Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Life on the edge

I was going to call this 'postcard from the edge' but decided it was more appropriate for me to steal from a Australian feminist cartoonist (apologies, Judy Horacek!*) rather than a Hollywood blockbuster. Thinking I had better get my first post over with before I got too overwhelmed by everyone else's erudition I want to share some thoughts about feminist/sf community here from my little spot in the 'most isolated city in the world'.

Until a few weeks ago, if you had asked me about my feeling of connection with the feminist sf community the reply would have been limited at best. Apart from continually buying what books I can, and lurking on fem-sf , my connection was really only sustained by the broader sense of the 'grand conversation' that Timmi talks of - aided in no small measure by the wonderful texts Timmi and Aqueduct have made available (and they ship my goodies so quickly too!) Things changed over the easter weekend, when, for the first time in a long time, I attended our local sf convention, Swancon. (Yes despite our isolation, and the fact that Perth's population is only just over 1 million, we have a very healthy con that has been running over 30 years - this years GOH was Elizabeth Moon! and we've even had Lois!).

I'd missed the last few years due to very advanced pregnancy, then having a one year old, etc.. and the last few I had attended hadn't engaged me, as it seemed the feminist and women's content was diminishing. What I discovered this year was that it hadn't disappeared, it had just gone underground. A group of long term and younger fans were running a simultaneous 'gynaecon', which in good feminist fashion was running in the interstices of the con, in rooms and - deliberately calling on femmefannish history - being advertised by daily notes in the women's toilets (bathrooms). I couldn't make any of these panels (such as fat, feminism and fandom) but connected with some wonderful women, all of whom attended my 'paper'. It was meant to be a formal paper, but we ended up in a big circle (with babies and toddlers in the middle) talking about women, science, biology while I raved about the wonders of Gwyneth Jone's Life. Many of these women are also involved in running a 'femmecon' - a women only conference/retreat to talk about feminism and women's issues in general- later in the year.

Suddenly I feel revitalised! All the thing I read, research and write about, but rarely discuss with anyone (except close friend and sf writer Tess Williams, also in Perth) were important to people outside my little academic hideyhole. Even though I could have gotten into such discussions on various online forums, it has made a difference having local connections, and I'm not quite sure why. It could be the fact that so many feminist sf forums are predominantly American, or the fact that given my 'online load' at work I rarely want to spend 'fun time' online. But it can't quite be that, as I'm spending more time online now reading the local women's LJs... Perhaps it is just the pull of co-location and the potential for ftf meetings which supplement and enrich online communities.

In any case, I won't feel quite as sad and wistful this year when I read about wiscon (having only managed to attend one wiscon over 10 years ago now) and all the fun you'll be having. That's the trouble of living in the most isolated city ... it costs a lot to get anywhere else :-)

* see more of Horacek's wonderful cartoons - she has a new cartoon 'topic' every month. Get her books if you can - they are fabulous!

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