Saturday, June 6, 2015

Wiscon Highlights

Wiscon was two weeks ago already? Goodness The preparations for/attending of/recuperating from that fantastic event has thrown off my Positron updates. Apologies.

But what a wonderful conference! First off, thanks and congrats to Jason Robertson (Chi-SF) & John Lodder (Think Galactic), fellow presenters on the "Ideas in Different Blood: Cognitive Diversity in SF/F" panel that I originally proposed through this blog. The panel went really well, and we got a lot of great questions (over the course of the con, actually). We'll be posting versions of the talks here shortly.

Other things! I really enjoyed the panel programming this year, particularly how strong on science a lot of the ones I attended were--a number of practising scientist-panelists brought great real-world examples, explanations, and critiques to panels on gender, language, and climate change. I meant to grab more online handles, but see for instance concom member & climate scientist Jacquelyn Gill's blog (the Contemplative Mammoth) & twitter.

Climate change and environmental issues were a major theme throughout the Con, partly due to the influence of the guests of honor. I will keep my electronic eyes out for a transcript of Kim Stanley Robinson's speech--seriously inspiring stuff about the intersection of ecological action and social justice. Alaya Dawn Johnson's speech was pretty great, as well--seems to be a theme. Hoping both of those will be available online at some point.

There was one thing that bothered me at Wiscon, which was the lack of diverse viewpoints and critical engagement with the questions at two different "religion & SF/F" panels I attended--some pretty offensive characterization and ignorance of atheists (mostly in the vein of "atheism is a religion") coupled with a lack of free/skeptical questions about some really problematic ideas related to religion and science. There were actually three panels in total, but I decided to stop going to things with the goal of raising my blood pressure. I brought the issue up in the post-con survey (which you should take if you went), and talked/thought about it a lot over the rest of the weekend.

I'm thinking of suggesting some kind of panel or round-table about freethinkers and SF/F. Not entirely sure where to go with that, but I'll be pondering it.

By the way, if you have an idea for a panel, suggest it through the Wiscon site!

I went to a large percentage of the panels on the academic track, and got a lot out of those--wasn't sure what to expect, since my only other experience of Wiscon was last year when they hosted the SFRA, and it wound up being really solid. I'm intrigued to see where it goes next year--I went to a panel on possible changes and improvements to the academic track, and there were a lot of good ideas. I'm hoping to see more independent scholars, and more non-academic fans taking a more scholarly approach. The academic panels were my favorite programming by far for the weekend, because I love getting critical, in-depth ideas, and long reading lists, from people who have spent some serious time and thought on the subject.

The best part of Wiscon, though, was just getting to hang out with folks. That's a new thing for me--meeting other SF/F fans in any number and in person, and the inspiration for starting this site. That Wiscon provides such a remarkably inclusive and egalitarian environment for that is reason enough to go, and I can't wait for next year.

Look for a few more Wiscon related posts and lists as I catch up on the backlog. Thanks for reading.

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