Pan Morigan and I have hit the road with my new novel, Redwood and Wildfire and her new CD, Wild Blue!
Or really, we took to the skies on a jumbo jet to do the old fashioned, bring-it-to-the-people, live-artist-thing!
We flew down to the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts (ICFA) last week…a glorious conference in Orlando, Florida home of the MOUSE with great people, great conversations, meaty panels, and moving readings.
ICFA’s focus this year was the fantastic ridiculous. I was guest scholar, receiving a lifetime achievement award for my scholarly writing on SF&F. My guest scholar talk for a lively crowd of four hundred academics, writers, graduate students, fans, and critics was on satire. I used playwright Tess Onwueme and the collective performative power of Igbo women in pre-colonial Nigeria as a frame to discuss District Nine. Pre-colonial Igbo women “sat on men” if they were greedy, foolish, or a danger to the community. With the grand style of griot praise singers, the women sang and danced, hounding men with parodies day and night if they refused to listen to reason. This was “women’s war” or ogu ndem in Igbo. The paper will be published next year in the Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts.
The other guests of honor at ICFA were Connie Willis and Terry Bisson. We three were a fierce, funny crew, clowns dancing with danger, crossing the line, sharing vulnerable humanity—definitely not absurdists despairing about the meaningless of pathetic human existence. We did a panel together on the ridiculous. Andie Duncan moderated. He brought a wind-up stuffed raccoon who played jazz harmonica—just to keep us on our toes. Connie declared that we (human beings) were all imperfect “fools” and comedy allows us to appreciate our flawed human nature. I agreed. Comic writers offer up sacred fools, who trip and stumble through life, but get up again, thrilled to be alive, thrilled to make the meaning we desire, thrilled to share the stumbling and the meaning with others.
Besides panels and papers, ICFA offered many inspiring readings—Nisi Shawl read from her Belgian Congo steampunk novel-in-progress and stunned us by riffing on history that might have been. Eileen Gunn had us laughing and groaning at Twitter sex. Terry Bisson had meat on the brain! Nalo Hopkinson’s characters were dressing their spirits and tight rope walking on the gender divide.
Pan and I did a performance/reading of Redwood and Wildfire with songs from her Al Wild Blue. The audience went wild with applause. People were moved and ran right out and bought the book! I'm not kidding.
Orlando was a revelation. The salt water pool was divine. The palm trees swayed in gentle breezes—a perfect seventy five degrees. Ibises soared above lazy alligators. March is paradise in Florida. Massachusetts welcomed us home with a wintry mix. So, I finally get the Florida thing! The heady exchanges and intense discussions were so much easier to absorb having shed my boots and fleece jackets.
Talking to several younger women graduate student/professor/scholars from Iowa was one of the high points of the weekend. Despite (too) much evidence to the contrary, many of their students hold fast to the view that we have indeed reached the promised land! WOMEN don’t need feminism any more since they/we are all equal now! Sexism was back then, OLD HISTORY, it’s definitely not here and now. We’re all “the guys” now—someone said in support of the “we’re all equal now.” All of us being “the guys” is not progress! Maybe if we were all “the chicks,” I could get with it! This is such an old, exasperating refrain, it’s enough to drive you to screaming and cussing. Each generation, so much energy goes into fighting the same battles (or almost the same battles)! The persistence of the old regime is magical.
To quote Paul Éluard, the French surrealist poet:
“There is another world, and it is in this one.”We need potent magic to make the invisible visible.
So what was hopeful was the young women scholars’ fierce commitment to do just that. They insist on feminism. They refuse the ideological fantasy that we’ve arrived at that promised land. These young women are forging ahead—prophetic scholars, speaking the words we need to hear, asking the questions that clear away the bullshit, chanting the future I’d like to see, and inviting everyone to make it up as we go along!
Hitting the road and hearing their voices is quite a treat.
Glad to have Redwood and Wildfire and Wild Blue to offer them.