Tag Archives: N.K. Jemisin

Wiscon 38, Day 4 – Sunday May 25th, 2014

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lasercornflier1-1-232x300I’d meant to wake up on Sunday in time to go to the Clockwork Lasercorn reading. Several Codexians were reading, and the poster was awesome.  But the accumulated sleep debt got me, and it didn’t happen. Instead, I  joined two people I’d just met – Nancy, and Eric – for an enjoyable Mexican lunch at Diego’s bistro, just across the street. They’re both from Minneapolis. Eric, aside from his library day-job, puts out a beautiful spec-fic magazine.  It’s had 33 issues in 28 years.

After lunch, I had a little time to play the tourist, and went to the Capitol observation deck. It had great 360-degree views. (More about that, with photographs, in a separate post.)

IS SFWA RELEVANT?

Then it was back to the hotel and “Is SFWA Relevant?” SFWA is the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. It has quite specific membership requirements; I don’t personally qualify, and with my current publications strategy, probably never will. But some writers make it a point to earn SFWA qualification, and I’ve sometimes wondered whether it’s worth doing. Meanwhile, there have been endless kerfuffles of various kinds emanating from the organization, and I’d sort of written it off – except that Mary Robinette Kowal, who I respect as feminist and writer, had been Vice-President and seemed to care a lot about it. So I thought I’d find out more.

The panel were committed SFWA people, and they talked about the Legal Fund, the Writers Beware warnings, the Grief Com to help authors who had problems with editors and publishers, and even a Medical Fund for members. In their view, SFWA was a Union for professional writers. They explained what had gone down with the kerfuffles, most of which was – to me at least – understandable as a clash of old and new value systems.

We discussed member qualifications, comparing SFWA with the Romance Writers’ Association (RWA), which offers membership to anyone who wants it. RWA has a huge base, and thus provides a lot of services. One person in the audience pointed out she has skills and energy and experience that could benefit SFWA, but she doesn’t qualify – and probably won’t, because, self-publishing. (SFWA is looking into a self-publishing standard for qualifying, but hasn’t got there yet.)

My own take on it is that SFWA is shooting itself in the foot with strict membership qualifications. The vast majority of writers don’t make a living from spec-fic, straining the definition of “professional.” It’s not a Union because it’s not in a position to bargain collectively. Its power and influence come from its resources – membership numbers and  funds. Why does it make sense to limit that? If its base grows, it can provide more resources for new writers or hobby writers, and thus make membership even more attractive, setting up a positive feedback loop. It may never have the huge base of RWA, but with a much larger membership and more funds, it could do much more.

The main argument for joining seemed to be that it’s an organization worthy of support. That I agree with; but then if I don’t qualify, all I can do is wish it well. From the outside.

The next panel for me was ‘Selling Yourself: The Journey of Self-Marketing.’ This was very useful and insightful, and I have a separate post with notes from this and the previous day’s ‘Reaching Readers: Best Practices for Writers.’

READINGS, SPEECHES AND PARTIES

I just made it to the ‘Questionable Practices’ reading: Karen Joy Fowler, Eileen Gunn, Pat Murphy, and Nisi Shawl. Michelangelo’s, the cafe across from the hotel where they held this event, was packed. I’ve no idea why they didn’t realize that this would draw a large audience and schedule it in the hotel. Anyway, the readings were brilliant. Karen read part of a sharply-observed and creepy story, called Nanny Ann and the Christmas Story (and you can read it all here).  Eileen read a story from her new book, Questionable Practices – ‘Michael Swanwick and Samuel R. Delany at the Joyce Kilmer Service Area, March 2005.’ It’s a very funny recounting of the two authors out for a burger as recounted by a story-telling  robot (and here is Michael Swanwick’s intro to it on his blog). Pat read a bitter-sweet tale set in a future Oakland where nearly all the men have died in a plague.  Nisi read a book-excerpt so strong that the audience protested when she stopped – and were disappointed to learn the book’s not even been sold yet let alone published.

The Guest of Honor speeches this year were eloquent, stirring, and hard-hitting. Hiromi Goto spoke about minority voices, and made a strong statement against Cultural Appropriation. N.K. Jemisin spoke about her horrible experience of being attacked and called a savage after her speech at an Australian convention, and issued a call to action – to fight back, and not tolerate racism and the rape culture.  Both speeches are online.

Then they crowned the Tiptree Award winner: Nike (pronounced “Nicky”) Sulway for Rupetta, about an artificial intelligence constructed of cloth, leather and metal with a clockwork heart.

Congrats to Nike Sulway for Rupetta - Tiptree winner

model dalekLater, at the Aqueduct Press party, there was a cake honoring the book, and Nike kindly posed next to it for a few of us to take snaps. I swung by the other parties, just checking them out. A large Dalek cruised the 6th floor hallway.

Outside the Floomp party where many people were wearing gender-bending costumes, I met Cath Schaff-Stump just as she left, looking tired and happy. Others I knew were hanging out in the corridor, and I stopped to chat.

Then I went to the second floor, found another game of Telestrations in progress, and joined that.

LINKS TO ALL THE POSTS

Here’s a set of links to all my Wiscon 38 posts.

  • Day One: GoH Readings at “A Room of One’s Own.”
  • Day Two: Economics in video-games, The Gathering, PoC Dinner, Poverty, Transphobic feminists?
  • Day Three: Non-romantic endings, Time and Memory, Outer Alliance reading, Tiptree Auction without Klages, Telestrations game
  • Day Four: The Capitol, SFWA, readings, GoH speeches and Tiptree winner, parties.
  • Day Five: The End. ‘Hard Chargers’ reading.
  • Note on Reaching your Readers/ Selling Yourself.

Wiscon 38 Day One – Thursday May 22, 2014

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booksI like to blog about Wiscon while I’m there, one day at a time, and that’s what I did last year at Wiscon 37. That plan was defeated this year by the really bad internet at the Concourse Hotel. I could barely get on enough to look at my email before the signal collapsed. So instead of the immediacy of same-day reporting, I get the pleasures of reminiscence about Wiscon 38.

THURSDAY, MAY 22ND, 2014

The Concourse hotel’s shuttle arrived 15 minutes after I called for it. Three of us boarded, all Wiscon-bound. We had each taken a red-eye to get there and we were all sleepy, but we still chatted a bit. It felt like the Con had already started.

Usually, my Clarion friends Julie and Kater attend Wiscon. Kater wasn’t coming this year (and we missed you, Kater!) Julie had gone Facebook-silent, so I had no idea if she was coming or not. But after I checked in and called, I was pleased to find she was, and in fact had already arrived. We decided to meet at the A Room of  One’s Own bookstore for the Guest of Honor readings.

One of the things I appreciate about Wiscon is the familiar rhythms: the predictable time and place, the kick-off GoH readings at A Room of One’s Own, the Gathering.

Jemisin_FifthSeason-TPMy laptop computer’s mouse had somehow died in transit, and I needed a new one. I had no idea where to go, since I didn’t recall any electronics or stationery stores around the hotel. But all the way down State Street, near the University, I came upon a Walgreens. Chain stores are under-rated. I love quirky neighborhood stores and mom-and-pop shops, but when you need something in a hurry and you’re far from home turf, a predictable Walgreens or Target or Safeway is excellent. The Case Logic mouse I got isn’t as ergonomic as my old Microsoft one, but it’s better than a touchpad.

After a quick satay snack at a Thai cafe, I headed to the bookshop. Julie had saved me a seat, and we had a few minutes to catch up before the readings. Hiromi Goto read from her 1994 book, Chorus of Mushrooms. It was an affecting and funny account of the old Japanese grandmother, living in the US and displaced from her familiar world; and her grand-daughter coping with the old lady’s disappearance. N.K. Jemisin read from the first chapter of her new book, The Fifth Season. It was lyrical and harsh and surreal. Later, Julie and I registered, had some dinner at the hotel bar, then called it a day.

Here’s a set of links to all my Wiscon 38 posts.

  • Day One: GoH Readings at “A Room of One’s Own.”
  • Day Two:  Economics in video-games, The Gathering, PoC Dinner, Poverty, Transphobic feminists?
  • Day Three: Non-romantic endings, Time and Memory, Outer Alliance reading, Tiptree Auction without Klages, Telestrations game
  • Day Four: The Capitol, SFWA, readings, GoH speeches and Tiptree winner, parties.
  • Day Five: The End. ‘Hard Chargers’ reading.
  • Note on Reaching your Readers/ Selling Yourself.