Last weekend a quintet of Book View Cafe members descended on the Friends of the Genre Convention (FOGcon), a literary-themed science fiction and fantasy convention in the San Francisco Bay Area. We read, opined on panels, hung out in the bar, networked, and just plain had good conversations with other writers and wonderful readers.
In addition to me, the BVC contingent was made up of Madeleine Robins, David D. Levine, Dave Smeds, and Chaz Brenchley. I can’t speak for everybody, but I certainly had a good time — so good a time that I came home completely exhausted despite eschewing late night parties.
I wasn’t able to go to Madeleine’s reading because I was doing a panel at the same time (the story of my convention life), but I got to listen to Chaz read from his latest BVC book, Dispossession, and David Levine perform his mad scientist’s “Letter to the Editor.” Both were great fun to listen to.
As usual, some of the most entertaining things weren’t part of the convention schedule.
For example, on Friday night, myself, Dave Smeds, and another writer/martial artist, Cliff Winnig, probably bored the pants off guest of honor Terry Bisson by going on and on about the whys and wherefores of studying martial arts. Terry professed to be interested, but I fear he was just being polite. The trouble with martial artists is that once we get started on the subject, it’s hard to get us to change course.
I did do the self defense presentation mentioned in last week’s post. One audience member made a point I’d never thought of: she said she’d improved her ability to pay attention to her surroundings by playing World of Warcraft, because if she didn’t pay attention in the game, her character would die. Video games as a means of learning self defense hadn’t occurred to me, but it sounds like a reasonable argument in their favor.
I was also on a panel called “Where Do I Hold My Virtual Sit-in,” which turned out to be a thoughtful discussion of effective protest. Denial of service attacks, such as those done by the hacker group Anonymous, came in for a lot of discussion, with several panelists and audience members criticizing the use of a technique that inconveniences and even harms people who are not the target of the protest.
We also talked about the value of an open Internet, where misbehavior or injustice can go viral, leading to pressure on those responsible and possible change. (We’ve seen some of that this week when criticism of the absurd Random House Hydra contract led to modifications of that deal.) Social media is clearly very useful in organizing opposition to an action.
But I came to the conclusion that while the tools have changed, the core nature of protest and demonstration hasn’t. It’s still effective to put human bodies in front of those setting policies that affect them — a point made by panel member Guy Thomas, who once organized disability rights protests involving lots of people in wheelchairs.
FOGcon is a small and young event — this was its third year — but it lives up to its billing of being “in the tradition of WisCon.” I ran into good conversations both during the panels and talking to people in the halls, consuite, parties, and bar. I hope to go back next year.