We walked around the Gathering and schmoozed with friends at the OddCon Cow Tipping booth and others. With Georgie's encouragement, I joined the "Show us Your Tats" exhibition, and displayed my "Illuminati" tattoo*. I was pleased by the laughs I got for my explanation of it**.
The first panel we went to was "Not Enough Octopusses," ("Octopodes", as one of the panelists pedantically insisted--). This was one of the curious cases in which the person who proposed the panel didn't get put on it, although she was available (which may have been due to the apparent pre-con meltdown of the programming database--). The panelists, Mia Molvray, Doselle Young, Tom La Farge, and Ruthanna Emrys, put together an entertaining panel on "alien aliens," which was well worth while, but some of us would have liked to hear a bit more on the possibilities of octopodes as resident aliens, specifically. As a friend said, "the more we learn about them, the weirder and cooler they are." I did get a very useful question out of this panel which recurred in different form throughout the weekend. "Does you plot really REQUIRE an alien (elf, king, type of villain, etc.)?"
We went out to dinner at Kabul with friends Tim Kozinski and Judy Seidl, then headed back for Opening Ceremonies. Had a pleasant time chatting with Liz Henry (LJ badgerbag) and others before things started. Co-ordinators Carrie Ferguson and Betsy Lundsden opened with the obligatory acknowlegments of guests and staff, and the WisCon tradition of showing how many in the audience are panelists (many!) and how many are new (also many). There was a lengthy lists of announcements and adjurations, done, as others have noted, in a welcoming manner. Both Betsy and Carrie stayed on stage when it was taken over by the Carl Brandon Society for a "WisCon Filksing" which was quite funny. Kudos especially for ringleader Nisi Shawl and her back-up singers for "Filk Music Ain't Got No Soul."
We then went to the panel on "Elves and Dwarves: Racism in Fantasy." Vito Excalibur, Janine Young, Carol Hightshoe, Alma Alexander and Elise Matthesen lead a rambling and vigorous discussion touching on the origin of racial tropes in modern fantasy ("It's all Tolkien's fault," said one.); whether or not fantasy races "stand in" for varieties of humans necessarily, or not; and whether or not it is honest to define an entire race/species based on one or two characteristics. Although it was a generally good and entertaining panel, I was a bit put off by a couple remarks. After excoriating Tolkien for having predominantly tall blonde elves, one of the authors on the panel smugly (and apparently seriously) remarked that in HER books she had a 'sub-race' of elves that had dark hair--. Excuse me? A sub-race? Am I a different 'sub-race' of humans from blondes if I am dark-haired? I found this a rather egregious example of exactly the kind of Dungeons and Dragons based pseudo speciation that the panel was mostly against--.
Afterward, we took a very short tour through the sixth floor, chatted a bit, and went to bed fairly early. I was pleased by the snacks served at the Speculative Literature Foundation/Serendib Press/Carl Brandon Society/et al party, which included Indian sweets and tropical fruits, which were some of the most unusual of the convention. Our con was off to a very good start.
*Apologies to friends who might just be discovering here for the first time that I have a tattoo. I've always considered it a private matter and wouldn't have shown it off here if I hadn't been encouraged.
** The tattoo says, "Illuminati." I've always considered myself an Illuminatus. However, the Illuminati are a secret society, yes? So, an Illuminatus should not have a tattoo declaring that he is one. Therefore, what better way to deny you are an Illuminatus than by having a tattoo that says you are one? Plus, the design is really cool.