Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Year's Illustrious Feminist Science Fiction and Fantasy

Aqueduct Press is proud to announce The Year's Illustrious Feminist Science Fiction and Fantasy, our new anthology series dedicated to presenting readers with collections of remarkable feminist speculative fiction.  The first volume of the series will reprint stories published in 2014.  Editor Nisi Shawl will be assisted in selecting its content by four volunteer readers, each covering one of the year's quarters: Nancy Jane Moore, Keffy Kehrli, K. Tempest Bradford, and Rochita Loenen-Ruiz.  Author, editor, publisher, and critic L. Timmel Duchamp will provide a summary of the year's activity in the feminist SF arena.  YIFFSFF: 2014 is scheduled to appear in late May 2015.

We intend to assemble anthologies representing the qualities that make feminist SF so amazing, thought-provoking, challenging, and deeply satisfying.  At this time we're limiting ourselves to works published in English.  If you'd like to suggest a piece of short fiction to be considered for inclusion in the 2014 volume,, please use the form we've linked to on the Aqueduct Press home page.

Contact Nisi Shawl (reviews[AT]thecsz[DOT]com) with other questions or concerns about this anthology. Please put YIFFSFF 2014 in the subject line.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

CFS for a Diverse Weird Western anthology

I've just received this from Cynthia Ward:

Open Call for Submissions (OPENS 12/1/2014)

Here are the guidelines for a Diverse Weird Western anthology (title to be announced), to be published by WolfSinger Publications ( and edited by Cynthia Ward ( Ah, the "Western frontier"! I learned all about it as a child. I learned it was full of brave white American pioneer men killing the native inhabitants, who didn't realize the land they'd occupied for millennia belonged to the newcomers. I learned it was full of heroic white American gunmen shooting each other in high noon standoffs or over cattle. Those few characters who didn't fit the above templates were generally helpless Mexican peasants; treacherous Mexican bandits; or the occasional rancher's wife, school marm, or prostitute. Omitted from the history lessons and the movies and TV shows were--the whole wide world. For this anthology, we’re looking for stories about everyone else. We're looking for stories which reflect the complex historical realities and diversities of the North American "Western frontier."

We're looking for stories about marginalized and under-represented groups.

The Nitty Gritty:

-- Payment is $5/story plus a share of royalties.
--We are opening for submissions on December 1, 2014, with a deadline of December 31, 2014. --Submissions sent outside this window will be returned unread. DO NOT SUBMIT AT THIS TIME.
--We're looking for Diverse Weird Western fiction of between 500 words and 10,000 words (we're somewhat flexible, but the anthology will be 85,000 words max, so don't go significantly longer than 10,000 words).
--Original fiction and reprints are both acceptable. Let us know if your submission is a reprint and from where. Be SURE you have the rights to reprint – we won’t chase down permissions.

Full guidelines and submission instructions can be found at:

Monday, August 4, 2014

Sarah Tolmie's NoFood

I'm pleased to announce Aqueduct Press's release of NoFood, a suite of original short fictions by Sarah Tolmie, who you may recall is the author of The Stone Boatmen, which Aqueduct released earlier this year. In NoFood's vision of the messy near future, food is the language of love. For top chef Hardy Arar, his whole life is food. What is he to do when technology eliminates the need for it? TGB (total gastric bypass) is a giant leap forward for humans longing to transcend their flesh. It has fulfilled the desire of the rich to escape illness, boring sustenance routines, and disgusting bodily processes. But like all technological change, TGB unleashes a cascade of effects, social, political, and economic, effects drastically changing the lives of the characters in NoFood. For what is lost with the elimination of the drive to eat?

 “He was gracious to the end, Harwicke Arar. He was satisfied. He was still in possession of his nose; he was still in possession of his principles; he was still in possession of his own digestive tract. He had cooked the best food in the world, real and imaginary, and found someone to eat it.”—from “Cakes and Ale”

NoFood is available in print and e-book editions from Aqueduct's website now, and will soon be available elsewhere. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

WisCon Chronicles 9: Intersections and Alliances

Call for Materials

Aqueduct Press is seeking submissions that engage with WisCon 38 (2014) and its programming.  (You need not have attended WisCon in order to submit a piece for this anthology.)  We are especially interested in material on the themes of intersections and alliances (although we will consider other responses to the convention). 

We find ourselves considering what it means to live at the intersections of various identities, some of them more privileged than others.  We ask how we can function as good allies to each other in often challenging situations.  We’re living through an intense time of social change, and a variety of questions arise as we have these often difficult conversations about feminism, race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, and more.  Among them are questions about what leads to positive social change and how best to effect such change in our communities. 

We may be in conflict with one another about optimal tactics, yet we share the same goals for positive social progress and a healthy, safe, and welcoming community.  In conversation with each other, we hope this volume will help elucidate some of these difficult but necessary questions.  Passion is welcome, and nuance, even more so.

This will be a mixed-genre volume:  essays, short fiction, poetry, art, comics, are all welcome.  Preferred word length is variable, but ideally 1000 – 5000 words for prose.  We offer contributor’s copies and a nominal payment.  We are also looking for cover artwork, for which we can offer $100.

Submission deadline is October 15, 2014.  E-mail submissions to, with the subject line WISCON SUB:  [title].  You may submit up to 3 items.  You may submit in multiple genres if desired.

Mary Anne Mohanraj, Editor

Monday, July 14, 2014


Readercon this year, for me, anyway, had a bit of the feel of WisCon (except, of course, for the Dealers Room, which had no Aqueduct press table and essentially no Aqueduct Press titles anywhere, unless one counts the satchel of her books Guest of Honor Andrea Hairston schlepped around to sell to attendees who were interested in buying her books). Several of the panels would have fit comfortably into WisCon programming, and of course many of the people who are often to be found at WisCon were present at Readercon. Also? More than once I found myself torn between two panels--an experience I've hitherto suffered only at WisCon. I had an enjoyable--and mighty stimulating--weekend. My only complaint was that the hotel absolutely insisted that the music in the bar be loud enough to be heard all over the first floor (and too loud to permit conversation with drinks after about 8 o'clock in the evening).

I thought I'd mention a few of the panels that particularly interested me. At the top of my list was a panel on Saturday morning titled "When the Other Is You," featuring Samuel R. Delany, Chesya Burke, Sabrina Vourvoulias (M), Peter Dubé, Mikki Kendall, and Vandana Singh. (ETA: a video of this can be found here: The panel pretty much took its lead from the panel description: "Being part of an underrepresented group and trying to write our experience into our work can be tricky. We might have internalized some prejudice about ourselves, we might not have the craft to get our meaning across perfectly, and even if we depict our own experience totally accurately (as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie observed in her TED Talk "The Danger of a Single Story"), we do so while struggling against the expectation that our experience is or isn't "representative" or "authentic." How do we navigate the pitfalls and responsibilities of being perceived as spokespeople? What potentially pernicious dynamics allow us that dubious privilege in the first place? Which works make us cringe with their representations of us, and which make us sigh with relief and recognition?"

Toward the beginning of the discussion Vourvoulias raised the question of whether the conversation was inflected by generational differences. Delany offered a dramatic example of cultural amnesia-- how the issues of contraception and abortion tragically impacted the lives of women he knew pre-Roe v. Wade, resulting in many, many deaths that young people today never imagine could be the result of destraoying access to abortion. 

The issue that received the most attention was that of "authenticity." One aspect of this is that the authenticity of the voices of those positioned outside mainstream culture is often judged by the expectations of mainstream readers (and editors). At the same time, the mainstream reader is often oblivious to emphasis, nuance, and multiple meanings. Kendall noted that we seldom hear the stories of the people who resist oppression in small ways: "The stories that get heard are the low and the high." I found myself thinking that this is partly because the ordinary person of color is largely invisible in mainstream culture (except when they're depicted in relation to white people), and partly because small everyday acts of resistance are considered too boring and undramatic to be depicted in fiction, unless the consequences are dramatic. 

Most of my notes for this panel are paraphrases or quotations from panelists, sans elaboration:

Vourvoulias: Does diversity just mean "be nice to everyone?" The bottom line is that respect for the other is essential for the health of the genre.

Kendall: We don't have a single language: the question becomes, "whose language?" (This was said in the context of discussing Black English and diverse forms of colloquial English, regional and ethnic, and their representations in fiction.)

 Dubé: Language is the single most important lens; translation is the creation of new meaning. More meanings is good, fewer meanings is bad. (Someone else on the panel, I can't remember whom, observed that when a member of a marginalized group speaks to the mainstream, they are always translating.)

Vourvoulias: There's a political weight to Spanglish, or other languages. There are levels and levels of nuance.

Singh: When I'm writing or reading about non-mainstream (in the US) cultures, emphasis matters.

Vourvoulias: Language itself is hierarchical; certain voices aren't heard.

Vourvoulias: Who listens to the victims of the genocide of Guatemala? We re-victimize epople by giving them less agency than the government that repressed them when there stoy is told by others who are heard, not by themselves, as though they can't be trusted to tell their own stories.

Delany: only one review of his most recent novel, Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders, got that the novel doesn't engage in exceptionalism for his poor, black, gay characters: the world of his novel makes black gay men unexceptionable and offers them an environment in which they can thrive-- as themselves, and not transformed into characters who aren't poor, black, and gay.

Dubé: Alterity gives you an outsider's view--which is valuable. As a gay man, he's distressed by the marriage/assimilation emphasis.

To tell the truth, I wanted this panel to go on for another hour at least. Or to have been about one or two of the various issues that the panelists discussed, to allow greater depth. But all in all, it offered me a lot to think about.

Another panel of interest sometimes overlapped "When You Are the Other" in the issues it addressed, viz., "East, West and Everything Between: A Roundtable on Latin@ Speculative Fiction," featuring Sabrina Vourvoulias (M), Daniel Jose Older, Matthew Goodwin, Carlos Hernandez, and Julia Rios. Vourvoulias asked the panel to begin by addressing the challenges facing Latin Speculative fiction. (ETA: Scott Edelman has posted a YouTube video of this one, too:

 Vourvoulias: Why is it so invisible? Is it because Latinos don't read?

Hernandez: The pressures of assimilation are enormous. Assimilating leads to camouflage.

 Older: Gatekeepers-- i.e., booksellers, editors: Latino writers have to get through bottlenecks controlled by Anglos; our stories can be threatening to Anglos.

Rios: Dialect & Spanglish can be threatening.

Older: Nalo Hopkinson's use of Caribbean vernacular was a revelation to me. We translate ourselves-- trying to water down our voice and narratives to please white gatekeepers.

Hernandez: Cites Junot Diaz's observation that sf/f readers will negotiate 200 pages in elvish without complaint, but will freak out at the presence of two Spanish words in a novel. He suggests there's a double standard about real-world difference, which makes its presence political. (Spanish can't be neutral in the way that English or Elvish can.)

Vourvoulias: Accent becomes a signifier in fiction.

Goodwin: When we start thinking about the category [Latin sf/f], it makes us think about past work as well. The screenplay of Blade Runner was written by a Mexican-American. The Chicano character he placed in the film [who wasn't in the Dick original] enriched it. We need to uncover the long presence of Latinos in spec fic.

Older: Latin presence in "urban fantasy"usually involves a white person having sex with a Chicano werewolf etc. But what about the urban fantasy stories Latinos have always created? The ghost stories and zombies-- that were long found in our oral tales. The crude mechanisms of publishing-- of power, money, and race, excludes those stories.

Vourvoulias: There are regional differences. There are agrarian latinos-- there's a long history of them in California. The urban latino is the story that has become a trope. We don't often see agrarian latinos in sf/f.

Rios: A lot of white America is listening to Fox News and are terrified of the "flood" across the border.

Vourvoulias: As Americans, we're invested in the exception. Junot Diaz is our exception. It's the Latino quotient for the century.

Older: We have to beware of the one-and-only model of success, in which breaking out means breaking away from your community-- and getting out. How do we conceive of diversity? We need to have an analysis of power, and leadership from those who are successful.

Vourvoulias:  We need to be mentoring young writers-- or someone who's more emergent than you are.

The panel concluded with remarks on packaging, teaching, and reaching young Latinos some exposure to Latino spec fic.

I stayed, after this panel, for the next one: Readercon Classic Fiction Bookclub: Memoirs of a Space Woman with Amal El-Mohtar, Lila Garrott (M), Sonya Taaffe. I didn't take many notes for this one, at least partly because of my familiarity with the book. I thought the panel did an excellent job of giving the audience (most of whom hadn't read the book) an idea of its richness and interest. Certainly as I was listening I had the thought that this was one of those books that came out before its time, which was heavily in the throes of essentialism of every sort (though particularly, of course, gender essentialism, Simone de Beauvoir notwithstanding). Here's the program description: "Naomi Mitchison's 1962 exploration of a life lived nearly entirely in space has deep humanist themes. Mary's specialty in alien communication leads to a life and profession of embracing the Other, literally realized in her accidental pregnancy via a Martian. We'll discuss criticisms of the book's heteronormativity and biological determinism as well as the themes of Mary's immersion in alien

El-Mohtar: She initiated this panel because she got angry that Mitchison was not a name on the lists of authors considered canonical.

 Taaffe: The protagonist, Mary, doesn't gender her career roles (contrary to what you might expect from the title's "Space Woman"). The narrative uses casual-sounding words to convey huge amounts of information about the society and culture Mary comes from. 

El-Mohtar: The society that produces these characters is incredibly flexible and elastic in its attitudes, giving us a fascinating window on a society that somehow, over the course of centuries, developed into such a livable place.

 Garrott: This is an egalitarian, non-homophobic utopia-- written in 1962.

Taaffe: It has almost no sexual social stigmas-- except for the taboo against intergenerational sex, which they are especially conscious of as the result of the time dilaltion of space travel.

El-Mohtar: This book is about space travel and exploration without colonization-- something we almost never see in sf.

Garrott: The book is episodic, without a plot; the protagonist is passive.

El-Mohtar: But how much of that is due to the book's being in the form of her memoirs?

Garrott: But memoirs are usually artfully crafted.

Taafffe: The book just stops. At the end, you turn the page, expecting the text to continue, and there's an ad for Despatches from the Frontiers of the Female Mind.

El-Mohtar: But the episodes gain in complexity as the book goes on. The trajectory is almost fractal.

Garrott: You get the feeling that the utopia is a result of people just finally growing up.

Taaffe: You can't tell how far into the future this is.

 A member of the audience brings up the point that in the book, humans can no longer eat animals because they can and do communicate with them.

Taaffe: In this future world, space travel solved the problems of vegetarianism-- introducing new fruits and vegetables to humans.

Garrott: This is mostly a comfort read, even though she has a lot of stuff that most people would find horrific and terrifying; but Mary isn't bothered by any of it.

Taaffe: There are mostly heterosexual relationships in the novel. But all the children Mary has are by choice. Mary worries lest she might be becoming monogamous.

The panelists discussed some of the details of Mitchison's remarkable life. (For more, I urge those interested to check out Lesley Hall's Naomi Mitchison: A Profile of Her Life and Work, which is the fifteenth volume in Aqueduct's Conversation Pieces series, and is available in both print & digital editions.)

I want to mention just two other panels. One is the last panel I popped into-- I managed to catch only the last 20 minutes, alas (because I was delayed by a conversation I didn't care to abandon), a panel on unreliable narrators. Eileen Gunn commented that all narrators are unreliable, and that in her experience, all people are unreliable narrators. "As you get older," she said, "you realize you need to have your smart hat on when people tell you their stories." Dora Goss, reflecting on the prevalence on unreliability of narrators, said: "It's a magical trick we pull, making any narrators reliable."

The other panel I wanted to mention was one of my own-- simply because it's on YouTube and has some interesting discussion (which I moderated): Empathy, Identity, and Stories:
Matthew Kressel, L. Timmel Duchamp (moderator), Julia Rios, Andrea Hairston, and Walt Williams appeared on the panel "Empathy, Identification, and Stories." Here's the description from the program book: "At a panel at Arisia 2013, Andrea Hairston said, 'I can only tell you a story if you're a human who can hear a story and imagine what it's like to be someone who isn't you.' Tannanarive Due added that access to stories matters: some children, for instance, can easily find books about characters like themselves, while others have to read books from outside a position of identification. Culture creates structures of identification and empathy; or, to put it another way, ways of feeling from within and ways of feeling from without. How do stories create structures of feeling, and how can writers and readers both benefit from awareness of these structures?" The link to the video is: 

This round-up only scratches the surface, of course. I don't have enough time to go into greater detail, alas. But certainly it made me, as Eileen would have, "put on my smart hat."

ETA: A video of Mikki Kendall's excellent interview of Andrea Hairston is now available, here:

Wednesday, July 9, 2014


I'll be attending Readercon this weekend in Burlington, Mass., along with numerous other Aqueductistas, including one of this year's Guests of Honor, Andrea Hairston. It's a safe bet that with so many Aqueductistas present, there'll be a plenitude of stimulation and challenge on tap. My own programming is:

Friday July 11 11:00 AM    F    Empathy, Identification, and Stories . L. Timmel Duchamp (moderator), Andrea Hairston, Matthew Kressel, Julia Rios, Walt Williams. At a panel at Arisia 2013, Andrea Hairston said, "I can only tell you a story if you're a human who can hear a story and imagine what it's like to be someone who isn't you." Tannanarive Due added that access to stories matters: some children, for instance, can easily find books about characters like themselves, while others have to read books from outside a position of identification. Culture creates structures of identification and empathy; or, to put it another way, ways of feeling from within and ways of feeling from without. How do stories create structures of feeling, and how can writers and readers both benefit from awareness of these structures?

Friday July 11 12:30 PM    ENV    L. Timmel Duchamp reads from a novel in progress

Saturday, July 12 1:00 PM    G    Audience-centric Narratives . Judith Berman, L. Timmel Duchamp (leader), Chris Gerwel, Ken Houghton, James Patrick Kelly. Several subgenres of speculative fiction, such as horror, satire, and slipstream, focus on creating a particular feeling or experience within the reader, rather than on the more typical plot-driver of a protagonist's inner or outer conflicts. The failure mode of this sort of writing is manipulation and didacticism. What makes an audience-centric story successful, from the author's point of view and the reader's?

Aqueduct won't be in the Dealers Room, and I haven't scheduled an autograph session, but I'll be available for conversation and book-signing throughout. See you there!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

The Cascadia Subduction Zone, Vol. 4, 3

Summer, oh summer, how I love it. Amazing things happen in summer, here in Seattle. For instance: the day before yesterday we had, out of the blue, a day in which the thermometer hit 94F. (It had mostly been in the 60s and 70s for all of June.) And voila, by zucchini tripled in size, and my tomato plants enjoyed a fabulous growth spurt.

And so, since it's July, the summer issue of The Cascadia Subduction Zone has arrived from the printer and is now available in print and digital editions here. This is another excellent issue, with poetry by Terry A. Garey (who will be a Guest of Honor at Diversicon later this month) and a retrospective essay on Garey's oeuvre. It also includes an insightful essay by Kim Stanley Robinson on The Female Man in particular and Joanna Russ in general, as well as a variety of reviews that will be of keen interest to Aqueduct readers, and art work by Mark Rich (who wears two of his large collection of hats in this issue).

 Here's the issue's table of contents:Vol. 4 No. 3 — July 2014
Imaginary Junctions: On Terry A. Garey and
Speculative Poetry
   by Mark Rich
Elephants in the Alley
Cave Discovery
   by Terry A. Garey
Grandmother Magma
The Female Man by Joanna Russ
   by Kim Stanley Robinson

Lovecraft’s Monsters, edited by Ellen Datlow
   reviewed by Usman T. Malik

Long Hidden, edited by Rose Fox and Daniel José Older
   reviewed by Maria Velazquez

Lonely Stardust: Two Plays, a Speech, and Eight Essays,
by Andrea Hairston
  reviewed by Adrian Khactu

Kantianism, Liberalism, and Feminism:
Resisting Oppression
, by Carol Hay
   reviewed by Nancy Jane Moore

Daughter of Mystery, by Heather Rose Jones
   reviewed by Liz Bourke

The Memory Garden, by Mary Rickert
   reviewed by Caren Gussoff

What Makes This Book So Great and
My Real Children, by Jo Walton
   reviewed by Cat Rambo
Featured Artist
Mark Rich

Monday, June 30, 2014

The Aqueduct Gazette, Vol. 9 Spring/Summer 2014

Aqueduct Press has published a new issue of the Aqueduct Gazette, edited by Arrate Hidalgo, to celebrate our tenth anniversary. We distributed print copies of the issue at WisCon, and will be bringing some to Readercon and Diversicon. But you can download a pdf of it (free) here. The table of contents includes:

A conversation with Andrea Hairston, discussing her new collection Lonely Stardust: Two Plays, a Speech, and Eight Essays;

A conversation with Sarah Tolmie, discussing her debut novel, The Stone Boatmen; 

An original essay by Gwyneth Jones, "I Don't Fly";

"September 1, 2024: A Speculation" by Joan Haran, Kristin King, Josh Lukin, Annalee Newitz, and Kiini Ibura Salaam;

"WisCon 2004-2014: Challenges and Transformations" by Sandy Olson, Debbie Notkin, and Ian Hagemann;

An excerpt from Alexis Lothians' introduction to New Amazonia: A Foretaste of the Future by Elizabeth Burgoyne Corbett;

And a reflection by me on the Conversation Pieces series.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Systems Fail by Hiromi Goto and N.K. Jemisin

I'm pleased to announce the release of another book launched at WisCon, Systems Fail, by Hiroi Goto and N.K. Jemisin. This is a numbered, limited edition celebrating the work of WisCon 38's Guest of Honor, in Aqueduct's WisCon GoH series. The volume includes two pieces of Goto’s short fiction, N.K. Jemisin’s Nebula Award-nominated story “Non-Zero Probabilities,” and a selection of Jemisin’s essays as well as her 2013 Continuum IX Guest of Honor speech. In addition, the authors talk at length with interviewers knowledgeable about their work: Goto with writer and editor Nisi Shawl, and Jemisin with critic and scholar Karen Burnham.

Here's the Table of Contents:

1. The Sleep Clinic for Troubled Souls (Hiromi Goto)
2. What Isn't Remembered (Hiromi Goto)
3. Hiromi Goto: Interviewed by Nisi Shawl
3. Non-Zero Probablities (N.K. Jemisin)
4. Essays: 2010-2013 (N.K. Jemisin)
    Dreaming Awake
    There's No Such Thing as a Good Stereotype
     Fantastic Profanity
     Why I Think RaceFail Was the Bestest Thing Evar for SFF
      Guest of Honor Speech for Continuum IX
      Time to Pick a Side
5. N.K. Jemisin Interviewed by Karen Burnheim

It's available now at Aqueduct, and will be available elsewhere soon.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The WisCon Chronicles, Vol. 8: Re-Generating WisCon

I'm happy to announce Aqueduct's release of The WisCon Chronicles, 8: Re-Generating WisCon, which Aqueduct launched last month at WisCon. This volume is edited by Rebecca J. Holden, who notes that WisCon is filled with strong opinions and loud voices, and that central to any discussion about definitions of feminisms are questions about outsiders and insiders: Who is WisCon? Who is feminist? Whose opinion matters? Whose voice is heard? Who counts? Who belongs to which generation and does that matter? What does WisCon mean now? What will it mean for future generations?
This volume collects stories, poems, essays, blog posts, and speeches that explore these questions within the framework of the feminism(s) of WisCon spanning “waves,” generations, and media. In addition to three speeches —by WisCon 37 Guests of Honor Joan Slonczewski and Jo Walton, and Tiptree Award winner Kiini Ibura Salaam—the volume includes a spotlight section on poetry and visual arts, Heather Whipple’s statistical study of con attendance, Elise Matthesen’s and Nancy Jane Moore’s thoughts on reporting and ending sexual harassment in conventions, and Janice Mynchenberg’s reflections on being a Christian pastor within the sf/f community. Other contributors include Heather Lindsley, Sandra Lindow, Beth Putchak, L. Timmel Duchamp, Nisi Shawl, Joan Haran, Naomi Mercer, Rachel Kronick, Lesley Wheeler, Sofia Samatar, Lisa Bolekaja, Kristen Kest, Clara Abnet-Holden, and Anne Lane Sheldon.

Re-Generating WisCon is available now through Aqueduct in both print and e-book editions, and will be available elsewhere soon. 

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

So that was WisCon!

One thing I have learned is that reading about other people’s first time at WisCon has little to do with living it in your own flesh. (And that writing about it is much harder than I had anticipated.) WisCon has been exciting, hectic, challenging at times—and lots of fun.

Living in Europe and being the only feminist sf/f fan I knew, my prospects of ever making it to Madison for the convention were on the limited side. Two years later, my first incursion into the WisCon community has in fact been rather spectacular: being a trainee at Aqueduct is a tremendous privilege, in that it has made it easier for me to meet so many interesting, talented people that I would have been shy to approach otherwise. Not to mention the excitement of linking friendly faces to names whose work I admire and chatting with them as if it were the most natural thing in the world. Which it is.

Visual proof that I was in Madison
A lot of WisCon, I felt, is about sharing a passion for radical ideas in a space that is constantly challenging itself, and about creating situations in which everybody gets to participate in that sharing, discussing, and transforming. Many of the panels I attended (on radical queer politics, on decolonizing science fiction, on Afrofuturism) made clear that we have no final answers; that the conversation is always growing in size, in complexity, in perspectives; and that we will always need at least one more WisCon to figure out what science fiction can do to face and fight oppressive structures in all their current manifestations.

There were at least two panels in which survival was discussed as a form of successful resistance. And, prevalent as this notion is, I was really interested to hear Sheree Renée Thomas, in the context of Afrofuturism, point out her aiming beyond survival—an attitude that I’m excited to encounter in current and future Afrofuturist works. The panel, chaired by Jennifer Marie Brissett (her new novel Elysium is forthcoming from Aqueduct), succeeded in introducing some of the basics to those members of the audience who might have needed it, without losing focus on the challenges and new directions that Afrofuturism may take. What is clear is its power as a theoretical lens, as Thomas put it, through which to look at the black experience, which is, she pointed out, far from monolithic.

Hiromi Goto’s and N.K. Jemisin’s Guest of Honor speeches, powerful and extremely relevant to the current situation in sf/f publishing and fandom, had a lot to say in this respect. They confirmed once and for all why I want to keep doing what I’m doing. Both authors’ readings at A Room of One’s Own also turned me, inevitably, into a fan.

Not all was political debate, however: there were other things apart from radical change to celebrate. Aqueduct’s 10-year anniversary party was a blast. Raffle tickets were drawn, prizes were won, cake was eaten, wine was drunk, and the party wrapped up nicely around the time several Aqueductians hoped to retire, satisfied, to their rooms, while some of us continued our journey down the conveniently plastic-covered party corridor.

WisCon has room for plenty of different things, including ukuleles, dozing, tapas(!), tiny party hats, and compulsive book buying. It also has all the room in the world for making friends. Many people happily assume that we are all coming back next year and, whether they last a couple of minutes, hours, or days, the conversations started will probably continue then—which is just as well, because I wouldn’t miss WisCon 39 for the world.