As I have mentioned before, I got invited to speak at a panel at Geek Girl Con. I was over the moon about this opportunity. Keep in mind, I have been going to cons for years. Normally I would be too preoccupied to go to panels, but I have seen Neil Gaiman, Jim Butcher, Neal Stephenson, and Greg Bear speak at various panels. I had at least some idea of what was expected.
The panel’s title was Toward A Universe of Equals: The Past, Present and Future of Gender Equality in Speculative Fiction. We were in one of the larger rooms, which hosted about 250 people, and was almost full when the panel was ready to start. While I was there, I met Phil Brucato, whose work I was familiar with. He developed for White Wolf and helped work on several of the major gaming systems that I was quite fond of playing years ago. He was a crisp, professional gentleman who admitted to ruining his knees and hips in mosh pits. I immediately liked him.
At the other table sat Danielle Myers, April Jo Murphy, and Micheal Shean. Micheal was the moderator and invited me to the panel. Crystal Connor showed up a little late, as the panel began. She sat down next to me, and on a spur I hugged her, and she hugged me back. What floored me is that when she hugged me, I felt like she was hugging me because she hadn’t seen me in ages, not like a hug for show. In no time we were giggling and whispering during the panel like complete children, but no one seemed to mind.
The panel itself.. well, I was in some fairly prestigious company. And we all had differing opinions about ‘feminism.’ And honestly, while that was where the conversation started, it evolved into a simple sense of equality for everyone. It wasn’t boys vs girls, it was race and age and even weight, all the discriminations that belittle people.
I noticed people leave, and I noticed people sneak in. I think at the end of it, despite feeling like I was babbling incoherently, it went really well. Afterwards, Micheal told me that the head of the panels told him that she thought it was the most successful panel of the con so far.
There were those that asked the question, why have a feminism panel at a feminist con? I think what made this interesting was that the panelists had six different opinions on the issue of discrimination. Two of the panelists were men. One of the panelists was African American. Everyone has different takes on how best to achieve equality, which is important because equality is not one size fits all. If it were, it would discount individuals, and individuals are who want to feel equal.
The panel, however, was the first step. After the panel, there were those who wanted to talk to the panelists, and that was very interesting. I was approached by this handsome young man with a cap of ginger curls hidden beneath a helmet. He wore a soldier’s outfit and his name on his tag was a con name, not a real name. He asked me for my autograph, even though I got the impression he had never even heard of my book. I signed his poster and then he asked me about his book. I was a bit surprised by the question he asked, which seemed very basic to me, but it was very important to him. He opened with, “In your professional opinion, what do you think?” He told me about a soldier that appears in his book (no surprise there) and told me he mentioned he was “of Latino descent.” Then he asked me what I thought.
I can only say I didn’t laugh, but took him seriously, as it seemed very important to him. I told him he had the right instincts and he should stay with that. He smiled, and was so pleased that a real author had taken him seriously.
It was then, having a person approach me and feel towards me the way I felt when I met Charles De Lint.. It was an experience like none I’d ever had, but it told me something very important. If I become a known author, someone who people talk about and share with their friends, I will become a public figure. I learned that at the writer’s conference. I knew that in my mind. However, it’s a different thing entirely to learn that I think I am up to becoming a public figure.
The rest of the evening was terrific. We left the con, found a restaurant, and sat down to chat. Everyone really seemed to click, and we had an amazing time. We swapped stories from our various walks of life, and I learned a ton. We all exchanged information, and left the con very pleased with how the whole day turned out.
One year and a month from the time I’ve published The Corsican, and I feel like I have vaulted from dreamer to doer. I have had a taste of what I’ve always wanted in life, and I want more. Getting published seemed like the conclusion of a life’s dream, but it was simply the beginning. This whole month was a demonstration of where I need to go, and now I’m going to keep on going, as far as this ride will go.