Yet Another Worldcon Post

Heh I need to quickly sum up the rest of the con before I forget it all! I do rather feel like I’m repeating myself, as I have done summy up podcasts with Galactic Suburbia covering some of the same material. But here we go:

Sunday was Father’s Day! No sleep in or cooked breakfast for my sweetie, though. He did receive a school-made card from Daughter #1 and a gift card for the apps store from me (very appropriate as the iPad had become our complete lifeline over the trip, as entertainment, internet connectivity and a social networking tool. I want my owwwwwn.

My one panel for the day was one I had been super excited about – The Case for the Female Doctor. Not only did I get to sit next to Paul Cornell, but the really cool thing was that all of the panellists except the moderator were completely in love with the idea of a female Doctor, and thus the discussion moved quickly belong ‘should we’ to ‘how should we’. Discussion points ranged through the age of the Doctor, whether a female Doctor would *have* to be older to convey confidence and dignity, or conversely *have* to be younger to count as ‘now’ and ‘sexy’ from the production POV. We also discussed the readiness of fans and the media to accept a female Doctor, and the different ways in which gender might affect the show. I was particularly delighted that almost all of the arguments about things that might change were met with a heartfelt ‘yes, wouldn’t that be great’! Mostly by me, admittedly 😀

So yes, it was a great panel and completely buzzy to be part of it. I’ve been meaning to send Grant Watson a heartfelt THANK YOU by email for putting me on it, but what the hell, better to do it on public. Being on a Doctor Who panel at a convention is one of those things I have always wanted to do in my life, and this far exceeded any expectations. Grant did some fantastic work with devising programme items, many of which had great female-centric or feminist themes, and I think it’s worth a particular shout out because in my experience, often the media items are the ones most likely to end up with all male panels, or unimaginative takes on the material. Not so this year!

From a ‘mama writer at the con’ point of view, it’s worth noting that I had Raeli sitting up front with me, right in front of the table. Paul Cornell managed to frighten her by suggesting that she touch the inflatable daleks who visited us, to prove they weren’t real, but she had come to terms with them by the end of it and announced that they really were just like the bananas. Mostly I kept her busy with sweets from the table while she worked in her activity book (anonymous sketch artist who presented the panellists each with a caricature from the panel – thank you for including Raeli in this! it’s adorable!). At one point she whispered that she wanted to ask a question and I am ashamed to say I wouldn’t let her – afterwards I checked what she would have said and her question was “why are you talking about a female doctor?” which to be fair wouldn’t have added much to the conversation.

I told her why we were discussing it and asked her if she thought the Doctor could be a woman and her response was “hee hee, that’s silly.” Good thing I didn’t let her contribute!!!

After that, I got to be an audience member for the rest of the day which was a little startling to get used to. I managed to get to Alisa’s panel on the history of women in Australian spec fic which I really enjoyed – Helen Merrick, Lucy Sussex and Gina Goddard are all great speakers too, and I love to hear about the history of women in spec fic and fandom. Something which really hit home was when Gina mentioned that Gynaecon came about because the last Aussiecon, 11 years ago (when I had been part of the congoing community for only a little over a year) only had one panel on women, imaginatively titled “women in SF”. Yes, this is exactly the same sort of thing that led to the creation of Wiscon back in the 70’s. How far we have come in the last decade, in Australia, anyway!

Alex and I had fun noodling around with notes to each other during the panel. Among other things, we planned a retake of the female superheroes panel at the next Swancon, plus a Galactic Suburbia panel, and we then decided that she, I and Alisa (plus as many other Australian peeps as we could gather) would definitely be DOING WISCON some time in the next 5 years. We discussed this later and decided if Alisa has babies any time soon, we might be willing to stretch it to 10. The important thing, obviously, is to all go at once, just as Helen, Tess and their buddies did some years ago. And to not go until Galactic Suburbia is famous enough that we can get ourselves on the programme 😀

I hurried straight from that panel to THE EVENT of the convention. Keep your Ditmars and your Hugos. This was a freaking live episode of BOXCUTTERS which happened to be themed around Doctor Who, so my head pretty much exploded with happiness. A huge thank you to Mondy who spotted me sitting towards the back and pointed out where Alisa and Terri were sitting. “You have to be with the Krasnostein!” Yes, I really did. It would not have been nearly as awesome without getting to sit with my fellow MASSIVE BOXCUTTERS fans.

Rob Shearman and Paul Cornell were very funny and interesting, but I have to admit (sorry, guys) I was mostly there to see Josh and John at work in person. Neither of them are nearly as awesome as Nelly, obviously, but you can’t have everything. The audience reactions and applause completely went to their heads, which only made the whole thing more amusing. The interview-panel ranged all over the place in topics, and was so much fun. I was particularly touched by the description of what it was like to be part of the team who brought back Doctor Who, and how frightened they were at being the ones to screw it up. The buzz in the room was electric, and when it was over we ran forward in our Hugo frocks (Terri and Alisa were in BALLGOWNS) to meet Josh Kinal. I was late to dinner with my publishers thanks to that, but it was so worth it. Voices attached to real people! Who knew? Also, I am totally going to buy a Boxcutters t-shirt. Yes, I am that much of a fangirl.

After that I raced down to the HarperCollins dinner, and it’s a sign of how little I had been participating in evening shenanigans at the bar that it took me about three laps of the damn place to find the restaurant. I got away late again to the Hugos, and thus missed out on sitting with fellow Galactic Suburbanites Alisa and Alex, who had been living it up at the Orbit party and while I spotted them from the light of their phones, I couldn’t get to them. Kathryn & her sweetie had come in late too though and I joined them which was nice because we had barely got to catch up through the whole convention! We were thus able to squee, snark and shout out extra WOOs throughout the whole ceremony.

I have never regretted more not being able to tweet at this con! K more than made up for it, though.

We’ve done a GS special on the Hugos but suffice to say, I was over the moon to see Tony C Smith win Best Fanzine for Starship Sofa. YAY PODCASTS. Also it was lovely to hear Helen & Jonathan get the home town WOOHOO when their nomination was read, even if they didn’t ultimately win. Sadly this was my only glimpse of Campbell award winning Seanan McGuire, whom I had been hoping to meet at the con. Oh, and so many frocks and tuxedos. Very important!

As part of our theme of laidback evening partying rather than stalking famous authors in bars at 4am, our gang went back to the apartment to hang out with Tehani, who had stayed home with baby Max, and debrief. Partly our lack of crazy partying was an effect of staying a bit of a distance from the con – and in my case, not really wanting to be too far from the baby in the late evenings. Hanging out in Tehani’s apartment meant I was a 30 second lift ride away from Jem if I got the call to say she had woken up, and no fuss about taxis back. Also the early-ish nights made for far more fun days.

Monday was the LAST day of the con, and that’s always a bit of a mixed bag, with everyone all distracted with packing up and early flights, so that even those of us who were sensible enough to stay an extra night or two end up feeling like we’re about to flit at any moment. This day was memorable for Raeli discovering 209 aka the Lego Room, and yet another horde of little girls to play with. Seriously, the child-friendly nature of this convention was extraordinary, and while having my girls there did compromise me in many varying ways, I never felt as if I or they were in the way, bothering people, etc. It made a huge difference to my ability to enjoy the con, and I really noticed and appreciated how many other people had babies/children there, and just took care of them discreetly, provided them with activities, took them out when they fussed, but basically integrated them into the event. It’s a brave new world, people.

And yes this does tie back again to the women in Australian SF history panel, and what Gina in particular was saying about women who left fandom when they had their children, either because it was too difficult to play or because they were actively squeezed out by people who made them feel unwelcome. BRAVE NEW FUCKING WORLD, PEOPLE. I know that it’s too easy to say that these problems are done and behind us now, but this is one con where I really felt that being female and a mother did not push me into some outer circle, and that is a beautiful thing. It didn’t hurt that the convention centre was really nicely set up with a good childcare space (also handy for changing into Ditmar/Hugo frocks) and enough rooms that one could be set aside for kids stuff. The fan lounge was also open, airy and somewhere you could collapse with kids, without feeling like you were dragging them into some kind of seedy cave. In fact, the entire con centre was lacking in seedy caves. So cheers for that.

On Monday we decided to split our parental resources, as I wasn’t needed on a panel until after lunch. It meant I was able to take Jem in to chat with people in cafes, while @aifin and Raeli rode around on trams for an hour or more. Score all around!

I had arranged to have coffee with Marianne D-P and Kate Elliott, and was delighted to see Rowena and Trent there too, as I hadn’t managed to spend much time hanging out with any of them. We chatted, Jem was adorable (ish), and Trent was a complete gentleman about sourcing anything the little lady needed, including bananas. My baby is indeed a banana fiend. Other lovely people joined us throughout the morning, and we stayed rather late.

After that it was time for one more quick go around of the dealer’s room, and I remembered at the last minute that I needed to get hold of one of the Classic SF books Aurealis put out this year – yes, the one by the female writer! AKA Catherine Spence. Raeli fell in love with a handmade furry monster, and while the price was far higher than I would normally pay for a child’s toy, she had been most excellent this week, and it was such a stylish thing to desire, I couldn’t resist. She chose hers very carefully, and dubbed him ‘Fluffy Thing’. He is now apparently a member of our family. Within seconds of her acquiring it, her new friend Little Miss Girl Genius (daughter of the Foglios) had convinced them to buy her one too. Now that’s upselling!

My one panel on Monday was on Reviewing YA and while I did really enjoy the discussion we ended up having, I understand from online reaction and discussions later with audience members that some people were very unhappy with it, felt it had been derailed by the one male participant, and even walked out. All I can say is that I’m really sorry they had that that experience. It felt like quite a productive if at times going-off-on tangents discussion to me, but it may be that I felt as if it had avoided derailment only because of my trainwreck experience on Saturday.

I would like to add that I do think it’s really important that online discussions have empowered women and given them the language to express what is going on when, for instance, the one male member of a discussion panel talks more than the women, resists moderation by a woman, and actively pushes the conversation into his preferred areas without consultation, and so on. It was really interesting to me to read tweets and blog responses afterwards, and I think – much like Nelly discussing QandA in this week’s Boxcutters – that kind of real time interaction provides greater accountability, which is the best way to enact change and make conventions more of a shared experience.

I also think that part of the problem with that particular panel was the format whereby each panellist gets to talk on THEIR pet subject for a lengthy time. I really don’t think this is ever a good idea at conventions, as it doesn’t matter how interesting it is, having one person talk for a long time is not a good habit to get into, and doesn’t make for the best audience experience. I would make an exception for academic panels, but even then, only selectively.

The panel I was sorriest to miss out on was John from Boxcutters talking about Outland, his new geeky SF sitcom which is coming to the ABC later this year. Getting to hang out with he, Rob Shearman, Mondy & Scottish Liz for a couple of hours after the dealer’s room closed, though, more than made up for it. Especially since this was one of the rare events where my whole family got to participate in the socialising.

Rob at least got several chances to impress Jemima with his ‘wubble wubble’ face – apparently Nick Briggs’ son loves it, but Jem was all “I am so judging you.” later she may have warmed up to him, once she saw he was such a hit with Raeli. Okay, FINE, there was smiling and giggling. What can I say, my girls like to be entertained by funny men with beards.

After that the girls started to get fidgetty, so it was time to Leave The Building. We met up with the dealer’s room survivors and Trent, and all meandered back to collapse in our apartment. Rob and the others had promised to come by later but never made it – I suspect they actually NEVER MOVED from that cafe in the twelve hours that followed. But we got to hang out, relax, put the baby down for a nap, and generally de-con. Later, we ordered in bento boxes, and even splashed out on a bit of luxury LEMONADE. Our esteemed producer suggested we do our final Galactic Suburbia that evening, but we were basically too fragged to think about it.

And you know, everyone left, one by one, as they do at conventions. So sad.

Once the convention was over, that meant our holiday technically started! On Tuesday morning, Alisa & Alex came by one last time for some fierce back to back Galactic Suburbia recording. After that, it was TV on and pyjamas for the rest of the day, watching Australia finally get a government. Good thing that hadn’t happened on Friday or anything, or I would totally have missed it.

Can I just say how much I appreciate digital tv after a week with a tv that only had the terrestrial channels plus a couple of cable movie channels? I can get movies on the iPad, what I need the TV to do is pause, rewind and, you know, 24 hour CHILDREN’S PROGRAMMING! How did people survive before ABC 2? I realise this is a very privileged viewpoint, but it actually felt quite shocking to have long periods of the day when there was no children’s programming at all, namely from 10am to 3pm. Especially as those were largely the hours that one or both parents were stuck in the hotel room with Raeli, while the baby had her nap? Raeli in particular never got used to not being able to rewind and rewatch the tv show she liked. Ah, my lovely tech-spoiled daughter.

So yes, it was all election, order-in noodles (oh, I wouldn’t give up my fresh air and clean tapwater for it, but how I long to live somewhere that delivers Japanese/Chinese food) and a few marathon sessions of Angry Birds, the iPad game Raeli and I are now both addicted to. The whole thing would have been a lovely mellow post con comedown were it not for the enraging building works going on in the room next to MY SLEEPING BABY. Having had such a great experience with Riverview Apartments up to that point, I was furious that they were doing this to us. I’m talking about loud, reverberating power drilling in the room right next door, on and off through the whole day. We had not been consulted to see if, for instance, we were the kind of people likely to be out sightseeing all day during our mid-week stay, or if we were the kind of people who were necessarily confined to our room because of baby naps.

After several phone calls etc. and coming close to actually moving rooms, something we didn’t want to do for the last 24 hours of our stay, the compromise was giving us access to another suite for when the noise was too loud. To their credit they did work hard to make it up to us, but I was so cross about the whole thing it really did put a dampener on the end of our stay.

Then on our final day, we took the girls to the aquarium, and saw PENGUINS omg before eventually wending our weary way to the airport. We got to play in business class thanks to an excess of frequent flyer points, which was lots of fun, even if we didn’t quite think through how long it would take to move two children through an airport from there to our flight once it was called. Juggling Jem on the plane was hard work. My honey did his best to ensure I got a break from her, putting me across the aisle from he and the kids and strapping the baby to himself for take off and landing, but she wouldn’t have anything but Mummymummymummy for the rest of the (thankfully short) flight and I ended up with about 30 seconds to eat dinner because of it. Luckily the stewards all thought she was adorable even when she hurled bread rolls all over the cabin.

Now home. Collapsey. A week and a half of school holidays to go, three or four short stories to write, and a book to finish by the end of October.

It really was the awesomest trip ever, kids and all. But we won’t be doing it again for a while. I’ve officially bought my membership for Swancon, and plan to share a room with Random Alex. Leaving family behind. Gulp.