|Me and my son with Tamora Pierce at Conbust, 2012|
Last night I returned home from attending Conbust at Smith College in Northampton, MA. It was a remarkable weekend for many reasons. First, because it is the first con I've attended as a panelist, second because I got to hang out with Jane Yolen and Tamora Pierce--two writers who I respect greatly and whose work I admire, and third because of the tone and tenor of the con.
I'm going to talk about this in reverse order, because I'm sometime perverse that way. :)
I've been to a few cons--mainly the ones held nearby, Boskone and Readercon, but also Capclave in DC. These are all larger cons and range in topic across the spectrum of the SF&F world. You might find panels on the writing craft, the writing business, talks on content related to SF&F (space travel, computer cryptography, folk tale history), or on SF&F media. What was different about Conbust is all about the philosophy of Smith College. The Conbust panels revolved around issues of gender, identity, and representation as it pertained to the SF&F world.
The audience was articulate and engaged. The con is small and therefore encourages conversation and mingling, all with a heaping dose of fun with many attendees cosplaying.
Did I mention mingling? Being able to interact with other speakers and with attendees may have been the highlight of the con for me. While the interplay of discussions in the panels was interesting and lively, the conversations that happened outside the formal presentations were rich and wide ranging. Those conversations made me analyze my own writing in a different light. While I work hard to create strong characters, regardless of gender, who have internal loci of control and agency, I'm not sure I've done enough to look at diversity issues in terms of race, sexual orientation, and disability. The world I live in is a diverse one. I need to consider that diversity in the worlds I write.
The big 'names' of the con, Jane Yolen and Tamora Pierce, could not have been any more gracious to me, a newbie to both cons and publishing. I never felt as if I was some interloper or wannabe. I was welcomed into their world as colleague and for that I am grateful.
Thank you, also, to the Conbust committee who responded so positively to my panel idea and let me play in the sandbox with writers whose work I so admire.