|Yes, that's General Chang's Bird-of-Prey |
that can fire while cloaked!
Gaylaxicon 2016, the national convention for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender fans and their friends happened this weekend in Minneapolis. It was a pleasure to work on the Program Committee and the Concom this summer! The entire Concom were volunteers, and convention chair Don Kaiser and all the committee members worked hard to create a great experience. All that work paid off: Registrations exceeded our target of 250 members, and we sold out the hotel block as well. In spite of many social gains in recent years that have advanced rights for the LGBTQ community, the demand is still there for a national LGBTQ SF&F convention!
My unofficial "eyeball" of participants left me with the impression that the largest group of participants were males. But many women attended the con (and for sure, I hope their numbers grow and grow), and I wouldn't be surprised to hear that the majority of attending authors were women.
There were a couple panels on trans topics, and a several on furry or furry-adjacent themes. There weren't any panel topics that touched on bisexuality, so I the next time around we should do more outreach to both the trans and bi communities.
I could have sworn I took more photos at Gaylaxicon than I did, but this view of the contents of my bag on Saturday AM will give you a sense of the range of topics and panels at this convention :
- I moderated two extremely well-attended panels:
- "Star Trek at 50": I had two great local fan co-panelists for the first panel, which discuss LGBTQ themes (and characters as we imagine them) across all the Star Trek series and movies. Many participants are excited about the forthcoming new Star Trek series, which will be set in the early Federation. We've been told that the new series will have an out LGBTQ character.
- "Steampunk and Alternate History, as ways to explore LGBTQ and diversity/inclusiveness." Authors Ginn Hale (I'm reading her delightful first novel Wicked Gentlemen right now!) and Amy Griswold (currently a writing partner with Melissa Scott on some great books!) were terrific co-panelists, with a solid understanding of Victoriana, steampunk, and related themes. I brought a lot of RPGs as props for this panel, and also shared some relatively new resources on African and Asian steampunk stories and resources, including Filipino steampunk's father, Dean Francis Alfar (read the seminal "Kite of the Stars"), The Sea is Ours Southeast Asian steampunk anthology by Jamie Goh and Joyce Chng; Nisi Shawl's re-envisioning of the Belgian Congo in Everfair, and Bryan Thao Worra's exercises in Laomagination at his On the Other Side of the Eye blog.
- I attended (at least) three great panels on topics related to Oz. The colorful booklet in my bag is the convention program, with a cover illustration by Eric Shanower. Our convention guests included author/illustrator Eric Shanower and his partner David Maxine, who is an expert on Oz theater and musicals.
- Don Kaiser did an excellent interview with Gaylaxicon Guest of Honor, and one of my favorite SF&F authors, Eleanor Arnason. If I ever get famous for some reason, I hope I get an interviewer who is as well prepared as Don was!
- Eleanor Arnason and Ginn Hale did a panel on using the humans to model aliens (which actually turned into a great discussion on animal models for aliens). If you like insects and mollusks this one was not to be missed.
- I participated in an interactive interview/discussion with Paizo's lead developer, F. Wesley Schneider. Burl Zorn of Source Comics and Games fame led the interview, and there was a lot of opportunity for audience members to engage Wesley in conversation. He made me think differently about the function of iconic characters in RPGs, and if there's interest, I may say more about that.
- Lyda Morehouse led a hilarious and serious circle discussion on yaoi/yuri manga. Have you seen Lyda's Mangakast blog? If you like anime and manga you should check it out.
I'm sure that there are a lot of other important things to say about the convention, but for now what I can say is that Don Kaiser's moving remarks at the close of the convention rang very true for me. I was having similar thoughts all weekend, in fact. In a nutshell, Gaylaxicon affirmed for me that there continues to be a very important place for LGBTQ genre fans and their friends to be able to create their own spaces to discuss, enjoy, and celebrate the genres that they love. Sure, we've had great advances in civil rights in the last few years, but we still need autonomous spaces where we can develop our own critiques, share resources and recommendations, and enjoy each others' company as fans.
Oh, and Gaylaxicon had one of the most active gaming spaces that I've ever seen at an SF&F convention!