Writer Fears About Writing The Other: Here’s How To Get Over It

Writer Fears About Writing The Other: Here's How To Get Over It

Here’s one of the great circular conundrums of our time:

We need more characters of color/LGBT characters/characters with disabilities/characters that aren’t the default white, able-bodied cis male in speculative literature.

I, a speculative fiction author, am afraid of writing characters of color/ LGBT characters/characters with disabilities/characters that aren’t like me or from my cultural and social understanding because I might get it wrong, and if I get it wrong people will be angry at me and yell and also ruin my career.

I’ve seen and heard writers (mostly white) express some version of that at least a hundred times since RaceFail 09. They point to that discussion or any number of other public Fails since then and go: SEE?! You see? That’s what happens when we try!

There are a few things about this that need addressing. First, large, public Fails actually happen when authors don’t try. Second, the problem is rarely that the author tried and didn’t get it exactly, 100% right. It’s that they failed and then acted like an ass when someone pointed it out to them. Third, avoiding author Fail isn’t as hard as some people make it out to be.

Most importantly, the consequence of being ruled by that fear is that you aren’t helping with the first problem. And if I may be so bold, I think the issue of representation is far, far more important than individual fears of getting it wrong. I also know that it’s hard to tackle that first issue without also addressing the second. Luckily, I have the solution.

Next summer I’m teaching at the Writing the Other workshop/retreat alongside Nisi Shawl, Cynthia Ward, David Anthony Durham, and Mary Robinette Kowal. Tomorrow, registration for this workshop opens up. If you are the type of author who has been held back from addressing the issue of representation in SF by fear that you’ll get it wrong, this workshop will give you tools to help you get it right. There’s no guarantee that you will always, 100% get it right if you attend this workshop. I am confident that at the end of it you won’t be 100% ruled by fear.

Registration opens tomorrow, October 13th, at 12pm Eastern. The workshop fee is $500 and includes meals but does not include accommodations. Click over to the Eventbrite page to see all the details.

How many of you will I see there?

POC Dinner @ WorldCon

POC Dinner @ WorldCon

By popular demand we’re bringing the POC Dinner from WisCon to ChiCon. On Friday, August 31st, the POC attendees of the World Science Fiction Convention are invited to dine in glorious splendor (or just in a nice restaurant).

If you’d like the deets on this event, please contact me through the contact form on my website if you don’t already have my email. If we’re friends on Facebook, check your events list since it’s likely I’ve already invited you.

Looking forward to hanging with folks at WorldCon!

WisCon 36: POC Safer Space

WisCon 36: POC Safer Space

I am once again the WisCon concom liaison and organizer for the POC Safer Space. This year I am joined in organizing and fabulousness by Jayme Goh. Huzzah!

We will once again be in the Solitaire Room since it affords us an out of the way space with no Gawkers. Last year we had the hotel push the conference room up against the wall which made the space a lot more inviting. I will also ask if more comfy chairs can find a way in there. If any locals are willing to donate comfy chairs, please let me know.

Last year we pre-scheduled some break out sessions and alternate panels in the room, but what seemed to work better was spontaneous stuff.I encourage any POC attending WisCon to come to that space if they need to discuss something that went down on a panel, continue a discussion that started at a panel, or if they just need a space to vent and calm down. I actually had some of the most enlightening conversations in that room during after-panel venting and I’m sure that will happen again,

However, if anyone wants to pre-schedule something please feel free. I just suspect mostly it will be spontaneous stuff.

The one thing I would like to schedule is a post Opening Ceremonies trip to the space so that people know where it is and how it will be set up and how they can use the space. This will come on the heels of the POC dinner earlier that evening. And then, of course, it’s party time.

Just as with last year, there will be coffee and tea service in the room throughout the day and a laptop for those who need to check email or Tumblr. Just don’t leave any Tumblr porn on the screen for those of us who are innocent ;)

Any questions, requests, comments, suggestions? Leave them in the comments or ping me via email or on Twitter or Facebook.

Wiscon 35: Safer Space for POC – Ideas, Discussion

Wiscon 35: Safer Space for POC - Ideas, Discussion

As part of my duties for the WisCon 35 programming committee, I’ve been put in charge (officially) of the Safer Space for POC at the con. Essentially they’d like me to address any issues the community has with said space and make it as useful and comfortable as it can be. Thus, I’m opening up the discussion here to make sure I address issues I’m not aware of. Hopefully, even though this is online, we’ll get a mostly representative mix of ideas and concerns.

First thing: the Safer Space is still in the Solitaire Room this year, just like last year. I remember hearing people complain that this ended up being a detriment as it is so out of the way. However, it’s too late at this point to move it this year. Next year, perhaps. The reason it ended up in the Solitaire Room (from what I understand) was to cut down on gawkers.

One solution to this issue is to plan events and meetups in the space to encourage people to come. And I wouldn’t mind having a lunch together again. The concom also said they’d look into having a coffee/tea service in the room.

So, my question to the WisCon-attending POC out there is: how can we make this room more useful to you beyond the basic function? Are there things you want to happen that didn’t last year? Events you want to see continue? Suggestions, comments, issues, cookies in the comments below! However, if there’s anything you’d like to bring up with me privately, please use the contact form on my website if you don’t know my email or message me on Facebook. I can keep your concerns private/anonymous if need be.

WisCon POC Meetups

WisCon POC Meetups

Last year’s POC dinner was a big hit and folks have been asking if we’re going to do it again. I say: YES. Because I loved it and want more. This year we’ll have several gatherings just in case someone can’t make one or the other, though only one will be POC-only. If you identify as a person of color, you are welcome at these events.

Friday POC Dinner — 5:30 – 7:30

This is WisCon’s dinner block, so there isn’t any official programming to miss. I made a reservation in the Concourse’s restaurant (the Dayton Street Grille) for the private back room. To join us, just say you’re looking for the POC Group.

They won’t do individual checks for a group our size (I predict at least 15 people, last year we had 30) so bring cash. The menu for the restaurant is here.

There are also two Carl Brandon events happening on Friday and Saturday which are good places to hang with POC and allies. The Carl Brandon party on Friday night at 8:45 in room 607 and the Carl Brandon luncheon at 11:45 on Saturday (meet in the lobby).

I had wanted to do a second big POC-only meetup event, but perhaps this would be better coordinated at the con itself. We can do it in the POC safe space (the Solitaire room) if we want. Plus, last year we had several informal group meals of awesome POC-ness.

One of these things is not like the other

One of these things is not like the other

At Comicon this weekend there was a special “last minute” appearance by Daniel Dae Kim who plays Jin on Lost.  I am assuming it was kept under wraps to avoid prematurely leaking that Jin was returning to the show even though he got all blowed up.  Before his autograph session the press folks got a chance to ask him some questions.  I was one of those press folk :)

Because some of the press people were going to the Dollhouse panel and others were doing short video interviews, it ended up that my small group didn’t get a chance to talk to him until the last 20 minutes (which was plenty of time).  When he sat down with us he jokingly said, “You must have had all of your questions answered by now!”  Honestly, I was surprised people had any more to ask him about Lost.  They badgered the poor guy for 40 minutes and tried to trick him into revealing something OMG!important or whatever.

I asked a non-Lost question and, when I told him I was doing so, he smiled appreciatively.  I mean, yes, he was there to talk about Lost.  But man, people could NOT let up about the same stuff over and over again.  You get a chance to meet one of these actors and you know they cannot tell you secrets, so why not, instead, try to open it up and talk about wider stuff?

Am I being bitchy?

Anyway, this all resulted in the interview I have up on Fantasy today.  It’s pretty cool, if I say so myself.  And my first foray into creating a narrative out of an interview.  I mainly did this because my questions are rambly and thus not worth preserving in the Q&A format.

Oh, and also: that dude is pretty hot as well as being really intelligent and just all-around impressive.  I’m really glad I got a chance to meet him.

WisCon and POC – Spread the Word!

WisCon and POC - Spread the Word!

Here are the details we’ve worked out for the unofficial POC-only events @ WisCon:

Friday:

Meet & Greet

After the opening ceremonies (approx 8:30PM) there will be an informal gathering of POC so that we can meet each other, plan how we’re going to deal with certain aspects of the POC space during the con, and squee over the # of us all in one place. At around 8:50 we’re going to depart for somewhere other than the lobby–perhaps someone’s room, a corner of the bar, a restaurant, wherever we decide. So be sure to be in the lobby before then!

Saturday:

11:45 – 1:00 PM – Intra-POC Relationships & Coalition Building Kaffeeklatsch
one of the overflow rooms on the 6th floor.

Participants of this kaffeeklatsch will be limited. (I’ll let you guess what the limitations are.) In order to avoid certain unpleasantness, there will be folks at the con with sign-up lists for this event. You’ll be able to recognize them by the buttons they wear, which will say “People Against We-Sha-Sha“. If you want to be one of the people with a sign-up list, please let me know.

(The lunch time begins at 11:15, which gives people time to hop over to the cafe to get some food if there’s nothing in the con suite they can eat. But I believe this year they are making sure there are vegetarian and vegan options.)

Monday:

8:00 – 9:45AM – POC Breakfast & Con Roundup
Concourse Hotel Restaurant

Some have suggested we have a last get-together on the last day to go over our con experiences and sketch out a plan for how we’re going to deal with some of the POC-only spaces next year. I blocked out the entire early morning programming block so that people could drop in as they wake up, pop out to attend a panel, etc.

Also, now that the programming schedule is up, is anyone willing to take shifts (during one programming block, say) so we can have a POC-only lounge space?

Now that we have a day/time, is anyone able to print out a bunch of copies of the info flier so we can hand them out?

And last, I would like to have a reading with all POC participants (though the audience can be mixed, maybe?), maybe on Saturday. Is anyone interested in reading?

Spread the word, everyone! I want as many people to know about this before the con as possible, as it will facilitate getting people in the right place at the right time.