Back from Wiscon! (and BEA, and the Lambda awards…)

Con report, panels, people, parties, etc…
My Wiscon this year was somewhat rushed and jampacked thanks to travel snafus and such, so I didn’t get to blog from the convention at all. I tweeted when I could, but there was so much going on, I didn’t have a lot of chances. Plenty of other folks did tweet, though, so check out the hashtags #wiscon and #wiscon34 to see lots of them.
My latest travels began with a trip to NYC for BookExpo America. That was also a rushed few days, as they had condensed the trade show from 3 days of exhibits into only 2, and then that was capped off by the Lambda Literary Awards.
My book “Women of the Bite” (lesbian vampire anthology including stories by Cat Rambo, Jennifer Williams, Jewelle Gomez, Moondancer Drake, et al) was nominated in the erotica category. It didn’t win, but LESBIAN COWBOYS, an anthology I have a story in, did! Congrats to Sacchi Green and Rakelle Valencia. I also got to be the presenter for the science fiction award which WOOHOO!!! went to Cat Valente for Palimpsest. Cat struck a blow for bisexual visibility at the awards, too. *fist pump*
The next day I was due to fly to Wiscon and throw a party for Circlet Press, but Continental Airlines had other plans. On a plane that only seated 47 people, they overbooked by 4. All 4 of us who lost the race for seat assignments were bumped, and I spent the night in an airport hotel instead of throwing a party at the con. Sad. Plus then I missed part of the next day’s convention, though I made it in time for my first panel, the brilliant, hilarious, “Revenge of Not Another &%^$# Race Panel,” in which 6 panelists-of-color get their geek on with one rule, which is that we DON’T talk about race. OMG, everyone was sharp and funny and it was a blast.

Actually, before the Not a Race Panel, there was fantastic impromptu lunch outdoors with Nora (N.K.) Jemisin. We’d tried to hook up with a whole group of people going to lunch together, but with the panel due to start at 1pm, and our order still not taken by 12:30pm, we bailed and discovered a sort of quirky little food trailer set up along the fringe of the Madison farmer’s market. It was called Cafe Costa Rica and was a kind of mashup of various latin and Caribbean foods & drinks. We ended up with wet, spicy chicken tacos and “Jamaican iced tea” (with ginger and lime) and a strawberry milkshake. DELISH. And fast enough that I wasn’t late for the panel.
I was also on a panel on Witches, about what media and books get wrong about “witches” and who gets it right. I had originally thought I’d talk about the Magic University books and how I took the tactic of deciding anything we have a historical myth about (unicorns, Nostradamus, etc…) was “real magic” in my world, and then extending it into the modern day. But I ended up talking a lot about being an Eastern Healing practitioner and how only western people label it “magic”–whereas in China or Japan it’s more likely to be viewed just as “science that hasn’t been explained yet.” And the science we have is advancing closer and closer to explaining it all the time.
Had dinner with Charliejane Anders and Annalee Newitz of io9 and some friends of theirs. Much good beer and great discussions of the legal implications of fanfic.
Then I landed in the Governor’s Club, the private lounge for people with the pricier rooms on the 12th and 14th floors of the hotel, which, thanks to the foresight of my roommate K. Tempest Bradford, we were placed on. Swanky. And on Saturday night they had free booze until 10:30pm, a dessert buffet, and so on… hence I had some really well lubricated conversations with Minal Hajratwala (whose Lambda Literary Award for bisexual fiction I carried from NYC), Mary Anne Mohanraj, and I finally got to meet Alexandra Erin in person! It’s funny, because Alexandra and I are both really shy around people we don’t already know in person, so it took someone who isn’t shy to stick us together and be like “talk.”
When the bar closed at 10:30 Alexandra convinced me to go with her to a panel on online business models, where Jennifer Stevenson, Sumana Harihareswara, and a panelist who wished to remain anonymous if blogged about, told us about their various internet ventures like Book View Cafe. Alexandra and I also threw in 2 cents here and there about our various online ventures — Alexandra is known for the Tales of MU serial, which she has been running successfully for a few years.
Then, parties. I wrote a haiku in exchange for a set of earrings from Elise Masterson, whose haiku earring parties are legendary at Wiscon. The title I was given: “The Steel Garden.” The poem I wrote:
In deepest winter
fences that chain the city bloom
icicle flowers.
There were also many other conversations and epiphanies–Wiscon is very high signal to noise.
Let’s see. Then came sleep, and then breakfast in the Governor’s Club again, and then I set up a fan table to give away Circlet Press ebooks and even sell a few printed books. I was there pretty much nonstop from 10am to 6pm and just talked to everyone who came by. JoSelle Vanderhooft was one of the first to come by, and I worked a bit on her sore neck, hopefully helping her to get through the convention without a massive tension headache. Chitchatted a bit with Cat Rambo and Trish Wooldridge at the Broad Universe table adjacent to me.
Originally I had not intended to do a table like that, but since I hadn’t thrown a party, I was at a loss for how else to make good on my promise to give away free ebooks to the first 50 people who asked for one, plus I had books I’d intended to sell to help cover costs. In the end I gave away about 30 ebooks and sold about $100 in books, which was decent. It meant not going to any panels that day, but I had so many conversations with people it evens out.
Then came dinner in The Bar with JoSelle, Ann Harris, JJ Pionke, and Jesse. Writing talk, fanfic talk, and much ridiculing of the SyFy giant crocodile movie showing on the TV screen above our heads. Followed by the dessert buffet and guest of honor speeches.
I’ve heard Nnedi Okorafor speak before and she is unfailingly charming, smart, and funny. But the speech that really blew everyone away was Mary Anne Mohanraj’s, which candidly recounted her own battles for identity and freedom from her parents’ expectations that she would have a traditional arranged marriage and her journey as a writer, activist, and mother of two. I still can’t believe I bought and published her first “pro” short story sale. She had most of us in the room teary-eyed by the end of the speech, when she basically issued a call to action for all of us to hold the line against the “fails” that are undoubtedly coming down the pike to our intentional communities. I can’t paraphrase it here and do it any justice.
And Greer Gilman won a Tiptree Award, as did Fumi Yoshinaga, and there was singing and gifting, and this all made me late to teach my writing workshop on appropriation vs. inclusion. I call it the Double Edged Sword. If you only “write what you know,” then you’ll be accused of not being diverse enough and under-representing people. But if you write about a gender, orientation, or race that you aren’t, you can be accused of appropriation. How can you win? How can you write anything if you’re afraid of hurting people or being accused of perpetuating evil? Take the workshop and find out. πŸ™‚ It was a very tolerant and good-natured group who let me lead them through a series of philosophical exercises and we tackled a lot of examples of exoticizing, cultural insensitivity, appropriation, ignorance, fetishization, tokenism, etc…
Then came more parties, including the Broad Universe party, and a community photo booth that Mike “Orange Man” Lowrey suggested I visit since my Wikipedia page has no photo of me. They’ll put it up, apparently. Cool.
Then more sleep. Then breakfast in the Governor’s Club with Ellen Klages, Cliff Winnig, Greer Gilman, and Mary Robinette Kowal who showed us amazing photos of some of the puppetry she’s been working on. (She’s a puppeteer by day, writer by night.) Then the mass autographing known as the Sign Out. I shared a table with Karen Healy and Pamela Dean (who had to run to the airport partway through). Signed some books, said goodbyes, settled the hotel bill, and then it was my turn to go to the airport.
And now I’m home! I strongly recommend Wiscon. If I had the time and money I would never miss one!

8 Comments

  1. I also wondered how to paraphrase Mary Anne Mohanraj’s moving speech (realized I couldn’t do justice to Nnedi Okorafor’s without quoting word-for-word), but I bought the BOOK that was sold “in conjunction with the appearance of [those 2 authors] as the Guests of Honor at WisCon 34 May 27-31, 2010.” It is named WITHOUT A MAP (Aqueduct Press), was published in a limited edition of 175 numbered copies, & was on sale for $8 U.S. at the end of the con. I’ll quote from it later today.

    1. I really really have to try to get there next year, too! I should go every year but time and money are the two things a writer ain’t got…!

  2. What is it with you and Cleveland? Didn’t you get stuck here a couple of years ago, too?
    Maybe you should just fly to *Cleveland* next year. We’ll drive the rest of the way. No airport hotels. πŸ™‚

    1. I did get stuck in Cleveland 2 summers ago! Although that was my own fault, when I had a 12pm flight, not 2pm like I thought… oops.

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