Wiscon Panel Proposals!

1. Wiscon 38 is May 23-36th this year, in Madison, WI.

2. Programming at Wiscon is created by the convention attendees.

3. Register for the convention. Then go to My Account. There will be a section, “Program Suggestions Submit an idea for WisCon 38 & SFRA.” This is where YOU, Wiscon Attendee, can suggest the sorts of panels YOU want to see.

4. Panels are collated and then voted on by the community. All attendees get to say which panels they 1) want to be ON, 2) want to moderate, or 3) want to ATTEND. Panels get selected based on interest. (With some exceptions for events that just get grandmothered in.)

5. I pitched a number of panels so far. There is no guarantee whatsoever that any of these will be selected, of course. But I am excited!

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A couple things on my return

1. I am returned from Geek Girl Con!

My convention report is, erm, abbreviated, because I did something godawful to my back on Friday and by Saturday afternoon I was spending most of the convention in my hotel room, in a hot bath, with my girlfriend fetching me ibuprofen and tea.

However! A few observations.

I have no insider knowledge of how Geek Girl Con is run. I don’t know any of the organizers. But, damn, y’all, that operates like a finely-run fan convention. It was like a professional media or comic-con, except run by cheerful, enthusiastic, friendly volunteers who all cared enormously about what they were doing.

The thing I will remember most about Geek Girl Con is how HAPPY everyone was to be there, how HAPPY everyone was to see everyone else and to all be doing this awesome thing, together, at the same time.

2. Pretty Deadly #1, by Kelly Sue DeConnick, Emma Rios, Jordie Bellaire, and Clayton Cowles, comes out tomorrow. I’d be ever-so-pleased if you could pick up a copy. And perhaps give the title a pre-order. It’s a good story, gorgeously told. I highly recommend it.

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Things, in a list

1. I liked this post on Nerd Fitness about how to look like a celebrity in a big action movie. I don’t know about you, but I need these sorts of reminders from time to time.

2. I will be at Geek Girl Con in Seattle, October 19-20! I hope to see many of you there!

3. I also liked this ranting post from Stumptuous about things a person might want to consider by age 40. Yes. A person might want to consider those things.

4. I like this Melody Pond fanvid:

I Tremble | Melody Pond, by catminolte. Music “Help I’m Alive (Dubstep Remix)” by Metric.

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Virtual Micropolis

As some of you may know, the adults I live with, Tern and Cavorter, are very into Lego. Specifically, they build and display micropolis standard cityscapes. (Other things, too. But micropolis is the subject of this post.)

The purpose of the micropolis standard is to allow builders across the country or world to work on an urban landscape project together, sight unseen. The modules meet certain standards of conformity. When micropolis builders come together at Lego shows or events, they buildings fit together like a jigsaw puzzle, revealing a hither-to-unsuspected city.

Here in the Twin Cities, Cavorter and Tern are being asked more and more frequently to bring their micropolis modules for display at various events. This afternoon and evening, Micropolis will participate in the re-opening of the Saint Anthony Park Public Library. As more people see Micropolis, they have questions, and want to know more. To meet this desire for further information Cavorter and Tern have put together Virtual Micropolis.

Virtual Micropolis is still a work in progress. The entire collection of micropolis standard modules existing in our house has not yet been cataloged. But if you have found yourself wondering what the heck micropolis is, the module list is a fun place to start.

And if you’re in the Twin Cities, might I recommend you stop by the Saint Anthony Park Library today, between 6 and 8 pm? Come on over, and see Micropolis for yourself!

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KudosCon KickStarter

May I draw your attention to the KudosCon KickStarter?

Backed by the Geek Partnership Society — the people who help bring you CONvergence and Anime Detour — KudosCon will be a convention celebrating fanworks.

From the KickStarter page:

“Fanworks matter. They connect us our fannish communities and help us explore our own imaginations. We want to make a convention for people who get that. And we want you to join us.

Spend a weekend talking plot with fanfic authors, sketching with fan artists, comparing mics with podfic readers, trading costuming tips with cosplayers, talking meta over drinks at the bar, and of course, sharing squee with fellow fans.

What does a fanworks convention look like?

January 3rd-5th 2014, we’ll overrun the airport Hilton in Bloomington, Minnesota with fans. You’ll attend panels on fanworks and fan life ranging from squee to discussions of craft to academic presentations. You can buy and sell art in the artist alley, read your fic aloud at an open mic fanfic reading, show off your favorite costume at the cosplay contest, and hang out in the consuite with other creators. The schedule will have time built in for fandom meet-ups, meals out with friends, and Tumblr time. The convention is set up to be 18+ because a lot of fanworks involve porn, and we don’t want anybody getting in trouble.

We’re aiming to cover a wide variety of fanworks subjects, so expect to see programming on fan fiction, fan art, podfic, cosplay, meta, and vidding – and tell us if you want to see something we haven’t thought of! This convention is all about the things YOU love doing and making in fandom.”

Go on over to the KickStarter. Read up on the project for yourself. See if you can throw five bucks towards making this convention happen, hm?

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James Frenkel leaves Tor

From Locus Online:

Longtime Tor Books editor James Frenkel has left the company. Tor senior editor Patrick Nielsen Hayden wrote in a series of posts to his twitter account:

James Frenkel is no longer associated with Tor Books. We wish him the best.

We’ll be contacting the authors and agents Mr. Frenkel worked with to discuss which editor here they’ll be working with going forward.

This process will take some days or even weeks, so please be patient if you don’t hear from us instantly.

Finally, if you had something on submission to Tor via Mr. Frenkel, you’ll need to resubmit it via some other Tor editor.

If you don’t have a particular editor in mind, you can re-submit it via Diana Pho (diana.pho@tor.com) who will route it appropriately.

Additionally, Kenneth White of Popehat has made the following statement of support:

Elise Matthesen is a writer, artist, and activist. Sigrid Ellis is a writer, editor, blogger, and air traffic controller. Both are active in what I’ll refer to as the fantasy and science fiction community.

Ms. Ellis gave a party at Wiscon; Ms. Matthesen attended. Ms. Matthesen experienced conduct she believed was harassment, and reported it. She later wrote a post — carried by several prominent figures in the science fiction community — about the process of reporting harassment at conventions. Ms. Ellis identified the person Ms. Matthesen reported.

Though I discuss harassment in the science fiction, fantasy, and gaming community on this blog, the purpose of this post is not to discuss that incident, or the nature of the conduct that led to the report.

Rather, I write to state my support.

As far as I know, Ms. Ellis and Ms. Matthesen have not received specific legal threats.

However, in the event that Ms. Ellis or Ms. Matthesen do receive legal threats or are subjected to litigation, I have agreed to give them my assistance in securing an effective and vigorous defense. That assistance will include the Popehat Signal. Thanks to the generosity of readers and the devotion of the community of First Amendment attorneys (including the First Amendment Lawyers Association, of which I am a member), the Popehat Signal has often been successful at pairing defendants with pro bono lawyers who have produced excellent results. I have also offered, to the extent appropriate and (depending on the jurisdiction) available, my personal assistance, which has also led to some success. Finally, I will do my part to encourage the Streisand Effect.

Does it sound like I boast? Maybe it does. Take it this way: I am utterly, unreservedly, mercilessly serious.

Conduct yourself accordingly.

Enjoy your weekend, folks!

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CONvergence, Safe Space, Safe People

As many of you know, my home-town con is this coming week. CONvergence is a cross-media, cross-genre convention, over 5000 people strong. It has a place for nearly everyone. And thus, nearly everyone attends.

There’s a growing tide of awareness in fandom. In all the fandoms I am in or near, to be honest. There’s a growing awareness of sexual harassment, of harassment in general. Last year CONvergence ran a popular anti-harassment poster campaign, Costumes Are Not Consent. CONvergence also has a clear policy on harassment, which I copy in its entirety:

Harassment

CONvergence is dedicated to providing a safe and comfortable convention experience for everyone. Harassment of any kind, including physical assault, battery, deliberate intimidation, stalking, or unwelcome physical attentions, will not be tolerated. If people tell you “no” or to leave them alone, your business with them is done.

Leave them alone. Do not follow them or attempt to disrupt their convention experience in any way. If you continue to attempt to have contact with those people, you may be removed from the premises.

CONvergence is not responsible for solving any interpersonal problems that may arise between individual members. In general, we can take no action to prevent a person from attending the convention unless that person has made a specific and credible threat toward the convention itself. If you feel that a threat exists against your person, we advise you to seek a restraining order against the individual in question and to involve the host hotel itself (security staff specifically) and the municipal police department in advance of the convention; otherwise, we recommend simply avoiding that individual.

If that individual stalks, harasses, or attempts to assault you at the convention itself, you may report that individual to a member of Operations (they will report it to the hotel’s security staff who will get the police involved if necessary) or you may report it to hotel security directly, and the appropriate action will be taken. Conversely, any attempt to have an innocent person removed from the convention by falsely accusing him or her of threats will be itself treated as an act of harassment and will be dealt with appropriately. The responsibility for settling interpersonal disputes lies solely with the individuals involved, and CONvergence will not tolerate being used as a leveraging point in such disputes.”

That’s the con policy.I know at lot of the Ops people at CONvergence. They are trained and briefed, and they take their duties very seriously.

***

There’s a thing, called the Backup Project, or the Backup Ribbon Project. It’s a way of signalling to strangers that the person wearing the pin, or the ribbon, or the t-shirt, is willing to get involved in a potential harassment situation if the person feeling harassed needs backup. There are a number of concerns with this project. Most obviously, a harassing creeper could wear said ribbon in order to gain access to targets. Secondarily, an overly-enthusiastic Backup could escalate a situation far beyond what anyone wanted.

There are problems, yes. But there’s something there, too. The idea that, too often, witnesses to problems walk on by, unwilling to intervene. That a label could make it easier to ask a stranger for a hand.

***

There are campaigns, publicized on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr, of people planning to attend conventions with the stated goal of harassing other attendees. I have little ability to judge how serious these public campaigns are. On an important level, it doesn’t really matter if it’s mere online trolling or a serious threat to sexually assault others — people feel threatened. More than that, people are responding as though they feel targeted. Targeted at conventions, where they hope to be among their friends and family, where they hope to be among their tribe.

***

I am just as capable as the next person of seeing a slightly tense situation developing across the hall and walking away. I know, because I’ve done it. I’m not proud of this, and some of those instances stick in my memory, full of ‘what happened to her, later, I wonder?’

I am just as capable of brushing off or excusing an unwanted sexual remark or touch, particularly at a convention. I know, because I have done it. These days, I’m wondering — how many of those people who kissed my hand without asking, or sniffed my hair without permission, how many of them went on to find someone else with whom to escalate their practice?

***

This is what I look like, more or less:

IMG_20130615_144417_976

IMG_20130630_143443_737

***

I’m not in the business of interfering. I’m just not. But if you need a hand? If you want out of a conversation, or you want someone to help you flag down a Wandering Host? You have a too-friendly fan of your costume who keeps following you into the restroom? Whatever. If you want a buddy for five minutes, let me know. I’d be happy to help.

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CONvergence is nigh!

CONvergence, my local massive multi-fandom convention, is SOON. July 4-7, in Bloomington, MN.

I will be there on Thursday and Saturday only. Friday and Sunday I will be at work. On Thursday you can find me at:

Thursday, July 4

2:00pm Where Do I Start? Wherever You Want!
8:30pm How to Talk to the Naked Lady in the Elevator
10:00pm Queers Dig Time Lords
11:30pm Diversity in Steampunk

On Saturday I will be bringing my kids and hanging out, enjoying the con.

See you there!

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Wiscon: How to Be a Fan of Problematic Things

First, I don’t know if the mod of this panel wants to be discussed on the internet, so I won’t name her. But she was FANTASTIC. The ground rules of the panel were simple — we were not going to sit around listing problematic things, as that could take all day. Nor were we going to conflate critique of a thing with a personal attack on someone who likes that thing. The premise of the panel is that we all like problematic things, so, let’s acknowledge and talk about that.

This may sound basic or trivial, but I think it’s vital to any further discussion. As I tweeted, if I didn’t like problematic things, what would there be to like? (A friend replied, “Lilo and Stitch?” Another person suggested The Middleman.) The fact that fictions are made by humans, are imperfect, and have problems is not a referendum on the fact that we all like fiction! Liking problematic things does not make me a bad person. How I like those things, how I defend them, how I critique them, well … That’s where a person can be open to failure.

So. How do we do it?

The conversation that resulted was delightfully practical. There was no noodling about the broader implications. No, no.

Instead, we got “if a person who is really spoiler-averse wants to know whether a movie is problematic, how can you tell them without spoiling?” Answer: Use the “trigger warning” system established in fic comms. I.e., “trigger warning for addictive behavior,” without saying which character or what they do. For example.

Another question raised was how to ride out the initial defensiveness when someone RIGHTLY points out that your squee is racist. Answer: Listen hard, don’t respond to points raised but remain communicative, ask for the other party to unpack their statements if they have time, go away and do some research if you don’t know terms like Invisible Backpack, complain PRIVATELY to CLOSE FRIENDS while you work through your feelings.

The other major point raised was, what about when the canon is merely normally problematic, but the CREATOR is a fucking jerk. Orson Scott Card was the example here, I will happily say. DC Comics also got a mention. The agreed-upon answer was that everyone draws their lines differently, and that adopting a STRONG live-and-let-live policy for other people’s decisions was best.

The panel was raucous but controlled, it was fun and funny but serious in intention. My favorite moment was when an audience member seemed to be asking “how do I get people to stop criticizing my stuff?” [NOTE: I cannot actually tell you anyone else's intentions. I don't know what the person meant. That is my impression of what was meant, and it was shared by everyone around me.] The panelists displayed a delightful variety of individualized “are you kidding me with this bullshit” faces, and I had to choke back laughter. Yet the actual response was considered, polite, and respectful. While also very firm that this is not a thing one ought to expect in fandom — if you like problematic things AS WE ALL DO, own that. Own it, accept it, don’t defend it, and move on.

This panel was a wonderful reminder of the things I love about fandom. If I have a true, honest thing I am a fandom, it is this — I am a fan of what fandom can do and be when we are striving to be our best selves. I am a fan of sixty smart, funny, angry, determined, joyous women sitting in a room and establishing the ground rules for civil discourse. These are my people and my tribe, and I was damn glad to be at that panel.

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Wiscon: Kicking People Out, A How-To Guide

This was a panel on Sunday at 10:00 in the morning. The panel description in the guide reads as follows:

“Often efforts to make spaces welcoming are confounded by an unwillingness to expel people who are already there. We’ll discuss the issues involved in creating communities that are less alienating. How do we in fandom balance a desire not to explicitly exclude with the need to prevent implicit inclusion? How do we handle the backlash from explicit exclusion? What role do allies play in establishing and enforcing policies? How are opportunities for education balanced against the exhaustive requirement of providing that education? How do issues of age and ageism complicate these questions? And how do we actually say ‘you aren’t welcome back’?”

I went to the panel hoping for strategies and tactics to actually DO this — to exclude people who make spaces unsafe. Unfortunately, I don’t think ANYONE has a really good idea how to do this. Much of the panel was spent asserting that, yes, people in fandom do bad things and, yes, we need to get rid of them so that they do not hurt others.

The panel very FIRMLY avowed that it is not the recipient-of-unwanted-action’s job to educate creeps. It also asserted that not every organization wants to provide education, either.

But what to DO about creeps? For a few moments the suggestion was floated, I’m not sure by who, that a secret list be complied and passed around from convention to convention. A list of creeps. A number of people were vocally opposed to this, and pointed out a few problems. I personally think it’s a terrible idea, and I hope no-one takes it seriously.

The gist was, dealing with unpleasant people we all know who are entrenched in our community is HARD, and no-one really has the answers.

The suggestion that I took away from the panel as very, very useful, however, was for conventions to separate the reporting arm from the investigatory and enforcing arms.

The bar to reporting harassment should be very, very low. A person should feel comfortable reporting harassment that may not be actively damaging or threatening, but may be uncomfortable and creepy and inappropriate. When reporting, the person making the report should not feel that their own action, character, and integrity are under review. The person receiving the report should be sympathetic.

The reports then go to the investigative arm of the organization. This arm decides what to pursue, and makes recommendations to the enforcing arm. HERE is where we need impartiality and skepticism. HERE is the proper place for “do they have a grudge” and “did anyone see the events”.

The enforcing arm can then look at the recommendations and decide whether a person needs education, a stern-but-friendly word of advice, an official warning from the convention, a ban, a life ban, or what-have-you.

This sort of system would be able to also catch some of that long-term sort of Missing Step creepiness — the kind we warn new folks about, but the person in question has never done anything “bad enough”. Right now, reporting something means you KNOW you will be dragged into some sort of investigation, and it may not remain private. But if you can report trivial things and know that someone else will decide whether it needs investigation, that makes it easy.

And if the same person is reported seventeen times over five years by six different people for “minor” things and “being creepy,” then the enforcing arm can have a word with that individual and tell them that a pattern of behavior has been noted. We’re watching you, bucko.

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