Tue, May. 29th, 2007, 12:08 am || Wiscon 31: General impressions and notes

add to memories

This felt very different from my first Wiscon, and a lot of it was because of the Great Cultural Appropriation Debate of DOOM from last year.

Reading last year's post, the most notable things were how out of place and how voiceless I felt. Part of it was because it was my first Wiscon, part of it was because it was the first time I'd met several LJ people in person, part of it was because I don't have the same SF/F reading background that a lot of people do, and part of it was because I was Asian.

This year, I knew the rough format, I was on two panels, and I was meeting several people again. Also, more people who I've hung out with in person went too. But for me, the largest difference was that I was still pissed off from last year and determined not to have that happen again. I admittedly had a bit of a "fuck it all, why not?" attitude; I figured it was going to end up being public here on LJ anyway, and if I was going to start the next big flamewar, I might as well speak up at a few things as well ;). The other really major factor was that I (and several other people I talked to, POC and white) felt that there was a larger percentage of POC at the con.

Race: I did my POC count again this year, as did coffeeandink, but I think we both stopped around the second day. I was having a hard time keeping track of whom I'd seen before, as was she, and there was also the problem of people who weren't visibly POC but were POC nevertheless, including but not limited to mixed-race people. I was trying to get info off people's nametags, but it's really hard to do that when you're walking through hallways. I got up to about twenty on the first day; my vague but completely unsubstantiated count is approximately equal between Asian and black, though a lot of the Asians were from Japan for the Sense of Gender award. I didn't note as many Latinos or Native Americans or mixed-race people, but this is probably because of the visibility issue and entirely my bad. So given that it was up to around 20 on the first day and that there were probably more at the con, I think the numbers were higher than last year. I think someone (coniraya?) said that the official count was around 50.

I mean, it's still not California, but it's better than the year before, and that matters.

For anyone wondering, I count because I am tired of standing out as the sole Asian or one of the sole Asians in fandom, on LJ, at cons, and in gatherings of friends. I also count not to have some sort of a quota, but because more POC means feeling safer for even more POC, which means that maybe more will keep coming. And I think that also matters, a lot.

My other note was that I went to 8 panels, 4 of which consisted of 50% or more POC panelists. Every panel I went to except one had at least one POC on it. I am sure my stats are skewed because I deliberately sought out panels that dealt with race, racism and nationality, though I actually didn't even go to all the panels that dealt with those subjects. The four 50% or more POC panelist panels also had a pretty strong POC audience attendance, which really changed the dynamics of the room. I think the difference was most obvious between the Cultural Appropriation panel and the discussion afterward.

But the absolute best thing was a hallway conversation in which both sparkymonster, coniraya, and ladyjax said that they had deided to come specifically because of the Great Cultural Appropriation Debate of DOOM from last year, and that they thought several other POC had made that same decision. *flails* CAPSLOCK CANNOT EXPRESS MY GLEE! And I wonder if that's why it felt as though there were more panels dealing with issues of race and colonialism and etc. this year; vito_excalibur (who was the one responsible for the Best Panel Title Ever) told me that she had suggested panels as a reaction to the Great Cultural Appropriation Debate of DOOM as well. Happiness! Really!! I in no way take credit for this; it is so much bigger than me, but it is just SO COOL to think that some posts on LJ actually managed to have some influence an entire year after the fact. And maybe next year, more POC will be able to think of Wiscon as a safe space as well so we can have even more panels that go beyond Racism 101.

ETA (entire section): Otherness: I think I mentioned to Mely how other I still felt at Wiscon, though to be fair, I felt much less other than I did the first year. A lot of this probably stems from always feeling a little out of synch with most people; if it's not the TCK-ness, it's race; if not race, then gender; if not that, then my very left-leaning politics. In the Wiscon community, it's interesting because I'm actually not much of an SF fan at all; most of what I've read is fantasy. I'm a bit of a media fan, and then there's the entire anime/manga thing.

On the other hand, it really wasn't as strange as it was last year; many of the panels I went to were generally political or referred heavily to media fandom. Either that, or I've hung around the SF/F and media fandom enough to pick up references by osmosis; I still haven't seen or read the things in question, but I can at least identify what people are talking about and in what context.

Fooding: I had Indonesian the first night; it was a little out of the way, but entirely worth it. I had a ground beef mixed with other things wrapped in a thin dough and deep-fried (you can't go wrong with deep-friend dough), and a nut-encrusted crabcake. coffeeandink also had the beef appetizer and soup with sliced hard-boiled eggs, jinian had this really tasty breaded catfish with an Indonesian curry sauce, and daedala had stir-fried beef. Later on in the con, I also got to have Nepalese (samosas! momocha! a main course whose name I can't remember!), midnight pierogies, and Laotian (tasty duck curry! fried bread with dipping sauce!). I didn't get to have as much tasty food as I wanted too but I did manage to eat mostly everything from the farmer's market. Squeaky cheese curds in my fridge as I type!

Book loot: I left with nine more books than I came with. This is largely because Mely pulled me aside in the dealer's room, saying, "There are used books for a dollar! I have recommendations." I probably should have recognized the missionary zeal in her eyes and shielded myself, except I am weak against personalized recommendations and dollar books. oracne was also no help at all: "Books for a dollar!"

I ended up getting: The Rains of Eridan by H.M. Hoover, The Book of the Night by Rhoda Lerman, Snow-Eyes by Stephanie A. Smith, The Woman Who Loved the Moon by Elizabeth A. Lynn, Imaginary Lands (anthology), The Jaws of Menx by Ann Maxwell, Walkabout Woman by Michaela Roessner, Of Tales and Enigmas by Minsoo Kang, and L. Timmel Duchamp's The Wiscon Chronicles vol. 1 anthology.

Aside from some authors in the anthology, the Duchamp and the Maxwell, I haven't read anything by the above authors or even heard of them. Wait, come to think of it, Michaela Roessner might be the author of the Renaissance food porn books rachelmanija brought to Taiwan, but I'm not certain. I bought the Wiscon anthology despite already having read Mely and Yoon's essays in their LJs because I am egotistical.

More awesomeness: On our way back from dinner, jinian managed to come up with an awesome-sounding flower of DOOM off the top of her head, except I of course have now completely forgotten it. But it was trumpet-like and poisonous! *pokes Jinian for more* She also made me an "Oyce is cool!" sign to counteract first-time panel nerves!!!! Words cannot describe the awesomeness.

Sometime late Sunday night, I learned from vito_excalibur that there is a historical Chinese pirate queen. I have promptly forgotten all details except: CHINESE PIRATE QUEEN! How cool is that?!

Next time I will be more proactive about making people eat meals with me and talking with me; Jinian was smart enough to arrange things via email, and I managed to grab littlebutfierce to another dinner, but not really anyone else.

In conclusion: I had tons of fun, my brain only exploded once or twice, I met lots of cool people who I had only seen before online, I ate a lot, and I wish it were next year already! I must remember to submit a panel idea for something on shoujo manga, because I was very sad about only being able to talk manga with a few people.