Saturday, August 22, 2009
The WisCon Chronicles
AsIf: Australian Specfic in Focus has a lengthy, thoughtful review of the first three volumes of the WisCon Chronicles, by Tansy Rayner Roberts. Near the beginning of her review, she writes
The quintessential 'Wiscon feminist' perspective that emerges from these books is one of questions. No answers, just more questions upon questions. How do we become more inclusive of a variety of Wiscon attendees without losing our identity as a feminist space? How do we discuss race/gender/sexuality/disability without resorting to Default Perspective? How do we as humans get better at having these conversations?
As a complete outsider, albeit one who has a strong interest in feminist discussions, fannish history and obscure science fiction recommendations, I found the volumes compulsively readable.
Roberts then gives due consideration to each volume. She concludes:
What I admire most about these Wiscon Chronicles is not just the collection of intelligent thought, and the best example of documenting the convention experience I have ever seen, but the acknowledgement of the bad parts as well as the good - the exposure of privilege, of negative as well as positive reactions to the discussions, and the willingness to shine a bright torch on all the grey areas, for the purpose of greater and more constructive conversation. I particularly liked that this was a space in which women, people of colour and others who are not normally encouraged to display their perfectly reasonable anger or frustration, were able to do so here without 200 blog comments from people telling them that they could get more done if they were just a bit calmer about it. They don't have to speak in reduced voices here - and funnily enough, their opinions still manage to come out perfectly lucidly.
The overall message that the Wiscon Chronicles gave me about the people behind the convention (not necessarily the committee of a particular year, but the people who regularly participate in the con one way or another) is 'we're not perfect, we're never going to please everyone, but we're trying, and we want to listen to you so we can do a better job next time'. In a world where SF conventions more and more are about spin and press releases, it's so refreshing to see a group of people who are willing to admit to being people and who are more interested in finding ways to have better, deeper, more productive discussions than they are in defending traditional behaviour, or 'right vs wrong'. This is Wiscon, warts and all, and that's what makes the books so very crunchy. There are some damned smart people in these pages, and it's worth listening to what they have to say, especially when they disagree with each other.
But do read the whole review!