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Sunday, March 23, 2008

Norwescon Wrap-Up

posted by on March 23 at 19:53 PM

Holy God, am I exhausted. And at least I can say, from the looks of the other convention-goers here, that I am not alone. By the end, the only people left standing were the ones who did not party.

The Norwescon Poetry panel, I believe, didn’t actually happen. Or at least, at five past the hour, the only person sitting in the room where people were supposed to compose an epic Norwescon Poem was the panel moderator, all by himself. It just goes to show that poetry gets no respect in the science-fiction world, either. Are there poetry conventions? Are they only attended by one person at a time?

I attended a seminar on Fanfic. Fanfic, for those of you who don’t know, is fan-written fiction about preexisting worlds and characters. Some people stick to just one kind of fanfic: there were a few people in the panel who were Harry-Potter-Fanfic only. Others write about different tv shows and books and movies. Slash fiction, or erotica starring fictional characters, is very popular, and ship fiction—writing romances about the relationship between two characters—is also a big deal. One woman in the room—the panel was entirely women—wrote Back to the Future fanfic and also Kim Possible slash fic.

They asked, probably hypothetically, why they wrote fan fiction, and most of the women decided that it was to fix what they perceive as mistakes in the primary text, or “To make things end better,” as one teenager in attendance said. Veronica Mars, for instance, was cancelled before dealing with the main character’s romantic situation in a satisfying way, and so fanfic is a way for the writer to get some closure, or to further enjoy the character.

It was an interesting look at a subculture full of its own language and terminology (some of the writers write mpreg fiction, or fiction where male characters like Harry Potter or Captain Kirk become pregnant, for instance, and fans who are online can often break out into ugly ‘shipping wars,’ where they argue vehemently about why this character would wind up with this or that character: to maintain the Star Trek analogy, why Kirk would wind up with Uhura rather than Spock) and in that way it was a good lens through which to view fandom as a whole. It’s a rarified atmosphere at Norwescon, and hard for an outsider to completely understand. The coded language tends to work as both a shield, keeping outsiders out, but also as a latticework to keep fans feeling connected and safe.

Fans at Norwescon do seem to feel safe, be it if they’re in costume or getting their motherfucking freak on at a party, or tearing up while talking about Arthur C. Clarke’s death last month. Being able to watch that is kind of sweet. Sure, at times, I was ready to scream and flee—the threat of Hobbit filking is almost too sphincter-tighteningly horrifying to relay to someone not in attendance—but I also feel kind of grateful for the opportunity to see them feeling so safe, in the open, without a care in the world, for one weekend.

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Thanks for all the reports! I had a friend that went down there this weekend, and it's always nice to hear what's going on. =) Hope you had fun!

Posted by wench | March 23, 2008 9:28 PM

Thank god for Slog and coverage of things like this. Can you imagine if Fancher had written a column about this? Christ in heaven.

Well done, team.

Posted by Jubilation T. Cornball | March 23, 2008 9:49 PM

Hobbit filking is never to be wished on friends or relations, failsafe one has a large supply of cotton balls to stuff one's ears with ...

Posted by Will in Seattle | March 23, 2008 9:56 PM

Paul, your reports have been some of the most fascinatingly weird dispatches in Slog history. Thank you.

I would rather gouge my own eyes out than read sci-fi. I barely understood what the fuck you were talking about with some of these posts. All the sickly booze mentioned made me feel sick.

Yet, I could hardly wait for each installment. Well done.

Posted by kerri harrop | March 23, 2008 10:21 PM

I think Norwescon has distorted your sense of time.

Clarke died less than a week ago; not "last month."

Posted by stinkbug | March 23, 2008 10:33 PM

When I checked out Slog after getting home from Norwescon today, I cringed, expecting to see another edition of Stranger hipster-ironic "HAW HAW HAW LOOK AT ALL THOSE PATHETIC GEEKS" mockery. It was a wonderful surprise to find what seems to be genuine interest in the experience (if not in every activity).

Everybody who goes to NWC has their favorite bits, and bits they absolutely can't stand, and nobody who goes (nobody with any sense, anyway) expects everybody to love everything. That sense of acceptance and safety is a big draw for a lot of people; for a few days, you can forget how shitty the rest of the world usually is and play around, even if the rest of the world thinks you're weird. Sure, there are some people who are waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay out on the very edge of the bell curve of "socially normal." But at least they've got a place where they can get together, and that's pretty cool.

That said, you are a brave, brave man for trying the filking.

Posted by stresskitten | March 23, 2008 10:43 PM

@4 - oh, I don't know, you might enjoy one of the 2008 Hugo nominees, Michael Chabon's "The Yiddish Policeman's Union" ...

Posted by Will in Seattle | March 23, 2008 11:07 PM

I have seen enough Norwescon posts to last me the rest of my life. Please make it stop.

Posted by SeattleBrad | March 23, 2008 11:46 PM

I'm with kerri @4...your posts were well-done and provided a great peak into a subculture that I know fucking zilch about. It ain't my cup of tea at all, but I loved reading about it.

Posted by gnossos | March 23, 2008 11:48 PM

Yeah this was awesome. I wish they'd do reports like this for the porn convention!

Totally great, and, where can we get one of them alien fuck toys?

Posted by catnextdoor | March 23, 2008 11:49 PM


Posted by Ogre | March 23, 2008 11:53 PM

oh it's terrible. i saw some pics about Baghdad bomb on which is a dating site for interracial singles. i really can't believe it.

Posted by coco 4 love | March 24, 2008 12:56 AM

my god. i send this message wrong.

Posted by coco 4 love | March 24, 2008 12:59 AM

Paul = SLOG hero

Posted by KELLY O | March 24, 2008 1:02 AM

These dispatches were great. Back in the late 90's I was on a business trip to Seattle and after an exhausting day I checked myself into the SeaTac Red Lion. As I'm standing at the desk, I see all these fuckers in costumes wandering around and I think the rat race finally got me. I finally flipped. Freaked my ass out until I realized all the Trekkies and hobbits and robots were part of this Norwescon thing. Weirdest, most disorienting experience (sans psychedelic substances) I'd ever had.

That being said, wouldn't you like to be the lucky guy or gal who got some Xena Warrior Princess time after hours? Man, talk about a place to get some oddball fantasies met.

Posted by Bob | March 24, 2008 4:58 AM

Thank god I looked up "filking." I about lost my cookies when I mistakenly thought Paul was referring to "Hobbit felching."

Posted by Spoogie | March 24, 2008 7:19 AM

Next we'll be hearing about how there's this thing called TiVo. You can record shows and watch them later, like on a VCR! How nifty.

I realize not everyone is fannishly inclined, but fanfic has been around since Star Trek originally aired. That's well over four decades, if you're too hung over to do the math. When Harry Potter was huge a few years ago, fanfic was talked about all over then, too. So really, you are far, far behind the pack with the whole "These people WRITE THINGS!" revelations.

Posted by Emily | March 24, 2008 9:09 AM

Emily, I think there is already a company that works like your Tivo idea. Still, if not, that is a good idea!

Posted by infrequent | March 24, 2008 9:21 AM

agreeing with stresskitten @6.
thanks for your openminded and evenhanded coverage. Norwescon *is* a safe and happy place, especially for teens who are likely to get abusive treatment from their "peers".

you did miss (i think, since i didn't have regular net access over the weekend) the most powerful expression of the comfort zone - the dances.

Posted by ironymaiden | March 24, 2008 4:40 PM

One slight correction. Slash is fanfic that puts same-sex characters together in romantic or sexual situations/relationships. Slash fic can be rated anywhere from G to NC-17. I'm not telling how I know this, though. *hides* :D

Posted by CorasMama | March 26, 2008 10:43 PM

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