Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Au Contraire 3 Wrap Up: What a Weekend!

Au Contraire 3 Guests of Honour, l-r:
AJ Fitzwater, Juliet Marillier, Marten Wallace
(Photo: Lee Murray)
We may be small, but we are mighty!

The New Zealand natcon this year was Au Contraire 3, held at the Quality Hotel on Cuba Street, Wellington, over Queen's Birthday weekend. New Zealand's fen community is small, but when all things come together well, our natcon can be a really neat time.

And a neat time this year it was indeed. It was a privilege to be invited as a Guest of Honour, and I tried to discharge my duties with diligence and energy. Originally, actor Stephanie Paul was to join us, but was unfortunately unable to make it. Fantasy author Juliet Marillier stepped up in her fine fashion. The other GoH was board game designer Marten Wallace.

The concom looked after me well, and I commend this year's committee for their efforts despite personnel shuffles and GoH changes close to the weekend. Along with allowing me to contribute to the security and harassment policy, I felt this year's concom had very open communication channels.

Lee Murray and Dan Rabarts did an incredible job of putting together the panel programming. There was something interesting going on at every moment of the day for a wide range of interests, from discussions and workshops for young writers, through to Star Wars origami. I didn't get to be an audience member as much as I would have liked, but the panels I did attend were very interesting and I heard good feedback about others. I especially enjoyed an hour of sitting down with young writers Rem Wigmore, Celine Murray, Amelia Sirvid, and Emma Shi. While their panel was planned opposite a really popular world building talk, we made the most of the time and a quiet room to sit around the table and have a damn fine chat about their expectations of future speculative fiction and new writers. Look out for those people - I have much love, pride, and hope for the newest generation of young writers!


Presenting my Guest of Honour Speech
"Mary Sue vs Strong Female Character:
Cage Match!"
(photo: Lee Murray)
I had a busy weekend, participating in three panels, the "At The Edge" book launch, and my GoH speech. It was a good introduction to the GoH gig, not quite being thrown in the deep end, but I was definitely very tired by the end of it all. Lots of mingling and game face!

My favourite panel I participated in was on Gender Diversity and Sexuality in Speculative Fiction, along with Andi Buchanan, Catherine Lundoff, Cass Wanden, and Celine Murray. We had a fantastic bounce of ideas, talking about the forgotten history of women's SFF, the "Deadsbian Death Count", queer tragedy, invisible queer narratives, what's being done right in SFF and where, and our hopes for the future of gender and sexuality in genre. Here is a list of authors and resources I mentioned in the panel.

I also participated in the Live from Au Contraire: Podcasting and Narration panel, and All The Punks, which both went smoothly. I had great panellists to catch me when my tongue tripped due to nervousness or tiredness. Thanks everyone! The "At The Edge" book release was fun too, where I got to read a section from my story "Splintr". It was also weird signing books - I don't think I'll ever get used to it.

My biggest event of the weekend was my Guest of Honour speech. I'd spent a long time contemplating and writing my speech because it was my first evah, and I wanted to make an impact. And that I did. I was a little stunned at the turn out to my speech, with nearly every chair in the room taken, a few quiet cheers at certain points of the speech, and the question time afterwards was enthusiastic. I also read my essay from Twelfth Planet Press'  "Letters to Tiptree", and a selection from "An Atlas in Sgraffito Style" out in Shimmer Magazine May 2016, both of which were very well received. My reading of "Atlas" sparked a conversation about the Christchurch Earthquakes, my experiences therein, and trauma in speculative fiction, so thank you to everyone in the audience for being sensitive and kind about that. Buzz about my speech got round afterwards, and the text of the speech will be available on the SpecFicNZ website very soon.


The "At The Edge" anthology book launch
(photo: Author's own)
Outside of my official capacity, I spent many wonderful hours talking to con guests in the bars and cafes on Cuba Street (damn, I love that area of the city!). I especially want to thank Catherine Lundoff for taking me in hand and pep talking me through a lot of the weekend - we had many wonderful cups of tea and talks about the business. This is the thing I miss the most when I'm stuck behind my keyboard on my lonesome down in Christchurch, so right now my head is overflowing with all the good (and "interesting") things about the biz. Also thanks to Andi Buchanan, Darusha Wehm, Elizabeth Heritage, Marie Hodgkinson, I.K. Paterson-Harkness, Rem Wigmore, Cassie Hart, Celine Murray, Cat Langford, and Mark English for the great conversations and support over the con weekend. And a big shout out to Octavia Cade who won the SJV for their novelette "The Ghost of Matter" and is off to Clarion West this year.

As with any community, there were a few niggles and personality clashes. It's unavoidable. I'm a bit of an idealist - I'd like the speculative fiction fan and creating community to be able to work together, and I always aim to include everyone despite our differences. However, since we had a good security policy in place and communication with the concom, I understand these small niggles were handled carefully and quickly. As within the theme of my speech, I will speak out against injustice and bad behaviour when I see it. Silence only enables the bad behaviour at conventions. I appreciate the people who did take the time to come to me after my speech to say "I never knew about those problems, where can I find out more?" Change can be difficult, but it's worth it.

The future of New Zealand speculative fiction, from the writers, to gaming, to film, television, online media, to the fans, is bright. We have a tight group of people dedicated to moving us forward. I would like to see more inclusivity at our future cons, including more Maori and Polynesian creators and fans, and to keep that enthusiasm up with our young participants.

Thanks Au Contraire. You were fun.

UPDATE 15/6/2016: Added a link to my speech on the SpecFicNZ website

3 comments:

  1. Wonderful summary, Amanda! Thank you for posting this link of authors and resources. I intend to seek these out and read them.

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  2. Seriously, Juliet Marrillier made an appearance. If she'd been on the original list I might ve tried to attend. Love her work! Nice report too! *jealous*

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  3. Seriously, Juliet Marrillier made an appearance. If she'd been on the original list I might ve tried to attend. Love her work! Nice report too! *jealous*

    ReplyDelete