Wiscon panels coming up, and some commentary on a game

Here’s my panels for Wiscon! I can’t wait!

Last year’s flirting panel was a blast and at this year’s followup I’m hoping to make a cool handout. Debbie says if I email her the stuff she’ll make the handout, because I have too much to do! One good technique “touch/don’t touch” is actually playing out mini scenarios and then switching roles, so that you get to do the no-saying and the no-recieving and get practice doing that gracefully on both sides. (Something I learned in anti-date-rape workshops in the 80s.) Another super great idea I learned from Ian K. Hagemann – to always thank a person who lets you know a boundary, because they are honoring you by communicating it instead of letting you continue to cross it in ignorance.

I don’t have any specific and book-focused panels this year – no time to prepare properly for that – But I can’t wait for the Karen Axness Memorial Panel where we all list great little-known books by women sf writers and there are always fabulous handouts that expand my reading list. I’m also excited to go to the cultural appropriation panels.

Speaking of cultural appropriation! I can bring a copy of this: Bone White, Blood Red: a roleplaying game of the Pueblo Revolt. It is written in the voice of “Spider Grandmother” and “Worn Pot” who teach Bear, Coyote, Wren, and Badger how to play the game. My immediate reaction is basically, “huh” and a stance of automatic suspicion against what I think of as Cherokee hair tampon syndrome.

The game would be rough for me and I would rather just have character sheets with the beads and string as a metaphor or an optional visual aid, as I could never remember all the details of which bead meant what without written notes. But I would certainly give the game a try and the difficulty of remembering stuff would be part of the point. (Would that difficulty be fun, though?) As the fictional in character bits in roleplaying game books go, this one is not bad at all.

So is it cultural appropriation? Well, yeah. Does that make it awful? It’s not a yes/no on/off answer. It means that it is open to some criticism and commentary, which game authors as well as book authors should listen to with an open mind and some humility, as the Spirit of the Century rpg authors recently did.

In other interesting gaming news, you can download and playtest Steal Away Jordan. The players all play slaves in the U.S.

Your name
Your name is not your own. If you were born into slavery, your parents may not have had much say in the choosing. The name your master calls you may not be the name your relations use in private. If you run away, you will change your name. Therefore, the GM chooses your name, but you may pick a nickname.

That’s pretty interesting! You can read a report and discussion thread of a playtest game on The Forge.

Anyway here’s my Wiscon panels!


Feminist SF Wiki Workshop
in Caucus Room (Time to be determined)

Come learn about the Feminstsf wiki, learn what wikis are and how to edit them, contribute your ideas, creativity, and feminist vision to the wiki.
Equipment: projector that can plug into a laptop, and a screen
Length: 70 minutes
Laura M. Quilter, Liz Henry

Please Touch/Don’t Touch (Feminism, Sex, and Gender)
Friday, 8:45-10:00 p.m. Friday, 8:45-10:00 p.m. Friday, 8:45-10:00 p.m.
One of the many qualities which sets WisCon apart from most other SF conventions is the perception that, for one weekend a year, the Concourse is a safe and inclusive space for SF fans of all genders, orientations, identities, races, and religions. Many people have commented that this extra level of comfort seems to create a very “touchy-feely” environment, with a lot more casual physical contact between old friends and new acquaintance, and a very different, (more open?) environment for flirting and hook-ups. But not everyone is quite so comfortable with such a relaxed atmosphere… Where do you draw the lines between casual and significant, affection and flirting, too much and not enough? How do the conditions change from situation to situation? And how do you tell someone to “back off”… or deal gracefully when someone else lets you know that you’ve crossed a line?
Karen Swanberg, M: Debbie Notkin, Mary Kay Kare, Liz Henry, Jed E. Hartman

Let’s You And Her Fight (Feminism, Sex, and Gender)
Sunday, 10:00-11:15 a.m. Sunday, 10:00-11:15 a.m. Sunday, 10:00-11:15 a.m.
This year there was a panel about how to flirt at Wiscon. Next year I’d like to see a panel on how to fight at Wiscon. It’s not bad to want to get along; but it is when that urge causes us not to speak our minds in public, and leaves us gr umbling in private. How do you speak up and explain that you think the respected panel member is talking out of her hat, while maintaining a friendly attitude towards someone who is, after all, a fellow feminist and fan? Ideally people will get a chance to practice. I would particularly like to draft Steven Schwartz for this panel.
Steven E. Schwartz, Liz Henry, Joan Haran, M: Alan Bostick, Lee Abuabara

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Blogging class at the Redwood City Library

I just taught a community education class at the Redwood City Public Library, “Start Your Own Blog”. Ten people pre-registered and showed up to the small computer lab in the Teen Homework Center. None had ever started a blog, but everyone had basic computer literacy and a personal email address. The blog-starters were all ages — from middle school student to senior citizen. Roz, a librarian, and Michele, who does IT stuff for the library, helped out. I believe Roz also started a blog, “Gardening by Flashlight,” as she followed along with the steps of blog creation.

Before the class began the librarians showed me their page for The Big Read, a community reading series happening in March, co-sponsored by Villa Montalvo. You can get a free copy of Farenheit 451 from the library. Some students from Mission College set up a very fancy web page with forums and a way to participate: load the page and click on “Confess” to answer their amazing questions about self-censorship. How many times today did you stop yourself from saying something? Did you pause before sending an email, or leave one unsent or unwritten? Good questions like that, and space to answer in. (I’m going to ask my English Composition students at Evergreen Valley College to participate for class credit.) You too should go and confess your moments of self-censorship to the Redwood City Library. Give them some love!

I began the class by explaining what a blog was: a web page you can update very easily, using web forms. We used Blogger. Two students had difficulty signing in, though they were using valid email addresses. The librarians helped them sign up for new gmail accounts, but that was pretty distracting for the other students!

As with any hands-on computer class, I sometimes had to pause, walk around the room, and get everyone back on the same page again. I also had to remember to say, at times, “Everyone please look up here at the screen…” to get people to look at my demonstration, rather than what they were doing.

What I didn’t expect was for people to be so excited that they wanted to write lots of long blog posts! That was cool! I thought people would write “First post” and “Um I don’t know what to write” and things like that. But no! I stood at the head of the room hearing the soul-warming sound of clickety click click of industrious typing, seeing the beautiful deep concentration on people’s faces. It did help to ask people at some point to stop, hit publish, and remember that they could go back and edit later. I busted loose with a speech about how you could edit stuff, disinhibited, empowered and freed by the control you had over your own words. Yay, that was fun! I saw some lightbulbs go off in people’s heads at that thought.

At the point where we logged out and in again, people were confused by the choice between “New Blogger” and “Old Blogger”. They thought they were now Old Bloggers because they weren’t New anymore – they’d already gone through the process! That made sense, but I hadn’t expected it. So if anyone from Blogger/Blogspot is reading this, free user feedback for you, though you’ve probably already heard it.

Here’s what I would do differently for the class:

– Emphasize the step during creation of the blog of writing down on paper:
— Your login name (which is the gmail account that’s being created!)
— The URL of your blog
— The address you will go to in order to edit your blog in future (http://blogger.com)

– add a step for telling the instructor the blog name and your login name!

– Making a link. I’d write out instructions on how to do that with the “link” button rather than typing a href etc. etc. etc.

– Log out, quit the browser completely, and start from scratch to log in again, find your blog in one window, and open a new editing window.

– I’d consider making it a 2-part class, perhaps over 2 weeks, but better yet, Monday/Wednesday or Tues/Thurs.
— The instructor will have the list of everyone’s URLs and login names, in case someone forgot on the 2nd night.
— It could also work well as a 3 hour class with a coffee break in the middle, on a Saturday.
— It really does need a followup to help people have continuity and a little extra practice. It’s a lot of information to absorb all at once.

– An added note at the end to suggest that people go home and teach someone else, a family member, friend, or co-worker.
— That spreads whatever cool empowerment people can get from blogging
— Trying to teach someone else is a really good way to learn something in depth

– I forgot to mention other blogging services, some free and some not: Vox, WordPress, LiveJournal, Typepad, and for Spanish speakers Blogalia or Blogalaxia. With a longer class or 2 classes, I would do a quick tour of those sites. Blogger is lovely, but there are other options!

Maybe the students from the class will come and leave me a comment, so I can link to them. The ones I remember are:

Philip, who wrote a mystery novel, and who used to work in TV news, and who I think I know from past meetings of the Redwood City Not Yet Dead Poets: Philip’s Code.

Richard, who looked like he was in maybe 7th or 8th grade (but I could be wrong) and who came with his mom, and who is a huge star wars fan: Star Wars Freak.

A very lovely person whose name I have forgotten but who is a technical recruiter… I can’t remember her blog name

A dad and his high school or college-age son, and the son was super good at it all already, and the dad was starting a blog on his personal finance business for long-term care

Esperanzamj, who started a blog about hope and creativity

Gina, who was blogging in Spanish, ¡espero que me di su blog url aquí en los comments!

The woman who has a craft business and teaches classes and makes soap and beauty care products

And everyone else. That was really a lot of fun.

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Reading tonight in Oakland

I’ll be reading tonight at the Nomad Cafe in Oakland…

It’s on Shattuck and 65th St., walking distance from Ashby BART. 7:00-9:00.

Serene will read a few poems, then I’ll read my poems and translations, and then a break and an open mike.

like to try a couple of my translations of Nestor Perlongher. They’re strange poems, and they don’t make a huge amount of linear sense, and they work by talking around the subject in baroque fractal image/wordplay digressions. So that the images will all be of starfish and rays of light and greasy film running through a projector and rayon shirts and feather boas, and every word has three meanings and interconnections to other words, but somewhere in the middle you are hit by a blinding realization that the poem is all about the metaphysics of cocksucking. They were VERY hard to translate and I would dig testing them out in front of people. I’ll read some of the short ones in Spanish, but most in English. I’d also like to read a sampling of my translations from the anthology I’m working on – Latin American women poets from 1880-1930.

If that sounds good, then I hope you show up!