Loncon 3’s Hugo MC Withdraws

I live in the Pacific time zone so I slept through most of his reign, but British TV celebrity Jonathan Ross was Loncon 3’s Hugo Awards Master of Ceremonies for about 7 hours today.

He’s not anymore.

After he was publicly announced one of Loncon 3’s division heads resigned, the internet caught on fire, and Ross abruptly withdrew as host.

Just another day in the Hugo/smof/gender/SFWA continuum.

One of the UK’s biggest names, Ross has 3.6 million Twitter followers and until 2010 was the highest paid television personality in Britain, raking in £6 million per year.

He also has a long record of controversy for his on-air shots at women, including Heather Mills and Gwyneth Paltrow. His phone prank on actor Andrew Sachs, featuring tasteless comments about Sachs’ grand-daughter, led to a 12-week suspension by the BBC.

Ross’ connection to the sf genre? He’s been a comics writer and video game developer. Loncon 3’s press release called him “a champion of science fiction and fantasy in all its forms throughout his career, and is one of the genre’s most vocal enthusiasts.” Ross is married to Hugo winner Jane Goldman, co-author of the screenplay for 2008 Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form) award recipient Stardust.

How Loncon 3 co-chairs Steve Cooper and Alice Lawson linked up with Ross wasn’t explained in the press release. Nearly all past Worldcon toastmasters and Hugo MCs have been drawn from the ranks of pro writers with a history of attending Worldcons. On the other hand, Seth MacFarlane and David Letterman have never offered to MC an American Worldcon — fans on this side of the Atlantic might prove just as susceptible to shiny things.

Loncon 3 Exhibits Division head Farah Mendlesohn wrote on her LiveJournal  (in a post since taken private) that she spent all week arguing with co-chairs Steven Cooper and Alice Lawson against Ross’ selection because of his “public abuse of women.” The chairs made it clear this was not something for the committee to decide. Therefore on February 28 she resigned as division head so she could continue to criticize the decision. (For complex reasons she still intends to work as Project Manager for the Exhibit Hall.)

In her resignation, Mendlesohn pointed to Loncon 3’s own anti-harassment policy, saying “It is my firm belief that a person who has publicly harassed, humiliated and expressed prejudice to a wide range of groups in public and live media spaces, including award shows, is not a fit person to take the role of host of the Hugo Awards.”

I’m disappointed that the chairs apparently tried to marginalize instead of acting on Mendlesohn’s criticism. I happen to agree with her. Even a Worldcon chair hypnotized by the idea of putting a shiny international celebrity onstage to host the Hugo ceremony ought to have enough of a survival instinct to understand that when anyone as respected as Mendlesohn says you’re about to step on a landmine – that the division in the sf community will cost a lot more than whatever benefit there is in the celebrity MC.

Seanan McGuire responded to Ross’ selection by loosing a volley of enraged tweets (promptly Storified by that master of disaster, Jim C. Hines) — disbelieving her offer to MC had been turned down in favor of an outsider with his history, and riding an emotional roller-coaster because she could easily visualize Ross cracking fat jokes if she went up to accept another Hugo.

Unlike McGuire I’m at no risk of winning in 2014, but I’d be sensitive to that idea myself.

Charles Stross’ less personalized reason for rejecting Jonathan Ross was that – however he acquired it — Ross has a lot of baggage and would attract the wrong kind of coverage to the Worldcon.

The problem I see is that while fandom is in the process of cleaning house, inviting him — or anyone with a controversial media profile — to be Hugo toastmaster is like rolling out a welcome mat at the Worldcon front door that says “muck-rakers welcome”. There’s a lot of muck to be raked, even before we get into Daily Mail photographers stalking cosplayers: just look at the recent SFWA fracas (plural), the Jim Frenkel/harassment scandal at Tor, and so on.

Worldcon should be safe space for fans, and inviting a high profile media personality who has been targeted by the tabloids is going to cause collateral damage, even if nothing happens, simply by making many fans feel less safe.

So the position of 2014 Hugo Ceremony MC is vacant for the time being. Before Ross withdrew I considered there to be one silver lining in his selection – it meant I wouldn’t have to watch Paul Cornell again. Now that Loncon 3 needs a replacement we may be in for another round of Russian Roulette where he’s concerned.

[Loncon 3’s original press release follows the jump.]

MEDIA RELEASE #14

Loncon 3, the 72nd World Science Fiction Convention

14-18 August 2014 at ExCeL, London Docklands

http://www.loncon3.org

media@loncon3.org

LONDON, UK. 1 March 2014: Loncon 3, the 72nd World Science Fiction Convention (“Worldcon”) taking place in London this August, today announced that leading TV personality and cultural commentator Jonathan Ross will be the Master of Ceremonies for the 2014 Hugo Awards Ceremony.

The Hugo Awards are the leading awards for excellence in the field of science fiction and fantasy, and have been presented at Worldcons since 1953.

Ross has had a long career as a TV and radio host and is also a film critic, comics writer, and video game developer. He has been a champion of science fiction and fantasy in all its forms throughout his career, and is one of the genre’s most vocal enthusiasts

Ross’ wife, screenwriter Jane Goldman, won a Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form) in 2008 with Matthew Vaughan for the screenplay for Stardust.

Loncon 3 co-chair Steve Cooper said: “We’re thrilled to announce that Jonathan Ross will be our host for the 2014 Hugo Awards Ceremony. Ross loves science fiction and fantasy as much as any of the fans who will be nominating and voting for the awards.”

Co-chair Alice Lawson added: “Jonathan Ross has a genuine enthusiasm for Worldcon and the Hugo Awards and this, coupled with his great showmanship, will bring so much to the 2014 ceremony.”

The Hugo Awards Ceremony is one of the highlights of the Worldcon. The ceremony at Loncon 3 will take place on the evening of Sunday 17 August 2014.

Full details of how to become a member of Loncon 3 are available at http://www.loncon3.org/memberships/

ENDS

For more information, please contact media@loncon3.org.

ABOUT THE WORLD SCIENCE FICTION CONVENTION

Founded in 1939, the World Science Fiction Convention is one of the largest international gatherings of authors, artists, editors, publishers, and fans of science fiction and fantasy. The annual Hugo Awards, the leading award for excellence in the fields of science fiction and fantasy, are voted on by Worldcon membership and presented during the convention.

Loncon 3 is the trading name of London 2014 Ltd, a company limited by guarantee, registered in England, company number: 7989510. Registered Office: First Floor, 5 Walker Terrace, Gateshead, NE8 1EB

“World Science Fiction Society,” “WSFS,” “World Science Fiction Convention,” “Worldcon,” “NASFiC,” “Hugo Award,” and the distinctive design of the Hugo Award Rocket are service marks of the World Science Fiction Society, an unincorporated literary society.

 

2 thoughts on “Loncon 3’s Hugo MC Withdraws

  1. I trust that the concom has drawn a distinction between mysogeny and making jokes about women (as well as men, politicians, gun owners,the Olympics, slow drivers and homophobes, which is what comedians do).

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