Category Archives: Official Announcements

CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS — WisCon invites scholars to submit proposals FOR WisCon 43 Academic Track

One of the things that sets WisCon apart, besides being the first feminist science fiction convention, is that we place many types of fannish interactions side-by-side in our programming. We have panels dedicated to exploring a single book or film as well as panels that look at, say, race across all of science fiction. We have author readings, discussions of fanfic or fanvids, and conversations about games and gaming.

We also have an entire track dedicated to scholarly investigations of feminism and science fiction — open to scholars of all descriptions.

The proposal period for WisCon’s academic track programming is now open!

WisCon’s track of academic programming, framed by the convention’s intersectional feminist principles, encourages submissions from scholars in all fields, including interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary areas, and from amateur and independent scholars as well as graduate students, postdocs, and faculty. One of the benefits of this track is that it strengthens the links between the wider feminist science fiction community, students and other scholars working on feminist science fiction, speculative fiction, fantasy and related fields.

Given our current political moment we invite papers and panels that explore the theme, echoing that from the National Women’s Studies Association Annual Conference 2018: “Feminist visions of freedom, dream making and the radical politics of futures. What are the meanings, histories, and cultures of “freedom?” How is freedom lived/embodied without becoming a buzzword? And how does this shape feminisms’ relationship to speculative genres (scifi, fantasy, horror, and beyond) both past and present? This theme is an opportunity both for work that deals specifically with social and cultural questions about the radical politics of futures as they relate to feminist science fiction and for work on the histories and dream making of freedom-oriented fan communities.

Further, we invite proposals from anyone with a scholarly interest in the intersections of gender, gender identity, sexuality, race, class, and disability with science fiction — broadly defined — in literature, media, and culture. We encourage contributions that emphasize WisCon’s focus on how science fiction has played an important role in the exploration and creation of socially just futures: futures where people of all colors and backgrounds flourish, where women’s rights and women’s contributions are valued, where gender is not limited to one of two options, where no one is erased out of convenience, hidden discrimination, or outright bigotry. We especially welcome scholarship on the work of 2019’s Guests of Honor G. Willow Wilson and Charlie Jane Anders

An incomplete list of possible subjects:

  • What are the meanings, histories, and cultures of “freedom?” How is freedom lived/embodied without becoming a buzzword? And how does this shape feminisms’ relationship to speculative genres (scifi, fantasy, horror, and beyond) both past and present?
  • Gender, gender identity, sexuality, race, class, and disability in individual works of science fiction and fantasy, especially in the works of our Guests of Honor, G. Willow Wilson and Charlie Jane Anders
  • Feminist, queer, critical race, and critical disability analysis of science fiction and fantasy in media (film, television, music, video games, online culture)
  • Speculative aspects of feminist and social justice movements
  • Race, colonialism, and speculative fiction; Indigenous Futurism, Afrofuturism and related cultural movements
  • Feminist pedagogy and speculative fiction in the classroom

An incomplete list of possible formats:

  • 15-minute paper presentations, with or without visual accompaniment
  • Groups of presentations submitted together as panels
  • Presentation of scholarly creative works, including digital scholarship
  • Discussion-based panels and roundtables on scholarly research, teaching, or service
  • Screenings and discussions of short films or videos

The deadline for submitting an abstract for WisCon 43 is midnight Central Time on February 14, 2019.

Please submit your proposal using this form (wiscon.net site profile is required). You will be asked for a 100-word abstract, which will be printed in the convention’s program, and for a more detailed proposal of up to 500 words. If you are proposing something other than a traditional paper, please make sure you describe the format of your proposed program item. A projector and screen will be available; if you have further technological needs, please let us know in your proposal.

If you have questions, please email: academic@wiscon.net

AAT Public Statement on “Killable Bodies” Panel

This is a follow-up post from WisCon’s Anti-Abuse Team on the “Killable Bodies in F&SF” panel.

We have begun the process of working through the aftermath of this panel and its fallout. We have read the formal reports (15 made at the convention and more in its aftermath) and public comments, and we are continuing our discussions with the people who were involved. At this time, we have not yet reached any decisions, but as information circulates about what happened, we do have some clarifications to make.

First, we would like to clarify the process by which a member of WisCon may be banned from the convention. During the convention, the Safety team collects reports and provides support to WisCon members who experience difficulties of any kind, from trip hazards in the hallways to cases of abuse and harassment. When serious issues arise, Safety brings them to the convention Chairs, who are the only ones who have the authority to make at-con decisions about disciplinary action. Once the convention is over, the Anti-Abuse Team (AAT) – a larger group with a slower deliberative process that operates according to transformative justice principles – takes over and discusses issues that were not fully resolved at the convention.

WisCon’s processes are constantly evolving. The AAT also takes the lead on designing and implementing new guidelines where they prove necessary. We have read and listened to many criticisms about the way WisCon handled this case. We hear that many in the community were uncomfortable that a public post was made before the individual in question had been contacted. We understand why WisCon’s chairs made the decision that they did in making this post, but we agree that this process was not ideal. As part of our work in reviewing this case, we are developing a framework to follow for contentious, time-sensitive cases such as this one, and we hope that our updated frameworks will help us make better decisions in the future.

Questions have been raised about the panel’s planning and composition, so we would like to briefly describe our panelist selection process. Anyone can submit a panel suggestion to WisCon; these suggestions do not have to be fully fleshed out and can be a broad idea. Panel Program staff goes through these suggestions and wrangles them into a list of proposed programming. That list is then sent out to WisCon attendees to mark their interest in panels. At this stage, attendees can also mark whether they would like to be on the panel as a panelist or a moderator. The Panel Programs team then assigns people to panels based on the availability and interest of those who have volunteered to participate. While WisCon does its best to vet and balance panelists, sometimes a panel composition ends up not being ideal, or panelists find themselves in conflict as the discussion goes on.

Our Code of Conduct affirms respectful disagreement and the discussion of controversial ideas while disallowing comments that harmfully reinforce structures of oppression. A fast-moving convention can be a complex landscape to navigate; WisCon makes decisions based on members’ reports of harm. In terms of what was said at the panel itself, it is clear from the many reports that audience members and panel participants felt that distressing and harmful statements were made. Safety acted promptly to provide support, and the Chairs acted to minimize future harm. While we may have changes to suggest about the details of the process, we support the at-con team’s responsive attention to the safety of WisCon’s members.

It is also clear that perceptions from those who attended the panel vary significantly. We would first like to apologize for the wording in the initial public post that may have mischaracterized the panelist’s background and what happened at the panel. We have not completed our investigation, but at this preliminary stage, we can state that this was not a case of an outright Nazi sympathizer or alt-right infiltrator at WisCon, but rather a case of a conversation going badly awry amid deeply fraught political and emotional territory. There does not seem to have been any intent to promote Nazi ideology.

However, we also want to note that intent cannot always prevent harm, especially within a social context in which support for unconscionable acts has become normalized. A speaker might assume that everyone in the audience knows that they condemn bigoted violence. However, antisemitism, white supremacy, and Islamophobic and anti-immigrant violence are at high levels under the current US administration and continue to rise. Without an explicit condemnation, it can be unclear whether a speaker is seeking to understand how these ideologies come about and why people promote them, or whether a speaker is tacitly promoting apologism for such ideologies.

Finally, we wish to clarify that WisCon does not make decisions about who may attend the convention based on identifying politically reprehensible individuals. We focus on specific behaviors and their effects, and we are interested in whether someone is willing to acknowledge that something they did or said caused harm regardless of intent, to apologize where necessary, and to work toward avoiding future harm by making changes––whether those be in the form of concrete actions or of learning to better understand others’ perspectives.

We thank the WisCon community for its patience with our deliberations. If you would like to get in touch to share information or ask further questions, you can contact us at antiabuse at wiscon.net.

Announcing our WisCon 43 Guests of Honor — G. Willow Wilson & Charlie Jane Anders

We are overjoyed to introduce our Guests of Honor for WisCon 43!

G. Willow Wilson

G. Willow Wilson lives in both Egypt and the United States. She is the author of two books, five graphic novels and two comic book series, including her first novel, Alif the Unseen, and the comic book series Ms. Marvel. Her memoir about life in Egypt during the waning years of the Mubarak regime, The Butterfly Mosque, has served as a common read for communities and campuses across the country.

Charlie Jane Anders

Charlie Jane Anders is the author of The City in the Middle of the Night, plus an upcoming young-adult trilogy. Her novel All the Birds in the Sky won the Nebula, Crawford and Locus awards, and her short story “Six Months, Three Days” won a Hugo. She’s also published a novella, Rock Manning Goes For Broke, and a story collection called Six Months, Three Days, Five Others. She was a founding editor of io9.com, and organizes the monthly Writers With Drinks reading series.

A note about this year’s Tiptree celebrations

This is a guest post from the Tiptree Motherboard. We thank WisCon for kindly allowing us to post this here.

It has come to our attention that our introduction and celebratory song & materials for Tiptree Award winning book Who Runs the World / The XY by Virginia Bergin contained language that suggested the novel portrays a trans-exclusionary view of gender. We want to apologize unreservedly for any harm this caused to audience members. While Bergin’s novel was exciting to the jury because of what they believe to be its trans-inclusive, non-essentialist approach to a trope that has often relied on a dangerously reductive understanding of gender, we also now recognize that the invocation of the trope can in itself be harmful.

Since the ceremony, the Tiptree Motherboard has spent time discussing what we can do to make sure a similar situation does not arise again. We have set in place a policy for vetting of future Tiptree songs and materials prior to public announcement, and we have reaffirmed our commitment to making sure each Tiptree Award jury incorporates a variety of backgrounds and perspectives. We also recognize that no oppressed community is a monolith and that any representative marginalized community member’s reaction, opinion and experience differs from another’s, and as such we need to be careful to include multiple marginalized perspectives in all aspects of the Tiptree organization, including the development and approval of celebratory materials for the winning work. This discussion is ongoing, and we welcome suggestions and recommendations.

We would like to offer a little background on the award and the book for those who may wish to understand how it came to be selected. The Tiptree Award is selected by a jury of five people. The Motherboard selects the jury members, then gives them a free hand both to choose the winner and to interpret the Award’s remit to “expand and explore our understanding of gender.” Bergin’s novel was chosen by Alexis Lothian (chair), E.J. Fischer, Kazue Harada, Cheryl Morgan, and Julia Starkey along with a 9-item honor list and 26-item long list that you can read about here.

2017 Juror Cheryl Morgan, who was unable to travel to WisCon, wrote a review that offers her perspective as a trans woman on the novel. This review was posted shortly after the winner was announced in March. With her permission, we are linking it here so that readers can gain a sense of how the novel’s gender politics was understood by the jury. You can read the original here.

Note that this review contains major spoilers for key plot points in Who Runs the World / The XY.

Ah, another XY plague book. What a tired old trope. And it is YA as well, so presumably the politics will be very simplistic. Yes, I am as susceptible to unconscious bias as anyone else. But in this particular case I had the pleasure of meeting Virginia Bergin and talking to her about the book before reading it. On the basis of that chat I decided to give it a try. I am so very glad I did.

An XY plague is, of course, a plague that wipes out everyone with a Y chromosome, while leaving those with only X chromosomes untouched. It is a staple of feminist separatist fantasy; let’s get rid of all of the men, and then we will have a utopia.

Of course an XY plague will kill a bunch of intersex women as well, not to mention almost all trans women. That’s another reason why hardline separatists love the idea. If you cling to the biological essentialist idea that XX = good, XY = evil, then of course you are going to be excited by such a concept.
This, however, is science fiction. Disasters that wipe out much of mankind don’t happen simply for revenge, or at least they should not do. They happen because that allows us to imagine significant changes to human society that could perhaps not occur in any other way. And they allow us to interrogate the results of such changes.

At first sight the setting for Who Runs the World is indeed a feminist utopia. Life is idyllic for young women like our heroine, River. She has a safe and supportive home. She’s well educated. She loves aircraft and dreams of one day flying and designing them. As she’s smart and well connected she will doubtless go to university and gain the skills necessary to do so. And she is also expecting to marry her best friend and one day raise a family with her.

River’s world is blessedly free of men. She’s never seen one, but her school work has taught her all about the terrible things they did. Her world is better off without them.

Utopias, however, are generally only pleasant on the surface. Peer beneath that and you start to see the cracks.

One way of introducing such cracks might have been to make the book about trans people. Bergin chose not to do that, at least in part because she felt that she didn’t know enough to get it right. A wise writer does not choose to plunge into waters she doesn’t know how to swim in.

So instead Bergin makes the book about biological essentialism. That, as it happens, is a cornerstone of anti-trans ideology. As a result, the book is all about trans people, even though it barely mentions them.

Our story begins when River, traveling home alone because in her world it is safe to do so, encounters a strange animal. It is clearly sick, and rather violent, but it is nothing she can’t cope with so she takes it home to see if it can be nursed back to health.

That animal turns out to be something called a “boy”.
And thus the cracks in River’s idyllic life begin to appear. They show up thanks to the multi-generational cast. Simplistically, women in River’s world come in three types: young women like her; mothers; and grandmothers.

The mothers are the generation of women who inherited the world after recovery from the economic collapse caused by the plague. They now run everything from business to politics to the military. Most of them have never met a man, but they know what awful things men are capable of and know what a mess of a world they inherited.

The grandmothers are women who, in their teens or twenties, lived through the plague. They saw their boyfriends and husbands die in their arms. They gave up their boy babies to government hospitals in the desperate hope that a cure would be found and they would one day see them again. That day never came.

Until now. Because River has brought home a teenage boy called Mason. He’s alive out in the world, which should not be possible. The grandmothers are suspicious, and they want to keep this miracle boy.

Slowly but surely the underpinnings of River’s world are revealed. Unlike many separatist societies, this one does not benefit from parthenogenesis. If the women want children they need sperm. There is only one way to get that, and very few sources. Human sperm has become one of the most valuable commodities on the planet, and the UK is a world leader in its production. River’s idyllic home life is based squarely on economic exploitation of this important resource.

The men who survived the plague, and those boys who have been bred since, are kept in “sanctuaries”. Ostensibly this is because they would contract the plague and die if let out; and because men are violent and dangerous and should not be permitted to roam freely in the women’s world.

Inside the sanctuaries the men are groomed to be exactly the violent, misogynistic monsters the public is told that they are, in the belief that this will make them better producers of sperm. It is all about the best quality product, after all, and there are marketing narratives to be fulfilled.

Mason’s arrival in River’s community gives the lie to the official government line on men. If he’s violent, it is because he’s terrified having been fed stories of what awful creatures women are. Treated kindly, he’s perfectly capable of responding in a similar vein. But the government wants him killed before the story can spread. If River and the grandmothers want to keep Mason they will have to fight for him. River decides to do that using the only weapons open to her: transparency and democracy.

So what we have here is book that strikes right at the heart of TERF ideology. Having a Y chromosome does not automatically make you a violent monster. People who say it does are probably using that story to cover up some ulterior motive. Also, having a feminist, separatist society does not make you free of the temptations of power politics and capitalism. Given the chance, matriarchy can quite unpleasant in its own way.

Many current arguments against trans rights, especially in the UK, are based squarely on the idea that anyone with a Y chromosome is automatically violent and dangerous; probably a rapist. It is biological nonsense, but a very powerful narrative that men have done a lot to bolster because it helps keep women cowed. Having a book that strikes directly at that idea, and asks us to consider how we might build a society that men, women and all other genders share in equally, seems to me like perfect timing. I’m glad it turned up in my year on the Tiptree jury.

Wiscon’s 2nd Annual Drabble Challenge!

THAT’S RIGHT. IT’S BACK!

It’s time for the Second Annual WisCon Drabble Challenge!  Last year, we opened the Drabble Challenge to all WisCon Members, and this year we’re starting a new collection!  What the heck does this mean? How can you participate? I’m glad you asked!

In the fanfic world, the word “drabble” has at times been applied to a work of any length, provided it is very short. More traditionally, “drabble” is a term that designates a work of fanfiction that is precisely 100 words long. [See Fanlore: https://fanlore.org/wiki/Drabble ].

For the WisCon FanFic Drabble Challenge, we accept works that are 100-250 words long, from any fandom. (Though, the challenge would be to create a work that’s exactly 100 words long – bonus points toward your No Prize if you can manage this!) These will be collected and included in a collection on the Archive of Our Own.

Eligible works will be those that meet the following parameters:

  • Fanfiction based in any fandom
  • 100 – 250 words
    • You may also have a title that’s up to 15 words long
  • Written during WisCon weekend
    • The challenge is open from Friday through close of con on Monday

Works can be submitted directly through AO3:

Works can also be submitted to moderator Jess Adams by email at drabbles@wiscon.net.

If submitting by email, be sure to include:

  • Your name OR desired pseudonym
  • A means of contact (email address, twitter handle, etc)
  • Name of fandom work is under
  • Ratings and relevant warnings (If necessary, the moderator will apply a rating/warning.)

Easier Choices: Opening Ceremonies!

So sometimes we can be a little slow to notice obvious solutions. It happens when you are 42, okay?

Over the past few years, a lot of folks coming to WisCon for the first time had a choice to make:

  • Attend Opening Ceremonies, which we strongly recommend to anyone who is new, since you learn all about the convention there!

OR

  • Attend the First Timers’ Dinner, which we strongly recommend to anyone who is new, since you learn all about the convention there!

BECAUSE

…those two things happened at the same time.

No more! Opening Ceremonies was once a combination of entertainments and information, but as more and more of our members found themselves being pulled in different directions Friday evening, we found that the core purposes were to emphasize our policies and to invite the Tiptree Motherboard to crown this year’s winner. In fact, the last several years, that’s been the whole of Opening Ceremonies.

This year, we believe we have found a better way: we’ve combined the Opening Ceremonies with the Gathering. In practice, that means that we’ll be talking with people about WisCon, our policies, and tips & tricks to get the most out of your convention at the Gathering itself! We’ll have folks answering questions and welcoming you at the table with the coffee, tea, and punch. You know, the place at the Gathering that everyone visits!

The Gathering activities will wrap up around 3:50pm, and we’ll close the Gathering and open WisCon 42 by paying tribute to the late Ursula K Le Guin, and then crowning the winner of the Tiptree Award! (Then cake on the sixth floor, but that’s a different topic.)

Voila! Now you can attend both the Opening Ceremonies AND the First WisCon Dinner — or the POC Dinner — or just dinner with your pals — without strife!

If only we could solve all of WisCon’s schedule conflicts so easily…

WisCon’s Thursday Night Shuttle

TL;DR: 4:30pm to 8:00pm Accessible Shuttle to and from Room of One’s Own!

WisCon is just days away, and we’re darned excited to see you all! For those of you who will be in Madison on Thursday night, we kick off the long weekend with an intimate reception and reading at Room of One’s Own Bookstore with our Guests of Honor, Saladin Ahmed and Tananarive Due. Room of One’s Own is a few blocks away from the Concourse Hotel, our main venue, so WisCon offers a complimentary accessible shuttle to and from the bookstore. Shuttles will start running to Room of One’s Own at 4:30 pm, and will be making trips back to the Concourse as late as 8:00 pm. This is an as-needed shuttle, so as seats fill up and/or passengers get antsy, the shuttle will depart to its destination. You may wait for the shuttle at the Concourse on Wisconsin Avenue, alongside the east side of the hotel, and the shuttle back to the hotel will pick up right across the street from the entrance to Room of One’s Own (the street is one-way, so that is the sidewalk side). The vehicle, operated by Badger Bus, is a large van that is white with red lettering and a Bucky Badger mascot decal. It can fit 2 passengers using wheelchairs, and 6 passengers not, per trip. Tips aren’t necessary for the driver, but are always welcome. (WisCon will be compensating the driver, as well.) Room of One’s Own Bookstore is accessible by sidewalks and curb cuts, if you’d like to head over on your own time.

We look forward to this weekend! Safe travels!

Seeking Hungry Extroverts

Are you interested in meeting people and welcoming new folks to WisCon? Do you eat dinner? Sometimes in restaurants? 

We have JUST THE JOB FOR YOU! 

Every WisCon, on Friday night after the Gathering closes down and the first round of panels is complete, we hold an informal meet & greet over a meal at one of Madison’s nearby restaurants. 

We specifically invite everyone who is new to the convention to join us in the Concourse Hotel Lobby between 5:15 and 5:30pm. That’s where you (someone who knows the ropes) come in: we’ll provide you with a sign that you will write the name and/or description of a restaurant on, and you can raise that to attract a group of 6 or more people who you will then lead away for dinner and conversation. You’ll be like the pied piper, but MUCH LESS MALEVOLENT. (Seriously, malevolence is against our code of conduct, please avoid it.) 

How do you pick a restaurant? A hint: if you volunteer now you can call dibs on your favorite. 🙂 We can’t ALL go to Short Stack. And we won’t all fit at Himal Chuli. (NB: I’m not leading a group, so those two are still up for grabs.) Everyone is responsible for the price of their own meal, so we want to be sure that we have at least one place that’s very affordable, at least one that’s vegan-friendly, at least one that has plentiful gluten-free options…you get the idea. 

While the First WisCon Dinner is aimed at people who are new to the con, it’s best when there are people other than the leaders who have been coming for a few years in each group as well. Everyone can expand their circle of WisCon friends by participating! Also I hear a lot of new restaurants have opened in Madison in the past year. It’s the perfect excuse to check them out.

 Email welcome@wiscon.net to volunteer in advance, or come to the Concourse lobby Friday afternoon and take your chances if you like to procrastinate!

Let’s get ready to GATHERRRRRRRRRR!!!!

Is everyone getting excited for WisCon? Because I sure am. This year we’re opening the convention* the traditional way: with the Gathering!

Editing to add: this year the Gathering is very generously sponsored by JoSelle Vanderhooft. She’s an amazing editor, writing coach, and writing teacher who also offers critiques as part of our Workshops. Check out her online resume and portfolio at www.joedits.com. Thank you, JoSelle!

If you don’t know it, the Gathering is just what it sounds like, and so very much more. Join us 1-4pm Friday in the big second floor ballroom to meet people, knit and crochet, get your tarot read, play with gadgets, pick up some new (to you) nail polish, learn to grind and mix curry powder, and other diversions.

If you’re new to WisCon, we’ve got friendly folks ready to answer your questions, connect you with resources, and take you on tours. They’ll be hanging out by the refreshments, so come grab a complimentary coffee, tea, or fruit punch and let us tell you all about what’s new and what hidden gems the con has to offer. If you’ve been coming for years, stop by and tell us what you wish you’d known earlier!

In case you were worried, our Clothing Swap is back this year! We’re in search of at least two more people who love recommending clothes and giving opinions about what would look great on folks — but who also are willing to hang, sort, and set out the clothes that members bring in to gift to each other. Interested? Give us a holler at chair@wiscon.net and we’ll make sure you get first crack at the treasures.

We call it a “swap”, but you don’t have to bring clothes in order to take some away — in fact, every year we have far more left over than we can handle! If you are bringing clothes, please make sure they are treasures rather than castoffs. The perfect Clothing Swap donation is something you’re parting with because it needs to be worn, not because it’s worn out! We also ask that you make sure anything you bring has been washed in an unscented detergent if possible, as many people are sensitive to perfumes and chemical scents, and that you remove any pet hair so that folks with allergies don’t get an unhappy surprise.

We’ll wrap up the Gathering at 4pm with a special ceremony to honor the late Ursula K Le Guin, and the winner of this year’s Tiptree Award will be crowned, then lead us all up to the Bakesale for celebratory cake, so you’ll want to plan on being there.

*Note: Yes, the Gathering opens the convention! But it isn’t the first event of the convention — that’s the Guest of Honor reception at Room of One’s Own on Thursday night.  🙂

New This Year: WisCon Tactile Art Show

On Saturday, May 26 at 9am, the WisCon Art Show will be holding a tactile art tour for con members with visual impairments or anyone who would like a guided tour through touching some of our 3D art (modeled on the tour at Arisia — thank you, Arisia organizers, for your advice!).

The following artists will be including their work in the tactile tour:

  • C. J. Hawkins
  • Clara Abnet Holden
  • David Lee Pancake
  • Elena Tabachnick
  • Erika Hammerschmidt
  • J. J. Brutsman
  • Katherine Olson
  • Lisa Bergin
  • Mary Anne Mohanraj
  • Mary Prince
  • SamHain Press
  • Stacie Arellano
  • Ty Blauersouth

To participate, just come to the Art Show room (Senate AB, on the first floor behind the stairs) at 9am Saturday.

The Art Show and Access departments are excited about offering this for the first time at WisCon 42! If you have questions, let us know at artshow@wiscon.net or access@wiscon.net.