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TorCon tidbits

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Been reading con reports over at the Meet Me at the Con topic of the Rumor Mill, and remembered that I never wrote up a detailed con report. Unlikely to happen, but a few notes:

Arrived Thursday evening, to find that (despite my numerous reminders to myself) I'd failed to add Mary Anne's name to the room reservations, and that she thus hadn't been able to check in. Sadness! I played several rounds of Mary Anne tag (in which I wander around a convention and half the people I see say "Hi! Mary Anne's looking for you!" and to the other half I say "Have you seen Mary Anne?"—we're thinking of making this an official sport at a future convention), and eventually found her and various others at the hotel bar. I saw a few minutes of the Howard Waldrop/GRR Martin talk (the two of them reminiscing and sort of co-interviewing each other) somewhere along the way. Hung out with a bunch of cool writerly types in the bar (hanging out in the bar is what I always heard the big-name writers and editors do at cons, and it never sounded all that appealing to me, but now I understand that it has a lot to do with the company being good), and—but at this level of detail I'll never finish. Moving along:

I admit to having been a bit miffed about some of the programming snafus, but I have to admit it wasn't all that bad for me—they put me on only one panel, so though they didn't tell me ahead of time that I was on any panels, and there was no description available for the panel, it worked out fine after Aynjel told me I was on it. The worst programming problem I heard about was Connie Willis being scheduled for a reading and a signing at the same time, in different places, but that worked out too, in the end. Somehow it didn't occur to me 'til I was on my way home that one way to help improve the programming issues would've been to go volunteer to help out. . . . Maybe next time. I did get a little nostalgic (I've been doing that a lot lately, it seems) for my first WorldCon, Boston '89, when I put in something like 15-20 hours of volunteering, and couldn't get back to David VS's place late at night so ended up sleeping for a couple hours under a table in an empty filk room and hoping the hotel staff wouldn't catch me. That was the best con I'd ever attended; at any given time, there were five to ten things going on that I really wanted to do.

I've gotten a lot more blase about WorldCons since then, but one thing has stayed the same: it's like there are half a dozen entirely separate cons going on in the same space. This was driven home for me at TorCon when I went looking for the con suite Sunday night, to drop off leftover tea from our tea party: there were at least a dozen big parties going on on the party floor, and hundreds of people in the hallways, and none of them looked remotely familiar. I spent the whole weekend running into the same set of people wherever I went: SH contributors, Ideomancer and Fortean Bureau folks, OWW members, a few Established Pros. But there were something like 4000 people at the convention, and I doubt I actually saw more than a couple hundred of them. Co-resident with the con I attended were the filk con, the costuming con, the anime con, the media-fan con, the kids' con, the Hard Science con, the fandom-and-history-of-fandom con, the artist con, the fan party con, and so on.

It was a great egoboo con for me. I ran into a bunch of people who I like and whose work I like, and they mostly knew who I was and expressed enthusiasm about seeing me. Very cool. That's what I've always wanted (I originally wanted it as a writer, but I'm happy to get it as an editor); not entirely there yet, but on the way.

It was yet another con where I pretty much didn't attend panels. That still feels weird to me—when I was growing up, the whole point of cons was to attend panels. I have to keep reminding myself that even before I started doing SH and socializing a lot at cons, I was beginning to lose interest in panels at big cons; they always seem to cover the same ground as all the other panels with similar names at previous cons, and they too often degenerate into panelists and audience generating a long list of favorite books on a given topic. (An activity I still maintain is best suited for online forums of various kinds rather than realtime spoken-word forums.)

Lessee. I went to Mary Anne's panel on gender bias in sf (sparked by the Sue Linville article), and she pulled me up to sit on the panel; that was interesting, and there was some pretty good discussion, though as usual most of the panelists seemed to feel that there just plain isn't a problem. I don't think it's the Biggest Problem Ever, and I think it's getting better, but I think too many of the statistics point toward there being an imbalance of some kind, somewhere. I think maybe part of the problem with discussing it is that as soon as you use the term "bias," it starts to sound like you're accusing editors of sitting around saying "Oh, she's just a girl, we shouldn't publish this story even though I like it a lot." Nobody actually believes that's what's happening; but I personally think the numbers indicate that something is happening. It's obvious from talking to editors that there's no conscious bias, but it's hard to rule out (or, of course, to confirm) subconscious bias. And of course there are all sorts of factors other than bias that may be contributing to the imbalance (several of which are discussed in the article). I think it's a question that deserves serious consideration, and I'm always a little miffed when panelists make dismissive jokes about it. Though some of the jokes are funny.

I went to some good readings; I probably ought to attend more readings at cons, 'cause I usually enjoy the ones I go to. (Though partly that's 'cause I carefully choose which ones I go to; I hate getting trapped in a tiny room for 45 minutes with someone reading their work aloud who isn't very good at reading aloud, especially if I also don't like the story.) It's a tough choice, though, 'cause Mary Anne generally doesn't like readings, and following Mary Anne around at a convention is generally a sure way to have fun and meet cool people.

Which reminds me: a well-known pro came up to me and Mary Anne at one point as we walked through the hotel lobby with our arms around each other, and said something like: "Can I ask you a personal question? Are you two ... together?" We explained that we were, and provided a little more clarifying info (the poly thing and so on), and noted that for the first few cons we attended together after SH launched we'd tried not to be too snuggly in public because we wanted to Project A Professional Image and so on. But we haven't given a lot of thought to that at cons lately, and I hadn't thought we were being unusually couple-like (more than we usually are, I mean) at TorCon.

What else? The panel I was on with Aynjel (and, it turned out, Jamie Rosen, among others), "Future and Imaginary Genders: A Social Perspective," went pretty well, I think, though I think I ended up pushing it somewhat toward being about current genders; there's so much people don't know about gender in the real world that I sorta feel like you have to lay some groundwork (intersexed people, transsexuality, Kate Bornstein's My Gender Workbook, Raphael Carter's Androgyny RAQ, questions about what gender really is, etc) before you can go on to the sfnal stuff (starting with Raphael Carter's Congenital Agenesis of Gender Ideation). There was a certain amount of inclination to treat gender as if it were sexual orientation (talking about determining one's gender based on who one is sexually attracted to), but I think overall it was a reasonably good panel.

The SH/Ideomancer tea party went quite well, though we should've turned on the air conditioning sooner; packing 50 bodies into a space a little less than twice the size of a normal hotel room made it awfully hot. Next time I think we'll need to rent a larger room. What we really need is someone really organized who can get on the ball early and rent the appropriate room well in advance; the fact that I was in charge of getting the room this time ended up meaning that we still weren't certain which hotel the tea party was going to be in as of Thursday night.

Mary Anne did write up the beginning of a checklist for what we need to do at cons—we always end up running around at the last minute to resolve things we forgot to deal with—so maybe the organizational side will go smoother at future cons. We'll see.

Sunday night I stayed up too late. Mary Anne was leaving at 4:30 a.m. Monday, so I had the bright idea that I would stay up 'til then (which would be only 1:30 California time, no later than I usually go to bed) and then sleep through the morning. But I hadn't taken into account the fact that there was a 10:00 a.m. panel I wanted to attend. So I ended up compromising—went back to our room around 2:30ish, stayed up 'til 3:30 messing with computers, woke up when M left but then went back to sleep for a few hours.

Monday was my day for attending panels, I guess. Monday morning I attended the Small Press and Semi-Pro panel, figuring it couldn't hurt to be there to toss in a few comments about online magazines here and there (and in fact, Mark Rapacioli of Planet Relish, who was on the panel, said at one point "Is there anyone from Strange Horizons here?" and I raised my hand, so that was good). As it turned out, Jay didn't need any help; he did a fine job with the panel, and Darrell Schweitzer only slammed electronic publishing a couple of times. I wrote down Scott Green's closing remark: "Small press publishers are like tiny little rats who can find the cheese when the buffalo are mired in the mud."

Went to Howard Waldrop's reading; it was good, though not as amazing as some of his readings have been in the past. I think he was irked to be scheduled opposite George RR Martin reading; I think he wanted to attend that. At the start of the reading, after giving info about the huge number of his projects that are appearing soon (Wheatland Press is reprinting Dream Factories and Radio Pictures in a paper book, so those of you who don't do ebooks can read it!) he asked, "Who here reads Sci Fiction online?" Half a dozen hands went up, mostly in the back of the room. "Who here prints out stories from Sci Fiction and reads them on paper?" One or two hands went up. There were maybe 50 people in the room, so he went ahead and read "Winter Quarters." I liked it better hearing him read it than I had when I first read it.

Wandered through the dealer's room for a bit. Fred and I grabbed lunch across the streeet. We went to the "Death of Money" panel—there wasn't anything much I hadn't heard before, but Cory and Charlie et alia give great sound bites. Charlie, riffing on something Cory had said: "If we can make it fungible, we can use the Buddha Nature as currency." I was unfamiliar with the other panelist, Eliezer Yudkowsky, but he was saying things like "The reason we have money is to compensate for lack of computing power" and "[The stars] are wasting entropy.... So yes, let's turn the universe into computronium." (He advocated shutting down the stars to conserve entropy. I considered raising my hand and asking, "But isn't that just a short-term stopgap?" but I figured he would probably say "It gives us more time to work on a real solution" so I figured there was no point in my being a wiseass.) Interestingly, Cory was playing Devil's Advocate, repeatedly suggesting that the problem with using an ultra-advanced computer system to handle trade (and everything else) is that there's no way of ensuring that it's doing a good job.

Or I may've just been so zonked by that point that that's what I thought he was saying. I was pretty tired by then. Eventually, I came home.

(Oh, but there was one more panel Monday afternoon: I stopped by for the first few minutes of the Sexual Dystopias panel. Only one panelist showed up for it, Donna McMahon, but there was a fairly large audience, and Ms. McMahon acquitted herself admirably, both making interesting comments and acting as moderator for a room-wide discussion. But I had to leave in the middle of the panel to catch the bus to the airport.)

Hmm. That turned out to be a pretty detailed con report after all, though it left out stuff like going to the SFWA suite and the Tor party and the Ace party and meeting a bunch of cool folks and hanging out with a bunch of folks I already knew were cool and taking a bunch of pictures that I may put online at some point and so on. It also leaves out mentioning that I was feeling a little distanced through much of the weekend—I kept sitting in on fun conversations but feeling like I wasn't really participating in them. I'm not sure what was up with that. I think it was partly the noisy and crowded venues in which they mostly took place; I'm not so big on noise and crowds. And may partly just have been general tiredness.

Anyway, I certainly don't mean to suggest that it wasn't fun; it was. Had a good time, wish I could go to World Fantasy, am looking forward to next year's WorldCon already.

And, of course: Next year at MonkeyCon!

1 Comment

Great con report, Jed!

Question: have you read/ completed My Gender Workbook? I have a copy at work that I'm supposed to reveiw, and I have trouble finding the time and motivation to actually get into it. Is it me, or is it a bit dry? Or should I give it another shot?


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