Worldcon76 is a wrap! For my first scifi conference/convention, it was eye opening, refreshing, and an emotional roller coaster. There were standing room only panels, awesome costumes, and protests galore. And a healthy dose of soul searching.
I approached the first day like I did sixth grade, except I didn't wear one of my brother's Cure t-shirts. I went in with a goal of finding my people, not really knowing what the hell that meant. First order of business was shopping for the thing I forgot, a Macbook charger (FML). Juice in hand, I got my hotel room and headed to stand in line...for a few hours. Tried to make conversation a couple of times and bombed, but a young fan couple in front of me took pity and I left with new beta readers. How cool! I never expected the side benefits of a fandom + creator event like this. No wonder it's been around so long.
Everyone says you meet agents and publishers at the parties (my only stated goal for the weekend), so I went to zero. Zilch. Not a single party. And if you know me, well, it's a bit out of character. Why you ask? Me thinks it was that evil impostor syndrome come back to haunt the hallows of my being. Fuck that guy. I'm sure I would have had fun and made new friends, but the little nag took a cozy seat on my shoulder pretty much the entire time.
My nag was still sleeping the second morning, so I went for the Wrun with Writers and met some super cool people. Fans, noobs like me, veteran writers - it was a healthy crew who helped start my day on the right foot (I <3 cliches).
And then there was the Writer's Workshop. Though brutal, it was worth the entire price of admission. Two published authors and an agent critiqued the first ten pages of three new writers' work. For two hours! They didn't hold back, which was awesome and well, see above. I love good critical feedback and thought I took it in stride. But again I went back to my hotel room and sequestered myself for the night. I'm not sure if it was the critiques or the conversation I stumbled through with one of the other writers though.
Which brings us to the soul searching. One of the writers wore a her/she button. Now if you follow Worldcon, you likely know about the Sad/Rabid Puppies controversy. It was originally started to help less literary SFF win Hugo awards, but seems to have mighty morphined to a right vs left campaign (correct me if I'm wrong). This year, gender was in the spotlight. At first I didn't quite get why pronouns were being thrown in my face. Then I thought, maybe I'm the problem and decided to open dialogue if possible. I have friends from around the world and of all orientations, but I grew up in Texas and sometimes Mexico as a missionary's kid. I have my blind spots.
Enter K, the writer I asked about how to handle different pronouns. Where I thought none of this stuff applied to my writing, it turns out there are multiple characters in my book that come from marginalized groups and I didn't pay attention to current preferences and word choices for at least one of them. What I actually struggled with most is the annoyance I feel about a lot of the pandering around the women in tech movement. I don't want to be one of the well meaning (or opportunistic) white guys who gets together with his white guy friends and bestows a few bread crumbs on the downtrodden women and/or minorities. I'm SO over that shit. But I also have an entire career of being the "token" female, and hey, at least I got to sit at some tables because of it. Ouch! Admitting that one to myself is likely what took me out of the party game Friday night. And K was even nice enough to introduce me to her friends and invite me to the queer party which sounded like hella fun. Alas, I wallowed in the self loathing of my inner asshole instead. The whole issue is further complicated by the fact that my favorite people on Earth are white males (my son and my husband, though Peter grew up in Mexico City) and I have lots of white male friends who I think are pretty rad.
I wanted to decide for myself if this was important to me, and not just go with the crowd so to speak. Then one sentence made it all click. Funny because I planned on attending the Worldbuilding workshop, but was denied at the door. How perfect that I got to check out The Responsibilities of Seeking Exclusivity as an Editor instead.
Lynne M. Thomas, who won not one but TWO Hugos this year said, "Readers want the experience of being seen." That hit the fucking bulls eye. It may have even put some moisture in mine. So I quit thinking about me and how I felt about it. I started thinking about my future readers and how I want them to feel. ALL of them. Lynne jolted me back to the thing that probably matters to me most. The thing that allowed me to get through rough times growing up, that gave me hope, inspiration, and a sense of belonging. Picking up a book and being transported to a world that accepted me as I was. Isn't that what we all search for?
So, I didn't pitch any agents or publishers, though I got some great tips on pitching. I got things that matter more to me at the moment. Some awesome new beta readers - true hardcore SFF fans. Awareness of a pretty rad community. Inspiration! Phenomenal critiques that already helped me solve some issues in my manuscript. And a reminder that what made me a fan growing up is what I need to put first in my writing.
Thanks Worldcon and see you in Dublin!