Jun 252014

We’re really pleased to note that the “Entry Level” class zine put together for WisCon 33 in 2009 finally has a home on our website.  You can download it as a PDF.  Sincerest thanks to everyone who’s supported the zine over the years — by contributing, by buying the paper copies (now pretty much sold out), and by continuing to encourage others to read it.

Unrelated: Apologies that we didn’t put up our traditional pre-WisCon post listing all of the class-related panels on the schedule this year.  Chris would like to report that buying a home (especially one’s first home) is the worst, most miserable process they have ever engaged in — and ironically, it isn’t even property, Chris is buying into a co-op.  Why are banks??

We are working on gathering together all of the panel write-ups and Storify posts for WisCon panels for the past few years.  We’ll be getting caught up on posting those over the summer.

Mar 172014

The programming interest form for this year’s WisCon ends tomorrow, Monday, March 17th (at midnight Madison-time, aka CDT).  Don’t be put off thinking it’s just for signing up to be on panels!  The interest survey is hugely important because you get to vote on what panels you would like to see — just click the “I would like to attend this panel” ticky-box!

Here are the proposed panels we could find that touch on class/ism either explicitly or implicitly.  We especially urge you to vote for the panel titled “‘Success’ is not a universal constant!” (if you’re interested, of course).  This is one of the panels Friends of Dennis has developed and proposed, but it’s a quite late addition to the programming interest survey.  Vote early, vote often!

Panels listed under: Feminism and Other Social Change Movements

  • Transgressing class: How do they know and what happens?  How does society deal with people who don’t act their class? How does society know what class you should be in?

Panels listed under: Power, Privilege, and Oppression

  • “Don’t say ‘meshi’ — we’re not low class” : Class in the works of Hiromi Goto  The works of Hiromi Goto feature characters from across a wide class spectrum. In particular, she often portrays individuals from lower and working classes. What are the ways in which class is signalled/realized — in the world-building, for specific characters? How does a character’s class background or current status shape the story? impact their relationships with other characters? How does class interact/change with the various cultures depicted in her works?
  • “Success” is not a universal constant!  So you think you’ve “made it” and are successful. What does success look like for you and how do other people recognize you’re successful? Is it having a nice recliner? Clothes with fancy logos? Clothes without logos? Is it what your children do?
  • Class and Gender Roles in The Hunger Games  The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins is set in a dystopian future. Intersections of class and gender play a part in the roles many of the characters take on. Things that are seen as masculine behaviors or actions in Katniss, for example, might be due in part to her family’s needs in the most impoverished part of the country. While some of the things that are seen as more feminine roles or behaviors by the citizens of the Capitol, might be due in part to their extreme wealth and the politics of their region. How do these intersections reflect our own current society?
  • Education and Social Justice  Equal access to quality education should be guaranteed, and yet a child’s zip code generally predicts her or his future all too accurately. What can a parent or citizen do to change that?
  • How not to sell yourself short when society says you’re worthless  Society tells a lot of us, on a constant basis, that we’re worthless for being poor, trans, disabled, old, a woman, a person of color, a geek, and everything else we are. What methods do we use to combat these negative messages, both in our communities and in our own heads?
  • Making and making do: class issues in creator culture  With the rise of people voluntarily taking up skills that their grandparents had no choice but to practice, what is the shift doing to or for people who still are economically disadvantaged? If hipsters are drinking out of mason jars with 3-D printed lids, what does that do to the price of jars needed for canning? How is the rebirth of home sewing making changes for people who sew because they cannot find garments otherwise? Let’s discuss the value of skills and the problems of assuming our way of interacting with craft is the only right way.
  • The Politics of Being Poor  What are the realities of living in poverty? Are you tired of noodles and canned pumpkin at food pantries? Are you unable to afford medical care? Do you feel weird accepting assistance from Christian charities? Does the word “charity” make you cringe? Let’s talk frankly and openly about being in need and how we, personally as well as collectively, can work to find and create more workable solutions.

Panels listed under: Spirituality, Organized Religion and Politics

  • The 50th Anniversary of Johnson’s War on Poverty.  It is 50 years since President Lyndon Johnson commenced the War on Poverty. Evidence shows that the War on Poverty was successful in reducing the rate of poverty in the U.S., until the poverty programs were weakened and increasingly underfunded during subsequent Republican and Democratic administrations. Recently, Republican candidates like Marco Rubio and Paul Ryan have doubled down on the myth of the undeserving poor to proclaim the war on poverty a failure, because of the moral failings of poor people. The purpose of this panel is to bring together facts and statistics that can be used to counter the current War on the Poor.

Panels listed under: Fandom as a Way of Life

  • ‘Ism’s in Fandom  There’s an idea that fandom is the great unifier. That somehow fen are above things like racism, sexism, classism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, or sizeism. Yet, in every fandom sooner or later these problems appear. It may be in a dispute about a character’s love life, writing, or even about the personal life of the creator or an actor in the show/movie. More broadly the issues can arise from the work itself, as we are all liable to be fans of problematic things. Whether it is Joss Whedon’s works, Supernatural fans, Doctor Who, or Sherlock vs. Elementary, fandom wars are common and often rife with the very issues fandom claims to be beyond. We’re not all the same, so when do we start addressing the biases that come into fandom with fans?
  • When Nerdiness Is Not in the Budget  A good way to look at how we define nerds and geeks is through passions and enthusiasms. However, what about those who may not have the financial means to follow their interests as they like? We often do not think about how financial situations affect how we are able to follow our passions and goals, so what does income have to do with how we see ourselves as nerds or geeks? Do those of us who cannot afford to see films opening weekend or collect comic books often feel invalidated when it comes to our nerd or geek status? How can we make the things we love more accessible, and participate in ways that help us feel that we are not being held back because of our financial situations.

Panels listed under: Reading, Viewing, and Critiquing Science Fiction

  • Populism and class aspirations in kdramas  Let’s discuss the tensions that arise between the strong populist sentiments that drive a lot of K-dramas concurrently with the class aspirations that lead to both demonization and romanticization of the upper class lifestyle. We’ll dive deep into contemporary K-dramas (War of Money and Fantasy Couple) as well as fusion K-dramas (Hong Gil Dong).
May 252013

Because we’re keenly aware that not everyone can afford to buy the WisCon Chronicles1 nor attend WisCon and get the Souvenir Book, we’ve uploaded copies of the articles Jess and Chris have written for these publications.

Also, Friends of Dennis finally has a Twitter presence!  Because FriendsOfDennis was taken, we used part of the title of our Souvenir Book piece for our Twitter handle: LupinRevolution

  1. Tho’, if you can, we encourage you to do so because the Chronicles are awesome! []
May 232013

If you’re attending WisCon in Madison, Wisconsin, this weekend, here are some class-related panels that may interest you.  We’ll try to collect a Storify for each hashtag in addition to our usual collection of live-blogs for our archive.

Class in Science Fiction and Fantasy
Description In speculative fiction, we create entire worlds and societies. How does SF handle social and economic class? Is there room for improvement? If so, what?
Schedule Sat, 2:30–3:45 pm
Panelists M: Ian K. Hagemann. Alisa Alering, Eileen Gunn, Madeleine E. Robins
Tweet! #ClassInSFF

Race and Class in Urban Planning
Description How does centralized planning divide our cities along lines of race and class? Subsidized housing, elevated freeways, new condos, zoning regulations: Who decides where these are placed, and for what purposes? From Tyrion Lannister scouring King’s Landing during war to Ariane Emory programming the populations of Cyteen and Gehenna, these issues affect our fictional worlds too. Let’s talk about how power and urban planning interact.
Schedule Sun, 10:00–11:15 am
Panelists M: Vylar Kaftan. Jamie Nesbitt Golden (thewayoftheid), Michelle Kendall, Michael J. “Orange Mike” Lowrey, s.e. smith
Tweet! #UrbanPlanning

Class Markers: The Obvious and the Subtle
Description How do people use, process, and react to obvious (e.g., appearance-based) markers of social class, as compared to more subtle ones? Let’s get intersectional: How do race, gender, sexual orientation, age, appearance, religion, and other identities affect how people use or read class markers?
Schedule Sun, 1:00–2:15 pm
Panelists M: Jess Adams. Eleanor A. Arnason, Chris Hill, BC Holmes, Barbara Jensen, Fred Schepartz
Tweet! #ClassMarkers

Reading Classes: The Workshop
Description This full-session workshop will include story-telling, experiential learning, and lively discussion about class and classism in America. Barbara Jensen, author of Reading Classes: On Culture and Classism in America, calls classism the “invisible Ism” in the US. Jensen will lay out her core thesis: that working and middle class cultures are based on fundamental differences. A coherent theory of oppression and liberation as well as any practical political unity between working and middle class folks depends on increasing awareness of working class cultures and classism in daily life. Jensen outlines the differential cultural characteristics of working and middle class psychology and life. Economic inequality will be touched on but will not be the central focus of this workshop. Further, Jensen will explore her original theory on class “crossovers” or “straddlers” with both verbal and non-verbal means, and provide an opportunity for other class-crossovers to mine their own lives for useful knowledge. She will also provide people from middle class backgrounds with means to explore and understand the effect of class in their lives, as well as ways to provide support and validation to working class people and crossovers in both their professional and personal lives.
Schedule Sun, 2:30–3:45 pm
Panelists Barbara Jensen
Tweet! #ClassWorkshop

May 222013

A few announcements related to this weekend’s WisCon.

1)  Jess and Chris were asked to write a piece about Friends of Dennis for this year’s Souvenir Book.  Look for it Friday afternoon when Registration opens!  We’ll also post the text (along with our piece from last year’s “WisCon Chronicles 6”) online over the weekend for those of you who aren’t attending the con can read it.

2)  Jess has announced:

I’m on the concom this year, for the first time. My official title is Friends of Dennis Liaison. What that means, in brief, is that my job is to take feedback on making WisCon more affordable/accessible to people of all economic strata, and to advise the concom on related matters. This is the first year this position has existed (and Friends of Dennis is still in its early stages), so this year is largely a listening year. If you have suggestions, ideas, concerns or questions, feel free to ask me, either in person or by emailing the official address for this topic: affordability AT wiscon DOT info

We are really excited that Friends of Dennis was asked to be part of WisCon in this way!  Please direct your thoughts to the email Jess quoted above.

Finally, yes, things here get a little quiet when we’re between WisCons — a side-effect of being a project born out of the convention.  But we are working on expanding what we do and stepping a little out of WisCon’s shadow.  Stay tuned!

May 192012

In addition to the panels mentioned last month, there are several other class-related panels you may be interested in if you’re attending WisCon 36 this year in Madison, Wisconsin:

The Feeding and Proper Care of Your Underclass: How a Society Maintains Poverty

We all say that we want to abolish poverty. But we all know that our society works very hard to maintain its poverty class. Let’s talk about some of the practices that are inherent to Western society that keep the poverty class poor and hopeless. And since this is WisCon, let’s talk about the books/stories that examine this issue.

M: Beth Plutchak. L J Geoffrion, Michael J. “Orange Mike” Lowrey, Karon Crow Rilling

Class Culture and Values in SF&F

Class isn’t just how much money you have or what work you do; it also involves cultural beliefs, values, and attitudes that are expressed in how you talk, what you do in your free time, and all sorts of less tangible elements. (See Barbara Jensen’s book Reading Classes: On Culture and Classism in America, due out in mid-May.) The SF&F writing and fannish communities are mainly middle-class folks, which makes the class values of SF&F works mostly middle class, too. What works and creators explore classes outside the mainstream, white, European, middle-class value systems? What class markers tend to show up most, or least, often? Do these works show the non-middle classes positively? negatively? realistically?

M: Debbie Notkin. Eleanor A. Arnason, Alyc Helms, Danielle Henderson, Rose Lemberg

How to Make WisCon Affordable

WisCon is an empowering event, and more people should get to participate. But journeying to Madison, finding a place to stay, and affording membership are all difficult, much less being able to buy a dessert ticket. How have we been able to make it affordable for ourselves? In what ways could WisCon become more accessible for poor people?

M: Benjamin Billman. L J Geoffrion, Jesse the K, Rachel Kronick, Laurenn McCubbin

Gender and Class in Gaming

This panel uses Dragon Age II, Mass Effect and classic tabletop games as a starting point to discuss class and gender issues that have been raised by players. We’ll discuss the ways in which class and gender are used in past and current games. How are gender and class issues used in the plot of the game? Does this detract or add to the gaming experience? Is it possible to be a feminist gamer?

M: Tanya D.. Lisa C. Freitag, Alyc Helms, Jessamyn, Heather Porter

Do let us know if any online commentary — live-blogging, panel write-ups — about these panels.  See you at WisCon!

Apr 262012

Some of Dennis’s friends have been involved in planning panels on class for WisCon 36:

I pulled myself up by my bootstraps and all I got was this chip on my shoulder”: Uplift, Downsizing, and Other Changes of Class

In the US, everyone is expected to want to move up in class—but if we do, we are likely to find that we can’t leave our former experiences behind and we might not want to. Similarly, many formerly well-off people have slipped down the class ladder in the economic downturn, but may not realize the kinds of privilege they maintain or the kinds of survival knowledge they lack. In this panel, we’ll talk about the challenges we’ve experienced in changing class in any direction, and work to build narratives that fit our lives better than the standard ones.

M: Alexis Lothian, Julie Hayes, Kiini Salaam, Fred Schepartz, Vanessa Vega

You Got Race On My Class! You Got Class On My Race!!

Race and class are two identities that exist in tandem, one never really trumping the other. What are the ways they intersect, diverge, conflict? What happens when our internal race/class state differs from an external race/class assignment—and what factors go into forming internal/external states in the first place? This panel will look at the realities of how we exist within and negotiate race and class without privileging either concept.

Saladin Ahmed, Eileen Gunn, Nisi Shawl, Chris Wrdnrd

Untangling Class

What do we mean when we talk about class? Is it about how much money we have? How much education? How we grew up? Our position with respect to a global capitalist world system? There have been a lot of WisCon panels in the past focused on speculative fiction that “does class well”—but how can we know whether something’s being done well if we don’t even know what it is? This panel brings together WisCongoers with expertise and experience in talking about class to hammer out (if not actually decide upon) some definitions.

M: Jess Adams, BC Holmes, Alexis Lothian, Chris Wrdnrd

As always, we’ll collect links to any live-blogging and write-ups and post them on the website.  Please let us know of any relevant commentary!

Nov 172011

“Race, Class, and Urban Planning”

How does centralized planning divide our cities along lines of race and class? Subsidized housing, elevated freeways, new condos, zoning regulations: who decides where these are placed, and for what purposes? From Tyrion Lannister scouring King’s Landing during war to Ariane Emory programming the populations of Cyteen and Gehenna, these issues affect our fictional worlds too. Let’s talk about how power and urban planning interact.

M: Steven Schwartz, Ian K. Hagemann, Katharine Kerr, Vylar Kaftan