My week of vacation and nerdy travel has come to an end, and I promised myself to write actual blog posts about my experiences, rather than just cryptic tweets, so over the next few days I’ll be sharing some of the things that happened.

First of all, WisCon, what’s that about? I know that I’ve been posting and twittering about it for a while and some people are still puzzled, but honestly it’s hard to talk about WisCon as anything other than itself. It’s described as a “Feminist Science Fiction Convention,” but that hardly does enough to convey the experience. When I’m asked what brought me to WisCon, I can only answer that my friend Sigrid did. She’s been talking up the con to me since shortly after we first got acquainted (online) and I had a similar, “What’s all that about?” reaction. And she basically told me, “It’s a place to meet with smart people and have conversations about every geeky thing imaginable, that you’ll never be able to duplicate anywhere outside of WisCon.” So last year, after a couple years of nudging, I decided to go and had a great (if rather overwhelming) time. This year I decided to go again and even signed up to be on a few panels (more on that later).

The con started last Friday, May 27 (it always runs over Memorial Day weekend), and in order to get to Madison, Wisconsin in time for things to start, I basically had to leave Richmond (Virginia) at the crack of dawn. I didn’t manage to sleep much Thursday night; even if I hadn’t needed to be out the door around 4 AM, there were raging thunderstorms between 1 and 3. Better that, I realize, than storms while the plain was trying to take off, so it wasn’t so bad. Travel went pretty smoothly, even though I’m terrible at packing and hauling things through the airport is always an extra special pain. But I got my flight with no drama, and between Richmond and Madison I remember very little that happened. Partly that’s because nothing notable happened (aside from the extra-perky stewardess actively trying to persuade us to buy alcoholic beverages at 6 AM — “It’s never too early”). It’s also partly because I was reading Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey.

Here’s a funny story about reading on airplanes: I brought my Kindle e-reader along thinking, “This is so portable, it will be great on the plane!” I of course forgot the part where they make you turn off all electronic devices at the beginning and ending of the flight so, on a flight that’s not so long anyway, there’s not a lot of time to dig into a good book. That’s why I pulled Guardian out of my bag. I had picked it up the other day because I had a coupon and new the author would be at the con. I didn’t really anticipate getting it read, though; at most I thought I’d try a chapter before going to the signing. Several hours later. . . suffice it to say the book sucked me in and I was halfway through it by the time I got to Madison. Note to self for the future: always have a real book in reserve for a plane trip, and if possible make it one as addictive as this!

Once I was in Madison, I hopped a shuttle to the hotel and called Monica, who lives in Madison. I first met her at the con, briefly last year and got to know her better since then, via the Internet. (This will be a recurring pattern through my con reports). Monica is a fellow fan of Captain America and Iron Man, and by happenstance we had ended up assigned to two of the same panels. So after I checked into the hotel (it was a little after 9 AM, but they let me in way early — this is in marked contrast to the experience I would have the following week at a different hotel for a different con, but I shouldn’t skip ahead), we found a restaurant that served copy and crepes, and talked about comics and panel related stuff. I was very very tired but I dimly recall trying to explain the Green Lantern Corps at some point, for some reason. I would imagine that I ended up saying that the best thing about GL is the time that Hal Jordan made a green winged horse for him and Green Arrow and one of their girlfriends to fly on, when he could have just made a helicopter or something. Or maybe that was a different conversation, but if it didn’t come up then, it should have! Then we went back to the hotel (where I was staying and also where the con was located), and Monica explored the con while I cleaned up, checked Internet, went through the program guide to decide what panels I wanted to attend, and (eventually) finished reading Guardian of the Dead.

Sometime in here, my con roommate showed up (Talkswithwind, who I met at last year’s WisCon and have gotten to know better since then, via Internet — see that pattern again?) and he went through his program to check up on what panels he would attend. Late afternoon (right when I had finished up the book, actually), I got a text from Sigrid saying that she and her family had arrived. I went down to ‘The Gathering’ in the large assembly room and met up with Sigrid and J, her partner, and their two kids. I also found NWHepcat and Gwynnega there (who I had made plans with via Internet), and we all compared notes, while eating free cookies and flipping through the rack at the clothing exchange. There was a pretty amazing pair of combat boots that I did try on, but my feet didn’t quite
go into them (yes, I really covet boots but I rarely find ones that i can walk in!) There was also a craft show and face painting and hair braiding available, the latter of which was tempting, but the line was long and I was ready to hit the first panel.

Sigrid was still looking through her program figuring out her schedule when I said, “Chicks Dig Time Lords! Chicks Dig Time Lords, starting right now!” So of course we had to go. This is kind of funny because Sigrid has been talking Doctor Who up to me since shortly after the “new” series debuted, but until six months ago, I’d only seen a couple episodes. But I got sucked into the BBC America marathon over Christmas holidays, and have been catching up with it since then. Chicks Dig Time Lords: A Celebration of Doctor Who by the Women Who Love It is a book edited by Sigrid’s friend Lynne Thomas, which collects essays about Doctor Who by female fans, as well as material about women who have been involved in the show.

The CDTL panel included several contributors to the book, and in the spirit of the anthology, the discussion was mostly positive. Thomas explained that having a generally positive (but still analytical) focus was a conscious choice (which is why the book is subtitled “celebration”, go figure). I’ll be honest that I still am not very well-versed in Doctor Who — I haven’t even seen all the seasons of the current series — but every time I’m in a conversation about it, I feel like I understand a little more. This panel was like that; I didn’t get all the jokes, but I got some of them (and when people are asking questions like, “What’s the Tom Baker episode where he fellates an alien?” I’m not sure how much context a person needs, or how much it would help!) The most important thing about this panel to me was how welcoming it felt. The panelists obviously had widely different perspectives on the show, but there wasn’t any sense of people who had been around longer having more of a right to their viewpoint. It was definitely an experience that made the fandom seem like something I’d want to be part of, and I ended up buying the book.

After this panel, we went to dinner with Sigrid’s family and a group of friends (standing in the lobby at dinner time and being surrounded by people before heading off to find a restaurant became a pattern for the con) and we had a lively dinner including, from what I recall, quite a bit of conversation of ill-advised at-home chemistry experiments.

Later in the evening was Sigrid’s first panel, “Teen Girls on Quests in Movies.” This was a sort of broad-ranging conversation panel. I came in not being able to think of any teen-girl quest movies besides Labyrinth and Whale Rider and maybe the original Buffy movie, and that’s pretty much what I came away with too. Most of the movies that the panel and audience came up with were about younger girls (somehow hitting puberty/being of “dateable” age seems to limit the things that girls go on quests for), which was kind of a shame, but it turned into a broader discussion about what kinds of fictional narratives are inspiring to girls, which was pretty interesting.

After that panel, I would have liked to hit some of the room parties happening on the upper floors, but I remembered I had been up since 4 AM, which was actually 3 AM according to the time zone I was in, so it would be better to get some sleep and be up in time for my first panel in the morning. . .at which I’d get to talk about Marvel comics!

More on that tomorrow :).