This was one of the funnest panels I have ever been on. It was game-show style, with rousing participation from panelists ("contestants") and audience. (Of course, this being Wiscon, it's a collaborative game-show and everyone wins.)
There was a major zombie outbreak while I was at Wiscon, the world's leading feminist science fiction convention, this past weekend.
While the other inhabitants of Madison, Wisconsin were barricading themselves in homes and malls with shotguns, Wiscon organized a Zombie Outreach volunteer force which met the zombies in the hotel lobby, gave them muzzles, and took them to Zombie Orientation.
There were zombie-free zones for those who wanted a break from the zombies, and zombie-only space where zombies could get together to discuss their experiences. There were shambling and pursuing rights-of-way, marked off in blue tape on the party floor (which also had plastic laid down for easy cleaning of any infected blood). There were panels (ably organized at the last minute by the Programming committee) on "How to be a good zombie ally", "Brain-eating: negotiating consent", and " 'Graaaains!': Vegan zombies and ecological sustainability".
If you were bitten, you were supposed to report to Zombie Orientation where you got a corresponding ribbon for your badge, a muzzle, and tips from experienced zombies on adapting to being differently alive.
By and large, the zombies were extremely cooperative (though there were a couple who refused to wear their muzzles and kept chasing and devouring people during panels, which led to endless and heated discussions by the concom about appropriate measures). It took the non-zombies a little longer to get past some of their prejudices, but some of the non-zombies did important ally work in getting people to see past living privilege, and I think real progress was made.
In general, I'm just really proud of how Wiscon handled the whole thing.
Parenting Quiz: Are you too strict or too lenient?
And, O parents new and old, here is how to interpret the sometimes confusing behavior of observers around you who tell you (or make it obvious) that you are too strict or too lenient:
when you do something which unavoidably and disturbingly provokes a memory of what their parents did, then you are being too strict
if your kid does something they didn't get to do, then you are being too lenient!
And one of these two things will happen pretty much at least once in any five minute period.
Note that being a parent in no way makes you immune to this. As soon as you are with other people and their kids, yup, like clockwork every five minutes: too strict! too lenient! too strict! too lenient!
"Let's talk about the ways SF/F portrays (or doesn't portray) parenting. Are feminist writers bringing parenting into SF/F, or is it invisible everywhere? What are your favorite stories? What utopian visions are you trying out in your own household? Which cliches make you grind your teeth (Bambi's mom, anyone)? "
Joell Smith-Borne(M), Janet Lafler, Benjamin Rosenbaum
Reading: Love, Sex and Weirdness
Christopher Barzak, Haddayr Copley-Woods, M. Rickert, Benjamin Rosenbaum
Let's Build a World
"We'll start with some categories (tech level, economic system, climate, races, etc.), get ideas about each of them from the audience, select the best ideas in each category, then watch the panelists writhe as they try to figure out how to make them work together. "
Naomi Kritzer, Benjamin Rosenbaum(M), Kristine Smith, doselle young
On The Lifespan Of Genres
"In the October '07 issue of Helix, John Barnes argued that genres have a natural three-generation cycle, which takes them from raw, radical innovation, through a development of techniques to virtuoso polishing; after that, a genre has done its 'cultural work' and it now is dead or 'undead': ""A genre is alive if new works can [still] change the genre fundamentally, and not if the reaction instead is to say, 'Well, that's not really in the genre.'"" Does it make sense to think of SF/F -- or at least some subdefinition of SF/F (the literature of the heroic drama of figuring out how the world works and applying that knowledge?) as nearing the end of its ""natural lifespan""? As having accomplished its cultural work? Or is Barnes's ""alive"" period really a kind of adolescence, and what SF is actually reaching is maturity? What does it really mean to say pottery, knitting, and opera are lifeless, and is the idea of valorizing genres which are still capable of drastic change, and which are at the center of cultural attention, suspect from a feminist perspective? Is SF being subsumed into the mainstream, so that its tropes and techniques will live on vividly beyond its official boundaries? Will it, like tragedy or the gothic, change from a genre into a mode? And if so, which parts of SF will survive beyond its walls -- the outward manifestations, the robots and time machines? Or the habit of rigorously imagining the possible?"
Eleanor Arnason, Helen Keeble, Darja Malcolm-Clarke, Gregory Rihn, Benjamin Rosenbaum (M)