Fan Guest of Honor – Victor Jason Raymond

Fan Guest of Honor - Victor Jason Raymond

So who am I? Here’s the short form:

“Victor Raymond is a biracial, bisexual, Native American from the Twin Cities.  He has been a science fiction convention chair or executive committee member, twice for Minicon and twice for WisCon.  He has been a convention Fan Guest three times in the past: Keycon 12 in Winnipeg, MB in 1995, Arisia in 2005, and Convergence in 2018.  In addition, Victor is a former President of the Minnesota Science Fiction Society (MinnStF), an Organizing Editor for Stipple-APA, a founding steering committee member of the Carl Brandon Society ( and a former board member of the Interstitial Arts Foundation.

“Outside of fandom, Victor has been a community organizer, a tenants’ rights advocate, a National Co-coordinator of BiNet USA, a co-founder of the Bisexual Empowerment Conference, and a three time invited guest to White House events during the Obama Administration.  He has also served as a board member of the Minnesota American Indian AIDS Task Force (now the Indigenous Peoples’ Task Force).  He holds a PhD in Sociology from Iowa State University, with a graduate minor in Women’s Studies.”

But that doesn’t really tell you very much.  Let me explain this another way.

When I was a child, I discovered science fiction.  This was in the late 60s, maybe 1970.  I was in elementary school, and my best friend’s dad had loaned me his Scribner’s hardcover copy of Space Cadet by Robert A. Heinlein.

I was entranced.

Reading about Matt Dodson was exciting – what SF fans in the past described as a sense of wonder – I was exploring a whole new world, seeing places and people in strange and challenging circumstances.  Looking back on Space Cadet now, it is fairly easy to see how it reflected the time it was written and the background of the author: the newly-discovered horrific nature of nuclear war; then-current ideas about Martian air being breathable, and Venus as a hot jungle planet; Heinlein’s experiences as a U.S. Navy officer.  As a work of science fiction, it is as dated as Jules Verne or H.G. Wells — but that doesn’t mean it was not or is not relevant, even now.

I went on from there — I read Asimov, Clarke, Tolkien, C.L. Moore, Andre Norton, you name it.  Some authors were then relatively new: C.J. Cherryh, Samuel R. Delany, Ursula K. Le Guin, and many others.  I probably spent more years in the rest of the galaxy than on Planet Earth, but in the end, I always came back.

As a teenager, I got involved in SF fandom, role-playing games, and the Society for Creative Anachronism.  I also read books about history, current affairs, and social activism, particularly Saul Alinsky and his community organizing work in Chicago’s Back of the Yards neighborhood in the 1930s.  Putting it all together, I was aware that science fiction was both about the future and about social conditions in the here-and-now.  That the choices we make today shape the world of tomorrow, and it was important to keep that in mind.

One of the books I read as a teenager had a profound effect on me: Diane Duane’s The Door Into Fire.  It was the first book I had read where it was considered perfectly normal to be bisexual — where sexuality wasn’t a matter of social judgment and potential discrimination.  I also found that science fiction fandom was a place where being different was pretty much expected, and since I was bisexual, I encountered very little homophobia or biphobia.

Fast forward a bit: after I graduated from college, I stayed involved in science fiction fandom.  I got involved in the convention committee for Minicon, held every year on Easter weekend in the Twin Cities — I eventually became one of the hotel liaisons for the convention, then was on the Executive Committee for Minicon 28 and 33.  At that same time, I also became the vice-chair and later the chair of the Board of Directors of the St. Paul Tenants Union.  I have to say, my experiences helping run fannish organizations were highly beneficial in helping to run more mundane institutions.

Because of the science fiction and fantasy I had read, I knew about the theme of “if this goes on” — if society became really unequal, what would that look like?  So when I testified in front of city councils or the state legislature, I had some inspiration for fighting injustice.  I also became part of the Speakers Bureau for the Gay and Lesbian Community Action Council of Minnesota (now Outfront Minnesota), and learned to tell my own story as a biracial and bisexual person.  When Minnesotans were fighting for LGBTQIA+ equality in the 1990s, I became the co-chair of the People of Color Caucus of It’s Time, Minnesota. We won that fight in 1992.

Fast forward again: a few years before starting graduate school in 1999, I became more involved in helping to run WisCon, the world’s foremost feminist science fiction convention.  In 1999, I worked with Nalo Hopkinson, Ian Hagemann, Mary Anne Mohanraj, Cecilia Tan, Nisi Shawl and others to form the Carl Brandon Society, “to help the world understand that we can’t create a just future if people of color aren’t included in its imagining.”  We could not have done that without all of us meeting at WisCon, and we have all gone on in our own work to make the world a better place.

Since that time, I have chaired WisCon twice, and became re-involved in LGBTQIA+ activism on a national level.  I was an invited guest to the Obama White House to celebrate Pride Month in June 2014.  When I stepped into the main hallway and looked around, I was somewhat lost in the sea of faces of LGBTQIA+ activists from all over the country.  The only person I recognized was Rose Hayes, an amazing trans woman who has served on the Board of Directors of the National LGBTQ Task Force.  How did I know her?  We met at WisCon, and became friends there.  More importantly, we worked together on WisCon.

What I am trying to say is that science fiction and its fandom have played a pivotal role in my life.  It has shown me what the future might hold, and helped me to better understand the present.  More importantly, because of the work I have done with other science fiction fans, I have had an advantage in my work in the “mundane” part of my life.  Works including N.K. Jemisin’s Inheritance Trilogy, or Charlie Jane Anders’ All the Birds in the Sky, or John M. Ford’s Aspects have all deepened my understanding of everyday life, and how important it is to be engaged in the immediate realities of the environment, politics, and social issues that we all confront, individually and together.

A lot of times, science fiction is denigrated as “escapism” – that somehow, sf readers are somehow incapable of dealing with the real world.  I think that is entirely off the mark. In reality, by imagining something completely different, science fiction helps us think about the here-and-now, the real world.  If we are going to imagine better futures, we have to work on making a better present.  With the help of science fiction, we can do that.  More importantly, if I can do that, so can you.

Will you get involved in making the world a better place?  Can we do this together?  I hope so.