So that was ReaderCon…
I’m at a bit of loss over how to start this blog post. How you put things makes a difference and I want to make sure I’m giving everything exactly the emphasis it deserves, no more but no less.
One way to start is to say that, on the whole, I had a great time. ReaderCon, as usual, attracted a lot of interesting people. I didn’t get to meet everyone I wanted to, but I’ve never managed to meet everyone I want at any con. I missed some items (e.g., Daniel José Older’s and Chip Delany’s readings) either because I was scheduled opposite them or, more likely, I was so tired that I slept through them by accident. It says something awesome about ReaderCon that there was so much great stuff happening that I couldn’t have caught everything I wanted to catch anyway.
Everyone running the con that I dealt with was awesome. From my own vantage point, they ran the con excellently. Whether it was the case or not, from what I saw, everything seem to go exactly as it was supposed to. The hotel seemed a bit passive-aggressive in the way it treated con-goers. E.g, the bar closed early by con standards. They wouldn’t turn off the music or allow the use of their mike stand for a (wildcat) event in The Great Room despite previous assurances they would. However, that’s not ReaderCon’s fault.
Anyway, on balance, I had a great time. I’m looking forward to next year.
The other way to start is to relate a vignette:
It’s late Friday night. The aforementioned wildcat event, a reading by a variety of awesome writers, has now squatted in one of the hotel’s conference rooms. It’s relatively soundproof. We’re not going to bother anyone. No one is going to bother us.
I’m chatting with a friend about my con experience so far. Frankly, what has happened so far is pretty ordinary. It’s only Friday night and ReaderCon has already cemented its impression as the excellently run con that we now simply expect. However, in reaction, my friend sympathetically offers to buy me three drinks if I encounter a total of three or more racial micro-aggressions over the course of the weekend. Since it was Friday night and I was already at two, I declined. The idea that I could make it to Sunday afternoon without encountering another one was unthinkable. I don’t take sucker bets.
For the record, the final number, I think, was five. It’s not like I was deeply mining everything everyone said to me for unintentionally offensive content. Who knows if five is the right number and who cares. Those five were just the things that felt like tiny stabs to my gut. Practically everyone I chatted with was wonderful. They didn’t confuse me with other Chinese-American writers. They didn’t ask me to autograph copies of “The Paper Menagerie.” They didn’t tell me that I “barely have an accent at all.”
If you’re now wondering if you stabbed my gut, you didn’t. Everyone who did was so blissfully unaware they did that this blog post is not going to wake them up (if, indeed, they’re even reading this).
What I want to highlight is how normal this all is. I have this habit of counting the number of tiny stabs to my gut. It’s not like I’m looking for them or actively monitoring my gut for wounds. Whenever I feel one, I tick a counter in my head. That’s all.
I’ve never been to any con where that number was zero.
This is not a ReaderCon thing and I’m not saying that my experience is representative of anyone else’s. I fully expect lots of con-goers, even con-goers of color, experienced nothing of the sort. Also, in every case, people had intended be awesome and simply failed. They wanted to express how much they love a writer’s work and they, as a whole, consistently confused me for another writer. They wanted to compliment me on my command of the English language and were simply unaware of the context of what they were saying. I vacillate over whether I should make them feel awkward for what they’ve said or not. (As a rule, I no longer do that. It inevitably turns into an argument about why I didn’t really feel a stab to my gut and I don’t have the time or energy.)
No individual act is big deal. However, as the saying goes, it becomes the water in which you swim. It becomes the thing you actively push out of your mind so that you can have a great time at a really awesome con. You force yourself to disengage because your con should not become a series of teachable moments for other people. As a result, when it happens again, you’re caught off-guard and it pricks you in the gut. (Ann Leckie has a similar metaphor about fiction that punches you in the face.)
In the grand scheme of things, no said anything to me that gets anywhere near harassment. If a handful of racial micro-aggressions were the worst things that happened to anyone at a con, things are actually going really well.
I don’t want to make more of this than it is. However, I also want to go to a con and have that number be zero.
That’s enough of that. Now back to the awesome.
Yes, I missed a lot of people but I also met too many great people to name. I hope to catch up to the folks I missed. I can’t wait to see the people I did meet again.
I attended some terrific readings and deeply regret missing Daniel José Older’s and Chip Delany’s. My own reading was surprisingly well attended. The room was almost full. More people I didn’t know than people I did know showed up. Thank you, Julia, for sending people my way. (As for me, eye contact. Must work on eye contact…)
Kameron Hurley was spectacular on the “What Won’t You Write?” panel. It could easily have been an hour (or two) just of her talking about the subject and I would have been fully satisfied. She’s amazing.
(I, on the other hand, inadvertently gave the impression that I don’t write female main characters. Considering that I’ve published stories with female main characters, oops. I had intended to contexualize my comments with, “In those cases when my short story is centered around a male same-sex relationship…” Because I do write short stories centered around male same-sex relationships, also writing stories with well-crafted female or non-binary main characters is extremely important to me. sigh)
Tempest did a great job moderating “The Past Is a Terrible Past”. She created the space for and encouraged the discussion of issues of race, class, and gender that so often are ignored when we talk about traveling into the past. If I have a quibble, it’s that I wish all of the panelists had followed her lead.
As for “When the Other Is You”, OMG, OMG, OMG. This is such a huge topic and everyone on the panel had such insightful things to say. I can’t even begin to summarize what happened. I only wish it could have gone on for another hour or two. Actually, I wish there were a way to have a panel that starts at the second hour of this panel. I really want to know what Chesya Burke, Samuel Delany, Peter Dubé, Mikki Kendall, Vandana Singh, Sabrina Vourvoulias would have said had they had more time.
ReaderCon, as always, was a great time. Next year, I’m sure, will be at least as wonderful.