The three months since November started seem to have gone by so fast I don’t actually remember large swathes of them–and it’s not because I enjoy a glass or two of a festive beverage during the holidays. Working at the church, family, traveling, and trying to figure out how to promote new releases all kind of merged together in one, big blur, which culminated in last weekend’s fan convention, Arisia 2019.
(Warning: This is the part I talk about some of the concerns surrounding my choice to attend the Con. I think they’re important, so I’m putting them first.) This year was the thirtieth anniversary of the convention that was my very first Con, back in 2008, and truthfully, I almost didn’t go. Like some other organizations, information came to light that showed it was institutionally incapable of addressing concerns regarding sexual assault and harassment. It took them far too long to do the right thing. However, from an outsider’s perspective, they did seem to get themselves back on the path towards doing the right thing. I very much understand other people’s decisions to not attend, and respect that. Which brings me to the first panel I attended, a round-table workshop on the reconciliation track aimed at improving institutional response to developing a culture of inclusion and proper response to reporting of incidents of harassment and assault.
Why does this matter to me? For one, I like to hang out with people in fandom, and I like doing it in spaces where assholes are unwelcome. I’m not talking about people whose ideologies differ from mine. I’m talking about predators who think it’s okay to exhibit stalking behavior, commit acts without consent, bully/troll people online, or other similar situations. I’m also raising two little geeky girls, and have brought them to conventions with my spouse and I, and I would prefer if they could also have spaces to hang out and talk about Star Wars without having to deal with assholes. (Although at the moment, they’re more about the rainbow unicorns and less about the Death Star.) So, I didn’t take my decision to attend lightly. I also paid close attention to how they were running the reconciliation track, and the products they expected to arise from them. I have not made any decisions, including if I will return next year (as a panelist if I get invited, or a fan attendee if I don’t, the decision will be the same either way.) I like the progress they’re making, I like the actions they’ve taken, now I want to see what happens when the pressure of the Con being right around the corner is taken off, and some of the reconciliation has to happen outside of the public eye.
The panels and workshops I was on or giving went pretty well (I think … I hope …) Most of them were writing-related, as you might expect, but I also got to hop on a “Geeky Parenting” panel, talking about the fun and challenges combined in raising kids in fandom. I’m quite happy to say that I learned as much as I shared; I’m looking forward to spending time around geeky folks as long as I can, and doing it with my spouse and kids. I’m hoping that next year we’ll be in a place where I can attend Arisia with them. I also got a chance to read the Green Man scene from Night Run, which was so awesome.
One of the highlights was getting to sit on a panel on Writing War with a bunch of people, moderated by author Kevin McLaughlin, who writes some very cool books and you should totally check them out. We all had a pretty good time BS’ing about the military and sharing our favorites, and now my TBR pile is about ten books taller, and I’m super excited to start plotting my own military fantasy novel this semester. Afterward, Kevin and I co-hosted a “Late Night Writer’s Cafe.” About ten other writers came together. We talked shop for about twenty minutes, and then settled down to get words on paper. I got a pretty decent start on a version of the Russian folktale, “Vasilisa the Beautiful,” rewriting it so that Baba Yaga comes out on top, with the intention of submitting it to Rachel Kenley’s anthology, The Villain Wins. Speaking of which, I also got to see Rachel on a panel and listen to her read from one of her works, a romance speculative fiction that combined mermaids and New Jersey, my home state. Shout out!
Some other fun moments from the Con — locusting all of Tea & Absinthe‘s homemade chocolate chip cookies as I helped them set up their booth in the vending hall; receiving a random gift of a knitted owl after I admired a fellow crafter’s work (so cute!); learning how to use Lyft (get off my lawn); seeing snow at least once this winter; getting a chance to lead my “Writing for Military Veterans” workshop; having said workshop turn into a deep conversation between two veterans and a civilian on writing and the military; having time to read, and re-reading Brian McClellan’s War Cry and the entire Powder Mage series as well as the first book in the next series; having someone on Twitter stick up for me when some rando nitpicked my sleep-deprived, jet-lagged Tweet about doing so; getting a chance to introduce some writers to using military models such as ASCOPE and PMESII-PT to do worldbuilding; getting some words down on some projects even though I gave myself permission to not do that this weekend; and finally, adding many more books to my “TBR” pile, including Kay Kenyon’s At the Table of Wolves, which I read straight through on the plane from Boston to LAX (SO AWESOME).
The Post-Con pace hasn’t quite slowed down. I got home at midnight and then had to wake up at 6 the next morning to get to my day job. I still have a full slate of writing to do this year, and it’s not getting any longer. But Arisia, as it usually does, energized me and motivated me, and that positive energy is crackling as I tackle my MFA, the series I’m finishing, and the series I’m starting. I feel a little closer to the fan community and to the writers community, and all in all, it made a good start for the rest of the year. I’m hoping that the process that was started at Arisia will continue, and that more people will feel comfortable and safe returning to the Con next year. Until then, you’ll find me over here at my laptop, working on the next thing on my list…
Peace, and happy writing!