The Panel Interest Survey is Now Live!
If you’re still mulling over whether you’d like to come to the con in person, our Health and Safety plans for WisCon 2022 are also now available.
The Panel Interest Survey is Now Live!
If you’re still mulling over whether you’d like to come to the con in person, our Health and Safety plans for WisCon 2022 are also now available.
This update is written by me, Kit Stubbs (they/them), both in my role as Treasurer for SF3, WisCon’s parent not-for-profit organization, and in my role as WisCon 2022 co-chair. Thanks to Ira Alexandre (WisCon 2022 co-chair, acting Personnel chair) and Aileen Wall (WisCon 2022 co-chair, Hotel) for their help.
First of all: Thank you to everyone who participated in our recent Town Hall, as panelists and attendees! Special thanks to our Board members Arley, for organizing and moderating, and Annalee and Charlie Jane, for organizing and helping with logistics.
WisCon’s roots are grounded in white feminism, and WisCon continues to struggle with racism and with finding ways to center attendees of color who have been harmed. The Town Hall marks a key point in our antiracist work to bring WisCon, particularly as experienced by our attendees and volunteers of color, into better alignment with our values—even if this means that white attendees will have to sit with discomfort.
Working towards a more antiracist con is just one of the major challenges that we face. Unless we, the WisCon community, also take significant action this year in terms of finances and our volunteer pool, within the next few years we will no longer be able to run WisCon.
Why? What’s going on?
Right now, in addition to pushing harder on antiracism, WisCon is facing big challenges on two other fronts: money and labor.
What are the financial challenges?
Ideally, when we finish running one WisCon, we should have enough money to cover our expenses for the con that’s happening in two years. Why? Because shortly after each WisCon, typically, is when we sign a contract with the hotel for the con that’s happening in two years. As a ConCom member, I remember hearing “WisCon is very slowly losing money” for several years now. But it didn’t really seem urgent, somehow.
In an ongoing-pandemic world, this has become urgent because of the way our hotel contract works. Right now, we only have a contract signed with our host hotel for May 2022. We have committed to the hotel that WisCon attendees will reserve a certain number of rooms over a certain number of nights. This contract was signed pre-pandemic and assumed normal pre-pandemic WisCon attendance. We pay the hotel some extra rental fees, but most of the hotel space the con uses we get at steeply discounted rates, assuming that we fill those hotel rooms. We’re allowed to reduce our commitment before the deadline by 20% at no penalty, but if we have more unsold rooms than that, WisCon has to pay the hotel for them.
The budget that was approved by the previous Board assumed that we would have fewer in-person attendees this year, but it assumed we would still book our entire block of hotel rooms—the same size hotel block that we would normally book pre-pandemic.
But if we’re expecting fewer in-person attendees, we should also expect fewer hotel rooms to be booked, and that is a cost that WisCon is really not able to absorb.
Couldn’t we just cancel the hotel contract?
We can’t afford the cancellation fee. If we cancelled now, according to our contract, we would owe the hotel $158,000, which we absolutely do not have the resources to cover.
I’ve run some new, conservative budget projections since becoming Treasurer in October. These projections account for online memberships, which our current budget doesn’t (yay!) but also accounts for attrition in hotel rooms, which our current budget also doesn’t (oh no!). I assume that we will take a big hit on hotel rooms in 2022 and that we’ll gradually recover in 2023 and 2024.
If we take no action to change our current trajectory and only book half of our contracted hotel rooms in 2022, SF3 will go broke: We will have spent about $7,000 that the organization does not have.
If we want to get WisCon to a healthy place—meaning we’re at best fiscal practice and have enough money for the con that’s two years out in the bank—we need about $76,000 more in income for 2022 to our general fund. (This $76k doesn’t include funds for any new initiatives, this is just basically keeping the lights on. And this is separate from any WisCon Member Assistance Fund fundraising we do, since WMAF dollars legally can’t be used to pay for anything except grants to members for travel assistance.)
The good news: I’m not saying that we need to suddenly raise $76k in donations alone. This income that we need could come from selling more memberships (online or in-person), booking lots of hotel rooms (so we don’t have to pay the hotel for unused rooms), selling Dessert Salon tickets, grants, or donations. An additional $76k of income to our general fund would help keep us afloat through 2022 and 2023 and help ensure that we would have the funds to run in 2024 and 2025.
If someone were to magically appear and donate $76k to us right now, though, we’d still be in trouble because of our other current challenge: a lack of volunteers.
What’s going on with volunteers?
We’re in a volunteering crisis right now. It takes about 70 pre-con volunteers to make WisCon happen, and we have barely half that.
SF3 is WisCon’s parent not-for-profit organization. WisCon happens because there are a bunch of committees of people within SF3 who do the work, and right now, we have a record number of vacancies.
SF3 has a Board of Directors. Under the Board there are four committees: Personnel (helping to recruit, onboard, and offboard volunteers); Communications (taking care of the newsletter, website, and social media); Strategic Planning (looking at our vision and mission); and the ConCom (the Convention Committee, which handles the logistics of running WisCon). Of those committees, only the ConCom has chairs right now—Personnel, Communications, and Strategic Planning have a few volunteers, but none of these three committees has a leader.
The ConCom itself is made up of the three co-chairs and 28 departments of varying sizes. Currently we have 8 departments that are completely empty and at least 8 that are critically understaffed.
In general, the ConCom has been dwindling for the past several years. We had 71 members in 2017, but only 56 members in 2019. (Here is a graph showing Concom participation by the numbers over the past several years.)
If you’re reading this now, and you’re already a WisCon volunteer: Thank you. I’m not writing this expecting you to suddenly start putting more work on your plate. (If you have the extra capacity, great! But I’m not expecting that of anyone.)
The State of WisCon
We are definitely having a WisCon in 2022. Without more volunteers, we won’t be able to offer nearly as good an experience as we have in the past. Without more financial resources, WisCon 2022 may be the last one.
I believe these challenges are surmountable, but as members of the WisCon community, we have to act quickly to make change.
What are WisCon organizers already working on?
What can I do to help?
Yes, we recognize the pandemic is still going on—if you’re able to book your hotel room and/or register early, great! If you’re able to chip in financially, great! But if not, no worries.
We need to address our issues with money and labor within a larger antiracist framework. And I think we need to be honest that we’re in a bit of a chicken-and-egg situation: We’re short on money and volunteers to implement new antiracist policies and practices, which we need in order to attract and retain volunteers, especially volunteers of color.
If you’ve made it this far: Thank you. Posting this feels like the scariest thing I have ever done as a WisCon/SF3 organizer, and I really appreciate your time and energy in reading it.
We’ve got a variety of exciting roles that we’re looking for help with in our Communications & Personnel Committees. Unlike most of the Convention Committee (ConCom) roles, these tasks are spread over several months or are year-round, but because they are not all ramping up to a convention weekend, they are a LOT more chilled out. 🙂
Communications: Bloggers (up to three volunteers – one spot filled already)
WisCon’s blog is our primary method for communication with our community. It’s the main way that we recruit volunteers, share news that impacts the convention, fundraise, and keep conversations going. Our blog is published on our website, wiscon.net, and is collected into a newsletter format once a month for most of the year, becoming weekly in April & May. We’re looking for at least one and up to three volunteers who would like to help us tell people what’s up! Is that you? We’ll share a draft schedule of blog topics that will include some that we know we need, but you’ll be encouraged to write on any relevant topic — dig into WisCon’s history, to connect with our sibling organizations, and to spotlight our past guests of honor, attendees, and volunteers. You’ll also crosspost blog posts and newsletters to our social media, including Twitter & Facebook, in collaboration with the volunteers managing those accounts.
Commitment: 2-3 hours per month, increasing to 5 hours per month in April & May.
Communications: Facebook Wrangler (one volunteer)
Are you on Facebook? This role can be as big or small as you’d like it to be! Our Facebook content has generally been limited to cross-posts from our blog and some advertisements — so at minimum, we’d like you to respond to comments & messages there, as well as helping us run a few advertisements per year. At maximum? The sky’s the limit, as long as you keep it related to our mission & values.
Commitment: 1-2 hours per month.
Communications: Ads, Marketing, & Sponsorships (up to three volunteers)
This year, we’ll mainly be looking for sponsorships — businesses and individuals who would be willing to make a gift to support part of WisCon in exchange for our public thanks and a banner in that space. In the past, we’ve had sponsors for the Gathering and for various other events. In the past, this job has included selling advertisements in the Souvenir Program Book as well — we’re not sure what that will look like yet this year. This role is about reaching out to people and organizations that you believe WisCon’s community would love to hear about, and bringing them together!
Commitment: 1-2 hours per month October-May.
Personnel: Team Member (up to three volunteers)
You’ll follow a checklist to give new members of our committees or board access to the tools they need to make WisCon and all our other projects happen! You’ll also assist ConCom departments with documenting their roles, collaborate with the Communications Committee to write recruitment blog posts, and orient people to the tools they need (these include Google Docs, Gmail, and Basecamp).
Commitment: 1-3 hours per month.
We’re seeking folks to Chair two of the committees that support WisCon!
What does a “Chair” do, though? And what’s all this about “Committees”?
Well, our Committee Chairs are primarily project managers — they make sure that the necessary tasks get done in order to carry out that committee’s purpose. When needed, they make the decision to cancel tasks that can’t be successful due to a lack of time, resources, volunteers, or all three. They are appointed by the board president of SF3, which is the nonprofit that provides oversight for WisCon.
You can think of our committees as workgroups, each of which has a clear purpose and purview.
There are currently three peer committees, and all are necessary for each others’ success:
We need a chair for Communications, and a chair for Personnel. We have some volunteers ready to go to do the work in each of those committees, but we need you to step in! We’re also happy to help you find someone with whom you can co-chair, if you don’t want to go it alone.
Interested? Please contact email@example.com to express interest, or with any questions.
(Interested, but not in being a chair? Hold tight, we’ll have a post soon with information on volunteering for communications, for personnel, and for the ConCom! But we need to fill these two spots first, so tell your organized pals to reach out!)
The excitement is intensifying for WisCon 44 next weekend! We’re looking forward to seeing you all there, whether you’re new to WisCon entirely or just new to WisCONline (as we all are).
We’ve gotten some questions about how you’ll access virtual WisCon 44 programming.
Invitations to the WisCon Discord server will be sent out to the email you gave when you registered, on the evening of Wednesday May 20 (after registration closes at 7PM). If you don’t receive an invitation that evening, please check your spam filter, and then contact firstname.lastname@example.org and we can send you a new link!
Most of WisCon’s programming will be streamed to YouTube, but available only via direct link (it will not show up on the WisCon channel or via searches). The links to specific program items will be sent out by email each morning, and also posted in the Discord server. (If you do not plan to join the Discord server, it is therefore particularly important that you make sure that you are able to receive emails we send out!)
Some of the WisCon special events—the Otherwise auction, the Vid Party, and the Floomp—may use other platforms. Information on joining these events will be sent out in the same emails as the links for watching streams on YouTube, and will also be posted to Discord.
More information on how the platforms and specific program items will work for WisCon 44 are available on our website; we’ll continue to update and expand what’s posted there between now and the convention.
To make the convention happen every year, WisCon depends on its many volunteers. The virtual convention is no exception, even though the volunteer roles we’re looking to fill are different than they would be in person.
Technical Producers will coordinate the backend of program items, whether for live Panels or for pre-recorded Readings or Academic Programming items. If you’re comfortable with technical tools, and especially if you have experience with YouTube Studio, this is a great way to get involved!
Online Chat Moderators will monitor the conversation for live panels on Discord, and pass comments and questions onto the panelists via the Technical Producer.
Social Media Monitors will keep an eye on other web platforms for any issues arising in the current panel’s hashtag, and will escalate them to Safety if necessary.
And as at in-person conventions, Safety Volunteers will be available during programming hours, as a first point of contact for concerns or issues as they arise.
There’s no volunteer rebate or gift this year, but anyone who signs up for a volunteer shift by 5PM Central on Tuesday will receive an early invitation to the Discord server!
Full descriptions of all these roles can be found on our At-Con Volunteers page, or you can head directly to SignUp.com to sign up for specific shifts. If you have questions, or have any issues using the SignUp interface, you can also email email@example.com.
The time to WisCon 43 is approaching, and we believe it’s important to keep the community updated, so let’s get it started off right!
Panel Programming wants to help you get the best WisCon panel programming experience, so after you register, we would like for you to do a couple of things.
1. Update your profile, especially your email address.
All you need to do is log in to your profile, click the “Edit” link on the right side of your name, then click on “Save” once you’re done.
2. Update your availability.
This is essential information for us. The more information you provide us, the better chance you have in getting your top choices of panels at your most desired times. To update your availability, please click on “Tell Us Your Schedule”. After you click on “Tell Us Your Schedule,” you will be brought to the following screen:
In this text, you will be asked for your arrival/departure information, your desired number of panels, as well as your preferred panel times. Once again, the more information you provide us, the better it will be for you. Given that it is early, you can start off with a ballpark estimate, but please update as we get closer to the availability deadline in 2019.
3. Submissions for Panel Programming are open! Please be sure to submit your proposal to the correct department.
If you log into your profile, you will see a list of different options where you can submit your program idea to the right department on the left-hand side of the screen. Please see the screenshot below for an example.
If you want to submit a panel idea, please click on the “Submit Ideas” option. If you want to submit a party, please click on the “Host a party” option. If you want to submit a paper proposal/academic proposal, please click on the “Submit Paper Proposal” option.
Panel Programming asks that you please use the correct option for submitting your program idea. If you submit an event to us that is not a panel, due to the volume of panel requests and the subsequent organization of the panel schedule, we cannot guarantee that your submission will be timely transferred to the correct department. The deadline to submit a panel idea to Panel Programming is January 21, 2019.
As we get closer to WisCon 43, Panel Programming will regularly update the community of its various deadlines. We are excited to kick off planning for WC43.
As usual, if you have any questions regarding Panels, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We still need nominations for WisCon 44 guests of honor! (Yes, WisCon 44, which will take place in 2020.)
They should be emailed to email@example.com, and the deadline is November 28.
We’re very excited to announce that the Panel Sign-Up and Interest Survey will go live in 2 weeks! On February 26th, get ready to give us YOUR feedback on what panels will run during WisCon 42.
WisCon programming is divided into separate tracks which group related concepts together in order to facilitate interesting and complex discussions. The current list of tracks are below:
You will need a WisCon account in order to view the survey. If you don’t have an account, create one at the “Create Your Account” page. For those with an account already created, go to “Log in to My Account” page. Come February 26th, you should see the link to the survey once you have logged into your account.
So mark February 26th on your calendars!
As always, questions/concerns/feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jackie Gross, Lead Panel Programming
JP Fairfield, Panel Programming
Jennifer Cross, Panel Programming
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.
Jackie Lee, SF3 President
Allison Morris, WisCon 42 Co-Chair
Phredd Groves, WisCon 42 Co-Chair
Levi Sable, SF3 Communications Chair