The WisCon Chronicles: Reading About the 2008 Con on the Heels of 2009

WisCon Chronicles Vol. 3I’ve been perusing The WisCon Chronicles Vol. 3: Carnival of Feminist SF as I try to adjust to my return to normal reality from the World of WisCon. This volume covers the 2008 WisCon. Aqueduct Press solicits articles for a volume after each WisCon and publishes it just in time for the next year’s con.

I have an essay in the book called “The End of Original Sin: A Meditation on Aikido, the Marq’ssan Cycle, and the Elemental Logic Series.” It was inspired by a panel Sue Lange and I both participated in at the 2008 WisCon on L. Timmel Duchamp’s five-book Marq’ssan Cycle.

I wrote it because I keep seeing parallels between Duchamp’s series and Laurie Marks’s Elemental Logic series, even though the Marq’ssan Cycle is near future science fiction, while Elemental Logic is fantasy. The stories were different, but both series set up what appear to be classic good versus evil scenarios, and then took entirely new approaches to resolving the conflict. In both series, characters reject traditional ways of dealing both with enemies and with the failings of their allies. After 23 years of Aikido, I couldn’t help reading basic Aikido principles into both books – hence the essay.

Interestingly, there is another essay in the book that applies those same principles in discussing a nasty incident in which a person took pictures of various con-goers and then posted them online with mocking commentary. The whole thing quickly got out of hand online, and a lot of WisCon participants are still angry. But in a particularly well-thought-out piece, Liz Henry and Debbie Notkin describe a response that – like the approach in the Duchamp and Marks books, and like the principles of Aikido – eschews the idea of revenge, but also advocates taking an active stand in dealing with such people.

I think they proved my point: that human beings are capable of learning to deal with conflict in more constructive ways. I am apparently not the only one thinking along these lines: Check out this xkcd cartoon for a creative (and funny) approach to dealing with trolls.

Many of the other pieces in the book are about actual panels and events at WisCon 32, including speeches by both guests of honor (Timmi Duchamp and Maureen McHugh) and reactions to those speeches. Just to give an idea of the range of WisCon: Timmi spoke on the importance of telling our own stories, regardless of whether the larger canon was willing to listen, while Maureen talked about writing alternate reality games.

Sue Lange did a piece in the book on “Women and Hard SF,” a follow up to the panel of the same name, on which she participated. She ends a discussion of various definitions of hard SF with this provocative observation: “In their hearts [marketers] define it as ‘boys with toys,’ yet claim the rigors of science just so they can call it hard sf. What they really want is space opera without women heroes.”

Otherwise, you can find everything in the book from a discussion of fanfic and slash to academic analyses of theoretical panels, from gaming to manga (and its many variations), from serious discussions of privilege and identity to equally serious discussions of elves and dwarves. As with WisCon itself, the Chronicles offers food for thought.

Which is, of course, the reason I go to WisCon in the first place.

By the way, Sylvia Kelso is editing the next volume of The WisCon Chronicles.

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Nancy Jane’s story this week is “Dreams of the Other.” Her collection Conscientious Inconsistencies is available from PS Publishing and her novella Changeling can be ordered from Aqueduct Press.

Check out Nancy Jane Moore’s Bookshelf for more stories.

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