Tag Archives: cons

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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Diversity link roundup

There have been a lot of discussions floating around online about diversity. I wanted to collect them in one place where I could go back and refer to them later. Some of these are about representation of self, some in literature, and some with representation/presentation at cons. I’m posting in the rough chronological order in which I read them.

wild at heart

Vajra Chandrasekera: Which This Margin is Too Small to Contain

Some thoughts on “diversity” in sf/f and discovering that I’m apparently a “writer of colour” and all that. I never actually use these words myself, whether to refer to either myself or anybody else. Though at the same time I don’t object to their use to refer to myself or anybody else either. It’s complicated. I do periodically worry at the meanings of these words, and I guess I’ve been saying stuff like this for a while now:

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Daniel Jose Older tweeted up a discussion on diversity being an issue of honesty in literature.

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Kate Elliott’s piece Diversity Panels: Where Next?. This was in response to her experience at Sasquan, the most recent WorldCon that was held in Spokane.

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Tobias Buckell added Some Thoughts on Herding POC Writers into Diversity Panels.

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Annalee’s Diversity Panels I’d like to see is a nice response to Toby, looking forward to panels she’d like to see at cons.

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Michi Trota has this one: Diversity Panels are the Beginning not the End

Recently I attended Wizard World Chicago, and for the first time since 2012 when I started doing convention panels, I wasn’t on a single panel specifically focused on diversity–related issues in geek culture. It was an odd feeling, sitting in the audience of a panel about racism at one of my two home cons, rather than being up on that podium.

I’d be lying if I said that didn’t involve more than a small amount of relief.

After dozens of cons and countless panels critically analyzing, explaining, and arguing for the need for greater inclusion and better representation in geek communities, it feels like I’ve spent a lifetime talking about these issues. It can be exhausting, and sometimes all a nerd wants to do is nerd out over the fandoms and activities she loves. It was a refreshing change to instead be on panels where I got to show off my nerd trivia knowledge, talk about why I adore the animated DC universe more than the DCCU, and host a discussion about what goes into being a nerd organizer.

This piece includes links to the storify of Rose Fox’s tweets in response to the Wired article about the Hugo debacle this year.

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L.E.H. Light writes No More Diversity Panels, It’s Time to Move On

I suggest a different assumption: that the majority of attendees at these panels are either PoC or allies who understand and accept the basic premise that diversity in the things we love makes them better, more interesting, more complicated, and more beautiful. That White people and Black people are there for the same reasons: nerd stuff, and we want to talk about those things together. And anyone who doesn’t agree can go to another panel. I promise, someone somewhere is discussing something else.

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I hope you will take the time to read at least these few posts and see this is part of an ongoing conversation, not just a single observation or moment in time. If there are links to posts I’m missing, please let me know.

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