Ad Astra 2015 con report

I’m back from Ad Astra! It was, like last year, exhausting and great.

I branched out this year in the number and type of panels that I did. Last year I felt that I was dipping my toe into the water, and stuck to safe topics – what is it like to be a writer, who are my favourite villains. This year I was a little more adventurous. I signed up to be on the Identity and Diversity panel as well as Mental Health in Fandom, even though I was scared they’d be a little too intense for me. Turns out that the panels with lively discussion on an important and meaningful topic are actually my favourites! Who’d have thought? I definitely want to do more of this in the future, now.

I also was super pleased and surprised to see how many people on the different panels WANTED to hear about autism. When it was relevant (and on 3 of the 5 panels, it was) I mentioned in my introduction that I write a blog about representations of autism in science fiction, but almost in a sort of apologetic way, like I didn’t want to go on about that the whole panel if people were interested in other things. Instead, people were interested! Really interested! Like 50% of the Big Bang Theory panel and 50% of the Mental Health panel turned into people wanting to talk about autism, which was amazing. And then I realized that I shouldn’t have been surprised. This is fandom, after all. I’ve heard it referred to as “the world’s largest Asperger Syndrome support group”. My special power is not that I have it, but that I talk about it and have been talking about it for a while now, and doing the research so I can talk about it even more and in more detail.

I also ended up recommending Meda Kahn and Luna Lindsey (among others) to people on the Identity and Diversity panel and they actually wrote it down. So this satisfies my life goal of continuing to promote Meda Kahn everywhere.

(To do for next year: Prepare longer list of people to recommend. At EVERY panel.)

Unfortunately I didn’t manage to branch out very much in my other con habits. I’m still trying to figure out how to do conventions as anything other than “do the panels and readings that I was assigned, go to maybe 1 or 2 other things and wander around a little, but mostly just hide in my room between assigned things recharging from the sensory overload”. Figuring out how to balance my neurological needs with my desire to participate more fully, and how to socially approach people in general, is still a work in progress.

Related to that – Amal El-Mohtar, Michael Matheson, James Bambury, Charlotte Ashley, and others! HI! I saw you around (except for Charlotte who I thought I was going to see at a panel and then didn’t) and went, “There’s that person! I should say hi to them!” and then didn’t. But I think you are great! Maybe I will see you and go “There’s that person!” again next year! That would be excellent.

This sort of thing is really great, I think. Definitely worth the travel and the con crud. I think I need to do it even more than I am doing.

Autism News, 2015/04/02

Today is Autism Awareness Day or Autism Acceptance Day, depending on who you ask. It’s also Autism Awareness/Acceptance Month, for the same reasons.

Some posts about acceptance, in keeping with the theme of the month:

Some posts about ableism and advocacy:

Some posts about ableism in other contexts:

Also! Posts about autism in books, which is Relevant To Our Interests here:

Misc:

Autistic Book Party, Episode 17: Silence

Today’s Autistic Book Party was produced in collaboration with Disability in Kidlit’s Autism on the Page event, which runs all April [and is not an April Fool’s joke, unlike my last post 😛 ]

The Book: “Silence” by Michelle Sagara

The Plot: Emma, a teenager dealing with the death of her boyfriend, develops an ability to see and interact with the dead.

Autistic Character(s): Michael, a school friend of Emma’s.

Read the full review HERE.

My schedule for Dinosaurcon 2015

I have the flu, so rather than coming up with a new April Fool’s Joke, I decided to resurrect an old one. Literally. Well, sort of literally.

DINOSAURCON 2015: THEY LIVE AGAIN

A convention promoting the use of dinosaurs, synapsids, pterosaurs, sauropterygia, and other prehistoric beings in speculative fiction.

Following the success of last year’s University of Etobicoke Room Party, several of our panelists this year are actual genetically reconstructed dinosaurs. We thank the University of Etobicoke and the Jurassic World marketing team for their generosity.

Friday, 5:00 PM. Why Dinosaurs?

For the boyfriend, family member, or other unwillingly dragged-to-the-con participant who doesn’t understand why paleontology is so awesome. We will MAKE you understand. Possibly with lasers. Ha ha! That was a joke, worried boyfriends and family members being unwillingly dragged to the con! We will totally just explain these things in a peaceable, non-coercive manner and with no lasers at all, we promise.

Friday, 8:00 PM. So What Is It Like To Be A Genetically Reconstructed Dinosaur, Exactly

It’s not easy living 65+ million years after your species was supposed to go extinct. Our panelists discuss how they have learned to live with humans, their struggles in handling instincts for which a corresponding social or pack structure no longer exists, their reactions to human enthusiasm and fear, and how they would REALLY like a burger right now. Like, really.

Saturday, 11:00 AM. Signing Sessions

Note: our Tyrannosaurus cannot appear at this year’s signing session because her tiny hands are incapable of signing things. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Saturday, 1:00 PM. Make Your Own Burgess Shale Type Fauna

A fun, hands-on workshop for all ages! With our tinkertoy-like construction materials, learn how to make a life-sized scale model of any creature in the Cambrian Explosion you please, from trilobites to giant carnivorous shrimp. Five eyes? Fourteen rubbery noodle legs with spines on top? No problem! Let your imagination run wild; Mother Nature is already wilder.

Saturday, 3:00 PM. Reading

A joint reading by Ada Hoffmann and Merc Rustad. Last year’s reading was so excellent that half the audience was never heard from again. Can we top that performance this year? Come on in and find out.

Saturday, 5:00 PM. The Social History of Paleontology.

Paleontology is ultimately an activity done for humans, by humans. This panel answers your questions about our socially constructed ideas of dinosaurs. How did dinosaurs get so much more press than other creatures? What causes some children to latch onto them so hard? Why do meat-eating dinosaurs get more attention than plant-eaters? Can discussions of dinosaurs be ageist, sizeist, militaristic and sexist? Of course they can. Our panelists enlighten you.

Saturday, 8:00 PM. Karaoke

Consisting entirely of Katy Perry’s song “Roar”, accompanied by hadrosaurs.

Sunday, 3:00 PM. Apex Predator Beauty Pageant

Mirror, mirror on the wall: who is REALLY the most gorgeously badass killing machine of them all? Cheer for raptor packs, tyrannosaurs, cave bears, giant squid, megalodons, Terror Birds, giant crocodiles, those massive armored fish from the early Devonian, and many even stranger creatures as they compete on a range of challenges for strength, deadliness, cunning, visual appeal, and sheer personality. Contestants are strictly prohibited from eating the audience! We promise. Ha ha.

Ad Astra 2015 schedule

I loved Ad Astra so much last year that I signed up to do it again! …With even more panels! And a reading! And a signing session which I don’t remember signing up for, because who is even going to want things signed by me, but maybe I did? EEP.

If you’re in the area, here is the official schedule of Things At Which I Will Be Expected To Say Words:

Saturday, April 11

Genre Crossing: Please Watch for Slow Moving Pathetic Fallacies

Time: 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM

Room: Oakridge

Sometimes you just want to read, write or direct a paranormal romance during the robot uprising on the medieval planet of urban fariy hipsters.

Signing Sessions

Time: 2:00 PM – 4:00 PM

Rooms: Richmond A, Richmond B

Formatting, Style and Sticking it to the Man

Time: 5:00 PM – 6:00 PM

Room: Oakridge

Where do you draw the line between personal style and compromising? What is a “voice” versus “extraneous undisciplined spasms of words”?

The Big Bang Theory: Revenge of the Nerds or Geeksploitation?

Time: 6:00 PM – 7:00 PM

Room: Aurora

There has been mixed reaction to TBBT in the SF fandom community. When the show first aired some hailed it as a breakthrough—there “we” were every week on TV! But not long after a backlash began: there “we” were every week on TV, the butt of the joke. Or are we? Are you a geek or nerd who loves TBBT? Are you a geek or nerd who loathes TBBT? Are you laughing with or at Sheldon, Howard, Raj, and Leonard? As TV’s idea of geeks are they portrayed as heroes or just hapless? Let’s discuss opinions of the show—ours and those of some insightful media commentators—and decide where we stand on The Big Bang Theory.

Readings: Ada Hoffmann & Kate Heartfield

Time: 8:00 PM – 9:00 PM

Room: Unionville


Sunday, April 12

Body and Person in SF: Identity and Diversity

Time: 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM

Room: Oakridge

North American literature has never been great at portraying diversity. What is new is also weird, what is alternative is considered faddish or rebellious. When it comes to people in SF/F it is extremely difficult to write about identity and diversity in a casual way. Our bodies are political spaces and each word has to be chosen with care – or so we have been taught.

Mental Health and Fandom

Time: 4:00 PM – 5:00 PM

Room: Markham B

Fans don’t talk about it. Literature hardly acknowledges it. TV and Film generally ignore, mock or misrepresent it. Is it really so hard to talk about?

 

New Canadian Noir launch, March 31

If anybody wants to see me read a scene from “Lady Blue and the Lampreys”, while eating pub food and drinks, and maybe buying a copy – or if you’re interested in seeing David Menear, Michael Mirolla, Kelly Robson, or Michael S. Chong do the same things – you can come to the Toronto launch on March 31, at 7:30 (food and drinks available starting at 6:15) at the Dora Keogh, 141 Danforth Avenue, Toronto.

Or you can sit at your computer enviously because you can’t make it to Toronto that day. Or whatever, really. 😛

Autism News, 2015/03/11

Today, the Sad Things come first, because March 1 was the official Day of Mourning for disabled people who are killed by their caregivers. Vigils were held in many cities, mostly in the US but also in a variety of other countries.

  • For those of you not sure what happens at a disability day of mourning vigil, here is a detailed description of one from Vancouver
  • A eulogy by Ari Ne’eman
  • Kerima Cevik on the role social media plays in this violence
  • Zoe Gross on copycat crimes
  • ASAN has an Anti-Filicide Toolkit here
  • Lisa D., who maintains the Autism Memorial LJ, has opened a Memorial Annex as a side project  – this lists other disabled crime victims she comes across in her autism-related research.

With recent measles outbreaks in the US and Canada, there has been even more talk about vaccines than usual.

April is coming up, and in many places April is Autism Awareness Month. Here is a post by Kerima Cevik about reclaiming the month from Autism Speaks

Some posts on the benefits (and pitfalls) of diagnostic labels:

Some stuff about stories and media:

In “what is it like to be autistic” news:

Misc:

Lady Blue and the Lampreys

Today is the launch day for The Exile Book of New Canadian Noir, which features my short story, “Lady Blue and the Lampreys”. I’m excited and intrigued to see what happens with this book – noir is not at all my usual genre. But I happened to have this story lying around which involved a femme fatale, a gender-flipped fairy tale, and a bunch of soul-eating three-headed lamprey people who invade a dingy little small town. It had enough elements of Weird Noir that I looked at it and said, “Hmm, I bet Claude Lalumière and David Nickle would like this,” and then they did. 😀

Merc Rustad gets major thanks for helping me talk out my vague “I want to write a female Bluebeard because reasons” ideas, way back when this was being drafted, and connect them to a workable plot.

Agency

So yesterday I wrote a mini rant on Twitter about character agency, and how it is actually a function of plot, not of what type of character you have.

It went viral and got posted on io9, which is quite astounding. Some people even told me they were using it to start discussions in writing and game design classes. I didn’t know that was even a thing.

I thought of writing a longer and more coherent version here (complete with corrected grammar >.> ) but considering how many people seem to like it the way it is, I think I’ll let it stay that way.

Though, to be honest, I prefer the Storify version made by Merc Rustad, because it includes some really good additional points that Rose Lemberg made. I talk in the Twitter rant about female characters, but the logic here really applies to all characters, especially marginalized characters (queer, PoC, disabled, trans, or whatever else) who are very frequently sidelined.

Autism News, 2015/02/06

March 1 is the official Day of Mourning for people with disabilities who are murdered by their caregivers (yes, there are THAT many). Vigils will be held in many cities. Most are in the US, but a few are elsewhere. You can find out here if there is a vigil being planned in your area.

This news cycle, there was a lot of talk about the idea of “high-functioning” autistic people dominating discourse about autism, and about whether or not this is acceptable.

  • Here is a good post about this by Dani Alexis
  • And by Lysik’an, a non-verbal autistic person
  • Relatedly, Sparrow Rose Jones has a good post about potential

Some interesting lived experiences:

Some posts about forms of treatment and research:

 

 

Misc: