A random assortment of memorable moments, thoughts, and quotes from our time at Worldcon 75 in Helsinki.
From the presentation: Crackpot Archaeology in Scandinavia by Martin Rundkvist
- One of the distinguishing traits of the crackpot is the insistence on finding meaning in every discernible pattern. To the crackpot, randomness is never acceptable.
(This is a particularly useful observation for me as a historian who works on areas and periods where we have extremely limited evidence. When evidence is so scarce, it is tempting to squeeze as much meaning as we can out of every text or artifact. Sometimes we just have to accept the randomness.)
From the workshop: Beyond the Great Wall of Europe: Worldbuilding for Non-European Settings by Jenn Lyons
- In this workshop, we were divided up into small groups and assigned to come up with various aspects of worldbuilding for a hypothetical fantasy world. The group assigned to government (which I was not part of) described a society of small scattered bands without permanent leadership who pull together in times of crisis and select a temporary leader. Their ideas were based on certain Native American societies of the northeastern woodlands and gave a fairly accurate description of how societies at that scale historically tended to operate. Some other folks in the room—including the workshop leaders—critiqued them based on a European colonial misunderstanding of native North American cultures.
(It was a good reminder of how difficult it can be, even with the best of intentions, to think ourselves out of Eurocentric traditions—and why it might have been a good idea to spend a little more time working through what we mean by “European.”)
From the panel: Non-Binary Representation with Nick Hubble, D Franklin, and Nino Cipri
- Non-binary characters in fiction written by binary authors have a tendency to feel like thought experiments rather than people.
From the panel: Editor’s Dream with Thoraiya Dyer, Masumi Washington, Katrina Archer, and Robert S. Malan
- Always follow the submission guidelines!
(As someone who has coordinated academic conferences, I cannot agree with this strongly enough!)
From the panel: Asexuality in SF with Todd Allis, Kat Kourbeti, and Jo Walton
- The portrayal of asexuality in fiction tends to be gendered. Female asexual characters are often portrayed as inexperienced, with the assumption that she will blossom into sexuality once she finds the right person, while male asexual characters are often portrayed as quirky, damaged, or focused on obsessions that leave no room for romantic love.
From the presentation: Logic of Empire: Economics of Colonialism in Fantastic Fiction by Jesper Stage
- North America in the age of European colonialism was a real post-apocalyptic setting, once European diseases had wiped out over 90% of the native population.
(I’ve never thought of it in those terms, but it’s one of the most apt descriptions I’ve ever heard.)
From a panel presenter whose name I didn’t catch, when the audience let him know they couldn’t hear him:
- “You’re different to English audiences; they just sit quietly and complain at the end.”
From the panel Loses Something in the Translation: Conveying Humor, Idioms, and Cultural Concepts across Languages with Gili Bar-Hilel, Shaoyan Hu, Elena Pavlova, Dirk van den Boom, and Mirka Sillanpää
A few choice quotes:
- “Writing something funny is actually very serious and hard work.”
- “Toilet jokes work in most languages”
- “As you know, Germans are not funny.”
From the panel: Fantasy Worldbuilding without Ableism with Fran Wilde, Marieke Nijkamp, Likhain, Nalo Hopkinson, and Leon Adams
- Disability can be a too-easy go-to for authors who want to make a hero “unlikely” without engaging with the reality of living with disability.
- What counts as a disability depends on context. Issues that are trivial to us, such as eyesight problems that are easily corrected with glasses, could be serious disabilities in a world without that technology. On the other hand, dyslexia, which is a challenge in the highly literate modern world, would be trivial in a world without writing.
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