Conventionally speaking

Conventionally speaking

The dust has settled and I’m peering over the precipice of a new job which begins September 1st, so I thought it would be a good time as any to get this pesky con-report-blog thing out of my way.

See, I’ve never done this before. I attended NineWorlds and WorldCon, and they were the first proper SFF cons I ever attended. It involved several long-haul flights, layovers in airports steeped in 38C weather, and living out of a green suitcase for two weeks.

In between rolling chains of hotel lobbies and rooms in other people’s houses, I met folks. Folks I was meeting for the first time in person. Folks I was meeting for the first time, period. And folks I was meeting after too long a time apart.  At the end of my travels, back in Singapore, I made a list of people whom I met, and whom I wanted to thank on Twitter. The list had over fifty names on it. I ended up just tweeting a picture of the list instead. It was that kind of experience.

I mostly made this post to address this Daily Dot article that went around earlier this week (How The Growing Generation Gap Is Changing The Face Of Fandom) The basic premise was that NineWorlds = good and inclusive because it’s a young con run by young people! And WorldCon = awful on the diversity front because old white men.

Well. I attended both cons as a young queer Asian woman and I think that’s a pretty unfair assessment of what the cons were actually like.

With my CW2013 classmates Vince and Allison
With my CW2013 classmates Vince and Allison at WorldCon

I think the article was trying to make a point about the difference between the classic SFF establishment and the diversity-oriented, for-inclusivity trend that the fandom and business has been swinging towards in recent years. Unfortunately, it chose to do so by making a ham-fisted division between Older People and Younger People, which is not just reductive, but also kinda shitty. There have been queer and minority folks in SFF fandom for decades, agitating for change, and reducing classic fandom to “full of old white men” pretty much erases them.

I’ll say this: Most of the folk I met at the two conventions were older than I. We had such insightful conversations. It isn’t about age, it’s about mindset.

That’s not to say there weren’t differences in the way the two conventions felt to me. The panels I attended on representation and non-western SFF in NineWorlds were, on the whole, much less 101 and a lot more to my taste, while the ones I attended (or rather, were on) at WorldCon had a much higher percentage of folks in the audience who were clueless or said things which had been discussed and debunked online over and over. But I think that’s to be expected with larger cons. Larger cons equal larger groups equal a larger number of casual fans, who are not as well-versed on SJ topics. For most part these audience members were usually shut down fairly quickly by moderators and panelists, so it was all good. (If a bit annoying).

The thing that stood out to me most about the two cons, if I had to say anything, was that they were both felt very white to me. And this is coming from someone who probably hung out with more POC than the average con-goer. SFF fandom, in general, is still very white. Most of the SFF spaces I’ve been in–even those which make it a point to be inclusive– are majority white by sheer numerology.

In fact, WorldCon felt like it was much more diverse to me, possibly because NineWorlds was more of a local con and it looks like the British SFF scene is very white (which doesn’t surprise me). LonCon was a big-ticket event which people would travel further for. It was noticeable to me, but, as I said, I didn’t feel unwelcome, or alienated by, the con atmosphere.

At the Strange Horizons party at WorldCon
At the Strange Horizons party at WorldCon

I have hope. At the Hugos we watched Sofia Samatar take home the Campbell. John Chu win Best Short Story and Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice be awarded the Best Novel prize. We also witnessed the SFF community collectively thumb their noses at old-school bigotry by ranking Vox Day’s nomination lower than No Award. I’m very glad to have been part of both conventions. These are my people, and no, we aren’t perfect. But I believe we’re taking steps in the right direction.

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