June 3rd, 2006

ozarque figure

WisCon 30 (2006) report....

WisCon 30 was wonderful; it was a privilege and an honor to be part of it. Many opportunities to meet, and to talk with, extraordinary people. Excellent art show; fine dealers room; terrific food and drink. You can find more reports on the con, many with photos, at http://community.livejournal.com/wiscon; those reports will fill you in on the fabulous programming and events that went on at night, all of which I was too worn out by 7:00 p.m. to participate in. I had planned to go to the Live Journal party, which the program book claimed would start at 8:45 p.m. -- a bit of a stretch for me, but possible -- but when I got there the poster on the wall had (very reasonably) revised that to 10:00 p.m., after the Guest of Honor speeches were over, and a starting-at-ten-party was not possible for me, so I didn't make it after all. I'm sure it was a great party, and I'm sorry to have missed it.

My first panel was the one about "Klingon versus LAadan," posing the following question: How come Klingon swept the world, spawned an institute and a journal and a summer camp and a translation of Hamlet, while LAadan just sat there? [Quote from the program description: "In the left corner, LAadan, the brainchild of Suzette Haden Elgin, a revolutionary secret language expressing soft/feminine/convivial concepts largely ignored in a technocratic male-dominated society. ... In the right corner, Klingon, language of a hierarchichal warrior society born in the Star Trek universe. Guess which invented language flourishes with academies and Shakespeare translations?"]

Unlike the typical situation for panels, this one achieved consensus almost instantly -- we all agreed that the answer was overwhelmingly duh-obvious, and that "Star Trek versus Suzette Haden Elgin" was not in fact a contest. There was also agreement that in order for a fictional conlang to become a Phenomenon it has to have with it a really cool fictional world for people to move around in -- a culture, neat costumes and gewgaws to wear, appealing beings, intriguing history and mythology, and so on. (And weapons, apparently.) Who, panelists wanted to know, would want to go play in a world that's peaceful and quiet and filled with harmony? We had some fun with the way the program description had turned my LAadan icon -- the vine wreath -- into a "wine wraith," which seemed to all of us to have a lot of narrative potential. And we talked about Klingon a good deal.

As is always the case at recent WisCons, most of the things I would have loved to go to -- for just one example, a panel called "SF Poetry" and asking "Why should SF poetry be just as important as SF novels and SF short stories? Why is that not recognized? What can be done to change this?" -- were held at times when I was either asleep or was scheduled for some other event. (While the SF poetry panel was going on I was on duty at the Broad Universe table.) However, I did make it to the "Lady Poetesses From Hell" session, where Jane Yolen, Terry Garey, John Rezmerski, Rebecca Marjesdatter, Ellen Klages, and Elise Matthesen read poetry -- some of it hilarious, some of it intensely sad, all of it excellent -- for an entire hour. This was not your usual sf poetry panel, where the panelists outnumber the audience. It was something I never expected to see in my life time, an sf poetry panel in a moderately large conference room where every single chair was filled and people were standing or sitting in every available space on the floor and against the walls! I had to sit on the floor the whole time myself, but I was too pleased to mind that at all, and people very kindly helped me get up again when it was over. Just imagine a standing-room-only poetry panel! It was one of those "now I can die happy" events, and I can now say that I have perceived it with my very own senses and can state with confidence that it's possible. May you all be so fortunate.

My other panel, "The Breeders versus the Broads," was not a pleasant experience, although it was worthwhile. It was supposed to be about the attitude(s) contemporary feminism has toward the issue of having a child or children, and whether having offspring holds women back in this world, and to a certain extent the discussion did follow that line. But it was a heavy topic, full of pitfalls, full of questions for which there are no easy or comfortable answers, and unquestionably a Downer. I was not much help as a participant. I did have a chance at the very end to jump on one of my soapboxes for a minute and plead for more attention from feminists to the issue of how our elderly (and perhaps frail or infirm) feminists who don't have children and outlive their male partners are going to survive in this increasingly anti-elderly society, and I was glad of that.

I also did a reading -- in a timeslot shared with Melissa Scott. I was a little nervous about that event. The only finished story that I had available to read was "Death and Taxes," and it wasn't about linguistics, it was about the future of our elderly, whatever their gender, if we go on in the U.S. as we are now. It was a sad story -- with some comical parts, but still a sad story. And because of the time constraints I had no choice but to give it a Yankee Reading -- licketysplit, and a downright rude way to read at people, as I perceive things. Melissa had been able to introduce her story by telling the audience where it would soon be published; I had to introduce mine by telling them that "Death and Taxes" has now been rejected by every sf market I've submitted it to, both on and off the Internet. Nevertheless, with all that working against it, the reading went well, and so far as I could tell from what people said (and from their body language during the reading), they actually liked the story. Since the rejection letters I've been getting from editors have been saying essentially "I like this story, but my readers would hate it," that interested me. Certainly the group of people who go to WisCon can't be described as a typical group of readers; neverthless, it interested me. And pleased me.

Finally, I wasn't on the panel about why linguistics has become popular in today's science fiction, and about whether we need a U.S. Corps of Linguists, but I was in the audience. Also in the audience was someone who is actually a participant in the current U.S. government project to assemble a "civilian" Corps of Linguists, and I found her comments very interesting. I was glad she was there, because it made it possible to explore at least briefly the extraordinary contradiction between (a) the ongoing federal drive to repair our dangerous shortage of linguists, including measures introducing foreign language instruction in our elementary schools [where will the teachers come from? no one knows], and (b) the truly stupid warbling about "English Only" and "English As the Official Language" our politicians and pundits are involved in.

ozarque figure

Science fiction poetry; poem; "And She Also Writes Poetry..."

[I took a stack of copies of this poem along for the free-lit table at WisCon; I had intended to write a short paper on the topic, but it turned into a poem and I couldn't make it stop that. And then, serendipitously and to my great delight, page one of the WisCon 30 Souvenir Book was headlined "Jane Yolen, Poet," and Terry A. Garey had written the following sentence as the opening for her profile: "OK, she does other things too, but I think of her first and foremost as a poet."]

“And She Also Writes Poetry....”

Early this year, in the winter, I posed a question
to some of science fiction’s leading lights:
“Who,” I asked them respectfully, “are our top three
female science fiction poets?”
Their answers were instructive.

“Well,” they said to me, “unfortunately....
the field of science fiction poetry
is dominated by men.”

That’s all we need.
Yet another field
dominated by men.

We don’t give our womanpoets in science fiction enough support;
with only a few exceptions, we hardly know their names.
We should be giving them well-attended poetry readings
with elegant receptions afterward.
We should be writing thorough profiles of each one,
and critical analyses of their best work.
We should be showcasing them far and wide and deep.
We should be celebrating their first collections
the way we celebrate a “debut” novel
or a “debut” short story collection.
Who ever heard of a “debut” poetry collection?
Time we heard of that. Time for champagne.

We need to bring these women out
into the light
as poets.

Suppose we begin, therefore, with a list of names.
As happens with all such lists, there will be poets
I’ve overlooked -- but it’s a start.

Linda Addison. Elizabeth Barrette. Leah Bobet.
Ruth Berman. Constance Cooper. Jennifer Crow.
Denise Dumars. Erine Donahoe. April French.
Theodora Goss. Terry A. Garey. L.A. Story Houry.
Charlee Jacob. Deborah Kolodji. Ursula K. Le Guin.
Jaime Lee Moyer. Maureen McHugh. Kristine Ong Muslim.
Melissa Marr. Jacie Ragan. Wendy Rathbone.
Karen A. Romanko. Ann Schwader. Marge Ballif Simon.
Christina Sng. Sonya Taaffe. Catherynne Valente.
Joselle Vanderhooft. Laurel Winter. And Jane Yolen.