WisCon 46 at Madison Concourse Hotel and Central Library
May 25 @ 6:00 pm - May 29 @ 6:00 pm$65
WisCon launched in 1977, with the goal of tackling “feminist and pointedly left-leaning topics” in science fiction, that other sci-fi gatherings barely acknowledge. Over the years, it has welcomed to Madison several of the all-time great sci-fi and fantasy writers: Octavia E. Butler, Samuel R. Delany, Nnedi Okorafor, Kim Stanley Robinson… and the list really does go on. Just as importantly, WisCon has become a community in and of itself. Attendees from all over gather in Madison annually over Memorial Day Weekend for readings, panels, workshops, and the bestowing of the annual Otherwise Award. It was abundantly clear just how many people in how many places care deeply about WisCon when, in 2021, organizers held an emergency fundraising campaign. The fundraiser succeeded, with vocal support from across the diverse ranks of SFF writers working today.
Since then, convention organizers have worked to make the convention more inclusive. They’ve also announced that the con will take a break in 2024 to let its all-volunteer leadership recharge for the future. But for 2023, the schedule is packed with sessions in the Madison Concourse Hotel’s conference rooms. This year’s WisCon will also keep up the tradition of an opening-night reading, featuring two guests of honor, that is free and open even to those who aren’t registered for the con proper. That’s Thursday, May 25 at 6 p.m. at the Central Library.
This year’s guests are Rivers Solomon and Martha Wells, and I’m particularly excited to finally get to hear Solomon read. Their 2017 debut novel, An Unkindness Of Ghosts, takes place on a generation ship where theocratic tyrants rule over a stratified society of rich whites and a brutally exploited Black underclass. It’s very explicitly the antebellum South in space—humanity recommitting to hierarchy, cruelty, and control even as it seeks a second chance among the stars. Its protagonist, Aster, is a queer, neurodivergent outsider among the oppressed, rebelling against the ship’s viciously regimented social order. It’s devastatingly powerful. So are the two novels that followed An Unkindness Of Ghosts, 2019’s The Deep (great as a standalone book, also great as part of a multi-media collaboration with hip-hop group clipping.) and 2021’s Sorrowland. Wells’ body of work spans dozens of sci-fi and fantasy novels, including the Murderbot Diaries series, whose 10th installment, System Collapse, is due out in November.
Photo of Rivers Solomon by Wasi Daniju.
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