Wiscon 36 – Day 2

I stayed out at the edge of Madison for WisCon. Before coming into town, I had checked that there was bus service between the Super 8 and the Concourse Hotel. Unfortunately, I failed to note that bus service clustered around the top of the hour on weekends. That meant I needed to head over to the bus stop at 8:45 a.m. in order to make the 10 a.m. set of panels. I caught the next arrival for the bus and arrived around 10:20, but first got coffee at Michelangelos, as coffee is a necessity.

I rolled into the last half of the Designing a Magic System panel around 10:30, found a place to sit in the back half of the room, and then promptly was bored out of my skull by the panelists. Perhaps the first 30 minutes were more scintillating. The panel jumped all over the map with random points on things to think about when designing a magic system for a fantasy novel. I would have loved the topic if they had organized it more systematically.

At 1 p.m., I attended the Arab/Muslim East panel, at which I took notes. I quite enjoyed the panel, though I wish the panelists would have talked some about how Arabs and Muslims write themselves and their religion(s) in their speculative fiction. The relationship that immigrants to the U.S. have with Arab and Islamic lands will be different from what the people living there have. So what the discussion covered ended up being a comparison between efforts from western non-Muslims who’ve done it well and efforts from Muslims in America. The discussion felt incomplete to me.

As a side note, most discussions I’ve had at Wiscon are very incomplete. It’s not like this is an answer finding place. It’s an ongoing discussion place.

At 2:30 p.m. I attended the panel Considering the Female Villain. I loved the discussion there. I took notes there, but couldn’t keep up at all, so those aren’t going to get posted. Only real drawback was that the panelists mostly discussed television and movie villains, and I don’t watch much television. I have yet to see a single episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. I probably should watch a bunch of it over the next year so I can understand what the hell people are talking about at Wiscon 37.

A few points brought up in the discussion. One panelist mentioned that villains disempower other characters, so it’s going to be really hard to have a truly feminist villain. However, there are feminist portrayals of female villains. Another panelist said that lots of female villains are straw feminists made to take down feminism. Multiple panelists and audience members raved about Azula numerous times. Villains that overuse their sexuality grated on some panelists. Other caricatures they didn’t like much included The Ice Queen, The Bad Mother, The Perfect Mother, and The Scorned Woman. The explicit or implicit threat of sexual violence is often key to male villains is something else noted by panelists.

At 4 p.m., I attended Girl Cooties: Considering the Romance Novel. Over the last few years I’ve poked around trying to find romance novels I liked. This panel seemed interesting because the big reason I haven’t liked what I’ve found for the most part for awful portrayals of female characters. The discussion was less meta than the panel description would have led me to think, which was good. I mostly went hoping to get ideas for romances that feminists liked. The list I came out with includes: Georgette Heyer’s The Masqueraders, Venetia, and A Civil Contract, Laurie R. King’s Mary Russell mystery series, Linda Howard’s To Die For, Jennifer Crusie’s Faking It (Ms. Crusie in general was highly praised), Dorothy Sayer’s Busman’s Honeymoon, Emma Bull and Stephen Brust’s Freedom and Necessity, and Nora Robert’s The Search. I hope I didn’t write one of these down as a recommendation when it was actually something critical, but all I wrote down were authors and titles.

For dinner, I ate at Ian’s Pizza on State with a friend. Then I hung out in the lobby and chatted with people. Just before I headed up to the Tiptree Auction, I started chatting with a blind woman who accompanied me to the auction. Whenever something particularly visual was up for bid or Ellen Klages’ clowning became non-verbal, I described what was happening for her. That’s a bit of an eye opener, how much of what happened there was visual. Ellen Klages is pretty damn funny and I recommend attending the auction.

I bailed on thee auction at 9:30 so I could listen to the Sounders vs. Chivas USA match in the bar. I pulled up KIRO on my phone. In the booth next to us a group of Wisconites watched Supershark. Following that, Syfy showed Sharktopus. So while the Sounders were what I kept my attention on, I did see a lot of bad shark science fiction.

And thusly, my second day at Wiscon.

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