Wiscon 37 Ends: May 27, 2013

Last day at Wiscon 37.

sunset msn-den flight

I made it to the panel on Tumblr, which was interesting because it’s a platform I haven’t used. What I gathered: The platform deliberately discourages discussion, but discussions happen anyway; it’s better to post pictures than links, because links get truncated; it’s dominated by teens, 14-18, and as a result has a lot of brashness; there’s a lot of cute animal pictures and porn. (As someone there said, it’s like “Corgi, corgi, hedgehog, porn.”) It’s apparently pretty compelling; one panelist described it as a huge time-suck. I wasn’t entirely clear why it’s better than Pinterest/ Facebook/ Twitter.

The hotel wasn’t giving late checkouts, so I needed to be out of my room by noon. I checked my email one last time before shutting down my computer – and found a message from United. My 7.30 p.m. flight to Chicago was going to be an hour late, which meant that I’d miss my connection. The hotel reception found me a phone number for United (I am embarrassed to admit my phone is Not Smart) and I called them on my plain-vanilla cellphone. It seemed they could give me an earlier flight… no, wait, that was an hour late too and would also be problematic. “It looks like Chicago is a problem,” said the agent, and she routed me via Denver on another 7.30 flight.

I didn’t go to the sign-out. The whole airline-wrangling thing broke the mood for me. Instead, after lunch I went to the Post Mortem, which gave me an even better appreciation for all the organization that goes into making Wiscon happen. It’s really tremendous. The only real complaint was that most parties ran out of beer by 11.30 p.m. on Sunday night, which really depends on the party-givers. (Last year, the problem was the opposite – there was a lot of alcohol left over that had to be removed during the move-out.)

I had dinner at the airport, an unexceptional sandwich… but the place had these signs on a side wall. They’d have been fun any time, but especially after Wiscon…



Signs at a beer n burger place at Madison airport

Caught my flight, slept on the plane, and woke to an announcement that we’d be landing about 20-25 minutes late. Ouch. My transit time at Denver was about 50 minutes, and I expected to miss the flight. But that flight was about an hour late, too, so it all worked out. Got home well after midnight, which was fine.


Wiscon 37: Sunday, May 26th 2013

Sunday’s bittersweet at Wiscon. It’s a day of awesome programming, but also the last full day before it’s over for another year.

I found I’d highlighted about 4 things for each time-slot, but decided against trying to get in more than one thing in each. I continued my exploration of class that I started at yesterday’s panel at “Class Markers: The Obvious and the Subtle.” This one focused more on patterns of speech, closeness to family (apparently working class folks tend to be closer to their families and see more of them) and such things as decorating styles. Working class people tend to talk in terms of stories and anecdotes and examples; middle class people in terms of abstractions and statistics. There was a passing mention of politics; one panelist thought that the Republican party knew how to relate to working-class speech patterns and therefore were easier to understand, while the Democrats tended to be boring and unrelatible.

After a foray into the Dealers’ Room, I went up to the Strange Horizons tea party. I found a lot of people I knew, including one of my Clarion classmates I didn’t at first recognize because he’s a man now. It was good to catch up. I also finally met one of my online critique group, whose work I’ve enjoyed without actually knowing who she was. Wiscon’s a wonderful place for meetings.

I went with Julie to “Cousin of Return of Sibling of Revenge of Not Another F’ing Race Panel.” All the panelists were people of color, but it was *not* about race. This was set up as a game show, with a huge yellow dice and questions from the audience for the panel to respond to. I bailed fairly soon, though it was raucous good fun. I don’t watch TV and see few movies, so I didn’t get most of the references and kept going Huh? Who?

We met Karen Joy Fowler for an hour or so, up in the Governor’s Club, where Karen, Kater and Julie are staying, (but I am not). It’s a limited-access “executive floor.” We talked about what we’ve been doing and caught up since we met last.

capitol building madisonDzombie on the back of her headinner was at a burger place on the far side of the Capitol Building. It was crowded; we sat at the bar so we could eat quickly and return for the Guest of Honor speeches. Just before we left, someone told Kater he’d really enjoyed her first book (“Seeing Things” – the first book in the Kit Melbourne series) and so had bought all the others in the series. (She has them available both as e-books and as paperbacks.)

We walked back past the Capitol building. A statue on the steps appeared to have a zombie face on the back of her head. But on closer inspection, it was just a chignon.

joan slonczewski GOH speechAfter the Guest of Honor speeches, the Tiptree Award speech and celebration, and the announcing of next year’s Guests of Honor (Hiromi Goto and N.K. Jemisin!) it was time for the parties.

[Read Jo Walton’s speech here: Characters, Complicity and Caring: My Wiscon Speech ]

jo walton GOH speech

But rather than party-hopping, Kater and I settled in on the couch at the quiet but energized Clarion West party, and talked all evening. We hadn’t had a chance to catch up properly since the last Wiscon, and a lot’s happened since then.

I ran into Ellen Kushner, who was sporting a fine mustache. She said the Genderfloomp party was still on, and I should swing by because the costumes were amazing. So I did, and they were. The music was so loud that my tolerance for the room itself was about 5 minutes, but the hallway outside was full of people I knew, and I stayed and chatted for a bit before calling it a day.

Now it’s time to write this and pack and plan for tomorrow’s activities and departure.

Wiscon 37: Saturday, May 25th 2013

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

pix 21 007

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.

Wiscon 2013: Guest-of-Honor Readings at ”A Room of One’s Own Bookstore”

I’m back at Wiscon! This is Wiscon 37, and kudos to the team that’s delivered it all these years. It’s only after my involvement with FOGcon that I’m beginning to comprehend the huge amount of work that a Con entails.


The traditional kick-off is a reading by the Guests of Honor, hosted by “A Room of One’s Own.” Though I’d been there before (twice) I thought to check that I remembered the route. Just as well, because it’s moved, a block down. The new premises are lovely, with a traditional frontage and interior arches.

A room of one's own Bookstore

I went in to find quite a few people already gathered. The reading space felt smaller than the backroom they used to have, and most of the chairs were taken. Still, I found a place to sit, then left my coat there while I mingled. I found Laurie Toby Edison at the snack table, and she described her new “Discworld” sculpture: the turtle and elephants and the Discworld (which is a boulder opal). Also a silver Fantasy map she’s working on. It all sounds quite magical. She may have some photographs. I’m also looking forward to seeing her other work; she listed them on her LiveJournal and they sound gorgeous (she didn’t have pictures of those).

Also said Hi to quite a few other people. It had this lovely “First day of school after summer” feel to it.


Piglet introduced Jo Walton with a humorous verse. Jo’s reading, from her current novel,  was hilarious. Apollo’s confused because Daphne becomes a tree rather than mate with him, so he asks his sister Artemis to explain. She directs him to Athene, who says something about “volition” and gets him involved in her own project: Recreating Plato’s Republic before it was even written. [Here’s a link to her blog, Bluejo’s Journal]

jo walton reading at a room of ones own bookstore in madison

Joan Slonczewski reading at A Room of One's Own BookstoreJesse the K introduced Joan Slonczewski, and even though she had apparently rehearsed it, she stumbled over the name. Joan took it in her stride. “My students call me Dr Zeus,” she said, and explained the background of her science as well as her fiction: Western diets have disrupted our bacterial ecosystems, which must be corrected with inputs from the uncorrupted intestinal flora of people in places like Africa. Someone near me mentioned fecal transplants, which are ingested. Then she read an excerpt in which the heroine, who has been attacked for hosting sentient bacteria, is moving to a new house – which is also sentient, and is decorating itself.  [Joan’s blog, Ultraphyte, is linked here.]


After the readings, I made contact with Kater Cheek (and daughter) and J (who has a book out: The Flaming Geeks Book of Geeky Trivia) and picked up my Program Guide. I started marking off all the things I wanted to attend. As usual, there were between 2 and 4 “Can’t miss” events in each time-slot. You may see me darting in and out of rooms a lot.