... the world's largest feminist science-fiction convention, held every year in Madison WI. This year, as it has for some number of years (or maybe even its whole life), WisCon 29 was held at the Madison Concourse Hotel, just blocks from the Wisconsin capitol building. Last year the attendance was around 800. They were expecting nearly a thousand this year -- which is getting close to the capacity of the hotel.
But Dr. Phil, Aren't You a Guy?
What does that have to do with the price of eggs in China?
Alan Alda got some raised eyebrows years ago when he announced that he was a feminist. But why not? Seems to me that the world is a big ship and it doesn't hurt to get as many on board as possible.
So Why Go?
I went to WisCon 28 last year, for two reasons. (1) One of my stories didn't seem to fit a lot of the usual categories, so in my review of "what's out there", someone had commented that this story "was almost feminist SF, if there was such a thing." So I Googled "feminist science fiction" and very quickly discovered the existence of WisCon. (2) Having been accepted to the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers' Workshop for the summer of 2004, the truth is I had never been a member of a writer's critique group or done a writing workshop before. In looking over my files of "things which are out there I might be interested in some day", I discovered that WisCon offers a writer's workshop, which last year came a little over a week before Clarion. I checked -- no point in being rude -- and was assured that WisCon was open to both men and women applying for the workshop.
So I went to the conference last year because I wanted a crit experience and found the conference to be very interesting and includes an academic track of scholarly papers. I went back this year with my wife (her first SF con) for both the workshop and the conference, albeit only for some of the sessions -- the hotel was booked solid for Saturday night, so we couldn't stay another day. Oh, and it was a chance to get together with Clarion 2004 classmate Trent Hergenrader -- we had dinner, caught up and stayed up late working on a story collaboration.
We Wuz Skunked
Alas, at the reading Thursday night at A Room of Our Own, a feminist bookstore, we started seeing a number of people in black T-shirts decked out with the Clarion West 2004 logo. Our Clarion is the original and currently located in East Lansing MI -- "others" sometimes call it Clarion East -- Clarion West is based in Seattle and the upstart but spunky Clarion South has held its first two years in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.
For the record:
# of Clarion 2004 participants: 2
# of Clarion West 2004 participants: 10
# of Clarion 2004 instructors: 2½ * **
* While Kelly Link was in residence, her husband Gavin Grant stopped by a couple of times during a book tour with some other writers.
** Unfortunately for those at home keeping score, Kelly also taught at Clarion West 2004 and I don't have the heart to check whether the others were there... but a check of the "major players" giving sessions at WisCon revealed 2, perhaps 2½ *, Clarion West 2004 instructors...
... a number of Clarion 2004 classmates are gearing up for World Fantasy Con, 3-6 November 2005, also remarkably in Madison WI at the Madison Concourse Hotel. So for those coming from farther away, one trip to Madison looks better than two. (grin)
The truth is, we dobuy books by their covers -- especially in SF. While sitting at A Room of Our Own, I noticed a striking cover -- wasn't sure if the photo was of someone punk/trendy or down-in-the-streets -- to Brass by Helen Walsh. The blurb described it as "the new Trainspotting". I bit. I'm a sucker for a lot of British stuff, it was an easy sale. Besides, I felt better supporting the book store which was kind enough to sponsor the reading. I like bookstores.
The Tiptree Fundraising table at The Gathering had "Uncorrected First Proofs", so I picked up a copy of Conversations with Ray Bradbury edited by Steven L. Aggelis (University Press of Mississippi). Should go nicely with the Bradbury collection I got
Kelly Link and Gavin Grant's Small Beer Press table yielded three back issues of Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet (9, 11, 12). Kelly said I should buy this other zine: The Journal of Pulse-Pounding Narratives: Second and Final Issue, Good Stories for Bad People. She said I'd really like it. She was right. Now these people have quit their zine after two issues, leaving us in the lurch. (sigh/grin)
We picked up another book at another press, but it's a present, so I shan't reveal secrets here and now. And sometimes you find piles of free books at a con -- Spectra Samplings 2004-2005 looked interesting, so I picked one up. If there's anything good in there, I'll comment later.
My writing workshop pro-writer was L. Timmel "Timmy" Duchamp -- a name I didn't recognize. But there she was, listed on the covers of two of the Lady Churchill's I picked up. And in LCRW 11, as I was reading through the brief bios at the end, I realized that one of the authors listed, Christine Klingbiel, was one of the other writers in my workshop group. Cool.
Amazing how often when you are sensitized to something new, you can actually find it when you're not even looking for it.
Bottom line -- good conference, good weekend. Even if we didn't get a chance to stay long enough to dance with the Dead Dog Party...