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Notes From the Field: Sasquan 2015

Fandom 150The 73rd annual Worldcon was held this weekend in Spokane, WA at Sasquan 2015 and I showed up with a small posse of furry writers — Kyell Gold and my husband Ryan. It was an intense weekend; I met so many great writers and community members out there, made a few new friends, bought over a dozen books and attended panels that felt like revelations about the state of the sci-fi/fantasy fandom and my place in it. I’m still absorbing everything I’ve taken in through the convention — there are so many ideas I still have to take the time to understand properly and incorporate into my personal experience — but I wanted to talk about it here as soon as I could.

So, Worldcon works like this: it’s actually a bit of a roving convention, where different cities/conventions put in bids and those attending vote on the site that will get to host in two years. Spokane was chosen as the site for Worldcon in 2013; Kansas City (MidAmeriCon) was chosen in 2014 to host next year; and Helsinki, Finland won its bid to host in 2017 this year. I love this process, because it insures that Worldcon attendees are exposed to different flavors of fandom from year to year. Sasquan really went out of its way to highlight local fans and authors, and held panels on local myth and legends. Kansas City will do the same next year, I’m sure — and the guests of honor for Worldcon 75 feature active writers and artists based in Scandinavia and elsewhere in Europe.

This was my first Worldcon, and one of my first conventions in the broader sci-fi/fantasy space. The attendees were friendly, chatty, smart and open. I was pretty forthcoming about my fur, and most people didn’t seem to mind — a lot of folks personally knew furries and were totally cool about it. I know that furries have been roundly rejected by the SFF fandom before, but maybe it’s time for reconciliation; as long as we know how to take the temperature of the group we’re in and don’t shove folks into the deep end of the pool right away, I think most folks in the community are perfectly willing to accept our corner of it.

I got to meet so many wonderful people — established writers, up-and-comers, fans of all stripes and backgrounds. I wanted to give shout-outs to the folks who blew my mind especially, and who I’m really excited about reading more from now that the convention is over.

Ajani Brown is a professor at San Diego State University who gave a panel on Afro-Futurism in music and comics; his discussion on the basics and history of the movement just blew me away, and gave me a ton of places to look into so I can learn more about it. Mark Oshiro was the moderator of a “Visible Diversity in SF” panel and rocked my socks off — he talked about personal experiences with racism and homophobia, and offered insightful questions that kept the conversation productive and focused. Arthur Chu is a Jeopardy! champion that has used that experience to become a witty and wonderful voice in the fandom; he was also on the Diversity in SF panel. Cheryce Clayton is a Native American ghostwriter who has only recently started speaking about her work and experiences, and I’m so excited to see what else she comes out with.

Of course, one of the biggest highlights of the con was getting to hang out with Annie Bellet. Her short story “Goodnight Stars” was nominated for a Hugo, but she withdrew because her nomination had been corrupted by the Sad Puppies slate. She took a principled stand about the awards being about the work above all, and though her first experience with the Hugos was unquestionably sad, i have no doubt that she’ll be back in the mix. She’s just too good.

I got to meet Tananarive Due as well! She’s an amazing writer and so full of warmth and enthusiasm. She screened a short film called “Danger Word” at the convention, and talked at length about the vibrancy of short film in the SF/F space, the difficulties of putting something like this together, and the concept of “black horror” — thrilling tales that are rooted strongly in African-American culture, fears and concerns. There’s nothing really like that out there, but I’d love to imagine what it looks like or even take a crack at developing a story there. Another one for the pile, I suppose.

Jen Foehner Wells was another great friend to make! She’s been killing it on the self-publishing front, and listening to her talk about her craft and business was illuminating. She’s so smart, and focused, and intensely friendly! It’s really easy to love here and I can’t wait to read her book.

And finally, meeting Monica Villasenor was probably the best thing to happen all convention. She’s SO passionate, and our experiences and goals sync up so well. She was so amazing to talk to, and she has so many great ideas, and she’s so dedicated and hard-working. I’m just in love with her. I cannot WAIT to get to work on the goals we’ve set for ourselves through next Worldcon, and I am so looking forward to having a drink to celebrate our success in Kansas City next year.

There are so many great writers and fans out there, who are so passionate about what they love and so encouraging to others so they can pursue what they love. Coming out of Worldcon, I feel fully invested in the sci-fi/fantasy fandom, fully comfortable with my background in the furry fandom, and so excited to incorporate new and exciting ideas into my life and work.

There is so much more to read and learn, so much more to write and discuss, so much more to do. It’s just a matter of focusing the rocket fuel I’ve gathered over the weekend and making my calculations for the best trajectory. I have designs on where I want to be by Worldcon 2016, and a lot of work to do in order to get there.

 
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Posted by on August 24, 2015 in Better Living Through Stories, Reading, Writing

 

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Further Confusion 2013

Fandom 150The break that I had threatened earlier was a little longer than anticipated — sorry about that. The past couple of weeks have been a bit of a whirlwind for a number of reasons, and I’m just now getting to catch up with everything. There’ll be more about that in future blogs, I promise, but for now let’s talk about the reason I was away for so long — Further Confusion 2013! (Warning: A lot of these links will lead to places that acknowledge sex and alternate sexualities.)

For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, Further Confusion is a fantasy convention centered around anthropomorphics (“furries“) and its various interests. You can find people there who are into cartoons, sci-fi/fantasy novels, spiritual studies (totemism, etc), music, zoology and all kinds of things. Furry is an umbrella group that can accept a multitude of roads into its borders, and that’s what makes it so cool.

I was there along with my husband Ryan; our primary interest/niche in the fandom is writing, and it’s a great time to be a furry writer. The community is growing and maturing in really neat ways, and we’re finding niches being filled in our little ‘ecosystem’. There’s something for everyone, and a lot of our writers are trying to find ways to make a living doing what they love by non-traditional means.

There were a number of authors there to read from their work. Mary Lowd had a whole panel to herself, to read from her work. Kyell Gold held a panel to read from his latest novel, Divisions. Sofawolf Press — one of the biggest publishers of furry literature — offered a sampling of readings from three works that will be coming out in the future. One of them was from Ryan, who’ll be publishing a novel trilogy about a tribe of men and their relationship with the gods around them in mythic Africa. It’s a very impressive work, and I’m immensely proud of him for it.

I attended another reading from FurPlanet Press, a great publisher that’s looking forward to an impressive year. Watts Martin read from his novella, Indigo Rain, and another friend Kevin Frane read from his new novel Summerhill. Graveyard Greg read from his alt-universe novella Carpe Mortis as well. The stories I heard this weekend run the gamut from gay slice-of-life to epic fantasy to post-modern sci-fi weirdness to action thriller to traditional fable. And they’re all good!

A bunch of local folks put together a jazz band that held (I think) their first concert on Friday afternoon. I thought I would zip in for a little bit, but ended up staying for the whole thing. I was pleasantly surprised by how well they played together, how much energy and passion they had. It was easily one of the highlights of the convention — I really hope the Super Pack Jazz Ensemble puts in a return appearance next year.

Conventions like this one are really inspiring. I get to see a host of the friends I’ve made over the years, catch up on what they’ve been doing, and meet new friends who have a wealth of different experiences. Almost everyone you meet honors their creativity in some way or another — through drawing, writing, performing, crafting, DJing, coding, collaborating. There are leather-workers, button-makers, hypnotists, costume designers, and artists of every stripe. It’s hard to come away from the convention without being proud of this wonderful fandom and all the great people who make it up. And it makes you want to rise to the challenge of contributing to it in a meaningful, positive way.

So that’s where I am, and where I’ve been. While running around being inspired and meeting an entire crush of people, though, I’ve fallen behind on my own creative projects — quite seriously so. That’s all right. It’s a learning experience, and I think I’m in very good shape to press ahead with my writing.

Kotaku did a very nice piece on Further Confusion, by the way, if you’re interested in knowing more about it. A lot of the media coverage about furries is less than kind, but this one is fairly even-handed, if a bit bemused about our existence. Of course, if you have any questions, feel free to ask. I’ll be as open and honest as possible.

 
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Posted by on January 28, 2013 in Furries, Self-Reflection

 

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