Saturday, February 11, 2012

Con or Bust! 2012 Auction has Opened

Con or Bust!, the fundraiser that helped me get to WisCon34 back in 2010, has now opened for bidding on its various items! I also has many items up for bidding, such as The Steampowered Globe. If you would like to get a copy of this Singaporean steampunk anthology delivered to you personally from me and donate to a worthy cause at the same time, place a bid!

You can find most general information about Con or Bust at its site but I would like to give my own perspective on why you should bid, or perhaps even donate, to Con or Bust.

ETA: It has also come to my attention that Con or Bust will now be helping fans of colour get to ANY convention of their choice! So, if you want to see more people of colour getting help to come to YOUR steampunk convention? Do pitch in as you please!

I tend to see people ask, "what do we do to help racism go away?" Or "what can we do to encourage POC participation at events?" And sometimes infuriatingly, "yeah we know racism is bad: what are you doing about it?"

Racism being less just insults or individual prejudices and more a system of excluding people of colour from acts of self-empowerment and equal participation, requires a mass action on the parts of many individuals. It requires acknowledgement of exclusion and active movement to address this exclusion. It requires a communal effort of raising ourselves and each other and a pooling of our already-scarce resources.

When I asked for funding to go to WisCon, I indirectly also used that money to fund my trip to Steampunk World's Fair, 2010, because it was just two weeks before, and I didn't feel like traveling back into Canada and out again, when I could just stay in the States. After SPWF, I traveled from New Jersey to Wisconsin, and stayed with a friend of my father's, before checking into the Concourse for WisCon34.

I actually did not honestly expect to get as much money as I did for my trip down: I simply told Kate Nepveu, who runs the show, the breakdown of expected costs for my trip. And somehow, that is what I got. I've actually been feeling quite guilty about that since then, because I was expecting maybe half of the amount, or less. "Whatever you can spare," I told her.

But I can say that I remain immensely grateful for that money, even though it was some two years ago. I don't know if there's a way to really articulate how much it meant to me that I was given such a lump sum, no questions asked about my credentials or eligibility, to attend what was to me a really big convention, more importantly, a really important conversation. I know for some WisCon is just another fan convention, but for me, then and now, WisCon is THE convention to get some grounding in how feminist theory, intersectionality and speculative fiction are wound together and grounded in the realities of actual writers and fans of the genre, who then transfer these values we learn over into "real life".

Dr. Sara Ahmed's written about having a place at the family table and being the feminist killjoy who ruins the family dinner. Con or Bust essentially gives us the wherewithal to even secure a place at the table in the first place. For so many of us who are consistently excluded from the table, because we don't have the time or money or resources to get there, it becomes an invaluable opportunity to make sure we are counted, our voices are part of the discourse, and our perspectives count for something.

So this is what Con or Bust has been doing about racism: we have been addressing the glaringly empty gaps in POC convention attendees and taking steps to fill them. This is what Con or Bust does for a larger purpose of addressing racial disparity in geekdom. Many geeks consider themselves marginalized by mainstream without considering ways that their spaces just re-create and reinforce the problems of the mainstream. Con or Bust's existence is a reminder of how marginalization comes in many forms.

Fans of colour and non-white fans are not always well-represented at fan conventions. When Allison Curval of the Clockwork Dolls and I spoke the other day about being mistaken for Genevieve Pang of Psyche Corp and Ay-Leen respectively, she mentioned to me, "I think I recognize you and Ay-Leen. It was one of those (and I hate to say it) 'OH MY GOD ASIANS!' moments as I was walking down the hall [at SPWF 2010]."

This is something that can only happen when it is so abnormal to see people of colour in large numbers, interacting as if we belong there.

And we do belong there, despite our small numbers. Fundraisers like Con or Bust give us the wherewithal to prove that we have a place and that we belong. Because we as fans of colour are valuable to fan conventions. We bring a perspective that an all-white-with-tokens space cannot have, and the spaces to which we bring our stories to become all the fuller and richer for it.

So if you've ever asked, "what can I do about racism?" then supporting efforts like Con or Bust, run by and for people of colour, in a world where our exclusion is a matter of course without intention, is an action you can take to purposefully address and begin to help allay racial disparity. If you are a convention organizer, offering free memberships to Con or Bust is also highly appreciated.

Thanks for reading. Now go bid! There are several items of possible interest to steampunk readers there:

- Signed copy of Heart of Iron by Ekaterina Sedia
- The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories, eds. Ann & Jeff Vandermeer (who edited the Steampunk anthologies!)
- Hardcover of All Men of Genius by Lev Rosen
- Three Clockwork Century books: Boneshaker, Dreadnought, Ganymede by Cherie Priest
- Queen Victoria, Demon Hunter by A.E. Moorat
- People of the Big Voice: Photographs of Ho-Chunk Families by Charles van Schaick, 1879 - 1942
- Mansfield Park & Mummies by Vera Nazarian
- 3-book set: Pride & Prejudice & Zombies; Sense & Sensibility & Sea Monsters; Android Karenina


  1. No guilt! It was totally spareable, and that's what it's *for*.

    Thank you for this lovely thoughtful post and for all your support now!

  2. Also, POC wanting to go to cons starting in April, May, or June, requests are being taken from February 15-25. Here's the information post.