Last weekend I attended my first literary convention; FIYAHCON, set up by FIYAH Literary Magazine, and held online across three days. It was a bit of a revelation for me, having never attended a con before in my life, and having never heard so many BIPOC authors discussing speculative fiction. When I told one person I know that this con was organised by a magazine that showcases Black SSF writers, her first response was, “What, you’re not the only one?” We are out there, and in great numbers; it’s just that our voices don’t often get heard.
Having this take place online was really important, I felt. On a personal level, as a (attachment parenting) mother of three young kids, and as someone of relatively limited means, this was finally something I could actually attend. But beyond this, the many visa-related obstacles writers outside the US/ UK face, combined with the prohibitive costs of travel, mean cons just aren’t on option for many. FIYAHCON felt really international in a way few cons seem to be. It was so wonderful to listen to a panel held by people in three different continents. If we want the SFF writing community to be truly diverse, we have to have more opportunities for people around the world to be involved in the discourse; people who can travel less easily – whether due to health or finances or red tape – must be able to join.
Highlights for me included panels on empire, and on the challenges of writing to market as a person of colour. There were many panels I couldn’t attend, so I’m really grateful for the archives, which I’ll be spending a lot of time in over the next few weeks. But honestly, all of it was fantastic. For me personally, the insight and feedback I received from panels, workshops, and one-to-one sessions has been really inspiring. Writers, especially unpublished writers, spend so much time in their own heads, it’s easy to forget there’s a whole community of like-minded individuals out there, who are just as keen to talk magic systems and adverb overuse as you are. And they are from all over the world.
Anyway, all I can say is … I’ve found my con home. And I can’t wait for the next one!