Monday, January 26, 2015

Readercon 2015, July 9-12

If you're wondering what to do July 9-12, wonder no more. Come to Readercon in Burlington, Massachusetts. I'll be the Guest of Honour, along with the fabulous Gary Wolfe. Joanna Russ is the Memorial GoH. Seriously, you should come. It's $60 to register for four days and four nights of incomparable social and intellectual brilliance.

What is Readercon?

Readercon is an annual conference or convention devoted to "imaginative literature" — literary science fiction, fantasy, horror, and the unclassifiable works often called "slipstream." 
A typical Readercon features over 150 writers, editors, publishers, and critics, attracting prominent figures from across the U.S., and from Canada, the U.K., and occasionally even Australia and Japan. They are joined by some 600 of their most passionate and articulate readers for a long weekend of intense conversation. 
Readercon is the only convention ever to be honored by a World Fantasy Award nomination (Special Award, Non-Professional, 2010) for its organizers.
Gary and I both like to take the written word apart and look at it. We do it from slightly different perspectives—he's primarily a critic, I'm primarily a novelist—but have many overlapping interests. And we both like to hang out in the bar...

From this point I'm going to stick to my own point-of-view because frankly it's tacky to speak on someone else's behalf—but I wouldn't be surprised if much of what I'm about to say applies to Gary, too.

One of the things I want to do—and to encourage others towards—is to is approach the convention from the stance of radical hospitality. I talked about this on a post about my most recent GoH experience, but here's the gist: 

What's important to me is that people transform the approach to accessibility, accommodation, pluralism and welcoming that is frequently standard: "If you need something, just ask." While that approach is meant to be inclusive and affirming it often ends up putting the onus of arranging accessibility and educating hosts/venues on the marginalized or newcomers. Worse, I sometimes see it used as a justification for what is clearly just bad planning: "We didn't make our panel rooms accessible because no one asked." Or "We don't have a harassment policy because no one has ever reported harassment."
For me, radical hospitality is about making welcoming the norm, not an exception that must be requested. — Leigh Anne Hildebrand
Making welcoming the norm. Yes. To me this means to anticipate the needs of others and provide for them. In advance. Obviously we can't anticipate everything but we should do our best to put ourselves in others' shoes. In other words, don't make anyone ask for help; make sure there's already chair at the table, in every sense. Basically, not only Don't be a dick but be actively kind. 

So to take one example dear to my heart, physical ability: if you see someone looking tired ask if they need a chair—or anything else (a glass of water? a fan? a quiet room?)—and make sure you find one. Even better, make sure there are plenty of chairs (and water) there already. Make sure the bathrooms are accessible. Make sure there are handrails on the steps to the dais or the ramp. Really go there. Imagine what people will need and then provide it, beforehand and on the spot. Make everyone feel equally welcome.

This applies to sex, gender presentation, race, orientation, physical ability, religion, diet and half a hundred things I haven't listed here. Making welcome the norm applies as much to informal events as programming: if someone looks like a newcomer, talk to them. (Do make sure they want you to talk to them. If in doubt, ask. And heed their response.)

So: radical hospitality, my phrase of the convention.

But Readercon is not about radical hospitality, it's about literary fantastic fiction. It is about the story, the craft, the criticism, the business, the community, the ideas, and the people of the genre. It will be about discovering new stories and ways to tell the old ones to old friends and new. 

Also, if Kelley has anything to do with it, it will be about dancing. Kelley is a big fan of dancing. You could say she's a professional. So if you fancy shaking it in July with friends of like mind, well, you know what to do. (We can't guarantee the dance, but we're agitating for it.) Register here. It will be a blast!

ETA: Also, Readercon are running an Indiegogo campaign to raise money for better sound. Better sound = better experience. Go give them something!
ETA2: And I'm going to donate something, a Tuckerization perhaps. Stay tuned.

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