So hey hello and how are you? Sorry I’ve been gone…oh, most of the month, but things have been crazy with the con prep and coordinating all of that and the going and the hanging out. Work proceeds on books, stuff is going on, the Universe of Equals project is still in the works thanks to crazy delays, but let’s talk about that some other time. Right now, let’s talk about equality. Let’s talk about the con.
Holy shit, you guys. GeekGirlCon. A fantastic experience.
It’s been a week since I returned from the convention, and I wanted to give it some time to digest. This was my first convention; not as a writer, not as a panelist, but ever. I live in the DC area, which means I’m in convention central – I hear about them all the time, and I have a lot of friends who have been con staff or have attended them. I never quite got around to it, though. I certainly don’t have any hangups about them; things just didn’t work out, or I was with somebody who wasn’t into them. Whatever. It was certainly never necessary. It wasn’t until I started writing that conventions became a necessity for business – and yet still I didn’t step forward, mostly because I’m a big dork who’s terrible at marketing. I will admit, the concept of dealing with large crowds and con staff and whatever also held me back a bit. As friendly and open as I am, I still get weird when it comes to meeting large amounts of new people. I kind of have to trick myself into making it happen.
After I finished Bone Wires and went on to Redeye, I was a little torn. I was pretty terrified of writing female characters, honestly. At this point I think you all know about my feelings on equality and the worth of all beings whatever their gender/race/sexual orientation/what-the-fuck-ever, but I also know that I’d only be making things worse by writing women badly. Since people loved Bobbi from Shadow of a Dead Star, however, I took the plunge. When Redeye finally came out, though, a lot of my readers – and it turns out the majority of my readers are apparently female – reached out to me concerning my choice to make it a book in which all the principal characters were ‘strong women’ (I’m done with ‘strong’ at this point, though, as it isn’t used with male characters and it should be considered the goddamned default.) They were very happy, especially with my work being previously a bit laddish and my chosen genre even more so. I started getting asked when I was going to show up at conventions, and one reader suggested that I try giving a panel a shot. By that time I had already decided to get A Universe of Equals going, and so I thought, well, why not? I really wasn’t certain about how to go about it, so I turned to another friend and reader who, as it turned out, was in fact staff at GeekGirlCon. I’d never heard of the con – this is only its third year, after all – but my friend has always been very passionate about conventions and I knew she didn’t bother with poor causes. After talking to her about my feelings on the Universe of Equals project and about the equalist direction I wanted my fiction to go in, though, I came to the decision to give a panel a shot. Which would mean I’d have to go through staff. And…stuff. Admin stuff. Gah.
So here’s the thing about all of that. GeekGirlCon has spoiled me very badly. Every single operative that I’ve worked with, from Alison in Programming to Rose in Admissions and Abby the Hospitality manager, have been not only supportive and effective, but have time and again assisted in helping me find guests for the panel, getting books together for signing, and everything else involved in this kind of thing. They even helped me find a place for one of my panelists to stay when arrangements fell through. Perhaps this is normal for conventions, I don’t know; it doesn’t seem so, and it certainly makes me want to recommend to anyone not only that you should visit the convention to support it, but also try and get your own panels and events set up there. They should all be given medals. I certainly intend to sponsor the con for next year, and I’d recommend that anyone do the same if they could. These folks work hard, and they need the support.
The convention itself was pretty amazing. Though small by some measures at about 2,000 attendees, it nonetheless fairly filled the hall; I understand that this year all passes were sold, an excellent achievement. The convention hall was quite full, with panels going nonstop and people talking and playing when they weren’t visiting the exhibitor’s area or the gaming room downstairs. Cosplay was in full effect; I actually felt one of the odd ones out by not being suited up as one character or another, a feeling which I consider to be actually quite wonderful, especially in a convention. Given that this was GGC, of course, from what I’ve heard the number of dudebros seems to have been extremely low, if not nonexistent. Outstanding. Of especial merit to me were the do-it-yourself science area (!) and the Introvert Hall, aka the Room of Requirement, which being married to an introvert struck me as a wonderfully thoughtful and necessary oasis of calm for the easily overwhelmed in public situations. So, absolutely bravo to that. What I especially liked to see were the same-sex couples openly enjoying the convention without some motherfucker catcalling them or crossing their hearts or whatever the fuck it is that ignorant people do. Some of them had matching or complementary costumes, and I have to break out my tildes here and say that was ~adorable~. More than just being a great thing to see for the moment, however, it’s given me a real sense that things are going to be all right, that things are going to change.
So let’s talk about the panel. Because holy shit, that panel. I wanna trot out the graphic again, so here it is.
See that? Badasses. And me too, of course, but I didn’t say much as I was the moderator. GGC put us in one of the big rooms on the third floor (302, I believe,) which immediately got my long-buried actor’s anxiety going. A big house has got to be filled, after all, or you’re going to feel like the show’s a failure. At my count, room 302 sat 240 people. By the time the panel started, we had roughly 200. For a one-time performance at a big venue, that’s a fantastic turnout. The line went around the door! Going in we had a two tables on stage with a lectern – you’ll see it in the video when I get it up (still editing it thanks to life catchup) – standing between them. I had to get that sucker pulled back, though, because there’s nothing that says ‘equality’ like a man getting a group of women to talk about the future of gender parity WHILE STANDING OVER THEM. The GGC crew were extremely quick about getting things moved back and taken care of; there was even a videographer there, which was a surprise, so if my own video doesn’t turn out (it should, I’m just saying!) it’s good that there was redundancy. My panelists spoke with eloquence about the subject, many of them very passionate, others balancing that passion with clear reason. Moreover, the questions we got from the wonderful souls who spoke up from the audience were equally good, and the panelists handled them with care and clarity. I think they went away from it happy; I know that when it was done people sought me out when they saw me to tell me how much they enjoyed it and how they could learn more about the panelists. I was only too happy to tell them – and humbled because I was a part of it, and a part of them. I’ll put up the video soon and you can see for yourself, of course.
Danielle Myers, AprilJo Murphy, Tina Shelton, Crystal Connor, and Satyros Phil Brucato, you have all made me a happy man. Thank you for coming with me to this, and for making it a success. I feel that I’ve made new friends.
In the end, what I really saw at GGC wasn’t just a supremely well-orchestrated nerd carnival staffed by immensely caring and motivated people, it was a community women of all ages, races and sexualities claiming their own in a community that in many corners still thinks that a woman in a video game tee must have raided her boyfriend’s closet. My wife and I talk about having a daughter; if that happens, I feel much more assured that events like GGC (or WisCon, for that matter) aren’t going to be a rarity by the time she grows into her own. With any luck, they’re going to disappear – not because they die, but because they’re no longer going to be NECESSARY. The day a competent protagonist who just happens to be a woman, not white and whose agency doesn’t depend on a strong male partner who ‘keeps her in check’ or otherwise serves to rescue her comes along as a matter of course, not as a surprise or a curiosity, and is successful and well-loved by all, then I will feel that we have made it into the future. Right now we are on the edge of the present, sure…but we can see the future from here. I can’t wait to see what comes after.
The future is very, very bright, and it’s in the hands of the geeks to make it happen. I feel that’s true more than at any other time in our history. I’m just thrilled to be a part of it all.