Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Check It While I Wreck It





Okay, so he shouldn't be jailed, but he sho'll shoulda been forced to read Check It While I Wreck It: Black Womanhood, Hip Hop Culture, and the Public Sphere by Gwendolyn Pough or Joan Morgan's When Chickenheads Come to Roost: My Life as a Hip Hop Feminist. Tired of folk thinking they can 'fight the system' by breakdancin' on my head.

For being such a myopic misogynist, Monsieur R and his French jailers get the

Negro pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeez Award of the day.

(cue in Bomani "D'Mite" Armah's READ A BOOK...)



French rap star facing prison

For calling the country a 'slut'

A French rap star is to appear in court today (May 30) charged with offending public decency with a song in which he referred to the country as a "slut" and vowed to "piss" on national heroes Napoleon and Charles de Gaulle.

Monsieur R is facing three years in prison or a €75,000 (£51,000) fine after an MP from the ruling UMP party launched legal action against him over his current album 'Politikment Incorrekt', reports The Guardian.

In the video for the song 'FranSSe', Monsieur R, whose real name is Richard Makela, appears dressed as a gendarme with two naked women rubbing against the French flag as he rapped: "France is a bitch, don't forget to fuck her till she's exhausted/You have to treat her like a slut, man." At another point in the song, he sang: "I piss on Napoleon and on General de Gaulle."

MP Daniel Mach proposed a law making it a criminal offence to insult the dignity of France and the French state upon hearing the album. He has since taken action against Makela, 30, for making and disseminating "violent and pornographic messages" to which minors could get access.

The case is the latest in a series of stand-offs between MPs and rap stars. In 2003, Nicolas Sarkozy, the interior minister, brought a criminal case against the rap band Sniper, saying their music was anti-semitic, racist and insulting.

In one song, 'La France', they referred to their home country as a "bitch". The case was thrown out of court last year. The same lawyer who defended Sniper is acting for Makela.

Makela, who maws born and brought up in neighbouring Belgium, told Le Parisien he did not target any particular group but rapped against "the system".

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Wiscon 30 - journey well




Ooh child.

Sorry, that's the best I can manage at this time! I'm back from Wiscon 30, where I had a wildy fun weekend, yes indeed, and like quite a few others I'm sure, the re-entry back to my everyday world has been swift and sobering.

First thing, after I finally wrenched myself away from new and old friends at the con, sprinting to the shuttle to catch my flight out, don't you know American Airlines had us La Guardia bound folk sitting up in that empty terminal for what felt like ages until they finally told us that "there were problems in O'Hare (yeah, duh!) and your flight will be delayed." Thank you, but we figured that out an hour after we were supposed to be airborne.

Oh well, coulda been worse. Some flights were cancelled altogether, and I did manage to make it out of there on the little eagle. Of course, the taxi queue outside La Guardia was two country miles long, but it moved quickly and I was home, just south of Harlem, around midnight. Something told me to go ahead and check my messages before crashing, just in case somebody had lost their mind the brief time I was gone, when I found that I'd gotten some fairly urgent calls from Joyce Jones down at WBAI who is in the middle of their Spring Fund Drive. Talk about no notice, CPTime, she wanted me to do a joint interview with M. Asli Dukan of Invisible Universe to discuss Octavia Butler. Bless her heart! We are both huge fans of Ms. Butler and can sing her praises at any hour. So I'm on the air, and dear Asli's sounding sleepy as all get out (LOL!), and I'm talking about how moving the Carl Brandon Society's first Kindred and Parallax awards ceremony was.... Walter Mosley's young adult novel, 47, won the Parallax award, created to celebrate a sf/f work by a writer of color, and young adult novelist and Tennessee home girl! yay! Susan Vaught's Stormwitch won the Kindred award, created to celebrate any speculative fiction work dealing with race and ethnicity (nominees may be of any racial or ethnic group). We chat on a few moments more, then say goodnight. A few moments later it hits me that I forgot to tell the listeners about the Octavia E. Butler Memorial Scholarship administered by the Carl Brandon Society. Damn! So I'm bleary-eyed and searching for the little Juicy Fruit wrapper I wrote Joyce's number on. Got it! Transmission received, mission accomplished, night night.

***

Fast forward a few hours, and it's hot as all get out in my apartment. Could it be that summer is actually here in New York? It's been hit or miss for a while, and you never know if you will need to retrieve that winter coat. There's lots to do and I'm still processing the weekend, but I'll post some thoughts soon. In the meanwhile, here are a few random & memorable highlights:

  • Beyon'dusa in da house! Yay! We all made it this year! What a blessin'!
  • Seeing Leslie Howle and Sarah Brandel (Clarion West '99) - ohmygosh, haven't seen them in ages and Sarah looks happy and is doing well, she was the youngest member of our class at age 19. Congrats on her new engagement and upcoming projects! We caught up with Leslie, remembering Octavia. Please enjoy these beautiful photos Leslie has posted on Ms. Butler's webpages at the Science Fiction Writers Association
  • Seeing Nalo and her fab new 'cut. Go on chile wit yo bad self! Meeting Nisi's new love and hearing about Ian's latest bike adventures. Seeing Candra's beautiful books and meeting Nnedi for the first time, yay! Meeting Nora and Gaby. Hearing the SessyMan Voice and narrowly escaping hypnotism... LOL!
  • Watching the historic parade of the Guest of Honors as they followed the lovely WisCon Godmama and her Mojo Wand...
  • Walking into the art show and seeing Chip Delany's buck naked...belly! A very well done nude by photographer Laurie Toby Edison.
  • Eileen Gunn's wonderfully encouraging response to SCARAB, the first book arts effort from Wanganegresse Press. Yay, thank you, Eileen! We sold the first copy of the limited, handmade, Coptic-bound, Spanish marbled end paper thingymajingy edition of the collection which features an original short story by Ama Patterson, chapters from Exploding in Slow Motion, the new novel by Andrea Hairston, memoir and song lyrics by composer Pan Morigan, stories by Gregory Bernard Banks, Celeste Rita Baker, Iyanna Jones, and Liz Rab, poetry by Tony Medina and Dante Micheaux, and others. Good stuff. A beautiful book, me thinks, and a damn good read if I don't sayso myself. Well, I don' said it. Get your copy or one of the more traditional pamphlets we published especially for WisCon.
  • Writing a brand new story and reading at the Spooky Tales from the Tellin' Pot midnight jam session with Andrea Hairston, Pan Morigan, and Gregory Frost (who brought Scotch and an awesome scary story, thank ya!)
  • Hearing the very moving speeches by Guest of Honor Kate Wilhelm and Jane Yolen. With Kate, I felt like I had walked in her spirit, living her life from childhood, when she could not speak (or more accurately, when she was not understood due to a speech impediment), to her many brushes with magic - not a sentimental, fairy dust kind of magic, but those sometimes hard, sometimes bright vital moments when life changes us. This was an extemporaneous speech that left me in awe of her in new ways. Jane Yolen shared new poems as she spoke about the recent loss of her husband David Stemple. She was very moving and funny as well. And yes, she has published more than one hundred books... but my favorite is Briar Rose.
  • Putting lovely faces to long admired names, including several folk on a number of sf/f lists. Good to greet you all!
  • kick ass panels... it wouldn't be WisCon without them! And you know I can't stand no mealymouthed folk, frontin' like they so 'noble,' everything ain't about being noble, sometime you got to tell the truth, so, yes, the panelin' was on. Lots of rich stuff discussed, some interesting, memorable moments, and fascinating panel/audience dynamics. Some folk say the panel is dead...'fo fact, that was one of the panels, but I think it depends on how you approach it. On some topics, the hierarchial, raised dais thing might seem feasible, but the wonderful thing about the WisCon panels is that there is so much good wisdom and experience in the audience. Sometimes it only takes one solid comment from the audience to put everything in perspective, placing the conversation in a new context. I witnessed a couple of panels where the participants took more of a lightly moderated, round table approach, instead of speaking linearally through a specific agenda. Instead, folk in the audience could chime in throughout. This was particularly effective in the Feminist Think Thank panel. I like the talking points Claire Light used for our "Tearing Down the Walls and Windows" panel, and the handwaving code she shared, so that she would know if an audience member needed a point of clarification or wished to ask a question specific to the immediate discussion thread, or if they wanted to pursue another line of thought. Good tech there.
  • The Writers Workshop - this was my first time teaching at WisCon and I had a great time. The novels were interesting and the writers were talented. Strong storytelling voices there. What more could you ask for? Two of them had never been in a formal writers workshop before, but they offered insightful, constructive critiques and hung in there well. Bravo!
  • Is it just me, or does the Concourse Hotel's Elevator Voice sound like a porn star?
  • Random conversation overheard in elevator: "Where ya heading?" "Straight to L!" LOL!
  • Brainstorming at the Afghan restaurant over a plate of steamin' good food. Watch out for Aunt Tee...
  • Playing Bomani "D'Mite" Armah's hilarious song, "Read a Book" for Beyon'dusa. Talk about rollin' in the floor, got to laugh to keep from cryin'... Bomani begins with Beethoven's 5th Symphony and moves into a socio-political rap rant that is not to be believed. I hate to admit that I've wanted to sing its first chorus one time too many before, so to suddenly hear this blaring from my computer speakers after stumbling on it at Myspace (yeah, yeah), was a trip to the say the least. And no, whitefolk, sorry, you can listen, but you might be careful where you sing it! LOL! Actually, I'm gonna be careful where I sing it! Hate to get beat down over satire.
  • Looking out my hotel window and seeing solar panels on the capitol building. Damn. Got to look into moving to Madison...
Mo' later, including the massive "Can Ya Clone Me Now? Stuff I wish I coulda seent at WisCon but there ain't but one of me..." list.

All Best
SRT

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

A Tribute to OCTAVIA BUTLER @ NYPL






PRESENTS




A Tribute to OCTAVIA E. BUTLER




Monday, June 5, 2006 at 7:00 PM




Please note: this event takes place at
THE NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS

Bruno Walter Auditorium
(use Library entrance at 111 Amsterdam Avenue, just south of 65th Street.)

Tickets for this event are free
Reservations are required. Go to smarttix.com
or call 212-868-4444

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JOIN NOW! http://www.nypl.org/support

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Writers and friends of Octavia E. Butler, who died in February, 2006, will gather to pay tribute to this internationally known science fiction writer whose evocative, often troubling, novels explore far-reaching issues of race, sex, power and, ultimately, what it means to be human. Publisher Dan Simon, actor Avery Brooks, publisher and editor Max Rodriguez, writer Harlan Ellison, Professor Sandra Govan, literary agent Merrilee Heifetz, poet Sonia Sanchez, writer Samuel R. Delany and special musical guests will honor Ms. Butler with reminiscence, music, and readings from her work.

This event is co-sponsored by Seven Stories Press.








Octavia E. Butler

About Octavia E. Butler

Octavia E. Butler is the author of eleven novels, including Kindred, Dawn, Parable of the Sower, and, most recently, Fledgling (2005), and one collection of short fiction, Bloodchild. Butler received a MacArthur Foundation "genius" grant, science fiction's highest honors--the Nebula Award and the Hugo Award--and numerous other literary awards.

According to her New York Times obituary, throughout Ms. Butler's career, the news media made much of the fact that she was an African-American woman writing science fiction, traditionally a white male bastion. But in interviews and in her work itself she left no doubt that her background equipped her spectacularly well to portray life in hostile dystopias where the odds of survival can be almost insurmountable. "I'm black, I'm solitary, I've always been an outsider," The Los Angeles Times quoted Ms. Butler as saying in 1998. Set in time periods ranging from the historical past to the distant future, Ms. Butler's books were known for their controlled economy of language and for their strong, believable protagonists, many of them black women. One of Ms. Butler's best-known novels, Kindred, told the story of a modern-day black woman who must travel back to the antebellum South to save the life of a white, slaveholding ancestor and, in so doing, save her own. Frequently assigned in black-studies courses, the book was rooted in the experience of the author's mother, who worked as a maid. "I didn't like seeing her go through back doors," Ms. Butler once told Publishers Weekly. "If my mother hadn't put up with all those humiliations, I wouldn't have eaten very well or lived very comfortably. So I wanted to write a novel that would make others feel the history: the pain and fear that black people have had to live through in order to endure." In an interview with The New York Times, Ms. Butler explained the deep appropriateness of her chosen genre as a vehicle for social commentary. "We are a naturally hierarchical species," she said. "When I say these things in my novels, sure I make up the aliens and all of that, but I don't make up the essential human character."

About Dan Simon

Simon is publisher of Seven Stories Press, Octavia's publisher for over 10 years.

About Avery Brooks

Brooks is the actor perhaps best known as Cmdr. Benjamin Lafayette Sisko on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

About Max Rodriquez

Rodriguez is editor of QBR: The Black Book Review, and one of the last people to interview Octavia.

About Harlan Ellison

Harlan Ellison, a science fiction writer, was Octavia's first teacher at Clarion writing workshop and was a great champion of her work. He will be reading by remote.

About Sandra Govan

Govan is a professor of English at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, with a specialty in American and African American literatures.

About Merrilee Heiftz

Heifetz is Octavia's longtime literary agent and executor of her literary estate.

About Sonia Sanchez

Sanchez is author of more than a dozen books of poetry, plays, and winner of several awards including those from the NEA, and a Pew Fellowship.

About Samuel R. Delany

Samuel R. Delany is an award-winning science fiction writer whose books include the novels Nova and Dhalgren, and the Hugo-award-winning autobiography, The Motion of Light in Water.



Tickets for this event are free
Reservations are required. Go to smarttix.com
or call 212-868-4444

Pre-order your book at the Library Shop

All LIVE from the NYPL events are general admission. Arrive early for best seat selection. For 7:00 pm events, box office opens at 5:00 pm and doors open at 6:15 pm. Management reserves the right to refuse admission to latecomers.

For more information visit: www.nypl.org/live
Join the e-mail list: live@nypl.org

A Video Tribute to OCTAVIA E. BUTLER

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Uncle Ruckus & Reparations Redux


HK Edgerton (Asheville, NC)


David Hammons, African American flag, 1990




Now see,


this is the kind of craziness that is haaaaaaaard on a sista.


First, I flip to Penn & Teller's Bullshit! on Reparations (don't trip, that's the name of the show) and who do I see but the Uncle Ruckus of Cultural Criticism, John McWhorter (insert name of his latest

tired diatribe

book here). It's not that I don't think McWhorter has some interesting things to say, particularly on linguistics and what they insist on calling 'Ebonics', and it's not that I'm surprised our clever and creepy hosts pulled him out of their back pockets, I'm just wondering why they sic'ed him on that po' brothaman Dr. Willis or whomever, rather than having McWhorter go head to head with Randall Robinson.

Could be that the producers actually asked Robinson to join the discussion, could be that he declined, but then again, having him rebutt McWhorter's predictable pandering would have been contrary to the point of the show, which is to make everyone who appears on it look as stupid as possible, no matter what views they express. And that ain't too hard, when you got folk like McWhorter gazing up into the rafters for no apparent reason, looking all bug-eyed and dazed, when I guess he was supposed to be looking deep and soulful? (And folk wonder why Uncle Ish is calling black journalists out....) Penn & Teller might have actually had to have some compelling discussion from several sides of the issue if they had done that, and well, that's not 'good TV.' What was 'good TV' is seeing that former NAACP president and mayoral candidate HK Edgerton, parading down Asheville, North Carolina's streets with a Confederate flag talkin' bout 'Southern Rights.'

Negro pleeeeeeeeeeeeeze.

Whatever point Edgerton was hoping to make got lost in the sensationalism around his Confederate costume and props. Watchin' him waving that flag, signifyin' (or coonin', depending on who you ask), reminded me of Dave Chappelle portraying a blind Klansman who didn't know he was black, 'cept Edgerton ain't funny. Well, when he was trying hit on folk while in Confederate drag, okay, that was a little funny--and sad...no, that was funny. Then today, I'm doing some research on contemporary African-American women playwrights, trying to sort out who in addition to Suzi Lori-Parks, Andrea Hairston, and Eisa Davis are using some of the tools of speculative fiction to tell their stories, when I follow a link to a review of Brian Copeland's Not a Genuine Black Man by Matthew Murray:


"We learn early on in Copeland's probing stage memoir, Not a Genuine Black Man, which just opened at the DR2 Theatre, that this is one black man who pronounces the word 'ask,' and he's quite proud of it, thank you. He's Catholic. He believes in personal responsibility. He rejects using double negatives in conversation and doing and dealing drugs. And, oh yes, he raises the three children he fathered - with their mother, the (white) woman he married."


Okay, so "using double negatives" is not only a sign that you lack "personal responsibility," but it is also as criminal as "doing and dealing drugs?" Ooh, I feel a story coming on...

Must I say it again?

Negro pleeeeeeeeeeeeeze.

Don't nobody buy that bulllllllll...

Unfortunately, quite a few people do. The unspoken assumption is this: if mo' blackfolk could just straighten their tongues right along with them naps, then we'd all be free. We'd overcome! Just learn how to speak you some Standard (American) English. Save that juba and jive for 'entertainment' and other acceptable public minstrelsy (that is, prime time television, that is the Oscars show, that is, that is...) These unspoken directives are part of McWhorter's (and others') theory on "The Pathology of Black Culture." Yeah, and that's Pathology with a capital 'P.' If we can just rid ourselves of them evil songs and tongues, then maybe, just maybe we might be able to talk ourselves right out of poverty and the ravages of racism. Later for country grammar, liberation is in conjugation.

Somebody say it with me....

Negro ple----

No, but seriously. One of the most interesting segments in the show was that on a Japanese woman who described how her family was imprisoned in 'Relocation Camps' during World War II. There was little doubt how much this experience humiliated and traumatized her as a young person, being forced to watch silently as her family and neighbors' lives were uprooted by suspicion and racism. One guest on the show tried to argue that once they proved their loyalty, these 120,000 Japanese internees were able to leave at will. But how does one prove your loyalty, and to those who are determined to see you as a spy and a traitor because of your ethnic heritage? We also learn that after they were 'released,' these American citizens were handed $25 on their way out, even though many of them returned home to find that they no longer had homes, or jobs, or any comforting vestiges of their former lives.

The other interesting moment in this episode was learning just how little of the billions of dollars generated by the largest Native American/First Nation-owned casinos is distributed in these communities. According to Penn & Teller's Bullshit, The Foxwoods multi-billion dollar casino empire, the largest in the nation, is shared by members of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation--all seven of them. Seven. Is this fo' fact or bs? The other big Tribal Nation-owned casinos are the Mystic Lake Casino, operated by the Shakopee Mdewakanton Dakota (Sioux) in Minneapolis, the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida, and the Cache Creek Casino owned by the Wintun Indians in California.

Now don't get me wrong. I actually like this series. It ain't the Daily Show or Michael Moore's The Awful Truth (remember when he had those tracheotomy victims caroling outside a tobacco company's headquarters?), but it's pretty good. The topics are generally provocative and highly controversial, and the editing gives our hosts some of the best one-liners and comebacks on cable, especially since we've seen all the Chappelle shows and The Boondocks are in reruns. One thing Penn & Teller said in this episode that I do agree with is that discussions such as these can never be this simple. There are far too many layers of assumptions and competing historical narratives for any significant insights or common ground to be found in a 30 minute show hosted by 'eccentric magicians with a psychotic twist' or in the drive-by rhetoric we normally resort to out of frustration and fear. Although most of Penn & Teller's shows don't answer as many questions as they raise, they do invite viewers to step outside their comfort zones and revisit a few long held 'truths,' even if you still feel like throwing a brick at your screen.

Check them out if you get a chance. Or better yet, forget their Bullshit! and do your own research. Here are a few resources for folk who may be interested in learning more about the reparations discussions on these shores and beyond:

JURIST Legal News & Research: Taking Reparations Seriously (April 26, 2006)

Congressman John Conyers, Jr.'s HR 40 Bill to Commission to Study Reparation Proposals

USA Today: President of Brown Seeks to Fuel Reparations Debate

Wachovia Apology Renews Reparations Debate


Japanese Internment in World War II article

Democracy Now! WWII Reparations: Japanese Internees
A Holocaust Reparations Settlement Makes Its Way to South Jersey
New York Times, January 24, 2006: "Within the next few weeks, Barbara Principe, a 73-year-old South Jersey woman who still lives near the chicken farm where she grew up, will begin receiving payments from millions of dollars in real estate in the former East Berlin. The land was lost to her family 67 years ago...."

Anthology: Should America Pay: Slavery and the Raging Debate on Reparations edited by Raymond Winbush

This site features a fuller bibliography or resources, including info on Native American and International reparations discussions.


Jill Robinson wrote "BLACKout," a speculative fiction story exploring reparations for Dark Matter, and she later read it during a Black History Month program at a prison upstate, one of the few facilities that still offers educational programs. The reading generated a lot of good discussion, but what struck me was how there were so many different perspectives on just what a reparations bill might look like and how it might impact the nation. It was one of the best conversations I'd heard on the subject, and I'd be curious to see how other creative writers have approached the issue over the years.

All Best,
SRT

PS - Is it just me, or is this stamp and the accompanying 'tours' just bizarre?

Thursday, May 11, 2006

WisCon 30 or Bust!







Truth is, it probably neva woulda occurred to me to attend a science fiction conference if I hadn't edited Dark Matter. Truth is, I probably woulda continued being one of the countless unknown blackfolk who have been reading in the genre, among a whole lotta other genres, going to our favorite bookstores, browsing the shelves, plunking down good money for whatever floats our boat and taking it home like countless other readers. Neva once sitting up one day and thinking, "Gee, I wonder if I should register for a science fiction con? Wonder if __________ will be there, signing books?"

Maybe we in a bookclub, maybe not. Maybe we check out a few local author signings and such when we see a listing in the local paper or whatever. Maybe not. Maybe we don't go no further than our PCs, purchasing our books online. Far as I know, don't nobody currently keep accurate track of where blackfolk book dollars go, so we could be beaming them up from Scotty, far as anyone else knows...

What I do know is this: like the romance industry, black readers (particularly, black women readers) have been reading in the sf/f genre long before the book industry started publishing works with black faces on the cover. These unknown readers have contributed to the bottom lines of numerous writers, established and otherwise, but you rarely see them walking around in fandom. 'fo fact, there are so few of them, that folk actually know -- or, correction, think they know -- them all by name. Sort of like my experience in college, when any unknown blackfolk on campus had to be one of my relatives or friends--couldn't possibly've been one of the Negroes in the now 62% black city that just happened to be curious about what lay behind the gorgeous iron black gate erected to protect the predominantly white college built in the middle of the 'hood.... Lawd knows that in my recent science fiction con experiences, I've been mistaken for a couple of folk that I have yet to meet myself...

It's like the legendary Carl Brandon, now the namesake of the Carl Brandon Society
or the new TV One ads, I see black people...

Don't know about you, but over the years I'd been to a few other writers cons, including the National Writers Union's local and national conventions and Romance Writers of America, but I didn't even know about the MidSouth con in my own hometown until years after I'd moved. Point is, we ain't too common and I can speculate all day about why, but what I really want to do is encourage you to check out WISCON, because if you don't never go to but ONE science fiction conference in your big, beautiful life, then let it be, let it be WISCON 30, because this year is going to be amazing.

WisCon takes place annually in downtown Madison, WI over Memorial Day weekend (May 25-30) at the Concourse Hotel. It's considered"The World's Leading Feminist Science Fiction Convention," and is attended by a lot of cool and interesting women and yes, men (got to say that because some folk see 'feminist' and read 'man hata' and 'crazy') . Now, I ain't saying there ain't no crazy folk there (LOL!), I'm just saying that all kinda folk flow through and it is a celebration of science fiction work. This year, they invited back their previous Guest of Honors, including Samuel R. Delany, Ursula K. Le Guin, Nalo Hopkinson, Jane Yolen, Pat Murphy, Pamela Sargent, Vonda McIntyre, chile, I could go on and on.

And they got damned good child care, too! For real, with Legos and robots n' shit! I mean really, what kinda feminist gathering would it be without an excellent program track for young readers?

And if that don't sell you, do check out the confirmed GoH list for this year.

I think I attended my first Wiscon five or six years ago, and I've been hooked ever since. It's a good place to gather new books, new scholarship, and new friends and colleagues who share some of your interests. At Wiscon I've had a chance to meet and discuss some of my favorite authors, including Samuel R. Delany and the late Octavia E. Butler (who was scheduled to attend this year), but there are a couple of other conventions I enjoy, like Readercon (held annually in Burlington, MA, usually in July before the Harlem Book Fair) and Diversicon (yay, Diversicon!) held annually in August in Minneapolis.

I know most folk like to get in where they fit in, and it can be a drag to travel to farflung places if you fear you're going to be marginalized, but I think you'd be alright at Wiscon, or Readercon, or Diversicon, where folk actually have fairly intelligent and passionate discussions of the genre and what's happening in our world beyond its pages. Keep in mind that there are literally hundreds and hundreds of small sf/f conferences all over the country each year. You can visit LOCUS, the online trade paper for the science fiction and fantasy genre to get leads on gatherings near you. And of course, there are the international conventions, that are pretty large. I've only had a chance to go to one so far, the World Fantasy Convention when it was held in Montreal.

I'm just gonna bullet some of what I hope to get into at Wiscon. Give me a shout if you have any questions. I do have some pix, but I look real crazy in'em, so I'ma hold off! LOL
And no, don't nobody be walkin' around in costume! Well, maybe a few folk in the vendor's rooms, but really, a gorgeous sari is not actually a costume. So, what I'm saying is, ain't no Wookiees and Xena's wandering around, despite what Walter said at the National Black Writers Conference @ Medgar Evers College...as the set up for his insightful story on meeting Harry Belafonte at a gathering of the minds scheduled in an Atlanta hotel during a fantasy convention. You had to have been there.

Possible panels and readings to check out:

  • Myth of Class Mobility?
    Research indicates economic mobility decreased in the United States between the 1970s and 1990s, and that France, Canada, and Denmark have more mobility than the United States. Software programming used to be a clear career choice for people looking to move into the middle or upper-middle class. But in an era of outsourcing and offshoring, is it anymore?
    Avedon Carol, David D. Levine, Matthew H. Austern, Samuel R. Delany, Victor Jason Raymond
  • Science Fiction from the (so–called) Third World
More and more science fiction is being written in the Third World and other non–Anglo–American places. The introduction of an international SF magazine in English, InterNova (published from Germany), and the publishing of such anthologies as So Long Been Dreaming: Post–colonial science fiction and fantasy (eds. Nalo Hopkinson and Uppinder Mehan) indicate that such fictions are gradually being acknowledged world–wide. Of what possible use is science fiction to the third world? Of what possible use are the voices of third world/post–colonial SF writers to science fiction as a whole?
N. Nalo Hopkinson, Nnedi Nkemdili Okorafor-Mbachu, Tea Hvala, Sheree Renée Thomas, Andrea D. Hairston

  • Tearing Down the Walls and Windows
People sometimes ask “Why don’t people of color write speculative fiction?” “We do,” says Nalo Hopkinson, “but it’s unlikely that you’ll find it on the SF shelves in your bookstores." Why don't genre readers recognize novels such as Gloria Naylor’s Mama Day or Devorah Major’s An Open Weave as belonging to our own? Why does even a writer as solidly genre-identified as Octavia Butler find most of her fans from elsewhere?
Claire Light, Candra K. Gill, Sheree Renée Thomas, Diantha Day Sprouse, Ian K. Hagemann

  • SFF and the Classroom
    How do you use SFF in your classrooms? When is SFF appropriate to use? What are some of your tried and true story selections to get your students interested in SFF? What kind of films do you use, and for what reasons? Let's talk about SFF and the art of teaching. How can we make it a better fit in the face of traditionalists?
    Theodora Goss, Elizabeth Barrette, Robert F. Stauffer, Kelly McCullough, Anastasia Marie Salter, JJ Pionke
  • Should we care that independent bookstores are closing?
    What effect do the superstores and Amazon have on small independent bookstores? Why should you care? What can you do about it? Is there any good in Amazon, et cetera?
    Ron Serdiuk, Gavin J. Grant, Susanna J. Sturgis, Lawrence Schimel, Patrick Nielsen Hayden
  • Toward Another Dispossessed Triton
    A recent news article profiled "anti-anti-utopias"—works by Le Guin, Delany, Brunner, et al., where pictures of a possible, positive, yet complicated and real future are shown. It was an excellent example of the positive role SFF can play in outlining a path and vision of a future better than ours. Sadly, however, all of the works noted are 20 or more years old. Dystopian futures—or at least, dark and complicated ones—are still prevalent today, but where are the contemporary works that show, warts and all, a world/society free from the baggage of our current time?
    Nisi Shawl, Janice M. Eisen, Tea Hvala

  • Banned & Challenged Books
    Every year hundreds of books are challenged or banned in schools across the USA, from Judy Blume to Ursula Le Guin to J. K. Rowling. Here in Madison the CCBC (The Cooperative Children's Book Center) provides information and referrals for Wisconsin librarians and teachers to help them deal with such challenges. There are also many organisations nationwide.
    Justine Larbalestier, Kira Franz, Anne Marie Redalen Fraser, Veronica L. Schanoes, Deborah Stone
  • Categorized Awards
The Tiptree Award for gender, the Norton Award for young adult, the Spectrum for GLBT, and the new Carl Brandon Award for SF/F by people of color. These awards all bring attention to quality works that might have been overlooked in the larger marketplace. How successful are they in influencing the tastes of readers? Do these awards influence the marketplace? Are "segregated" awards necessarily a good thing (aside from bringing attention to neglected works)?
Lawrence Schimel, Elizabeth Barrette, Nora Jemison, Jacob Weisman

  • Is Reading Feminist SF a Theory Building Activity?
This idea comes from a question that wasn't asked in the "Judging the Tiptree" panel. For those of us who are already long-standing feminists and feminist SF readers, does on-going reading feminist SF change your understandings of gender? If so, how? If feminist theory is evolving, how do we see that reflected in or reflecting feminist SF? Do you actively seek out feminist sf that challenges your current understandings of gender or stick to readings that are comfortable? Do you even notice the shifts in your thinking? When's the last time you thought about how a book changed your already sophisticated understanding of gender, or do you pay more attention to whether or not you care for a particular book?
Karen Joy Fowler, Cheryl Myfanwy Morgan, Margaret McBride, Joan Haran, Lori A. Selke

  • The Karen Axness Panel: Women Authors You Should Be Reading
This is a WisCon tradition—let's keep it! Panel members will discuss the latest books by female SF and fantasy authors, the emphasis being on new female authors in these fields.
Thomas Ross Porter, David Peterson, David Lenander, Beverly J. DeWeese, Marsha J. Valance


There is also an auction, several awards ceremonies, including the Tiptree Award, an annual literary prize (yes, $$$ and chocolate, too!) "for science fiction or fantasy that expands or explores our understanding of gender". Authors Karen Joy Fowler and Pat Murphy are the 'founding mothers' - and yes, I don't why I feel like I have to keep saying this, but I will, yes, male authors do win. This year Geoff Ryan's AIR will be honored.

I will definitely swing through to support this program as well:

The Carl Brandon Kindred Award and the Carl Brandon Parallax Award
The Carl Brandon Society is giving out two awards this year. The Carl Brandon Kindred Award will be given to any work of speculative fiction dealing with issues of race and ethnicity; nominees may be of any racial or ethnic group. The Carl Brandon Parallax Award will be given to works of fiction created by a person of color. Come hear more about these awards and the Carl Brandon Society!
Debbie Notkin, M. J. Hardman, Ursula K. Le Guin, N. Nalo Hopkinson, Jennifer Stevenson, Ian K. Hagemann



And it's not too late to contribute to the Octavia E. Butler Memorial scholarship fund administered by the Carl Brandon Society:

The Octavia E. Butler Memorial Scholarship will enable writers of color to attend one of the Clarion writing workshops, where Octavia got her start. It is meant to cement Octavia's legacy by providing the same experience/opportunity that Octavia had to future generations of new writers of color. In addition to her stint as a student at the original Clarion Writers Workshop in Pennsylvania in 1970, Octavia taught several times for Clarion West in Seattle, Washington, and Clarion in East Lansing, Michigan, giving generously of her time to a cause she believed in.

The first Octavia E. Butler Memorial Scholarship will be awarded in 2007. We'll announce details of the application process later this year.

Our goal for a fully endowed scholarship fund is $100,000. At this time, we welcome your tax deductible gift of any amount to this fund. Please use the button to the left of the page to donate via PayPal or a major credit card. If you'd prefer to make your donation in the form of a check or money order, please make it payable to "The Carl Brandon Society" and note that it is for "The Octavia E. Butler Memorial Scholarship Fund." Then mail your donation to:

The Octavia E. Butler
Memorial Scholarship Fund
c/o The Carl Brandon Society
P.O. Box 23336
Seattle, WA 98102

All Best,
SRT