FIYAH is a literary magazine of black speculative fiction, and their inaugural convention naturally aimed to center non-white voices and topics. the con had been in the works since the summer, but grrm mispronouncing the magazine’s name during the hugos lit… a… fire (heh) under the community at large, and drove more support towards both the magazine and the convention (which would include the inaugural Ignyte
awards as well). i managed to snag a membership giveaway on Dream Foundry’s twitter by posting a photo of my partner’s cat (true story
), so big thanks to them and my benevolent anonymous sponsor; you truly helped a poor writer in an hour of need.
and friends, words can’t describe how much fun FIYAHCon was, but i’ll do my best.
the tech setup was similar to conzealand in that there was a webinar platform and a discord server, and that too worked splendidly—i’d even say better, because the number of attendees was limited from the get-go, so it never felt overwhelmingly crowded in the chat, at least for me. most crucially, everything was organised in a way that made damn sure everyone was respected and heard, and that manifested in an atmosphere that was just… transcendental. there was no grandstanding at panels, no egregious mispronunciations anywhere, no coddling white people and starting all panels from ground zero. we could begin the conversation on a deeper level from the outset (no question on whether lovecraft was a racist, for example; no need to define and explain things like afrofuturism; no glorification of imperialism, colonialism, and the West in general), which made each hour-long panel and its overspill in the discord chat that much juicier and more interesting.
there were two panels in particular that really resonated with me, on different aspects of non-anglophone writers who write for an anglophone/Western audience. one was on the practical aspects of publishing in the West while not living there, and one was on the implications of dumbing your culture or language down for an anglophone audience. the first was moderated by alexandra manglis
, who is from cyprus and has a very similar education/culture background to mine, and featured some excellent advice from attending writing workshops to signing contracts and self-publishing; the second featured haralambi markov, a bulgarian author who isn’t on twitter right now, who said something that really
resonated with me: he doesn’t even think to write about bulgarian characters, because almost every story that was seminal for him was written in english and set in the US/UK. it was unthinkable for him to even write about his own culture—who would even want to read that, or find it interesting?
that, my friends, made me look back at my own writing, and i had the realisation that i too have felt this, but never put it into words; it hit me so hard, i had to sit and cry for a minute. i feel like i’ll be unpacking that in future editions of this newsletter, when i’m writing fiction again, so stay tuned for existential panic and complicated home feelings!
these conversations wouldn’t happen at a place like WorldCon, where the established canon of the first golden era of science fiction looms large over anything written since. the hugos this year were a prime example: instead of celebrating this year’s nominees and their current work, martin told stories from worldcons 50 years gone. FIYAHCon looked forward where Worldcon looked back; it was a space for the writers of today to take stock of where the genre is right now and where it’s going, putting BIPOC in the foreground, and allowing white non-anglophone creatives to share that space while de-centering the US and UK from all conversation, and recognising that other european cultures experience the world differently to the generalised West. it’s quite a simple thing, really, but in terms of sff conventions, it was groundbreaking.
and then, the Ignyte awards
!!! they were everything the hugos were not! respectful of people’s names and pronouns, celebrating the nominated works and the people that created them, and short—just over an hour. One Hour, george, not three and a half. we ain’t got all day for your shenanigans.
i made so many connections at FIYAHCon (i’ve joined not one, but two post-con discord servers) and had so many ideas about Cool Things We Could Do off the back of an incredible weekend full of stimulating, respectful, and exciting conversation.
honestly, your fave con could never… though they certainly ought to try!