Con Report: Readercon

Written by Natalie Luhrs

I'm a lifelong geek with a passion for books and social justice. Fuck around and find out.

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July 18, 2013


So Readercon happened.  And it was wonderful.

For me, Readercon started Wednesday evening when we drove up to Philadelphia for dinner at El Vez with Fran Wilde, her family, and some of our local friends (including Lawrence Schoen and E.C. Myers).

And before there could be Readercon, there had to be Traincon. There were around 12 of us and we ended up taking over half the cafe car:  Shveta Thakrar,  E.C. Myers, Bernie Mojzes, A.C. Wise,  A.T. Greenblatt, D.T. Friedman, James and Lilly, and Fran Wilde with Chris Gerwel joining us in New York.

When we got to Boston, our little group had a schism–half of us took the train to Alewife and the other half of us took a cab and I gotta say, I’m pretty sure the cab half got a better story out of it. Our driver was really, really, really into the Backstreet Boys, to the point where he had the radio turned up super-loud, was bopping along and using the brake to keep the beat. In traffic. While we’re all frantically texting each other and I, at least, was trying not to laugh.  It was great.

I couldn’t have traveled with a finer group of people and I hope we can do it again.

The hotel, sadly, was under renovation and there was no lobby. And a distinct lack of seating in the public areas (there were mysterious appearing and disappearing chairs in the hallway, too). And there was no pub food menu in the restaurant and the service was terrible but they did a wonderful job with my roommate’s food allergies.

I was on programming every day of Readercon and I think all my panels went pretty well–I was on panels with a lot of incredibly smart and insightful people.  They’re mostly a blur at this point, alas.  I didn’t do as good a job leading the reader shame panel as I’d have liked, but it was my first time leading a panel at Readercon and it went better than the time I moderated a panel at C2E2, so I can’t complain. I learned a few things and will do better next time (assuming there’s a next time). I think my favorite part of being on programming was the people who approached me afterwards to let me know that I’d been informative and/or entertaining–that’s what I aspire to but I’m never sure if I’m succeeding.

We also summoned rum and Coke at my Thursday night panel which was just magical.

All the readings and panels I attended were wonderful and gave me a lot of food for thought, especially the Writing the Other panel and the Unraveling the Privilege of Safety ones (although I did have a cranky-ass moment in the latter where it was implied that “everyone” knew or was warned about the person who harassed Elise Matthesen and again: this is not the case; the back channel does not work for everyone).

The funniest moment of the con was, for me, when Rose Lemberg announced that when they need a break from G.R.R. Martin they read Crime and Punishment. That was on the realism panel which was also quite good, once we got settled in a room. The guide was wrong and there was a caravan from Salon F to, I think, Rhode Island. Which makes it sound like a major trek which, in crowded hotel hallways it kind of was.

I got a chance to see friends I hadn’t seen since last year and make a whole bunch of new ones that I hope to see in future years. I drank too much coffee and too much alcohol and didn’t eat enough vegetables. There was fat swimming on Saturday night (this is when you are fat and you go swimming and you give no fucks). The annual outing to Legal Seafood happened as did the outing to the food court at the mall (where there is a really good Indian restaurant although I didn’t eat any this year). There was an after-con outing to see Pacific Rim which was, in many ways, the perfect way to end Readercon: I have never seen a smarter dumb movie than that one.

I didn’t buy too many books, but I was unable to resist a print copy of the Crossed Genres anthology Fat Girl in a Strange Land, Catherynne M. Valente’s The Melancholy of Mechagirl, the Clarkesworld with my favorite Genevieve Valentine story, “A Bead of Jasper, Four Small Stones”, and John Jakes’s The Last Magicians (because it looked terrible and it was $2 and why the hell not).

Was it a perfect convention? No–no gathering of hundreds of people is going to be perfect. There were some accessibility issues around seating and food.  I also admit to being bothered at being recorded while on panels with no disclosure around what will be done with the recordings–at least none that I could find in the program guide or on the website. But overall it was wonderful.

However, the very best part of Readercon for me was the little things. We had a gender neutral bathroom–it’s a small thing, but it tells people who are non-binary that there is space for them at this convention. People were wearing sparkly lanyards–that was a signal that you could go to them with safety concerns. Overall, the program was amazing–so many great panels with smart people saying smart things on them. It felt like a much safer and open space than it has in years past.  Readercon, as a whole, felt transformative.

I know how much hard work the entire convention committee put in, especially the programming and safety committees and it showed.  They did an absolutely amazing thing: they did more than just change a con, they also changed the culture.

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