Category Archives: friends

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.

WisCon 31 Recalled 3/4: Is This Level Of Exhaustion Normal?

Again, If I get any names or facts wrong, feel free to let me know. I’ve only got my own faulty memory to rely on here.

Sunday
The day started not with a bang but with a whimper as I climbed out of bed slowly and prepared myself for my second panel of the weekend. I wandered down to the Green Room for some tea and then headed over to the meeting room. On the way I ran into a bunch of the FeministSF Blog bloggers and talked with them for a bit.

There were a few people in the room and one of my fellow panelists, K. Joyce Tsai. I knew Joyce from online but had never really met her in person before this Con (we had talked the previous night outside the parties & at the Whither Hero(in)es panel on Friday night.) so we talked a little in our bleary, sleepy states. In came Doselle Young, in his atheist t-shirt and furry slippers and the first words out of his mouth: “I’m not the moderator, am I?”
Joyce & I: un-huh
Doselle: Damn, I don’t want to be a moderator, let’s just run this anarchy style.
Me: Fine by me
Unfortunately for my inner anarchist, but luckily for the audience, Janice Ellen Young was also on the panel and took on the role of moderator.

What These People Need Is A Honky!
– Joyce had a list of films that meet this trope (I will find the list and post it in the WisCon Addendum post on Tues. or Weds.)
– Leah (in the audience) brought up the white female teacher savior trope and I told them about the skit “Nice White Lady” from MadTV.
– I brought up Tamora Pierce’s Trickster duology, which I do love but has way too much: “Oh we couldn’t have done this without you, young white spy!”
– Doselle brought up the movie Mimic(?) and the fact that not only does the black man sacrifice himself for the white main character (a staple in these types of films) but he goes to his death SINGING! Doselle said he was afraid to look down and see that his popcorn had been changed to watermelon.
– Of course we brought up “Dancing with The Last Samurai of Heaven.”
– Joyce brought up the film Cry Freedom and the lack of black characters (speaking ones in particular) in the second half.
– Star Wars: The Phantom Menace and Jar-Jar, the evil traders with Asian accents & the evil merchant/slave-owner with a Jewish accent. (It should be noted that when I say accents I mean stereotypical racist portrayals of accents)
– Johanna (from the audience) told us the Ewoks actually speak Tagalog a lot. “Yes, the little brown bears speak the language of the ‘little brown people’!”
That hurt me…a lot.
I brought up the Wounded Knee adaptation and the bullshit of the added part-white character. Doselle had to take a moment.
– Someone brought up the little coda always at the end of the film, “This is still a problem in…”. Which I brought up is mostly for a white audience. It’s like ‘Oh there’s still racism in America? Yeah I’m black I already knew that shit.’ This makes it very obvious who the films are made for and it ain’t PoC.
– Joyce brought up Shogun & the Empire book series by Feist & Wurts.
– The fact that a large majority of interracial relationships are white man/woman of color. That interracial is hardly ever interpreted as PoC/PoC.
– I said I have no respect for those (like Mariah Carey) who actively hide their heritage only to admit to it later to cash in on the trend.
– The fact that many white people view Denzel as “the Good Negro” in that he is safe and they can identify with him as opposed to say Djimon Hounsou. (Note: I don’t view Denzel this way but it is why for a long time he dominated any roles that needed a black man; we’re just starting to see the end of this)
– Also that Denzel, Avery Brooks, Eric LaSalle all had/have enough power to alter their character, whereas most PoC in Hollywood do not. That this is why their characters often turn out more realized than other PoC characters.
The Pam Noles blog post about white men dominating hollywood, I compared it to the coda at the end of the films. Is there any PoC who did not know this was still the case?

After the panel it was discovered that all the panelists were from California. Just an oddity no real point to the fact.

We all talked for a while then Jackie & I headed out for lunch. I think we went to the Noodle place again (we went there about 3 times and I always ordered the Mac & Cheese. We were in Wisconsin it would have felt like a betrayal not to sample their delicious cheeses!) I can’t recall if this should have gone in Sat.’s report but I’m putting it here. Jackie and I entered our room to find a plate of freshly made chocolate-covered strawberries & 2 glasses of Sangria. Our friend Kit from back home had heard about the bad thing that had happened to us that first day. She called the hotel and had them send up the treats with a nice little card. It was a wonderful surprise. I have great friends.

Then over to my next panel:
Colonialism…In…Space! (which I told everyone had to be read the way it was written.)
Panelists were: Me!, Victoria McManus, Jane Acheson (who has a great post here), Sara Brodzinsky & James A. Trimarco.
So I am gonna say that this was the panel I was most worried about because I felt I was going to be the only (or only visible) PoC on the panel and I was right. I wouldn’t have even been on the panel had Liz Henry not dropped out. I took Liz’s spot which I think is a very good thing. A panel on Colonialism with no PoC there would have felt weird, not because white people can’t talk about colonialism but they’re drawing parallels to the (mostly) white colonization of brown folks. If we’re going to discuss that I felt the panel should have been a little more mixed. When we are discussing Colonialism…In…Space! in comparison with first contact scenarios…it was just felt odd not have more PoC on the panel. Especially since colonialism in America is not over, it happens everyday.

I digress, the bottom line being it was uncomfortable being the only PoC there, though I rather be uncomfortable than there be a panel on colonialism with no PoC. When we were introducing ourselves I struggled with if I should bring it up. Y’know point out the elephant in the room. Instead I just brought up the fact that I identify as a colonized person in America, which I do. Allison, who was in the audience, later told me that I should have brought it up, that she expected the moderator to and truthfully so did I.

The panel did go well, though I think my uncomfortableness with the situation made me dominate the conversation more than I usually would.
– I brought up BSG and them being the colonized people at which point Jane said one of my favoritest quotes from the Con “It’s still pretty white people oppressing pretty white people.” Which is very true. I mentioned that I thought it was revolutionary in the way that it forced most of the audience to code with an oppressed and colonized people. A rarity to be sure.
– There were some great books and movies brought up but I never take notes so they are lost to the winds of time.
– I brought up Nalo’s Brown Girl In The Ring as a very visceral moment of colonialism. The Minister needs a new heart and it is ripped from the body of the oppressed. This was in a response to a question about books and colonialism that I can’t quite recall.
– Jane brought up the Steerswoman series by Rosemary Kirstein and spoiled it a bit but I still want to read the series. I vaguely recall reading the first book years ago. Anyway she had some great examples on why the land itself is a colonizer along with the people.
– Victoria mostly took the silent moderator approach, just there to keep things on track.
– James had some great books he listed but as I said no notes.
– We also brought up the fact that the story most used in books is the big bad colonizer comes in to destroy someone. Then one of the colonizers lives among “the people” and learns they’re fabulous. Then he attempts to save them from the colonizer. This also ties in to the “What These People Need Is A Honky.” panel
– One book suggested that I do remember and could not find during the Con was So Long Been Dreaming a collection of sci-fi stories focusing on post-colonialism. I need to pick that up.
(There will probably be a post later about how my identification as a colonized person affects my writing because after Jane wrote about it I started to think about it a lot.)

Then I was off to: The Author’s Blog: Does It Help? Does It Hurt?
Panel: Lori Devoti, K. Tempest Bradford & Michael Mornard
This was a good panel with a whole lot of audience interaction. I asked questions about reviewing books on your blog and things of that nature. The advice given which I’m going to stick to is when critiquing work you have to have a reasonable critique. You can’t say “This book is stupid and so is the author!” but instead have things about the book that you disliked and point them out and your reason for disliking them which I think I’ve mostly stuck to. In other words don’t get personal, although that’s inevitable to a point, try and stay distanced.
Lively panel and lot of laughter. Points I remember:
– Once you put something online, it’s there forever in some form. Think before you post.
– People are reading your blog, even if their are no comments. Think before you snark, under your real name about people you need to interact with (I had to add the qualifier because I love snark and don’t want it to go away).
– Some authors use the blog to stay connected with fans and make them feel involved in the process.

I stayed in the same room because Candra & Allison were giving their paper presentation: Inherited Traits – Race, Gender, and Intertextuality in Heroes.
Unfortunately due to technical difficulties they started late so we didn’t get the whole paper but the 75% of it we got was great. They had clips to illustrate their points and brought up a lot of things I hadn’t seen because I stopped watching. I only had to leave the room once, when they showed the attempted rape of Claire, because that’s way too much for me to deal with. (In case I haven’t mentioned this elsewhere in the blog I cannot deal with sexualized violence, it makes my stomach turn. It’s something I don’t like to read or watch. In fiction rape is often played as titillating or motivating and to see this horrible base act made into something sexual for the audience’s male gaze is just disgusting. There’s a whole post here for later so I’ll stop now.)
Despite several attempted derailments by random men in the audience I do think thiswent very well. Although it did take me a little bit to realize exactly what intertextuality is because in my film class we always called it extra-diagetic information. Luckily I cottoned on but even before I did I enjoyed the things brought up. I especially enjoyed their discussion of the death of Simone and how the blame is placed only on Isaac (even though he was right!). Yeah, I could go on about this for a while but let’s move on…

We (Jackie, Candra, Allison, a bunch of people whose names I don’t remember or never knew & I) went to dinner at this burger place. The conversation turned to films that involve diversity of all types.

Then it was back to the hotel for a nap and then the GoH (Guest of Honor) speeches. Unfortunately while the spirit was willing the flesh was exhausted. Jackie attempted to wake me from my nap. I mumbled something about leaving me behind and went back to sleep. I woke up in time to start ironing my shirt for the fancy dress party. Jackie walked in to find me ironing while watching Flavor of Love: Charm School (or whatever it’s called). Give me a break, the hotel had limited cable! It was a good episode too, the one where Hottie hides two of the girls dresses to fluster them before a competition, where Andrew Firestone from The Bachelor interviewed them (no, I couldn’t make this shit up!).

Anyway we headed upstairs to one of the parties but it was crowded, stuffy and hot. Also we’d worked the parties the last two nights in a row. So we headed downstairs to the bar and drank until last call (which is really early in the hotel, 10:30p.m.) then up to Candra & Allison’s room. We just hung out chatting for a couple of hours. Then Jackie & I headed down to our own room and passed out.

Next: WisCon 31 Recalled 4/4: What do you mean it’s over?!? No, I won’t return to the real world! Nooooooooooo!

WisCon 31 Recalled 2/4: My First Panel or What The Hell Am I Doing Up At This Table?!?

If I get any names or facts wrong, feel free to let me know. I’ve only got my own faulty memory to rely on here.

Saturday
Rose early, all bright and shiny… well it would have been bright and shiny if the laryngitis fairy hadn’t snuck into the room during the night and stolen Jackie’s voice. I woke and went to the bathroom, ignoring Jackie’s frantic gesturing in my sleepy state. When I emerged she gestured that she had lost her voice. We…well I discussed how that sucked and she whispered some comments back. Eventually we proceeded to our first panel of the day:

Genre Tokenism Today: The New Octavia
Panelists were: Nora Jemison, K. Tempest Bradford, Candra K. Gill, Nnedi Nkemdili Okorafor-Mbachu & Nisi Shawl.
I would bullet point it but there’s a pretty good transcript over at the FemSFWiki and my memory is way faulty.
I do want to say though that I thought it was a great panel that addressed a lot of concerns I had. The panelists discussed how it felt to be asked that question (Who is the next Octavia? Are you?), there was also some remembering of Octavia that had me tearing up a bit. Also just to point out, all the women on this panel are hilariously funny. I got to talk with all of them during the Con, except for Nnedi, and I was in almost constant laughter and always had a smile on my face.

Next my fellow panelists from “Why Is The Universe So Damn White?” K. Tempest Bradford, Wendy Bradley, Kate Elliot and I along with Kate’s daughter Rihana and Jackie went for lunch over at Ian’s Pizza.

(I had been escorted to Ian’s Pizza on Thurs. morning by Liz Henry, her partner John, their son Milo and Penny after my arrival at the hotel. Any place that has Macaroni & Cheese Pizza is my kind of place. I hit that pizzeria about 4 times during my trip. I forgot to mention this excursion on the first part of this report but it was a really good time with great people. I’ve heard Liz talk about her partner and child and it was awesome to put faces with the names. Penny was great and we talked about what panels we wanted to attend and shipping all the way to England (she’s British). I ran into all them throughout the Con but this was the only time we all got to sit down and actually talk. Okay timewarp from Thurs. back to Sat.)

We discussed the panel, what we wanted to discuss, how we wanted to approach certain subjects. Kate Elliot brought pages of wonderful notes, me being the unprepared person I always am, brought nothing. We also laid bets for when we would hear “I’m colorblind.” “I don’t care if someone’s black, white, green or polka-dotted!” and a few other key phrases. After lunch and some tea in the Green Room it was time for our panel. Right before the panel Kate gave me a copy of her new hardcover book, Spirit Gate. It’s almost all PoC (there’s only one white character and she’s secondary) and I’m so very anxious to read it. I asked her to sign it and played Vanna during the panel a bit, showing it off. Also somewhere in here Tempest became my con buddy! She was totally amazing to hang out with and we had a great time gossiping and just in general running around the Con.

Why Is The Universe So Damn White?
Points I can recall:
– Buffy, SoCal with no PoC until season 7 (excluding Trick, Kendra and a few others, very few and they never lasted very long)
– Battlestar Galactica and the Planet of the Black Fundies (a.k.a. Gemenon)
– Bury My Heart @ Wounded Knee adaptation, which Kate had actually brought the quote from the producer. It made the audience groan and shudder as it should.
– Tempest told us about her interaction with Ron Moore.
– Wendy discussed the difference in British TV and how we code PoC.
– Heroes and the absence of a name for “The Haitian”

That’s all I can really recall but a final note, Tempest and I were both blogged about at Wired.Com by Annalee Newitz. When Annalee told me she had blogged about me I assumed she meant a personal blog, not a professional one. Then people started emailing me to let me know what was happening. Also if you have any knowledge of race issues or any kind of consciousness about race, do not read the comments. No really, they’ll make your head all explodey!
Afterwards people complimented us on the panel, which was a real boost cause I was completely nervous and spazzed out, and Rihana showed me a picture she had drawn of me during the panel which was great. She’s quite an amazing artist. Also I’m damn cute!

Then I set off for:
Cultural Appropriation Revisted Part 1, the panel consisted of:
Candra K. Gill, Yoon Ha Lee, K. Tempest Bradford, Victor Jason Raymond, MJ Hardman & Nnedi Nkemdili Okorafor-Mbachu
There is a transcript for this panel over at FemSfWiki.


So just my impressions. I thought it went very well. There was good discussion among the panelists about cultural appropriation and appropriate cultural appropriation. I loved hearing Nnedi talk about the experience of being the child of Nigerian parents and feeling trapped between two worlds because of it. Sometimes not being acknowledged as valid by Nigerians or African-Americans. As the son of an Ethiopian immigrant I feel the same way a lot. I did not stay for Part 2 of Cultural Appropriation because that was when the audience got to speak and I just didn’t want to deal with it. Also people entered the room that had not been a part of the first discussion which I thought was extremely stupid. It also confirmed that I had made the right choice in leaving. If there was a way next year to only allow those who attended the first part, to attend the second I would recommend it.

Another point is that at the panel I saw C.E. Murphy, author of the Urban Shaman series. The Urban Shaman series (from Luna) features a protagonist that is part Native. So it was good to see the white author in the panel taking notes and nodding along. Now that I have proof she’s aware of what’s going on and might have done some research I might give the series a try.
So the time between this and the parties is a bit of a blur. I don’t exactly remember what I did or with who because I did so much all weekend. If you know what I did here please let me know. And no I wasn’t drunk…yet. Oh wait! There was swimming! Yes, Jackie & I headed to the pool at one point and were stared at very rudely by this mundane (as in not a Con goer) mother. Yes, we are two black people. That will not change the more you stare. After a bit we both stared back at her until she looked away. During the pool time there was talking to John and a host of other people whose names I’ve forgotten or never knew. It was great conversation about spirituality and tattoos.

The parties I stayed in the bound of this night were the Tor book party & Small Beer Press’ release party for Water Logic by Laurie J. Marks. The first two in the Logic series were published by Tor, so the two parties on the same floor on the same night made me giggle.

During the party a man (I can’t remember his name damn it!) came up to me and asked me about authenticity in writing cultures of Color. I told him that authenticity is, more often than not, a false idea because what is an “authentic” black/asian/female experience? I told him my view which is that if you create this culture, create it all the way. You have to know what this culture is about, their beliefs and practices, their traditions and expertise. It was to be more than a plot point. Even if you don’t include any of their culture in the story itself knowing all that about a culture means that when you write it’ll most likely come across as more real. That’s just my opinion though. Somewhere during this conversation another man joined us and had some great things to say. When I looked at his name tag I realized it was freakin’ Lawrence Schimel! As with Kate I interrupted the conversation to fanboy him a bit over his book, The Drag Queen of Elfland. That’s almost the only way I can deal with my fanboyishness with people in person, to let them know right off the bat and then try to move on.

Anyway I had to extract myself from the conversation a little before midnight, so I could head down to the General Reading Group 2. Rosalyn Wiggins Berne had mentioned she had a reading that night, in the Genre Tokenism panel. Since she hadn’t mentioned her name it caused me a bit of panic but it was the only official reading at midnight so I figured it was a safe bet. Rosalyn had talked in the earlier panel about being an academic for 30 years and just recently coming into F/SF. She talked about how great it was to see Women of Color in F/SF. I’m also about to support writers of Color so off I went. Okay anyway this is the last panel of the day for me, actually a reading but whatever.

General Readings 2 : Rosalyn Wiggins Berne, Eileen Gunn, Heidi Lampietti & Fred Schepartz.
Rosalyn read first, from a book that’s being shopped around right now. I thought she was amazing. It was this great section with a sex toy named Mammal, who has AI and looks more animal than man. Just a great piece and I wanted to read the whole book then and there. I got a chance to tell her all this later in the elevator.
Fred read next and I thought it was an interesting story about a vampire who loses all his wealth and becomes a cabbie in Madison, WI. I didn’t understand how it was a feminist novel though.
Heidi Lampietti read a story from her collection XY. The collection is about love and most of the stories end badly, from what she said, but she read us one with a happy ending. It was hilarious, about strolling and cross dressing and a guy named Bugsie. Also she did voices, which made my day. Ran into her later in the Con and told her how much I enjoyed her reading.
Eileen Gunn was last. I had heard Eileen read at Writers with Drinks not too long ago so I was expecting the funniness and it was there in spades. Eileen read the Kirk/Spock piece I had heard before “No Place To Raise Kids” (go read it!) and it was just as hilarious as it was at Writers with Drinks. Then she read a piece called “Up The Fireroad”(?) or something like that and it was hilarious as well. A story that switched POV’s halfway through when the lumberjack/talking bear/Sasquatch comes into the picture. Had me gasping for breath, seriously. I also got a chance to talk to Eileen later in the Con and tell her how much I loved her readings and how funny she was.

Then it was off to bed!

Next WisCon 31 Recalled 3/4: Is This Level Of Exhaustion Normal?

Long Time, No Post

Okay so I have a story due for class tomorrow so can’t make a long post this is more a summary & a what’s to come all in one.

Summary – Went to Writers With Drinks and it was just wonderful and fabulous, every single reader was exceptional and I got to discuss being a writer of color with poet Robin Coste Lewis for a little bit afterwards. Then went to dinner at Bahia with a few of the folks (Badgerbag, Claire Light, Charlie Anders & Cynthia from Yet Another Timesink) on my blogroll, a bunch of great people I’d never meant before & Eileen Gunn (who was just wonderful and hilarious at the reading though sadly I didn’t really speak with her afterwards). It was a great time and I had a lot of fun.

Things to be posted about more fully later:

#1 The book I plan to write this summer is not the one I planned to write (if that makes sense?) I was planning this Urban Fantasy novel that deals with race and slavery and a whole lot of other stuff but now it’s this other story that’s been rolling around in my head about Incest, Kidnapping & Religion (Working Title: Hum Hallelujah)

#2 Reviews of Vicki Pettersson’s The Scent of Shadow & The Taste of Night and Yiyun Li’s A Thousand Years of Good Prayers are coming soon.