Category Archives: SF3

Ursula K. Le Guin, 1929-2018

It can be hard to know when and how to acknowledge death when it happens in a community. When do you write a blog post, and when don’t you? But it seems impossible not to make a statement upon the death of a treasured member of our WisCon community, one of our greatest and most influential writers, Ursula K. Le Guin.

Ursula Le Guin attended WisCon thrice: WisCon 2, WisCon 20, and WisCon 30. She came to WisCon 2 (February 1978), in support of her friend Vonda McIntyre, our 1978 Guest of Honor. She was invited as Guest of Honor in her own right the first time we celebrated a landmark year, for WisCon 20 (May 1996). And she was one of the many prior Guests of Honor we invited to be part of the WisCon 30 celebrations (May 2006).

For WisCon 30, we received grant funding—necessary to support 29 years worth of returning Guests of Honor—from the Wisconsin Humanities Council. Le Guin’s letter of support, included as part of the grant application, explained why she found WisCon unique, as opposed to other conferences and conventions, which she described as “a waste of time” (don’t tell anyone!) Echoing the experience of many, she said that she “came away with a head full of new ideas, perceptions, and understandings—about literature, about the ethical concerns of writers and readers, and about gender concerns both in literature and daily life.”

Her letter of support continues:

As writers under repressive regimes have long understood, science fiction is particularly well suited to the indirect but intense examination of the political and moral status quo, since its tropes and metaphors (outer space, far future, etc.) allow the writer to look from a distance at what is actually very close at hand. As the scholar Darko Suvin said, science fiction is the mirror that lets us see the back of our own head.

This is notably true when it comes to issues of gender. No other literary form has asked so many questions so usefully about the nature and construction of human gender, the actual and possible relation of the sexes in society. When they wanted to ask such questions, realistic novelists such as Margaret Atwood and Doris Lessing turned naturally to science fiction. A good many of the talks and papers read at WisCon concern these subjects and ask these questions.

The atmosphere of the conference is extremely open, uncoercive, and intellectually stimulating. Academics who attend it are often delighted by the freedom of discussion without competition. To women academics it is of particular value, as they seldom find so supportive a milieu. Women writers treasure it for the same values of freedom and support. Men and women who confuse feminism with misandry may be kept away by their own prejudice, but one of the happiest aspects of WisCon is the presence of men who relate to women with total equality of expectation on both sides—a refreshing experience for all.

What WisCon does above all is affirm a community of writers, scholars, and readers brought together by a sense of dissatisfaction with our society’s solution to many problems of gender and justice, plus a sense of hope that with intelligent and ethical work we can achieve a more just and less destructive society. They share in common a courage of the imagination which may yet justify that hope. The fact that they’ve been meeting for thirty years to exercise and celebrate such courage is cause itself for hope.

WisCon 40’s ConCom briefly considered the idea of inviting all past Guests of Honor back for 2016, in the tradition of WisCon 20 and WisCon 30. It may have been coincidence, but the conversation didn’t last for long after a tangent on Ursula’s health, and the fact that she rarely traveled far from home anymore.

We’ve continued to treasure her and her outlook in her absence. A few years ago, during a time of vociferous disagreements within our community, many of us spent time interrogating whether WisCon was “worth it”—worth the labor, both tangible and emotional—that we invest to sustain it, and that the convention itself sparks. People like Ursula remind us why it is worth all that and more.

She imagined impossible futures, and she shared them. She held that it was important work to do so, and had little patience with authors who dismissed science fiction and fantasy as trivial or lesser genres. “Fantasy is probably the oldest literary device for talking about reality,” she said in a blog post eviscerating Kazuo Ishiguro for sneering at the fantasy genre.

She used her writing to explore concepts like gender, capitalism and truly fair societal structures. Her body of work is a testament to the conversations that people have at WisCon every year. What other shapes could society take? What would a more just, more equitable, and more inclusive world look like?

Much is made about her female protagonists. There’s already one obituary from a national newspaper remarking on her “tough-minded feminine sensibility,” missing the point almost entirely in a way I’m sure Le Guin would have relished skewering. Reductive obituaries, like that one, ignore the variety of incredible and alien outlooks she managed to portray, her protagonists who fall outside of the gender binary, and the fact that so few of her characters were white.

We feel fortunate that there is still so much of her fiction available for us to explore. Her writing is a beacon of light, particularly in the current political era. Since the election in November 2016, many of us have returned to her acceptance speech, titled “Freedom,” given as part of the award presentation at the 2014 National Book Foundation. “Any human power can be resisted and changed by humans.”

Every day we confront the terrible realities that debase us as people: racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, capitalism, colonialism. It’s overwhelming, and lately, inexorable. These oppressions can feel final, but as Ursula reminds us: “[their] power seems inescapable—but then, so did the divine right of kings.”

Resistance happens because people can imagine a different reality—because they demand a different reality. Ursula K. Le Guin showed us how to imagine and demand better from our society.
We will miss her. We will not forget her.

Rest in power, well-loved one.

In solidarity,

Jackie Lee, SF3 President

Allison Morris, WisCon 42 Co-Chair

Phredd Groves, WisCon 42 Co-Chair

Levi Sable, SF3 Communications Chair

Seeking — the word-savvy, the cat herders

Chris Wallish
SF3 Communications Committee

A mid-20th century typewriter with a scrap of paper in it; the paper reads "WisCon, WisCon, do you read?"Do you word?  Do you know your way around an editorial calendar?  Can you herd cats?  The SF3 Communications Committee — which handles all of WisCon’s external communications — is expanding the team and currently has openings for managing editors and writers.

We are also signal-boosting an editor role in WisCon’s Publications department.  Skip to the bottom if you’re interested in that job!  Note: For any of these positions, you absolutely do not need to be a Madison local.  I, for instance, live in Seattle.

The SF3 Communications Committee’s responsibility, first and foremost, is to WisCon and SF3’s communities.  We are here to communicate about WisCon/SF3 to you — our fellow convention attendees, our supporters, our panelists and audience members, our friends.  Our goal is to make WisCon more transparent, within the bounds of respecting individuals’ privacy and the few concom matters that must remain confidential.  I mean, we’re not going to crack and tell you who upcoming guests of honor are going to be even one second before they’re announced at the Dessert Salon, no matter how much you bribe us.

We are, basically, here to to make the inexplicable a bit more explicable.  We’re not here to confuse and obfuscate with spin.

If you’re interested in any of our editor positions below, please write an email to introduce yourself:

  • Do you have any experience as an editor, or as a managing editor in particular?  Tell us a little about the publication you worked for — what you did, what you liked about it, how you dealt with the challenge of having to nag people sometimes.
  • Do you have experience that fits the duties we need to fill, but that doesn’t come with the ~right~ title?  Tell us about that.  What have you done that suits you for managing a publication schedule?  For tweaking someone else’s writing?  For chasing after late submissions?

If you’re interested in being one of our writers, when you email to introduce yourself please include a few samples of public-facing writing, especially writing you did for an organization — send us links to blog posts, tweets, et cetera.

For all of the positions on the SF3 Communications Committee, our secret hope is to find people with some experience in external communications, because speaking as one person for a many-voiced organization like a convention-planning committee can be a challenge and we don’t want to throw you into the fire without proper gear. But, y’know, if you don’t have any background with this sort of communication, don’t sweat it. We’d rather hear from you than not hear from you — talk to us about what you’re interested in and let us know how you think you’re suited for it.

Some knowledge of WisCon will likely be helpful, but it is absolutely not a requirement to have ever attended WisCon!  Although please know in advance that being a member of the committee does not come with a comped WisCon membership.  No member of the WisCon concom, the SF3 board, or other SF3 committees receives a comped membership, although assistance is available through the WisCon Member Assistance Fund.

In particular, we do invite queries from individuals from traditionally underrepresented/marginalized groups — people of color, trans/nonbinary individuals, women, gay/lesbian/bi/queer/&c. individuals, individuals with disability.

We also do not care one iota if you don’t have a fancy college education.  I’m chair of the Communications Committee, and while I’ve spent my fair share of time in college (thank you, Pell Grants!), I still don’t have a college degree — in fact, I entirely flunked out of one college.  If you think you have the chops but are at all worried your class background disqualifies you in some way,  please write to me.

So, what exactly do we have open right now?

Blog Editor

The WisCon blog is where we put news and updates as they happen — announcements for upcoming deadlines, calls for submissions for panel ideas or articles for the Souvenir Book, and so forth.  The Blog Editor will handle requests when a department needs a post (making sure it gets written by someone, working with the department on the content and in making sure it’s ready on time, then doing a light edit and scheduling it for publication).  We are also developing a few regularly-occurring blog series, which the Blog Editor will be responsible for overseeing.  The editor would also have discretion to post non-WisCon items of interest to the WisCon community.

This position will be somewhat busy October-December mostly with planning.  Blog content ramps up significantly January-April when we start hitting deadlines.  After the convention in May, things drop off sharply. It’s really quite hard to give an estimate of what the weekly time commitment is since this is a new position, but we’ll work together to make sure you have a manageable workload. It will be necessary to keep in touch with the committee as a whole on a regular basis — checking in with the team 2-3 times a week via our online communication platform. We are also planning monthly team meetings, to possibly be held via a service such as GChat or Skype.

Skills: It will be useful to have a basic knowledge of how to post in WordPress.    Having an understanding of how to work with taxonomies, custom menus, and other WP features will be helpful but isn’t strictly necessary.  WisCon has its own style guide, so you won’t need deep knowledge of another (e.g., Chicago or AP).

Email your introduction/query to: comms_chair@sf3.org

Website Editor

The Website Editor will be the one in charge of maintaining all the static information on the WisCon website (basically everything non-blog).  This will mean working with each department every year to make sure all information is up-to-date (deadlines, any changes to procedures, et cetera).  The Website Editor will also make sure everything is edited to be clear, concise, and appropriate for the web.  If a department’s request seems more appropriate for the blog, then the Website Editor will connect the department and the Blog Editor.

The position will be quite busy October-December because we plan to overhaul the WisCon website.  Things should quiet down significantly after this major update, although we do receive website update requests throughout the year.  In April there will be a short burst of activity as the Website Editor coordinates with the Pocket Program Book Editor and the WisSched App Developer to make sure all content for the latter two is also correct on the website.  In early May there’s another sprint as we prepare sections of the website for the next convention.  After the convention in May, things drop off until it’s time to start making deadline updates, usually around September.

As with the Blog Editor, it’s really quite hard to give an estimate of what the weekly time commitment is since this is a new position, but we’ll work together to make sure you have a manageable workload. It will be necessary to keep in touch with the committee as a whole on a regular basis — checking in with the team 2-3 times a week via our online communication platform. We are also planning monthly team meetings, to possibly be held via a service such as GChat or Skype.

Skills: It will be useful to have a basic knowledge of how to post in WordPress.    Having an understanding of how to work with taxonomies, custom menus, and other WP features will be helpful but isn’t strictly necessary.  WisCon has its own style guide, so you won’t need deep knowledge of another (e.g., Chicago or AP).

Email your introduction/query to: comms_chair@sf3.org

Community Sites Manager (aka, Virtual Panel Moderator)

The Community Sites Manager will handle moderating comments on our blog, assist with curating WisCon’s Facebook and Twitter, and manage the flow of content to the WisCon Talk Google Group and to the fan-run WisCon communities on LiveJournal and Dreamwidth (consulting with the admins of the LJ/DWth communities as necessary). The Community Sites Manager will consult with the Anti-Abuse Team with any concerns about harassment or abuse in WisCon spaces.

Again, it’s really quite hard to give an estimate of what the weekly time commitment is since this is a new position, but we’ll work together to make sure you have a manageable workload. It will be necessary to keep in touch with the committee as a whole on a regular basis — checking in with the team 2-3 times a week via our online communication platform. We are also planning monthly team meetings, to possibly be held via a service such as GChat or Skype.

Skills: It will be useful to have good familiarity with all of the above platforms — WordPress (for our blog), Facebook, Twitter, LiveJournal, Dreamwidth, and Google Groups.

Email your introduction/query to: comms_chair@sf3.org

Writer(s)

Our blog could use a writer or two to help out with posts that fall outside of departmental announcements (which concom departments typically write themselves) — such as official announcements (either from WisCon or SF3), general updates, et cetera. Joining us as a writer is also a great place to start if you’re interested in stepping up to an editor position some day but would like to get some experience under your belt.

Time commitment for writers will depend somewhat on how many writers we have. We’ll work together as a team to make sure no one is overburdened. It will be necessary to keep in touch with the committee as a whole on a regular basis — checking in with the team 2-3 times a week via our online communication platform. We are also planning monthly team meetings, to possibly be held via a service such as GChat or Skype.

Skills: Clear, snappy writing! (See the notes in the section just above the job description about sending samples.) WisCon has its own style guide, so you won’t need deep knowledge of another (e.g., Chicago or AP).

Email your introduction/query to: comms_chair@sf3.org


And now a word from our friends in WisCon’s Publications Department….

While we’re recruiting for editors, our compatriots over in Pubs (they handle all of WisCon’s printed materials, such as the Pocket Program Book and the Souvenir Book) are also looking for an editor to handle the Souvenir Book.

Souvenir Book Editor

The editor of the Souvenir Book will put out a call for materials, decide which articles go into the book, edit them, and help streamline the proofreading process. Publications experience is of course helpful, but totally not necessary. The first call for materials should go out in December, with work ramping up in March and April. You should be done long before WisCon actually happens! You’ll have lots of help from the Publications head, as well as folks who have done the book in past years. Please let us know if you are interested or have questions!

Email your introduction/query to: comms_chair@sf3.org

SF3 announces Annual Member Meeting for 2015

Chris Wallish
SF3 Communications Committee

SF3 logoSF3, the parent organization of the WisCon convention, has announced its Annual Member Meeting. The SF3 Board and current SF3 members will meet Sunday, Oct. 18, at 11:30am (Central Time). Details on how to attend the meeting (in-person location, phone/virtual access information) will be provided to members in the meeting packet to be sent the week before the meeting.

The current agenda for the meeting is available in SF3’s announcement on their blog.

SF3 membership

Membership in SF3 runs for one year only, beginning at the Annual Meeting and ending just prior to the next year’s meeting. Were you a member for last year’s Annual Meeting? You will have to purchase a membership for this year if you wish to attend and vote at this year’s meeting.

Options:

SF3 has three membership options:

    • $24 – Annual membership
    • $12 – Student/financial hardship membership rate
    • $9 – Youth (under 18) membership

There are two ways to pay (information on both is available at SF3’s website):

  • Online via PayPal
  • Via check and a printed membership form

If you will be purchasing your membership online via PayPal, you must do so by 11:59pm (Central Time) on Friday, Oct. 16.

If you will be purchasing your membership by mailing a check and printed form via postal mail, it must be received in Madison as of Thursday, Oct. 15.

If you will be bringing your printed membership form to the meeting so that you can pay in person, your payment must be received at the beginning of the meeting, otherwise your membership will not be processed and you will not be able to vote. Members who do wish to pay in person at the meeting must contact the SF3 Treasurer via email [treasurer@sf3.org] by 11:59pm (Central Time) on Friday, Oct. 16, to inform them of your intent.

Voting

All members in good standing are eligible to vote on all voting matters during the Annual Member Meeting. If you cannot attend the meeting (either in person or by phone/virtually) and you wish to appoint a proxy to cast votes on your behalf, review the information on the SF3 website — your proxy form must be received via postal mail on or before Thursday, Oct. 15, or delivered to an SF3 Board member at the beginning of the Annual Member Meeting.

SF3 grants

SF3 has funds available to distribute as grants to projects aligned with SF3’s interests. Grants are awarded based upon vote of the membership during the Annual Member Meeting. Details of how to apply, as well as examples of past recipients, are available on the SF3 website.

Grant applications are due at 11:59pm (Central Time) on Sunday, Oct. 11.

Appendix: A handy time converter to find out what time U.S. Central Time is for you.

An apology from SF3

The board of SF3, WisCon’s parent organization, has posted the following apology on their blog:

An Apology

The SF3 Board extends heartfelt apologies to those who have been harassed at WisCon, to those who feel unsafe at WisCon, to the ConCom, and to our wider community, for letting you down. We regret allowing Rose Lemberg’s report to languish. We are writing this statement as prompted by Rose Lemberg’s liaisons, Saira Ali and Alex Dally MacFarlane (link: http://phi.dreamwidth.org/331071.html). While this statement is being written per their request, the SF3 board would like to emphasize that it is genuinely sorry for Rose Lemberg’s pain being perpetuated by a seemingly unending tangle of bureaucratic lapses. WisCon co-chairs change from year to year, as do department heads such as Safety, but the makeup of the SF3 Executive Board is more static, as the turnover is staggered. Our board is organized so as to provide continuity and stability, and we recognize that our positions make us uniquely culpable for having failed to monitor and intervene in the communications with individuals who reported harassment at WisCon.

We failed to see that our process was a flawed and porous system that allowed reports to get misplaced. Since the SF3 Board officially appoints the chair(s) of WisCon, which in turn is technically a committee within the larger organization of SF3, the board acknowledges that it is ultimately our responsibility to oversee issues of safety that affect all WisCon attendees.

We will focus on our accountability and responsibilities as an institution and be vigilant in the future to try and prevent such events from happening again.

A number of valued concom members have chosen to resign over the summer, including several past WisCon chairs. In addition, several other former chairs have decided to significantly reduce their work on WisCon. We recognize that chairing Wiscon is a difficult task, even with co-chairs, and that the responsibilities of chair and other high-responsibility positions need to be rethought. The concom is currently examining itself, and has begun work to replenish committee positions and to provide training or apprenticeships for prospective chairs.

You may leave comments on SF3’s blog post or send them via email to the SF3 Corresponding Secretary.