In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Reviewed by:
  • WisCon 46
  • Laurie Fuller, Jenna N. Hanchey, and E. Ornelas
Existence as Resistance, WisCon 46, May 26–29, 2023, Madison, Wisconsin, United States

In a world that seems structured to kill most of its occupants, there is a utopian impulse in the act of existence itself. WisCon 46 represented a prefigurative utopian impulse through centering continued marginalized existence as resistance.1 Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha calls “prefigurative politics” the “fancy term for the idea of imagining and building the world we want to see now,” particularly in terms of access needs.2 The structure as well as the content of the convention itself created a space in which to set the groundwork for utopia: the ways that we live and act to resist structures of oppression in order to prefigure a better world.

Since WisCon’s founding in 1977, its intended audience has been fans, authors, and academics interested in the intersection between feminism and “science fiction, fantasy, and speculative literature of all sorts.”3 While neither feminism nor speculative fiction could be solely defined as utopian, both do explore utopian impulses that inspire change for the better. Therein lies the hope of Alessa Johns’s proposal that “the utopian imagination has been crucial for feminists.”4 Lisa Yaszek agrees: “for nearly 200 years writers have used speculative fiction consciously and collectively to dramatize the political issues most central to women living in a technocultural world and to create a sense of wonder about the interrelated possibilities of social and scientific change.”5 Envisioning a liberatory world is a feminist imperative, and speculative fiction offers a unique venue to do so. This imperative informed WisCon this year, as participants collectively worked to imagine and enact a better future for marginalized folks, in and beyond the space of the conference. [End Page 618]

Enabling Existence through Con Structures

WisCon is unique in attuning its organizational structure to the creation of liberatory futures in the here and now. WisCon is strongly attentive to disability access of all kinds, COVID safety, antiracist/anti-oppression principles, and safety and anti-abuse support for all these areas. In the contemporary US context—where COVID-19 remains a major barrier to disabled people wishing to participate in conventions, where racist violence continues to threaten BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) life, where queer and trans folks are under exacerbated legal attacks—creating a convention space that protects and enables marginalized participation becomes a means of prefiguring utopian potential through embodied praxis. As mask, capacity, and vaccination mandates disappear (despite these ongoing pandemic times), and as bigotry of all forms continues relatively unabated, WisCon 46 remains steadfast in its commitment to safety. In short, the conference itself aims to become a utopian space.

WisCon organizers are also keenly aware of the challenges that many different bodyminds might encounter in large group settings.6 Trained monitors oversee in-person and online programming in an effort to discourage harmful words and actions as well as ensure the fullest participation for those most impacted. Hence, disability justice lies at the center of the Con’s policies and practices. The event is made as accessible as possible through careful attention to venue selection, including the availability of gender-neutral bathrooms, scent-free spaces, and quiet rooms, as well as the use of color communication badges.

This year’s event followed strict masking and testing protocols: individually packaged rapid COVID-19 tests were available without cost at registration, as were KN95 masks. The Con kept an anonymized record of self-reported positive COVID-19 tests, in case of possible exposure. This mutual responsibility reflects the kind of utopianism inherent to disability politics; that is, disability “allows for reformulation of in/dependence and community,” a way of rethinking how we share space and produce knowledge together.7

The conference’s decidedly feminist approach “to creating a space for feminism and its consideration within the science fiction community” is applied at every level. The Con’s general organization and procedures are structured as nonhierarchically as possible. There is a board of directors as well as co-chairs, but these are rotating positions. This “commitment to feminism” is [End Page 619] reflected...