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Science Fiction Conventions: More Important Than You Think

January 18, 2009

My dad is a major bigot. He raised me to be a bigot. Yep, I spouted all the stupid shit he'd taught me with the same hatred till I was in my twenties. Of course this was no doubt aided by the fact that I was a big queer and had been stuck in an arranged marriage at sixteen to a thirty-four year old pervert to keep me from being gay. That sort of thing will do something to your mind; it will do something to your soul.

My son’s father purposely kept me in the middle of nowhere. I had no contact with the outside world so I really didn't get a chance to grow. Writing was really all I had back in the dark ages I was forced to live in. I was a homophobic bigot because everyone had it better than I did, and by God if I could suffer in silence so could everyone else.

I might have stayed like that forever if not for the world in my head and fandom. I went to my first Convention at twenty-two with my friend Walt who was much younger than I was and still closer to my age than my husband. Walt, braver than I am, came out before I did. Lee grudgingly let me go with Walt to the convention. Those three days changed the course of my life. I started to realize that everything I had been told by my father was utter and complete bullshit. I started to see people as people and to understand that maybe there wasn't anything wrong with me at all. It would still be years before I could come to terms with my homosexuality but the bigotry evaporated with my ignorance of other people and cultures.

My writing started to mature, I started to mature, and while I had to have a complete mental breakdown first, I finally was able to embrace who I was and come to terms with it—all because of fandom. Because of the people I met on the convention circuit.

Fandom is an open and mostly honest society filled with seekers and sages and—above all else—acceptance of other people. Quite unlike any other group I have EVER been associated with.

Some of my colleagues have just come right out and asked me why I have so much patience with even the geekiest, smelliest fan, and the reason is simple—they had patience with me. Without fandom I'd still be in a mental and physical hole somewhere, if I was alive at all. I wouldn't have a career, I wouldn't have my sanity—quit laughing fuckers!—I would still be some closed-minded idiot living like a hermit thinking that death was preferable to my life and bitter for whole different reasons than I am now.

I've met all of my best friends—expect for Walter and Brand who entered Fandom with me but who I knew before—through fandom. I found the SCA and therefore my wife because of Fandom. Conventions let me meet and reach people I never would have gotten to and opened my mind.

I might some day write an autobiography titled... HOW SCIENCE FICTION SAVED ME because it really did.

It's why I hate to see any con-com fighting because it's like my extended family. I know that they supply such an important, safe place for closed minds to be opened.

Last night a seventeen-year-old girl came over to have me work on her knee. At first impression nice kid—a little flaky but what seventeen-year-old dyke from a small town isn't? At one point she opens her mouth and just the most ignorant bigoted crap spews out of her head, and my first instinct is to just write her off but... Well at least she's already come to terms with being gay. At that age I was just as ignorant, just as stupid, married to a man, and just completely denying everything that I was. I told her why I thought what she was saying was crap and I'll continue to do so. Maybe I'll take this kid to a convention or two, get her out of the hole she lives in, and see if there may be hope.

I heard an old friend of mine—one I met at a convention—talking a few months ago about why he thought science fiction convention attendance was down. He said it was because we're all a bunch of geeks and that the internet has connected us, that shows like HEROES, which has been embraced by even the mundane, and the sci-fi channel have taken away the isolation we felt and we don't need conventions anymore.

I think this is not just wrong, but dead wrong. I think now more than ever we don't need to separate ourselves from the larger group and stare into our computer screens. It's becoming acceptable to be bigoted again and I don't think it should ever be acceptable to not look at people one at a time. If you must judge them, do so based on their character not because of what they look like.

The human connection is ALL important now. Science fiction conventions—it may sound frivolous to those of us who don't know—are important because they allow a microcosm of acceptance in an increasingly polarized world. We need to encourage interaction with our fellow humans, not say it's good enough to talk to each other on line. This is great, but as we've talked about before, this medium allows a certain level of misunderstanding that physical speech doesn't. When you are talking to someone you can have a discussion and their tone and body language will tell you when they understand you. If there is a misunderstanding, you can correct it on the spot. We are humans; we need to touch one another, to talk to each other face to face. For me to say something and you to tell me why I'm wrong and have all of this settled in minutes instead of days or weeks or not at all.

If Walter's father—knowing that he and I loved science fiction—hadn't picked up a flyer from a mall in Tulsa when he was on a business trip we never would have gone to that first convention. I don't know where I'd be right now but it would be bad. When I hear that a convention hasn't advertised locally, that they don't put out flyers any more, all I can think is that somewhere someone is stuck, and now they'll never find their way out.

Selina

If you enjoy these bitches, please contact Selina directly at selinarosen@cox.net. Thanks!

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