WisCon: Feminist Science Fiction & Fantasy, coming up in Madison

WisCon is an awesome upcoming feminist science fiction convention that will happen in Madison on May 26-30. Here’s the Statement of Principles, which includes the following:

WisCon has been a feminist science fiction convention since its founding in 1977. The focus of the convention has been the intersection between feminism and science fiction. This focus distinguishes WisCon from many other science fiction conventions, and has been a major reason why WisCon has grown, developed, and flourished for so long, while some other conventions have had trouble staying vibrant.

Our focus includes science fiction, fantasy, and speculative literature of all sorts. Science fiction itself has been critiqued as a colonialist and imperialist genre, and in many ways this is true. But many of those influenced by it are dedicated to changing the genre to more accurately reflect the field’s vital role in our society: envisioning positive futures for all people. WisCon’s focus on science fiction has played an important role in the exploration of feminist futures: futures where people of all colors, and backgrounds flourish, where women’s rights and women’s contributions are valued, where gender is not limited to one of two options, where no one is erased out of convenience, hidden discrimination, or outright bigotry.

Feminism, at its root, is the belief that women and men are equal, and the rejection of sexist beliefs and practices. We, as feminists, have come to realize that all forms of oppression are interrelated. Our practice of feminism is based on a belief in the social, political, and economic equality of all. Feminism is part of a larger constellation of movements seeking social, political and economic equality for all people, regardless of race, ethnicity, class, sex, age, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, creed, ability, status, or belief.

I’m excited to be attending for the first time this year. Will you be there? Shall we have a Feministe meetup?

21 comments for “WisCon: Feminist Science Fiction & Fantasy, coming up in Madison

  1. Tina
    April 25, 2011 at 10:51 am

    I can’t be there but if someone would like to holler out a few new/great feminist fantasy authors that’d make me really happy :D Unfortunately its rather hard to find, but I had a great time with L. E. Moddesitt’s Shadow Sorceress/singer series, and pretty much all of Tamora Pierce is just hands-down awesome.

  2. April 25, 2011 at 12:04 pm
  3. Mandolin
    April 25, 2011 at 12:12 pm

    I’m always there.

    Do you write SF/F or are you one of those unicorn-like readers we always hear about? ;-)

  4. Verity Khat
    April 25, 2011 at 12:12 pm

    Oh man, I want to go! Being poor is really inconvenient. ;A;

    @Tina: I like Jacqueline Carey. Some people shriek that she isn’t feminist just because her main character is a courtesan-spy, but I think that’s a bad analysis. Her characters are round, flawed, and make their own choices. The maxim of this alternate-European culture is “Love as thou wilt,” so there are all kinds of pairings. She deftly deals with the concepts of consent, desire, and love in all their weird complexities.

    The first three books are awesome: Kushiel’s Dart, Kushiel’s Chosen, and Kushiel’s Avatar. I dare you not to love Phedre and Joscelin. The first book of the next arc, Kushiel’s Scion, kind of sucks (just doesn’t live up). But the next two, Kushiel’s Justice and Kushiel’s Mercy, make up for it. :)

  5. April 25, 2011 at 12:12 pm

    … But if people want to share recs on this thread as well, that’s fine too. My personal favorite author is Tanith Lee, but keep in mind that her stuff is widely variable in quality. I particularly recommend Biting the Sun and Night’s Master (and the following books in the Flat Earth series); her collection Dreams of Dark and Light is a good place to start on her short stories. I also really like Connie Willis (Doomsday Book and To Say Nothing of the Dog are probably her best).

    edit C.J. Cherryh too! Cyteen! Yeah! /edit

  6. Verity Khat
    April 25, 2011 at 12:15 pm

    (And I’ve met Jacqueline and she’s WONDERFUL and definitely feminist. It was so hard to act like a human being instead of dissolving into a slavering fangirl.)

  7. April 25, 2011 at 12:16 pm

    As a BDSMer I want to co-sign for Kushiel’s Dart, though sometimes that series frustrates me (I mentioned one frustration in a post about BDSM and love). One of my friends once remarked, “That book is just smart enough to make you wish it were smarter.” It’s still good, though. Carey has clearly thought about this stuff a lot, and I know a lot of BDSMers who came into their sexuality partly through reading KD.

    @Mandolin, I do sometimes write SFF, but I’ve been less successful in that area that I have as a sex/gender writer. We should definitely chat more at WisCon.

    New rule: Science fiction writers who comment on this thread, link to your work!

  8. Mandolin
    April 25, 2011 at 12:27 pm

    My novella that’s up for the Hugo and the Nebula this year:

    The Lady Who Plucked Red Flowers Beneath the Queen’s Window

    Among other things, it ends up as a feminist exploration of anthropology and sociobiology.

    I also had a novelette up for the Nebula last year, “A Memory of Wind” which is a retelling of the beginning of the Trojan war from Iphigenia’s perspective.

    And last year’s novelette, “Eros, Philia, Agape,” an exploration of ownership and the body, was nominated for the Hugo, the Sturgeon and the Locus Award, came in second for the Million Writers Award, and was recommended by this year’s Tiptree committee.

    I also should point out Barry Deutsch’s (Ampersand’s) Norton and Eisener-nominated feminist fantasy graphic novel, “Hereville,” and N. K. Jemisin’s (nojojojo’s) brilliant Nebula and Hugo nominated “The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms” and its sequel “Broken Kingdoms.

  9. Mandolin
    April 25, 2011 at 12:29 pm

    My comment with links to my work is in mod (too many links, presumably), but I’ll add that Felicity Shoulders reads here and is also nominated for this year’s Nebula award. “Conditional Love” is a near-future contemplation of genetic engineering.

    Hope I’m not stealing your thunder, Felicity, I just thought I’d brag on you so you wouldn’t have to feel embarrassed bragging on yourself. Cuz you’re awesome. ;-)

  10. April 25, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    And just to add to my comment about KD — again, it’s clear that Carey has thought about this stuff a lot, and it’s a good book. Since I don’t have time to launch a fair and reasoned critique on this thread right now, I’ll just say that I admire her work and that my issues with it arise mostly from my highly politicized consciousness of BDSM, which tends to find issues with every representation of BDSM ever. ;)

  11. DP
    April 25, 2011 at 12:43 pm

    Curious if anyone has read/reflected on Robert Jordan’s series – I ask not because he’s a great feminist fantasy writer but because he sort of attempts at a kind of feminism in his books – lots of heroines, probably passes the Bechdel test, strong matriarchal elements – but also fails abjectly a lot of the time.

    There’s some frankly ridiculous sex wish-fulfillment in there, alongside gender essentialism, etc.

    But he does seem to have been trying for a more nuanced portrait of women in fantasy than most men; ironic, considering he wrote Conan for a while.

    My favorite lady who writes fantasy is probably Madeleine L’Engele or Anne McCaffery; it’s been a while since I read new fantasy.

  12. Odin
    April 25, 2011 at 2:41 pm

    @ Tina (and anyone else looking for new authors)–

    Give Sherwood Smith a try. The Inda quartet is set in a fantasy world where magic makes fertility opt-in, and same-sex couples can have biological children together.

  13. Verity Khat
    April 26, 2011 at 12:24 am

    For those who like urban fantasy / supernatural fiction, Kim Harrison’s Rachel Morgan series is great and usually feminist/inclusionary; the occasional problematic moment does crop up and make you roll your eyes.

    @Clarisse Thorn: Pfft, I’m personally not a BDSM-type person and even I can see some issues with Carey’s portrayals, so, yeah. Caveat there, folks. >_<

  14. Shaun
    April 26, 2011 at 12:27 am

    The Wheel of Time was my first adult fantasy series so I have a soft spot for it despite its flaws. There are definitely some admirable women in it I grew up wanting to be like but since I became conscious of institutionalized sexism and gender essentialism I really wish he would have taken even a single Women’s Studies course before writing a world essentially set in a matriarchy. I guess it’s open for a feminist critique but personally I find enough flaws with how it’s devised in this setting its generally easier for me to start from scratch if I want to imagine a fictional matriarchy (or any other wildly variant gendered world).

    Plus, sci-fi has been writing that sort of thing for years, light-years ahead of traditional fantasy novels (YMMV).

  15. bluelotus
    April 26, 2011 at 1:05 am

    I also want to put in a plug for my new favorite author, Catherynne Valente, who will also be at WisCon. She deals a lot with fairytales and mythology, and writes about them through a feminist lens –among other things. I just finished her most recent book, Deathless, which deals with Russian folklore, in (partially) 20th-century Russia. It also has some interesting BDSM power dynamics (for those who were interested in the Kushiel series for that reason, I’m not well versed enough to know if there are similar problems in Deathless, but I personally thought it was very well done).

    I also really recommend Valente’s The Orphan’s Tales…I read it about a month ago and still keep thinking about it. It has two volumes, In the Night Garden and In the Cities of Coin and Spice.

  16. ellid
    April 26, 2011 at 6:23 am

    Anne McCaffrey is problematic for me because a) she’s a homophobe who believes that anal penetration will “turn a straight man gay” and b) there’s a lot of “he raped me but I liked it” in her books. I can’t read her any more because of this.

    However, there are a lot of good feminist SF and fantasy writers out there, both male and female. Here are some of the women:

    Jane Yolen, Cathrynne Valente, NK Jemisin, Nisi Shawl (Wiscon’s GoH), Tamora Pierce, Tanya Huff, Lynn Flewelling, Jacqueline Carey, Elizabeth Lynn, Vonda McIntyre, Mary Robinette Kowal, Ursula K. LeGuin, Pamela Sargent, Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman, Connie Willis, Elizabeth Lynn. There are also a lot of male allies/feminists, like Neil Gaiman and John Scalzi.

    Finally, there’s James Tiptree, Jr. (Alice Sheldon), the late, great SF writer. Wiscon raises money for an award in her name via a bake sale every year.

  17. April 26, 2011 at 5:32 pm

    I want to go! I think I’m going. It would be my first convention EVER. I can cosplay as Battle Angel Alita, right? :3

  18. katie
    April 26, 2011 at 8:42 pm

    I mostly lurk here, but I will be at WisCon. It’s my first convention ever!

  19. Jon
    April 27, 2011 at 4:03 pm

    I’m a lurker like katie, see y’all at Con!

  20. Jennie
    April 27, 2011 at 9:44 pm

    I’m a lurker, but I’ve been going to Wiscon for more than 10 yrs (since I was a wee little thing). For those who are planning to go, I recommend volunteering in one way or another – you get a discount on your price, plus you meet a lot of people who are very inclined to think highly of you. Check out the website at wiscon.info for more info, and you can also check out the lj community wiscon.livejournal.com for other interesting stuff (and to ask any questions)

  21. jennygadget
    May 1, 2011 at 11:18 pm

    Anne McCaffrey is problematic for me because a) she’s a homophobe who believes that anal penetration will “turn a straight man gay” and b) there’s a lot of “he raped me but I liked it” in her books. I can’t read her any more because of this.


    Have you read A Companion to Wolves by Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear? It’s pretty much a response to all that nonsense, as well as some deconstruction of the idea that the emotional work done by Lissa and – her type of character – is natural and effortless.

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