The first day of WorldCon 76 is done and dusted! Living within driving distance of the con has its pros – no hotel! – and cons – the drive home is long enough that staying for late awards shows and dances is off the table. Thursday was light, but proved to be a nice way to start of what looks to be packed weekend.
How to Moderate a Panel
Janice Gelb, Wanda Kurtcu, Sally Wiener Grotta, Sam Scheiner
Attended this as a brush up in preparation for moderating my own panel tomorrow. Much of it I was already familiar with, but there were a few pointers which proved useful.
The only frustrating thing was the gender descriptors. Two panelists said not to call on members of the audience by gender, as in “the lady in the green shirt,” but then proceeded to do just that during the audience Q&A. One, I think it was Gelb, also made the comment that a person with a beard was probably a man, which no. Facial hair and gender identity are mutually exclusive. Kurtcu repeated that same gendered call-out in her Survivance and Thrivance panel. Ugh. But besides this, it was a good panel for first time moderators needing tips and guidance.
Survivance and Thrivance: Storytelling Dialogue
Wanda Kurtcu, Gregg Castro, M Todd Gallowglas
I’m not sure what I was expecting from this panel, but it wasn’t what I got. And in this case, that’s not a bad thing. Castro and Gallowglas told stories from their cultural heritages – Castro is Ohlone and Salinan, Gallowglas is Irish – based on the topic “remorse,” which Kurtcu pulled from a suggestion from the audience.
After that they talked briefly about how storytelling is used in their cultures. They pointed out Indigenous tradition tends to think of stories as something to share with others, that they are sacred to certain places, times, and people and because of that there are some stories that people outside a tribal community don’t get to experience. The Irish, however, give a story out to the world. To paraphrase Gallowglas, even if there were no other Irish people left in the world, as long as Irish stories still exist so too does the culture.
Tomorrow Through the Past
Mario Acevedo, Bradford Lyau, Madeleine Robins, Jo Walton, Bao Shu, Ada Palmer
This one wasn’t as interesting to me as I’d hoped, but it was still worth attending. It was all about moving history into the future, like the Napoleonic Wars but in the 25th century. Palmer said something that particularly intrigued me, that the way we write about the past reflects our present values. Her examples were how in the Renaissance they valorized Roman emperors and military engagements whereas in the mid-19th century they were couldn’t get enough of pastoral ancient Greece and today we’re obsessed with the corruption and sexual escapades of the ancient and medieval worlds. How we interpret history and what parts of history we find most important has more to do with us than the actual history.
Most of the books and historical events/eras discussed were Eurocentric, with the exception of a few Japanese and Chinese references (most of the latter came from Shu, a Chinese science fiction author). Two audience members mentioned Indigenous people from North America, but the authors were white people guilty of cultural appropriation. I don’t think Africa, South America, Oceania/Pacific Islands, and the non-China/Japan parts of Asia were mentioned in relation to topics or authors. That was hugely disappointing to me. It was a lot of classic authors, most of whom are great, but still. I wanted something fresh and new, not more talk about Le Guin and Asimov. This panel also could’ve used some YA references, but nope.
You’re going to hear that lament from me a lot this weekend. As diverse as the Hugos are right now, WorldCon tends to be middle-aged white people who read traditional SF and often look down on or outright ignore anything not that. It can make for some awkward situations, but I hope it doesn’t turn off younger people and QTPOC from attending. It’s never going to get better if we don’t start flooding the memberships.