WisCon report the…

WisCon report the third:

It really is start to blur. Some highlights of Saturday:

  • 8:30 a.m., met Nisi for a swim at the pool. Really glad we made a swim date, because I probably would have talked myself out of actually going swimming otherwise -- stuff to type, people to see -- and that would have been a shame, because I loved the swim. It felt so good being in the water. Nnedi and her daughter were there, along with Ebi and Jennifer, and it was great talking to them and also great swimming. I did my pathetic version of laps, and felt pleasantly exercised after half an hour.

  • 9:30 a.m. Breakfast with Alex and Lisa, whom I continue to like a lot. Very pleasant, though I can't remember what we discussed. Teaching? Race? Convention dynamics?

  • 10:00 - 11:15. Race Basics. This panel wasn't bad, and it was certainly very polite all around, but I almost wish it had been a bit more charged. I just wish we'd gotten into it a bit more, really had time to dig into some of the difficult issues that emerge when you're first coming to terms that some people think that some of the things you might think or say or do are racist. Still, people seemed to like it, and we managed to recommend Peggy Mcintosh's Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack (PDF download), Ampersand's How Not to Be Insane When Accused of Racism, and Jay Smooth's video How to Tell People They Sound Racist, so that was good. And I got to see Neesha Meminger again, after much too long, so that was awesome. She said all kinds of smart things. I really have to pick up her YA at some point, Shine, Coconut Moon.

  • Lunch is a blur -- I think tapas and sangria were involved. I blame Farah.

  • 2:30 - 3:45 -- Guest of Honor reading. I read some excerpts from Arbitrary Passions, and the whole of Jump Space. I was particularly pleased that I ended at exactly 3:45. Go me! I discovered an interesting thing while reading Jump Space, which has a lot of dialogue between three or more people. I tend to embed some of my dialogue tags inside dialogue sections. I.e. "I don't know what you're talking about," Jay said. "I'm not a racist!" I do it for variety on the page, because I get tired of seeing Jay said, Jenny said, etc. in a row down a page of dialogue. But that habit's not helpful when you're reading a piece out loud. By the second section, I found myself moving the dialogue tags to the front of every sentence, to help listeners figure out who was talking in a timely manner. Interesting.

    4:00 - 5:15 -- Panel on race and ethnicity on Bodies in Motion. This was just lovely, honestly. So nice to hear several people loving my book, and talking about it in detail, with intelligence and enthusiasm. Yay! I did wonder if they might have been a bit inhibited by my presence, and if they might have been just a bit more critical if I hadn't been there. I actually would have been interested in engaging some of the criticisms reviewers have made of the book, such as the one who was upset that I only wrote from the POV of upper-middle-class people. I think I have good reasons as to why that's okay in this book, but it would have been interesting to have the discussion during the panel. As it was, I had it later with Ben, Jed, etc., so at least I got it out of my system. :-) And as I said, the panel was lovely.

  • Dinner with Jed, Minal, Alex, Lisa at the tapas place. Good conversation, including a fair bit about queer / poly issues. Afterwards, Minal and I went up to the 12th floor lounge for free pomegranate mimosas and chocolate cake with Cecilia Tan, where we ended up in a pretty explicit conversation about sex, BDSM, etc. I have to admit, I'm out of practice for that kind of conversation! I used to do it all the time, but I've been immersed in mommyhood for a few years now, and I did find myself fretting a few times about whether people could overhear us. I stifled the worries, though, and was well rewarded for it. I like Cecilia and Minal so much -- they remind me that I'm not alone in the sex activism work. And in fact, that while I was hitting pause, they just kept charging ahead. I think I have some catch-up to do.

  • I finished another draft of my speech (draft 5, actually down to 20 minutes, hooray), and then went to Jed's room around 11ish. Hung out until 4 a.m. there with a bunch of cool people, and when Jed decided to go to sleep, Ben and I went down to the lobby and continued the conversation. It actually got kind of intense -- there was some weeping at one point. But good weeping, if that makes sense. Passionate weeping. Some of this race / ethnicity / etc. stuff is just so charged, it's hard to remain dispassionate...and maybe dispassion is overrated. Maybe emotion is sometimes the point. I know I'm being a little obscure, but it's hard to condense 8 hours of intense high-speed analytical and emotional conversation into one paragraph. Sorry! The late-night conversation with Ben continues to be one of my absolute favorite parts of the con.

  • This morning, slept 7-11, lunch with Cliff and his friend Adrian, much talk about babies and breastfeeding. Then back to the hotel, ran into David M. and Jed, back to my room where they worked on signs for the Strange Horizons 10th anniversary tea party -- hooray! And I fine-tuned the speech some, taking out as many of the 'very's' and 'justs' as I could.

My next panel deserves its own entry, and I think I may still need to process it a bit, so I'm going to go catch the tail end of the tea party now. More soon.

8 thoughts on “WisCon report the…”

  1. I was too tired after mine the year I did it to even consider doing a blog post, but damn, I want to hear how your address went! I know you rocked.

  2. I just wanted to tell you that your speech made me feel like I was a Slayerette and you were Buffy in the series finale – handing me (us, everyone) the power to save the world together. So much bravery in sharing all that you shared and I honestly had tears streaming down my face by the end … in the good way. Thank you for that! 🙂

  3. Mary Anne Mohanraj

    Aww…thanks, Rosemary. I hadn’t even thought of that Buffy bit, which is funny, because I totally loved it. I’m so glad it felt that way for you.

  4. Can’t wait to read your speech. Your writing about race is always the most interesting, clear, thought-provoking and profound perspective I read on the subject. You help me figure out ways to have conversations about the subject with my six year old son, even as I am figuring out how to break down the structural racism in my own thought processes.

    Plus, you have introduced me to my new imaginary boyfriend: Jay Smooth. That video was brilliant, and has me more than a little bit crushed out on that man now. 😉

  5. The speech was brilliant. I hope you do post the video because I think the transcript loses something of the effect.

    I just want to say that I find it rather funny that everyone appends “but in a good way” to “it made me cry”. It sort of supposes that the usual case is “that speech was so goddamned boring that I burst into uncontrollable sobbing.” Myself, I have rarely encountered this reaction.

    Personally (this might have a lot to do with being a guy?) I mostly cry when I feel a) very moved, and b) safe. Me crying is thus almost always an index of something very valuable going on. Well, of course being massively overtired helps. 🙂

    Content-wise, one bit where we were crying (at 5am on the 14th floor), Mary Anne, was where we were talking about hanging on to one’s homeland culture, one’s ethnic identity, when living in a diaspora, and about standing up to two different things: the injustices that are entwined with that culture, on the one hand, and on the other hand the seductive Lathe-of-Heaven-ish forces of assimilation by the dominant culture. I remember talking about how we can better stand up against injustice, stand up to Netanyahu and MIA, by being (and raising our kids to be) Jewish or Tamil Americans, not just Americans who were once Jewish or Tamil.

  6. Re crying “but in a good way”: yeah, fair enough. I think I’m mostly the one who’s been saying that (though others may have too); I meant it partly as a joke (it’s a phrase I use fairly often, usually in a sort of joking way but sometimes seriously to make clear (such as in rejection notes) that although what I just said might be construed as an insult, I intended it as a compliment), and partly because the phrase “to make someone cry” usually implies being mean or unpleasant, making them cry in pain or distress.

    In my blog, I wrote the same thing, but then decided to rephrase the “made WisCon cry” thing as something about “at least misting up” for accuracy, but neglected to remove the “in a good way” bit, which resulted in kind of muddled phrasing. Ah, well.

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