Saturday, July 30, 2011

Con Report: Growing Pains in Whitelandia - PDXGearCon July 22-24

Because let's face it, Portland is pretty white. A couple of people asked me for numbers for how many visible people of colour I saw all weekend, and I counted the following:

4 black men - Tony Hicks of Tinplate Studios; a dapper gentleman I didn't get the name of; a goth at the Saturday concert; and a man who came by with his wife and her two sisters.

5 Asians - Said wife and two sisters (I'm guessing East Asian; the two sisters were in lolita gear); my cousin Andrea (yep, that fab Azn rocking the boat - on her head - is related to me); and Brad working for LastWear.

ETA: I should also add Peter Zarate of Vernian Process on this list. Very remiss of me to have forgotten! I have no idea what he identifies though. 

There was also another man who mentioned in passing that he didn't identify as white but I didn't get the details. I never do unless they're volunteered. It's not good of me, because it does mean I overlook a lot of invisible racial minorities, but I hate poking into people's ish without permission.

The lack of POC, though, is not my problem, it's Portland's. (Although I AM curious as to the final count of people who registered to attend.) PDXGearCon, however, had other problems besides the need to colour up. 

And holy crap did it have problems. The website was down for a really long time earlier, and I almost thought that the con wasn't going to happen because there was so much radio silence on what, exactly, was going to happen.

Con chair Stephen was really accommodating to me for all my ideas, but programs are nice. Very nice. Mostly because I wanted to know what my schedule was so I could be sure to make the most of my con experience, seeing as I'm so rarely out to the West Coast. The day after I arrived in Portland, which would be the Wednesday right before the convention, I received an email asking if I still wanted any workshops in! What! I can't even respond to that. 

And I didn't know if I had a projector! And I didn't know who to talk to, besides the con chair, and you know, I hate that. The con chair shouldn't be taking so much onto hirself, no matter what. But it worried me enough that my first words to Stephen, ever, offline, were, "So do I have a projector?"

Not only that, but programs for Friday and Saturday weren't even available until the day of itself. Sunday's program was at least available the night before. At least. Still, this is something that should have been set in place weeks before.

Now onto the good stuff, with pictures even.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Thanks, PDX!

There will be a con report forthcoming, but just to say, GearCon was quite fantastic, the chillest con I've been to thus far, even with the horrible hiccups at the beginning. Thanks to the folks who came to the wine and cheese Kevin Steil and I hosted, thanks to Kevin for letting me stay with him, thanks to Stephen for inviting me (and for not looking too annoyed when the first words out of my mouth upon seeing him for the first time were "so do I get a projector?") and thanks generally to Portland for being nifty despite being Whitelandia. I wasn't supposed to do any shopping but I totally did. Also, PDX, you have some very nice food! Thanks to my cousin Andrea for taking me around and thanks everybody else for making her first nerdy-ass con experience an excellent one! 

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Technofantasy, Military, Westerfeld's Leviathan, Lowachee's Gaslight Dogs

A’ight, so, I’m starting revisions on my MRP, and while writing my analysis on Gaslight Dogs, I was struck by how relevant Heideggar’s logic on technology is (which I read in Steve Garlic’s “What Is A Man?” available on JSTOR). The idea is this: technology is a manifestation of our relationship to nature. How we view nature, how we treat it... we will build and make shit to reflect this. His thesis runs like this: in Europe before the 18th century, we largely saw our relationship to nature as one where we adapted to nature, because nature is its own entity, which we’re a part of. There came a shift in how we viewed nature: rather than seeing it as it is, something to adapt to, we started seeing it as a resource, and considering ways to make it adapt to us. This was right before the Industrial Revolution. So modern technology, what we think of as technology, is a reflection of a philosophy in which we see nature as something to be conquered, something to be overcome, something to use. If we don’t like something? We blast it to hell and build what we want on it.

Let me tell you how I came to thinking really seriously about this: Gaslight Dogs. Among the many comments my fabulous supervisor made on my first draft is her comment on something I said: that Sjenn and Keeley are the true steampunks of the GLD world, because they reject modernity.... yet the modernity they reject is a modernity we are familiar with, a modernity which is informed by warfare, technology, and more importantly, how we view the use of technology. Sjenn’s relationship to nature is thus: she’s in it. She’s a part of it. She doesn’t really see herself as separate from nature, just in a different form of it.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Open Thread: The Intentions of Alternate History

So I'm still doing some reading on how to discuss stuff, and I've actually already been asked by my supervisor to speak more on nostalgia in steampunk (which I think Cory Gross has covered in a Steampunk Magazine issue), but I found an article which I thought I thought I would open up to discussion for all you Silver Goggles readers, particularly those who are invested in author-intention and reader-response types of critical analysis.

Article: Rosenfeld, Gavriel. "Why Do We Ask 'What If?' Reflections no the Function of Alternate History." History and Theory. Issue 41 (Dec 2002). 90 -103.

Alternate history is inherently presentist. It explores the past less for its own sake than to utilize it instrumentally to comment upon the present. ... alternate history necessarily reflects its authors' hopes and fears ... Fantasy scenarios envision the past as superior to the present and thereby express a sense of dissatisfaction with the way things are today. Nightmare scenarios, by contrast, depict the past as inferior to the present and thereby express a sense of contentment with the status quo. [They also] have different political implications. Fantasy scenarios tend to be liberal, for by envisioning a better past, they see the present as wanting and thus implicitly support changing it. Nightmare scenarios, by contrast, tend to be conservative, for by viewing the past in negative terms, they ratify the present and thereby reject the need for change. These implications to be sure, are not iron-clad. Nightmare scenarios can be used for the liberal purpose of critique, while fantasy scenarios can tend towards a conservative form of escapism.

Besides the fact that these are obvious oversimplifications, please discuss.