An Interview with Elyse Discher

unnamedElyse Discher is one of my fellow reviewers at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, where she write about romance, romantic suspense, and knitting.  See that cowl in her photo?  she made that.  She made me one too, mine is purple.  Contain your jealousy.

I asked Elyse about her experiences with fandom, and here’s what she has to say about growing up isolated and then finding community:

Were you always a big reader?  Was there any reading that you felt you couldn’t share?

I was always a big reader. I grew up in a house with a lot of books, and my mom was a reader, so it was just something that I naturally fell into. Somewhere around 5th grade I transitioned out of junior books and into adult books. I read all of my mom’s Michael Crichton and Kinsey Milhone books over the summer. This was also around the time I discovered Sci-Fi and Fantasy. I started reading SF/F around the time my family life was in upheaval. I was looking for escape, and the farther away I could get, the better. I became very interested in Star Wars, and I read the Timothy Zahn and Kevin J. Anderson novels voraciously.

What were you into growing up, and how have your interests changed?

As a girl in 5th or 6th grade, I absolutely would not share that I was really interested in Sci-fi. I already felt like an outsider–I was very small, I was nerdy and I was shy. I loved Star Wars and I liked Star Trek and I read some epic fantasy, but I would not bring those books to school. The idea that my peers would see me reading them was mortifying.
This was way before nerd was chic. Girls my age, in my area, were supposed to be into boys and horses and makeup, and none of that interested me at all. I also didn’t get boobs till I was almost 20, I swear. I felt like a little kid hanging around with girls who were much more savvy and developed than me. I’d rather talk about Star Trek The Next Generation than what the boys in our class were doing.
next gen

Were you able to share your interests when you were a kid, or did you feel like an outsider?  

It was a very isolated experience. I had friends, and we had common interests, but even they didn’t know about my interest in sci-fi. There was no one I could talk to about it. When I hit high school, Buffy the Vampire Slayer came out and some of my friends were really interested in that too. It was really the first time I could talk to my peers about this stuff. We’d call each other immediately after each new episode to discuss. It was the first time I had an opportunity to share an interest like that with my friends.

How do you think fandom has changed with the advent of the internet?

With the internet you can reach out and find people who share the same interests you have–that was available to me as a kid. I’m sure there were message boards out there, but I was too young to really use the internet that way yet. I think the big shock for me as I got older was that there were tons of other women who were interested in these things. I had convinced myself that I was fairly unusual. I have a friend whose daughter is very into anime. I see her talking to her friends on Facebook and other social media about the anime fandoms she loves. I really wish that sense of community was available to me when I was younger because I think it would have done a lot to bolster my confidence.
That said, not being able to escape into the internet was probably beneficial too. I am sad that I felt compelled to hide my interests, but I think that if I had the forums that are available to me today, I might have used it as an excuse not to socialize int he way I needed to learn to. As an adult, I’m incredibly grateful for all the awesome people I’ve met online who I can discuss romance novels or knitting or anything with. I think for me the concept of a fandom, as an adult, is kind of like a knitting circle. We all come together to discuss a common interest and participate in it, but we wind up discussing our jobs, kids, vacations, etc. It becomes a broader social experience. It’s made me realize that I can talk to someone on the other side of the world, and they have the same basic experiences I do. It’s very affirming.
I still read sci fi and fantasy but I’ve turned to reading more romance novels and mysteries–especially historical mysteries. Smart Bitches introduced me to a community of AWESOME romance readers and writers. I also love to knit and sites like Ravelry are a God send. So is Twitter; people are awesome at offering advice.

If you want to read more by Elyse, I highly recommend her amazing, powerful essay for Smart Bitches about how reading romance helps her deal with chronic pain.

Fandom and Fiction as Activism

fictionfansI wrote a piece for Smart Bitches, Trashy entitled “Community, Hope, and Liberation:  Fandom and Fiction as Activism”.  This essay talks about my experience at Baycon, my love for fiction and fandom, and the #yesallwomen movement.  I hope you will hop over to Smart Bitches, Trashy Books and take a look!  Here is a link:

Community, Hope, and Liberation:  Fandom and Fiction as Activism

From the essay:

I’m home now, but I’m still spending a lot of time on social media reading the stories of women, and realizing that these stories represent only a small fraction of what women experience around the world.  Sometimes I wonder if it would be better for me to spend less time talking about fiction and more time doing activism.

But what I realized this weekend is that even the least consciously politically charged fiction is a form of activism.  It shows us ourselves as we are and it lets us dream of what we might become.  Sometimes those dreams are cautionary nightmares and sometimes they represent our deepest hopes.

It took me me a while to see how BayCon, Smart Bitches, and other places, real and virtual, where we share our passions and our stories, intersect with #yesallwomen.  They are, in essence, the same thing – flawed, messy spaces in which people struggle to find community, hope, and liberation.  They are places in which we gather for support.  They are places in which we gather to have our stories heard, and they are places where we struggle to understand our history and create a vision of the future.

I hope you’ll enjoy the full essay!



John Scalzi: Making Conventions Safe For All

In the last couple of years, convention attendees, both male and female, have been working to confront sexual (and other) harassment at conventions.  John Scalzi is the past president of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SWFA) and the author of books like Redshirts and Old Man’s War.  Recently, Scalzi announced on his blog that he will not attend conventions unless they have a sexual harassment policy in place.  You can read his initial entry here.

Since Scalzi just can’t stop being more and more awesome every day, he wrote another, longer piece explaining why he took this action here.  It is some kick-ass writing (and funny, too).  I urge you to read it.  You can also co-sign his pledge should you care to.

As a woman and the mother of a daughter, I’m deeply appreciative not only for women who fight for my rights but for men who ally with me.  To those who view women at conventions as playthings, sex toys, or objects of derision, I have a news flash for you:

1.  We are here.

2.  We are people.

3.  We are not leaving.

And oh, yeah, in case only an appeal to baser instincts will convince you to treat me with respect, here’s one more thing:

4.  We have money and we represent a considerable portion of your audience and your clientele.

I’ve always been treated well at cons and I hope for all people to have as delightful of experiences as I’ve had.  I’m hoping to hear glorious fan tales of a busy, safe, and fun convention summer this year!

That’s the News from Westercon, Where all the Costumes Are Above Average

A milestone in the geek girl family – I took my daughter, who shall herefore be referred to as Princess Leia for costuming reasons, to her first science fiction convention, and here’s what happened:

girl and toy yoda wearing Victorian hats

Yoda goes Victorian

Westercon was a small-scale, relaxed con.  It didn’t feel as commercial as a lot of cons do – in fact, people were almost compulsively giving my friend’s daughter free stuff and saying things to me like, “Oh, it’s fine, we trust you, just mail us a check”.  This convention had a focus on writers and fiction.  It was a really laid-back, happy gathering of some serious geeks.  I loved it, and Princess Leia is now, as they say in The Big Bang Theory, “Queen of the Nerds”.

It wouldn’t be a Con without Cosplay.  My thanks to the many cosplayers who gave me permission to take and post pictures.  I apologize for the fact that my camera is crap and my photography skills are nill.  These photos aren’t very polished, but I hope they’ll give you a feel for how colorful the Con was!

cosplay (TARDIS maid outfit)

The TARDIS – original, fun, and check out the stockings!

You have to have some steampunk in your life, right?  This trio was immaculately outfitted right down to their shoes:

three people in steampunk cosplay

Ready for their airship departure!

Jesus Brienne, you look terrible.  What did you do, get in a fight with a bear or something?  On a happier note, Daenerys and her dragon were trailed all afternoon by adoring children.  I guess they haven’t found out what the dragons eat yet.

cosplayers (Brienne and Daenerys

Brienne and Daenerys

Beautiful sparkly things from Jewels By Olivia.  See the green tiara on the top left?  I MUST HAVE IT.  I will earn a zillion dollars and achieve world domination and make the nations cower before me, and when they cry out to me for mercy, saying, “What do you wish for?”  I shall say, “BRING ME THAT TIARA.”

tiaras from Westercon Sealer's Room

Jewels by Olivia, Westercon Dealer’s Room

I didn’t go to many panels due to the presence of children (mine and my friend’s, not other people’s).  But I did go to one on Finding Your Muse, where I got some great advice from M. Todd Gallowglass:

“There’s no such thing as writer’s block.  No matter how difficult a passage is, you can always write just one more sentence.  and then just one more sentence after that.  and then just one more after that”.

Wise words, indeed.  Thanks for a great day, Westercon!