LaShawn’s WisCon 42 Schedule

WisCon 42 is coming up in a couple of weeks and I will be there! For those of you who are going, here’s where you can find me.

Friday, 5:30pm: POC Dinner
It’s our POC annual dinner! If you’re a person of color and haven’t gotten your ticket yet, sign up here. Even if you can’t pay, please sign up for a ticket so we know how much food to order. I’m also coordinating volunteers for the dinner to help with setup or cleaning afterwards, so you want to help, let me know in the comment section of this post and I’ll get in touch with you.

Saturday, 4:00pm: Steven Universe Sing-along
From “Giant Woman” to “It’s Over, Isn’t It,” Steven Universe offers a variety of beautiful songs in different genres that we can all sing our hearts out to. Hopefully we’ll be able to sing up to the latest song “A Distant Shore” and WE WON’T LIKE BE TALKING ABOUT THE NEXT EPISODE AFTER THAT BUT DANG THAT PUTS SOME OF THE SONGS IN A WHOLE DIFFERENT LIGHT NOW DON’T IT.

Anyway, I will be there.

Sunday, 1:00pm: Reading @ Michaelangelo’s — Smash the Patriarchy
Join me along with fellow readers Monica Valentinelli, David Levine and Naomi Kritzer as we read stories that will unsettle you, make you uncomfortable, force you to think and feel. Come for the stories. Leave with possibilities. I’ll be reading my latest short story, “One for Sorrow, Two for Joy”, that was published in Fireside Magazine last month.

Sunday, 2:30p: It Is Our Time: A People’s Celebration, Exploration & Analysis Of Black Panther
In which I geek out with a bunch of other people about Black Panther.

Monday, 11:30am: Sign-Out
This year, I got a whole bunch of stationary I want to use up. So if you visit me at the Sign-Out, I will write out a quick flash story on whatever subject you like. It will only be at the most a paragraph, at the most, 100 words, but hey, free story from me !

Of course I’ll also be around just to chat, so if you see me, feel free to say hi!

(Unless I’m peopled out…or working on the novel…in which case, a wave would do….)


A brief note of thanks

There’s been a lot happening with Wiscon the past few weeks. I won’t go into it–there are other places you can read up on it— but this week the Wiscon Concom released this statement that Jim Frenkel is permanently banned from Wiscon.

I’m not going to go into the ban itself other than to say it was sorely needed–again, others did a better job of it of explaining why. Also I’m local, so I feel I’m too close to things to share my opinions in public. I’m also a relative newcomer to the con scene, so I don’t think anything I say about Wiscon will have much impact. But there is one thing I do want to say:

In the past few weeks I saw a lot of expressed anger and hurt feelings. I saw turmoil and disappointment. I saw several people step down from the concomm. I also saw a lot of people who said they were angry, but they weren’t going to give up on Wiscon. They were going to work to make things right.

These are the people I want to give their due. Because they worked hard, and they’re still working hard as I write this. And it’s not just local people. It’s people all over the country, people who could’ve just as easily boycotted Wiscon…

(…although this was probably the first time I saw the use of boycotting actually affect change. I’m so used to hearing people decry, “I’ll boycott X or I’ll boycott Y” and for the most part, everyone is like ‘meh’. Many of the people I spoke to who announced they were boycotting Wiscon wasn’t doing it out of spite. They were genuinely concerned for the con and the safety of its attendees. And that helped spur the change within Wiscon itself.)

An institution is only as good as the people that make it up. The Wiscon concom is not perfect, as so many of you pointed out. But they are working on it. And because Wiscon is my home con this is one of the few cons I can go to, the fact that there are people here who are willing to humble themselves, say they’re sorry, then work on change, makes me appreciate them. Deeply.

So thank you, Wiscon, for doing the right thing.

(8/7 Edited to add Skepchick’s wonderful post: Your Well-Written Anti-Harassment Policy is Insufficient)


LaShawn’s Wiscon 35 Schedule

It feels like I’ve barely caught my breath from going to Mo*Con last weekend before running out the door again to Wiscon. I’ll do con reports next week, but first, let me post where I’m gonna be this weekend:

Friday 1pm: The Gathering (though I’m going to arriving a little late because I get off of work at 1pm)
I’m going to be at the Gathering doing temporary tattoos. Stop by!

Sunday 10am: Once Upon A Time
Participants: Vylar Kaftan, Kimberly A. Blanchette, Christopher Davis, Julia Rios, LaShawn M. Wanak

Panelists use the card game "Once Upon a Time" to tell half-baked fairy tales for laughs. Find out what happens when panelists play tug-of-war with a story, trying to bend it towards wildly different endings.

Participants: K. Tempest Bradford, Amal El-Mohtar, Victor Raymond, LaShawn M. Wanak
Back for a third go-round, by popular demand! Writers of color working in F/SF face unique challenges, it’s true. But, at the end of the day, being a "person of color" is only one aspect of what makes up our identities as writers. While it’s very flattering to asked to be on panels, most of these panels never crack the ceiling of Race 101. With that in mind, wouldn’t it be nice for multiple writers of color to sit on a panel that isn’t about race at all? Here’s our chance to do just that. So, what are we gonna talk about, instead? Practically anything! Presented in game show format, SIBLING OF REVENGE OF NOT ANOTHER F*CKING RACE PANEL brings together writers of color to get their geek on about any number of pop culture topics—none of them race related.

Sunday 4pm:For Colored Girls Who’ve Considered Shapeshifting, Teleporting, & Conjuring….
Participants: K. Tempest Bradford, Neesha Meminger, Nnedi Okorafor, LaShawn M. Wanak, Ibi Aanu Zoboi
Five women writers of color read from their speculative fiction featuring extraordinary WOC in extraordinary circumstances. (I don’t know if I consider my characters extraordinary, but I will be reading an excerpt from "She’s All Light".)


I won’t be doing the writer’s workshop this year, sadly, mainly because I didn’t have anything ready by the deadline (story of my life these days). However, because all of my panels are on the same day, Sunday, I decided I’m going to go all out and go baby doll goth. Because I got the dress. Y’all. The tricky part would be finding a big white flower to stick in my locs.

Other than that, I’ll be roaming around when I’m not at panels or scheming my way into the Governor’s Club, so feel free to say hi!

LaShawn’s MetaPost for 2011 (So Far)

So, here it is, March, and I’m finally getting around to posting what I’ve been up to on the writing field. If you are friends with me on Facebook and/or Twitter, you already know what I’ve been doing and what’s been published. But I thought I do a metapost to clue things in for regulars at the Cafe, as well as give you the scoop on some upcoming projects I haven’t mentioned on the social networks yet.

January was a weird non-fiction month. About the second weekend of January, I got an email from the new non-fiction editor Fantasy Magazine, which I slush for, asking if I could write an article on short notice.  Like, in two days. And I would get paid. I’ve published non-fiction before, but this was the first time I’ve worked directly with an editor, in this case, Esther Inglis-Arkell. I had to crank out 1500 words of a first draft and relinquish it to Esther immediately instead of sitting on it for a couple of weeks while I thought out the revisions. Then I had to work with Esther in feeling our way through the edits until we were both satisfied with the end result. From the time I was first emailed to where I got the thumbs up on the finished draft, the whole process took less than a week. I don’t think I’ve ever finished anything so fast.

But I am pleased and honored to say that the article, “From Story to Screen”, a look at how stories are translated from book to screen, will be up at the newly revamped Fantasy Magazine site on March 28.

That crash course gained me achievements in working with an editor, so when the Christian organization I work for, InterVarsity, approached me on doing a Valentine Day’s article a week later, I was well prepared to crank that out. If you were ever curious on how my husband Jon and I met, you can check out “From Chapter to Chapel” which posted on Valentine’s Day weekend.

On top of those to articles, I also worked on a write-up of the panel I moderated at Wiscon last year: Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting in the Cafeteria which will appear in the Wiscon Chronicles #5 which will come out at this year’s Wiscon 35(which I’ll be at). And I did another movie review that came from winning last year’s Con or Bust Auction. When that one is completed, I’ll announce it here.

With all the non-fiction news, the same fiction side of things have been extremely slow, but ironically has me the most excited. The smaller side of the news is that I got another poem published. Marie Antoinette Ponders the Moon went live on February 20 and can be found at Every Day Poets. I’ve always been fascinated by Marie Antoinette; I’ve read her biographies, as well as that wonderful book Abundance by Sena Jeter Naslund (which I reviewed) and watching the anime Rose of Versailles. I wrote the poem after watching Marie Antoinette, a most awesome movie.

I’ve saved the best news, the SUPER AWESOME HAPPY HAPPY YEAH news for last. I’ve sold Future Perfect, which appeared in the March 2009 issue of Ideomancer, to the science fiction audio magazine Escape Pod to be read in a future podcast! How awesome is that? More details will be forthcoming once I get them, but as you can see, I am super, super excited. I’ve been an Escape Pod listener for as long as I can remember, as well as their sister podcast for fantasy Podcastle (I’m still working up the nerve to listen to their horror cast, Pseudopod). What this means is that you’ll get to download Future Perfect to your iPod, or whatever you listen to music, and hear it read by a professional voice actor.

So stay tuned to the Café! We’ll have more goodies coming up as they appear. And if you’re a reader of science fiction, if you are voting in the Nebulas or Hugos or even the Locus Awards, keep in mind that “She’s All Light at Daybreak Magazine is eligible for nomination for 2010. Happy voting!

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

Oddcon X Afterthoughts

I liken going to OdysseyCon last year as a non-gamer opening up Zork for the first time. I had no clue what to expect, I found myself in unfamiliar surroundings, and there was a good chance that I could possibly be eaten by a grue.

Luckily the con was small enough that people were happy to point me in the direction I needed to go. Even better, I got a chance to sit down and talk with people about subjects that I never spoke about except through email lists and online forums.

This year, I gave back to my first con experience by doing more active participation in Oddcon. And this year proved just as bit as fun and enlightening as last year’s:

  • I did my first "public" reading ever. This was different from the reading I did up at Urbana or at the Intervarsity Arts Festival last year, in that I read in front of people I didn’t know. My reading was jointly done with Nick Ozmet, who read a chapter from his online story "Knight Terrors" (I wound up reading Future Perfect). Only a couple of people showed up, but the room they had us read in was surprisingly cozy, so we got to chat with the people in a more casual manner, so that went over pretty well.
  • I had a couple of chances to hang with Tobias Buckell, one of the Guests of Honor, as well as sit beside him on a spoof panel, "White Men in SF" (which was, predictably, about white men in SF). Got to talk with him a lot about the writer’s life and juggling parental duties. Also got him to tell stories about World Fantasy which made me realize that at some point, I have to stop putting off not going and find a way to go (although it’s not going to happen this year. Sorry. But some things absolutely have to be first priority in my life right now…)
  • I also got to hang with fellow authors Alex Bledsoe and Sarah Monette. Last year, I was a little intimidated by Sarah, so it was nice to meet her again. Also, funny story with Alex. I first saw him last year when my husband and I attended a Midwinter Renaissance Festival on a date. I recognized Alex’s name from twitter, and he was reading a selection from one of his books. I meant to go over to listen, but then I got caught up by someone telling my fortune through numerology, which was fascinating, but ultimately useless. By the time I managed to wrench myself away, Alex was done, and I was too chicken to go up and talk to him. Again, very nice to meet him under a more casual setting.
  • I got to hang out with Jim Frankel, Tor editor, Harry Turtledove, the other literary Guest of Honor, Monte Cook, the gaming Guest of Honor, and a bunch of other writers and editors at the bar…because I could. And it was fun to talk shop with them. I didn’t say much to Harry Turtledove because of the intimidation factor. But he’s a nice guy. I hope the next time I meet him, I’ll have something more to talk about.
  • I did slam poetry…which wasn’t too shabby.
  • I saw a Dalek Tortoise. Really. No lie. If you don’t believe me, here’s a picture:
  • dalek tortoise

Ask me to tell you the story sometime.

So all in all, this year’s Oddcon was a lot of fun. I got to hang with writers and talk about the writing life, and I came away refreshed and inspired to get back to my writing.

There was a lot mentioned about Wiscon, which takes place next month. At some point, we did the numbers and we realized that while World Fantasy is definitely the most important con to go to for writers, Wiscon is the largest feminist SF convention, capping their members at 1000. It will be very interesting to see how Wiscon will play out. I’m getting very, very excited!

I bet there won’t be any Dalek tortoises there, though. But then again, I could be wrong.

LaShawn’s Con Schedule for 2010

You hear that? That sound? That rushing, schmoozing chatter slightly on the tipsy side? Yep, it’s here. Con season has arrived and I cannot stay away any longer. No more avoiding its phone calls. No more pulling down the shades and hiding on the floor hoping it would stop knocking and go away. No. This year, I plan to embrace cons so hard, I’m certain at some point I’ll awaken in its bed thinking, "What happened to my spleen? How come I smell funny? And why is that goat staring at me?"

Oh, don’t worry. I won’t go that crazy. But I’m not making any promises either.

So here’s a list of cons I’m either attending or am interested in attending. My hope is to attend all of them, but timing and funds are limited. However, my birthday is coming up next week, so if you’re looking to for something to give me a present—hint, hint…

OdysseyCon (April 16-18) Radisson Hotel, Madison, WI ATTENDING

Hooray! This is happening this weekend! Woohoo!

This was the first con I ever went to that introduced me to the wonderful world of fandom. Oddcon taught me that cons actually were fun, not nerdy and bizarre like I thought it would be. This year, I plan to return the favor by serving on a couple of panels. On Friday afternoon, I’ll do a reading (I’ll do an excerpt from either "She’s All Light" or "Future Perfect"—haven’t decided which one yet). Then Saturday afternoon, I’ll be on the panel "White Guys in SF"…because there aren’t enough white guys in SF…I guess. What’s cool is that I get to sit on this panel with Tobias Buckell, so my first panel experience will prove to be mighty interesting.

Following that, I will be on the "How to Submit your Writing" panel, because, what can I say? I know stuff about submitting stories to markets. And I get to sound like an expert. It’s not often I get to say that.

Besides that, I plan to do the usual schmoozing, hanging out, etc. Since it’s at the Radisson and it’s a small con, it should be real easy to find me. I’m probably the only person there with dreadlocks. 🙂

Wiscon (May 27-31), The Concourse Hotel, Madison, WIATTENDING

Last year, I could only attend one day, which was fun, but still. This year, I’m gonna be alllll there, baby!

I’m showing up on a couple of panels there as well. On Saturday, I’ll be on the panel discussing the book "Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria" (I signed up for it because I happen to have that book, and it’s interesting considering that I was not one of those black kids who sat with other black kids. So that will be interesting.) I’m also going to be on "Internet Publishing: the graduate seminar", because again, I get to sound like an expert. And on Monday, I’ll be on "Pshaw! Psst! Aaaargh!!!" because I get to figure out how to best write "sighhhh…haaaahhh…shhh" and other sound effects. I also have an essay in the upcoming Wiscon Chronicles Volume 4, which would be available there.  And of course, I’m looking forward to seeing the Guests of Honor Nnedi Okorafor and Mary Anne Mohanraj. In fact, I’m looking forward to seeing all my SF Sisters of Color. So even though this is my second year, I’m going to be very busy at Wiscon. Exciting!

Madcon Convention (September 24-26) Crowne Plaza Hotel, Madison, WI


From what the website says, this con is starting up again after nine years. It sounds like a big one: they’ve managed to snare Harlon Ellison, who is a pretty big name in the SF field. To be honest though, I only heard about him last year, andwhat I heard wasn’t really all that great. However, I also watched Babylon 5 for the first time last year, and was quite astonished to find his name high on the credits.

So I’m intrigued to see this man in person, but I’m also a little leery. What helps is that Pat Rothfuss is also slated to be attend, which means it’s bound to be a most interesting weekend. Then again, it might be way to much. Still thinking it over. We’ll see.

World Fantasy Convention (October 28-31) Columbus, OHUNDECIDED

So I’ve been thinking about attending this now that I’ve been getting more into cons–


I just got wind of this a few days ago:

American Gods celebration (October 29-30), The House on the Rock, Spring Green, WI<deep breath> OH MY GOD I AM SO GOING EVEN IF IT MEANS I HAVE TO SELL MY OWN BLOOD TO MALNOURISHED VAMPIRES!!!!!

This is big. No, it’s bigger than big. This is BIG BIG BIG!!!!

I’ve been to the House on the Rock. Few years ago, before my son was born. Before we moved to Madison. My hubby and I took a trip up there when we needed to get away for a staycation. I’ve seen the nautical room. I’ve seen the music machines, most of which was broken down. I’ve even seen the carousel.

And,I’ve read American Gods. I’ve also read the companion book too, Anansi Boys.

Oh boy. Ohboyohboyohboyohboy!

What do you do when you learn that one of favorite authors is going to be at an event 45 minutes away that is affordable, AND there will be literary panels AND a special reading and Q&A with him AND there will be a scavenger hunt AND a costume ball WITH full dinner buffet ANNNND a chance to get in a raffle which prizes includes a RIDE ON THE CAROUSEL AND IF I TYPE IN ANY MORE CAPS I’LL START TO HYPERVENTILATE–


As you can see, I am pleased about this. I am also going. This is not open to discussion. I. AM. GOING.

This is going to be the bestest Halloween Weekend ever!!!!

Dissing the Wisconsin Book Festival (or bad LaShawn, bad LaShawn for not supporting books like you should!)

The Wisconsin Book Festival was here a couple of weeks ago, and I didn’t go. I just wasn’t interested. Even last year, back when we first moved up here and I first learned about it, it just didn’t grab me.  Not like the Midwest Literary Festival in Aurora, which sadly closed due to low attendance.

Ragging on the Wisconsin Book Festival isn’t fair. How can I criticize something I barely attended? I don’t know. Maybe it’s because the Festival was a week-long event, crammed with so many book readings, it lost me. Or the panels didn’t grab me as particularly interesting for a writer like me. I seem to recall complaining about this last year as well.

As for authors, well, they did bring on Gregory Maguire, who wrote Wicked. I’m not a fan of his novels, but I do like his short stories. The only other author I recognize was Kevin Henkes, and I am bummed about missing him. We’re currently discovering him in our household, and Daniel is becoming a huge fan of his books, all on his own. It would have been neat to take Daniel to meet the creator of his favorite book, "Julius, the Baby of the World", so I could introduce him to the world of writers. Unfortunately, I didn’t even know Henkes was attending the festival, not until I heard from someone else the following week who did attend. So I was bummed.

Perhaps the reason why I didn’t go to the festival is because I’ve grown more selective in what festivals I network at. After all, I’ve been to two cons this year, OdysseyCon and Wiscon. Both are geared towards science fiction and fantasy, genres that I’m developing my writing in. Both deal with the fandom of the genre, which I have more knowledge of, as opposed to say, bass fishing in Wisconsin. Both give me the opportunity to mingle with writers and editors in my field—I’m still blissed out over my chance to meet with the editor from Tor—the Wisconsin book festival seemed more general.

I don’t want to come down hard on the Festival. It does look like a great, well-organized festival, and there were some authors I genuinely wanted to see had I actually made an effort to go see them. But maybe what I need right now is to get more involved in the fandom of the genre I’m writing in.

But I do promise to pay more attention to the Wisconsin Book Festival next year. I really am bummed I missed an opportunity to introduce Daniel to his favorite author. It looks like, however, like some of Kevin Henkes’ artwork, as well as other illustrators, are on display at the Wisconsin Academy until December 6. Looks like I need to arrange for a field trip.

In the meantime, I’m making plans to not only go to Oddcon and Wiscon next year, but I may even squeeze in one more con. I’m thinking World Fantasy 2010. Road trip to Columbus, OH, anyone?

Oddcon Thoughts

So this past weekend, I attend my first science fiction/fantasy convention ever.

It’s not like I’ve actively avoided cons when I was living in Chicago. I knew about WindyCon and Duckon and Anime Central (my sister went to that—kudos to her). It’s just that I thought they looked sort of…weird. I had no great desire to go to a place where people walked around in costumes and going to panels where they debated what really killed the Star Trek series (hey, I liked Enterprise, that is, until it started going all weird and angsty and dark).

Plus, I didn’t really have anyone to go with. I wasn’t about to drag my hubby to one, although it’s possible he would’ve enjoyed himself, and most of my friends were SAHMs with young kids. I just couldn’t see myself bringing a bunch of moms and kids and watching them gawk as a dude dressed as Xena strolled by. Well, okay, I can see that, and in hindsight, it would’ve been hilarious…Also, the Guests of Honor seemed to be people who had their stuff self-published, and suddenly, they’re an “expert”…

Okay. So I did actively avoid the cons in Chicago.

When I got to Madison, I heard about OdysseyCon and checked out the website. The first thing I saw was that Tobias Buckell was attending as Guest of Honor, and hey, I knew that name. Then the whole RaceFail thing happened and, whaddyaknow, some of the LiveJournalists and other authors involved were going to be in attendance too, including Emma Bull and Will Shetterly. Then Tobias Buckley bowed out because his wife was having twins (good for him!), and he’s been replaced by oh, some guy who, I don’t know, made the NY Times Best Seller list but I never heard of him. But by that time, I decided. Oddcon was too good to pass up.

So out of all that, what did I get out of Oddcon?

  • The panels I went to were informative and fun. Some were geared towards writers, but some were fantasy/scifi in general. There were a few that definitely had some in-jokes I didn’t get, but all in all, not bad.
  • I got to meet Patrick Rothfuss, who has one freakylooking beard. But once you get over your fantasy of hunting him down with a pair of scissors, shouting, “AT LEAST MAKE IT EVEN FOR GOD’S SAKE!!!!!!!!!”, you find that Patrick Rothfuss is a pretty laid-back and absolutely hilarious guy. And his debut book made it on the NY Times Best Seller List. AND he won the Writer’s of the Future Contest in 2002. That’s stuff I’d like to do.  Edit: I finally got around to reading his book, The Name of the Wind. You can find my review of it here.
  • Yes, there were people playing D&D. Yes, there were people doing LANgames. Yes, there were people dressed up. But there were also regularly dressed people there too. And oddly enough, I got to know my upstairs neighbors, who I wasn’t expecting to see there.
  • I also didn’t expect to see Jim Frankel, Senior Editor of Tor Books. Actually, I knew that he was coming from the Programming schedule, but I didn’t actually think I would actually meet him and have actual conversations with him. Which was nice. He was gracious, casual and fun to talk to.
  • I got to meet a couple of LiveJournal people whose names I recognized from the whole RaceFail thing—including Moondancer Drake, who can really rock a Stetson. She was fun to talk to, and I really enjoyed getting to know her (and her 6-year-old, who is a sweetie).
  • And yes, I got to meet Emma Bull and Will Shetterly, who at first pretty much intimidated me, as well as Sarah Monette, who does some collaborative work with them. But they’re pretty easy people to talk to once you get to know them. I even screwed up courage to talk with them and about RaceFail. I didn’t want to be confrontational, but I had some genuine questions. I think it was a good conversation overall, and I generally had fun. In fact, this general ease of talking to these well-known authors led to…
  • A most surreal late Saturday night when somehow, I don’t know how exactly, I wound up hanging out with Bull, Shetterly, Frankel, Monette and a bunch of other writers at the hotel bar. Being that it was past my bedtime anyway, and the fact that I’m sitting with well-known authors and a senior editor of Tor, it sort of blew my mind. Then on Sunday, some more friends and I went to have Thai food with Rothfuss and his girlfriend. And I found myself thinking, being a writer ROCKS!
  • Oh. I won a garlic/ginger grater at an art auction.

So there you have it. My first con. I had a great time, and people kept telling me that I chose a good one to attend. Oddcon was small enough so that I didn’t get lost in the shuffle, but prestigious enough to pull in a couple of big names, but small enough that those big names could mingle easily with the rest of us. Everyone tells me that if I liked Oddcon, I would love Wiscon, since it’s gained quite a name for itself over the past few years. I’m looking forward to that, although I’ll only be able to attend that Friday’s events.

There are some things I learned from Oddcon that I’ll take with me to Wiscon. 1) Read up on not just the Guests of Honor, but also people who’ll be attending panels. I’m still kicking myself for not getting to know Sarah Monette more.

2) Bring business cards. For the first two days of the con, I completely did not have anything with me to pass out. Actually, that wasn’t such a bad thing, since I got to know people first before I started handing cards out to them. But I had to put a reminder on my laptop because I’ve fallen out of the habit of carrying my cards with me.

3) Don’t bring a 4-cheese toasted bagel with garlic and tomato cream cheese to a panel. Especially since the con had food there. I didn’t need to stop at Einstein Bagels for breakfast. But dang…it was good. Smelly, but gooooood…

4) Plan to help out at the next con. Which is one thing I definitely intend to do. Who knows, maybe I’ll have a book contract by that time. And then I’ll be the one chasing people down the hall with a big styrofaom mock-up of my book cover, cackling madly. Well, Pat Rothfuss didn’t actually cackle when he did that. But it still looked cool.

Celebrating Black Future Month

Remember Black History Month back in February? Yeah, I didn’t either. Sadly, my observance of the month has faded along with Kwanzaa, which my family never really celebrated anyway (in fact, it never even entered our heads to celebrate it). I do have fond memories of all the stuff we had to learn during Black History Month, and I’m a little sad that Daniel won’t have that same experience, not unless we send him to an all black school (and to be honest, I want him to be exposed to many different cultures, not just white and black).

That all said, this past March has been interesting. It feels like I’ve spent the entire month not just discussing multi-ethnic matters, but reconciling on how that applies to me as a black writer.

In the past, I really struggled on what made me a black person other than just color. I didn’t act like a "typical" black person; in fact, as a kid, I caught a lot of flack from other black people because I "acted white". I spoke proper. Always had my head in a book. Wasn’t very interested in singing or dance groups. In high school and college, I got to hear all the fun names that goes along struggling with black identity—like oreo or zebra. Fun, fun times. See, this is why I don’t like thinking about high school days.

It got to the point where I felt more "black" among my white friends than I did with other blacks. So I hung out with whites more. It was where I felt the most comfortable. The way I figured it,

Now, fast forward to this past March. I’m attending our Wiscon Book Club, Beer and Marmalade, and one of the things we decide to talk about was a racism discussion that’s been happening on LiveJournal appropriately called "RaceFail 2009". I’m not going to spell out the whole history of that; clicking on the link would give you an idea, although you can get a more detailed history of the whole mess at Ann Somerville’s LiveJournal. But anyway—I didn’t really want to do it, as any discussion about race makes me highly uncomfortable. But I dutifully read some of the essays out there, and I came across this post "We worry about it Too".

That essay hit a strong nerve with me.

You see, when I started writing, I had prided myself on being a ‘black’ writer of speculative fantasy. I figured it would make me stand out more, especially since I was writing a fantasy novel that contained black characters in it. Heck, it had a black woman who was a main character. But when I first wrote Willow, she wasn’t the main protagonist. The young man she protects, the white male, he was the protagonist. Most of the book was written from his point of view, as well as several others who were white.

I once took a draft of Willow’s Synopsis to an agent at the Midwest Writer’s Conference a while back. One of the things she said was, "It looks like the female character is stronger than the male. Why isn’t this in her point of view?" And I just stared at her, because 1) it didn’t really occur to me to write in the black female’s point of view, and 2) deep down, it scared me. Who was I, a black woman, mind you, to know what an actual black woman felt like?

(And yes, I know most of my short stories have black characters as the main protagonist—but it’s different when you write sci/fi or plain speculative, because it’s easier to picture black people in the future. But in fantasy? Most are set within Eurocentric settings; any black people would be relegated to an African tribal status.)

My sister, who has a LiveJournal of her own, puts it down the best way when it comes to her writing fanfiction: "I write about white characters because that’s what I read when I grew up." I’m the exact same way. I’ve grown so used to seeing white males in fantasy that when I started writing a fantasy novel, it was easy to fall into that same line of thinking.

My realization about my main characters came before I read that essay by Nojojojo, of course. But the timing couldn’t have been better. Because I read it just when I started my second rewrite of Willow’s prologue. And it made me seriously think. Am I writing from this character’s POV because it’s what I’m used to, or should I write from this other character to give him/her more of a voice in the book?

It’s a hard thing to juggle, but I’ve rewritten the prologue and chapter 1 of Willow, and I think that so far, both have come out a lot stronger. I’m eager to see this novel through Coren’s eyes. It’s risky, but it’s also very exciting.

That’s how I feel about this whole RaceFail thing. Sure, a lot of people on both sides have vented and/or said very stupid things (I almost don’t read comments anymore), but some very insightful and deep discussion has come because of this. And there are attempts to further the conversation. Wiscon will be holding its first Cultural Appropriation Class (I mentioned this in my last post), and luckily, I’ll be able to attend that. There’s also been a great promotion to read more fantasy and sci/fi by people of color, which I highly, highly recommend (and I’ve started doing myself). There’s also a new small press in the works called Verb Noire who caters specifically to people of color in the scifi/fantasy community. Worth checking out.

This is probably the best time to be a black speculative fiction writer. We’re forging into new territory here. It’s scary, risky and it’s never really been done before. But it’s long overdue. And I think this whole experience is helping to strengthen my own identity as a black writer. For the first time, I can own up to that and really feel like I mean it, instead of feeling like some imposter.

Of course, my hubby would suggest that’s because inside of me there’s a Japanese girl perpetually stuck at age thirteen, but that’s not true. She’s sixteen. That’s a world of difference.