FOGcon 14 – and onward!

Usually, I like to blog about Cons when I’m there, like for Wiscon 37 last year. With FOGcon 4, this didn’t happen – in part because I’m on the ConCom (for the Dealers’ Room and the Writing Workshop), and in part because I’d been traveling and was jetlagged. I didn’t want to use the time to blog, I wanted every spare minute for the Con itself.

Panel at FOGcon 2014

I actually made it to quite a few events, mainly by being ruthless with myself about what was and wasn’t feasible. I didn’t take notes, though, so this is from memory.

The Invisible Disabilities Panel discussed the particular issues of dealing with disabilities that are not apparent to others, especially others who do not know you – and even those who do. They may not understand, or even believe you. And in some cases, it’s tempting to hide the problem and attempt to pass – which may be useful in some ways, but can be costly in terms of energy and openness. Some issues: Potential employers will generally avoid people with disabilities, so it may be useful to hide them at interviews; friends may not know how to make allowances. Some people don’t want to admit their disabilities even to themselves until forced to do so. Allies and friends should take the lead from what the person indicates they prefer; some want friends to check in how they’re doing, but others find that intrusive. In general, recognize that all disabilities are not evident, and even hidden ones can be painful and/ or crippling.

When is your Heroine Finally Going to Be Raped?  This is a question that Guest-of-Honor Seanan McGuire was actually asked – and her response was, never. Seanan said that she’d been told she was being unrealistic and unfaithful to her story. She wasn’t buying. This panel looked at the use of rape in stories – often as a quick way to give a hero something to revenge or a heroine a grim backstory. Too often, it’s either misogynistic or lazy. Sometimes, it’s meant to be titillating.

My Baby’s Got a Secret talked about genetic tests, and the risks and benefits of genetic analyses and what they could forecast. Topics included the risk of misinterpretation, employer and insurance company discrimination against people who might have genetic predispositions to illness or disability, and privacy. What would be the impact on reproduction: Would parents try to produce the “best” baby they could get, with the result that some genetic variation across the population would be lost? Someone in the audience pointed out that genetic privacy would eventually be obsolete because the cost of testing was falling rapidly, and it took hardly anything to get a test. We should be preparing for that day, rather than trying to prevent it.

Just because she’s a manic pixie in black leather doesn’t stop her being an angel in the house. This panel looked at two popular tropes for women, often in supporting roles to the hero: The “manic pixie,” who encourages him to break away from the normal workaday world; and the “angel in the house” who inspires him to the male role of protector and provider. The panel looked at characters who transition from one to the other – manic pixies who marry and settle down and become house-angels. It also looked at movement away from these stereotypes, notably Katniss in Hunger Games, and the princesses in Frozen.

The Seanan Show was Seanan McGuire answering questions and telling stories from her life. Ask her about the time she was bitten by Claude. She’s certified to handle venomous reptiles, and Claude was one of them. She’s superb and very funny. Even about life-threatening events.

Passing for Normal. This panel addressed the whole issue of “passing.” It looked at it primarily through the lens of sexual orientation and identity. It discussed being out, peoples’ reactions, and when passing is useful.

Juliette Wade and Vylar Kaftan’s readings. This was a pleasure to attend. Vy’s story was about portals and crossing into fantasy worlds – deliberately or not. Juliette’s was about a stressed out kid in Tokyo trying to study for her college entrance exams and encountering two yokai in her backyard that interfere with her efforts – one a thrown-away bicycle, the other an umbrella and tea-pot.

Then it was time for the feedback session. Everyone seemed to have had a great Con, and there were some good suggestions about making it better.

On Sunday afternoon, I went up to Consuite for the dead frog party. FOGcon has a really nice Consuite, managed this year by Alyc Helms. It’s small and friendly, and has a good (and constantly-replenished) selection of pretty healthy snacks, including fruit, vegetables and cheese and crackers as well as candy and cookies. It often has fascinating conversations going on, with an inclusive attitude to people joining in. In some ways, it’s the heart of the Con.

And then FOGcon 4 was over. I’m looking forward to FOGcon 5 already!

I’ll write about the two areas I coordinate – Writing Workshop and Dealers’ Room – separately.

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