We hit town early Friday afternoon, and started the Con out by dropping in on The Gathering and generally driftng around there, the 2nd floor hall, dealer's room and con suite when open, saying hi to people and gerally touching base. We got dinner at one of our regular Madison spots, Dottie Dumpling's Dowry (great burgers and steak sandwiches), then back to the hotel for more smoffing before the Opening Ceremonies.
For the first time in years we wer in the audience rather than on stage. I was tickled that the Opening Cermonies sketch took the form of a Masque, which closed with a clever filk of "Rainbow Connection" called "Rainbow Convention." Bravo!
We cruised parties lightly before calling it an ealy night before retiring, since we both had early panels.
Saturday, Georgie launched into her 8:30 panel, "Underneath It All," with Elizabeth Bear, Carla M. Lee, and Jasmine Ann Smith. This panel was a pretty thourough exploration of "underground" as a theme in fiction and the various ways it is used. A full house and a good lively audience for that early hour contributed to a free-ranging and very informative discussion.
My first panel was "Officer Unfriendly" at 10:00AM. I moderated, with Richard Bowes, Sara Brodzinski, Lettie Prell, and Ekaterina G. Sedia. we ahd a very strong discussion on the problems of policing in the real world and how those are reflected in fiction. We pretty much agreed that, other than Lije Bailey and R. Daneel Olivaw from Isaac Asimov's "The Naked Sun" and "The Caves of Steel," and "Gil the Arm," from the story series by Larry Niven, there aren't a lot of "hero cops" in SF. Instead, the police force tends to be made up of rebel cops fighting the system, cops hoplessly mired in the system (ala Phillip K. Dick), and "1984" Thought Police, dystopias being a lot mor common than utopias. (And, contrary to popular belief, most Utopias rely on rigid enforcement of laws and social norms.)
Over the lunch break, we dined on Con Suite hot dogs, a sugar and chocolate fix from the Tiptree Bake Sale, and then did some serious huckster room diving. We picked up orders from DreamHaven and Rider's Dolls, and I filled in the hole in my "Girl Genius" folio collection at 20th Century Books.
After lunch, Georgie went to "Three Comrades Go On a Quest," and I devaited up to the sixth floor for "SM in Feminist Science Fiction," which also played to a very full house. Works discussed were broken down into "well written", "phiosophically interesting," and "hot." Interestingly, there was not much discussion of actual feminist or not, although most of the works mentioned might have been considered at least "not-too-sexist" by virtue of being represented at all. I was kind of surprised that the more "hard-core" readers were quite dismissive of Jacquline Carey's "Kushiel" books, and that there were some people in the audience that welcomed a reissue of Lichtenberg's "Sime/Gen" books. (Very interesting, since it was the late Susan Wood's massive dissing of those stories that was a massive controversy at WisCon 2 and helped put future WisCons on the overtly feminist track.)
The very fun peortion of this panel was "who's writing SM but doesn't know they are," with the late David Feintuch ("Midshipman's Hope," et al)being prominently mentioned. (I wondered to myself if self-flagellation counted--Feintuch's main character spends much of the series mentally beating himself up--.)
Next, we both went to the "Ten-Foot Shelf of Perdition" panel, which was to warn us off of bad books. The panelists had far less than ten feet worth of books prepared, but the audience filled in by enthusiastically tramping on various literary excesses and stupid author tricks, not all in SF & F.
Following that, we went to "Sarcasm and Superheroes," which updated us on the current state of female superheroes and feminist cricism thereof, chiefly by younger women witers and editors. Very interesting, but not actually very sarcastic, with particular concern at the extent to which heoines and the significant others of heros have been the victims of rape and/or murder lately. Some very good discussion of good comics to introduce to new readers, either adult or child.
For dinner, we kept up our Saturday tradition of dining at L'Etoile accompanied by Maureen Kincaid-Speller and Paul Kincaid. Both dinner and company were excellent as always.
After dinner, Paul was on the panel "Making War on 'War'", and had some excellent things to say, along with Jean Mornard, Chris Nakashima-Brown, Wendy Allison Walker, Laurel Winter, and a very engaged audience. (I had proposed this panel, but hadn't shown myself as available for this time slot--). I was very pleased by the work done in this panel trying to find alternatives to the "war" metaphor that pemeates so much of our discourse. I still tend to like my own proposal of seeking "solutions" rather than "victories," but there were some very good other proposals as well: i particularly liked Nakashima-Brown's enthusiastic proposal to "hack terrorism," which I think could have good application. We had an interesting discussion with Dr. M.J. Hardman after the panel, and found she has done some work in her classes along the same lines, and we will be proposing a follow-on panel for next year.
Again, we had early panels Sunday AM. I maintain that having the "New Atheism" panel on at 8:30AM on Sunday was some scheduler's idea of a jest, but there has been some historical precedent for religion panels to end up on Sunday morning in the past--. Heidi Lampetti did a good job of moderating a panel composed of me, Jorjet Harper, Laurie J. Marks, and Doselle Young. We all identified as 'atheists' with varying degrees of toleration for "spiritual" pursuits. We also had a very interesting and interested audience which entered with us into a "spirited" discussion of what atheism is, how the "new atheists", who take the position that religion and belive in God are activley harmful, differ from past positions, and why they are coming out on this topic now. My opinion is that their rhetorical bomb-throwing arises from frustation that the reactionary religious seem to have all the "bully pulpits" and that liberal churches are not being heard. Quick, can you name a prominent liberal clergyman? Other than the late William Sloane Coffin, I can't. I bet we can all name three or four well-know religious Rightists--.
During the mid-day break, we looked in on the belly-dance demo, which seemed well-attended and had some very good leaders. Kudos to Tracy Benton for getting it on the program, although I know the scheduling and other issues caused her a lot of heartburn.
After lunch, I was on the "Male Allies" panel, organized and moderated by Ian Hagemann, Aaron Lichtov, Benjamin Micah Rosenbaum, and Jef A. Smith. This panel was intended to bring out some realistic approaches to how men can help in the feminist cause without telling women what they should be should be doing, or taking a paternalistic approach to "lifting" women "up." Although this problem has no simple solution, I thought much good was brought out on the idea that this was an ongoing work that none of us was going to see the end of: as Aaron quoted, "It is not for you to complete the work, but neither may you abandon it altogether." this was my last panel of the convention as a participant, and I thought it very good. I was pleased that I got very good feedback from both men and women regarding my contributions to all three panels I was on, so had a particularly good WisCon in that regard.
After the panel, I met up with Georgie, Tracy Benton and Bill Bodden, and we went out to do the last shopping for the Fancy Dress Party. Our shopping trip ended about four fifteen, and we took a break to relax and read a bit before starting the party prep about 5:45. We rearranged the room, decorated with garden "wallpaper" from a Disney Princess party kit to represent the Elysian Fields, and worked until just before party time prepping food, setting up the drink fountain, and getting into costume. (I tend to mind the drinks, so I dressed as Bacchus, in a crown of vine leaves, cotton tunic, and "toga" of a purple sari fabric.) Georgie dressed as Emer the Riddler, wise wife of Chuhulainn; Tracy as Undine, a water spirit; and Bill as The Green Knight. After the expected slow start due to GoH speeches, the party really took off and was one of the most energetic parties on the floor. We had a lot of good costumes show up, including our friends Judy and Bob Seidl, Judy as Susan B. Anthony in a deep violet Victorian dress and a sash reading "Votes For Women", and Bob as Paul Bunyan. Elise Matthisen had a really splendid sea-goddess outfit of green satin, accessorized with a shell-beaded hat acquired at the art show and shoes decorated in the oceanic motif that had been done overnight. We had a mischevious Eris, a cleverly done Xena, and a spectacular grouping of the "Birds of Prey" team from DC Comics, lead by Liz Henry as Oracle, and including Black Canary, Huntress, Lady Blackhawk, Power Girl, and Big Barda.
We had some fun food ideas, the central offering being the "Make Yourself A Hero" sandwich line. There were golden apples, chocolate (food of the gods!), Bugles (miniature cornucopias)and others. Georgie offered guests the Hazelnuts of Wisdom. A box ominous marked "Do Not Open!" sat on one of the tables. Thos who did so found inside a "can of (gummi) worms." The fountain ran with wine (sangria) and the ever-popular asti spumante and sparkling fruit juice made up the beverage offerings.
We stayed open until 1 AM, when things began to wind down and we began to fade. Other parties and the constant hall chatter went on until well after we were done breaking down at 2AM--.
Monday morning, we had energy to hit one panel, the "Boy Books? Girl Books?" panel on books for children and young people. Moderator Sharyn November rathr tended to dominate this panel, but she's an entertaining speaker and knew a lot of good dirt about the publishing biz, so we didn't mind.
We strolled through the "sign out" and I acquired four good Andre Norton collections in hard cover from the Tiptree dollar sale for a buck each.
All in all, a very good con. We are all ready registered and planning for next year.