cupidsbow (cupidsbow) wrote,

Swancon's Future

I wanted to post my general con report and thoughts on the academic stream before raising some issues about the future of Swancon that I think are worth discussing.

There are many aspects of Swancon I love, as should be clear in my reviews. Swancon is my community, and I'm invested in it: I want it to be a joyful celebration of speculative fiction and fandom, and I want to see our convention go from strength to strength.

That said, we're facing a crossroads right now, in terms of the things we value and give space to. Fandom is changing -- just as it periodically has throughout the last century of fanac. This time it's online culture that's the new frontier, and as it happens, a large part of that online culture is focused on women's fanworks.

The challenge of integrating new ways of being fans is always difficult, but as baby_elvis points out in her post, a challenge for swancon, Swancon has done it before, and become more vibrant and rich because of it.

There is no question that the Western Australian fan community is capable of reinventing Swancon, and bringing online fandom into the fold. In the past, our community has done many awesome things that were difficult at first: established WASFF as a protective body, so that no individual fan would risk losing their home in order to pay for a con that makes a financial loss; focused on Australian talent in the Festival of the Imagination; welcomed media fans; and reinvented the masquerade and art shows when it looked like they might die off. Many of these things were bitterly contested at the start, and now we can't imagine Swancon without them.

We can do this too: incorporate online fandom into our understanding of what is worth celebrating.

I would argue that it's something we are already trying to do, with the "Livejournal meet" at the start of this year's con, and panels such as: "The Politics of Fandom"; "Convention Running: Are We Doing it Wrong?"; and even the academic symposium topic, "I Like Your Old Stuff Better Than Your New Stuff: The Future of Science Fiction Fandom".

The questions are being asked about how we need to move forward, and if I thought the answers were being listened to, I would have no reason to make this post.

However, I think there is more resistance than usual to the idea that accepting and welcoming online fandom is the way to go.

And sadly, I think part of the problem is the fact that online fandoms are largely made up of women. It shouldn't be an issue, but it seems that it is. I'd like to emphasise that I don't think there is any deliberate or malicious sexism happening in our community. But I do think that there is a silent gender bias and a resulting lack of value for women's work.

Both baby_elvis and emma_in_oz discuss this in their post-Swancon reviews. In emma_in_oz's Swancon report, she points out not only that there are many fewer women than men on panels, but that there is a "sneer" when it comes to talking about women-centred crafts. And baby_elvis mentions that there is a pervasive sense amongst the women at Swancon that their professional expertise is being ignored or dismissed -- not maliciously, but through a passive, unintentional sexism which means that they are never thought of in the context of being experts.

I would like to add one anecdote of my own to this, as I hope it will help illustrate the point. I'm currently on the board of directors of a fan run, non-profit corporation, which has over seventy volunteer staff. This makes it bigger than most other existing fan-run projects, bar large-scale conventions such as Worldcons. There was a panel at this year's Swancon on The Politics of Fandom, which had the blurb: "Someone in fandom must be making the decisions that determine why conventions are run the way they are, and other fannish projects" (emphasis mine).

I nominated myself for this panel, indicating that I'd like to share some of the things I've learned about building this kind of organisation, and what it's like to be part of an international co-operative. The actual panelists ended up being: David Cake, Robert Hoge, Paul Raj Khangure, and Rohan Wallace, all of whom, I'm sure, had useful and relevant things to say.

My point is, there I was, actively offering a unique source of information on a fannish project that has large goals, doing something which has never been attempted on this scale by fans before, and for whatever reason, that body of expertise was not made use of.

The question I want you to ask yourself is this: if I were Danny Oz, or John Parker, or Grant Watson, would I have been on that panel? And if your answer is "Yes... but," consider this: once is just coincidence, perhaps, but my story is just one of many that were shared at this year's Gynaecon, and not only about this year's program.

You don't have to be sold on the idea that online fandom is the next big thing, or that I'm particularly interesting either, for that matter. But the question is being asked: what is the future of fandom. And many voices are answering: fanworks is where it's happening, female fans are building something wonderful.

We are here, we want to take part. You don't even have to woo us! We are already sold on the idea of Swancon and want to contribute. We are already offering our expertise. We want our community to be vibrant, attract bright new people, and have a healthy future. We want to be part of making that happen.

All we need is space, and for everyone, male and female alike, to consider the possibility that there is something here worth including.
Tags: discussion, fandom, politics, swancon
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