Well, it’s been a few weeks since WisCon, but I’d like to do a very brief recap. If you’re a science fiction or fantasy writer and you’ve never been, I cannot recommend WisCon enough. I should warn you, as I’ve warned readers before, that it may take you out of your comfort zone big time.
You may leave with a bigger comfort zone. I do, every year.
Highlights for me included having trouble choosing which pronoun I wanted folks to use with me. Some clever person had printed off stickers one could put on one’s badge, including “singular they is always grammatical.” (Yes, sticklers, it is. Go ask any Anglo-Saxon.)
There’s a bit of a pronoun debate going on in certain circles, and it’s kind of like other semantic debates in our culture—it seems both silly and inconsequential and yet at the same time it exposes many wounds and fears that people have about gender identity. A friend recently posted about a co-worker who was complaining about the burden of having to always remember the correct pronoun for a transgendered person. People responding to the post noted that really it comes down to manners. We try to address people by their correct titles, too, right? But the person complaining sounded pretty scared. Change is freaky.
Another highlight: talking about a panel on apocalypses with someone. They said, “What none of the panelists seemed to realize is that for many people on this planet, the apocalypse has already happened.”
I hadn’t realized this either, but as they spoke, I saw in a flash images of protests around the country and in my own town this spring as the nation is reminded that Black Lives Matter—and a series of flickering, half-remembered events from the last five hundred years of Native American agony and struggle.
My head exploded, quietly and without mess, and I spent much of the next few minutes of the conversation trying to figure out how to use it again.
Most days I wander about in a tepid pond of white middle class privilege so I have to make sure I swim a bit further to learn what I need to learn, and sometimes I miss something major like this. I felt annoyed with myself, because I had even been reading Native American history coming up to the con, and still missed this important point.
I try not to waste too much time being annoyed with my lacunae and ignorance so that I have more energy for learning.
So, aspiring writers, consider WisCon for many reasons, but consider it for this—for a loving environment where you can learn how to think outside of yourself and your (necessarily) limited experience. I leave with new friends, new ideas, and a pile of new books every year.
Bring who you are and practice your listening skills (or sign-reading/other form of communication). Bring a willingness to learn and to hold conversations with people who are vastly different from you.
You know, just like the rest of your life.