I spent the past long weekend at Continuum X — this year’s Australian national speculative fiction convention, where fans and writers and authors gather together to chat about science fiction, fantasy, horror and other related topics.
It was held at Melbourne’s Intercontinental Hotel at Rialto, a fairly classy venue as these things go. About the best thing about the venue was the bar, which was central and sunken, so you could look down and see whether your friends were there. The bar was probably the worst thing too, owing to the crazy drink prices, which saw me buying $14 glasses of wine…
Unusually for me, I didn’t attend many panels at this convention… nor did I take any notes at all. Which is just plain weird. Normally I’m bursting with new ideas and insights to share by now. But this con was mainly about meeting people — and I met heaps, which was awesome.
I did, however, hear two fabulous talks from the two professional guests of honour — Ambelin Kwaymullina and Jim C Hines.
Ambelin Kwaymullina is an Aboriginal writer and illustrator from the Palyku people of the Pilbara region of Western Australia. She gave an amazing presentation — raw, passionate, severe — about cultural appropriation, which made us all squirm in our seats. (Or at least it did me.)
I’ve heard many talks about the evils of cultural appropriation as writers, but none hit home like Ambelin’s did. A lot of it comes down to a completely different world view — and the world view of her people is nothing like the world view of “westerners”. She explained how she is “not a science fiction writer”, because science fiction is a construct that has no meaning among her people. And many other things besides.
Ambelin really made me look at other cultures — and not just indigenous cultures — in a whole new way. It was not comfortable to hear… there was so much passion (and bitterness) in that speech. But we needed to hear it. We ALL need to be beaten over the head with it, because it is so easy not to hear or understand, and be inadvertently disrespectful.
Jim C Hines is an American fantasy author and blogger who is quite vocal on subjects of gender equality and is also the guy who did the gender flipped poses for SF/Fantasy novels. He gave a great talk about embracing diversity within the community and beyond… the most memorable comment being something along the lines of how being the recipient of one act of discrimination is like getting a paper cut, but when there are many paper cuts it’s like being flayed alive…
Yes, some very sober and serious messages by our guests of honour.
I went to a few book launches at the convention too — none more satisfying than the re-launch of Perfections by my very good friend, Kirstyn McDermott (who I recently interviewed about the book). Even though the copies at the launch were a unique breed, retitled IMPerfections, with a rather fatal flaw, Kirstyn still sold just about all copies that were available. Celebrations all round.
Aside from guest of honour talks and book launches, I went to one panel, one live podcast recording, and the Australian Ditmar Awards ceremony (kind of like the Hugos, but waaaaay less prestigious). The rest of the time I spent hanging out with friends in the bar.
All in all, I had a fabulous time.