Shetterly Banned by 4th Street Fantasy Convention

Will Shetterly reports he has been banned from Minneapolis’ annual 4th Street Fantasy Convention.

In 2017, a 4th Street board member recruited Shetterly to help with a writing workshop, however, after seeing the info appear on the con’s website, 4th Street’s Safety Coordinator raised concerns. The board overruled the selection and Shetterly was dropped. Shetterly exchanged emails with people to find out what those concerns were and why the decision was made. Today he published that correspondence because the board has notified him he is banned from 4th Street Fantasy, due to his having raised the spectre of legal action when dropped from the 2017 workshop, and also for his public criticism of the convention.

Shetterly quotes the board’s notice about the ban in section three of his post “Positively Fourth Street, or On being banned for … vague reasons about nearly indescribable things?”

  1. I was done with 4th Street, but 4th Street was not done with me

After deciding I was done with Fourth Street, I rarely thought about it. When I did, I remembered it like Minneapolis’s Uptown neighborhood, a place that was fun that has been gentrified. It never occurred to me that Fourth Street was not done with me, but the convention is like a lover I ghosted—she felt obliged to tell me the relationship is over. On March 8, I woke to find this email:

Dear Will:

On April 27, 2017, as part of an email conversation regarding your removal from a programming item at the 2017 4th Street Fantasy Convention, you wrote “Someone has suggested this decision to imply I’m unsafe in public might be actionable.”

We cannot disregard this implied threat of legal action, particularly combined with your lengthy and detailed public criticism of the convention on multiple platforms. Despite your reassurance in correspondence dated April 30, 2017 that “I just want to reassure everyone that Emma and I have less than zero intention of suing anyone”, the Board of Directors has decided that we are unwilling to open ourselves to liability through further association with you.

We are therefore banning you from Fourth Street Fantasy.

We would like to resolve this privately. These are the practical steps we have taken:

• As stated above, you are banned from Fourth Street Fantasy. You will not be allowed to register for the convention or attend convention events. Please do not come to the Doubletree Hotel during the weekend of the convention.

Thank you for your service as a founder, programming participant, and long-time attendee. We wish you well in your further writing career.

Sincerely Yours,

The Fourth Street Fantasy Board of Directors

Brad Roberts
Scott Lynch
Alex Haist
Arkady Martine
Max Gladstone

Shetterly says he was “done with 4th Street” already (partly for the reasons covered last year in “Steven Brust’s Fourth Street Fantasy Remarks Generate Heat”, which Shetterly commented on extensively.) However, he believes a public statement is needed to clear the air, lest people assume he has been banned for the kind of behavior that has gotten other men banned from conventions.

Soon afterward, I realized these things:

1. The only substance in the Board’s letter is the fact that I’m banned because they’re concerned I might sue them for implying I’m unsafe. Their logic is odd. If I was the sort of person who liked using the law, banning me would make me more likely to sue them. By banning me, they are giving me the only reason I might have to sue them—in earlier times, no one would have been banned for polite disagreement, so people will quite reasonably assume there must be more to the charge.

2. Their letter says I criticize the convention without citing examples because there are none. I’ve always supported the convention. I’ve only criticized its current administrators who speak as if they are the convention—L’Etat, c’est moi is the motto of all petty people who fail to see they are only caretakers.

3. The letter says the Board “would like to resolve this privately”, but a ban means nothing if no one knows about it, the idea that five members of this community could keep anything private is hilarious, and there’s nothing offered to resolve: the Board isn’t dangling any hope of rescinding the ban if I promise to keep from criticizing them in the future. Their “privately” may mean they want to keep the story in the realm of gossip instead of making a press release, but the game of telephone began the moment a Board member told a friend I’d been banned or answered an inquiry about whether I’ll be at this year’s 4th Street.

So the Board has given me three choices:

  1. Do nothing, thereby validating the implication that I’m banned for the same reason other men in our community have been banned.
  2. Sue the Board to make them admit that the implications of their ban are false.
  3. Make the historical record public so people may draw their own conclusions.

Shetterly says he has chosen the last option, thus his post.

[Thanks to Mark Hepworth for the story.]