This weekend was MarsCON
As I mentioned earlier this week, I was a bit of a last minute addition to programming this year. MarsCON kind of snuck up on me, and despite getting all the appropriate emails, I almost didn't make it this year.
Generally, I had a good time. It was noticeable this year, however, that I was the only woman on a couple of panels (which, given my last minute volunteering makes this phenomenon, perhaps, more notable. Because had I NOT signed up late, there would have been NONE.)
The first one was the Marvel Cinematic Universe panel. I thought we had a great discussion, and it was a fun panel, in general. But it's sort of fascinating that my final panel was "The Rise of the Female Superhero," which had a very decent crowd for late Sunday, and the audience was was JAM PACKED with extremely knowledgeable, funny, well-read (younger) female comic book fans... and yet somehow MarsCON couldn't find more than one woman to fill a seat on the MCU panel? Given what I see on Tumblr and fan fic sites, women seem to make up a fairly large percent of MCU fandom.
The other one I really noticed the gender disparity was the Cyberpunk panel. Again, I have nothing but nice things to say about my fellow panelists. I really enjoyed our discussion. To be fairl, cyberpunk has always had a problem when it comes to women... which is to say, Pat Cadigan is _not_ the only female cyberpunk author to have ever lived, but many people seem to have no idea that plenty of women not only have written cyberpunk, but also really enjoy it.
I would like to think that mine was an isolated experience, but I heard from another female panelist that she ended up being the only woman on at least one of her panels, as well.
This is not a prelude to bashing MarsCON or its organizers in any way, shape, or form. I've been very proud and honored to have been one of their guests of honor, not once, but twice. I love the organizers and the programming is often quite spectacular. However, this is still a problem... and I feel like it's a problem that could get worse over time. Given the recent kerfuffle at CONquest with Mark Oshiro
, I feel like one of the big issues at stake here is how do we cultivate "new talent" and guarantee the survival of con culture.
One way is getting new and different faces on panels. We need more women, more PoC, more queer and non-binary folks, and more diversity of all stripes.
Of course, that's easy to _say_. This is why I don't feel like the blame can fall on programming. I'm absolutely sure that programming does the very best it can with what it gets. The problem, of course, is actually getting people to not only volunteer panel ideas, but also then follow-up and volunteer to actually be on the panels themselves.
This is an open process, but I don't now if people know how it works. Thing is, one of the reasons I nearly missed this year is that it's easy to miss deadlines for proposing panel ideas, and the deadline for volunteering for programming. You kind of have to follow a particular con fairly closely to know when to put in ideas, etc.
I wish that I had taken down some of the names of the interesting people in the audience of my "The Rise of the Female Superhero" and, like, actively recruited them to be on paneling next year. The thing about MarsCON panelists is that they're all volunteers (this is actually true at most cons). There is, as far as I know, no other requirement. You don't HAVE to be a pro writer or a pro anything, you just have to be willing to sit in front of other people and talk about the stuff you love. The thing that's nice about MarsCON is that it's not going to be a room of two thousand. The audience is usually moderately sized (sometimes even 'intimate,' as in only a few other folks). So, you don't have to even be HUGELY extroverted, just... enough.
But, probably, if a random person volunteered for programming they might get a bit of the "and... you are?" blowback--like what I got from WorldCON, which is legit to some extent because panelists are, in essence, the entertainment during the daytime hours, at any rate, and there should be some kind of vetting of expertise, etc. To counteract that, I would, in point of fact, be very happy to vouch for anyone reading this who wants to be on paneling at MarsCON in the future. You don't even have to be female, a PoC, or queer... so long as you're new, I'd be happy to help you figure out how to be on paneling.
Maybe I just need to get out there and talk up MarsCON more, you know? There are a lot of cons in the Twin Cities, so it may just be that people are choosing to go a different con. Given its musical bent, I suspect MarsCON will always survive, but, I'm not a big music fan, so I'd like the programming to continue to be vibrant, exciting, and relevant as well.
Perhaps this is a problem specific to MarsCON, since CONvergence certainly seems to have less trouble drawing in talent. On the other hand, I was also once the only woman on the Marvel Movie panel at CONvergence, too. So some of the problems are there, too, despite the size difference.
So... um, please come to MarsCON next year? Pretty please???