Tags: conventions


Nine Worlds Schedule

The next month is going to be hugely busy, with 4 cons and a trip to France. It's going to be fun, too, or so I hope. And it starts tomorrow with Nine Worlds at Heathrow.

Here's my schedule: Friday 15.15 - 16.30
Interrogating the Old Shows

A cultural critique of scifi shows pre 2000, examining where episodes or, potentially, whole shows of old favourites (Blakes 7, Old Battlestar, among others), might have become "unwatchable" to a new generation of fans due to their approach to characters' gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation.

Friday 17.00-18.15
Nine Fanwork Recs

Nine people tell us about their favourite fanwork

Nine speakers, nine favourite fanworks! A fast-paced TED-style set of seven-minute presentations, in which nine people talk about their favourite fanwork -- why they love it, why they recommend it, what makes it stand out from other works by the same creator, whether it works without knowledge of canon ... As with last year's 'Nine Myths About Fanfic', participants will be timed by a samba-dancing green robot. We're sorry.

Saturday 15.15-16.30

Slash & feminism

Is slash inherently misogynist, feminist or something else?

Male characters in canon are often more rounded, three-dimensional and credible than female characters. When we write M/M slash, are we reinforcing popular culture's bias towards male characters, or are we reclaiming them? The panel examine arguments for and against slash as a feminist activity, and talk about gender-bending, femslash and the marginalisation of female characters.

Saturday 17.00-18.15

Beta-reading and teaching writing in fandom

How to be a better beta

Beta-reading is an art as well as a skill, and betas often go well beyond editing text. They can also be cheerleaders, idea-generators, writing teachers, and even co-authors. The panel discuss effective beta-reading and feedback techniques, and follow up with an interactive workshop on a piece of fanfiction.

My Worldcon schedule

I have my final schedule for Worldcon and I'm very happy with it. I have a set of really interesting panels, with some of my favourite people. I have a reading (argh, what to read?)! I have a Literary Beer! This is going to be so much fun.

Here are the details.

Literary Beer
Thursday 17:00 - 18:00, The Bar (ExCeL)

Kari Sperring

The Deeper the Roots, the Stronger the Tree
Friday 10:00 - 11:00, Capital Suite 9 (ExCeL)

The roots of modern science fiction and fantasy are often associated with authors such as J.R.R. Tolkien, T.H. White, H.G. Wells, and Mary Shelley. But plenty of 19th- and early 20th-century authors with minimal or no fantastical or sfnal content have inspired and continue to inspire modern genre writing, including but not limited to Alexandre Dumas, Arthur Conan Doyle, Jane Austen, and Georgette Heyer. What is the on-going appeal of such authors, their styles, and their worlds? What is it about them that lends itself to genrefication?
Abigail Sutherland (M), Zen Cho, Mary Robinette Kowal, Kari Sperring, Delia Sherman

"Your 'realistic' fantasy is a washed out colourless emptiness compared to the Rabelaisian reality." Discuss.
Saturday 13:30 - 15:00, Capital Suite 6 (ExCeL)

'Realism' has become a buzzword for contemporary genre fantasy, but most medievalesque world-building still barely scratches the surface of the reality. One in three marriages in 14th-century Cairo ended in divorce; English towns were brimming with migrants, including people of colour; women fought on the battlefields of the Crusades; and cities across the world were awash with lurid pageantry that would make modern audiences blush. The panel will discuss aspects of medieval and early-modern life that were more complex than our fiction imagines, and ways of making our invented worlds as diverse and exciting as our history.
Kate Elliott (M), Nic Clarke, Edward James, Kari Sperring, Jenny Blackford

Reading: Kari Sperring
Saturday 16:00 - 16:30, London Suite 1 (ExCeL)

Seeing the Future, Knowing the Past
Sunday 12:00 - 13:30, Capital Suite 7+12 (ExCeL)

Fantasy's use of prophecy - knowable futures - often parallels the way it treats the past, as something both knowable and stable: details of history known from a thousand years back, kingly bloodlines in direct descent for several hundreds of years, etc. In reality, George I of England was 58th in line for the throne and there is a Jacobean claimant still out there somewhere. No one really knows where France originated. History is messy and mutable. Why is fantasy so keen on the known?
William B. Hafford (M), Sarah Ash, Liz Bourke, Karen Miller, Kari Sperring

There Are No New Stories, But...
Sunday 19:00 - 20:00, Capital Suite 16 (ExCeL)

What are some of the characters and narratives we've seen enough of? Is it time for the assassin with the heart of gold to take a break? Should the farmer keep farming and stop exchanging his rake for a broadsword? Could the squabbling will-they-won't-they couple just get a room already? More generally, why are tropes used, and what are their structural, stylistic and political implications?

Kari Sperring (M), John Hornor Jacobs, Laura Lam, Pierre Pevel, Jon Wallace

Robin Hobb: When Assassins Didn't Need to Be Hooded
Monday 13:30 - 15:00, Capital Suite 8 (ExCeL)

Robin Hobb has influenced a generation of epic fantasists with her unique voice, and a willingness to avoid easy solutions even if that sometimes means letting bad things happen to good characters. While Hobb's work is dark at times, her famous assassin, FitzChivalry, is almost a kitten compared to the hooded cold blooded killers today's audience seems to crave. Has the fantasy market fundamentally changed in tone and content, or just diversified? How did the field get from there to here? And, finally, where is it headed?

Tim Kershaw (M), Kate Elliott, Robin Hobb, Patrick Rothfuss, Kari Sperring

I have a question

Dear SFF Community,

Most of the time, I'm proud to be part of you. I'm proud to be part of a community that Matched It For Pratchett and regularly raises money for Talking Books for the Blind. I'm proud to be part of a community that is strongly, vocally, actively working to ensure our space is fully accessible, convenient and pleasant for people with disabilities. I'm proud to be part of a community that set up the Carl Brandon Society and Con Or Bust. I'm proud to be part of a community which, on seeing institutionalised racism, sexismn, trans*phobia, homophobia, hostility to people who reject gender normativity, turned around and, yes, argued, long and loud and continuously, but also set out to clean house and make ourselves better. Very few other groups linked by common interest have done that. Most of them seem to prefer to gaslight and bully those who raise such issues. I'm proud to belong to a community that sees its own shortcomings. Yes, we could do better. We can always do better.

There are some great things going on in our community right now. Nine Worlds is working to create and maintain a con environment that is welcoming to PoC, QUILTBAG people, fans with disabilities, new fans. Many cons now have and enforce Codes of Conduct aimed at fostering inclusivity and safety. Con committees are working to find ways to recruit new fans, younger fans. SFWA is working actively to end a culture of normative sexism and racism. Women writers are banding together to address equality in bookshop promotions. Writers of colour are speaking up and working to address the inequality they face. People from across the fan spectrum are supporting and signal-boosting them.

And we are all rooted in the societies that raised us, societies that are, mainly, institutionally racismt sexist, tran*- , xeno- and homo-phobic, hostile to people who face physical and mental challenges, wqhich blame the poor and underprivileged for their difficulties. We were most of us raised in cultures that fostered this, often unconsciously. We are surrounded by images and actions which reinforce an unequal status quo. It awes me that so many in our community fight this, in both their cultures and themselves. IT awed me that we stand up to those who are within the community who seem to revel in their prejudices and tell them, No More.

But, right now, I have a question for you. Why, when we fight these battles, do we so often resort to the same old patriarchal norms? Why do we reserve our greatest spleen for *women* and defend our right to do so? That, I put to you, needs addressing and it needs addressing now. I really don't want to comment on Loncon 3 and Jonathan Ross: enough has been said and said in all kinds of ways. My personal view on it, for those who will demand to know such things, is that I think the chairs made a mistake here. He is a fan, certainly, but he is also controversial and divisive for well-rehearsed reasons. At the same time, he's very popular, particularly with the younger demographic and would certainly have drawn in new, younger attendees. So I can also see that the chairs had reasons on their side too. I don't think the chairs are bad people. I know both of them, have done for years, and they have both worked long and hard for inclusivity in UK fandom. This time, trying for one kind of that, they made a mistake in another kind. We all make mistakes. They don't -- they shouldn't -- cast us into pits of hellfire for all eternity. If that were the case, then the Vox Days have won: they don't care about making mistakes, they just carry on. If we throw each other out of the lifeboat one by one, we end up with no-one.

That's one thing. But I want to go back to my question. Why is the worst reserved for women?
Here's what I saw: a woman, who is a survivor of bullying and class oppression, expressed her concerns over the material that might be used by Mr Ross and how it might affect her. A large number of people, male and female, lit into her for daring to express her fears in public, for being 'mean', for being out of line.
Women must be Good.
A young woman, who is related to Mr Ross, tried to reassure her and was distressed by all the things that were being said. Another woman, the mother of that young woman, stepped in to defend her daughter. She perhaps did not do so tactfully, but she was faced with an upset and unhappy child. And, a number of people lit into her for daring to express her feelings in public, for being 'mean', for being out of line.
Women must be Good.
Both the adult women are now silent on twitter. One has felt driven to delete her account. These women have in fact spoken to each other calmly and come to mutual understanding. But people on all sides -- pro-Ross and anti- him -- are continuing to abuse both these women. I'm seeing more of that than I am people questioning his form of comedy or the chairs' decision. I'm seeing women as a group involved in this being demonised in the press and on social media, for being strident mean girls, bullies, sell-outs etc etc etc.
Because Women must be Good.
Neither of these adult women committed a crime. It's not a crime to be distressed and triggered about potential harassment. It's not a crime to feel the need to defend your child verbally. But people are using the tone argument on both of them, because women Must Be Good. They are demanding complete recanting and surrender. They are demanding recognition for a perceived right to abuse women.
Because women must be Good, and a woman out of line is far worse than a controversial man or a questionable decision.
This is patriarchy at its best, using us to undermine each other. I've seen you, men who position as allies, poking fun at that first woman, implying her concerns are trivial, stupid, blamable. I've seen you, women who I love and admire and support, demanding a right to punish a woman for being married to a man you disapprove of. I've seen male allies and vocal feminists falling straight into the patriarchy trap and blaming the women.
Shape up. Look at who is gaining here. Not us. Oh no. The winner> The system that says women must bear responsibility for policing and controlling male behaviour, that women must adapt their bodies and thoughts and actions to suit male expectations and desires, that women must attain to and keep far higher standards than men at all times, that Women Must Be Perfect.
Mr Ross will not be hosting the Hugos. The concerns the community had over inclusivity and safety were heard. Inclusivity and safety won out.
Yet somehow the long term winner seems to be patriarchal thinking.
And I want to know why.

Where am I going, where have I been?

It's been a busy two weeks. World Fantasy was... well, World Fantasy. We caught up with a lot of overseas friends, and had some good conversations and so forth (though many of them were shouted, due to the noise level in the bar). We took suricattus to the Lanes' Armoury (the marquis' favourite place to shop) and she *may* have forgiven us. After WFC, we had two sets of visitors -- first of all the lovely calendula_witch and the equally lovely Mark Ferrari, and then Mr and Mrs Chaz -- desperance and klwilliams. We did touristy things, and hung out with passing friends and drank thing and ate things, and I made scones(and disagreed with Chaz on how to pronounce them) and altogether had a splendid time and Serious Fun. (Apart from the washing machine breaking down and Horus getting into a fight and needing stitches -- he's doing well and is very smug because he is getting tuna [containing his antibiotic] twice a day. But these were blips in the Fun.)

And tomorrow, the marquis and I are off to Japan. I'm looking forward to it, and will try and to update here on what we do. I'm packed (with considerable help from Ish) and now wondering what I've forgotten (last time, it was handcream).

Finally -- and this is the embarrassing bit, I have been invited to be guest of honour at next year's Novacon. It's a huge honour and I am both delighted and astonished to have been asked.
How is everyone in lj land?

Skirt of the day: long blue batik cotton

My World Fantasy Con Schedule.

The marquis and I get into Toronto late afternoon on Thursday, so should be at the con by about 7 pm.
I have one panel, on Faith and Fantasy, a subject that fascinates me, at 9 a.m. Friday. Otherwise, I'm likely to be in the bar....
Looking forward to seeing everyone there.

(NB We have a broadband fault in our street, so my online presence may be erratic and I may not see email: apologies. It's may not be fully fixed until after we leave on Thursday morning.)

Skirt of the day: the beloved 9th Wave skirt, which is hard to describe.
Goth marquise


I'm going to regret this...

Sexual harassment is never acceptable. By anyone, of anyone. That is, for me, the bottom line. I've been on the receiving end of it on and off for most of my life. In my earliest memory, I was about 12 and a boy from my class walked past me in the school corridor and grabbed my crotch. Nobody said anything to him. Nobody said anything to me. It was just a thing that boys did. Ever since then, from time to time I've been randomly groped, grabbed, handled and commented on, backed into corners, stared at in ways that made me scared or uncomfortable, and generally treated as a object several times every year. Some of this happens in public -- on the street. Some of it happens in private spaces. Some of it happens within fandom, some not. Sometimes it happens at work. It is, sadly, part of my life. It's part of the life of every woman I know.

The worst incidents... The two scariest (the man who pushed me into his car in a country where I knew only one person, who was not there and where I did not speak the language, the group of young men who crowded into the phone box I was using and starting threatening me) happened out there in the real world. But I've had a fair number of incidents in fannish spaces, too. Most recently, a man I had never seen before in my life managed to make me very uncomfortable in a lift at Chicon 3. No, I don't know who he was. I was trying not to look back at him. I was trying not to give him an opening to move even closer or to try and start a conversation. I am, you need to know at this point, 50. This is 38 years and counting of intermittent harassment.

But here's a thing. These men (and twice, women) have come from all sorts of backgrounds and places, they have been older than me and younger. The man who forced me into his car was probably in his 60s. The one who followed me all over a con despite the continuous presence of the marquis and kept trying to get me to go off alone with him was probably no older than 21. I've been groped by strangers who were as strange to everyone else present as they were to me, and people 'everyone knows'. The behaviour -- touching, hassling, harassing, demanding attention, demanding a piece of me -- is not unique to any age group, any social group, any background.

Sometimes, I've had help when this happens. The people who help come from all backgrounds, age groups, social groups, too. The person who rescued me from one of the scariest things that's happened to me within fandom was someone who is a serial conrunner and possibly a Big Name Fan. I've been helped by friends and fellow fans, by strangers, by fellow writers, by officials (thank you, the porters of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, for rescuing me and my friend C from the man who was following us).

I am a serial volunteer at conventions (and I've been involved in the running of several small cons and one big one, though I am not a SMOF) and a lot of the hassle I've got has been when I was working. There is, sadly, a subset of convention attendees who forget that volunteers are people, too, and who become entitled, demanding and sometimes abusive, because volunteers are there for their convenience, and no other reason. Some congoers, frankly, treat the con staff as servants, and not servants they respect, either. (Yes, there are rude volunteers, too. Yes, some of them can be mean to congoers.) Volunteers are often in the front line when it comes to dealing with abuse. Female volunteers are particularly vulnerable. People with a grudge, a grouse, people looking for someone to manipulate often target the women who are working as a first move, because, culturally, we in the UK expect women to put up and shut up. And if we talk back, we're more likely to be told off for it, too.

I could draw various conclusions from this, most of them blindingly obvious -- I get more hassle when I'm alone or with one or two other women of around my own age than when with a larger group or with the marquis; some people think that having spoken to me once when I'm doing something official (like working in Green Room, which I do compulsively and have done since 1989, I think) means they know me and can follow me everywhere. I get more hassle at cons where I know fewer people (though as a side note, US cons are worse than Canadian or European ones for this. I do not have a theory as to why). When I look at the women I know, and the incidents I know about, though, there are two things overall that emerges about harassment at cons.

1) Any woman can be harassed, but women who are newer to the environment, or working at the convention are more vulnerable because they are more often either alone or with people they don't know well, and are more obliged to talk to strangers.

2) Anyone can be an harasser. ANYONE. It's not unique to older people or younger ones, to BNFs or walk-ins.

The most recent prominent incident that the sff community has been discussing involved one man who is prominent in fandom and two women. A BNF, a writer and someone who volunteers at conventions. Last year, at World Fantasy Con in San Diego, a man who seems to have been new to the sff community serially harassed and groped a number of women, some writers, some not. The year before, also at WFC, the harasser was an individual in a position of power in the professional world. All of these incidents are appalling.

And this is the bit I'm going to regret.

This isn't just something done to women by SMOFS. Editors do it. Writers do it. New fans do it. Established fans do it. People who are staying in the same hotel and are not anything to do with the convention do it. Other people say stupid things about it, because they don't want to think their friends can do bad things. But this is not just about SMOFs, or older fans, or conrunners. This is not a behaviour that can be attributed neatly to only one group and suppressed. I repeat.

Anyone can be an harasser.

And that includes me and you and everyone we know.

And we're off...

Well, we'll be off fairly soon. Skirts and other important items have been packed, my hair is newly cut and coloured, the cats are highly suspicious, and my fingernails are an appealing (to me) shade of blue. We fly out tomorrow morning, and get into Chicago at about 6.30 pm local time. I will probably be online on and off during Worldcon, but not necessarily regularly.
Have fun, whatever you're doing, and I hope to see some of you soon in Chicago.

Skirt of the day: teal panelled.
Goth marquise

Chicon schedule

This time next week, I will be in Chicago :-). It;s a city I love, and I'll be getting to meet up with a lot of my US and Canadian friends, so I'm really looking forward to it. The preparations are under way already, the legs are waxed and the lashes dyed and the toenails painted. And the appointment for the Interesting Hair is booked...
And I have my schedule.
The marquis and I arrive on Wednesday evening, and have Thursday to get badges and so on, try and deal with jet-lag, hang out with the marquis' brother T and his partner clothsprogs and so on. And go to the con, of course.
I am on various and sundry programme items at various and sundry times.

Fri Aug 31 9:00 --10:30am, Anarchism in Fantasy and Science Fiction
San Francisco Room
Eleanor Arnason (M), Farah Mendlesohn, Kari Sperring, Richard Dutcher

Fri Aug 31 1:30 -- 3:00:pm Magic and the Power of Language
San Francisco Room
Kari Sperring, Karin Rita Gastreich, Mary Frances Zambreno, (M) Saladin Ahmed, William S. Annis

Sat Sep 1 10:00 -- 10:30:am Writer Under Glass #29
Fan Lounge
Kari Sperring
Come and watch me write :-) Sadly, there will be no cats helping.

Sat Sep 1 2:00 -- 2:30:pm Reading
Addams Room.
Kari Sperring.
So, what shall I read? Something from The Grass King's Concubine? From the sequel, due out next year (Death and the Madwoman)? Something else? What do you suggest?

Sun Sep 2 9:00 -- 10:30:am Kaffeeklatsche
Kaffeeklatsche 3
Kari Sperring
Come and have breakfast with me!

Mon Sep 3 1:30 -- 3:00:pm Autograph Session 19
Autograph Tables
Adam "The Shark" Selzer, Bryan Thomas Schmidt, Emma Newman, Fabio Fernandes, Gene Wolfe, George R. R. Martin, Kari Sperring.
No comment... Scary big guns...

So: what should I read from? And which skirts shall I pack? Questions, questions....

In other news, for the next ten days or so, I am guest blogging at Charles Stross' blog. Charlie has very kindly let me loose on his readership. Today, we're talking about the histories of the Celtic and Gaelic speaking peoples. Come by and join in!

Skirt of the day: black autumn fireworks.


This weekend, it's Congenial, the combined Unicon and British national role-playing con, happening this year in Cambridge, with the amazing Phil and Kaja Foglio, the authors of Girl Genius as guests of honour. I've met them, and they are fabulous people, very talented, very interesting. They are going to rock as GoHs. The marquis is on the committee; I, together with other members of The Write Fantastic, have helped to design the literary programme.
Here's my schedule:

Saturday, 12:00, Council Room: How to do Sex and Death Properly
Sex and death, or at least relationships and action, lie at the core of
many SFF novels, but can be surprisingly tricky to write. Our panel
discusses the problems and pitfalls and possible techniques. Juliet
Mckenna, Kari, Kate Keen, and Tanya Brown.

Saturday 14:00, Council Room: Writers on Reading
Our panel will discuss This Is Not A Game, by Walter John Williams, with
each other and the audience.
Juliet Mckenna, Kari, Phil Nanson and Simon Bradshaw.

Saturday, 15:00, Long Room: Cities of the Mind
Alternate pasts and presents. Other worlds and imagined lands. With
Juliet Mckenna, Mike Shevdon, Anne Lyle, and Kari.

Sunday 11:00, Long Room: 1001 Musketeers
Sequels to, re-imaginings of and conflicting versions of The Three
Musketeers. A talk by Kari. Updated since its last appearance! With
illustrations and commentary.