This panel was the "after-dark" sequel to the Beyond Binaries 101 panel I was not a part of. Other than a bit of comedy, by and large the content of this panel didn't really seem to need to be "after-dark" -- third-gender topics are not, and should not be, inherently adults only -- but I'm not sure anyone knew where the panel was going to go when it was conceived of.

The panel benefited from a wide-range of expertise including a panelist who is both widely-published and can tell you more about insect reproduction than you ever wanted to know. This was, believe it or not, totally useful and entertaining.

Overall, however, we often struggled to get "beyond binaries," causing the session itself to demonstrate in many ways just how challenging it is to present in fiction a paradigm other than the gender-dichotomous and usually heteronormative narratives most of us live. This became particularly obvious (and, I felt, problematic and hurtful) when a panelist asserted that readers can only relate to human characters and so third-gendered aliens cannot be narrators in successful stories.

The assumption that third-gendered characters must be alien was a problem. Trans people, queer people, genderqueer people, intersex people, third-gendered people exist, right here, on earth, right now, and are human, and in a well-executed story can be narrators that are effective, plausible and easy to relate to.1 The desire for stories of characters like this, are, additionally, not limited to people who hold these identities, but to those who know them, love them or just want a story about something other than their own damn life.

Books that I mentioned included:

Elizabeth Hand's out-of-print Aestival Tide (non-linear sequel to Winterlong, which I believe is still in print), which features a young hermaphrodite named Reive2 who everyone is afraid of because her (this is how Reive is pronoun-ed in the book) eyes are green, the color of death in a domed city on a future, broken America's gulf coast.

Clive Barker's Imagica that features a character named Pie'oh'pah who appears as what the person zie is interacting with most desires. Pie's true form can only be seen by third party observers, and not even always then. This book can be problematic, Barker isn't great at female characterizations and Pie can read as a "mystical negro" character (although this is complicated by Pie's ability to reflect desire, as well as a number of details regarding Barker's personal life if you choose to consider authorial intent).

Octavia Butler's Xenogensis series, which features a human population's contact with another, differently gendered species and the subsequent absorbtion of the two biologies and cultures into each other.

Many, many other books came up, but I wasn't taking notes, so the comments to this post are a good place for that.

This was one of the panels where the audience asked "what can we do to get more stories that are relevant to us?" I felt this discussion was problematic in the sense that the answer from several of the panelists was "You can't." While the business conservatism of the publishing industry is extremely well, and certainly deserved to be noted and discussed, I thought the attempt to shut down any attempt that was made to be empowering or offer alternative ways of demonstrating and responding to need regarding certain narratives was hurtful.

Not that panels should be all nice and lovely places -- in fact, I thought this panel benefited in terms of entertainment from the frictions amongst the panelists -- but this panel was, from my perspective, largely designed for members and allies of marginalized communities, and I think it's inappropriate in those circumstances to only be able to say "yup, you're marginalized, get used to it." The marginalization and glacial pace of change in the publishing industry, at minimum, merited more possibility-focused discussion.

This was one of the panels I most enjoyed (and was the most well-moderated -- for all the disagreement, everyone stayed gracious. Thanks, [livejournal.com profile] novelfriend!), and I thought it was also one of the most important that I was on, although in the future, it would be wonderful and appropriate to find a trans or intersex writer or critic to be present (Guess what? They exist! And are human and right here on earth!). As a genderqueer person I'm a good step, but certainly did not provide enough diversity in and of myself.

This panel is also one of the ones that's lingered with me in an unsettling way. That has value, and I hope the panel will return again next year, and can perhaps serve its audience better and with more awareness, even as I don't expect anything will have radically changed in the publishing industry between now and then.

If you were there, thank you for attending. Thank you also to the SF & Fantasy Literature Track for hosting the panel and seeing the value in this topic. Feedback is welcome as are book recs and other discussion in comments.



1 This listing originally contained "asexual." As asexual is an orientation, not a gender, listing it in the manner I did was inappropriate and offensive, and I am sorry. The reason for that initial listing was to note that asexual identities did briefly come up in the panel as we tried to get away from the panel's nearly relentless drift back towards discussion of M/F relationships (see: space brothels). I hope this clarifies, and I, of course, stand by the assertion that asexuals exist and that asexual characters can be humans and awesome narrators.
2 Full disclosure: I went by Reive on the Internet for many, many years, and never ran into another one. So if you want to dig around in my sordid past, there you go. I love this book with all my heart.
I was on this panel with Brent Allison from Gainesville State College. While, on the surface, there was not a lot of relationship between his paper, "Japanese Animation Fandom and Media Education: A Response to Media Education Literature and Classroom Practice," and mine, they certainly did intersect both on matters of authenticity (an issue he raised) and, I think, very strongly in the response from the room.

While I mentioned this in passing at the panel, it's worth reiterating I'm not an anime and manga person by default (the same goes for Western comics and animation for me); it's not a medium I respond to instinctually. However, working on this aspect of my mourning research and hearing Brent's paper along with some of the presentation from the panel before us, I feel like I have a lot more tools to approach anime and manga than I have in the past, so that was personally a very rewarding expansion for me.

Over the past year, I've had the opportunity to talk about fan responses to character death a lot -- at Gallifrey One, at the Desiring the Text conference at the University of Bristol (UK), and here on Livejournal, where I started this research really in response to what I was seeing and experiencing in the Torchwood fandom, which didn't feel new to me, so much as very, very old.

Most of the time there's a lot of anger when I talk about this topic. The Torchwood fandom isn't just still gutted by the narrative events of its third season, but large swathes of it remain in conflict -- with the show writers and producers, and with other fans who have had different responses not just to the program, but to their feelings about it.

And, of course, it's not just Torchwood fandom. Joss Whedon fans are still nursing wounds from deaths like that of Tara on Buffy, and those wounds are very real, even if I posit that they are less likely to create a ritualized mourning response because of the way Whedon structures his narrative arcs.

In fiction, death is everywhere, and given more than twenty minutes there's lots to say about tons of other properties -- some of which I was able to mention in Atlanta -- like Harry Potter, Elf Quest, Ashita no Joe (Tomorrow's Joe), Sherlock Holmes and the work of Dickens (there's a lot to say about Little Nell) to name just a few.

If you love stories fannishly and so also love characters privately and passionately and in a nearly embodied sense, chances are you know all about this type of mourning, because you've lived it, even if you've never talked about it.

But for a lot of people, this type of grief is really alien, or, if experienced, has been uncomfortable or eclipsed by non-fictional losses. When we talk about the pain of absence, there's a lot for anyone to get pissed about.

Which is to say, a lot of the time, the response I get to this work is one that is angry and in pain (Seriously, I've been on panels with yelling matches, tears, personal stories of non-fictional loss, and more. Grief is big). And that's fine, even if I'm not always as gracious, generous and supportive as I wish I knew how to be. Because my choosing to this work is also a response to my own losses (I even refer to it as "my own 1,000 cranes" in the paper I did for the Bristol conference, not afraid of sentimentality am I).

Spending a lot of time around grief is pretty exhausting. I've been doing it for over a year, and it's taken me on one hell of a trip (including to the UK twice). It has forced me to mourn fictional characters that matter to me both more publicly and more privately than I would wish and to find commonalities with people I'd, quite frankly, rather just argue with in fandom.

Often, when I present on this topic, it's really heated, and it leaves me drained and uncertain of the value (but not the relevance) of this work. Dragon*Con, however, was an entirely different experience.

The audience was generous and curious, provided a perspective through manga, anime and comics, that framed a lot of new and exciting questions (how do we emotionally respond to comics that are constantly retconning and resetting? are we mourning a fictional lover or friend or are we mourning the self?) and also helped to further confirm a lot of the arguments I've been working with.

More than anything though, I felt a sense of eagerness and relief from the audience, and really felt we could have gone for far more time than the slot we had allowed. Unfortunately, I also had to run to another panel right after.

If you're here because you were at the panel (or not) and want to talk about this topic more in comments here, please feel free. If you have particular feelings about how you'd like to access more material on this subject (i.e., book? website? academically focused? pop-culture-y? travel-log of visiting sites of fictional grief? etc), I would love to hear it. In addition, I am always grateful to hear more personal tales of mourning for the fictional. While I do not necessarily feel an obligation to request permission to quote people discussing such issues publicly on the Internet, since I am soliciting your input directly here, I will say that I will not quote or paraphrase anything you say in comments to this post without your explicit permission, and I'll drop you a note if I ever need it.

In addition, if you're curious about the work that's coming out of the Bristol conference, please visit The Society of Friends of the Text. You can also get more information on the Dragon*Con Comics and Popular Arts Conference that put this panel together and its parent, The Institute for Comics Studies. A big thank you to Dragon*Con Anime and Manga Track for giving us the time and space necessary for this panel.

Thanks for attending the panel and/or for reading along here. The Dragon*Con panel was one of the most lovely experiences I've had since I've started working on this project, and I am truly full of gratitude for it.
I'm currently at the Sweet Water Brewing Company in the airport waiting for my flight. I have treats for Patty, and am glad I am wearing a dress for this part of the trip -- I only hate being called ma'am when wearing male attire, and everyone calls women ma'am in this airport. One last travel note: I avoided the evil full-body scanner.

Meanwhile, what a great Dragon*Con! I gave good panel; I got good panel; I saw old and new friends; and I feel really re-energized about some stuff. (ConSweet is good; really, really good). And I didn't have the huge wave of melancholy I usually do at this con, although I attribute that to a few things, including not having room for it; the lack of panel content about the media I'm super emotional about; and really having a place to channel it into with ConSweet.

Since I have offered to both on Twitter and on panels, I will be putting up recap posts for each of the panels (outside of the readings) I did over the weekend (thank you YA-Lit track, Brittrack, SF Lit Track, Alt History track, the Dragon*con Comics & Popular Arts Conference and the Anime/Manga track that provided space for the panel I was on) followed by a directory post that will point you to each of them (this will possibly while I'm on the airplane (it's dependent on Gogo availability and if there's turbulence which I don't enjoy)). The YA-Lit LGBT panel discussion I already posted a couple of days ago, so the directory post should make that more findable.

If you're new to this journal thanks to the con, please say hi and feel free to friend me. I also leave anonymous posting on (although with IP-logging), so if you do not have an LJ account or feel the need to be anonymous in the discussions (as opposed to pseudonymous), that's superfine too.

I will post a more personal recap tonight or tomorrow about things like cool Torchwood peeps I hung out with, awesome roommates, how fucking crowded Dragon*con is, and the way the con's relationship with alcohol seemed more toxic to me this year than in the past later/soon.

Sundries posts will resume tomorrow.
Hey everyone! Below is my official schedule for Dragon*Con. While all of these panels have made it into the official schedule, not all of them have my name attached, but this my real, official, confirmed by all concerned schedule.

As you can see, I will be super, super busy. If you want to talk with me after a panel, please be aware that if I have panel in the next immediate time slot, we need to have walking and talking, as I am often bouncing back and forth between hotels in a small time window during peak hours (this is particularly true on Friday and Saturday nights).

If you are just looking for me socially, your best bet is generally the Marriott bar.


FRIDAY

Broad Universe Rapid Fire Readings: Time Travel
The ladies of Broad Universe take you on a time-traveling trip-tic of storytelling featuring visions of the past, present and future.
4:00pm, Location: International C - Westin (Length: 1 Hour)

Comics and Popular Arts Conference 2010
The Illustrated Dead: Fan Response to Character Death in Comics and Manga. This paper is empaneled with Japanese Animation Fandom and Media Education: A Response to Media Education Literature and Classroom Practice.
8:30pm, Location: Courtlandt - Hyatt (Length: 1 hour)

Gay Themes in the Whoniverse
Doctor Who has broken traditional walls of SF by acquiring a following in straight and gay communities; here we examine this idea.
10:00pm, Location A601-A602 - Marriott (Length: 1 Hour) Please note: this panel is listed as at 11:30pm on the schedule grid, and at 10pm in the panel description. I believe it's at 10:00pm and am seeking confirmation.


SATURDAY

Broad Universe Reading
Discover new writers, rediscover ones you know! Up and coming women writers read from their own works and others.
11:30am, Location: Greenbriar - Hyatt (Length: 2.5 Hours)

Merlin
This panel is a review of new popular series, Merlin, the man who raised King Arthur.
4pm, Location: Macon - Sheraton (Length: 1 Hour)

Freaks and Geeks in the Potterverse
Let's discuss Luna, Neville, and the other oddballs in the world of Harry Potter.
7:00pm, Location: A707 - Marriott (Length: 1 Hour)

Sherlock Holmes: Interpretations in British Media
Sherlock Holmes is an enduring character that has lasted for generations. This panel examines the many versions of the detective in British media.
8:30pm, Location: Macon - Sheraton (Length: 1 Hour)

Alternative Sexualities
Explore the full spectrum of human emotion and love covering GBLT issues in YA.
10:00pm, Location: A707 - Marriott (Length: 1 Hour)


SUNDAY

Shakespeare in British Media
This panel is an analysis of how William Shakespeare has influenced all facets of British Media.
4pm, Location: Macon - Sheraton (Length: 1 hour)

YA Lit Costume Contest
Pre-judging for the Yule Ball Costume Contest. No walk-in entries will be accepted at the Ball. Awards announced at the Yule Ball. Note: no audience allowed at the judging; contestants and guardians (if applicable) only.
5:30pm, Location: A707 - Marriott (Length: 1 Hour)

Beyond Binaries 201
Why do so many aliens (monsters, etc.) behave like traditional m/f pairings? Has this been transcended anywhere in fiction?
10:00pm Location: Fairlie - Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)


MONDAY

Alternate Regencies
The Regency era in England is popular again with such books as "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies." Come find out the historical truth here!
Mon 11:30am, Location: International C - Westin (Length: 1 Hour)
The schedule below is not complete. My complete schedule can be found at: http://rm.livejournal.com/1916980.html

Read more... )

May 2016

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