Eastercon brief report
So… don’t really have much to say, other than that the con was awesome: Heathrow remains one of my favourite locations because despite the weirdness of the con hotel, it’s *very* easily accessible from where I live (I’m already looking at Bradford next year in mounting dread). I had con crud pretty much as I walked into the hotel–my BA flight having kindly cranked up the air conditioning and worsened a pre-existing cold–and I spent the entire con trying not to run out of voice (the con bar was particularly bad for this, as it had ambiant music that made me speak louder just to be heard).
Organisation was great; I met lots of people old and new, hung around until impossible hours, and mostly wish I’d had more time to actually see everyone whom I wanted to see.
The non-Anglophone panel was great, though, as Rochita points out, it would have been nice to have an extra half-hour in which to move beyond the false problem of translation (which is admittedly difficult, but no more from English to another language than from another language to English), and tackle the power differential and the effects of globalisation (especially as I roped Rochita in, and she could attest to personal experience of growing up in a country vastly overwhelmed by US culture). My panel on Youth and Youthfulness in SF was great (Tom Pollock being one of the best moderators I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing), and we tackled lots of interesting problems on that. Highlight of the weekend probably goes to a panel I wasn’t on, though: “The Nature of Heroism” featured Tricia Sullivan, David Anthony Durham, Genevieve Valentine, George RR Martin and Joe Abercrombie, and Tricia raised some very pointed and valid questions about the “men’s club” nature of heroism and our excessive preoccupation with violence in epic fantasy. You can watch the whole thing here, and it’s definitely worth a look.
They also announced the Hugo nominees while I was at Eastercon (but stuck in a signing): there are lots and lots of friend on that list, and many congrats go to them all (I’m especially impressed that a lot of people are on the ballot twice in different categories). To single out just two of them, though: it will come as no surprise that Ken Liu’s short fiction is nominated both for Best Short Story and Best Novella (and I will be very miffed if he doesn’t take at least one of those trophies); and many congrats also go to Nancy Fulda, whose short story “Movement” is a Villa Diodati success story (not often that stuff we critique ends up on the ballot for the Hugos and the Nebulas!).
(I do have a few other links about stuff that went on… less well, shall we say, but I’m keeping them for tomorrow’s link roundup. There were many awesome things about this year’s con, and this is the post for them).
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I should probably watch that heroism panel.
For me, heroism is sacrificing your own desires/needs for the greater good of others. It certainly does not need to involve wandering around killing a lot of people (many of my MCs actively seek non-violent solutions as a first course of action). Nor does it need to involve, say, establishing oneself as a ruler. My one complete (but in massive need of rewriting) novel rather subverts that trpe; it’s pretty much set up to hit a beat where in some stories, at the climax of the civil war/rebellion the MC would take the throne but instead she establishes someone else as ruler – and it then turns out they don’t want the job either, so the finale of the novel ends up being an attempt to establish a kind of democracy that will result in future civil wars being less likely. Way skewed from the traditional climax of that kind of story (but possibly unsaleable as a result).
It’s a very good panel, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who wanted to hug Tricia at the end! Heroism as selflessness is very definitely something I can get behind 100%, and so is stepping away from power. I do think a lot of narratives are over-focused on “male” concerns, in the sense that they’re about power and war, and that people seem to dismiss, say, giving birth or raising eight children as something hardly worth mentioning. They’re also very focused on Western hero tropes (many of them derived from Ancient Greece): we were talking about Vietnamese folk heroes, and how the Vietnamese museum of history has an entire slate of heroic ministers, many of whom are scholars noted for their edicts, contribution to society and wisdom, rather than actual martial prowess (not saying VN has no war heroes, but it does have a few other things on the side).
(Tricia also raised the question of whether we actually needed heroes–if it wasn’t a rather dangerous and elitist concept to have in a modern society. Not entirely sure I have an answer to that one).