Browsing articles in "Conventions"
Aug 4, 2014
Alex Dally MacFarlane

Nine Worlds 2014 Schedule

The weekend (this weekend!) before Loncon, where I’ll be on some panels, I’ll be at Nine Worlds, where I’ll also be on some panels! I am really looking forward to both of these, as well as hanging out with friends in the bar/elsewhere.

Rule 63: Gender and subversion in history, popular culture and fandom
Saturday: Connaught B, 10am – 11:15am

Rule 63 states that for every fictional character, there is an opposite gender counterpart. This popular rule has obvious power for subverting male-dominated media and potential for introducing trans narratives. In its positioning of ‘opposite’ genders, it is also potentially troubling from trans and non-binary perspectives. This panel will discuss Rule 63, from real historical examples of people inhabiting ‘opposite’ genders to contemporary fanworks, through queer and feminist lenses.
Panel: Tab Kimpton, Zen Cho, Alex Dally MacFarlane, more TBC

Writing Historical Fiction and Fanfic: is RPF okay when the person is dead?
Sunday: County B, 11:45am – 1pm

How do we write about historical characters? Is historical fiction a form of Real Person Fiction if it features people who appear in the historical record? A panel of authors and fans discuss techniques of writing historical fiction and how writing about the dead differs from writing about the living.
Panel: Alex Dally MacFarlane, Tanya Brown, Elizabeth Bear, Aliette de Bodard, Kieron Gillen

Jul 18, 2014
Alex Dally MacFarlane

Loncon 3 Schedule

I’ll be at Loncon 3 this August! I’ll mostly be milling about, meeting friends, but I’ll also be on 3 panels talking about unsurprising topics. I look forward to seeing many of you at the con.

Rewriting Gender Defaults
Thursday 18:00 – 19:00, Capital Suite 9 (ExCeL)

Several recent novels, including Ann Leckie’s “Ancillary Justice”, Kim Stanley Robinson’s “2312”, Kim Westwood’s “The Courier’s New Bicycle”, Deb Taber’s “A Necessary Ill” and Kameron Hurley’s “God’s War”, have tried to imagine futures with increased gender diversity, or changed gender defaults. This panel will discuss how writers in English approach the technical aspects of challenging and disrupting gender binaries: how do issues such as narrative voice or structure affect our impressions of the worlds created? What are the strengths and weaknesses of different choices?
Roz J Kaveney (M), Alex Dally MacFarlane, Julia Rios, Geoff Ryman, Mary Talbot

An Anthology of One’s Own
Friday 11:00 – 12:00, Capital Suite 6 (ExCeL)

Thanks in large part to the efforts of publishers like Aqueduct and Twelfth Planet Press, and the increasing use of crowdfunding platforms such as Kickstarter, we are in the middle of a small wave of feminist SF anthologies — including the Twelve Planets series and the Lightspeed Women Destroy X special issues, and with Alex Dally MacFarlane’s Mammoth Book of SF by Women and the VanderMeer giant anthology of Feminist SF still to come. Such anthologies are part of a tradition stretching back at least to Pamela Sargent’s Women of Wonder anthologies in the 1970s. How have they helped to shape contemporary understanding of SF? To what extent have they been successful at rewriting the narratives of SF history (and breaking what are often cycles of discovery and elision)? And have they left any blind spots of their own?
Julia Rios (M), Jeanne Gomoll, Alisa Krasnostein, Alex Dally MacFarlane, Ann VanderMeer

The Biology of Sex and Gender
Saturday 19:00 – 20:00, Capital Suite 5 (ExCeL)

In Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness the Gethenian people change gender and sex naturally as part of their lifecycle. Le Guin knew that many Earth creatures undergo a similar process in changing sex. What is the science behind these sex-changing animals? Could humans do it, or be modified to do it? What would this mean for our understanding of gender?
Alex Dally MacFarlane (M), Lucy Smithers, Howard Davidson, Helen Pennington, Keffy R. M. Kehrli

Jun 2, 2014
Alex Dally MacFarlane

you were waking, day was breaking

It’s June! It’s summer, my favourite season! I’ve been mired a bit too much in the less happy corners of my head lately, which I’d like to leave — as much as I can — by doing more, which includes trying to blog more. I share or talk about interesting things on Twitter a lot, but that need not only happen there. Of course, June optimism may end mid-June if I don’t get funding for a second Masters (to learn Classical Armenian, necessary for the PhD research I want to do), which I’ll (hopefully) hear about this month.

I’m going to start the easy way, with links.

Two of my stories are being reprinted in anthologies later this year. The first is “Selected Sources for the Babylonian Plague of the Dead (572-571 BCE)”, a very short piece about royal Babylonian women corresponding and fighting zombies, which will be reprinted in Zombies: More Recent Dead edited by Paula Guran.

The second is “Fox Bones. Many Uses., a story about fox magic and dealing with imperialism, which will be reprinted in The Mammoth Book of Warriors and Wizardry edited by Sean Wallace.

Both title-links go to the Table of Contents.

My Post-Binary Gender in SF column continues at Tor.com. I recently hosted a roundtable, Languages of Gender, with Rose Lemberg, Benjanun Sriduangkaew and Bogi Takács; I found their responses excellent and strongly recommend the roundtable to anyone interested in the subject of gender in SF.

On a far less happy — but important — note, there are serious flaws in Wiscon’s handling of harassment at the convention. Saira Ali wrote a post about FJ Bergmann’s harassment of Rose Lemberg in 2012, which Rose reported in 2013 (and which I reported too, as a witness), and which has not yet led to consequences for FJ Bergmann; I have co-signed Saira’s post. I have since heard of a person who was harassed by Jim Frenkel in 2013, who reported this harassment, and was subsequently lied to about why Jim Frenkel was allowed to return to the con this year. Natalie Luhrs has the links. I am appalled.

Nov 17, 2013
Alex Dally MacFarlane

WFC2013 and Harassment

Twitter was alive before World Fantasy Convention 2013 with disappointment, unhappy amusement and anger at the emails sent by the convention committee to attendees, which can best be categorised as patronising and thoughtless, summarising badly thought-out policies: £75 for a replacement badge (they were not made of gold or the feathers of a mythical mountain bird), £5 for a Kaffeeklatsch to pay for the biscuits (a whole packet of nice M&S biscuits is not even that much), a very minimal statement about harassment. The latter of these is, obviously, a lot less absurd and a lot more worrying, although the classism inherent in the first two is not to be overlooked. Post-convention refunds for the Kaffeeklatsches are all well and good, but that refund was not adequately advertised before the convention, so many people did not bother signing up (and some authors opted out on principle – not even they knew the refund was forthcoming). PS: I am not voting for your convention book that was so pointlessly heavy that I didn’t bring it home. (Yes, in their latest email, they asked for award nominations/votes for their book. Really now.)

I want to talk specifically about the harassment part of WFC2013’s failures, because they’ve sent out a post-convention email and it is appalling.

Here is the relevant quote in full:

“Regrettably, we learned of one small harassment incident that occurred on the Saturday night when an extremely drunken fan made a nuisance of himself in the hotel Lobby. Unfortunately, he was not reported to either of the professional Security guards who were on duty at the time or any member of the con committee. As a result, by the time we had found out about the incident and ascertained the details, the individual concerned (who was not attending the Awards Banquet) had apparently already left the convention. The person affected did not wish to pursue the matter with either the hotel or the police and, for legal reasons, we cannot publicly identify the individual responsible. However, after full consultation with the Hilton management and our Security team, we have passed the name of the nuisance-maker on to the organisers of next year’s World Fantasy Convention, who will decide on any appropriate action to take.”

Let’s take that to pieces.

“one small harassment incident”

I am not happy to see any harassment described as “small”, as it makes it sound like it is not a big deal. The only person who can determine whether it is/isn’t a big deal is the person harassed. How hard is it to write “a harassment incident”.

“an extremely drunken fan made a nuisance of himself in the hotel Lobby”

1. Why is his drunkenness relevant? Many people got drunk at WFC2013, despite the price of drinks in the bar, and the vast majority did not harass anyone. Drunkenness is a behaviour, not a force of nature, not ever a reason – an excuse – for harassment or any other harmful behaviour. The only reason it is brought up in discussions of harassment is to in some way explain – ie: excuse – events.

2. The word “harassment” has been dropped in favour of “nuisance”. Someone making a nuisance of themselves while drunk is someone, I don’t know, singing harmless songs loudly in the corridor: annoying, but not a huge deal. Harassment is never a “nuisance”, it is harassment. Call it harassment. Always.

“Unfortunately, he was not reported to either of the professional Security guards who were on duty at the time or any member of the con committee.”

1. I am not the only person at WFC2013 who didn’t even notice that there were security staff in the lobby. I saw volunteers during the daytime, providing very helpful guidance through the clusterfuck of a badly signposted hotel, but I never noted security staff. If I had been harassed, how would I have known to go to security?

2. More importantly, someone who has been harassed should not be obliged to report their harassment immediately. Their number one priority is probably going to be their safety, which probably entails getting out of there a.s.a.p. Whatever their personal priority is, that is their priority and they should not be shamed for doing it.

3. Someone who has been harassed should be given support if they choose to report, whenever that is. Note the “if” and the “when”. It can take time to decide to report, because reporting is stressful: it involves being blamed for what happened; being told the harasser was drunk and made a nuisance of himself, nothing more. It involves recounting the incident multiple times. Many people do not report harassment and they should not ever be shamed for this. If it takes time for someone to decide to report, they should not ever be shamed for this.

It is not unfortunate that someone did not report their harassment immediately. It is unfortunate that they were harassed.

It is unfortunate that this email from WFC2013 – hopefully unintentionally – acts as if not reporting immediately is something they did wrong. Intent, however, has little relation with consequence. The WFC2013 email is upsetting and unsupportive.

“we have passed the name of the nuisance-maker”

Fuck off.

The words you’re looking for are “the harasser”.

We then come to the issue of the “one” in “one small harassment incident”, as I heard on twitter shortly after WFC2013 that there had been three incidents of harassment. To quote @LR_Lam on twitter today:

More important information comes from Cheryl Morgan, who has written a lengthy post about the running of World Fantasy Conventions, including specific reporting from WFC2013. The comments are worth reading for even more information. In it Cheryl reports that the WFC2013 twitter account posted on Sunday Correction: it was posted on the display boards in the lobby:

“It’s Sunday. No one has lost their badge and no one has been harassed.”

Not only is this infantile passive aggressive bullshit, but it’s factually wrong. People reported harassment on Saturday night.

Even if no one had reported by Sunday morning, it’s awful to say that, because what about anyone harassed and still considering reporting? That is not a lot of time to make that decision. What about anyone harassed who never reports? Their experience should not be erased by assuming it doesn’t exist.

Blithe updates and dismissive official emails indicate little to no compassion for people who have been harassed at WFC2013. That is exactly the kind of environment in which people do not report harassment – and harassers know they are safe to harass. They know that harassment is not a serious issue for the people running the con. They know that the reports that are made will be minimised to a single report in the official email. Whatever the intent of the person who wrote that display board update and the person(s) who wrote that email, the consequences are this: WFC2013 was more safe for harassers than people who were harassed. This is not a proud legacy. This is not a safe legacy. This continues after WFC2013 finished, as anyone harassed at WFC2013 who reads that email – people who reported, people who did not – will know who is safe and who is not.

I want an apology from WFC2013 and a statement that all future World Fantasy Conventions will be run with the safety of attendees as a major priority. (Also: ACCESSIBILITY.) Look to Readercon as an example. It’s not fucking difficult, the only reason not to do it is that you don’t give a shit.

Nov 4, 2013
Alex Dally MacFarlane

World Fantasy Con 2013

I was at WFC 2013 this weekend and had a fantastic time, in spite of rather than because of the con program. The panel descriptions were laughably basic: Style vs story? Should YA books have sex and other naughty things in them? Ebooks are rather new aren’t they? Women write fantasy?? I assume that some panellists ignored the descriptions and had worthwhile discussions, but I couldn’t be bothered finding out the hard way which ones didn’t. I did go to a few readings: Delia Sherman, Genevieve Valentine and Rochita Roenen-Ruiz. All were delightful, especially Genevieve’s story of bugs and tattoos and a sister lost in the desert. I can’t wait to read the rest when it’s on Tor.com next April.

I spent the rest of my time talking to friends and good people, too many to name. Lots of good food too (I particularly recommend Street Thai omgyes).

And there were books!

WFC2013-books

Five free, four purchased. I also got the China Miéville chapbook, which I forgot to add to the small book tower, and a sampler for Sarah Lotz’s The Three.

I’m really looking forward to reading Shimon Adaf’s Sunburnt Faces after getting the chance to talk to him at WFC (and if you missed me mentioning it last week, I do recommend his conversation with Lavie Tidhar at Strange Horizons), as well as Jonathan Oliver’s pleasingly diverse anthology End of the Road.

Then there was the art room, which had some of the usual titties-and-spaceships of convention art rooms, but also had an art installation by Tessa Farmer that was just stunning. Bees hanging on see-through wire, tiny ant-human skeletons riding them, riding seahorses, riding a lizard-skin, climbing over bone-shell-wing-conglomerates and brandishing seeds. All hanging. Moving with the breath of its viewers. I went back to it several times. I showed it to Tessa Kum, who has shared this photo of it, which is just a small glimpse of its wonder. I remain in awe.

I was also very pleased by the number of people excited by my anthology projects: people who enjoyed Aliens: Recent Encounters and people looking forward to The Mammoth Book of SF Stories by Women, which will be out in late 2014 (and is currently open to reprint submissions). It’s really satisfying to know that people enjoy my work!

In conclusion: some terrible (wheelchair-inaccessible registration and poor-looking accessibility to program areas should not be happening, especially after so many years of people talking about accessibility needs) and baffling (the program itself) choices made by the con’s organisers, but a great con for me because so many friends were there.

Out now!

"...the 33 stories that MacFarlane has gathered for this volume dazzle with the virtuosity of their contributors’ talents."

- Publishers Weekly: STARRED REVIEW

"Works from around the world, some in translation, provide an invaluable snapshot of this moment in the genre as well as some tremendously enjoyable reading."

- Publishers Weekly: Best Books of 2014

"The stories range widely in scope and form — from prose poems to metafiction — to capture a dynamic, forward-thinking genre that plays with history, myth and science."

- The Washington Post: Think science fiction is dominated by men? Think again.

"...ground-breaking and superbly conceived..."

- Nina Allan: Strange Horizons: 2014 In Review

Aliens: Recent Encounters

"...this [anthology] blew us away more than any other. Mostly because of the sheer volume of greatness contained in these 32 stories... These are classic stories of alien encounters, from some of the best science fiction writers working today."

- io9.com Best Books of 2013

Short Stories