Friday, August 14, 2009

WorldCon - More panels - and the very cool Palais de Congres

First of all, let me just say that Montreal's Palais de Congres is a beautiful, interesting and quirky building. I found myself taking lots of photos of it during the convention because it is just so visually stimulating. What particularly caught my attention was the wall of colored panes of glass. It looked different during different times of the day, depending on the time of day, the weather and the angle of the sun. I will decorate this post with the photos I took of the convention center. The sculpture below was in one of high-ceilinged areas, and Devinoni and I thought it was a great representation of "the Crystalline Entity" - although that is probably not what the artist had in mind. :-)

So here are some of the other panels I attended, and what I can remember about them. I hadn't actually planned on writing that much about them, or I would have taken care to take better notes! But from the comments I received in my first WorldCon post, it sounds like you are interested. So here goes...

Let the Guy Scream: Women in Current Media SF/F (which featured Heather Urbanski, Odellia Firebird, and Trisha Wooldridge) had the following description: It's more than 75 years since Fay Wray screamed her way through "King Kong." Today's media SF features tough women who may rescue the guy without sacrificing their own sensibilities. Who are the current heroines and role models? Is there more to be done?"

Well, it was basically decided immediately that yes, there is more work to be done, particularly in media SF. Some of the names of fiction character that came up were Honor Harrington (although I personally did not continue beyond the first book of that series, it seems to be very popular among male readers in particular); Cordelia Naismith (Miles Vorkosigan's mother in Bujold's Vorkosigan series) as well as his wife, Ekaterina - both of whom I adore; the women in The Mists of Avalon were mentioned (I think by an audience member); of course Ripley from Alien/s (and someone said that the part had been originally written for a man, which really boggled my mind - it is so hard to imagine anyone but Sigourney Weaver in that role); if I'd taken better notes I'd have more names for you - sorry!
\They talked about one of my pet peeves - particularly in shows and movies for kids: the single female character, like a crumb thrown to the girls, who appears in a cast of male characters with a wide range of skills and abilities. The girl basically bets to be "the girl" and this, that, or the other (the brains, the warrior, the telepath, etc.). What makes me annoyed is that it give the idea of limitations to girls - the boys get this wide range of characters to think about and choose from. The girls get "the girl" or have to pick one of the guys. Rarely do the boys choose to be the girl when games are played.

Someone - I think on the panel - mentioned that when it came to playing Star Wars, she and her sister always fought about who got to be Han and who got to be Luke - they never fought about who got to be Leia. Which says something, I think. I recently took the girls to see G-Force, and yes, there was the one token girl guinea pig (who was great, don't get me wrong), and there was the pretty human assistant to the doctor who really didn't do much to rise to even sidekick status - but everyone else was male, from the scientist who "engineered" the animal team, to the government agents to the villains. My kids didn't even notice, which, I think, also says something. There are so many set up that way - Toy Story, Bolt, even Wall-E. The Incredibles, now, not so much - I love that movie! There are of course exceptions, but generally, I think it's that way most of the time.

Of the few notes I took, I did write "Jennifer Fallon - Australian writer" as someone who writes strong heroines. Does anyone read her books? Any recommendations on particular ones? I think the consensus was that yes, there are some great characters out there, both in media and fiction, but there needs to be a broader range of them, not just a token one here or there. What about you? Do you have any favorite strong women role models? I think most of the books I read, particularly the series I've been addicted to lately, have some excellent strong heroines, like Cassandra Palmer and Mercy Thomson, to just name two.

Editors Panel (with Ellen Datlow, Lou Anders, Rani Graff, Stanley Scmidt and Sheila Williams): A broad spectrum of editors discuss the craft of editing; anthologies; and how they select stories.

This one didn't hold any big revelations for me, but it was interesting. I learned about a site called where science meets fiction, which explores the inventions and ideas first posited in science fiction that are now extant today (at least that's what I understand - I have yet to fully explore the site, but it looks fascinating). I also learned about The Del Rey Book of Science Fiction and Fantasy (edited by Datlow), an original anthology that is up for this year's World Fantasy Award. I'm hoping to read that one soon.

Interview: Ellen Datlow, Delia Sherman: Editing and Writing: A writer and editor talk about their relationship; how short stories are edited; how an editor dialogs with the writer to improve a story.

As a writer, I find this sort of thing fascinating, and the discussion between Datlow and Sherman was illuminating. Datlow is one of those editors who is not a writer, and because of that she doesn't really offer much practical advice when she gets a story that almost - but doesn't quite - work for her. She may simply say that the ending is weak, or it drags right here, or the characters are a bit flat - but she doesn't really give advice on how to fix it. That is up to the writer (which, when you think of it, isn't an unreasonable expectation!). One thing she said that gave me a bit to think about was: "When the ending isn't quite right, it's usually not the ending itself, but something about three-quarters of the way through the story that isn't working." Interesting!


  1. Based on all these posts it really sounds like you had a good time. An inspirational time as well! I'm so glad that you got to attend.

  2. Wow, you took amazing shots of the building! I'm in awe, I skimmed the post just to look at your photos (ha - have to go back and read properly now!).

    Gorgeous! Almost like you were hired to be their promotional photographer!!

  3. I love the pictures, and thank you so much for telling us about the panels! As for favourite female characters, I love Lyra from His Dark Materials, Tiffany Aching and Granny Weatherwax, Coraline, Flora Segunda, Janet from Tam Lin, answers are predictable, but what can I do :P

  4. Carl - You would love WorldCon - I hope you'll get to go some time.

    Cat - Thanks! I love that building, and also all the funky and interesting artistic touches that are all over the city.

    Nymeth - Thank you! I was disappointed not to find you in my suitcase when I unpacked. :-) I think you just listed all my favorites. Tiffany's the best!

  5. You know, that's really interesting, b/c at Comic-Con I attended a panel on the role of women in TV and movies. (so all actresses) They actually felt Sci-Fi was a more open genre to strong portrayals of women. But obviously that so much needs to be done.

    Sigourney Weaver was on the panel and she got a standing ovation when she came out. It was my probably my favorite panel at the Con, apart from the LOST panel. :)

  6. Amy - I do think you're right - SF is more open to lots of things than many other genres. But definitely more work there. That sounds like a fantastic panel - I can believe she got a standing ovation!

  7. Thanks for telling us about WorldCon - you are making me really, really want to go next year! The women-in-sci-fi panel sounds like it was fantastic.

  8. Jenny - I recommend WorldCon to anyone who loves speculative fiction! It is a blast. Regional cons are fun, too, so you might also want to look into one of those if you have one near where you live. :-)


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