Monthly Archives: November 2015

How to Con

Last weekend I went to a science fiction/fantasy con that left me with a sour taste in my mouth – and heart. Rather than pick on this particular con, I’m going to just do a write up of things that I think make cons great and welcoming. Mostly I’m going to focus on programming and panels, because this is what I focus on when I go to cons. If you have suggestions for cosplay, gaming, dealers rooms, music/dances, or other events, I would love to hear them. There’s quite a bit available about diversity and inclusivity, and recently there have been discussions about making cons more accessible. There’s also information about harassment policies, which I’m not going to talk about here either.

elevator panel

Panels

Panels are either created by a centralized group who then assigns various attendees to each topic, or they are proposed by participants and then selected by a committee. Either way, here are my recommendations:

Moderators: have ’em.

Since you are going to have a moderator, have them develop questions before the con.
At a bare minimum, have the moderator send their questions to the other panelists before the con, to give everyone time to think about them.
Since your panel is moderated, that means the discussion will be dominated by the panelists, but make sure to leave time at the end for questions front the audience.

Diversity on the panel:
It’s easy to default to asking people you know to do things for you, especially when they aren’t being compensated. Try not to go with the default, which will likely be people who look a lot like you. Stretch yourself. Try to see who you can find that *isn’t* like you: be it gender, sexuality, race, ability, religion, hair color, preference in sushi, etc. I wouldn’t recommend asking someone just for the sake of diversity, which ends up tokenizing, but stretch a little beyond the first people who come to mind (unless of course you are already so awesome and have cultivated these connections already).

I say these things because I have had some great experiences at cons, and I know what’s possible. I want that for everyone. When I look around and see a bunch of people who look like one another and they don’t look like me, I don’t necessarily feel excluded, but I don’t quite feel included either.

In conclusion, spend a little bit of time and effort thinking about the programming and provide guidelines (at a bare minimum – it would be delightful if they were requirements) for the panelists. Cons can be for everyone!

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Dragons and Poison Chalices

I tweeted this a couple of weeks ago as a reminder for something I’ve been meaning to write about. There are people who I have judged as standing between me and something I wanted. I saw them like dragons, sitting on an enormous hoard, mean and greedy, doling out precious medallions to those they deemed worthy. I thought I had to curry favor, swallow the poison they offered, and try to survive it until I had cleared the obstacle and attained whatever goal I was in pursuit of.

dragon

It turns out that isn’t true, though. It’s true there are certain individuals who hold enormous influence and hence power, but as the saying goes, “All roads lead to Rome.” In other words, there are many paths, and while there might be One Ring To Rule Them Are, there is no singular route.

When I can recognize a dragon now, I realize this is fear speaking. Fear warps our ideas of what is possible, narrowing down all the possibilities until there are none left. When I see the dragon, I can relax, because it tells me what I’m seeing is a mirage, a lie. I can relax, and see that there are other options. There are always options, even when it feels like there are none.

The size of the dragon is an indicator of my level of investment. The bigger I think they are, the bigger the clue is that this is something close to my heart. If it were the size of an anole, I wouldn’t see the person as standing in my way at all. Because I don’t care, there’s nothing at stake. When the dragon fills the landscape, however, blotting out the horizon, this should be the mother of all signs.

I’m not obliged to slay it, like St. George, but facing reality head-on is like taking a sword to a dragon. So often, the reality is nothing like what the fear projected up on the screen.

It’s easy to blame the dragons for not achieving. I couldn’t. THERE WAS A GIANT SCARY DRAGON SITTING IN THE MIDDLE OF THE PATH. Except after I relaxed out of the paralysis, I found another path with an anole instead of a dragon. And it climbed up on the wall and flared its throat flag and it pointed further down the path.

I’m gathering my community of support. We are small but mighty. And this community reminds me daily that there are people in the world who can support my dreams and don’t feel threatened by them. So when you find someone who cheers you on, wholeheartedly, without fear that you are going to diminish them, cling tight. Give them chocolates and beer and octopi emoji. And if they don’t run screaming from the room, you’ve found a true friend.

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