I’m back from MileHiCon in Denver which took place October 1-3.
It was lovely to attend and meet wonderful people, including convention organizers like Melanie Unruh, Meg Ward, Linda Nelson and Christine Childs, among others! My great thanks to them for putting on a wonderful event and having me there.
At the opening ceremonies, I said a few words about the pandemic, community and science fiction.
Apparently, this was on everyone else’s minds, too, as the toast master and most of the guests considered what it’s going to be like as we return to a world with conventions and people, rather than lonely houses in quarantine. In particular, I was considering how our current global situation feels both science fictional and not.
Here’s a bit of what I said:
It’s hard to think about what quarantine isolation would have been like in 1918. The dystopian imagery from our cyberpunk novels has come out as people wrangling babies while doing video conferences and lawyers showing up to court wearing kitten filters. It’s science fiction, but mundane and liveable. Yesterday, today, and tomorrow–no matter the excitement or import of events–will always be inflected by the tiny things. Our EMTs need bathroom breaks. Our nurses come home with PTSD from full days of both horrible death and also average, ordinary work. Hundreds of thousands of people die, and the dog still needs walking.
During “An Hour with Rachel Swirsky,” I read three short stories:
They’re all stories that break the rules about what “can” be done in fiction. Dinosaur is written in second person and takes place internally; Purse is a list story that ends just as events start taking place; and Quiet is written in an omniscient, consensus point of view without individual characters. Art is full of possibilities. Why constrain ourselves as artists or readers?
I also participated in three panels.
I was on a panel about Gender Beyond the Binary where we discussed examples of non-binary characters in fiction, and one called Starfish Out of Water which discussed stories of aliens on earth (with a digression into the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis and the Star Trek episode Darmok).
My favorite panel was Art As Resistance with panelists Eneasz Brodski and Chaz Kemp, moderated by Kim Klimek who did an unusually excellent job with posing questions and furthering discussion. Chaz Kemp was passionate about the idea that making and enjoying art is itself an act of resistance. One of the first things fascist governments do is restrain art. They arrest–or even kill–artists. As much as the contemporary United States has problems, I think it’s incredibly important to remember that artists are (by and large) not taking our lives into our hands with what we say and how we choose to say it. The world hasn’t always been like that, and in many places it still isn’t. I worry greatly for our colleagues in countries where government reprisal is more than a threat. I found this panel profound and am grateful to the other panelists, and the moderator, for the discussion.
While we spent a lot of time in our room for Covid reasons, it was a delight to interact as much as we were able to.
On a personal level, I enjoyed seeing long-time friends and colleagues like Carrie Vaughn and Matthew Rotundo. Also, it was a blast seeing the masks–sequined masks, fringed masks, masks with cartoon capybaras… I wear a paper mask because I can stand having it on my face, but oh, I appreciate the sequins.
Although it was less of a difficulty in one-on-one conversations, I do have to say it was disconcerting presenting to a masked audience. I didn’t realize how much I rely on seeing people’s faces for their reactions! Without smiles, or even grimaces, audiences seemed to be very raptly paying attention in an extremely sober fashion, which is weird when you’re trying to tell jokes. 😉
Thanks again so much to MileHiCon–everyone who worked on the convention, and everyone who attended!