This convention re-cap originally appeared in Con-News.Com (http://con-news.com) on 10/26/2009.
The 11th Gaylaxicon was a convention with a difference… and what a difference! Even Marlin was surprised, and he’s used to REAL conventions. With apologies to Monty Python.
This is, of course, not quite fair. Gaylaxicon – http://www.gaylaxicon.org – is a real convention, a small but well run convention, which travels about North America, and is run by local chapters of the Gaylactic Network, an organization of BGLT (or LGBT, or GLBT (I’ll use the alphabetical)) science fiction /fantasy/horror/gaming clubs. And that, my friends, is quite a difference, a difference which makes me tingle all over, makes me willing to brave airport security, makes me shiver with… anticipation. There was no way I wasn’t going to go. Hey, this was a meeting of my tribe within a tribe.
The trip to Minneapolis from Manchester, NH was uneventful. I have come to believe that that working out, having a buzz cut, and wearing a tee shirt with an NYPD patch on it (purchased right after 9/11) helps. Plus, you get to surreptitiously check out who’s surreptitiously checking you out. I have reason to believe that this will work for women too. Just sayin’. During the ride, I put a serious dent in Iain M. Bank’s The Algebraist, which a seriously engaging but seriously dense space opera. I still have about 100 pages to go.
Anyway, I arrived in Minneapolis MN (my first time ever in the state and city) the day before the convention tired but happy. My roommate for the convention, artist and bon vivant, Rob Allison, soon joined me. Now, normally travelling leaves me tired and grumpy, but I am unable to watch people struggle with lugging heavy objects, like a giant, gold ribbon covered rocket, without lending a hand. Suddenly, I was volunteering. I slept very well that night. Yes, I turned in early & did not join the evening’s (or any evening’s for that matter) bar crawl through what some thought was the best of what gay Minneapolis had to offer. As far as I was concerned, Gaylaxicon 2009 was the best of what gay Minneapolis had to offer.
A lot more after the break.
The volunteering continued the next morning, by helping Peer Dudda set up the Art show. I’d never done this before. Putting together the display walls was exactly like putting together giant tinker toys. It was very tempting to build other structures out of the leftover pieces, but time was short. I then got to exercise what little gay decorating skill I have by helping to unpack, account for, and then place artwork onto the displays. We later noticed that some of Marc DeBauch’s more explicit pieces, which we had carefully placed out of direct view, were plainly visible through the large plate glass windows, if you happened to be walking around the back of the hotel. C’est la vie. After that, time to get my badge and goody bag (Comics? Check. GoH book? Check. What’s this? Condoms? Lube? Oh my.) from registration (quick and efficient), grab a speedy bite to eat, get caffeinated, and dive into the convention.
Single Sex Worlds – Ken Akin, Brian Atterbery, Lois McMaster Bujold, Lawrence Schimel [M], JoSell Vanderhooft
The panel started out examining the stated topic of why single sex worlds are predominantly penned by females. Schimel posited that it is easier to write up the power hierarchy, to imagine yourself as more powerful, than to write down. Additionally, it is culturally and economically safer for women to create content perceived as BGLT, than for men, because men who create such content are perceived as BGLT themselves, while this labeling doesn’t necessarily happen with women. Honestly, I don’t remember if anyone else proposed a better explanation. The discussion shifted briefly to consider the forms these stories overwhelmingly take (utopias) and the reason thereof. The consensus congealed along the same train of thought as the authorial gender issue; that imagining a single sex utopia where the human condition is improved was easier than imagining a single sex dystopia.
Among the books mentioned were:
Venus Plus X – http://bit.ly/3B0Ye2,
The Disappearance – http://www.lostbooks.org/reviews/1998-12-22-1.html,
Herland – http://bit.ly/4x1Yb7,
Ethan of Athos – http://bit.ly/38PqaN
The Ladies Auxiliary (can anyone supply a good link?).
Are you Bi-Speculative? Science Fiction vs. Fantasy – Carl Cipra & Lois McMaster Bujold
I consider myself to be primarily a science fiction reader, but when I think about it, a few fantasy books pop up as my favorite books of all time: The Lord of the Rings, The Last Unicorn, The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, The Amber series. So, I was very interested in this panel, particularly in the (hopefully brief (because it can be a long and tortuous)) discussion of the differences between the two genres and suggestions of fantasy books for sf fans, and visa versa.
Lois (can I call her that?) also weighed in on the process of creating in both genres. She finds creating either about the same, just differing in content. She finds science fiction to be a universal receiver, while fantasy is much less so. In fantasy the supernatural is real, while in sf, the supernatural is either banned or explained away.
Suggestions – Fantasy for SF Readers: The Mists of Avalon – described as basically King Arthur on Darkover – http://bit.ly/3tcgCE, any of the New Weird stories – http://bit.ly/3wkwb2, Gael Baudino’s Water! series – http://bit.ly/4ktFlu.
SF for Fantasy Readers: The Shattered Chain – http://bit.ly/1fcRV6, The Saga of the Pliocene Exile – http://bit.ly/3vBPl3, the Dread Empire series- http://bit.ly/2Rglik.
Opening Ceremonies / Meet the Pros
Most of the just over 250 attended the opening ceremonies, hosted the ever affable con chair Don Kaiser. There were brief and heartfelt remarks from all of the Guests of Honor (Margaret Weis, Andy Mangels, Lawrence Schimel, Terrance “Spider Baby” Griep, Marc DeBauch.), along with the presentation of lovely gift baskets. The opening ceremonies then morphed into the Meet the Pros mixer. I must confess to not spending much time meeting pros. I was too busy renewing connections with folks I hadn’t seen in a long time. The fannish family reunion vibe of any convention is a powerful force, emotional, irresistible. Many long and heartfelt hugs were given and received.
Saturday Morning Cartoons Made Me Gay – Terrance Griep, Andy Mangels, Jason Tucker
This panel was hilarious. It ranged all over the Saturday morning landscape. From Jimmy of H.R. Pufnstuf and his magic flute, which the drag-queen-like villain Witchypoo lusted after, through Velma of Scooby Doo, to the curiously single sex world Jonny Quest, queer subtext seemed to suffuse 60’s to 70’s children’s programming. But was it intentional? Andy had interviewed some of the creators of Sid and Marty Krofft‘s shows, along with some of the creators of Filmation’s productions (including Lou Scheimer) and he reported that they knew exactly what they were doing. I didn’t know that Filmation had a corporate mandate for depicting inclusiveness (including slipping in hints regarding sexual orientation) far beyond what was required by the government. Take another look at those live action shows like Space Academy, Shazam! and The Secrets of Isis. Take another look at their animated productions. When the discussion turned to Sid and Marty Krofft productions, there were more revelations by Andy. Yes, the villains were supposed to look like really bad drag queens. Yes, Charles Nelson Riley was purposely camping it up. Yes, shows like Electra Woman and Dyna Girl were purposly suffused with gay subtext.
Of course there discussions of muscular men and women (but predominantly men) in form fitting costumes, organized into same-sex duos. No, there was nothing gay about that. This prompted many self-disclosures on childhood crushes on superheroes, on one or all of the Super Friends. For myself, I had to confess that as a child (probably 7 or 8 (this would have been 1967 – 68)) I really liked Aquaman (especially when he had his own show) without knowing why. I just really wanted him to be my best friend.
We quickly turned to He-Man, which quickly led to She-Ra. Oh, my, god, such fertile ground in which to plow. His muscles. His magic sword, which everyone desired. His twink-like alter ego. His pet’s mincing alter ego. The discussion was moving at a furious, joyous, pace.
As far as today’s ostensibly children’s programming, there was general agreement that few if any are queerer than SpongeBob Squarepants. All of them. Every character. Really. This means you, Squidward.
GoH Spotlight – Andy Mangels
I have never been to a San Diego ComiCon, so, I had no idea that Andy has been moderating a panel on BGLT people and issues in the comics industry for two decades, give or take. I had no idea of the role he’s played in the inclusion (at least as far as the written word goes) of BGLT characters in the Star Trek universe.
Andy is highly gregarious, authentic and engaging speaker. His reach into the world of genre fiction extends far and wide, and as a result, he seems to know just about everybody and has cheesed off a few of them here or there. His stories flow with accomplished ease, sprinkled with a few well and lesser-known names here or there, “…Oh Him? She’s a big old queen…” If you have a chance to meet him, do so. He’s a great guy. Highly entertaining is an understatement. BTW, he looked great, whether in a kimono or in a stunning blue and black leather uniform. The man knows how to dress.
You know what, I’m going to end this update right here. I’m just about 1/2 way through, I’m tired of typing and doubtless you’re tired of reading. Check back next Sunday afternoon for part 2 of 2. I promise.
BTW – You can find pictures here
With more to come.