My Favorite Bit: Isabel Schechter and Michi Trota talks about The WisCon Chronicles Vol 12: BOUNDARIES AND BRIDGES
Isabel Schechter and Michi Trota are joining us today to talk about this year’s collection of essays by WisCon attendees, The WisCon Chronicles Vol. 12: Boundaries and Bridges. Here’s the publisher’s description:
The twelfth volume of The WisCon Chronicles explores our understanding of boundaries and bridges, and what they mean for us as individuals and for our communities. This collection includes essays from first-time WisCon attendees and former Guests of Honor, fans and Tiptree/Otherwise Award-winning authors and editors, cis het and LGBTQ+ attendees, affluent and less well-off, abled and disabled, white and POC, young and old, parents and child-free, English speakers and Spanish speakers, and hopefully more than just these categories can capture.
Structural changes in the convention that break down barriers to attendance and participation are important, and some of the essays recount the process and struggles of creating space and programming for POC attendees, access for disabled attendees, and affordability for all attendees. The words we use matter, as essays that talk about feminist terms, gendered language, and even the name of the Tiptree/Otherwise award (which is almost inextricably identified with WisCon) demonstrate. The definition of “community” is also examined, both within WisCon and beyond, as it spills out into the wider world — including online spaces.
CONTRIBUTORS: Jess Adams • Charlie Jane Anders • Nancy Bird • Kristy Anne Cox • Katherine Alejandra Cross • Alexandra Erin • Nivair H. Gabriel • Sarah Gulde • Lauren Jankowski • Inda Lauryn • Elise Matthesen • Gabriela Damián Miravete • Chimedum Ohaegbu • Otherwise Board • Julia Rios • John Scalzi • Nisi Shawl • Monica Valentinelli • G. Willow Wilson
What are Isabel and Michi’s favorite bits?
My favorite bit about working on this volume of The WisCon Chronicles has been the opportunity to provide a place for voices to be heard.
The world needs to hear a variety of voices, and that won’t happen if people who have something to say are not able to say it. Some people need encouragement and a gentle (and sometimes not so gentle) push before they feel confident enough to submit a piece of writing for publication, and in soliciting submissions for this collection, I provided encouragement and pushes as needed.
Some people just need a venue to make themselves heard, and I wanted the Chronicles to be just such a place. The theme of the collection, boundaries and bridges, is complicated, and I wanted to provide a space to break down barriers, whether externally or internally imposed, and provide a place where people felt welcome, valued, and encouraged to make their voices heard.
By submitting their work, these contributors have overcome assumptions (their own or others’) about who is qualified to submit, who deserves to be heard, and what ideas deserve to be discussed. By breaking through these boundaries, they have now created opportunities for others to see themselves represented, be exposed to a new viewpoint, or think about a subject in a new or deeper way. They have made an impact in the world.
And make no mistake, every one of the contributors in this collection has already made an impact, and that impact will continue and expand as more people are affected by reading their work and engaging in discussions about it. This is why it is so important that people’s voices are heard. You can’t make an impact if no one knows you exist, if no one is exposed to your ideas, if no one discusses the issues you bring up.
I am humbled that as an editor I was able to provide a space where these things could happen. While I can’t claim the credit for the impact the essays in the Chronicles will have in the world, I can be proud that I played even some small part in helping them make that impact.
And hey, if they pick up a Hugo or four while making that impact, that’s icing on the cake.
I’ve loved SF/F before I could read for myself–The Hobbit was one of the first books my mom ever read to me–but nonfiction, particularly essays and other creative forms of personal writing, holds a special place in my heart. In part this is because I’m a nonfiction writer myself, but it’s also because nonfiction is a form of storytelling, utilizing many of the same tools regarding narrative, structure, and voice as fiction. And while there are many things that I’ve loved about co-editing this volume of The WisCon Chronicles, having the chance to work with a collection of nonfiction was too good of an opportunity to pass up, especially with Isabel as my co-editor.
Even within the anthology’s specific theme of “boundaries and bridges,” there was considerable room for interpretation, and it was fascinating to see the different choices these essayists made in approaching their chosen topics. There was no one way to approach WisCon, and reading pieces that were at times vulnerable, analytical, introspective, passionate, and deeply moving was inspiring. Editing nonfiction is no less involved, and occasionally fraught, than editing fiction. It’s a collaboration, and like all collaborations, it requires a considerable amount of trust between editor and writer, particularly on the part of the writer, in the hopes that the editor understands what they’re trying to say and can provide the best guidance in shaping their work into its best possible self.
Editing nonfiction is often a humbling experience and I’ve rarely come away from editing another person’s essay without having learned something that I can apply to my own writing. Whether it’s playing with perspective, a bold and unflinching lens on one’s self, or a delightful sense of humor, there’s so much in creative nonfiction to love. I’m especially grateful that this collection is the first publishing project I was able to take on after my time as Uncanny Magazine’s Managing and Nonfiction Editor. Being able to apply the many lessons I’d learned at Uncanny about how to be a good editor to my work on the Chronicles brought me so much joy, and I’m thankful to the writers who entrusted their work to us, and so proud of the collection Isabel and I have curated together.
I look forward to the day when I’ll have the chance to edit collections of fiction, but nonfiction will always be my first love. And having the chance to edit the nonfiction of so many writers who I’ve admired and liked over the years, for a con that has made an immeasurable difference in my life, with the best possible editing partner I could’ve asked for? All together, that’s my favorite bit.
Isabel Schechter has been a SF/F fan since childhood and active in fandom for 20 years. Isabel is Puerto-Rican, and her essays on race and representation in SF/F have been published in Invisible 2: Essays on Race and Representation in SF/F; Uncanny: A Magazine of Science Fiction and Fantasy; and WisCon Chronicles. She is a frequent panelist at SF/F conventions and is Co-Editor of The WisCon Chronicles Volume 12: Boundaries and Bridges. Isabel is also an active library supporter and has served on the boards of several library-related organizations. She has a master’s degree in Divinity from the University of Chicago Divinity School.
Michi Trota is a four-time Hugo Award-winner and British Fantasy Award winner. She is Editor-in-Chief of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA), co-editor of the WisCon Chronicles Vol. 12, and the first Filipina Hugo Award winner. She was the first Managing Editor/Nonfiction Editor of Uncanny: A Magazine of Science Fiction and Fantasy, exhibit consultant and text writer for Worlds Beyond Here: The Expanding Universe of APA Science Fiction at the Wing Luke Museum in Seattle, WA (2018-2019), and is also an essayist, public speaker, and fire performance artist in Chicago.