Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Con Report: IllogiCon 4, Saturday, Part 1

Once again, my somewhat stream-of-consciousness (or at least finger-tapping) notes from the panels I attended:

Introducing Sci-Fi for the Younger Generation
Metricula, GOH Chris Garcia

I don’t know if this was planned as a panel, but Metricula and Chris turned it into a lively roundtable discussion, inviting the audience members to make a circle of chairs. There was only one child in the group, and she proved well-spoken and interested in the subject, even though she confessed she was not an avid reader (yet). We did our best to inspire her interest in some new books!

Several of the group confessed that as young readers we haunted the used book stores and discovered romances that often crossed genres with fantasy themes. A few favorites:
It was a fun “trip down memory lane” for us as young readers, and for some of us as parents of young readers!


How the West Was Weird
GOH Chris Garcia, Margaret McGraw, Misty Massey, Gail Z. Martin

This was an important milestone for me – my first time on the dais behind the table! Chris was funny and charming, and I was glad to have friends Misty and Gail by my side for moral support. We had an audience of about 20-30 people, which I think is about 10% of IllogiCon’s size. Several good audience comments and questions. And of course we promoted the heck our of our Weird Wild West anthology Kickstarter! (Too much? We tried to keep it pertinent to the topic, which was not entirely coincidental!)

So what are some of the best examples of “Weird Wild West”?
  • Firefly! Six guns in space – Mal Reynolds in his duster, rebel Confederates who’ve lost the war…
  • Judge Dredd
  • Jonah Hex
  • Lots of comics - DC panicked in late 60s-early 70s - sales dried up in their traditional markets – they chartered new ground with character mashups like Jonah Hex, and Marvel joined in with characters like the rawhide kid, Kid Colt
  • Mark Twain
  • Jack London
  • Chris describes Madhouse’s Trigun as the “best & worst” of manga and anime
Where do these ideas *come* from?
  • Gail provides a more academic or socio-cultural perspective, referencing the 1893 Turner thesis that describes the frontier as essential to the American character – the sense that there’s always something better over the next hill
  • Superstition Mountains in Arizona speaks to the “lizard” part of our brain – there’s something out there way bigger (and stranger) than me!
  • Temperature extremes in the desert – alien landscape
How is Weird West different from Steampunk, etc?
  • Chris suggests a primary trope of the Weird West is the traditional Western Hero in Repose - one person standing against the world - physical solitude, tempered by heat and wind
  • Gail adds that the Cowboy era only lasted about 15 years in the Western U.S. before the West was fenced … but it’s lasted more than 150 years in our imagination
  • Native American spirituality - so alien to European catholic/Protestant worldview
  • Mexican Catholicism brings in a lot of Aztec influence
  • Mike Resnick’s Doc Holliday series describes Doc as a hero, well represented, but lots of problematic attitudes, characterizations
  • DC Comics ran Weird Western Tales through most of the 70s
  • Red Country by Joe Abercrombie
  • Joe Lansdale, one of the defining authors of the genre
  • Zeppelin! A great trope of the Weird West
  • Gail points out the magical/fantasy element that iron pushed out magic
This is personal...
  • Gail has family history: her father grew up in eastern Pennsylvania and always loved stories of the West as a child and young man. After WWII, in 1947, he went to work on an Indian reservation in North Dakota, learned to speak Sioux, knew iconic Western and Indian photographer Frank Fiske, and came to know the last living survivors of Custer’s battle at Little Big Horn. In 1950, Gail’s parents were adopted into the Sioux tribe
  • Recorded stories, sings, drumming - this is what Gail grew up with… “The Weird West is in my storage building”!
  • Chris mentions the last surviving witness of the gunfights at the OK Corral left a lengthy oral history
  • BraveStarr, late 80s cartoon, American Space Western
  • Joe Lansdale brought Jonah Hex back to life
Why does it hold our imagination?
  • We romanticize freedom, wilderness
  • Chris points out that in Argentina, the gaucho still rides today! He recommends (if you can find) a music collection called “Songs of the Pampas” - gaucho music from 1850s to today (one song refers to iphones!)
  • Magic in the very idea of the frontier - something really cool could be just over the next hill – you could reinvent yourself by moving far enough away, change your name,no one would know you, expunge your sins, sorrow, blemish - redemption is a powerful concept/lure
 Classic representations of the Weird Wild West?
  • Gene Roddenberry pitched Star Trek as “wagon train to the stars”
  • Often military but not always - Cowboy Bebop
  • Space stories have a Wild West element, extension of the final frontier
  • Australia and Canada have less viable land in their wild spaces
  • Space western - opening of Star Wars - class western trope of old lone hero and young buck going to find him
  • Leigh Brackett, Robert Silverberg wrote both westerns and SF!
  • Theo Sturgeon wrote across both genres
  • 1920s and 30s – Indians captured the imagination, the ideal of the west and became part of the culture - leave modern day life, more pure, authentic, free, navigate cross culture – it was not a progressive time, but fascinated by “the other”
  • Great movie: High Plains Drifter
  • Shane Hensley’s Deadlands RPG
OK, let’s talk about “Indians”…how do you handle naming them, describing them, with the changes in cultural sensitivity and “political correctness”
  • Chris says his grandmother is Indian and would smack him upside the head if he called her Native American!
  • Consensus is it's all about respect and presentation. When writing about that past time period (even with fantastical or alternative settings), it’s appropriate to use the word Indian in context. Any derogatory sense had better be clearly written as belonging to a character in the story setting, and not the author’s voice!
 There’s still more to come! Next up, continuing Saturday panel notes, and the Weird Wild West party!


And so, with a loving heart, I offer you
I’ve heard many translations. Here’s my favorite:
The light of the universe that shines within me recognizes
the light of the universe that shines within you.



  1. The SF for younger readers was one of my favorite panels! Any time there's a small group like that I prefer to circle up. Besides, this is a topic where no one is an expert and everyone has something to share. :) See also: http://www.amazon.com/Charm-Stone-Donna-Kauffman-ebook/dp/B001NJMBH2/ref=sr_1_2?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1421251223&sr=1-2&keywords=the+charm+stone

    1. Thanks, Madison! Looks like I found the wrong story - I'll fix the link in the post. Thanks for stopping by. It was great to see you at the con.