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My First Worldcon: Fantasy, Scifi & Books

MY FIRST WORLDCON EVER! Worldcon 75 was held right here in Helsinki and naturally I was there! There was so much program but I’m quite happy with the panels I saw, though some of them felt a little unstructured and unplanned. The turnout was quite something, it’s hard to believe that in the history of the con, this was the second largest as far as visitor amount goes. Yay Finland! One of my favorite moments was meeting Joe Abercrombie, who was super nice and signed my book and took a photo with me. Also, I did squee quite a bit when seeing George R.R. Martin <3 Here’s a quick rundown of the panels I attended at Worldcon.

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My First Novel – How to get Started
Mary Robinette Kowal, Elizabeth Bear, Erika Vik, Walter Jon Williams, Karen Lord
Many people dream about writing a novel, but never actually get started. The panel discusses the various ways one may find the inspiration and drive to actually put the pen to paper (or characters on the screen).

Karen Lord, a Barbadian writer of speculative fiction, emphasized that as a writer you have to find your character’s quirk and figure out what makes them special, because you ARE NOT your character. You can’t bring yourself into every story because, in the end, it gets boring.

The panel pointed out that writing, like many things, is non-binary. There are more than two ways of going about things. This was in reference to a view in the writing circles that an author is either a plotter or a pantser.

Their tips on getting over a writer’s block were to e.g. move to writing about another section of the story, do something else entirely, make deadlines, revise your earlier writing… or meet Gene Wolfe who apparently by his presence cured Walter John Williams‘s writer’s block.

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Trans Characters in YA
Leon Adams, Nick Falkner, Keffy R.M Kehrli, Nino Cipri
Is Young Adult literature more open to transgender characters than literature aimed at adults?

Much of the discussion in this panel revolved around the need for diversity in trans representation. There is too much focus on how much trans characters hate themselves, even though it is not necessarily representative of the reality (or a healthy representation of the trans experience). The “born this way” narrative seems to steamroll over all other narratives. The focus on the stories is always on coming to terms with being trans and seeking acceptance from one’s social circles, but that should not be the only story about being trans. There was a general cry for something more: “Give us the space opera or cute romance where trans people are characters among the rest and their trans-ness is not the focus. And give us stories of trans people loving themselves.” This line of discussion also raised the point about diversity in general: Why is there no representation of homeless trans PoC when in reality many homeless kids are trans? There appears to be a single narrative problem, not only in that the narrative is always about coming to terms with being trans but also in that the main characters tend to be white middle class teens. Also, the stories about trans people are often focused on characters who want to transition while not all trans people even want that.

The moderator asked whether it’s worse to have bad representations in literature than no representation at all. The consensus seemed to be that while bad representations are obviously not ideal, at least they can be used as a stepping board to something better. And the harmfulness of those bad representations can be manifested as feelings of uncertainty and doubt in trans youth who are not seeing themselves in the stories.

Continuing on about the bad writing choices in trans representations, the panel raised the point that authors should avoid technology that allows for the change of one’s sex in scifi because it erases the trans identity completely. It’s comparable to the cure narratives in relation to disabilities in scifi. Also, in general, authors should talk to actual trans people about details, such as binders, in order to reflect the reality of trans life.

When discussing the reason why trans stories might work in YA lit, the panelists mentioned that since YA readers are still in the learning phase in their lives, it makes them more open to trans characters – they are less biased. However, they also pointed out that while readers might be open-minded, the publishers can be fairly conservative.

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