NOTICE: Posting schedule is irregular. I hope to get back to a regular schedule as the day-job allows.

Friday, September 7, 2012

The GUIDE: [DCAAR] "Who Are You, Really?" [Full link to blog for email clients.]

This is the first in a series of posts that will include the tag for Dragon*Con  (Dragon*Con Science Fiction Convention, Atlanta, GA, Aug 31-Sep 3, 2012) and and will essentially consist of "After Action Reports" (hence [DCAAR]).  Some are appropriate for inclusion in The GUIDE, others for NEWS, COMMENT or NEAT STUFF and will be titled appropriately.  I plan to write brief blogs on the major panels on which I participated, but a few may get edited out for various reasons.

My first Panel came as a bit of a surprise to me, for it was in the "Main Programming" track (usually meaning high-profile guests) whereas I expected to participate in SF literature, Science and "Apocalypse Rising" tracks.  As indicated in the blog title, the title of the panel was "Who Are you, Really?" and I presumed a bit of a tease on the part of programming director Regina Kirby with whom I have discussed my various names, pen-names and screen names [I was partly correct, too!], but in fact, I was added to the panel to provide a brain science perspective on identity and personality - both of the writers themselves, and of the characters they create. 

Fellow panelists included author Elizabeth Moon, author and widow/executor of Fred Saberhagen - Joan Saberhagen, author Catheryne Valente and author Kathryn Kurtz.  There I was, the lone person not a "known" author, but wonderful people that they are, the others made me feel an integral part of the panel.  On top of all of this, the panel was simulcast with the World Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention (WorldCon) being held the same weekend in Chicago, IL.  Ms. Moon, Saberhagen and Valente were in Chicago, Ms. Kurtz and I in Atlanta, with conversation and questions from both panels and audiences.  I know that the A/V crew had some issues, but the simulcast - with Chicago on the big screen and their microphones and ours running through a common loudspeaker system.  In was an incredible way to start the convention.

The topic of "Who we are" was launched, and I particularly liked the comments about our early childhood identities.  In school we were quite often known by labels other than our own - several panelists were "children of divorce" or "sister of ___".  I myself recall being known primarily as a nerd.  Discussion then moved on to whether (and how) those labels stuck with us and affected both our future behavior and our own image of ourselves.

In terms of establishing identity as writers, we discussed how work, location and the identity we create (ethnic and cultural) affect not only what we write, but how we are perceived by the public.  I brought up the issue of basically having two identities - as academic scientist and as a science/SF writer/blogger - and how it often requires me to complete isolate my writing and blogging so as not to intermix writing styles.  We went on to discuss how the identity we create can help or hinder writing and creation - including the fact that there are few depictions of minority persons and cultures.  It was lamented that writers have difficulty in writing "The Other" in terms of opposite gender, orientation, different nationalities, etc.  One argument was that until recently, the editors and publishers felt that their readership warranted excluding "The Other" or that people naturally have difficulty creating accurate characters with depth from other viewpoints.  [I disagree - I know a male agnostic who writes a highly convincing Christian soccer mom, and a straight female European who writes nonstereotypic gay male and quintessentially American characters.]  Nevertheless, effectively writing such characters requires us to delve deeply into questions of identity and personality.

I have one apology to make, in that Ms. Saberhagen directed a question at me that I thought was addressed to someone local to Chicago, and I fumbled the answer at first because I was anticipating hearing an answer, instead of providing one.  My apologies, and I think we got that one steered back on track.

Overall, it was a wonderful experience and a great way to start the convention.  I look forward to many such opportunities in the future!

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