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[GUEST POST] Convention Attention: WisCon 39

ConventionAttentionThis month’s Convention Attention is brought to us by Rachel Cordasco who recently attended WisCon 39 (the world’s leading feminist science fiction convention.) Take it away, Rachel!

I went to my second WisCon this past weekend, and had a fantastic time. Held each year in Madison, Wisconsin, WisCon is the world’s leading feminist science fiction convention, focusing on addressing issues of race, disability, sexual orientation, and more in order to foster a more diverse and inclusive sci-fi community.

WisCon39Like last year, I had a terrible time deciding which panels to attend, because so many great ones were happening simultaneously. Unfortunately, I was also limited in the time I could spend there, so I only had the chance to attend two panels. I finally chose “Towards More Realistic Fictional Diasporas” (Na’amen Gobert Tilahun, John Chu, Claire Light, and Vijay Paradkar) and Kim Stanley Robinson’s Guest of Honor Reading.

The diaspora panel was enlightening, and the panelists invited us to think more deeply about how diasporas are portrayed in books, tv, and film (Seveneves, Firefly, and Battlestar Gallactica were found wanting) and how the diverse experiences of immigrants and subsequent generations must inform our contemporary SFF.

I was particularly excited to hear John Chu talk about his work translating SFF from Chinese into English, and I hope that next year an entire panel can be devoted to translation and international SFF.

WisCon 39 had two renowned guests of honor this year: Alaya Dawn Johnson and Kim Stanley Robinson. Now, having just read one of Robinson’s books for the first time just recently, I was quite eager to meet him, which I DID! (!!!!!!!!!) And his Guest of Honor reading…well…it basically blew the ballroom audience away.


RobinsonRather than simply reading one of his texts out loud, he played an audio recording produced in collaboration with the famous performance artist Marina Abromovic while reading a piece about a sentient starship “pinballing” around the solar system in an effort to decelerate and drop off its human passengers on Earth. The 46 minutes of his reading took place in semi-darkness, and the melding of voices and sounds on the recording, along with Robinson’s live reading, made the entire event one to remember.

And did I mention that WisCon is packed with exciting panels, authors, teachers, artists, and workshops? And parties, auctions…you get the picture.

Each year, WisCon also presents the prestigious Tiptree Award, which went this time to Jo Walton for My Real Children and Monica Byrne for The Girl in the Road.

Other panels/papers that I wish I could have attended? Here’s a severely pared-down list:

  • “The Future of Gender: Beyond the Binary”
  • “Scientific Utopianism in the Work of Kim Stanley Robinson”
  • “Utopias, Cyborgs, and Dialectics in Feminist SF”
  • “Disability and the Starship”
  • “Feminine Agencies in Steampunk, Anime, and Video Games”

So if you’re interested in conferences that push you to think outside of the box and attract talented writers and artists, WisCon is for you. See you here in Madison next year!

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