As I keep saying, my con experience keeps getting more and more social. This isn't necessary good or bad. Right now, it's just an observation.
Thursday night, some woman approached me and aggressively demanded my personal contact information. She refused to take no for an answer. She took it for granted that I spoken Mandarin. Her first words to me were "你講嗎?" Basically, the first thing she asked me, in Mandarin, was whether I spoke Mandarin but in a highly idiomatic way that assumes the object. (Basically, she asked me if I can speak.)
I found out later she spent the con doing the same to every person of Asian descent. Apparently, if you didn't speak Mandarin, she insisted that you actually must. *facepalm* When I realized she had a pattern of doing this I tried to find out her name because, ironically, she's one of those people who wear their name tag reversed.
I will point out that people assuming I speak Mandarin is not a uniquely Readercon experience. This has happened to me in the middle of Italy, for example.
Also, I had my obligatory "mistaken for Ken Liu" experience. This happens at every con I attend, even at cons that Ken doesn't attend. Of course, Ken was at Readercon, but so was Ted Chiang, Wesley Chu, and Curtis Chen, for example. I'm sure I haven't listed every Asian male at Readercon this year.
This is my first year on Readercon panels and they all went really well. Rose Fox and the rest of the program committee did an amazing job with selecting panels and stocking them with panelists. My fellow panelists all had interesting things to say.
"Nuances of Point of View" went well. We didn't get too far beyond taxonomy. However, panelists made some interesting points and Jim Kelly did his usual good job making sure everyone had a chance to express opinions.
The "Race As a Social Construct" panel could have been treacherous. On one hand, there's a lot of pseudoscience about race that needs to be refuted. That pseudoscience is unenlightening and ultimately harmful. On the other hand, the whole notion of "I don't see race" also needs to be refuted because that sustains the unequal status quo. I think we did a good job of threading the needle in no small part due to the pitch-perfect moderation of Andrea Hairston. As I've said many times, I want to grow up to be Andrea Hairston. She's made of awesome.
In retrospect, I may have over-prepared for the "Sociolinguistics in SF" panel. I had so many things that I wanted to say about areas that the panel never had time to explore. We did delve into lots of fascinating aspects of how language affects society and culture. If I had a quibble, it would be that the panel felt too short. I loved loved loved doing this panel.
Many more people showed up than I'd expected. (Standing room only!) So excited to see so many people as interested in this topic as I am.
As usual, I caught up with a lot of people I really like. I stayed at the con hotel this year. No lobby because it's under construction, but I did go to a bunch of parties. (And I help occupy a hallway!)
This Readercon has been quite inspiring. When I found out I was on the POV panel, my reaction to the panel description was to start a short story. Going to Readercon has inadvertently provided a lot of fodder for that story. We'll see how it turns out...
I wish you'd been there too!
I don't think an essay would go all that well. For one, I'd feel the need to source everything more thoroughly. For another, a lot of what I wanted to say would only be interesting in the context of a conversation where we see how interactions are similar or dissimilar across cultures. I.e., I'd need the rest of the panel.
In any case, if I make any more head way as a writer, I'm likely to be placed on a lot of panels that impinge on issues of race. None of this preparation will go to waste.
Besides, socio-linguistics is a fascinating topic. I'm probably a linguist in an alternate universe, probably not a socio-linguist though...