This past weekend, as I posted, on Thursday, was Norwescon 40 .
My first Norwescon was Norwescon 13. Which suddenly seems so very long ago. About six months previous to that Norwescon, I had attended my first convention period, Dreamcon 3, according to a friend who was there, and on walking in the door, my first thought was, “I’m home.”
The Geek Husband What Rules and I walked away from conventions for a couple of years in the late 90s, but came back shortly after moving back over to Seattle, when a friend asked me to help her with what would eventually become Norwescon’s Culture Track.
For two years ago, I handed the Culture Track off to someone else, and took over Comics. It’s a small track, but the pros and attendees are generally pretty positive about it.
This is my review of this year’s panels:
I started off by jumping on one panel I wasn’t actually scheduled for, because it was a sausage-fest and I was asked to: Problem Players in RPGs. Basically we talked about how to deal with problems, how to recognize problems, and how not to be the problem. It was a good panel, we did help out one or two folks, and I’m glad that the blatantly sexist problems are becoming less and less common.
Adult Comics -v-Mature Comics. We discussed the difference between comics that were “adult” meaning dirty, and comics dealing with mature themes, or that might have nudity in it, but it wasn’t gratuitous and actually had a reason for being there. Examples of “Adult” comics were Xenophile and Cherry Poptart. Examples of “Mature” comics were Saga, Pretty Deadly, and Wicked and Divine.
Identities and Terminology are Important. This was a discussion of the various Identities along the gender and sexual orientation spectrums, on up to identifying yourself by hobbies, jobs and activities. We discussed the difference between Identities and Labels, as well as terms some people had not heard of, like pansexual and demiromantic.
BDSM 101. This is one we do every year, and it was a little rougher than usual, but it went all right. It’s exactly what it says on the tin, an overview of kink and BDSM and how to explore it safely.
Comics and Kids Real Lives. Basically this went over the fact that we try to protect children from things in comics and other literature that they are already experiencing in their real lives. We discussed the importance of having a vocabulary to discuss what is going on with you, to you, around you, and the fact that this Neo-Puritanism robs children of agency and the ability to accurately discuss things, both good and bad, in their own lives.
Internet and Real Life Trolls. Yeah, this is a panel I really wish I didn’t have to keep doing. Because until we as a society treat these assholes like the god damned menace they are, we, especially women and POC, are going to have to keep putting up with this shit. We discussed “Dude, not cool,” and moderating online and meat space communities so that the trolls don’t get their say. It all boils down to you have to decide who you want to support and socialize with, assholes or people.
Standing up to the Mob. The subtitle on this one was “How to support female creators when they are under attack.” Cat Rambo has a blog post that outlines what we talked about, but it boils down to a few points (taken from Cat’s post):
1. Buy their stuff. Spread word of it to other people that would enjoy it. Support them financially, particularly at a time when they’re worrying about being hit there.
2. Believe them when they say, “This has been my experience.”
3. Let them know you’re supporting them. Drop them a nice note, send them kitten pictures, do whatever you can to show you have their back.
4. Draw fire away, not towards. Untag them in conversations that are going to get heated.
5. If they want to take a break, encourage it. Facilitate it even.
6. Figure out what rewards the troll and try to remove it.
7. Hold people accountable for their toxic fans.
Collecting versus COLLECTING. This turned more into a discussion of problem hoarding than whether or not you take your action figures out of the packaging and play with them. Which everyone on the panel does. We talked about the myth of “investment comics,” and why we collect what we collect and what it means to us.
Feminism in Fandom. This one I’ve done before. We talk about the history of Feminist SF, including Joanna Russ. And the fact that there have always been female nerds. We have never not existed, no matter what the He-Male Woman Haters club and much of mainstream media would have you believe. The first Star Trek convention was organized by women, the novel credited with starting SF (Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein) was written by a woman. We have always been here. From authors like James “Alice Sheldon” Tiptree and CJ Cherryh, there have always been women getting cooties on your SF.
White Comics Creators You’re Embarrassing Us, subtitled “Nick Spencer, just stop…” This panel basically turned into a debate as to whether Nick Spencer was secretly “Alt-Right”/Nazi, or one of those Faux-minist Comics-Bros who can’t understand why he isn’t getting all the blow jobs because he’s an ally, don’t you know. I am seriously starting to lean toward the Faux-minist Comics-Bro edge of the equation. He really doesn’t understand why what he’s doing A. Isn’t edgy, and B. Is really fucking offensive. Because he is, as John Scalzi puts it, playing life on the easiest setting.
Creating the Socially Conscious Comic. This one was up against the Masquerade, so was very small, but engendered some really great conversation about things like how does someone who is asexual learn to depict sexual attraction between characters? (Read lots of well written examples.) And can Tarzan be “saved?” (Yes, but only if you do it like Kelly Sue DeConnick did her issue of Red Sonja.) We emphasized research, and getting friends of the culture you’re depicting to vet it for you, as well as maybe hiring a cultural editor.
Advanced BDSM. This went really, really smoothly. One of our panelists is a licensed therapist, so he is great when we get the questions like, “How do I go back to enjoying BDSM after a sexual assault?” or “How do I talk to my doctor/therapist about it?” Great panel, great discussions.
What Makes You a Fan? This panel started out with one of the other panelists and myself waxing rhapsodic about scotch, then I turned to the audience and said, “There, that is what makes you fan. Enthusiasm.” We talked about how Gatekeeping is bullshit, and that if someone calls themselves a fan, they’re fan. Maybe not to the degree you or I might be, but a fan, nonetheless. We also talked about the place where Gatekeeping and the urge to do it comes from, but that it really wasn’t helping anyone.
Size Acceptance is for Every Body. This is basically us getting up and talking about learning to love the body you have, not the on society tells you that you should have. The Singularity is not coming to free you from the stupid meat suit, you need to take care of it because it’s the only one you get. We talked about making peace with your body, and still having bad days and that’s ok. We talked about how much it sucks dealing with an eating disorder, particularly when your body doesn’t match what people think of when they think eating disorder. And the fact that body shaming is bullshit no matter what the size of the body being shamed.
After that I attended a panel, Costuming for the Non-Sewer because I can’t sew. It was great! Full of helpful suggestions like heat-bond hem tape, craft foam, glue, spray paint and all sorts of things. Really great panel.
So that was my Norwescon.
Feel free to ask me to elaborate on any of the panels listed above in a future post.
And remember, if you like what you read here, I have a Patreon. Right now I’m looking into whether or not I can make enough here to be able to quit, or at possibly to take a slightly lower paying job that fulfills me more some time in the future.