Wiscon 37: Saturday, May 25th 2013

Tired, happy and in dire need of a Time-Turner…

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I’d vaguely hoped to get to a 10.30 a.m. panel, but that didn’t happen. Instead, after lunch I ended up dividing my time between a reading by some of my favorite authors (Madeleine Robins, Nisi Shawl, Pat Murphy, Annalee Newitz, and Karen Joy Fowler) who called themselves “A Confederacy of Troublemakers” and a panel about the “Attack of the Fake Geek Girls.”

The reading was – as you might expect – superb. The room was crowded, and though I was only minutes late, there were no chairs left. Madeleine Robins has a new book out, “Sold for Endless Rue“, as does Karen Joy Fowler, “We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves.” Nisi Shawl has recently edited a collection of stories, “Bloodchildren“, and Annalee Newitz has a non-fiction book called “Scatter, Adapt and Remember: How Humans Will Survive Mass Extinction.”

The Fake Geek Girl panel discussed the question of being geek and female – or even more, being black and geek and female. The gaming community in particular has developed a reputation for misogyny and putdowns of women, as though they can’t actually be real gamers.  One woman said she’d been playing Dungeons and Dragons since it first came out, and she didn’t want her credentials questioned. She didn’t want to be the black gamer, or the female gamer, she just want to be – a gamer who might be black or female, but why was it relevant? I came in at the end of the discussion, but I’m glad I made it especially because of the comments from the audience.

Then I went to a panel on Class in SF and Fantasy (Ian Hagemann, Alisa Alering, Eileen Gunn, Madeleine Robins). This is something I haven’t really heard discussed much, not nearly as much as race and gender.  Eileen Gunn suggested that sci-fi has working class origins; someone else said that they probably was true of earlier science fiction, but in this generation it’s more middle-class. I have to say most sci-fi comes across as “middle-class” to me. There was discussion of “middle-class” as the unmarked state – people who are middle class are unaware of class issues, while working class people are clear about the distinctions. The talk turned to class markers – accents, whether the kitchen trash is under the sink or elsewhere in the kitchen, clothing, Myspace vs Facebook, and then circled back to accents.  Markers are socially defined, and if you’re writing of a future society, the actual markers are not so important – what’s important is how other characters react to them.

In the next slot, I again divided my time between two panels: “Steal Like an Artist” and one on self-publishing.

Steal Like an Artist discussed the ethical and artistic boundaries between “stealing” and creating something using and based on others’ work. It also touched lightly on cultural appropriation.

I went late to the Self-publishing/ Traditional publishing panel, again just in time to catch some of the audience questions and the panelists’ summation. They differed on the value of Kindle Direct, Twitter, Pinterest, and various other specific platforms; but they all agreed that authors should expect to do a lot of heavy lifting in promoting themselves (even if they have a traditional publisher). They should have websites; and possibly their books also should have websites. Everyone agreed social media are important, even if they didn’t agree on which specific ones.

I joined a  group of 10 Wisconians (Wisconites? Wisconners?) for dinner at the Fountain, opposite the hotel, with Tempest leading the charge. Some of them I’d met before, others I hadn’t. They were all interesting and a pleasure to hang out with. I had to rush off, unfortunately, so as not to miss the Big Event.

ellen klages auctionThe big event of the day was the Tiptree auction, with Ellen Klages as the auctioneer. It’s always an amazing performance by Ellen channeling her interior comedian. She did sell the t-shirt off her back (BAD GIRLS READ).

cake drowning girlThis year, a kid in the audience kept piping up… maybe Ellen has an apprentice! The most interesting item to me was a hip flask with a Space Babe design. (The picture is up at the top, standing in for a Time-Turner.)  The bidding quickly went far beyond my budget. There were also two cakes representing books by the Tiptree award winners, which were bought by the house as a whole (and enthusiastically consumed in the ConSuite later).cake ancient ancient

Afterward, I drifted through some parties, said Hi to a lot of people, sat and chatted with Kater for a while, and met Nisi Shawl’s mother – a charming lady who’s been to 3 Wiscons. I also met someone for whom this was her first Con ever. She’s a writer, a mom, and very socially aware – she was loving Wiscon’s openness and diversity. And everyone was so friendly…

I reluctantly gave up hanging out at the parties and ConSuite when I realized my energy levels were tending to zero. In my room now, writing this post.

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