Clarion West Day 1: Time Compression and Liminality, Ahoy!

It’s Sunday morning, and just a few hours til the Clarion West workshop officially starts. We’ve been doing Locus awards events up til now – Congrats to all the winners, most of whom are Cat Valente.

I can see already one of the ways this becomes such a significant, life-changing experience, and it has to do with time compression. I’ve only been here for two days (less than, really), but it already feels much longer than that. There’ve been excellent conversations with amazing people, and the group is large enough to be able to atomize out in various permutations without it feeling weird or cliquey, but small enough that we still feel like a band. It helps that the surrounding social structure of alums and supporters are consistently narratively constructing us as a group, so that even in these first few days we have the common experience of receiving similar kinds of friendly teasing, excellent advice, and warm well-wishing.

This density of shared experience (with many other contributing elements – even in this there is so much to unpack), creates a feeling of time compression. It feels like I’ve been here so much longer, known my cohort longer, than just a day and change. I can see why attendees quickly lose the ability to blog. It would be like thrusting your head outside a speeding train just as the tunnel edge is coming up. You’re going so fast, how do you possibly break the bubble to communicate to people living in real time? Without splatting your head, I mean.

It’s such a classic Turner-esque liminal space. Our identities are becoming unfixed! We are being made powerful and monstrous! We must be broken down before we can break through! (which apparently happens mostly in week 4, but I will not cry. Connie Willis says there is no crying in baseball. And also that Andrew Lee Potts is adorbs).

Good thing I’m a fox. We know how to navigate liminal spaces. We thrive in them. We’re made for this kind of shit. So I will try to report back across the border. Just know that time works differently here (just like in Faerie), so I can’t promise that three hundred years won’t have passed the next time I stick my head out of the bubble.

I sincerely hope the effort won’t make my head go splat.

(crossposted at www.teleidoplex.com/blog)

26 thoughts on “Clarion West Day 1: Time Compression and Liminality, Ahoy!”

  1. “venus” figurines

    You indicate that there are figurines of animals, obviously male, gender indeterminant, and the females with enlarged breasts, hips, and thighs.

    Are there any obviously female figurins that do not have enlarged breasts, hips, and thighs? What proportion?

    I don’t suppose it is as simple as a common perception of women … the way to clearly differentiate the figurine?

    (taking my simplistic li’l ole mind back to the practical corner)

    1. Re: “venus” figurines

      This is actually a really good question. How do we indicate “gender” or “sex”? How do other people? Most of our gender indicators have nothing to do with genitalia. Take a look at a fashion magazine. Many of the models are as flat as boys in the breast department, and you can’t see their genitalia. They aren’t pregnant, and there’s no way to determine their reproductive capacity. So, if biological markers don’t work, doesn’t that mean that gender is defined culturally? And aren’t those definitions extremely complex and not dichotomous?

      And doesn’t this make the “ambiguous” figurines much more interesting?


  2. Interested people might also want to check out Faces of the Goddess by Lotte Motz; she kind of debunks Mother-Goddess stuff, but in an interesting way. Basically, she refutes the theories (many of them centered in pop culture) that seem so very determined to reduce all Goddesses to one Goddess, by going through eight or ten different cultures and pointing out that these female deities so blithely being called “Mother Goddesses” are often not related in any way to reproduction at all. They’re not pregnant, they’re not mothers; hell, half the time they don’t even have anything to do with agricultural fertility.

    She doesn’t in any way discount the importance of these divinities to their cultures, or their potential importance to people today; she’s just anti-reductionist. In the course of her argument, she does yank out a lot of the support for the idea that there was once a widespread cult of the Mother Goddess — but frankly, I’d say you could call that as much empowering as anything else, since it fights the idea of reducing female importance to motherhood.

  3. I believe these “Venus” statues were once used to support the claim that early human society was matriarchal. But the evidence is overwhelmingly that there is no evidence for there ever having been a matriarchal society, ever, and that the closest thing was a genuinely egalitarian (men and women have equal status) culture on Crete.

    I think that these statues are often used in a revisionist way. Some people–a lot women–find solace in the idea of a matriarchal or woman-centered past because the idea is that if it existed then, that means power in culture isn’t inherently gender-specific (ie, men are not “naturally” the leaders and power-holders in human society). I think these statues lend themselves to having individual objectives/hopes projected onto them. It’s fascinating to see how people weave webs of significance around objects of the past. I think the way these venus statues have been approached reveals as much (maybe more) about what (some) modern people need as it does about the past.

    1. I love you for making into words what I was trying to think. I hate the idea that there is anything inherent about men, that we’re only now able to step into their shoes and assume leadership positions. I just would hate to know how I’d react if it was *proven* either way. I’m no feminist, I just think I deserve equal pay for equal work. And whoo-boy am I in the middle of the boys club now. ::shiver::

      There were three girls in my class this week. I was one of them.

      If I come back as an aminal, I want to be a hyena.

      1. I’m no feminist, I just think I deserve equal pay for equal work.

        in a nutshell, that *is* feminism. it’s really only the idea that men and women are equal, that women deserve to be treated (and paid!1) as such, and that historically they haven’t been.

        sorry. feminism’s been given a bad name. it just drives me crazy to see so many people say “i’m not a feminist, i just [believe in a core issue of feminism].”

        -kate the crazy feminist-

      2. It has been given a bad name, and it bothers me that I don’t particularly want to be called a feminist, even though my attitudes are feminist (in the good, non-radical, non-man-hating sense of the word). I wish we could somehow come up with a way to distinguish between basic feminism, and the extremist “sisterhood of womyn” stuff that I don’t associate myself with.

      3. I guess I don’t see that as feminism. I see it as equalism. Equality? Equilateral? Isosceles! 🙂


        In *some* industries (nursing, librarians, and kindergarten teachers) it’s the men who have to work to prove themselves equal, and I think that’s unfair too. Am I still a feminist? I mean, if I am, that’s okay too, I just would hate to get punched if I’m not and I say I am.

  4. I never intendend this to become a huge discussion. Though I do appreciate intellectual input, dear Kitsune.

    I was flabbergasted by Kate’s question. I really don’t have a personal Goddess (even with a small “g”) I’m just entranced into near-catatonia by round tummies. I want to lay my head on them and never rise. I want to smooth aromatic oils into the skin while I circle around and around and around…

    I understand that the statue I’m referring to (and yes, both Alyc and Cass were right about it, bag on and thank you for the links) was found in a lot of places in a lot of times. I was just using it as a reference that was easily recognizable to most people as to what I was picturing in my head. ::yawn:: I’m tired.

    And I need a Goddess.

    Can you imagine the want ad? “Committed white female seeks spiritual relationship with non-physical feminine entity for a mortal lifetime of worship.”


    1. damn. if it weren’t for that “non-physical” part… 😉

      if it helps, i’m a bit flabbergasted by my question. i thought about it for a while, and almost didn’t post it. and i wasn’t sure if you were a goddess person or not. so i thought i’d ask, in an incredibly roundabout sort of way.

      incidentally, is it problematic to dig the Willendorf statuettes on pure aesthetics alone? i’d dig having a little figurine that looked kinda like me. like Sarah, i’m a fan of round tummies.


      1. Most definitely problematic from an archaeologist’s point of view. If you just dig them up, then archaeologists lose everything about them that is necessary to say anything about them — that is, their context. When archaeologists dig they (ideally) look at the entire matrix (all the stuff that’s there). That’s how archaeologists figure out what’s been going on in the past. It really is like a puzzle, and the things we usually consider to be artefacts (like the figurines) are only one tiny piece.

        So, yeah, from an archaeologist’s pov, it’s a terrible thing to do. When you dig up artefacts, not only do you take away those puzzle pieces, but you also destroy a whole bunch of other ones that can never be recovered.

        Now the problem of course is that archaeologists are only one group of people with an interest in these things. The big argument going on right now is whether an archaeologist’s stake (their interest) is more important or should be more valued that the interests of other stakeholders like collectors, looters, land-owners, indiginous groups, tourists etc.

        It’s a whole messy issue.

      2. oh, i don’t want to dig one up–i was using dig in the 50s slang sense of the word. i just think they’re neat looking. (although i guess i’m still looking at them and digging ’em completely out of context…)

      3. Ah.

        I don’t think there’s anything wrong with digging them. I don’t think most archaeologists would (if they were being utterly honest, they’re mostly in it for the same reasons). They just get nervous sometimes because people digging artefacts funds other people to dig for artefacts, which means that archaeologists can’t dig for context, which means that there is less knowledge about the artefact for you to dig.

        Dig it?

        Ow…I just hurt my brain.

      4. well, they have nothing to fear from me, as i plan on never having the money to blow on sending people out to rape and pillage other cultures, no matter how much i’d like to. 😉

        and yeah, i dig. but not like *you* dig. knowwhatimean? 😉

  5. This story made me wish I had more role-playing time with these characters and knew more about the whole mummy thing. Very cool. Thanks for sharing.

    Plus your icon proves again you have the acting chops baby!

  6. I’m so excited for you! And can’t wait to hear the report from the other side.

    (Also, i hugged Tony for you last night.)

    (Also also, i want to hear more about Andrew Lee Potts being adorable, but then again that seems pretty obvious just from looking at him, so.)

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