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GenreFeminist science fiction
DatesMemorial Day weekend
Location(s)Madison, Wisconsin
CountryUnited States
Participantsc. 1,000
Organized by(SF)3 -- http://www.sf3.org

WisCon or Wiscon, a Wisconsin science fiction convention, is the oldest, and often called the world's leading, feminist science fiction convention and conference. It was first held in Madison, Wisconsin in February 1977,[1] after a group of fans attending the 1976 34th World Science Fiction Convention in Kansas City was inspired to organize a convention like WorldCon but with feminism as the dominant theme.[2] The convention is held annually in May, during the four-day weekend of Memorial Day. Sponsored by the Society for the Furtherance and Study of Fantasy and Science Fiction, or (SF)³, WisCon gathers together fans, writers, editors, publishers, scholars, and artists to discuss science fiction and fantasy, with emphasis on issues of feminism, gender, race, and class.

Guests of Honor[edit]

Since its inception, WisCon has invited one or more guests of honor to attend the convention every year, guiding and participating in programming and giving a speech at a ceremony in their honor.[3] WisCon 30 (May 26–29, 2006) was an anniversary Wiscon, and 39 previous Guests of Honor attended.[4] For WisCon 40, the convention invited a third guest of honor, Nalo Hopkinson, who was previously a guest of honor at WisCon 26.

Guests of honor have included the following:[5]

WisCon #
Guests of Honor
Feb. 11–13, 1977 Katherine MacLean, Amanda Bankier
Feb. 17–19, 1978 Vonda N. McIntyre, Susan Wood
Feb. 2–4, 1979 Suzy McKee Charnas, John Varley, Gina Clarke
March 7–9, 1980 Joan D. Vinge, Octavia Butler, David Hartwell, Beverly DeWeese
March 6–8, 1981 Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, Don & Elsie Wollheim, Buck & Juanita Coulson, Catherine McClenahan, Steven Vincent Johnson
March 5–7, 1982 Terry Carr, Suzette Haden Elgin
March 4–7, 1983 Marta Randall, Lee Killough
Feb. 24–26, 1984 Elizabeth A. Lynn, Jessica Amanda Salmonson
Feb. 22–24, 1985 Lisa Tuttle, Alicia Austin
Feb. 21–23, 1986 Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, Suzette Haden Elgin
Feb. 20–22, 1987 Connie Willis, Samuel R. Delany, Avedon Carol
Feb. 19–21, 1988 R. A. MacAvoy, George R. R. Martin, Stu Shiffman
Feb. 17–19, 1989 Gardner Dozois, Pat Cadigan
March 9–11, 1990 Iain M. Banks, Emma Bull
March 1–3, 1991 Pat Murphy, Pamela Sargent
March 6–7, 1992 Howard Waldrop, Trina Robbins
March 5–7, 1993 Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Lois McMaster Bujold
March 4–6, 1994 Karen Joy Fowler, Melinda Snodgrass, James Frenkel
May 26–29, 1995 Barbara Hambly, Sharyn McCrumb, Nicola Griffith
May 24–27, 1996 Ursula K. Le Guin, Judith Merril
May 23–26, 1997 Melissa Scott, Susanna Sturgis
May 22–25, 1998 Sheri S. Tepper, Delia Sherman, Ellen Kushner
May 28–31, 1999 Terri Windling, Mary Doria Russell
May 26–29, 2000 Charles de Lint, Jeanne Gomoll
May 25–28, 2001 Nancy Kress, Elisabeth Vonarburg
May 24–27, 2002 Nalo Hopkinson, Nina Kiriki Hoffman
May 23–26, 2003 Carol Emshwiller, China Miéville
May 28–31, 2004 Patricia McKillip, Eleanor Arnason
May 27–30, 2005 Gwyneth Jones, Robin McKinley
May 26–29, 2006 Kate Wilhelm, Jane Yolen
May 25–28, 2007 Kelly Link, Laurie Marks
May 23–26, 2008 L. Timmel Duchamp, Maureen McHugh
May 22–25, 2009 Ellen Klages, Geoff Ryman
May 28–31, 2010 Mary Anne Mohanraj, Nnedi Okorafor
May 26–30, 2011 Nisi Shawl
May 25–28, 2012 Andrea Hairston, Debbie Notkin
May 24–27, 2013 Joan Slonczewski, Jo Walton
May 23–26, 2014 Hiromi Goto, N. K. Jemisin
May 22–25, 2015 Alaya Dawn Johnson, Kim Stanley Robinson
May 27–30, 2016 Justine Larbalestier, Sofia Samatar, Nalo Hopkinson
May 26-29, 2017 Amal El-Mohtar, Kelly Sue DeConnick
May 25-28, 2018 Saladin Ahmed, Tananarive Due
May 24-27, 2019 G. Willow Wilson, Charlie Jane Anders

Offshoot organizations and awards[edit]

Beaders at Wiscon 2006. Lisa Freitag (far left), Kate Yule (next left), and Amy Thompson (far right).
Emma Bull at Wiscon, 2006. Photo by Patrick Nielsen Hayden.

Multiple awards and organizations have been created through or developed from conversations at WisCon that focus on various issues within science fiction and fantasy. Many of these offshoots still maintain close ties to WisCon, hosting parties or panel discussions focused on their areas of interest.

The James Tiptree, Jr. Award, an annual literary prize for science fiction or fantasy that expands or explores our understanding of gender, was first discussed as part of Pat Murphy's Guest of Honor speech at WisCon 15 in 1991. The concept originated in a discussion at a prior WisCon, partly as "...a reaction to the fact that all of the science fiction awards were named after men. So they named the Tiptree for a man who was actually a woman".[6] James Tiptree, Jr., was the pen name of Alice B. Sheldon.[7] The Tiptree Ceremony has been held at other conventions, but is usually held at WisCon.[6]

The Carl Brandon Society was founded in 1999 following discussions at Wiscon 23 about race, racism, and science and fantasy.[8] The organization is dedicated to addressing the representation of people of color in science fiction, fantasy and horror. In 2005 they created the Parallax Award, given to works of speculative fiction created by a self-identified person of color, and the Kindred Award, which is given to any work of speculative fiction dealing with issues of race and ethnicity; nominees may be of any racial or ethnic group.[9]

Broad Universe, an organization with the primary goal of promoting science fiction, fantasy, and horror written by women, was first discussed at a panel discussion in 2000 at WisCon 24. It has since developed into a nonprofit with an online newsletter and other publications, a podcast, and a frequent presence at many conventions both to sell books written by members and to provide more information and help organize to support women writing, editing, and publishing in science fiction, fantasy, horror, and other speculative fiction.[10]

Books about WisCon[edit]

In 2007, Aqueduct Press began issuing a series of books titled "WisCon Chronicles", with The WisCon Chronicles: Vol. 1 ISBN 978-1-933500-14-0, edited by L. Timmel Duchamp.[11] Volume 2 was The WisCon Chronicles: Volume 2: Provocative essays on feminism, race, revolution, and the future ISBN 978-1-933500-20-1, edited by Duchamp and Eileen Gunn;[12] followed by The WisCon Chronicles: Vol. 3: The Carnival of Feminist SF ISBN 978-1-933500-30-0, edited by Liz Henry;[13] The WisCon Chronicles: Vol. 4: Voices of WisCon ISBN 978-1-933500-40-9 edited by Sylvia Kelso;[14] and The WisCon Chronicles: Volume 5: Writing and Racial Identity ISBN 978-1-933500-73-7, edited by Nisi Shawl and released at WisCon 35 (May 27–30, 2011), where Shawl was Guest of Honor.[15] Volume 5, like Volume 4 before it, was supported by a grant from the Society for the Furtherance & Study of Fantasy & Science Fiction [(SF)3]. The WisCon Chronicles 6: Futures of Feminism and Fandom ISBN 9781619760080, edited by Alexis Lothian, was issued at WisCon 36 in 2012; and The WisCon Chroncles 7: Shattering Ableist Narratives ISBN 9781619760424, edited by JoSelle Vanderhooft, was issued at WisCon 37 in late May 2013.[16]

Helen Merrick's 2009 The Secret Feminist Cabal (ISBN 978-1-933500-33-1), a 2010 Hugo nominee, while a broader history of the topic, contains a number of mentions and descriptions of WisCon itself and of various WisCon-spawned projects such as the Tiptree Awards, Broad Universe, and the Carl Brandon Society, beginning with the author's preface and continuing throughout the book.[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "About WisCon: History of WisCon". WisCon.
  2. ^ Wiedenhoeft, John (26 May 2006). "Klingons Not Focus of Wiscon The Science Fiction Convention Celebrates Literature and Feminism". The Capital Times. Madison, WI.
  3. ^ "Overall Wiscon Schedule". Wiscon official website. (SF)³. Retrieved 2 April 2013.
  4. ^ Custis, Scott; Jeanne Gomoll. "STELLAR ROSTER OF FORMER GUESTS OF HONOR WILL ATTEND WISCON 30" (PDF). Looking Back at 30 Years of Science Fiction and Feminism. (SF)³. Retrieved 2 April 2013.
  5. ^ "Past Wiscons". Wiscon official site. (SF)³. Retrieved 2 April 2013.
  6. ^ a b Gomoll, Jeanne (15 September 2008). "Founding Mothers: The Jeanne Gomoll Interview". Strange Horizons. Archived from the original on 8 October 2013. Retrieved 3 April 2013.
  7. ^ Itzkoff, Dave (August 20, 2008). "Alice's Alias". New York Times: Sunday Book Review. Retrieved 3 April 2013.
  8. ^ "About the Carl Brandon Society". Carl Brandon Society official website. Retrieved 2 April 2013.
  9. ^ "Carl Brandon Society Awards". Carl Brandon Society official website. Retrieved 2 April 2013.
  10. ^ "About Broad Universe". Broad Universe official website. Retrieved 2 April 2013.
  11. ^ The WisCon Chronicles: Vol. 1 on Aqueduct Press website
  12. ^ Volume 2
  13. ^ Volume 3
  14. ^ Volume 4
  15. ^ Volume 5
  16. ^ Wagner, Kathryn and Alexis Lothian. "Access and Fandom: Disability Studies From a Feminist Science Fiction Perspective" Disability Studies Quarterly Vol. 34, No. 2 (2014)
  17. ^ Merrick, Helen. The Secret Feminist Cabal: A Cultural History of Science Fiction Feminisms Seattle: Aqueduct Press, 2009; pp. v–vi, et seq.


  • Bankier, Amanda, "Guest of Honor Speech at Wiscon 1" [1]
  • Gomoll, Jeanne, "Guest of Honor Speech at Wiscon 24" [2]
  • Gomoll, Jeanne, "An Open Letter to Joanna Russ", in Six Shooter (Jeanne Gomoll, Linda Pickersgill, and Pam Wells, eds.) - reprinted in Fanthology '87 [3]
  • Hanson, Amy Axt, "How Is Wiscon Different from Other Cons?", The Broadsheet May 2002 [4]
  • Marks, Laurie J., "Why, and How a Wallflower Throws a Party at Wiscon", The Broadsheet May 2002 [5]
  • McClenahan, Catherine. "Wiscon, Then and Now." Wiscon 20 Souvenir Book, Madison: SF3, 1996; pp. 46–48.
  • Morgan, Cheryl, "Down Among the Rad Fems, 1998", The Broadsheet May 2002 [6]
  • Merrick, Helen. "From Female Man to Feminist Fan: Uncovering 'Herstory' in the Annals of SF Fandom," in Women of Other Worlds: Excursions through Science Fiction and Feminism, edited by Helen Merrick and Tess Williams; Nedlands: University of Western Australia Press, 1999; pp. 115–139.
  • Wiedenhoeft, John. "Klingons Not Focus of Wiscon The Science Fiction Convention Celebrates Literature and Feminism", The Capital Times May 26, 2006 [7]

External links[edit]