Below is the full text of my speech at the inaugural FIYAHCON’s opening ceremonies—sans the adlibs and the occasional stammer 😁
Hi, everyone! I’m Vida Cruz, one of FiyahCon Fringe’s two organizers. There were originally three of us: me, Iori Kusano, and the third being Neon Yang, who had important contributions to our phase 1 planning. But they had to pull out due to life being life—still, thank you, Neon, for helping lay the foundations for Fringe. Today, I’m speaking on behalf of Iori, too, as she has a panel immediately after this ceremony. As you can guess, it’s been both a very long and very short road to this day, because what does time mean anymore in 2020?
When we heard that Fiyah Literary Magazine was going to hold a BIPOC-centered con, Iori and I were wholly impressed. Here was a con that would have insightful and incisive panels—descriptions and all—and that would take safety precautions and harassment seriously. Fiyah would be creating a truly safe space where BIPOC can have fun while treating each other as human beings, not exotic items to be displayed behind dusty museum glass.
But we also realized that programming would take place in an optimal timezone 12 to 13 hours behind us—par for the course when you live far away from the “center”, to be honest.
FiyahCon Fringe began with two words every idea begins with: “what if.” In this case, Iori and I thought: what if we could sit in or speak at con panels that didn’t require us to get up or stay up until ass o’ clock? And, fresh from the unpleasant experiences of several major cons this year, we asked a bit more seriously: what if we could create a more inclusive con? Not just in terms of centering BIPOC, but also in bringing down the accessibility barrier that plagues so many of us SFF lovers who do not live in the US or UK or even in the Global North?
In my part of the world, which is the Philippines in Southeast Asia, we’re all very relieved not to have to undergo the indignity of applying for a visa (or a passport in some cases) just to attend these wonderful events. That’s the beauty of virtual cons. Still, $40 can buy you two weeks’ worth of rice, fish, and vegetables from the market for a three-person household in our country—perhaps even less food now, thanks to pandemic lockdown prices. Which is why we are very grateful to FiyahCon Director L.D. Lewis for allowing us to use FiyahCon’s tech resources, from the scheduling software down to the captions for the panels. These went a long way toward creating a fringe FiyahCon event accessible for everyone in the Global South who would otherwise not be able to make it due to economic reasons.
Once we’d hurdled accessibility, Iori and I focused on putting together panel topics that centered not only BIPOC, but those of us who write for an Anglophone audience while still not being situated at the center. This also meant putting together a roster of panelists hailing from New Zealand, Japan, the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Bulgaria, Sweden, Spain, Paraguay, and Trinidad and Tobago, in addition to the UK, US, and Canada. Communities are needed more than ever in a time of fear mongering and isolation; we couldn’t think of a better way to contribute to the international SFF community than by connecting even more people to it—and each other—through FiyahCon Fringe.
Our roster isn’t perfect, of course. We would have liked to have more queer and neurodiverse representation, as well as a balance of genders on each panel. But Iori and I had to submit to the tyranny of timezones and life’s unpredictable tides. The silver lining was bringing in a more diverse network of writers, editors, translators, and publishers from around the world than we would have had at an in-person con.
For the next 12 hours, you’ll be hearing a variety of perspectives on SFF topics such as superheroes, colorism, food, magic, destroying empires, literary parents, using italics, running magazines, sourcelander and diaspora struggles, finding your local community, getting published while living outside the West, and yes, writing for an Anglophone audience. Most are fun, some are uncomfortable, but all are definitely food for thought.
We hope you enjoy the fruits of our labor. Thank you and have a great con!