Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Bubonicon 2015 Report

I can't believe it's been a month since my last blog post. I've been extremely busy, though, with the first week of the kiddo's school, with company, and with writing. In fact, this past weekend was filled with Bubonicon, which is a local SFF convention. I went to panels, cruised through the sellers' room, and had some great conversations. As always, I added a ton of books to my to-be-read pile and had some great insight into the novel I'm working on right now. I was initially a little bummed about missing out on WorldCon in Spokane this year, but Bubonicon was fantastic and more than made up for my sad previous weekend of living vicariously through others on Twitter as they attended WorldCon.

One of the first people I spotted when I walked into the hotel on Friday night was George R. R. Martin. Not long after that I also saw Loki and a giant furry squirrel. I feel like I have the start of a great joke there, but I haven't gotten far with it...

This year's theme was "Women of Wonder." Several panels focused on women in fiction, and those were the majority that I went to. The first panel I attended was about warrior women. There was some great practical advice (from Livia Blackburne: it's easier for women to choke someone because of their flexibility and how their slim arms can fit around a neck) and discussion about women pirates.

Panel on whether strong women need strong men
Another panel asked the question: Do strong female characters need strong male characters? Susan Krinard said strength does not necessarily mean muscle bound; there are different types of strength. Pari Noskin said she thought strong means having a solid self identity and core. Strong women don't need strong men. Jane Linskold said men should not be strawmen who exist simply to show how strong the women are. Carrie Vaughn flipped the question around and asked whether strong male characters need strong female characters, and Tamora Pierce said you should have well rounded characters in general. This panel went on to discuss LGBTQIA pairings as well as pairings between characters who were simply friends and not love interests.

In the panel on the curse of the strong female character, Catherynne Valente talked about how people love bad guys in fiction, but they don't feel the same way about bad girls. People love Walter White from Breaking Bad, but not Cersei Lannister from Game of Thrones. She attributed this to societal coding. I do agree that most people find it easier to like a bad guy than a bad girl. After all, girls are 'sugar and spice and everything nice' while boys are 'snips and snails and puppy dog tails.' Okay, now I suddenly want to watch The Powerpuff Girls.

Panel on writing different genders
The last panel I attended was on writing different genders. World Weaver Press editor Sarena Ulibarri (who edited my latest novel Fractured Days) was on this one. All of the panelists had great things to add to the discussion. I was lax at this point about noting who said what, so most of this is my best guess here. I believe S. M. Stirling was the one who pointed out that sometimes socioeconomic differences stood out more than gender differences. He relayed a story about two women police officers out on patrol. One calmly tried to talk a perpetrator into relinquishing his weapon. The other simply grabbed it and, uh, rather forcefully handled the situation. There might have been some blood involved. At any rate, one woman came from an upper middle class background, while the other came from a blue collar family. Guess which was which?

John Barnes also made a great point when he said that there are cultural gender differences. Men have been socialized to have agency. "You pick up the wrench and do it." Sarena said that when you create your own world, such as a secondary world fantasy, you get to choose who gets agency and who gets what role. The panel also touched on non-binary genders, and when it comes to writing a transgender character, for example, Sarena suggested reading something by--rather than about--someone transgender. And finally, because this was quite possibly one of my favorite quotes of the whole weekend, S. M. Stirling said, while describing his experience at an all boys' boarding school, "It's like being locked in a baboon house at the zoo."

Scarf dragon puppet

I also attended a highly entertaining and informative panel on puppetry given by Mary Robinette Kowal. She turned an ordinary scarf into a dragon to demonstrate movement, breath, and rhythm. She showed pictures of some of the puppets she's worked on. She told a hilarious story about a puppet show fail (I'm still chuckling). One of the things that stuck with me, though, was how the person operating Big Bird is, of course, inside the bird, but also has their right arm fully flexed overhead with their hand operating part of the puppet. I immediately thought, "Oh, that poor person must suffer some severe shoulder impingement at some point." And then I couldn't get it out of my head, imagining a patient coming in because of shoulder impingement from operating Big Bird's head, and how that medical note would go...

There was a lot of other cool stuff that happened, but those are some of the highlights. I was having so much fun that I hardly took any pictures. I can hardly wait for next year's con!

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