2012 Snapshot Archive: Kitty Byrne

First published at Alisa Krasnostein’s blog.

Kitty is a reader and podcaster living in Perth, Western Australia. She was the convenor of this year’s Swancon 2012 – Doomcon and cohosts the comics podcast Panel2Panel. She spends her days working with Autistic children and her nights getting into fights on the internet. Kitty is a feminist, activist, child welfare advocate and disabilities advocate with the love of two very important people: her partner Brendan and fiance Kat.

1. Having just come out the other side of Doomcon (Swancon 2012), was the con everything you hoped it would be? What were your highlights? 

The con was everything I had hoped, and much better than I expected. I had a fantastic crew working with me to make sure everything got off the ground. I set out to make it as woman-friendly as possible, which was not an easy task. As progressive as the SF community likes to think, it can still be just as sexist as the rest of the world. I benefited a lot from having people in the committee who shared my vision, so when I said I wanted to promote female work and female achievement no one questioned it. More than just supportive, the committee was actively trying to think of ways to make this happen.

There were a few moments that made me quite proud. Most of these moments weren’t inside the con itself, but part of the organisation of it. When the programme books came back from the printers complete with an Anti-Harassment Policy I was over the moon. Every time I had a woman tell me they were excited to be on a panel item I felt glee.

At the end of the day, the thing that mattered the most to me was seeing the end project come together. You get to a point where everything is going to happen regardless of what you do, so you can sit back and ride it out. That was probably the most thrilling experience of the con.

2. You cohost the Panel2Panel podcast with Grant Watson. How did this project come about and can you tell us a little bit about it?

As with all good things, Panel2Panel started with a rant on the internet. Both Grant and I listened to comics podcasts, and we were both fed up with them. A lot were overly sexist, claiming that sexism in comics didn’t matter and that men were “just as objectified” as women, which we know is blatantly bullshit.

I had also wanted to be a part of a podcast for a while. I listened to some great ones, likeGalactic Suburbia and Coode Street Podcast, and it looked like so much fun! After talking with Grant on Twitter I realised that there was an opportunity. We both felt passionately about sexism and racism, and we both loved comics. It was a match made in heaven!

Panel2Panel is about talking about something we love – comic books – but also where comics fall short. We discuss some of the problems within the comic book industry, the same problems inherent in any media. Sexism, racism, homophobia, and that’s just scratching the surface! More than that, though, we try to promote female creators, female characters (when they’re done well) and positive changes within the industry. Looking only at the bad is depressing, so we shine a light on the good when it happens.

3. Gender parity is something that is clearly important to you and that you are active in trying to achieve. Can you tell us a bit about some of the projects and actions you’ve been working on towards that?

This is easily the hardest question to answer. I am a consumer of media, not a producer. Add to that a lovely does of Impostor Syndrome and I feel like I can’t actively make a difference, as much as I try.

But I do try.

Most recently I ran Swancon 2012: Doom-Con. I worked really hard to get women onto panels and make women part of the conversation. I’ve volunteered to help out with the running of Swancon 2014: Conjuration, and I can guarantee that gender parity is going to be fought for.

We’ve already mentioned the podcast. There is a personal project of mine that came about because of it. I sometimes buy issues of comic books with female creators and characters and slip them into other people’s boxes. The idea is to get new people interested in women and women’s stories, so that in the future they might choose them.

Finally, I’ve decided to participate in the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge. In 2012 I will read at least 50 books written by Australian women and review them on my blog. So many people are involved, and so many great female authors are being discussed. It awesome to be a part of it all.

4. What work by Australians have you been loving recently?

That’s a much easier question to answer. Recently my To Read shelf seems to be taken entirely by stuff recommended by Galactic Suburbia. I’ve been thoroughly enjoying the Twelve Planets series of anthologies coming out of Twelfth Planet Press. The books are all so beautiful and so well crafted that it’s hard to pick a favourite.

I’ve also recently finished the Creature Court trilogy by Tansy Rayner Roberts. I’m always worried when I read books written by a friend that I won’t like them, but in this instance my worries were completely unfounded. I’d recommend them even to people who don’t usually read fantasy.

At the moment I’m in the middle of two books by Australian women; The Courier’s New Bicycle by Kim Westwood and Burn Bright by Marianne de Pierres. I don’t know how much I’ll enjoy them yet, but I’ve never been disappointed by a Galactic Suburbia rec.

5. Two years on from Aussiecon 4, what do you think are some of the biggest changes to the Australian Spec Fic scene?

This is another hard question for me to answer. I feel a lot like I’m new to the scene, and thus unqualified to make these sorts of statements.

The changes I have seen have all been positive ones. This year especially we’re seeing shortlists and awards overwhelmed with deserving women. When I saw that the Ditmar nominees were a majority female I think my heart skipped a beat! Given how hostile the world is to change, this is certainly a wondrous achievement.

I think the Australian specfic community is becoming more aware of the issues that have plagued it, and I can only see good things coming of this in the future.

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