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Friday, June 6th, 2014

Time Event
Wiscon 38 2014
As usual for us, we had a very good time at this year's WisCon. We had a trouble-free drive over to Madison, and got to the hotel and checked in in time to check out The Gathering and touch base with people we needed to contact.
This year, WisCon and the annual Science Fiction Research Association Conference (headquartered at the Inn on the Park) were held together, which added even more program to WisCon's already heavy schedule. The first "regular" program item we went to was the 4:00PM "SFRA Tiptree Event," which was a retrospective on the award and how it came to be, that we found very interesting. "Founding Mothers" Karen Joy Fowler and Pat Murphy were joined by Tiptree winners Eleanor Arnason and Nisi Shawl, long-time "Motherboard" member Jeanne Gomoll, former Tiptree juror Michael Marc McBride, and moderator Margaret McBride. A reception followed, but we felt the need of more substantial food, and went down State Street to Five Guys Burgers and Fries, which was just as tasty and actually somewhat less loud than last time we were there.
At 7:00PM, we went back to the Inn on the Park for Eleanor Arnason's SFRA reading, in which she read us two stories, one from her Icelandic series, "The Puffin Hunter," in which a man is haunted by the ghost of a fairy, and another, the title of which I did not catch, wherein a woman becomes story-teller to the Court of the North Wind. Both were excellent.
After that, Georgie had her first panel, "Style is Being Yourself on Purpose," which was a very lively and fun panel to listen to. Panelists Julia Dvorin, Allison Morris, "The Rotund", and "Anonymous" discussed the issues of creating your own style when the 'fashion industry' doesn't support your color, your size, your age, or your aesthetic. There was definitely material enough for a sequel panel.
Saturday morning, we made our usual pilgrimage to get croissants from L'Etoile and a quick glance at the Farmers' Market.
We then went to the paper presentation, "Apes in the Uncanny Valley," by Joan Gordon, which dealt with genre studies, primate studies, and the post-human in fiction about apes. I thought it was a very interesting survey, although I did not think that the "uncanny valley" was the best frame for the discussion: most of the characters mentioned were either clearly non-human, or able to pass for human, which is not the "uncanny valley" phenomenon.
At the lunch break, we went down State Street to the Chazen Museum on the University campus, on the recommendation of friends to see some works in the new addition, which we found fascinating. Then, we went over to the Memorial Union for a helping of the famous Babcock Hall ice cream.
Back at the hotel, we attended the "Medieval People of Color" program, which challenges the common conception that there were no non-whites in pre-Renaissance Europe, or at least so few that portraying them need not be a consideration when designing games, films, or books set in the period. Specifically, the "Medieval People of Color" Tumblr exists to refute the idea by collecting contemporary art from the era-very useful!

Later in the afternoon, we stopped by the Tiptree Bake Sale, which still had plenty of yummy plates to sell. We checked out the art show, and made another pass at the dealer's room (bought more books this year than some years), and eventually met up with Darlene Coltrain, Steven Vincent Johnson, Leah Fisher, and Mary Prince to go out to dinner at Takara Japanese restaurant on State Street, which was very good. I had the Sushi and Sashimi plate, which was all good and not all just the common items.
I had two panels after dinner. The first one, "Geena Davis' Two Easy Steps to Make Hollywood Less Sexist" dealt with the proposal in the actress' article of the same title, reflecting the shocking statistic that crowd and group scenes in film consistently contain only 17% women; that three years of G-rated movies contained no female characters in law, medicine, or executive positions; and that other gender imbalance were equally pervasive but taken for granted. There was a good debate on what effects changing film casting decisions might have on society as a whole.
The second panel was "Dual Identities: Fan vs. 'Real Life'". The panelists related experiences involving fannish vs. work life. Most of the panel had had different experiences than mine since their on-line presence is different and tended to overlap more with their work, but some principles apply across the board: that certain fannish activities make you "unreliable" in certain businesses, even ones where you would think it wouldn't be an issue, and keeping fan life separate from mundane life can still be a good-and even necessary-idea.
Sunday morning started off with Georgie's panel, "Outrageous Women of the 19th Century." Cynthia Gonsalves moderated this year, while Georgie talked about adventuress Jane Digby and presidential candidate Victoria Woodhull. Bev Friend told the story of "pirate queen" Ching Shih, and James Roberts shared capsule biographies of notable Irish women of the 19th century. As usual with this series, the panel was well attended with vigorous audience participation.
Next, we went to the panel "The Problem of Susan," which dealt with the question, unresolved in C. S. Lewis' "Narnia" books, of what ultimately became of Susan Pevensie, who is not present at the time of the "Last Battle", the winding up of Narnia, and, apparently, does not enter into Aslan's father's kingdom along with her siblings. There were some very thoughtful expositions on this topic in particular, and Narnia and Lewis' writing in general. From the audience, I got to give my own theory, that, because Aslan had said, "Once a King or Queen in Narnia, always a King or Queen in Narnia," this could not be untrue, and that therefore Susan, whose time had not yet come, might still get to Aslan's county in her own way, as Lewis later wrote. This conjecture was well received, although all agreed that of course it could not be definitive.
We got a light dinner a Potbelly Deli, a reliable fallback, and came back to change for the evening. Sunday is still the 'dress up' night, and Georgie had a very elegant outfit of a black double-breasted jacket over a silk printed skirt. Since Sunday was also "Genderfloomp" night, and I was feeling a bit mischievous, I wore a white shirt, black tie, and white dinner jacket. However, instead of cummerbund, I wore a black satin corset, and a black velvet long skirt instead of trousers, accented with fishnet tights and black pumps. Beyond amusement, I actually got a good number of compliments on how elegant the ensemble looked. (It was also interesting that quite a few friends seemed not to notice, but, in a crowded party, it's sometimes hard to get a full length view of someone else--.)
We attended the Guest of Honor speeches, which were both quite inspiring. Hiromi Goto's speech was both autobiographical and a strong statement of aesthetic principles that was both powerful and interesting. (http://www.hiromigoto.com/wiscon38-guest-of-honour-speech/)

As often happens at WisCon, the speech by N.K. Jemisn took quite a different tack. Discussing the hateful reactions to her prior guest of Honor speech at the Continuum 9 convention in Australia, which called for racial reconciliation, and compared the current state of racial relations in the United States unfavorably (but correctly) with the recent moves toward reconciliation with indigenous peoples in Australia. As a result, her conclusion was that her call for reconciliation was premature: "Reconciliation is a part of the healing process, but how can there be healing when the wounds are still being inflicted?" and, essentially threw down the gauntlet to the bigots and their equivocators: "Understand that there are people in this genre who hate you, and who do not want you here, and who will hurt you if they can. Do not tolerate their intolerance. Don't be "fair and balanced." Tell them they're unwelcome. Make them uncomfortable. Shout them down. Kick them out. Fucking fight." ( http://nkjemisin.com/2014/05/wiscon-38-guest-of-honor-speech/ ) Her speech was received with great enthusiasm, as was Goto's, and I was very proud that she listed WisCon as a place one could arm themselves with knowledge.

We ducked out at the end of Nike Sulway's Tiptree Award acceptance speech in order to get the "Rupetta" inspired cake that Georgie had made up to the Aqueduct Press party. I stood guard on the cake box until the author arrived for the unveiling. The cake was universally admired for its beauty (and for its flavor, once eaten), and helped cut and serve it. (Picture to follow--).

Monday morning, it was my turn to have the 8:30AM panel, "Gods as Characters," and I got to take part in a good discussion concerning the gods of Jemesin's "Inheritance Trilogy," Eleanor Arnason's hwarhath Goddess, the gods in Lois McMaster Bujold's Curse of Chalion and its sequels, and others. There was a good turnout, particularly considering the hour, and the audience seemed to enjoy it.

After that, we took some time to take a last look around the convention before heading off, after having made sure we had memberships and hotel reservations for next year.

This entry was originally posted at http://sinister-sigils.dreamwidth.org/257637.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
Godzilla, 2014
Wednesday night, May 28th, I and a friend went to see the new "Godzilla". It was pretty good.
This re-imagining of the classic "giant monster" (kaiju) film begins in 1999, with the ominous discover of giant remains at a Philippine mine, the disturbance of which appears to have released something huge. Sometime later, at a nuclear power plant along Japan's south coast, a strange seismic vibration grows in intensity causing the American chief engineer, Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) to order a shutdown, but too late. The plant is destroyed by a strange localized earthquake, killing the engineer's wife (Elizabeth Olsen).
Flash forward to 2014: Brody's son, Ford (Arron Taylor-Johnson), a Lieutenant in the U.S. Navy home on leave, gets called to Japan to bail out his father, who, obsessed with the events resulting in his wife's death, has been trespassing in the "quarantine zone" around the ruined reactors. Ford is dragged into his father's quest, and they discover much more than they had bargained on, and at a critical time.
Among other things, they discover that an international organization, "Monarch" (no indication if this is an acronym for anything--) has been aware of the existence of Godzilla since 1954, and they are monitoring a giant chrysalis beneath the power plant. When the pupating creature emerges as a rampantly destructive M.U.T.O. (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism), the race is on as to whether humanity will destroy the M.U.T.O. first, or a hunting Godzilla will catch it, possibly resulting in even more destruction.
The movie has some distinct plot holes, but, once you accept the existence of 350 foot tall monsters from the dawn of time, the rest is shruggable. The majority of the plot actually deals with the efforts of the humans to stop the monsters, and the climactic giant monster fight isn't tiring to sit through.
I was glad to see that the writers preserved some of the classic Godzilla tropes-such as that a child is often the first one to see Godzilla-and avoided some Western clichés.
The new Godzilla is clearly in the line of the classic Toho rubber-suit monster, but more massively built, resembling a cross between a stegosaur and a bear. According to some publicity material, bears were used as part of the model for Godzilla's fighting style.
Giant monsters wreck parts of Honolulu, Las Vegas, and San Francisco, with the CGI destruction being vastly advanced over the old days of balsa-wood Tokyo being smashed.
Taylor-Johnson, as the man who can't seem to keep out of the monsters' ways, is a stalwart hero, and decent to watch. Ken Watanabe is pretty much wasted as the Monarch chief scientist-it seems that, as a Japanese, he's chiefly there to make the token protest against the military's proposed use of atomic weapons against the monsters.
That said, it's an enjoyable film of its type, and I did not find the pacing too slow, unlike some critics. There is already talk of a sequel. Recommended for fans of the genre.

This entry was originally posted at http://sinister-sigils.dreamwidth.org/257848.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

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