Since the creation of the Tiptree Award was first announced by Guest of Honor Pat Murphy at WisCon 15 in 1991, WisCon has been proud to host the award winners and to support the award by hosting fundraisers at-con. Making big changes can be difficult, but listening to the voices of our community members exemplifies the values that our con continues to strive towards. We fully support the Motherboard in their decision to rename the award, and we look forward to celebrating the award under its new name at WisCon 44 in 2020.
We’re grateful and happy to share that A Room Of One’s Own bookstore is sponsoring The Gathering this year! They’ll be hosting the Thursday night Guest of Honor Reception in-store at 315 W Gorham Street, and will be in the Dealers’ Room throughout the convention, carrying books by as many of the authors attending WisCon as they can. A Room Of One’s Own is a beautiful, welcoming physical store and is a pleasure to browse. Thank you, A Room Of One’s Own!
Whether you’re a WisCon regular or this is your first time, The Gathering is a must for kicking off your convention weekend! Held from 1-4pm in the Wisconsin/Capital Ballroom on the second floor, The Gathering is a great spot to meet up with friends old and new, snag some new threads, have some fun, and see this year’s Tiptree Award Winner crowned.
Wondering what’s going to be happening this year? Well, wonder no longer.
The Clothing Swap is back, and after suffering a little from its own success last year, we have some new rules as well as some reminders. The bigest reminder is that despite the name, it isn’t really a swap! You are welcomed and encouraged to take any clothing that strikes your fancy home, and you don’t need to bring any to give away in order to do so. In fact, we’ve always had too much donated and too little taken away, so please feel free to shop (for free). Anything that’s left at the end of The Gathering will be donated to a local nonprofit, but please have mercy on our volunteers who will have to carry the leftovers away, and adopt more clothes!
Want to bring us some treasures that no longer fit you or your aesthetic? You can bring them to the Wisconsin/Capital Ballroom beginning at 11am on Friday. Please do not bring anything to the Swap later than 2pm, as we will not be able to use it. If you are able to do so, we invite you to come in and help set out or hang up your donations — you will know sizes a lot faster than we will! We are also looking for volunteers to help keep things neat and help people “shop” during the swap, as well as folks who can help pack up anything that’s left over. Time spent helping out at the Clothing Swap can count toward a volunteering rebate, and anyone who volunteers for any amount of time is eligible for the volunteering gift, which is available at the Registration Desk on Monday. Interested? Please email firstname.lastname@example.org, or wait until WisCon and ask one of the folks already volunteering at the Clothing Swap for guidance on how you can help.
Here’s our revised and expanded set of guidelines for donating clothes to the Clothing Swap:
- Please donate no more than one large bag of clothing. By large bag, we mean: one Ikea bag or shoe stone bag, or two brown paper grocery bags, or one loosely-filled kitchen-size trash bag, or a half-full large trash bag.
- Please donate only items that you would gift to a friend – no holes, nothing worn-out, and preferably nothing that you didn’t think was great, for at least a little while.
- No underwear of any type. No socks, no bras, no binders, no lingerie, no pajamas.
- Please do not donate any clothing that is strongly scented or covered in pet hair. If you are able, please launder items in an unscented detergent. Donations that are smoky, musty, perfumed, otherwise strongly scented, or covered in pet hair will not be put out at the Clothing Swap.
- Please do not donate any clothing that is wet. Yes, this has happened. Bags of wet clothing will be thrown away, as we will not even be able to donate them after the convention.
What else is happening at The Gathering this year? We are so glad you asked!
- Coffee, Tea, and Subversion (yes, this is a fancy title for refreshments.)
- Fiber Circle (bring your knitting/crocheting/embroidery/whatever!)
- Tiptree Auction Preview (see what will be featured at the Auction)
- Zen Doodles (new to The Gathering this year! Create some fun, meditative art.)
- Gadget Petting Zoo (check out some technology, or share your own!)
- Gaming Preview (play some games and find out more about games at WisCon)
- Tarot Circle (bring your deck to show off and do a few readings, or have your cards read)
- Nail Polish Swap (also not technically a swap, so feel free to drop off bottles without taking any, or take some without leaving any)
- Renaissance Hair Braiding (fancy braiding for smooth and straight hair types)
And last but FAR from least, The Gathering closes with our Opening Ceremonies, where we might make announcements, and we will certainly honor the winner of this year’s Tiptree Award!
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.
We have a big change this year: The Bake Sale will be on FRIDAY from 1-5pm in room 627. (Same place, new day & time!)
If you’d like to contribute treats to the Bake Sale, here’s what you need to know:
- DO bring a single batch or pan of whatever treat you’re making. If you want to make more than one type of treat, that’s fine, but we don’t want large batches of any one item.
- DON’T bring a treat that requires refrigeration. This is a food safety issue: Non-perishable treats only, please!
- DO cut up brownies or bar cookies ahead of time.
- DON’T bring a store-bought treat. We really want the Bake Sale to be mainly items that we’ve made in our own kitchens to raise money for the Tiptree Award. (If you’re traveling from out-of-town or your before-Con baking time is running short, perhaps consider volunteering during the Bake Sale instead!)
- DO bring your treats in a disposable plate or container, covered with aluminum foil or plastic wrap if the container doesn’t have a lid. (If you absolutely can’t bring a disposable container, label your container with your name AND Con phone number.)
- DO bring a list of ingredients for each treat you bring. WisCon has many members with food constraints, and we want as many people as possible to enjoy tasty baked goods! When making your list of ingredients, be particularly aware of the following allergens: wheat/gluten, eggs, dairy, soy, tree nuts, peanuts. The more information you can provide, the better!
- DO follow basic food safety guidelines when preparing and handling food items: baking in a clean kitchen; hand-washing before touching baked goods or containers; storing in a cool, dry place; etc.
- DO NOT BAKE if you or anyone in your household (including kids) is sick (especially with stomach- or digestive-related ailments, or with a viral infection). We will still love you, and will happily eat, er…, sell whatever you bring next year.
Dropping off your treats: Please bring your treats to Darrah in University A (AKA “The Green Room”, on the second floor, through the double doors near the elevator lobby) during the following times:
- Thursday: 3pm-5pm, 7pm-10pm
- Friday: 8am-12 noon
Please make every effort to drop off your treat during those hours; it’s more difficult for us to accept items once the Bake Sale is underway.
What should I make? Make whatever YOU like! Every year we see cakes, pies, cookies, brownies, fudge, and so much more. We love to see a huge variety of goodies come across the table, especially colorful or unusual items. (Chocolate treats are always popular!)
THANK YOU to everyone who’s willing to contribute treats for our Bake Sale! If you have other questions about baking, don’t hesitate to contact us at email@example.com .
Volunteering at the Bake Sale
In addition to bakers, we’re looking for volunteers to staff the Bake Sale for 1-hour shifts from 12:30pm to 5:30pm on FRIDAY (during & after the Gathering). Any time volunteering entitles you to our volunteer gift — ask about it at the Registration Desk. Six hours or more of volunteering entitles you to a 40% rebate on your WisCon membership; to claim this, ask for a volunteer rebate form at the Registration Desk.
If you’re interested in volunteering, please complete our Bake Sale Volunteer Form, and the Bake Sale team will follow up with you.
Questions? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.