Next, Georgie was on the panel, "Is Reading a Choice that Closes Other Doors?" which was a deliberately contrarian topic for a literary-heavy convention. There was a very lively yet courteous discussion, lead by the panel, Betsy James, Georgie Schnobrich, Connie Toebe, Sue Blom and Beth Plutchak. A number of valid points were raised, including that reading takes up time that could be spent learning other skills, or interacting socially. Reading tends to drive out the oral tradition, and reliance on printed matter as a source of authority may supplant existing history, culture, and even language. I.e., if it is in a book, it must be important. Something that only old women know is therefore not important--. The panel was very well received, and I heard a considerable amount of interested discussion continuing as the audience left at the end.
It was then that our happy time was interrupted, as friends found us with the bad news that a close friend from Milwaukee had died that morning. We managed to pull ourselves together with a walk through the Art Show, and consoled ourselves with excellent sweets from the Tiptree Bake Sale. We agreed that Animal would want the "show" to go on, so we put the best face on it we could and soldiered on. Admittedly, WisCon is so absorbing, it is easy to forget your troubles while you are there.
The next panel we went to was "Curious Boundaries of YA Fantasy," a very interesting and informative panel, featuring Mary Anne Mohanraj, Tamora Pierce, Alma Alexander, Sarah Beth Durst, and Sharyn November. The panelists fearlessly discussed the considerations of writing and publishing "Young Adult" fiction (and its subcategories) and how much sex, death, and violence they felt fit in. Excellent discussion with an involved and interested audience.
During the next time slot, we walked around the dealer's room and talked with the many friends we found there. Due to budget constraints we couldn't afford much, but made many notes for the future.
The panel on "What Can't We Forgive?" was pretty much pure fun, as panelists Steve Schwartz, Susan Palwick, Judith Moffet, Ian Hagemann, and Vylar Kaftan lead the audience in hauling out and stomping on various author's literary offenses, which ranged surprisingly far beyond the usual suspects of Card and Heinlein. This, however, was the second time I encountered casual references to "Tolkien's racism" taken as a given, which disturbs me, but I will have to do more research before putting up a challenge. It seems to me that a "black orc" is no more referential to Africans than a black dragon is, and that a brief reference to offstage "swarthy Southrons" does not necessarily a racist make. However, it's been a long while since last I reread "Lord of the Rings," and I may be remembering it through "rose-colored" glasses--.
Saturday dinner was our annual excursion to L'Etoile with our friend Maureen Kincaid Speller, and an excellent meal was had accompanied by excellent conversation. L'Etoile's new management since the retirement of Odessa Piper seems to have driven even further into the doctrine of local, sustainable cuisine, to the extent that, looking at the previous weeks' menu which had still been posted outside that morning, it was going to be debatable if we could find an entree we could eat as is, since almost everything seemed to contain asparagus (which neither of us like), cheese (which Georgie is allergic to), or morels (which I am allergic to). Fortunately, the updated menu contained a chicken entree, which both Maureen and I had and found delicious, and Georgie's choice of halibut was succulent as well. For desserts, Maureen went back to the Artisanal Cheese Selection, and Georgie and I had the Sticky Toffee Pudding.
On the way out we stopped to say hi to Debbie Notkin's party, who were there as usual. Delia Sherman confided to us that she and Ellen had also eaten there the night before. I was impressed, and Delia agreed with me that that was "hard core."
After dinner, we looked into the Tiptree Auction briefly, just in time to see Ellen Klages get abducted by "The Spider Women of Queso Grande." I thought Ellen was capable of putting up a better fight, but it must have been something about the Cheesehead hat the wicked women forced on her head that sapped her strength and allowed them to drag her away--.
At 10:30PM, Georgie had "Making 'War' on 'War' Part 2" which was intended to be a continuation of the very successful and interesting panel last year, on trying to replace war language as America's dominant metaphor. Audience attendance was disappointing, which may well have been due to the mislabeling of the time slot in the pocket program grid and the doorside rosters. (See reference to programming database meltdown above; the Pocket Program was labeled as "built from duct tape and coded on a hamster-powered Difference Engine.") Georgie Schnobrich as moderator worked hard to keep the energy level up, and Shweta Narayan provided a very useful matrix showing linguistic breakdown of connotation in war language (showing, for example, why it is propagandically preferable to have a "war on" something instead of a "war with" something). Sylvia Kelso provided some contrarian analysis, but possibly the best idea of the panel came from Ian Hagemann, with an economic "scarcity" examination of war goals which I think should be rigorously applied to all appeals to go to 'war' of any sort. A very good, thoughtful panel, and a pity more people did not get to it.
A quick pass through the parties and then to bed, as we had a big day scheduled for Sunday.