Nine Worlds vs Worldcon — Let you and him fight!

I don’t want to deny Gavia Baker-Whitelaw her experiences and LonCon3 wasn’t perfect, but this is just not true:

In order to truly enjoy Worldcon, you had to be one of three things: someone with a ton of old friends at the convention, a serious sci-fi/fantasy literature fan who wanted to get some books signed and sit in on academic panels, or a writer who wanted to network with other people in the industry. Being a Baby Boomer would also help a lot.

If you were a newcomer attending Worldcon by yourself, or if you were used to the kind of fandom that focuses on things like racebent fanart, slash fanfic, and intelligent pop-culture critique, then you weren’t going to have much fun. Which is pretty sad, because these two interest groups are not separate monoliths. Plenty of die-hard Supernatural and Avengers fans also read Tolkien and Neal Stephenson, and plenty of academic sci-fi/fantasy fans also like to dress up as anime characters. Unfortunately, while Nine Worlds seemed to understand this, Worldcon—or the people who regularly attend Worldcon—did not.

There were cosplayers, even Supernatural cosplayers (and I should know, because I registered one) and from what I could see they were neither disparaged nor harassed, there were plenty of programmes about what used to be called media science fiction as well as an entire stream of transformative fandom items that would’ve fitted just as well at Nine Worlds, there were plenty of people able and willing to talk about everything Gavia Baker-Whitelaw mentions. There were also plenty of people who went to both Nine Worlds and LonCon3 and had a great time at both.

Of course she does have a point about some people’s reaction to anything that isn’t old skool fandom, the attitude of certain longtime fans to newer fandoms, but how does it help to sneer at somebody for not knowning about slash fiction on the internet? Even these days not everybody has the ability or need to be online (he said, writing on his blog) and it doesn’t help your case about how unwelcoming Worldcon is by going all LOL old people.

And yes, LonCon3 wasn’t perfect, there were incidents of harassment that took place, there were the usual assholes, but Baker-Whitelaw seems to want to invent a fight nobody is actually having, where Nine World are the young, hip good guys and Worldcon is an aging relic, offensive and out of touch (calling it a “huge old dinosaur” in the second paragraph giving the game away) and any good points she tries to make are lost because she tries to gin up a controvesy where none exists.

What Baker-Whitelaw consistently does in her article is comparing official Nine Worlds policy with the behaviour of some fans at Worldcon without much acknowledgement that LonCon3 had similar policies as well as the resources to execute them in place. The LonCon3 committee, staff and volunteers in fact did a hell of a lot of work to try and make Worldcon as inclusive as possible, both with regards to diversity of fans and diversity of fandoms. You wouldn’t know it from her article, but LonCon3 also had a prominent code of conduct, just like Nine Worlds, also had a system of badges to indicate e.g. people who didn’t want their pictures taken and had a system of listeners in place for anybody who felt harassed or was made uncomfortable during the con.

From everything I’ve read, heard and witnessed or experienced myself the con took the responsibility to make the con open and inclusive for everybody very seriously indeed, did not tolerate harassment at all once it knew about it and made sure that people who were subject to harassment could go back as quickly as possible to having fun at the convention again. It also had a dedicated team of staff and volunteers to help those with disabilites, visible or otherwise, to have proper access to every part of the con, having e.g. prominent reserved seating and wheelchair spaces available in every room.

Looked at it this way, the differences between Nine Worlds and Worldcon shrink a lot and can be mostly explained by Nine Worlds being able to be somewhat more selective in the fans it wants to attract. Worldcon after all aims to represent the whole of fandom and can’t therefore be quite as aggressive in chasing a certain audience. As for the fans themselves, it’s true that Worldcon on the whole skews older and less diverse, but focusing too much on this loses sight of how much more inclusive it is becoming and how hard LonCon3 worked to make it so.

None of which means that LonCon3 got it perfect every time of course. There were problems with access for example, especially during the Hugos where the facilities for hearing impaired people were suboptimal, there was perhaps not enough attention paid to the fact that people could’ve multiple interacting disabilities (e.g. being hearing impaired and needing wheelchair access), there were incidents of harassment and other bad behaviour. But on the whole I thought the con made a good effort to tackle problems where they occured and they seemed to handle harassment as well as they could, taking complaints seriously and dealing with them quickly.

Therefore I wish Gavia Baker-Whitelaw had gone for a more balanced comparision between Nine Worlds and LonCon3, nothing the strengths and weaknesses of both, so we could’ve learned from it for next year, but I guess that doesn’t grab enough eyeballs for the Daily Dot…

Velveteen vs the Junior Super Patriots/Multiverse — Seanan McGuire

Cover of Velveteen vs the Junior Super Patriots

Velveteen vs the Junior Super Patriots/Multiverse
Seanan McGuire
312 pages
published in 2012, 2013

I had been following Seanan McGuire on her Livejournal for donkey ages, but I only got around to reading her Velveteen stories when they were linked from MetaFilter. Bad Martin. No biccie. Of course I then inhaled all the linked posts in less than an afternoon (not at work of course, nooo) and found I had to buy the actual ebooks, if only to be able to burble about them here.

I haven’t read anything else of Seanan McGuire/Mira Grant yet, so it may seem strange that this got such a hold on me, but it just perfectly fit the story crack receptors in my brain. Well told, short superhero stories done with flair and invention, lots of drama and emotional rollercoasters, no fear of consequences or of looking silly. Velveteen is a young superheroine just let go of the most famous superhero team in the world, the Junior Super Patriots, looking to start a new life without superheroing as long as the sinister marketing company behind 90 percent of superheroes lets her. Greatly lacking in self confidence and trust in her powers — which consists of being able to bring to life and manipulate toys — she thinks herself barely qualified to cope with real life, let alone the challenges walking away from the Junior Super Patriots have brought her.

Read more

LonCon3: A Queerer War

Duncan Lawie, S. J. Groenewegen, Tanya Huff, Ann Leckie

Consideration of sexuality has been part of military SF since at least The Forever War, but while it’s easier than it used to be to find militaristic SF novels that address queer experience — Adam Roberts’ New Model Army, say, or God’s War by Kameron Hurley — they remain uncommon. Let’s talk about the implied or assumed links between combat, straightness, technology and morality, and how science fiction has succeeded and failed at complicating its understanding of the sexuality of war.

Wanted to go to this because it was about mil-sf and because it featured Tanya Huff and Ann Leckie. Managed to confirm my suspicion that the former was deliberately checking off milsf subgenres in her Confederacy series. There was an interesting debate between the panel and the audience (Jo Walton in particular) about whether or not The Forever War could’ve been published today. Jo argued that having queer characters is no longer a taboo, but I think that the way homosexuality is portrayed in that novel is too much at odds with modern sensibilities to have been written that way had Haldeman written it now.

There was also a bit of a Twitter debate about Tanya Huff’s remark that all her characters were bisexual unless stated otherwise, which I asked her whether that meant that yes, they are bi, or whether the reader just shouldn’t make any assumptions. It turned out she meant the former. On Twitter somebody took exception to this and I can sort of see his (iirc) point; you could argue it’s just as erasing as assuming everybody is straight or gay. But then again, it’s only one author.

LonCon3: An Anthology of One’s Own

Alex Dally MacFarlane, Jeanne Gomoll, Alisa Krasnostein, Ann Vandermeer, Julia Rios

Thanks in large part to the efforts of publishers like Aqueduct and Twelfth Planet Press, and the increasing use of crowdfunding platforms such as Kickstarter, we are in the middle of a small wave of feminist SF anthologies – including the Twelve Planets series and the Lightspeed Women Destroy X special issues, and with Alex Dally MacFarlane’s Mammoth Book of SF by Women and the VanderMeer giant anthology of Feminist SF still to come. Such anthologies are part of a tradition stretching back at least to Pamela Sargent’s Women of Wonder anthologies in the 1970s. How have they helped to shape contemporary understanding of SF? To what extent have they been successful at rewriting the narratives of SF history (and breaking what are often cycles of discovery and elision)? And have they left any blind spots of their own?

Interesting discussion that went somewhat beyond its brief to look more broadly at diversity in science fiction.

Your Happening World (August 22nd through August 25th)

LonCon3: Critical Diversity: Beyond Russ and Delany

Andrew M. Butler, Liz Bourke, Fabio Fernandes, Erin Horakova, Aishwarya Subramanian

The popular history of SF criticism might just be, if possible, even more straight, white and male than the popular history of SF – but things are changing. Online and in journals, diverse voices are starting to reach a critical (if you’ll excuse the pun) mass. Which publishers and venues are most welcoming to critics from marginalised groups? What are the strengths and weaknesses of academic and popular discourse, in this area? And most importantly, whose reviews and essays are essential reading?

This sort of moved from a discussion about sf criticism to a discussion about science fiction and fantasy itself and how diverse it was and how it could grow. What stuck with me the most was Fabio Fernandes’ experiences of the SFF world in South America and how little of it English language fandom knows of it or is exposed to. And when it is, it’s always magical realism when cyberpunk is huge in Brazil…

LonCon3: Fanshaming

Julie Hofmann, Michele Howe, Gavin Smith, Melissa Taylor, Leo Adams

Everyone has done it as some point, made a passing comment differentiating ourselves from “those” fans, you know the ones who like My Little Pony or fanfiction or dressing up like a Klingon or being a furry or a fake geek girl or not knowing the name of the director of the 3rd episode of Doctor Who …. Whenever we set ourselves apart from another fan as being somehow better, because what we like or how we practice being a fan are deemed more acceptable, we are engaging in an act of fan shaming. In this session we take a closer look at fan shaming what it is, how to recognise it, how to stop ourselves from doing it, and how to stop others doing it.

This is a panel I ended up going to by mistake, as I thought it was the previous panel held in that room, not realising it had been on at the same time as the panel I just came from. I debated leaving early, but stayed in the end and was glad I did. The focus lay very much on the difference between fanshaming and constructive criticism of the more problematic aspects of a fandom, as well as some discussion about the differences between shaming and light ribbing. Good panel with some outspoken but polite people on it, good questioning from the audience.

LonCon3: Codes of Conduct

Crystal Huff, Michael Lee, Teresa Nielsen Hayden, B. Diane Martin, Patrick McMurray

“Cosplay is not Consent,” “Creeper Cards,” and colour co-ordinated lanyards indicating levels of approval for photography are all examples of responses to harassment experienced by convention attendees. In this session we assume the position that conventions need to have some kind of Code of Conduct and a procedure for implementing it, but that this is hard to get right. We explore examples from recent conventions, including Loncon’s Code of Conduct and Listener programme, to discuss best, flawed, and failed practices and how to move ever further towards the “best of the best”.

The last panel I went to on Monday, this was interesting getting the perspectives of people at the coalface of conrunning, with B. Diane Martin and Crystal Huff involved with Readercon and Wiscon, while Pat McMurray was part of LonCon itself, Teresa of course being a long time moderator of various online spaces. What struck me personally was hearing about the insecurity others felt about undergoing or witnessing harassment and whether it was actually something serious or not. That coalesced something about an incident on another panel I witnessed on Friday which I didn’t do anything with then, but now felt I had to report. I talked to Pat, he took it seriously and took me to the listeners who wrote down a report. As expected nothing could be done right then, not that I wanted it to, but it would be taken into consideration for the post mortem.