Good day, and welcome to Day 2! I’m successfully living on New Zealand time, and am feeling pretty jet-lagged in my own home. There are so many things about this that are deeply weird, but also pretty wonderful.
Started Day 2 off with a really excellent panel on climate change with Arkady Martine, Darcie Little Badger, and Mike Sheffield. “The terms “Adaptation” and “Resilience” are frequently bandied about when discussing climate change. What kinds of policy do they mean? Is one more difficult than the other to implement?”
There was some discussion about the difference between the concepts of adaptation and resilience, and Martine also noted that a third thing is important: mitigation. That the usual idea of resilience is that we want the system to bend, not break, but that doesn’t get at the idea that resilience should have an active component to it, and they discussed Dr. White-Newsome’s article on the topic. Adaptation can feel easier, because it doesn’t require you to adjust the mechanisms that got you here.
It was a really information-dense panel. Actions you can take in your individual life are miniscule compared to what needs to happen at a societal level – an example being that eating one burger, vs. the industrial nature of meat farming (you’re eating a cow that’s being raised on a monoculture that used to be a complex prairie ecosystem, etc), and how can we bend as a SOCIETY, not as an individual? Countries/cities at or below sea level changing in thinking from “how do we control/keep the water out?” to “how do we let the water in, in a way that isn’t harmful? How do we live WITH water?” Coral reef, and how bleaching is corals releasing their symbiotic algae which then opens them to being occupied by more heat-tolerant algae. Ph change in oceans, reforestation, reclamation of old mining sites. The difficulty in modeling these things. How do you measure resilience? By measuring its absence? They noted it’s hard to get governments to invest in things that are hard to measure, and suggested we should talk to people who have been in the land the longest – the indigenous people – because they know how the land works better than anybody else. Environmental injustice – certain populations are more vulnerable than others. There are a lot of superfund sites within 15 miles of reservations in the U.S., for example.
Some examples of science fiction that focus on the topics of adaptation and resilience, suggested by the panel: Jeff VanderMeer’s Dead Astronauts, John Barnes’ Mother of Storms, David Brin’s Earth, Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Water Knife, Max Gladstone’s Two Serpents Rise.
Now it’s only 10:00 am in Pretend New Zealand, and it’s finally stopped raining so it’s time for Do It Yourself Stroll With the Stars, the at-home attempt to not be in quite so much pain for a little while. I went for a walk around the neighborhood, and that means I wasn’t able to take notes. I remember it being an interesting panel, but most of the details are gone.
The panelists were Jenn Lyons, Brent Lambert, Fred Lerner, Adri Joy, and Melinda Snodgrass. “Methods of Justice in SF and fantasy are increasingly complex. It’s often not simply heroes and villains. Villains have become more humanised, and in some cases are even redeemed by the end. How are issues of justice handled well in SF? How has this changed over the years? What are good and bad examples?” I do recall some discussion of how much SF and Fantasy glorifies bad guys – for example, think about the number of protagonists who are assassins. D&D is basically a game where you break into people’s houses, kill them, and steal their stuff. There was also discussion of uneven justice – with regards to race, sex, LGBT+, and other marginalized communities.
Then it was time for the first programming item related to the part of the convention I’ve been helping with for months! The 1945 Retro Hugo Awards Ceremony, combined with the Sir Julius Vogel Awards Ceremony. It looked like it’s probably super nice and I think the events team did an amazing job. Unfortunately there were technical problems making the stream hang for most of the Retro Hugos ceremony. I understand the replay works pretty well – I need to go watch it.
At noon, I started listening to a panel on Music in SF and Fantasy with Karen Simpson Nikakis, Matthew Pavletich, Sarah Pinsker, and William C. Tracy. I realized, though, that I needed to find myself some lunch and take care of a few things because the afternoon was going to get seriously busy starting at 1:00, and I missed most of the panel.
First panel of the afternoon was Ada Palmer and Cory Doctorow discussing censorship and information control, a panel I’ve been excited about since the program first came out. “Cory Doctorow and Ada Palmer are collaborating on a multi-year research project on censorship and information control during information revolutions. Every historic information revolution has triggered a corresponding new wave of efforts to censor and control the information moving through the new technology. They will discuss the history, present, and future of the relationship between information revolutions, censorship, copyright and other information control issues from the 1450 print revolution to the internet, as well as current information freedom efforts and how genre fiction can help, and hurt.” If you’ve never seen either of these two, you’re missing out. I had NO IDEA they’ve been collaborating on a project. I’m definitely going to check it out. Apparently it all started with a party trick they did when they were on the same panel at conventions: Ada would name some kind of censorship that was done in the Renaissance, and Cory would provide a modern-day information technology example of the exact same thing. It’s culminated in a 7-part seminar series at the University of Chicago, where Ada is a professor.
As I expected, this panel was both amazing and WAY TOO FAST for my Texas ears. I’m not even going to try to recap it here. Way, way too fast, these two, and very information- and idea-dense. Instead, I’ll just provide some of the links they gave us.
- First, the project they’ve been collaborating on: https://voices.uchicago.edu/censorship/ and https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCeNP7NIWmB70wFBv9QolYkg
- An article: https://uncannymagazine.com/article/censorship-and-genre-fiction
- Another article: https://locusmag.com/2020/01/cory-doctorow-inaction
- A list of suggested books:
- Kathleen Belew’s Bring the War Home
- Will Slauter’s Who Owns the News
- David Copeland, The News Medi and The Media’s Role in Defining the Nation
- Joshua Craze – work on government redaction
- Nicholas Davidson – work on the Inquisition
- Hannah Marcus’ Forbidden Knowledge: Science and the Paradox of Censorship in Early Modern Europe
- Siva Vaidhyanthan’s books on music and digital copyright
- Robert Darnton – anything by him ever, he works on censorship in the early print period and Enlightenment, Ada suggests starting with Censors at Work
- Specifically relating to censorship in New Zealand, where law is apparently similar to the USA’s only without the First Amendment:
- The blog of New Zealand’s Classification Office https://www.classificationoffice.govt.nz/
- Censored: A Short History of Censorship in New Zealand
- NZ’s video showing their sad bunny censorship logo and kids being traumatized https://vimeo.com/378406561
Next was a workshop by Edmund Schluessel on Shapes of Space: Topology, the Universe and You. Not surprisingly, we weren’t able to delve very deeply into the depths of the universe’s secrets in 50 minutes, but we got to learn a little bit about the ways shapes can connect extradimensionally and it was fun.
At 3:00, there was a panel on Narrative Imagery with John Picacio, Alyssa Winans, and Kathleen Jennings. Unfortunately, I was still mostly processing information from the previous two program items, and didn’t parse much. Which is a shame, because all three of these folks were talking about a lot of interesting things!
My headphones hurt my ears. Time to sample the next bottle of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. I’m not enjoying this one. I don’t really have the words for why.
Final big programming item of the day (for me) – kaffeeklatsch with Becky Chambers! 10 of us got to sit down and just chat with her for 50 minutes. I love her work. I love the character-driven stories, and I love the relatively optimistic pictures of the future she paints, with an interplanetary society of many different alien species which largely coexist and respect and value their differences. She’s finishing up the last book in the Wayfarers series, and will then move on to other stories in other universes. I’m not sure how much of the stuff she shared with us is okay to post publicly, so I’ll just say it was really interesting hearing about the things she’s working on next, how she approaches writing, and the types of video games she enjoys.
My sister suggested asking how these authors are doing, and ask what we as fans can do for them with everything going on in the world right now. These creators give us so much that helps sustain us during times like this, giving us worlds to disappear into for a little while and giving us hope. Here are some suggestions:
- Reach out to say hello, and let them know what they’re putting out there for us matters.
- Pre-order books – it helps bookstores know which authors have interest.
- Support your local bookstores.
Afterwards, Tammy invited me to a virtual cocktail crawl, and a really nice fellow who is *actually physically in Wellington, NZ* took us all via Zoom to a bar we should have all been enjoying a drink at this week. That was a really nice cap to the day, and I’m making some new friends!
I came back to Discord for a little while afterwards and tried to listen to a Mercedes Lackey reading, but was too tired to parse very well. Tomorrow, I’m looking forward to the virtual Masquerade, another kaffeeklatsch, a workshop on singing songs in Scottish Gaelic, and if I’m lucky I’ll get to spend some time with friends and maybe make more new friends!
Look! Marilyn made badges, and shared! She also mailed me the top two ribbons, which she’d made up before COVID.
I really wish we were all in New Zealand right now. I’m really glad and grateful, though, that we have this. Good night – “see” you tomorrow!
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Having vicarious fun seeing you virtually attend Wordcon! So thanks for these reports. I was able to watch the replay of the Retro Hugos. Enjoyed seeing the recent Hugo winners and finalists who presented.
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