It's been a super, duper SUPER DUPER busy time for me, but just wanted to say that my August book review column is now up at Lightspeed. This month, I’ll explore the nature of caretakers in The Sum of Us anthology, take a trip back to The River Bankin a sequel to The Wind in the Willows, and get turned into an emotional wreck by N.K. Jemisin’s The Stone Sky.
This weekend is WisCon and as usual, I'll be there. I'm keeping my schedule super light this year for reasons, but here's where you can officially find me:
Friday, May 26, Caucus Room 4:00 - 5:15p
Love Love Peace Peace: What Makes a Fun Story?
As opposed to beautifully-crafted stories that tell powerful tales are funtime stories that we tell to amuse ourselves. We don't always talk about them because they are "low-brow," and we're afraid we'll be seen as less intelligent somehow. But while fun stories that make people laugh and give readers a joyride might not seem relevant, they are still important. Let's talk critically about what makes a story "fun" while considering the perspective of the marginalized for whom these stories are often laid with landmines of microaggressions and stereotypes.
Sunday, May 28, Conference Room 4 10:00-11:15a
Reading Group: Personal Demons
What haunts us, what scares us, what makes us tick. Works that deal with metaphorical and actual demons. I'll be reading from my yet to be published novella "Memphis Minnie and Sister Rosetta Tharpe Sing the Stumps Down Good".
Either Saturday or Sunday at some point
Spontaneous Programming: Gaming for Janet Elle Plato
I am putting together a short DnD game to honor the memory of Janet Elle Plato, who attended WisCon numerous times and died last summer. If you gamed with her or knew her at some level, connect with me either through social media or at WisCon. I'll post final details on the Spontaneous Programming board in the lobby.
Yes! I'll be at the POC Dinner on Friday night. Outside of that, you can catch me either in the lobby, the ConSuite or the parties. There may be times though that I'll need to introvert, so I'll disappear for a bit. Again, if you want to hang, message me on FB or Twitter. I should be around.
Last Tuesday, Daniel turned 13. He's officially a teenager now. We had a bunch of his friends over for a sleepover this weekend, and aside from them shattering our basement bathroom glass shower door into tiny pieces, everyone had a fun time (no injury, thank God, but yeah, it freaked out the kid who did it, whose official excuse was "We were playing hide and seek, I just went in there to hide and It just broke on me!". Yeahhhh.)
Mother's Day has always been a bit weird for me, particularly over the past few years. I was going to post something yesterday on FB, but got overwhelmed by all the posts either rejoicing in Mother's day or dealing with the pain with Mother's day. I'm a mom of one son, and have had several miscarriages, the last one back in December 2014. So I've been dealing with the pain of that for a while.
But I am still a mom. Because as a mother of an only, I sometimes feel like I don't fit in the whole motherhood thing. We don't have the chaos that larger families have (broken shower door aside); our kid for the most part is relatively easy to maintain, and he's getting to the point where he doesn't require so much hand-holding. But I am still a mother--just in a different time of life. And 13 years ago, Daniel was indeed born on Mother's Day, which was a sweet surprise.
So yesterday, I let the hubby and boy pamper me, which meant they made me breakfast (hasbrowns, omelettes) and dinner. We listened to Phil Keaggy and Sunday's Child, because that was the CD I was playing on repeat during labor (and yes, funny twist, Daniel was indeed born on a Sunday). We went to the Arboretum, where I finally got to level 5 on Pokemon Go. Then we went home and watched Wolf Children, which a gorgeous, heartbreaking anime movie about motherhood. Oh, and I called my mom and grandma to wish them Happy Mother's day.
All in all, pretty chill day. We'll get to sweeping up the shower door glass at some point, I guess, but it's been super nice out.
But before I start talking about that, I should also link to this article, which talks about Prosperity Gospel. someone posted this article on Facebook, and I posted a comment on it:
I grew up in a health & wealth church, with the idea that if bad things happened to you, it was either 1) your fault somehow in that you may have inadvertently said or did something to bring it on yourself or 2) the devil is actively working against you. When I went to college and got involved with InterVarsity, they emphasized doing volunteer work in shelters and food pantries. Getting to know people who went there made me question how God viewed poverty and how we as Christians were supposed to respond to it. Ultimately, I left my mom's church.
This article also puts into perspective something I've been baffling over ever since Trump got elected. They say that 80% of evangelicals voted for him, but many of the evangelicals I know did not and in fact are actively speaking out against Trump. In the Christian world, the prosperity gospel movement is considered more charismatic than evangelical, and many protestant denominations try to distance themselves from them.
I've been thinking more about my comment, but it wasn't until I saw the Twitter thread above that I was able to figure out why I was so baffled on why people lump Charismatics with Evangelicals. To those outside the Christian church, they would think the two the same, but they're not. Here's the key difference:
- Evangelicals see the world as fallen, broken, and being subject to God's wrath.
- Charismatics see the world as a blessing, a gift and (providing you follow his commandments) subject to God's love and providence.
As I mentioned above, most of my childhood and teenage years were spent in the charismatic church. Even when I went to college and got married, the churches we attended were on the charismatic side. I enjoyed being in God's presence, and I was taught that God delighted in me, cheered me on, was a loving parent who doted me. And if anything bad happened to me, or if I got sick, I was to pray for God's healing, or pray that God bring me out of whatever the bad thing is. And if it didn't happen, I just didn't pray hard enough, because I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!!!
The church we attend now considers itself very evangelical. No charismatic tendencies anywhere. The most emotional people get is they stand when they are moved by a particular song (which is only two or three per worship set. Got to keep it in the time limit), and then they just...stand. You might get a couple of people raising their hands, but that's it. But then I notice the songs would be about how we didn't deserve God's grace, or that we were considered "lowly wretches". The pastor would emphasize how sinful and imperfect we were, that we were broken creatures, and that Jesus, out of his love and mercy (emphasis on mercy), died for us so we could now be cleansed, and holy and made perfect in him. But until Jesus comes back again, well, we still sin, and are still imperfect, and are still broken, and still terrible, and we are totally depraved and thus subject to punishment (been that way since the Fall don't you know)...
And all of that butted against my Charismatic foundation of God loves me he cares for me he died on a cross for me...
Yeahhhhhh....it really is a form of negging.
So. What I'm coming to realize:
- Christianity itself isn't perfect...and it was never meant to be. I think this is what is considered by evangelicals as "broken". It's not perfect.
- In the same way, we're not perfect people. You can be a very good person and yet do stupid stuff.
- But at the same time, we're not absolutely depraved creatures either. Come on. We may not be perfect, but people are doing their best.
- The Bible shows both evangelical and charismatic ideas.
I think that's where God is at the positives of both denominations. God encapsulates the love and joy from charismatics and that he sees us as good (it is what he says at the beginning of the creation), and is continually working to restore that loving relationship. But that doesn't make him a magic genie that if you pray hard enough, you get whatever you wish pray for. And it doesn't mean that if you fall into bad times, it's not because God hates you or you did something wrong. God acknowledges those hard times and walks with us through those times.
He also recognizes that people fuck up, and thus give us the means, through grace, to care for those who do, and yes, that does mean encouraging them to do the right thing. Which may not look like the socially acceptable thing.
Whenever I think of this, I always think of my mother, who divorced my dad in the mid-90s. My dad is an alcoholic. Whenever I think of this, I always think of my mother, who divorced my dad in the mid-90s. My dad is an alcoholic and it had reached the point where it was giving my mom great mental harm. Church culture would have her stay in the marriage since "God hates divorce". But trust me. She needed to go.
Now here's where things get interested. My mom never stopped caring for my dad. Once she was able to recover her mental health, she was to provide some support for my dad when he fell on hard times. About ten years after the divorce, my dad was kicked out of his apartment. She let him stay at her house for a few months (granted it was in the sun porch), until he was able to get into senior living home. She's also been helping him with medical appointments and making sure he takes care of himself. They even hang out together and my dad still does family stuff with her. But before you ask, no, she's not going to remarry him. And he knows that full well (which doesn't mean that he doesn't try. It's simultaneously cute and awkward when he flirts with her and she shuts him down like 'yeah, that's not going to happen'.) But her care for him, even though they're not married anymore, is a huge example of God's grace working through her.
And to those who would say, well, why don't they remarry? See, my dad is the sweetest guy in the world. To my knowledge, he never abused my mom. But when he drank, he was horrible with money. My mom had to protect herself from that. He would outright admit that he can't be trusted when he drinks. He's can't help himself...and yeah, that's how alcoholism work. It's an insidious disease. I've been praying for years that he'd be free of it. And that's something that charismatics can't wrap their heads around. God doesn't always answer prayer right away. Sometimes it takes years...decades...or even generations. Or it just might not happen at all.
But that doesn't mean God isn't at work.
I believe God is working on my dad through my mom. Through her, He is showing my father love and grace. She could have easily cut him off and refused to ever see him again, but I think that God has worked enough in her life that she can now extend the same grace to him without being pulled back into that downward spiral of anger and bitterness. Even now, God continues to work through my mom with her own healing and discovery of gifts. Recently, she's taken up photography and she's amazing. I think she's flourishing for the first time in her life...and I think that's how God really works. To show the beauty of life, the beauty of perseverance, the beauty of grace, and how he can make things work out, even if things don't work out the way we want...or how others want.
So what does this make me? A charismatic evangelical? An evangelical charismatic?
Or maybe I should dump both and become a Liberation Theologian. Yeah, there we go.
Last week, I decided to apply to the Jack Jones WOC Writing Retreat. It's not often I apply to such things but I realized that a) I am a Woman of color, b) I'm almost done with this draft of Willow, but I need one more draft to nail down all final details in place. and c) I really, really, like really need a break from the dayjob. So we'll see if it goes through.
Meanwhile, still working on Willow 38. In working on the Writing Retreat application, I had to do a new synopsis for Willow, which was much cleaner. The book is getting to the point where I'm reallly pleased with it. I also realized that I could combine two crucial events into one, which might shorten the chapters I have left (so far it's 9). If I can pull that off, that'll be awesome.
I'm also working on three, yes, three short stories. I don't know how that happened. Two will be at least a 1000 words, and I'm hoping the third will be up to 3000.
My quarterly book review for Lightspeed is coming up this month. Details on that will be announced May 9.
* I had another essay due the same week (the one coming out in Uncanny Magazine this month)
* I also had my book review deadline for Lightspeed that week.
* And I finished up edits on chapter 36 of Willow, my novel.
I had written all of this down in my bullet journal, which I've been keeping since early February. Let me tell you something; holy cow. Bullet journals are AWESOME. Because I was feeling blue about turning down that article, and thinking I've missed my chance to become a published writer, etc. and so forth. But looking at what I did in the bullet journal reminded me, oh yeah, I couldn't do the article because I'm doing all this other writer stuff.
Thus, turning down that article wasn't a loss of a writing credit. It was TIME MANAGEMENT.
I'm going to start posting writing updates here. Trying to get back into the habit of journaling online. This week, here's what I got going on writerwise:
*Starting in on edits for Chapter 38 of Willow (38 chapter out of 45)
*Researching for a quick short story/prose poem about black mermaids
*Finished first draft of another short story. Letting that rest a week.
If you're a Lightspeed Magazine subscriber, maybe you noticed a familiar name listed in the nonfiction column section of the February ebook edition. I am happy to announce that, starting with the February issue, I will be joining Amal El-Mohtar and Andrew Liptak in reviewing books for Lightspeed Magazine!
Four times a year, I'll review the latest fantasy and science fiction books that will be released around that time. This month, I review Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty, The Stars are Legion by Kameron Hurley and A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson. It's available in Lightspeed's ebook edition now, and will be going live on Lightspeed's website on 2/21.
If you like what you read and want to support Lightspeed Magazine, subscriptions are just $35.88/year.
And yes, this is now my second gig with Lightspeed after slushing for them from 2009 through 2013. Guess I can't stay away, huh?
Bunch of shorter announcements for you today:
New Reprint Flash Story in Fantastic Stories
Back in October 2015, I wrote a flash story for the Vintage Podcastle Flash Fiction Extravaganza (PodCastle Episode 384). Well, now you can read that story in its entirety online for free! "The Summation of EvilCorp Subsidies HR Meeting Agenda Minutes, Compiled by Olivia Washington" is now up at Fantastic Stories! Not only is that the longest title I've ever made for a story to date, but I can vouch that the Peanuts mug mentioned in the story is real.
Okay, it's more a thermos cup than mug, but still. Also, you have no idea how much this cup kept me sane. So did writing that story. Speaking of which...
2016 Year in Review
I barely submitted anything for 2016 other than a poem that will be printed I think later this year. So I got nothing for 2016 award eligibility. And I've just started reading books again, because there was a period in 2016 that I wasn't reading at all.
But, 2016 was the most focused I've ever been writing-wise. The main thing is that I made great progress on my novel, Weeping of the Willows, to the point that I have about ten chapters left to revise. I will need one more revision draft to fix some plotting inconsistencies, but I'm finally beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. My hope is to finish this draft by April. I just need to figure out how I'll hit that deadline.
And oh! I wrote a novella and submitted it! That sort of happened out of the blue. I had meant it to be a short story, but well, like all my stories, it just got bigger and bigger. We'll see how far it goes.
Other blog thinky thoughts
I've been also thinking about doing more blog posts on faith and theological matters, but I'm not sure if this is the right place to do it. For the most part, it used to be easy to keep my writing and matters about my spiritual life separate. But the past couple of years have shown the two intertwining. I'm thinking of creating a space to process that, but I don't know if I can do it here at the Cafe. At least, not yet.
::sips tea from Peanuts mug::
So, thinking of options. Do I hop back on LiveJournal? Filtered posts on Facebook? Is there a way for WordPress to do locked blog posts, and if so, how? Old fashioned mailing list? Thoughts and suggestions appreciated.
And oh! I'm starting to keep a bullet journal. I'll blog more about that once I figure out what the heck I'm doing...
Last year, I wrote a sestina for the first time for my dayjob's Christmas party. I meant to post it, but never got around to it, so doing it this year. Enjoy!
A sestina is a six-stanza poem, each stanza composed of six lines, which end with six words that repeated throughout the poem in a fixed sequence, ending in a 3-line triplet that contains all six words.
Sestina for a Star
By the time you set forth your light
the earth was still being formed in joy.
Sin had yet to erase our hope.
Your light spanned eons, centuries across
history, until it finally reached our world
where it sat silent, waiting, in the dark.
Since Eden, man had fumbled in the dark
robbed of their peace and joy.
In money and power, many put their hope
while others simply forgot the light.
Because of this, you went across
cultures to make yourself known in the world.
The first ones to see you in this world
would be considered foreigners, seen as Other, across
Jerusalem. Seeing you gave them joy
for they were familiar with your light.
So, skin tones ranging from pale to dark,
they set forth tracking the sign of their hope.
Your news would be received well, they hoped.
Herod heard and his mind grew dark.
Months later, he'll kill to get his point across
that he was the only rightful ruler to the world.
So he asked the magi if they would enlighten
him of this child, who was to bring much joy.
He didn't understand; this child wouldn't enjoy
the material riches found in this world.
He had come for those who had lost hope,
for those fumbling for answers in the dark,
to pay off sins, to make burdens light:
the son of man, born to die on a cross.
God has placed you to shine across
the fields to shepherds filling them with hope,
to the magi filling them with awe and joy
as they reached a village quiet and dark,
to kneel before God’s son, given to the world
to banish fear and bring us back into the light.
Christmas Star, bring your light into this sad and broken world.
May it illuminate across the land, into our hearts hidden and dark,
comforting those who needs its hope, and lifting them up into joy.
Copyright © 2015 LaShawn M. Wanak
Do not copy without permission
Today we learned that Jack Chick, Evangelical Cartoonist, died at the age of 92.
I could've sworn I've written about him before. I remember doing so. It was a long post about horror and taboos and fundamentalism. Maybe it was on a reivew, or maybe it was on a blog post. The point is, I can't find it. So I'm putting it here, again.
I grew up on Chick Tracts. My church had them in their bookstore growing up, and I used to read them all the time. There were the "This Was Your Life", with the protagonist more bleah on his faults until he gets tossed into hell. "Somebody Loves You", which was a pretty grim about a street urchin, who is told by a girl that "Jesus Loves You" and then the urchin dies because, well, the girl gave the urchin books for a pillow and a jacket for warmth, but didn't like, take the urchin to a shelter. But that's okay because Jesus took the urchin in the end, so yay?
It hit me even at that early age that Jack Chick did not like Catholics. Or drunks. Or sinners. Or atheists. Or people who played Dungeons and Dragons (which I never understood). Or anyone, really. And neither did Chick's God. He was always faceless, shining so bright, but faceless. An angry, angry God that would readily condemn you for doing anything, anything wrong.
Jack Chick also did comic books, which went beyond putting the fear of God in you into, well disturbing. The comic books was where I learned Jack Chick really, really hated Catholics. There's an image that's been burned on my brain of some people (can't remember if they were the Inquisition or not )torturing a young pregnant woman. They had strapped her to a chair, pried her mouth open, and forced her to swallow some sort of bristly cloth by dripping water down her throat.
It was a grisly image, and I don't think our parents ever knew such a thing was right there among the bibles and story books.
Looking back on it now that I'm older, I'm realizing that what Jack Chick did could be considered horror. There's always a feeling of dread that almost bordered on demonic when you read his works. I got a stack of them now packed up with the rest of my books. I can't read them for long before feeling sick. Maybe it's because he saw anyone who wasn't Christian as a villian, so they became these sneering caricatures that made you wonder why God would be trying to save them in the first place. And if they did become Christian, in a way, it was worse, because they became these grinning, dead-eyed dolls praising God. It was really creepy. Even the art was always this ugly 60s-era grotesqueness, sort of like Mad Magazine back in the day, but eviler. And over time, it just got worse and worse.
Perhaps that's why it doesn't bother me to write horror sometimes. Jack Chick certainly had an impact on me growing up, and it shows in some of my work. And I've grown enough theologically to know that there's always something deeper to my faith. But still, I also recognize that there's a side to my faith that yes, can be brimstone and fire. It's a dark place, something to wrestle with.
I'm pretty sure though, that when it comes time to unpack my books, those Chick Tracks may stay in their box just a little bit longer. Maybe a year. Or two. Or ten.
People are asking me, "So, will you be at such-and-such-con this year? You should really come to so-and-so-con!"
First I think I need to fall back to the lesson I learned at Viable Paradise. I can only control what I write, when I write, and when I send it out. I can't control where I get published or what awards (if any) I get. I need to remember that everyone are in different points of their writing career paths. I just so happen to be in a busy time of life where the full-time writing dream will have to take a backseat. It sucks, I know, but I just need to keep writing. My output won't be the same as a full-time writer, and I'll just have to accept that for now. The good thing is that there are others like me in the same boat. So consider this post as an encouragement shout-out. Although really, I think I'm writing this post for me...
That said, I do need to look at how and when I submit things. There's a couple of stories that I was submitting a year ago before dayjob intruded, and I haven't really found a place for them. I think they're really good stories still. The question is, how do I proceed? Submitting them to new genres I think they'll fit? Self-publish? I also have a couple of reprints too that I need to get out there.
As for cons, I do plan to be at Oddcon on Saturday April 9, and I'll definitely be at WisCon the entire time. I'm even thinking about going to Convergence, mainly because I now know people up there. But this year I'm scaling back on volunteering. I feel like after what happened last year, I need to remember why I like going to cons in the first place.
So, there you go. I'm still around, still writing. You probably won't hear much from me, but I'll try to keep things posted. Best place to keep track of me would be on FB and Twitter. I still post there. I like to think of it as creating a small oasis of fun amidst all the drama and hate. And I'll just keep on writing. Because I'm a writer. Just keep on keepin on...
(And maybe because the whole Hugos slate thing appears to be starting up again, maybe it is best to keep my head low for now...)
So yesterday I finally got around to seeing Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Fell in love with it immediately--particularly the character of Finn. And in a way, seeing it has been useful in processing Urbana 15. Spoiler ahoy!
So what I loved most about Finn's characterization is that he's not strong from the offset. He's just 'awakened' to himself and realizing that what he's doing is wrong, so he wants out. But not so much to fight. He's more about self-preservation, which is totally within his right to do so.
But when Rey gets captured, suddenly, his self-preservation no longer matters to him. Because he connected with her, instead of taking the easy way out, he goes to save her...and he is badly hurt because of it. There's no reunion of them at the end. Our last shot of him is him unconscious in a medical ward. His worst fear comes true. But the point is...he went anyway, even though he was scared, even though he knew he wasn't a hero.
For the past 14 months, I've been pretty much in "keep your head down" mode. Most of that was due to my dayjob spiraling up in stress, but most of that was also just seeing so much happening in the social media world over the push for diversity. The Hugos and the Sad/Rabid Puppies. Stuff with my dayjob. News media and shootings and open carry and outrage and more outrage and doxing...until it felt like my voice didn't matter. Anything I said would be said in vacuum. And too much was being said anyway, by people who said it much better than me. What more could my voice add?
So I kept quiet and hid. I stopped writing on my blog. I only posted on Facebook to my closest friends. And that intermittedly.
At Urbana 15, one of the sights that stuck out to me was catching a glimpse of Greg Jao, our VP of Campus Engagement, talking with Michelle Higgins, who spoke at Urbana on the #BlackLivesMatter movement. She was already getting pushback from her talk, so she and Greg were talking about the clarification statement IV was putting out on their website. What struck me was how they wanted to make sure they were communicating things right, in that Michelle wasn't speaking for InterVarsity, but at the same time putting weight on her words as a guest of Urbana. They were getting so much pushback (and by default, so was our office. Can't tell you how many phone calls and emails we got, including some from 'concerned Christians' who pretty much told us to go to hell, along with other words that pretty much wasn't Christianly.)
But Michelle was willing to take the heat. And so was Greg.
When I went to Ferguson and saw with my own eyes the place in the street where Mike Brown's body laid for hours, I was startled by the sudden rage I felt--not just for his death, and his narrative will be that of someone 'deserving' of such a death, but also for the people living in the apartment complex near him who had to see such and act. And, yes, also for the police that their own narrative was knocked awry. That now, they will no longer be seen as protectors, but oppressors. That no one will ever trust them.
At one of the Urbana Seminars, Rev. Karen Anderson, who was also one of the pastors who marched in Ferguson, talked about finding a space and fitting in. "There's more to #BlackLivesMatter than just marching and protesting. Look for what is needed, then fill it." It resonated with me because I'm not the marching type, but I'm good at helping behind the scenes. I guess, for the past fourteen months, I've been trying to figure out how I'd fit within the whole movement. But doing my dayjob helps. and being a writer helps.
And that my job, as a writer, is to change the narrative.
So many people are working to change the narrative. From those working with #BlackLivesMatter, to those working racial reconciliation, to those fighting to get diverse books and games out, And they're doing it, not because they're heroes--some are quite frightened to do so, and they bear so much hate. But they also know that people are dying, so they're, to use a Christianese phrase "counting the cost".
Just like Finn.
So, uh, Star Wars. I loved it. And Urbana...I loved that too. And I can't believe I was able to meld the two into a semi-coherent post.
2. Writing for Urbana Today: Probably the most balanced Urbana Assignment I ever had for my introvert and extrovert side.
3. Being in a black space to process #BlackLivesMatter through the use of song, spoken word, and poetry. Wow. Wowwww...
4. My hotel had an underground casino. Did yours?
5. My hotel had so many more black people chillaxing by the casino. Did yours?!
6. BLACK PEOPLE BLACK PEOPLE SO MANY BLACK PEOPLE IT WAS AWESOME.
7. Being with my family for my uncle's funeral completely fit in with Urbana's unspoken "Being Present" theme.
8. Ferguson looked exactly like my neighborhood. Not the one I grew up in. The one I live in now.
9. Still processing the trip to Ferguson. So many feelings.
10. I am incredibly tired.
and 11. So. Many. Black. HAIRSTYLES.
Currently in St Louis, attending the Urbana Missions Conference, and based on my job here, thought I should get back into the habit of doing quick journals. So I'm going to post these at my journals and FB. Let see how it goes.
So. Urbana. This is going to be a most interesting week. My job here at the conference is writing articles for Urbana Today, the daily newsletter. My schedule will basically be like this: at 7pm, all the writers meet with our editor Lisa, who will give out assignments for the following day. The assignments range from quick statements from students focused on a question of the day, to full blown interviews, to seminar write ups. The next day, we go out to our respective assignments, then first drafts of article write ups are due by 4pm. The articles get sent to proofreaders, yada yada yada, and we re-convene at 7pm to get our next assignment. The articles go to print at night and are ready the next morning.
This works well considering that tomorrow I'm going to be taking the Greyhound to my Uncle's funeral and coming back the same night. Our assignments are flexible, so I can make it super light, such as just talking to students, or more involved. Wednesday, I'll be covering the "Ferguson is Now" panel. I also hope to get to the different ethnic lounges.
It feels weird that I'm finally putting my Journalism degree to work...19 years later.
Right. Off to my first assignment, which involves interviewing the IVP bookstore. BECAUSE BOOKSTORES.
It's done! It's all over! I can finally relax!!! Actually, no I can't because my brother in law comes in two weeks but ALL MY CONS ARE DONE (for now).
This was the most intense con season I had. Not so much because of the work I had to do as WisCon's GoH Liasion for Alaya Dawn Johnson. That was fun and easy. A big part of it had to do that that WisCon took place during the same week that my dayjob moved to a new building, which was a culmination of six stressful months in the making. But the biggest part of why it was intense was because WisCon, like so many other things happening in other circles of my life, is going through a shift, mainly due to fallout from the last couple of years and people leaving the concom, either voluntarily or involuntarily. Too long a story: you can catch it here and here.
Being on the ground here in the Madison, I got to hear a lot of views .I listened to those pushing for change. I listened to those who were hurt and outraged at what was going on. I listened to those who didn't understand what was going on. I listened to people on the concom, those who left and those who came on. I listened to people here in Madison and those who came to WisCon from far off. I've listened and watched and had numerous conversations with people.
I'm going to be up front. I don't know feminist movement history well. I can't even say fully that I'm a feminist. My reluctance of labeling myself as such falls in line with the whole feminist/womanist discussion, the latter of which I gravitate more towards. (Note to self: add Alice Walker's In Search of Our Mothers’ Garden: Womanist Prose to the to-read pile.) So it was interesting to hear all the different opinions of how WisCon was in regards to first wave feminism versus second wave feminism versus...whatever wave we happen to be in now. I think, however there's more to it than that.
Before I get into that, first, I feel compelled to give you a back history on my own experience with cons. Because context and all.
My first con was OddCon in 2009. It was the first time I met an editor, Jim Frenkel. We wound up talking for a while about the writing biz. I thought him an odd bird who swore too much, but it was neat to learn that there was an actual editor who lived in my town. Later, I was taken aside and given the missing stair talk. You know what I mean. Since I had just met him, I duly noted it and decided to keep an eye on him, just in case. I should also note that to me, he was professional, courteous, and generally friendly.
And that's the thing. Being local, Frenkel always shown me that side of professional courtesy because 1) I'm local, 2) I'm not his type (thankfully). A lot of people are yelling online for his head, but here, in Madison, he acts different. There are people who've known him in Madison and have always seen that friendly side. And if they never go online, they don't know. So yes, they find it hard to believe when they hear the stories. I'm not excusing his behavior. Nor of those of his supporters. But I want you to see what I'm dealing with.
So what do I do? Treat him like a pariah? Go out of my way to avoid him forever and ever? Or do I keep on doing what I'm doing now, keep a wary eye on him, Those who know his harassing side have done their best to warn others of his behavior. I reckon I'll fall in the same boat. I don't know.
Hey, remember back in December when I said I was going through some stuff and at some point I'll write a blog post about it? Looks like today's the day. I wrote about it at my dayjob's blog entitled Peace in the Changing".
For those who want the shorter, less Christianese, tl;dr version: I had an early miscarriage back in December. It happened smack dab in all the Ferguson and New York turmoil. And it pretty much messed me up good.
If there's one thing I've learned about the writing community, it's that we are serious when it comes to taking care of ourselves mentally. When I realized I was at a point I couldn't deal, the first thing I did was talk with a couple of professionals (read: doctor and chaplain). I also gave myself permission to lay low...real low. Played a lot of video games. Read a lot of books. Stayed away from Twitter, although I did a little interaction on Facebook. I also realized that there were a lot of things I were doing that were just too much for me, so it was time for me to let them go. One of those things were, sadly, Podcastle.
So if you listen to today's podcast, you'll hear that, yes, I've decided to step down as Associate Editor. A bummer, because I looooooved being part of the Podcastle family. But it was a good time to go--Dave and Anna are also stepping down (and if you haven't heard Dave's love letter to Podcastle readers, please, have a listen. It reduced me to a puddle of gooey tears, but in a good way this time). It's been an awesome run. I had so much fun at Podcastle, and it gave me insight into the editorial process. I still might do a narration every now and then, but for now, I'm gathering the little time I have to redirect it towards finishing the novel, and I'm getting close. I'm getting surprisingly close.
At some point, I'll talk more about the miscarriage. Yes, yes, I know, there's a culture of silence that should be broken about it. But you know what? I don't feel like talking about it in public yet. As I said in the blog above, I'm still healing. But you know what I would like? Stories about 'onlies'. I think that would help tremendously.
Also, let me tell you this. My son has been an absolute trooper during this time. He's been sweet, helpful and caring. Just like his father. Who has also been absolutely wonderful. I'm going to slip back into Christianspeak and say that God has blessed me with two wonderful guys who took good care for me. And it was God who kept me sane throughout that entire time. Well, okay, there was that moment when I had that breakdown on Christmas Eve...but there were reasons for that...ask me about it offline if you want to here me go off on a nice long rant).
So anyhoo, that's all I wanted to say. I've been easing myself back onto Twitter again, slowly. And I've been writing a lot. A LOT. So thank you all for being patient. Oh, and other thing about taking care of myself? Shorter blog posts.
Jim Hines has been running a series of guest blog posts on Representation in SF/F. And oh, hey, look at that, here's my contribution on black representation, "The Danger of the False Narrative". Check it out, and definitely check out the other essays on there too.
Oo, short post. I should do this more often.
ETA: Oh, and I updated the nonfiction section of my "LaShawn's Works" page to include links to this and other guest blog posts I've done. Because, yeah, I did those things. Also I suck at updating things.
ETAA: Well, no, I don't suck. I just forget and...crap...this was supposed to be a short post. Never mind. Forget this. You're not reading this. YOUUUUUU ARE NOT READING THISS.....
::performs handwavy gestures::
So Wizard World finally decided to stick a Comic-con in Madison and see how it goes. Now mind--I've been going to cons since 2008, butI've never been to Comic-con, so seeing that there's one now pretty much in my backyard. I had no excuse. I had to go see it. I also took my 10 year old son and his friend, because kids 10 and under were free. Couldn't pass that up.
Size: So, obviously, Comic-con is larger. Much, MUCH larger. I don't know what the final total was, but I can easily see 10,000 people alone being at the con.
Venue: They held most of Comic-con in the large Alliant Center exhibit hall, which is pretty big until you realize what it really is: A gigantic Dealer's Room. I mean, big, big biiiiiiiiiiiiig Dealer's room. And I've been to Chicon, and that was pretty huge. But at the same time, they had things in there that you wouldn't necessarily find at a regular con's dealer's room. For instance, they had a gaming area towards the back where you could do board and card games. I had read in the programming that they would have Pokemon card battles, but I didn't see anyone playing it, so I was disappointed. But the boys and I had a rousing game of Clue, so it actually turned out all right.
The rest of the floor was devoted to dealers, comics...and celebrities.
Celebrities: So this is something that I absolutely have not experienced before. When I first started going to cons, most were all literary, so there were many places that had my favorite authors right there. In fact, the very first person I met at my very first con was Nisi Shawl, where I proceeded to have my very first fangirl experience (and startling her in the process, I'm sure). But most of the cons I've been to have been literary, and my celebrities--famous authors--were mostly down to earth folk who were easy to approach, and love hanging out in bars.
Comic-con is so very different. It's a pop-culture con, so no literary folk. Heavily media oriented, particularly film and TV shows. And they had stars. William Shatner and Edward James Olmos stars. And we saw them all from a distance. Because the difference between authors and celebrites are a good $50 to get even close to a celebrity.
That had to suck for them. Because for the most part, you had to pay to even get in line to talk to them. Which worked I guess if people are watching your show, or if people still love you. But if you're a nobody, or worse, a has been, well, no one pays to see you. I saw a lot of celebrities sitting there, looking bored, playing on their phones. (Omigosh, George Wendt. For the longest time I was trying to figure out why the heck George Wendt from Cheers was there. I learned that he had actually done a lot of cartoon voices, but come on. George Wendt? Really?)
That said, I was able to wave at Ernie Hudson. And shoot, I totally missed Billy Dee Williams. But really, ain't no way was I going to pay to get up close to them. Which is sort of sad. But I did get to see Shatner and Olmos.
Panels: So Panels were held in the meeting room portion of the Alliant Center--meaning one large room and two smaller rooms. Which means the panels were pretty much held one after another. I actually liked that. Single panel programming made it easier to attend. The panels with the celebrites were short--only 1/2 hour long.
We got in line for the first panel, which was Edward James Olmos. I was thinking that would be packed, but surprisingly, all of us was able to get in with room to spare. I really enjoyed Olmos's session. He talked about not just Battlestar Galactica, but also Blade Runner, West Wing, and other shows. And he also talked about the value of diversity in shows and even a bit about how BSG was used to explore racial tensions, which could be used in Ferguson (I was deeply, deeply impressed by that. Even Olmos gets it).
After Olmos's time was up, Shatner was next in the same room, so we basically stayed put. Which was awesome. Okay, yeah, I did feel a litttle bit sorry because I heard the line for Shatner coming into the room was twice as long. But NOT SORRY ENOUGH.
Besides, they showed Shatner's session on a big screen TV in the food area, so it all worked out in the end.
Shatner. Well. What can I saw. With Olmos, he and another guy sat on stage across from each other and talked in an interview format and also took questions from the audience. Shatner came out and dragged a stool out to center stage, where he talked to the audience--well, monologued the audience for most of the session. But he's a showman, first and foremost, so while it wasn't much about Star Trek, and more about this motorcycle he's building he still had us rolling in laughter.
There was a moment thought that I considered to be my favorite part of the day. As I mentioned, I had brought along my son and his friend. So whereever I went, they had to go with me. This included Olmos, which neither of them had heard of (because no I did not to show my son the rebooted BSG. What's wrong with you?). So while I was listened to an engaging, thoughtful commentary on race in media, they were bored as rocks.
My son, on the other hand, did know Shatner from watching the old episodes, so he was quite excited. So he clapped and cheered when Shatner came. Then he started talking, and he's talking about UFOs and riding his motorcycle in the desert and hallucinations and quantum physics and so on, and at about a good seven minutes into his monologue my son, my beautiful, darling son, heaves a sigh and says in a whisper loud enough for everyone around us to hear: "I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT HE IS TALKING ABOUT."
Which, let's face it, we were all thinking that.
The evening panels were more indicative of ones I was used to. Attended a hilarious comedy show put on by Cthulu's Comedy Collective, and I checked out the costume contest, which was fun. Speaking of which:
Costumes: I like this part of science fiction cons. The ones I go to are usually geared towards serious discussion (and there are a few who outright discourage wearing costumes). So was neat to go to Madison Comic-con and satisfy that part of my inner geek. Not just seeing all the awesome costumes, but participating in it myself along with my son. It's not everyday that I get to dress up as a delinquent catholic school cat girl.
But the costumes were phenomenal.
Of course, many selfies:
And of course, Dr Who.
The boy was in heaven. There was a moment when we came to an intersection in the exhibition hall right at the same time as two other Dr Whos and a walking Tardis. My son and the other Dr Whos all looked at each other, then whipped out their sonic screwdrivers and pointed them at each other. I'm still trying to decide if that was a geeky Dr. Who thing or a male thing in general.
Also, for some reason, a whole lot of Harlequinns. Which is interesting, because none of the movies have featured Harlequinn. But a lot of women apparently like dressing up as her. Huh.
Overall: I had gone to Comic-com with low expectations and left pleasantly surprised by how much fun I had. Would I do it again? Hmm. I don't know. The steep membership (or weekend pass, however they call it) and all the add-ons you have to pay for to get like VIP access to events to me wasn't that much worth it. I'm not a big TV person, so I didn't care much about the celebrities who were there, and the ones I did know, I was like 'meh' (well okay, I was bummed I missed seeing Billy Dee Williams, but even there I would've seen him from a distance.) Also, there was the fact that there were TOO MUCH PEOPLE. There were no quiet places for introverts like me to go and recharge. I also missed my standard author hangout at Barcon. In fact, the Comic-con pretty much shut down after 9pm. There were several bars that hosted afterparties where you could get in free with your wristband, but by then, I was so burnt out, I didn't want to hang out with a bunch of other strangers at a bar blasting loud music. I just wanted to go home. And finally, yeah, the comic-con felt pretty...commercial. Many of the emcees were obviously not from Madison, and they were pretty blatant about it. It got irritating after a while. Most of the panels were celebrity based. There were only a few panels that had local people--the aforementioned comedy troupe from Milwaukee, for instance. (Okay, Milwaukee isn't considered local to Madison, but I'm not complaining).
That last reason, though, is something that absolutely can be fixed. I think the good thing about the WizardWorld comic-cons is that they conform to whatever cities they're in by the use of local volunteers. For instance, I know at the Chicago Comic-con, there is a whole group of authors who appear as special guests, and the panels are more numerous and diverse--heck, they even had a few panels that discuss diversity in fandom. So if I do go back, I wouldn't mind going in as a volunteer panelist or something. The thing I liked about Madison Comic-con was that it pulled in a bunch of people who aren't necessarily into the local con scene, but want that con experience. And if they come back next year, that might actually boost attendance at the local cons. Win all around. So yeah, I'd go back to WizardWorld Madison Comic-con in 2016.
Especially if Jesus comes again.