Labor Day weekend, 2013. Two intrepid Book Lovers abandoned their posts at BLI, and headed to the Armpit of the U.S. for a festival occasionally know as “WorldCon.” Broiling temperatures so hot that iPads refused to function could not keep Book-Lovers from their Tribe.
These are their stories.
(Eds. Note – Be sure you read this introduction with the Law & Order IntroVoice.)
Marlene: I went to a lot of terrific panels. The “Just a Minute” panel on Thursday night with Paul Cornell, Connie Willis, Mur Lafferty, Emma Newman and Gary Wolfe was side-splittingly funny. There were a lot of others, as well as a whole bunch of times I really could have used a clone. Possibly two or three clones. Somebody needs to get right on that.
Cass: Are you INSANE?! Don’t you know what happens when you clone yourself? One of you always has to die. (Spoilers for The Prestige in clip below.)
What we need is a Time Machine. Because that always ends better. If we had access to a time machine, I would not have missed any panels waiting for the opportunity to tell Seanan McGuire that her decision to cede Alaska to the zombies was the single greatest literary decision of 2011. Because it was. REALLY.
Speaking of Seanan, I was able to observe her and Chuck Wendig’s, pre-Hugo descents into madness at a series of panels they were presenting on. As we got closer to showtime, Seanan’s precise knowledge regarding the accessibility of the hotel’s water supply became more and more terrifying.
I even pulled up my review of The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination during the Mad Scientist panel – to verify I gave all the panelists a +. For insurance purposes. They were expounding on some chillingly creative means for our collective demise….. (Phew! All good. Only + rated authors on the panel.)
(I still stuck to bottled beverages.)
Marlene: The paranormal romance discussion was pretty good, but all the panelists wrote urban fantasy, and they conflated SCIENCE FICTION ROMANCE with PNR!!! Which makes me want to submit a program proposal for an SFR panel to the Spokane Worldcon. At the time, it drove me a little nuts. It was a good thing I was there to hear the speakers (Carrie Vaughn, Gail Carriger, Jean Johnson, Charlaine Harris), rather than the topic.
Later on, someone tweeted that the urban fantasy panel had all PNR writers.
Cass: Haha! That was bloody hilarious. All these authors looking around wondering, “hmm, why am I here again?”
Marlene: The panel on “The Romance of Military SF” was equally terrific. Also including the awesome Jean Johnson. (I’ll admit right now to having followed Jean Johnson around the con). But, but, but, the panel started out with the moderator (absolutely not Jean) reader-shaming anyone in the room who might have made the mistake of coming to the panel because the word “romance” was part of the title. This was extremely bad form. Too many of us have been reader-shamed for reading SF and fantasy. The moderator’s behavior was not just wrong, it was stupidly wrong. And rude.
Cass: Honestly, I had a bigger problem with all the fucking shit on Conan than I did with the conflicting panel times. I GET that this is TEXAS and it’s the WILD WILD WEST…but ugh, Conan? Couldn’t we have just had a series of never-ending Firefly discussions? I would have been totally into that.
Marlene: Exactly! Where the fuck was the EPIC FANTASY panel? Seriously. Why didn’t they schedule George R.R. Martin and Brandon Sanderson and L.E. Modesitt and Saladin Ahmed to just talk for an hour? Instead of any one of the 15 panels on Robert E. Howard?
Cass: Do you know what WAS awesome?! Like one of the single greatest things I saw at WorldCon? It was on the Zombie Panel, and some dudebro piped up whining about the lack of “traditional zombies” in zombie fiction. Which led to a fabulous moment in which one of my favorite authors shut that racist shit down.
It was glorious. Just like having editors make fun of all the “Kill the Bitch” submissions clogging their slush pikes, or snarkily describing classic fantasy as “very blokey stories.” Or when a Hugo Award Winner used his speech time to express his displeasure with the Texas Legislature’s treatment of women.
I felt more valued as an activist minority fan in those moments than I did at all of the diversity- and politically-themed panels combined. It’s just so fucking awesome to know that people whose work you admire, are also admirable people.
Marlene: There were several panels that were part of the ongoing discussion regarding gender and racial dynamics within fandom and making sure that cons are safe and welcoming spaces for everyone. These discussions are ongoing, and have no easy solutions, but need to keep being brought out into the light. This is a journey and not a destination. It has to get better for all of us.
As for a best moment? Definitely, the “Just a Minute” panel with Paul Cornell, Connie Willis, Mur Lafferty, Emma Newman and Gary Wolfe, which was a thing of beauty. Connie Willis is just as funny now ad-libbing as ever. The thing could have lasted forever.
Or when I showed Jean Johnson my review of A Soldier’s Duty that she has posted on her website and she hugged me.
The Rocket Lover’s Lover (aka Galen): Like Marlene, my best WorldCon moment was watching the Just a Minute game hosted by Paul Cornell and played by Connie Willis, Gary K. Wolfe, Emma Newman, and Mur Lafferty. It’s been a long time since I laughed so hard.
Though I also loved watching the all-star toddler stage diving competition. To think that I had been wondering why there were con staff sitting right in front of the stage…..
Cass: That was the BEST. I spent forever trawling the internet looking for a clip of that baby, in full costume, just diving off the end of the six foot stage. Whose job was it to pick ribbons for the youth entries in the Masquerade? Someone was clearly sleeping on the job, because there was no way anyone could hope to beat that epic stage dive.
Galen: Meeting you was great too! It’s always nice to have evidence that the rest of the Book Lovers aren’t a figment of Marlene’s imagination.
Cass: Okay, what about the Worst Moment for both of you? The one that made you want to rend limbs from bodies?
I had mine at the Atheism in Science Fiction panel, where some asshole Theist managed to get himself named moderator. He just kept going on and on and ON about how he just doesn’t understand atheism because it is so complicated especially since there aren’t any real atheists anywhere.
I had my hand up for 45 minutes before the asshole deigned to acknowledge me. He must have had a visual impairment that kept him from seeing women in the audience (or even on the goddamn panel) since he only allowed men (all theists – how fucking convenient) to speak.
Galen: Watching folks from the People en Español event getting turned away at the dealer’s room. Huge missed opportunity there, on many levels.
Cass: YES! That made no sense. Especially since I saw random kids from People en Español pop into various panels. We apparently only felt we needed to guard the dealer’s room from interlopers. You know, the place where goods were for sale. Can’t let just anyone with money wander into a place like that. Things might be purchased!
Marlene: Leaving. But seriously… Rotsler’s Rules displaying in repetition before the Masquerade. Awesomely horrifically tone-deaf bodyshaming. Rotsler’s rules website explicitly states NOT to do what they did because it always sounds like bodyshaming.
And speaking of shaming….the editor of a major science fiction publisher who reader-shamed any romance readers for coming to “The Romance of Science Fiction” panel should be beaten with roses with extra thorns.
Third prize goes to the Trends in Banned Books panel that was fascinating while Norman Spinrad was talking – but Cass could see the steam coming out of my ears when the two librarians on the panel let the Q&A session get hijacked by the fourth person on the panel. She was neither an author, nor a librarian/library worker but continued to answer every question as though she were a library expert. GRRRR!
Cass: Oh yeah. Marlene was fuming. It was really bad. This batshit crazy woman just babbled on about things she admittedly knew nothing about – and refused to stop talking even when pointedly corrected.
So. To wrap up, when I left World Con, I was left with an overwhelming urge to WRITE A MOTHERFUCKING SF NOVEL (Or at least a short story. I’m a very busy woman. I can be realistic.)
Marlene: Me Too!