El Coyote Gordo (supergee) wrote,
El Coyote Gordo

Detcon 1 Report

Bernadette Bosky, Kevin Maroney, and I were jointly the Fan Guest of Honor at the recent North American Science Fiction Convention (Cerberus, or to be more up-to-date, Fluffy). I imagine we were chosen because amongst us we represent most of the interests the con celebrates: me, reading science fiction and doing fanzines; Bernadette, horror and fantasy and scholarship thereof; Kevin, comics and games and years of yeoman service with The New York Review of Science Fiction. Besides, like the futuristic Detroit Renaissance Center where the con was held, we are science fiction: Back in the day, marriages of more than two people were Buck Rogers Stuff.

Fanzines have a tradition of lengthy descriptions of the travel to the con to which I will now pay minimal tribute: Delta has managed to extend to the waiting room the discomfort, crowdedness, and noise of actually being on a plane. And one more note on what escape fiction is designed to escape from: We learned that Rupert Murdoch plans to assimilate Time Warner. Speaking for the Warner Bros. Toons, Wile E. Coyote said, "It gives us a new appreciation of Ted Turner."

Because fans are time-binding slans, I was on three program items before the Opening Ceremonies. The first was on SF and Romance, featuring four fiction writers and one reader (me). When I suggested James Tiptree Jr.'s great theme of sex with space aliens, the others thought that the aliens would be so alien that the pheremones wouldn't work and their bodily fluids might poison us or vice versa. (Not a question that we can research.) Thence to a panel on the ancient fannish tradition of the amateur press association (apa), which has proven even more vulnerable to the Internet than fanzines. I enjoyed apas because I could just retype other people's writing and make wiseass comments on it, but on livejournal I can just cut & paste the link and not even type. The next hour was a panel on paper and net writing that I shared with Mark Oshiro; his blog invites us to watch as Mark Reads, which turns out to be significantly more fun than the title suggests.

Kevin did a panel on book collecting, which I skipped because I am a recovering book collector. More precisely, I am a recovering book hoarder, who loved to buy lots & lots. I am getting better, and it beats animal hoarding. Books don't fight or crap on each other.

And then the con opened. Authors are warned not to do characterization by putting characters in funny hats, but putting authors in funny hats seems to work: Jim C. Hines was a great master of ceremonies. Since the con was in the Motor City, one theme was that archetypal Failed SF Prophecy, the flying car, including a song by Filk GoHs Bill & Brenda Sutton. I admitted that the flying car theme has never worked for me: When I see how well my fellow citizens operate in two dimensions, I have no desire to be in or under such things.

Friday I got up fannishly late and didn't get to much programming. I did make it to an excellent panel on Maps in Fantasy with Kevin and f/sf writer and old-time fannish friend Stephen Leigh. (Like a number of people there, Steve is someone I have known for more than half my life, which is a weird thought.) We intended to get together later at the con, but did not in fact do so. (I do that a lot, always have.)

I likewise had only one all-too-brief meeting with Maia Cowan, but fortunately we got to spend more time with Eva Whitley, Jeanne Mealy & John Stanley, Lisa Padol & Josh Kronengold, Larry Kestenbaum & Janice Gutfreund, and Neil Rest, who told me that the difference between liberals and progressives is that liberals still believe the other side is acting in good faith. I continue to identify as a liberal, but by that metric I am a progressive.

In lieu of a Guest of Honor speech, the three of us interviewed one another. We talked about our fannish lives, our mundane lives, our totems, our menage a rie, our pet rats, and much else, and I believe we amused, instructed, and enlightened.

In the evening there was a Meet the Pros reception, for values of pro including the Fan GoHs, so we sat at a table and were met. I also wandered around and met John Scalzi, who remembered without prompting that I had copy-edited one of his books (the delightful Android's Dream). I informed him that he was the only writer who thanked me for that particular service (he also mentioned me on a credits page), and we had a most pleasant chat. We also hung out with a new friend, the alarmingly energetic Pablo Vazquez.

Saturday was Bernadette's day to panelize, as Thursday was mine. It began with a panel on the classics of science fiction, fantasy, and horror. With our help Bernadette had compiled two-page lists of contenders in each of the fields (and of course we left things out). The panel discussed such issues as how old classics have to be and whether classics have to be still readable. Thence to panels on dark fantasy/sf and on sexuality in sf.

The three of us then performed "The Island of Dr. Gernsback." Back in the 80s Bernadette and I wrote a fannish parody of the Saying of the Law from The Island of Dr. Moreau, in which I recited the fannish shibboleths of the time and the audience chanted, "Are we not fen?" For the new millennium we deleted some forgotten bits and added up-to-date references and things the tribe should have known all along (costume is not consent). Kevin occasionally joined in with wiseass kibitzing. We think it went over well, and we're putting it up on efanzines.

Then we watched a panel on Afrofuturism. YA Writer GoH Nnedi Okorafor gave an example of how our community has much to learn on such questions, informing us that she had been asked, "You've got Anansi in your book. Did you get that from American Gods?" (Besides, I have a feeling of kinship with her because her name begins with a non-Anglo grapheme.)

Sunday's panels returned to another 80s theme: The Fat, Feminism, and Fandom panel. Back then fandom prided itself on the modest achievement of being ahead of mundane society on questions of fat acceptance (as it was on race, GLBT, and other issues), but we still had a way to go, and Debbie Notkin and Laurie Toby Edison put together educational panels. Now Laurie, Bernadette, Eva Whitley, Rachael Acks, and I talked about progress in that area. The next hour Lee Martindale, Rachael Acks, and J.F. Garrard joined Bernadette to discuss the current status of research on the subject, and much useful information was imparted. (BMI is a statistic of near-astrological precision.)

Perhaps surprisingly, there was no programming after the Closing Ceremonies, but we did attend a dead dog party thrown by fannish legend Geri Sullivan (who got her first fanzine ever from me). We enjoyed it, hanging out with Larry Sanderson, Peggy Rae Sapienza, Dick & Leah Zeldes Smith, and others. Next day we survived flight and even the TSA and returned home.

All in all, Detcon 1 was a delightful experience. Tammy Coxen, Kim Kofmel, and the whole gang put on a great show, and we are proud and happy to have been a part of it.
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