From Friday, May 28, through Monday, May 31, we attended the 34th WisCon at the Concourse Hotel in Madsion. Guests of Honor were writers Mary Anne Mohanraj and Nnedi Okorafor. We began the day by picking up friend Sue Blom at her house to ride to the con with us, and had a pleasant drive and chat, including some panel strategizing, getting to the Concourse a bit after . Our room was ready, so we got checked in with the hotel, then with con registration, and were ready to check out the Gathering as it got underway.
The first program item we went to was “Greer Gilman’s Cloudish Universe,” which was about the works of one of this year’s Tiptree awards winners. Her mythic fantasy novels seem very interesting, and we will be looking them up. Gilman herself is a fascinating person and made a charming Tiptree winner. (This year’s Tiptree was shared by “Ooku, the Inner Chambers,” a manga by Fumi Yoshinaga, the first time a graphic story has been so honored. Yoshinaga was not able to attend, but had the award accepted on her behalf.)
On the way to dinner, we scooped up Mary Prince and went down State Street, discovering to our disappointment that our goal, Mediterranean Café, was no longer open for dinners. We beat back up the street and settled upon a Thai place, Rising Sons Deli, that was quite decent in my opinion. Georgie and I finished off the meal with ice cream from Chocolate House, while Mary went off to scout menus from other restaurants in the area.
We got back to the hotel in plenty of time for the opening ceremonies, which was a clever sketch put on by the Tiptree Motherboard, featuring Ellen Klages playing against type as a staid librarian from Columbia County, Wisconsin, and Pat Murphy as a “hip, trendy” librarian from Southern California, who engaged the audience in rating various works by their “respectability quotient”. After announcements and introductions, we circulated through the parties, spending most time at the Livejournal party, and getting back downstairs in time to catch the end of the “Women of Horror Films 1962-66” panel, which was the 7th installment in this well-researched series. After that, we were curious about “Dreamwidth” and went to the panel on it, and learned some interesting things about this newish blog alternative. By that time it was late after our driving day, so we went to bed.
My first panel of the con was “Newspapers of the T’ang Dynasty,” at Saturday. We made it in good time, having first stopped for L’Etoile croissants and had an early look at the Farmer’s Market. This was an enjoyable panel wherein we dragged out an examined some of our favorite examples of mostly unintentional anachronisms in fantasy and alternate-history SF, illustrating the necessity for research and understanding the milieu if you are going to write things set in the “past” or analogs thereto. Tor Books editor Jim Frenkel had some particularly interesting and subtle examples he had come across in works submitted to him.
The next panel we attended was “Politics of Steampunk,” which gave an overview of race, class, and gender issues that are largely blithely ignored by a lot of people working in the genre, but did not really get into depth on tackling them. I think I shall do as the panel moderator suggested, and submit my own further installment panel for next year. (On of the best things about this panel was the looks of horror that played across Nisi Shawl’s face when some egregious examples were brought up. I do look forward to her proposed “Steampunk novel set in the Belgian Congo”--.)
Lunch today was goodies from the Tiptree bake sale (with a Con Suite hot dog as “dessert”), which gave us time to check out the dealers’ room before afternoon panels. We did get a bit bogged down in conversation, so we caught only part of “Left of Center SF&F” (listing a lot of writers we like) before heading to the Green Room for panels at .
I had suggested the “Future of Food” panel, and so was very pleased when the other panelists turned out to be a professional food writer, a master organic gardener, a biologist with experience working with Genetically Modified Organisms, an a person who worked for the British arm of Pepsico. We had a very good discussion focusing on some of the challenges facing food production in the near future. This is another panel I might propose a “Part II” on, since we could have used more time to debate solutions.
At the same time, Georgie had her panel on “The Wilderness in Folktales and Fantasy,” which included Suzanne Alles Blom and Theodora Goss (regrettably, Joan Vinge was unable to attend) and which was very well received.
In the time slot, Georgie was on “The Big Fear,” with Vito Excalibur, Eileen Gunn, Chip Hitchcock, and Rich McAllister, which explored the various fears that humans suffer from and the ways they are dealt with in fiction. A good panel, with a lively and engaged audience.
Saturday dinner, we went out with Darlene Coltrain and Steven Vincent Johnson, who were celebrating their tenth wedding anniversary. We went to “Smokey’s” which is an old-style steakhouse/supper club on University Avenue. The food, drink, service, and company were all good, and we got back to the hotel in good time to wind down the evenings with parties and chat.
Sunday morning, we started off with the “Fantastic Madison” panel, which was fun for us as we are both former Madison residents and knew the venues and quirks of the city quite well. We lunched at Kabul, a favorite of ours, before afternoon panels.
At , I had “Warfare in Fantasy and Science Fiction,” which was an interesting discussion of what we found good in books about a subject in which there is very little real good. At , I was on the “Kage Baker” panel, while Georgie was running “Wild Women of the 17th Century.”The Baker panel was well received by the audience, who appreciated the research the panel members had put in. The “Wild Women” panel also drew an enthusiastic audience and Georgie had several post-panel compliments on it, as well as on the “Wilderness” panel.
Next up was the “Invented Earlier” panel, again with Georgie,which playfully explored alternate histories if some inventions had been developed to the point of usefulness before the ‘real world’ timeline, and why they actually weren’t.
Having had a large lunch, we dined lightly off of cached Tiptree Bake Sale goodies, and got ready for Sunday evening, which for us, means dressing up. Georgie wore a beautiful royal blue beaded vest and black silk trousers, while I had decided to go flamboyant, and wore a geometrically printed jacket in purple, teal, black, white, and gold over my ruffled shirt and black velvet wide-legged pants. Both of us got complements on our outfits as we cruised the parties and took in the guest of honor speeches. Both Mohanraj and Okorafor gave very good, personal speeches that were quite inspiring. The Tiptree awards were fun as well.We were pleased to see that people dressed up a bit more for the “last night out”.
Monday, I wanted a substantial breakfast, so we went over to Michaelangelo’s, which filled the bill. The last panel we attended was “Does Media Get a Pass on Scientific Illiteracy.” This was fun to listen to the various panel members expound on their pet peeves, although I found the running of the panel needlessly regimented for a small audience and room.
After that, we wended our way through the dealer’s room one last time before taking the road home, having had another satisfying WisCon. Next year will be 35! (Yes, we have registered-.)