waits but you also get to really talk to authors and funny little things happen like Ellen Kusher recommending me a series of YA based in Axum and writing the author on the inside cover of her book so I wouldn’t forget.

So I got signatures from a bunch of folks and when I was getting my copy of Acacia signed by David Anthony Durham, who I got to hang out with a bit during the Con and he asked where my name was from. I told him it was Ethiopian and he asked to use it in the next book in the series. I agreed (of course!) and as I was walking to my next author he called out “I’ll do my best to keep your namesake alive.” which cracked me up, the whole POC always die thing. So yes, look for the character Naamen in the sequel to Acacia!

Then of course there was more drinking to close out the convention and stumbling to bed.

WisCon Day 4

So Sunday was my super busy day I had 3 panels, one of which was at ass o’clock in the morning, otherwise known at like 8:45, which is my own fault for saying I’d be available at that time but still.

Sunday Panel 1: The first panel was on blogging and if that takes away from your creative time. My answer was yes until I got myself an actual schedule that allows me timw to write generally. Vylar Kaftan talked about setting up her blog and little internet elves. Cecelia Tan discussed how much of her life is now online with correspondence and blogs. Alan Bostick talked about how he was now trying to get his blog to make money instead of just sucking his time away. M.K. Hobson talked about people finding her blog which set us all off to talking about that. All in all we discussed how far we went with what we would and wouldn’t say online where others could find it. It was a small panel (only 10 folks in the audience) but overall I think it went quite well with some back and forth with the audience and such.

When I left the room the Con had been papered with signs saying the flu had come to WisCon and that we all should wash our hands repeatedly.

Sunday Panel 2: Dissecting Diversity – I had been nervous about this panel going in but meeting the moderator and discussing what she wanted to focus on did calm me. Unfortunately the dreaded WisCholera laid her low before the panel itself. I had one friend approach me beforehand and ask that if it went badly was she free to leave or did I need the support of her in the audience. I told her to go ahead and leave if she needed to, about half way through I saw her get up and go. I saw a few other People of Color get up and leave as well. I think that having 5 folks up there, 3 white men, 1 white woman and 1 Man of Color (me) was unfortunate. There should have been the voices of Women of Color in the conversation especially when discussing diversity in full.

It was held in one of the larger halls and there was some good audience participation but there were also a few things that happened in that room that had friends mouthing “Are you okay?” at me during the panel. They could see my anger at some of the things being said which I felt were pure derailment in some instances. I do however think that the panel got better about halfway through. Anyway enough of that.

During this time I was constantly waiting for the hotel to call me and let me know that they had shifted our things to another room (a non-smoking room). I called down finally and they gave me the keys and let me know everything was switched. I called my roommates with our new room number and ran upstairs for a quick Disco Nap before my fourth and final panel of the Con.

Sunday Panel 3: Faux Diversity vs. Actual Diversity went quite well. I think we got to the center of a lot of issues with Diversity and the whitening of characters who are actually of color, for instance Inara and River are both clearly supposed to be read as white within the context of Firefly/Serenity but neither of the actresses would be considered white by modern societal standards. I also got to get that whole thing about Avatar being read as white off my chest and actually had a bunch of support from the audience. So yes, other people know that there are no white characters in Avatar, I can only hope M. Night Shalaman knows it as well (since he’s directed the live-action adaptation). Rachel one of the panelists talked about the horrible Chinese in Firefly/Serenity and how it makes no sense to Chinese speakers. Julia gave the audience (and the panel) a good rundown on why she likes Eureka so much and how it’s racial diversity doesn’t fall into stereotypes (or only rarely does). Janice and a audience member, John argued over whether it’s better to have no characters of Color or badly characterized People of Color on a show. I’m always of two minds when it comes to that argument. I can see how visibility is good and it being easier to improve an existing character than to insert one in a resistant show but at the same time I get so tired of the badly characterized People of Color that I just want them of my freaking screen. 

After that there was dinner, I believe this was the night a bunch of us went out for Ethiopian food, which while not strictly Ethiopian was still damn good. One of the folks we had dinner with, Cabell gave me a fantastic mix CD based on Buffy, which has some f*ing amazing songs on it. There was drinking and then back to the Con for the Martha Jones panel.

I felt like the Martha Jones panel veered way off course at times, like when all of a sudden we (the general we, I was in the audience here) were just discussing companions in general, who our favorite was, why they were this way and on and on. We discussed Donna and Rose and companions from decades past. It was a nice discussion but still not really addressingthe topic of the panel. We did get to talk about Martha and everyone on the panel agreed that she had amazing potential that was squandered and that there were some serious problems with some of the scenarios she was put in most noticeably the Family of Blood episodes where Martha is the maid.

Then it was upstairs, by then the WisCholera was sweeping the Con and people were afraid so the parties were much more subdued and empty. So there was drinking, I won a Vixen Action Figure in the Girls with Capes party admired my friends costumes and then it was off to bed.

Woo, I rushed to get this one out to y’all and again all of the things here are my remembrance weeks after the fact.  

Next: WisCon Day 5

WisCon Day 3

It’s been over a week since WisCon and while I’m still going through withdrawals I’ve forgotten a lot of the nuances of what happened so I’m just going to hit the major points.

Saturday was the day of the Coffeeklatch (People Against We-Sha-Sha!*) and it went fantastically! Much props to Tempest for the planning and execution.  We all discussed our secret plans for world domination…*cough* I mean had coffee and cake!

By then it was almost time for my first panel of the con and the only one I was moderating, Captain Jack’s Big Gay Torchwood. This was one of the panels I didn’t feel went that well, I wanted it to be a very fun but also thinky panel but I think there were a couple of people on the panel who just wanted to squee and gush about how cute Jack and Ianto are together. In fact one member came prepared to derail the discussion if it got too serious (too serious for who?) which really kinda raised my hackles. Maybe she didn’t mean it that way but it came across as her deciding the panel was gonna go her way no matter what, it just stank of privilege. 

So yeah I brought up the devaluing of women’s sexuality throughout the series and the way that they aren’t allowed to have the same experiences of their male counterparts. The invisibility of “the lesbian” in the show was another thing that was brought up and how casting Jack as an alien allows some folks to detach and not address the sexuality of the character directly (the same thing that happens with all the POC on Stargate being aliens, but that’s a post for another time). And Jackie piped up from the audience and brought up the problem with terming some of the kisses on the show “gay kisses”, which is that it sets up the default as all kisses are straight. The problem for me is that I felt like we didn’t really get to the meat of any of the issues because we kept getting somewhat derailed by people saying “ohhh so hot”, “oooh so pretty” but whatever.

The rest of the day was a bit of a blur, I know I attended some panels and they were probably super but nothing that really stuck out at me.  

I would be remiss if I didn’t discuss the Carl Brandon Society Party which I’m pretty sure happened on Saturday Night. Now first of all CBS put on the Opening Ceremonies on Friday evening which were a great big filk sing-along! There were songs about how WisCon was made for you and me, about each Guest of Honor, about all the good food that surrounded WisCon (I can attest to this!) and finally best of all Nisi Shawl’s filk song “Filk Music Ain’t Got No Soul”. It was a lot of fun and laughs were had all around.

Anyways on Saturday it was up to the CBS party where I drank C-52’s (B-52 with a M&M in it, C stand for Carl) renewed my membership, donated to the Octavia Butler Scholarship and ran into old friends and we talked about everything from the society itself to books that we had liked in the recent year. Then there was wandering from party to party until the crowded atmosphere became to much for us.

The night ended as I think all of mine did this WisCon, sitting in the bar with friends I only see once a year shooting the shit and getting hammered. By which I mean it was a very good time.  

Next up: WisCon Days 4, 5 & 5 1/2

Currently Reading: Changeling by Delia Sherman

*We-Sha-Sha has become shorthand, among certain folks, for the objectification/exotification of POC & cultural appropriation, pretendianism in particular. It’s origin is with Cassie Edwards, the romance novelist who the blog “Smart Bitches, Trashy Books” revealed was plagiarising chunks of her books from various other sources. Now a lot of her books have to do with the old west and a white woman being kidnapped by Native Americans only to join the group and fall in love with a Native man or some similar bit of a outdated trope. Plus they all have titles like “Savage Love”, “Savage Moon”, “Savage Bloodthirsty Native Man – Fear The Brown Folks!” okay so I made the last one up but you get the point. In one of these novels the heroine has super curly red hair but she talks about how she uses a special herb called we-sha-sha to darken and straighten her hair so she can fit in more with her adopted Native peoples. So yeah, People Against We-Sha-Sha! I even have a button 🙂

WisCon Days 1 & 2!

Elizabeth, Jackie and I arrived at the hotel around 1 in the afternoon. We arrived to find that somehow we were in one of the eight smoking rooms that the hotel has. Both of my roommates had their allergies acting up so that simply would not do, after raising much fuss we realized there was really nothing the hotel could do about the situation. They agreed to put an ionizer in the room and contact us if anything opened up (as it turned out we were moved to a smoke-free room for the last two nights we were there).

We immediately ran into Candra, Claire, Nisi & Victor but they were having a meeting and we were starving so we headed off to food. We ended up at the same place (Noodles & CO.) sitting across the way from each other.

The rest of Thursday passed in a blur of volunteering, hugging old friends and meeting new ones. Then we were off to the bar (this will be a recurring line when speaking of WisCon).

On Friday we hit the Gathering where I bought way to many books, had some tea, showed off my first and only tattoo and then had some tea. Then it was off to the Dealer’s room for more book buying (also a recurring theme of WisCon). We wandered for a bit, had lunch at Noodles & Co. again except this time with a larger company including Tempest, Leah and others whose names I’ve forgotten. We discussed WisCon, race and sci-fi in general. The whole table cracked up as Tempest’s phone was called and her ringtone was revealed to be the New Doctor Who theme song. We also talked about someone who had just received a massive book deal, for a sci-fi book featuring POC! It filled me with hope for the future of Sci-fi and my own writing.

Then it was off to the Opening ceremonies where there was much filk singing. Then the POC-only gathering which was great, mostly because there were so many new faces and everyone was laughing and having a good time. I cannot divulge what else we talked about but let’s just say we have our lists for when the revolution comes  😀

Our roommate Elizabeth returned to us with notes on the “Elves & Dwarves – Inherent Racism” panel: in summary it was a hot mess not because of the moderator, from all accounts vito did all that she could, but because of one of the panelists in particular. I point you to the panel summary and reaction videosat badgerbag’s LJ. The only good to come out of it was that we were introduced to Maria who had to sit through that awful panel. Then it was a series of parties, drinking, bars, drinking, lounges, drinking until we passed out for the night.

All in all, frist two days were fantastic and more to come.

P.S. If you’re desperate to know more about the ConDrama I mentioned yesterday head over to the post What Rachel Moss Did by the angry black woman.

Back Again, Back Again, Jiggety-Jig

I have returned to my homebase from the wonderfulness that is WisCon and of course I am filled with the sadness of saying goodbye to friends I only get to see once a year. They have dispersed through the known world and I miss them all already. Hanging out, drinking and talking with Jackie, Joyce, Liz, Vito, Tempest, Candra, Allison, Johanna, Phredd, Elizabeth, Julia, Leah, J.J., Heyiya, Isabel, Maria et. al. (if your name is missing it doesn’t mean I won’t miss you just that I’m still suffering from ConBrain) is always the best part of the Con. Plus there were a few of folks who recognized my name from this blog which was insane!

It was fun con full of wonderful folks and the time went by way to fast. As for the panels I was on, well two of them went really well and two were…less than okay with me. There might be write ups of those in the next few days as I get over the Conbrain. I don’t know if I’m gonna do a play by play summary of WisCon like I did last year but I will be posting some of the highlights.

Also there will be snippets of a show that my roommates Jackie, Elizabeth & I talked about/starred in during our trip: Traveling With Femmes. This could be the next big thing! A co-production of Bravo & The Travel Channel.

There were three unfortunate things during the trip:

1. Infection! Some flu-like virus hit the Con a bunch of us got a mild version and then some got the “oh-my-god shooting out of both ends” version. I’m still not convince that the patriarchy did not do this on purpose.

2. Delay! My plane was delayed by over three hours, which means that the plane landed at 1:00 a.m. as opposed to 9:45 p.m., not fun at all. But at least it wasn’t cancelled altogether like Elizabeth’s flight, she ended up having to spend an extra night in Wisconsin.

3. Haterade! A woman came to the convention with the intention of stirring people up and causing trouble, when that didn’t go her way she took pictures of people and made a long fatphobic, transphobic, vitriolic, hateful post on her livejournal and to SomethingAwful.com. When she received a letter from the ConCom she took down her post and asked that the post be removed from SA. Unfortunately a non-affiliated group reposted part of the original and the comments have been…well let’s just say I’ve lost a lot of my faith in humanity.
     I’m still at a very stabbity-stab-stab moment with the whole thing so I can’t write a coherent post and really I’m unsure I want to revisit the seething ball of (self-)hate that thread is ever again so maybe there will never be a post.
     I’m utterly appalled by the things being said and really the people who have to mock others to make their own pathetic useless lives seem more interesting are just really fucking sad. It’s all about the amount of self-hate they have and their own inability to feel good unless they’re making fun of others and trying to make others feel bad. I’m not gonna link to anything because I don’t want the thread to get more traffic.

Anyway other than those three things, it was a fucking fantastic time and I’ve already booked the hotel room for next year.