And that’s how I stood under the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse with Neil Gaiman discussing Anansi Boys while someone took our picture right in the middle of me speaking, but that’s okay because I was just so happy.

Because, really, there’s no other way to describe it.

 

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There was also a cheeseburger involved, but I didn’t allow it to get its picture taken.

The End.

 

(Well, no, not really the end. But it’s Halloween and I need to get into my costume one more time so I can pass out candy. I am getting so much mileage out of my wedding dress!)

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Thoughts on Wiscon and MoonFail

Update: Moon’s GOH invitation for Wiscon35 has been withdrawn.

I am not a feminist. I’ll concede that fact. I am aware of women’s rights and will advocate for any wrong doings I see. But I just don’t consider myself a feminist. I love to support other women who are, and who have a better handle on it than I do. I just spent the weekend with my best friend from Chicago who’s going to seminary and who is a champion of women’s rights within the church, including getting them on leadership. That so rocks–I’m so excited she is going through with this opportunity. But I’ve always prioritized myself as Christian first, African-American second, woman third.

When I went to Wiscon this year, I didn’t really care that it was a feminist convention. I was more intrigued at so many people of color who were there. For the first time in my life, I got to hang out with other black women who were into reading science fiction novels, who liked Dr Who, who had the same interests as I did. I got to hang out with a whole bunch of black people who understood what is was like to be the only black person in the room, to have different tastes from what “normal” black people was supposed to like. It was like finding

I say all this because of the flap that’s happening over Elizabeth Moon being one of the Guests of Honor at Wiscon next year.

For those of you who don’t know, Elizabeth Moon, a science fiction writer, wrote a blog post that boiled down to immigrants needing to conform in order to fit in. It has caused all sorts of uproar in the LiveJournal community, so much that there have been calls for Wiscon to rescind her GOH and/or Moon to step down. Unfortunately, neither has happened yet.

This morning, I read Nojojojo’s post about leaving the Comcon and possibly not attending Wiscon next year. Since then, other posters have expressed their dismay and in some cases, said they’ll come to Madison, but not attend Wiscon. And in the comments section, there are people who have said they considered coming, but now won’t.

If this had happened a year ago, I think I would have said the exact same thing.

Being new to the whole con scene, I understand that not every function goes nice and smoothly behind the scenes.  But even before the whole Moonfail, I was surprised at just how much drama happens at Wiscon. I got a small taste of it when I moderated the Black Kids in the Cafeteria panel. Can’t imagine what 35 years of that would be like. But I find myself growing more and more dismayed about it, especially with this whole Elizabeth Moon fiasco. Not so much her presence—frankly, I never heard her name before until they made the announcement at this year’s Wiscon. But how this must be for the other Guest of Honor, Nisi Shawl, who I deeply love and respect. I hate seeing so many people say they’re not coming, because they’re going to miss out on meeting Nisi. They’re gonna miss out meeting other people of color, and having deep intelligent conversations, all because an author couldn’t keep her opinions to herself.

This saddens me.

I think that had this happened a year ago before I attended Wiscon, I would have done the exact same thing and wouldn’t go. I would have been scared off by all the negativity and the brouhaha.  I absolutely don’t like drama. I had my doubts when RaceFail came along. But I also had a bunch of friends who told me that Wiscon was the absolute bomb and I would have so much fun there. I believed them, I went, and it was true. Perhaps I had fun because I got a chance to experience it unhindered by past bias. And I was ecstatic to learn that Nisi would be the GoH.

So with that said, I’m going next year. I’m going to support Nisi, and be with my friends. I also respect those who say they won’t go because of Moon. I’m still trying to decide how to respond to that–if I should boycott her speech, if I should not just show up on her panels. I don’t know.

I wonder, and I feel like an absolute heel for suggesting this, if  now would be a good time to consider creating a con for people of color. As much as I dislike the thought of separating ourselves, it feels that too much is being crammed into Wiscon. ‘Course, I don’t know what exactly is involved in creating a con, and there’s nothing to suggest that there won’t be drama behind the scenes there too. But after reading Tatum’s book, I can’t help but wonder if that would be a good thing.  I don’t know. Just throwing the suggestion out there.

In the meantime, I’ll do what I’ll keep on doing—keep quiet and watch what’s going on. There’s a lot of pressure on the Wiscon committee to rescind Moon’s GOH membership. While it might be too late to change some people’s minds to attend Wiscon next year, I think do so would be the right thing to do. Or as Nojojojo put it: A con that honors a bigot is not feminist.

Guh. Too much drama. I’m going to go watch Sailor Moon and eat Doritos.

Update: Here’s an excellent timeline on Trinker’s blog on all the posts on MoonFail so far


Madcon 2010 Report (or how I survived a weekend with Harlan Ellison with my dignity intact…sort of)

Well, I did it. I went to Madcon last weekend, and to my utter surprise, I survived. Actually, no, I’m not surprised . It went exactly how I figured it would go.

Now, I never heard of Harlan Ellison until last year when I read about the whole Realms of Fantasy cover art Kerfluffle on K. Tempest Bradford’s blog. That went on to this post which gave me a first taste of what he was like. The next post was an apology from Harlan himself, but by then, I had learned about what he did at Worldcon 06 in grabbing Connie Willis in a place he shouldn’t have. Long story short, the man scared me, and I figured if I ever came across his work, I wouldn’t have anything to do with him on the matter of principle.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I popped in the third season DVD of Babylon 5 and saw his name come up. D’oh!

When I heard he was going to be Guest of Honor at this year’s Madcon, I confess, I was a little intrigued. Intimidated, but intrigued. I mean, come on, how often do you get to meet a controversial writer face-to-face? It would’ve been stupid to blow such an opportunity. Still, I waffled quite a bit until I decided to attend a couple of weeks before Madcon started.

Once I decided to go, I gave myself a week to do a crash course on his work. Mostly I read his short stories—I aimed for all his Hugo Award ones, as well as a few that sounded interesting. Reading all of it proved to be a daunting task. Don’t get me wrong—most of the stories were brilliant. But they were also some of the darkest, bleakest, most disturbing stories I’ve ever read. One story, The Beast That Shouted Love at the Heart of the World, I had picked because Neon Genesis Evangelion used this as a subtitle for episode 26 (with a rather delicious pun, I may add). And just like Evangelion, the story had me hunched in a corner for a couple of hours, sucking my thumb and humming aimlessly while I waited for the BIG BAD THING to go out of my head…

But enough about that.

Madcon. I understand that it’s being revived after a 10-year hiatus. It’s different from OdysseyCon and Wiscon—definitely smaller. There weren’t a whole lot of panels—most of them took place in two rooms. You didn’t have much of a choice in where to go for panels—it was either one room or the other, and if you weren’t interested in what took place in either rooms, well, you had to find something else to do. And most of the panels were  centered around Harlan or his work, so there wasn’t much variety. I’m still learning about the whole con thing, though, and one thing I’m beginning to understand—not much happens on the first day. People are still flying in and getting settled. Still, I spent most of Friday wondering why there were so few people there.

The festivities kicked off with Harlan doing a signing at the Frugal Muse Bookstore. I had considered going to that, but in the end didn’t. That turned out to be a wise thing. If I had gone to the signing, and subsequently, gone to the dinner afterwards with Harlan and most of the behind-the-scenes folk to Old Country Buffet (and why would you take Harlan Ellison to Old Country Buffet? I…don’t know. But man did Harlan have a lot to say about that), I would’ve probably not taken a single step into the Crown Plaza. Harlan of course boasted about it later—he took great delight in telling how he stomped on a fan’s cell phone at the bookstore and made a little girl cry at Old Country Buffet. You think I’m kidding, but no, there are witnesses.

They had arranged Harlan’s schedule so that he would spend a couple of hours talking each day in an speaker/audience setting. The first one was held Friday night. I came in a little after he had started speaking, and I had barely taken two steps into the room when he let out a slew of F-bombs that set the tone for the evening. The man has no filters. He has no problems telling you what he thinks, which is usually direct, straightforward, and has not been edited for TV audiences. He hates niceties and he don’t put up with crap. He loves to pick on people, and will go on and on picking until the person laughs in embarrassment or gets offended and leaves. No one is spared. No one. Whites, Blacks, Christian, Gay, no one is spared from getting ragged on. If you catch his eye, you’re done for. Which is why when I came in, he pointed at me and said, “See? She’s not scared .  Black people aren’t afraid of me. And she’s the only black female in the room. Are you afraid of me?” To which I quickly shook my head and said, “No, no, no…”

(Actually, I took a perverse sort of pride that he singled me out.)

Watching him speak that night, I realized that behind his rough, obscenity laden exterior was a guy who knew how to work an audience. He’s not an idiot—he knows exactly what he’s doing, even when it appears he’s babbling in obscene tongues. He likes to play people, trying to get some sort of rise out of them, and he’s good at doing it. He even said as much that first night. “I’m running a con on you folks,” he kept saying. “This is all a con.” He doesn’t care if he hurts your feelings; he just wants to get that emotional response, be it laughing or walking out. He thrives on attention, and loves it.

For instance, there was a 16-year-old kid that had come with his mother. Oh, boy, you can tell how that went. Harlan picked on him throughout most of the weekend. The kid’s name was Shawn, and Harlan called him John for most of Friday. The kid would try to correct him, “no, my name’s Shawn,” and Harlan would nod and say, “Yeah, anyway, John…”

Another thing he did was that he would start to tell a story, then he’d interrupt himself and go off on a tangent. For many, it was like he was rambling and going on and on about things and talking in circles like, well, like a cantankerous, forgetful old man. For instance, he’d start telling us the story about how he made the little girl cry at OCB, but then he go off on a tangent, then go off on another tangent. Then he’ll say, “So…the little girl at the Old Country Buffet…” which, inevitably, would make some smart-ass yell, “Finally!” Which would get Harlan off on another tangent and drive people crazy

(Oh, by the way, it was me. Sorry.)

Come on. He knew full well what he was doing. He was baiting us. It’s a storyteller’s gimmick. Give just enough to hook your audience, then slowly give out tantalizing bits until they’re begging you to tell the story. Inevitably, he did get around to telling the story on Sunday. It was weird, really. Friday we saw him extremely vulgar and hyped-up. Come Sunday, he was so low key. It was freaky. He barely swore (barely), he read us a story, straight-laced, without interrupting himself. He wrapped up all his tangents. It was like we were seeing the real Harlan. I mean, he can’t be that vulgar all the time…can he?

For some bizarre reason, the more I watched Harlan, the more I was reminded of my grandmother. The only real similarity between them are their ages–My grandma just celebrated her 80th birthday. But I just couldn’t shake the feeling that I was watching my grandma as Harlan spoke. F-bombs aside (which I don’t think I ever heard her say. Oh, she swears, don’t get me wrong, but I haven’t heard the F-bomb come out of her), she’s also in the last stages of their life, she’s very direct and she don’t put up with crap. I almost told Harlan that, but I was too intimidated to (I did go up and shake his hand, and he told me a story about some reality star who had been at his house a couple of weeks ago, and one of her black hanger-oners didn’t recognize a photo of Jomo Kenyatta that sat on his desk, and it pissed Harlan off and he told her to get the hell out his office, and I just nodded politely because I wasn’t about to tell Harlan I had no clue who he was either. Stupid public education keeping me from knowing South African history.) I guess that’s another thing he and my grandma have in common—neither of them tolerate stupidity. And they’re both at the age where they’ll openly say so.

Vulgarities aside, I actually liked Harlan. I’m glad I went instead of staying home being intimidated. It was cool to just hang out in the audience and listen to him tell stories. But I doubt I would want to, say, go out to the bar afterwards and hang out with him. He’s just far too cantankerous and in-your-face. I chose not to go to the banquet on Saturday because of that, and maybe that was a good thing, because I heard he pretty much dissed a woman who needed to go to relieve a babysitter but didn’t want to insult Harlan by leaving during his talk. (BTW, I was quite disappointed that Alex Bledsoe wasn’t on any of the panels. I mean, he’s a published writer too…)

The good thing about Madcon was that even though it was so Harlan-centric, there were other people there who I could hang out with. Got to see Patrick Rothfuss again, that was nice. I got to hang out with John Krewson, a writer for The Onion(how often does that get to happen?), writer Nick Ozmet and Electric Velocipede editor John Klima. And I made some friends. Got to meet a pair of brothers who drove all the way up from St. Louis to meet, not Harlan Ellison, but Gene Wolfe.

Now, I have never heard of Gene Wolfe before Madcon, and obviously I’ve never read his work.  In person, he’s a little hunched-over old man with a little old wife in a wheelchair. And the two of them make for the sweetest couple ever. Gene was the anti-Harlan. He’s quiet, thoughtful, and knows a lot about the writing biz (you know, come to think of it, Harlan told a lot of stories, but he never did talk *about* writing). He’s got quite a bit of fire to him, too. Even Harlan pretty much treated him with respect.

It was through Gene that I got a clear picture of how a con should be. Those two brothers from St. Louis told me that they had read all of Gene Wolfe’s books and were excited to meet him in person. They went to all the panels he was on and got some books signed by him. On Sunday morning, I had come in for the last day of the con. I passed the dining room/coffee area to see Gene Wolfe and his wife at a table, chatting with the two brothers. Just having a nice talk, and it appeared that they’ve been doing so for a while. I stood there, thinking, “This is the epitome of what a con should be like—writers having good conversations with their fans.” Then I went over and joined them. Just like that.

Harlan is okay, but he’s got this celebrity thing going that puts him way on a pedestal. On the one hand, it’s cool, but on the other hand, it makes him completely unapproachable. On the other side of the equation, you got Gene Wolfe, who is down-to-earth, quite casual, and very easy to talk to. Seeing him talking with his two fans made me want to go out and get his books. I would love to read more of his stuff.

Wow. This has gone way, way, wayyyy longer than I intended. I guess I had a lot to process. So in short, Madcon was okay. Would I go again? Um, I don’t know. Would I go to see Harlan again if he comes back? Probably not. For one thing, he has made it abundantly clear that Madcon was his last con ever. Because, you know, he’s dying. There’s probably truth to that. He did seem to lose steam quite a bit throughout the weekend. Would I buy any of Harlan’s books? Nah. I loved the Babylon 5 series, but I don’t think I’ll buy any of his books. If I want them, I’ll get them from the library.

Now, how will this compare to seeing Neil Gaiman at the end of this month? That will be a most interesting blog post indeed.