By Jeanne Gomoll
WisCon’s longevity as a niche convention, the remarkable continuity provided by convention committees (or “concoms”) containing several members who have worked throughout WisCon’s history, and the perseverance of its feminist mission has inspired several scholars to look for an explanation for the success of this unusual convention. More than likely, several factors are responsible: (1) WisCon’s roots in the publication of Janus, (2) the coincidental birth of WisCon during the “second wave” of the women’s movement, (3) the existence of a large community of writers and readers whose interests were not being served by other, more traditional conventions; (4) contributions of specific individuals who cared passionately about WisCon’s mission and devoted enormous amounts of time and energy to it, and (5) the infusion of new energy and the periodic re-invention of WisCon caused by such events as the announcement of the Tiptree Award in 1991, and the celebration of WisCon 20 in 1996.
WisCon’s roots in the fanzine Janus
Janus had a profound influence upon WisCon. Indeed, Janus 7 (Vol. 3, No. 1) was published as the program book for WisCon 1 and Janus 11 (Vol. 4, No. 1) contained WisCon 2’s program book. Archivists who searched for lists of early convention committees could sometimes find only program book staff lists. The same people who had lavished most of their spare time on Janus began to pour their energies into the creation of a different kind of convention, though at first the fanzine and convention overlapped. They brought the interests and political concerns to the convention that had made Janus a different kind of fanzine.
One of the first conventions attended by most Madstf members was Mid-Americon, the annual world science fiction convention held on Labor Day weekend in 1976 in Kansas City. Madstf members Hank and Lesleigh Luttrell were veteran fanzine publishers and fans; they lent their mailing list to Janus editors, informed the group that their publication was properly called a “fanzine,” or fan-published-‘zine, and encouraged group members to attend conventions in order to meet some of the people who had been writing letters of comment to Janus. The group also depended on the Luttrells’ advice during the first years of WisCon, since the couple had been involved in several convention concoms, including the 1969 World Science Fiction Convention in St. Louis. Many Madstf members attended Mid-Americon, including Gomoll and Bogstad.
Although Wood’s panel was scheduled in an inconvenient and hard-to-find room, the standing-room-only audience overflowed into the hallway outside and convened afterward in an adjacent lounge for what turned out to be a defining moment for the many women who found one another in that place. Victoria Vayne proposed that everyone keep in contact by forming an APA (amateur press association) and suggested that it be named A Women’s APA. This anthology of letters, essays and responses has been published monthly ever since, and succeeded in creating a network of women and men interested in the world-changing powers of feminism and feminist science fiction. Bogstad and Gomoll joined A Women’s APA and also began discussing a dream convention with many panels of interest to feminists, about a convention that might resemble a familiar SF convention but also include scholarly and literary conversation about feminist ideas and the ways in which the new women writers were using them in their work.
Janus published WisCon reports and GoH speeches; WisCon programs were based upon articles and ideas explored in Janus. But gradually WisCon absorbed more and more of the Madison group’s energy. Janus and eventually Aurora‘s publication became more sporadic. WisCon, however, never faltered: from its start in 1977 it was produced annually by a growing concom that still includes several of the original planners who worked on WisCon 1, 30 years earlier.
WisCon Sites: From UW-Madison facilities to the Concourse Hotel
Madstf had published Janus on a shoestring budget. The University of Wisconsin provided some funds in the form of aid to official UW student groups. Individual Madstf members donated funds. Receipts were stored in a shoebox. The sixth and seventh issue of Janus, were printed on an offset press, replacing the old mimeograph, and the printer, Brian Yokum, allowed the group to invade his print shop after hours and do bindery work for Janus in order to reduce the printing charges.
In addition, there was the drawback of weather. Until WisCon 19 when WisCon’s dates changed to the Memorial Day weekend, WisCon weekend fell in late February or early March, which in Wisconsin, are still considered part of blizzard season. Relying upon University facilities meant that WisCon attendees were sometimes forced to walk in extremely cold weather in order to commute from their sleeping rooms to the convention center. Until WisCon 19, when WisCon moved to late May, WisCon planners allotted a certain percentage of revenue each year to a “blizzard fund,” to cover themselves in the eventuality that WisCon would one day coincide with a plane and traffic-stopping storm. As it turned out, the convention was never shut down by a blizzard, although a bad storm hit town during WisCon 4 in 1980 and forced WisCon attendees to navigate extremely hazardous, icy sidewalks and brave sub-zero temperatures between the Center and Lowell Hall.
In 1982 Martin and Karen Jones took over the reigns from Jan Bogstad and co-chaired WisCon 6. That year the convention ended its agreement with the UW-Extension. WisCon 6 and 7 were held at the Inn on the Park on the Capitol Square in downtown Madison where convention events and sleeping rooms were housed under one roof.
Another advantage of becoming independent of the University was that WisCon was able to take over maintenance of its membership database. Previously the UW-Extension had registered WisCon attendees and was unable to separate WisCon registration information from data generated by its other programs. Thus, in 1982, WisCon began keeping track of its attendees as well as taking control of its own budget.
Between 1982 and 1995, WisCon’s location shifted between downtown and suburban locations. WisCon 6 and 7 (1982 and 1983) were held downtown at the Inn on the Park. In 1984 WisCon 8 moved two blocks down the side of the Capitol Square to the much larger Concourse Hotel and Governor’s Club and remained there through WisCon 11 in 1987. At that time, new Concourse management bluntly informed the convention’s hotel liaison that it did not consider WisCon to be a suitable customer, i.e. WisCon attendees did not resemble the up-scale, government and corporate clientele it desired. However, WisCon had grown too large to return to the smaller downtown hotel, the Inn on the Park, and was forced to move to an outlying hotel on the southeast fringes of Madison. Thus WisCons 12 through 16 took place at the Holiday Inn Southeast, a sprawling, somewhat decrepit, 2-story hotel, with just one fast food restaurant within walking distance. Some attendees missed the accessible bookstores and restaurants available at the convention’s downtown locations. Other attendees appreciated the abundance of free parking and the suburban hotel’s pet-friendly policy. WisCon did return one year to the downtown Concourse Hotel in 1993 for WisCon 17, but was again refused a contract for the next year. WisCon 18 moved back, once again, to the Holiday Inn Southeast in 1994.
Despite the several rejections, many committee members continued to prefer a downtown location and believed that the Concourse facilities provided the best match for its convention. WisCon 19 finally did return to the Concourse Hotel and has been located there ever since. In 1995, WisCon negotiated a contract with the new management of the Concourse Hotel and developed an excellent, mutually appreciative working relationship, so positive and enduring that 11 years later WisCon 30 imposed an attendance limit of 1,000 rather than even considering a move to a larger hotel. WisCon attendees have also appreciated the Concourse’s central location, its layout and the staff’s friendly attitude toward members. WisCon surveys have recorded many attendees who declared the Concourse to be the “perfect convention hotel.”
WisCon Guests of Honor
WisCon has historically encouraged all attendees to nominate guests of honor, but has reserved voting rights for those who work on concoms. With a couple exceptions, all WisCon’s guests of honor were chosen by the previous year’s concom. Many WisCon decisions have been made on this basis: the group’s unwritten philosophy has been that, in order to survive, a volunteer organization must be run democratically, empowering those who do the work with the right to make decisions.
Not surprisingly, the percentage of women guests chosen as WisCon guests of honor, as compared to male guests, has exceeded any other convention’s record. This reflects a deliberate choice on the part of the early concoms who considered it WisCon’s mission to address the meager celebration of women in the field of science fiction. In view of the fact that WisCon was able to bill itself through most of its history as the world’s only feminist science fiction convention, WisCon concoms have persisted in their preference for women guests of honor.
The list of those honored by WisCon over the years includes a remarkable list of science fiction authors, artists, editors and fans.
WisCon 1, Katherine MacLean, Amanda Bankier
WisCon 2, Vonda N. McIntyre, Susan Wood
WisCon 3, Suzy McKee Charnas, John Varley, Gina Clarke
WisCon 4, Joan D. Vinge, David Hartwell, Beverly DeWeese, Octavia Butler
WisCon 5, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, Don & Elsie Wollheim, Buck & Juanita Coulson, Catherine McClenahand, Steven Vincent Johnson
WisCon 6, Terry Carr, Suzette Haden Elgin
WisCon 7, Marta Randall, Lee Killough
WisCon 8, Elizabeth A. Lynn, Jessica Amanda Salmonson
WisCon 9, Lisa Tuttle, Alicia Austin
WisCon 10, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, Suzette Haden Elgin
WisCon 11, Connie Willis, Samuel Delany, Avedon Carol
WisCon 12, R. A. MacAvoy, George R. R. Martin, Stu Shiffman
WisCon 13, Gardner Dozois, Pat Cadigan
WisCon 14, Iain Banks, Emma Bull
WisCon 15, Pat Murphy, Pamela Sargent
WisCon 16, Howard Waldrop, Trina Robbins
WisCon 17, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Lois McMaster Bujold
WisCon 18, Karen Joy Fowler, Melinda Snodgrass, Jim Frenkel
WisCon 19, Barbara Hambly, Sharyn McCrumb, Nicola Griffith
WisCon 20, Ursula K. Le Guin. Special guest: Judith Merril
WisCon 21, Melissa Scott, Susanna Sturgis
WisCon 22, Sheri Tepper, Delia Sherman, Ellen Kushner
WisCon 23, Terri Windling, Mary Doria Russell
WisCon 24, Charles de Lint, Jeanne Gomoll
WisCon 25, Nancy Kress, Elisabeth Vonarburg
WisCon 26, Nalo Hopkinson, Nina Kiriki Hoffman
WisCon 28, Patricia McKillip, Eleanor Arnason
WisCon 29, Gwyneth Jones, Robin McKinley
WisCon 30, Kate Wilhelm, Jane Yolen
WisCon 1 scheduled a mere 10 panels in 2 days, and only three events were specifically described as feminist or concerned with the writing of women SF authors: Gomoll’s panel “Alice through the Looking Glass of SF: the Feminist SF Panel,” Bogstad’s panel “Political Issues in Science Fiction,” and the Guest of Honor speeches delivered by Katherine MacLean and Bankier.
The number of programs related to women and SF greatly increased at WisCon 2. Guest of Honor Wood wrote an article, “People’s Programming,” for the combination program book/Janus (Vol. 4, No. 1) about the sad state of such programming at conventions; in it she proposed a list of actions that might improve the situation. Fulfilling one of Wood’s proposals, WisCon designated a room for “general discussion (and retreat) for women and their friends … who wish to meet and talk with other persons about sexual roles in SF, in fandom and in society.” (Janus, Vol 4., No. 1, p. 14) WisCon was not able to close the room to men for legal reasons, but the room nonetheless became defacto women-only space. Another room in the dorm, Lowell Hall, was designated as a women’s APA suite during the evening. One of the panels presented in 1978 was “Will the real James Tiptree, Jr. please stand up!” Rumors of Tiptree’s real identity had been circulating that year and Gomoll send an invitation to Tiptree suggesting that “he” attend WisCon 2. She received a postcard reply saying that he did not normally attend SF conventions, but that if he did, he would prefer to attend WisCon above all others. Other panels presented at WisCon 2 were: “Feminism: to grasp the power to name ourselves. Science fiction: to grasp the power to name our future,” “Sex and gender in science fiction,” “Children’s role models in juvenile SF,” “Racism & science fiction workshop,” “Women in Fandom,” in addition, of course, to guest of honor interviews with McIntyre and Wood.
Thereafter, a significant percentage of WisCon programming was devoted to feminist ideas, women authors or women’s writing. Gomoll and Bogstad met privately sometime during those first few years of WisCon, outside of concom deliberations, and pledged that they would strive to maintain a minimum of 25% specifically-feminist programs at future WisCons. There were years when the percentage of feminist or women-related programs may have fallen beneath this goal, especially in those years when those doing the work were less committed to feminist programming, but WisCon never mirrored most other conventions which were only willing to schedule a single, pro-forma “Women in SF” panel. WisCon committees reveled in the fact that WisCon was perceived as such a divergent convention. After WisCon 1 or 2, some Midwest SF fans showed their disdain for WisCon’s women- and homosexual-friendly programming by calling WisCon “Pervertcon” in a fanzine letter column. Fairly frequently critics, who have never attended WisCon, accused WisCon of barring men from attending. The program book published for WisCon 3 included a comic strip drawn by Richard Bruning lampooning this assumption, following a foolish character who decides to cross-dress in order to sneak into WisCon.
Of course, WisCon has always been more kinds of programming than explicitly feminist panels. A broad range of programs has generally been offered on the topics of class, race, politics, science fiction, fantasy, the craft and business of writing, science, and SF media. During the first 19 years of WisCon the program also included such traditional SF convention items as a masquerade, role-playing games, and a film program. These were gradually dropped because there were no concom members interested in running them and because the events were peripheral to WisCon’s mission.
The U.S. backlash against feminism in the mid- and late-1980s was mirrored in the dampening of enthusiasm and less optimistic attitudes of WisCon programs in the same time period. As it became clear that feminists would have to re-fight the battle for choice and that the Equal Rights Amendment was probably doomed, science fiction written by women in the previous decade was subtlety attacked by fans of cyberpunk fiction, which was the hot new thing at the time. 1970s SF was called boring by these critics at the same time that 1970s feminists were being called selfish by mainstream critics. It was much less fun for WisCon program planners to fight a rear-guard action against attempts to re-write history than it had been in those exciting earlier times when it seemed that organizing a feminist convention, joining a women’s apa or participating in a consciousness raising group would surely change the world in no time.
Thus, Guest of Honor Pat Murphy’s announcement of the James Tiptree Jr. Award in her 1991 speech at WisCon 15, occurred in the nick of time; her announcement invigorated and galvanized the audience and rekindled the energies of several concom members who had begun drifting away from WisCon planning. Authors Murphy and Karen Joy Fowler conceived of the Tiptree as an award for works of science fiction and fantasy that explore and expand gender. Murphy grinned and pointed out that all the other SF awards were named after men, so it was ironically appropriate to name this award after a woman’s male pseudonym. Then she laughed and proclaimed that the Tiptree would be funded by bake sales. The audience rose in a standing ovation, cheering the idea, the humor of it, and also, perhaps, the sense that WisCon’s mission had been renewed. Several WisCon concom members volunteered to help raise money for the new award. Hope Kiefer and Karen Babich ran the first bake sale; Gomoll and Martin published a Tiptree cookbook and Laura Spiess named it. Tracy Benton and Gomoll designed a Tiptree quilt and Elspeth Krisor began directing its construction by more than 65 people, many of whom received their quilt pieces ready to sew in the mail. (The quilt took more than 10 years to complete and was finally unveiled at WisCon 30.) Gomoll and Martin presented a check to Murphy at WisCon 16 for $1,000, representing income from the cookbook, The Bakery Men Don’t See. Eleanor Arnason and Gwyneth Jones accepted the first Tiptree Awards, checks and chocolate typewriters for their novels Woman of the Iron Country and White Queen. The second Tiptree Award ceremony also took place in WisCon. Maureen McHugh was honored for her novel, China Mountain Zhang at WisCon 17 in 1993. Gomoll began editing a second cookbook that year to raise funds for the award. It was titled Her Smoke Rose up from Supper.
In the same year that McHugh won the Tiptree Award, Gomoll coordinated the panel of judges reading for the next year’s Tiptree Award. She subsequently joined the Tiptree Motherboard as one of the organization’s officers. In spite of the enormous popularity of the Tiptree Award among WisCon attendees, Gomoll recommended that the Tiptree Award ceremony should occasionally travel to different conventions to involve more people, but also to disentangle Tiptree’s identity from WisCon’s. The Tiptree Award seemed to be the more vital organization at the time. WisCon 18’s concom contained fewer “old guard” members than any previous WisCon committee and WisCon seemed to be in the process of losing touch with its feminist mission, and in fact the programming emphasis was obviously shifting more toward film and television SF and mystery fiction. Gomoll and others felt that it was important for the Tiptree Award’s survival that it maintain an existence independent from WisCon.
As it turned out, WisCon did not loose sight of its feminist mission. The Tiptree Award actually reinvigorated WisCon planners and in return, WisCon gave the Tiptree Award its support and a home base during the award’s crucial start-up years. Interestingly, neither the award nor WisCon as a feminist SF convention may have survived without the other.
Over the years, several Tiptree-related events were transformed into essential WisCon traditions that were scheduled even during those years that the ceremony was hosted by another convention. According to a WisCon 29 survey, the Tiptree bake sale was attended by more people than any other WisCon program. Hundreds of dollars worth of home-made, donated cookies, brownies, and slices of pie and pieces of cake were purchased and gobbled up by WisCon attendees. Collage artist Freddie Baer designed and sent limited runs of beautiful silk-screened Tiptree t-shirts to WisCon every year. The shirts tended to sell out within minutes of their appearance on the sales table. But probably the most popular program brought to WisCon by the Tiptree Award was the Tiptree Auction. Author, artist and comedian Ellen Klages staged the first auction almost accidentally in Boston in 1994, when the award ceremony was hosted by Readercon. It was such a popular and hilarious success there that she brought it to WisCon in 1995; it became a hugely popular annual event for WisCon and the Tiptree Award’s most successful fund-raising event. Klages has sold her own hair, a hand-knitted uterus, Alice Sheldon’s annotated textbooks, novels autographed by Le Guin, Butler and Russ, as well as many items of Klages’ own creation. She has organized the Dance of the Founding Mothers, and been paid not to sing or do a wretched Scottish accent. She has taken off parts of her costume and sold them to the highest bidder. Wisely, WisCon has not attempted to program against the very popular auction. All proceeds from the bake sale, t-shirts, and auction are donated to the Tiptree Award and fund the award and the publication of an annual anthology containing essays and fiction from Tiptree shortlists.
WisCon 20 and Beyond
WisCon 20 was the first WisCon to have been planned over the course of two years (the second was WisCon 30, also chaired by Gomoll). Together, the WisCon 19 and 20 concoms elected Ursula Le Guin to be WisCon 20’s GoH by acclamation and plans were begun to raise money to bring as many previous guests of honor to WisCon 20 as possible. The new WisCon 19 and 20 concoms introduced innovations that changed the course of all future WisCons. As it turned out, the new concoms rediscovered their enthusiasm for the original goals of WisCon in the course of planning WisCon 20, and forged new traditions that would energize a larger new membership. The “final hurrah” proved to be a mirage.
The new electronic programming process had the advantage of making it possible to involve many more non-local attendees in programming which was especially useful at WisCon 20 with its record attendance. It quickly became clear that Guest of Honor Ursula Le Guin, Special Guest Judith Merril, and the 25 returning former guests would attract more attendees than had ever been registered before. In response, the concom decided to impose a membership cap of 850 people, fearing that the committee and hotel might be overwhelmed by larger numbers. (The cap was reached on the first day of WisCon 20. At-the-door memberships were cut off a short time after registration opened.) Nearly everyone who asked to participate on programming was placed on panels and the result was a truly exciting program. However, with so many “pros” and academics signed up, some local WisCon attendees and even some longtime concom members did not feel welcome or “qualified” to participate on panels. After WisCon 20, local fans and concom members no longer dominated the schedule; in fact, many familiar names disappeared from the program altogether. WisCon continued to request program ideas from its members and to schedule any attendee that wished to participate on panels. The finalized programs were almost entirely the result of a democratic process: Participants essentially “voted” on panels by choosing which panels they wanted to join; those panels which attracted no interest were dropped. Nevertheless, the concom frequently needed to dispel mistaken assumptions that only SF professionals were welcome to participate on programming or that the committee showed favoritism to professionals. Another change wrought by WisCon 20 was that general concom meetings no longer featured animated discussions of panel ideas; such discussions and decisions were delegated almost entirely to the programming committee. While these changes proved helpful in dealing with a larger convention and more complex program, it is true that some good things were lost as a result of the changes.
Hope Kiefer ran WisCon 20’s hospitality suite and transformed what had formerly been a lounge with snacks and beverages into a place where attendees could relax and eat complete meals, open 18 hours a day. Many families and individuals who attended the convention on limited budgets appreciated the savings made possible by Kiefer’s hospitality suite. Almost all U.S. conventions fund a hospitality suite and stock it with snacks and beverages that are free to all members, but WisCon’s hospitality suite probably ranks among the best of them in terms of providing a variety of both healthy and decadent foods and beverages to its members.
Other traditional WisCon attractions were adjusted for the large anticipated attendance of WisCon 20. The art show was expanded to include a Tiptree auction display. The dealers’ room was redesigned to shoehorn in as many tables for booksellers and artists as possible. After its move back to the Concourse hotel, parties came under the supervision of the concom because of a wonderful resource offered to the convention, at no cost, by the Hotel. Prior to WisCon 20, anyone who wanted to throw a party reserved and paid for a room large enough for their party and then crossed their fingers that their room would not be located next door to anyone who objected to noise late at night. For WisCon 20, all eight parlors on the hotel’s 6th floor were given to WisCon free of charge. The hospitality suite, Tiptree bake sale room, and child care were assigned to three of these parlors. The other five parlors functioned as daytime program spaces and were offered to groups and individuals for open parties in the evening. As a result, the entire floor transformed every night into one very large party space. WisCon planners found it advantageous to restrict parties to a single floor because it reduced the noise complaints. But the set-up created some new difficulties when it came to assigning sleeping rooms on the sixth floor. Eventually hotel liaison Scott Custis developed an excellent system: the Concourse handed over complete control of all rooms on the sixth floor to WisCon; Custis then assigned those rooms to WisCon members who had requested the use of party rooms, smokers (since 6th floor rooms were the only spaces in the hotel in which smoking was allowed), and late registrants. The system resulted in very few noise complaints and a very happy hotel staff who subsequently recommended the system to other large conventions held at the Concourse.
Just as WisCon 20 marked the end of the time when local Madison fans populated most WisCon panels, it also marked the beginning of the end of WisCon committees staffed primarily with local fans. Some of the same local fans who had grown reluctant to sign up for panels also began retiring from the concom. In addition, some of the volunteers who had stepped forward to work on WisCon 20 had done so as a one-time project and were not interested in continuing to work on subsequent WisCons.
During this same time period, WisCon grew in length from 3 to 4 days. Its membership grew from 500 in 1995 to 1,000 in 2006, and the number of programs stayed high. Starting with WisCon and continuing through the next few years, several new ambitious programs were added: a writers’ workshop, an academic track, the Gathering, a thematic reading track, and increasingly sophisticated web-based communication systems.
Developing good communications among such a large committee scattered all over the world has presented a challenge to WisCon which had formerly relied upon monthly face-to-face meetings. Concom members learned to rely heavily upon email and web-based communications, both among concom members and with WisCon members. Telephone conference technology began to be used more often to allow small groups to communicate in focused project meetings.
A two-day retreat was held in September 2003 for all interested WisCon concom members to brainstorm about some of the challenges facing a growing WisCon, including that of communications. 24 people attended. The decision to limit WisCon’s attendance to 1,000 and to encourage the establishment of other WisCon-like conventions in other cities emerged from a long discussion of the implications of WisCon’s growing size. The attendees affirmed WisCon’s central feminist focus and talked about ways to strengthen WisCon’s core mission and communicate it to attendees. They also discussed the frequent and varied perception held by many attendees that other attendees have been unfairly privileged. WisCon continues to work on some of these problems.
In 1991, former WisCon guests Murphy and Fowler realized that no award for feminist science fiction existed, so they invented one. WisCon proudly supports The James Tiptree, Jr. Award and continues to explore ways to deepen its partnership with the Tiptree motherboard. WisCon shares with the Tiptree organization the desire to promote and celebrate the works of writers who challenge assumptions of gender and sex.
In 2001, WisCon nurtured the formation of The Carl Brandon Society (CBS), founded specifically to promote knowledge about works of science fiction, fantasy, horror and magical realism by people of color. In 2006 CBS presented two awards at WisCon 30 to honor writers and themes of color in science fiction. The 2005/06 CBS Parallax Award, recognizing works of speculative fiction by writers of color, was awarded to 47, by Walter Mosley. The 2005/06 CBS Kindred Award, recognizing works of speculative fiction that explore or expand the conversation on race and ethnicity, was awarded to Stormwitch, by Susan Vaught.
In 2006, Guests of honor Jane Yolen and Kate Wilhelm were joined by 37 former WisCon guests for a gigantic and hugely successful celebration of 30 years of WisCon and feminist SF. The Wisconsin Humanities Council presented a major grant which helped pay for travel and housing expenses for some returning guests. In addition, WisCon received grants and donations from dozens of individuals and groups, including its partners, SF3, the Tiptree Award, and Broad Universe, among others. The celebration began on Wednesday, May 24, with a panel discussion on the UW-Madison campus hosted by the Center for the Humanities, entitled “A Feminist Utopia in Madison? Global Communities, Science Fiction and Women,” and ended on Wednesday night, May 29, as the final party of the weekend wound down. It was an exhausting, thrilling, once-in-a-lifetime event that included a telephone interview of Russ by Delany, more than 100 readings by guests of honor, returning guests and other attending writers, scholarly papers, amusing panels, contentious discussions, and WisCon’s largest dessert salon ever followed by two Award ceremonies (Tiptree and CBS).
Several differences between the two largest WisCons cast light upon the future of WisCon. WisCon 20 was initially conceived of as a possible capstone of the convention’s feminist SF tradition. WisCon 30 was never conceived of as any kind of last hurrah; it was instead planned with the assumption that lessons learned at WisCon 30 (especially lessons of scale) would need to be applied at future WisCons. The concom assumed that WisCons would continue happening. Furthermore, WisCon 30 actually attracted many more new volunteers than WisCon 20 did, and it lost fewer to attrition. The high energy levels exhibited by WisCon 31 planners after completing the exhausting project that was WisCon 30 seems to predict a dynamic future for the gathering place of the feminist SF community.