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 Writers, especially unpublished writers, spend so much time in their own heads, it’s easy to forget there’s a whole community of like-minded individuals out there, who are just as keen to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!

I heart writing (apparently)

I’ve been clearing out all the junk I had stashed in my parents’ loft. I can’t believe how much of it there is. It’s a great lesson to me not to hoard things: it’s going to take me days to sort through it all, and I am never in my life doing this again. For one thing, I feel absolutely compelled to look through everything I’ve kept. In amongst all the old toys, I found some tickets to the World Trade Center, almost all my old school exercise books, lots of very early stories (I mean, like, really early), and a few cringe-worthy journals I quickly abandoned. It looks like I always loved books, and here’s the evidence:

Don’t ask me why I felt it necessary to write these two sentences down, like normal other kids wrote down the names of boys or girls they had crushes on. Clearing out all this junk has taught me a thing or two about myself. I didn’t realise the extent to which my dreams influenced me, even at a very young age. I’m a lucid dreamer (don’tcha know. Only just learned this phrase, see.) I used to suffer with terrible nightmares when I was young, and false awakenings (which I still get now.) I think there may be a connection between suffering from frequent nightmares and lucid dreaming. When reading up on the issue (*ahem* Wikipedia *ahem*), I learned some therapists try to teach lucid dreaming to those who are troubled by nightmares, as a means of controlling dreams, and I wonder if this is something my brain learned to do as a means of escape. I remember I taught myself to bite down when dreaming: I used to suck my thumb, so I told myself that if I was having a nightmare, all I’d need to do was bite, and I’d wake myself up with pain. It never worked, but I have learned to wake myself up on demand by closing my eyes while dreaming and just willing myself awake. I’m also a very light sleeper, which may also explain why I’m able to control my dreams (which I can almost always do to a lesser or greater degree) and why I remember my dreams almost every morning. I didn’t realise that, even as a child, my dreams inspired me to write. Take a look at this:

Yes, I guess that really is all there is to know about me. I still do dream about being able to fly, read minds, perform magic and so on, and this is, I think, why I love science fiction and fantasy so much. And I guess that’s about all there is to me.Here’s some more of the junk I found in my parents’ loft, most of which I suspect will be interesting only to me…

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