Cramer Asks Readercon to Investigate Age Discrimination Charge

Kathryn Cramer announced on Facebook that she has asked the Readercon board to investigate whether its program organizers engaged in age discrimination while culling their program participants list and violated the convention’s own Code of Conduct.

Several older white male writers who have been on Readercon’s program in previous years have posted to Facebook that they were notified they won’t be on this year’s program, or simply haven’t received the expected invitation. The wording of the notice sparked resentment —

Allen Steele’s reaction was typical:

Oh, we’re still welcome to attend, if we pay the registration fee. In fact, because of our exalted former status, we’re entitled to a 25% discount … if we go to a private registration site and enter the password (get this) PASTPRO.

So not only have we been told that we’re not welcome to come as professionals, we’re also being told that we’re no longer professionals, period.

Whether writers/editors/artists who have been on a convention’s program in the past are owed the courtesy of being formally notified that they are not going to be on the current year’s program, or a con should let silence speak for itself, is worthy of discussion in its own right, however, Readercon made the former choice.

Even more important than the careless language of the letter (“PASTPRO”), some writers who received it say they suspect that Readercon’s effort to churn its roster of panelists has been done entirely at the expense of older writers.

A few days ago Jeffrey A. Carver added his name to the list of writers who have gotten the letter: “Readercon Says, ‘So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish!’”

I worried I was getting old when I turned 50 and started getting mail from AARP. And then, when I wasn’t looking, I suddenly became eligible for senior discounts. (No, that can’t be right. My parents were seniors, not me!) And now…

Readercon, once one of my favorite conventions, has decided that—well, let’s let them tell it in their own words: “You won’t be receiving an invitation to participate in programming for Readercon 29. We’re deeply grateful to you for your years of participation at Readercon… but…” But so long, and thanks for all the fish!

They go on to say that they’re making room for fresh, young writers—which, if I thought that were the real reason, would at least be understandable. The truth, of course, is that Readercon has always been welcoming to new writers. I was one myself once, and Readercon always gave me a place at the table, as they did others. In fact, one of the things I liked about it was the yeasty mix of writers of all kinds, all ages, genders, creeds, etc. It made for great conversations. I guess the newer team of organizers are aiming for a new shape for their demographics. Either that, or they think they’re comping too many memberships to program participants.

I’m not the only one to receive this letter, of course. A number of older, white male writers (including my friend Craig Shaw Gardner) have received the same email. I don’t know if any female writers have received it or not. I’d be interested in knowing. (Update: I’ve received a secondhand report that a woman-writer friend of mine, also in my age group, got a similar boot to the backside.)

Kathryn Cramer tried to bring the matter to a head and tweeted Readercon a question —

Cramer also criticized a comment left on FB by Readercon program chair Emily Wagner:

…Speaking as the widow of a Readercon 13 GoH, I take exception to your complaints about past program participants’ “longevity.” You may find this whole matter “hilarious” (as per screen shot). I do not. Readercon has a code of conduct. I suggest you read it. And if you still think it is hilarious that you have given offense to many of the writers you have written such things to, and if you still think other peoples’ impression that you are engaging in age discrimination is hilarious, then I suggest you politely submit your resignation to the Readercon committee and find another hobby.

(This page lists 150 program participants from the 2017 Readercon – how Wagner’s 700 figure relates to that is unclear.)

Cramer has made a public request that the Readercon Board get involved.

I have just sent the following letter to info@readercon.org: To the ReaderCon Board:

In light of letters from Emily Wagner, writing as program Chair, recently received by older writers and professionals disinviting them from future participation on the ReaderCon program based their “longevity”, offering a discount code of “pastpro,” I formally request that the Board open an inquiry into whether Emily Wagner has committed age discrimination and whether she has, in the process, violated ReaderCon’s published Code of Conduct as pertains to age. Since Emily Wagner also sits on the Board, it would be appropriate for her to recuse herself from this inquiry.

I further request that the ReaderCon board publicly release the age demographics of the list of people to whom such letters were sent. And further, should these demographics demonstrate that all or nearly all such letters were sent to writers over age 50, I request that Emily Wagner be removed as Program Chair of ReaderCon and removed from the ReaderCon Board.

Ms. Wagner has posted on Facebook that she finds these allegations of age discrimination on her part “hilarious.” Age discrimination is not hilarious.

Further, should the Board determine that age discrimination has, in fact, taken place – which is to say that all or almost all of those disinvited are over 50 – I request that the Board take appropriate action to remedy the situation.

Sincerely,

Kathryn Cramer

Several other well-known writers have added their protests. Peter Watts ended a comment on the subject:

Readercon, you suck.

Barry Longyear chimed in:

So, the Readercon “Dump-the Old” program is still in effect. It makes me think there ought to be two new categories in the Hugo Awards at the World SF Con: Best Science Fiction Convention, and a booby prize for that convention committee deemed as “doing the absolute least to promote science fiction and fellowship surrounding the literature of science fiction.” Designs for the Fucktard Award are currently being solicited.

David Gerrold made a more substantial comment on Cramer’s announcement:

About ten years ago or so, the Writers Guild of America won a major lawsuit on age discrimination. The studios paid out $70 million, some of which was distributed to writers who had proven they had been discriminated against, the rest to establish protections for the future.

Age discrimination is real — it’s pernicious, it’s vile, and in venues where there are laws prohibiting it, it is illegal.

For it to occur in the science fiction community is appalling. This is a community that has prided itself on inclusion. The rule in fandom is that “the ceiling constitutes an introduction.” That is, we’re all in the same room, we’re all fans, we’re here to have fun celebrating what we love.

So for any convention to knowingly violate the trust of the community, to disinvite the experienced and respected members of that community — this doesn’t just punish the authors, it punishes the fans who want to hear from those authors.

I’ve always wanted to attend a Readercon. I’ve only heard good things about Readercon — but now I suspect that I am too old to be considered worthy to contribute to Readercon.

I hope that this is a momentary glitch that the Board of Directors will address quickly. Otherwise, Readercon’s good reputation will be soiled for a long time to come

Pixel Scroll 5/28/17 No File For You Till You Scroll All Your Pixels

(1) THANKED AND EXCUSED. Mattie Brahan, in a non-public post, said her husband, Darrell Schweitzer, was told he won’t be needed as a Readercon 28 program participant –a piece of news Barry Longyear exaggerated in his public post as “banning”.

Readercon has been banning (“disinviting”) former guests from being guests, Darrell Schweitzer being the most recent about whom I’ve heard. I originally thought it was for political reasons (I was part of the Northern Maine Rebellion), but apparently the reason was age, experience, having been around for too long. It’s sort of like having an AA meeting and forbidding the attendance of anyone who has more than one year of sobriety….

Is it really because Schweitzer is too old? There are any number of men and women listed as part of the forthcoming Readercon program who are not young.

(2) THE FOREVER QUEUE. Io9 reports yesterday at Disneyland “Lines Snaked Through Entire Park for Disney’s Guardians of the Galaxy Ride Debut”.

Looks like the hype was real. Disney’s ride for Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy — Mission: Breakout! opened at Disney’s California Adventure on Saturday… and the effects could literally be felt everywhere in the park.

The Pandora section of Disney’s Animal Kingdom also opened in Florida over the weekend. It took fans about two hours just to get into the Pandora park, and ride lines were averaging about three to four hours for rides. Hell, some people reporting three-hour lines to get into the damn gift shops. Insane amount of standing and slowly walking aside, fans seemed happy with both Mission: Breakout! and Pandora.

(3) OPEN CASTING. Yes, this needs to happen. Emily Asher-Perrin and Leah Schnelbach team up to answer “Who Could Play This Merry Fellow? Dreamcasting Tom Bombadil” at Tor.com.

Emily pointed out that there should have been a DVD extra of Bombadil material, and then, naturally, that led to a dreamcasting of Bombadil. We gave ourselves a few restrictions–these had to be people who would have fit the role in 1999-ish, when they would have been hired for The Fellowship of the Ring, and all of the actors have been cast on the assumption that supermodel Claudia Schiffer is playing Goldberry…

(4) NEGATORY, GOOD BUDDY. As for my own attempt to cast the next Doctor Who — “Would Hayley Atwell Take The Role Of Doctor Who? Here’s What She Says”.

Hayley Atwell is frequent on fan’s most wanted lists, and while Atwell would likely kill it in the role, what does she actually think of all this? She wants that particular role to go to someone else.

I don’t want to play it. No. It’s just not my thing, but I really respect it. I’m a big fan of Phoebe Waller-Bridge, though. She plays the lead in Fleabag. There were talks of her being the next Doctor, and she’s so funny and eccentric and unique; she’d be great. I can’t really see anyone other than her playing it.

Appearing at Heroes and Villains Fanfest in London (via Geekfeed), Hayley Atwell made it quite clear that she doesn’t want to be the next Doctor.

(5) WHAT YOU MISSED. Chaz Boston Baden reports on his party at this weekend’s BayCon:

“A Bear’s Picnic” closed at 3:30 am, when the last four people left. As far as I know, no noise complaints were received about out party, even when Diane Osborne started singing about her rooster being dead….

Curious as to what song that might be I Googled “lyrics dead rooster” –you’d be surprised how many songs feature them.

(6) BODY WORK. Camestros Felapton went to the movies. He has posted the autopsy —“Review: Alien Covenant”.

…Covenant and its predecessor Prometheus are both variations on the theme of the original Alien. The same elements have to appear (some of which are shared with Aliens films), the horseshoe ship and the undiscovered planet and the body horror. The tone is serious and visuals are striking.

Covenant’s cast is sufficiently good and the dialogue strong enough that while the characterisation is not deep there is at least a sense of these people having some depth of character –it’s just that we don’t get to see it before they variously die horribly. Looking back at the original film, I suppose the same could have been said of it –even Ripley….

(7) FAN FILM. The Verge says “This Harry Potter prequel fan film looks even better than Fantastic Beasts” –and they’re right, it’s pretty slick.

The story follows a witch named Grisha Mac Laggen (heir to Griffindor and original character to this film), who suspects trouble when Hepzibah Smith, a descendant of the Hufflepuff family, was found murdered. The case goes cold, but Laggen suspects that there’s some sort of dark magic at play, and she believes that former Hogwarts student and future dark wizard Tom Marvolo Riddle is involved somehow. Visually, the teaser looks stunning, with visual effects and production design that feel like they fit alongside that of the official Harry Potter films.

 

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

(9) A BIT OF FAME. Contributor Francis Hamit’s letter to the editors of TIME Magazine got a mention:

May 25, 2017

HACKING U.S. DEMOCRACY

Massimo Calabresi’s May 29 story about Russia’s use of social media to influence Americans was a reminder to be “wary of the source of that liked/upvoted social post,” wrote Sanjeev Verma of Sunnyvale, Calif. However, as Francis Hamit of Sherman Oaks, Calif., pointed out, foreign attempts to sway American politics aren’t necessarily new. “It’s just that we are finally paying attention,” he noted.

Hamit adds, “What TIME used was the tag line of a longer letter about Soviet €˜active measures’ during the Vietnam War.”

(10) SHAZAM. Adweek tells about a recent public service campaign: “Shazam Suddenly Started Forgetting Song Titles to Highlight a Little-Known Fact About Alzheimer’s”.

We’re naturally inclined to attribute human characteristics to the apps that continuously follow us around, which is part of why Siri is so amusing and Alexa so charmingly useful. But for Alzheimer’s Research U.K., agency Innocean Worldwide U.K. brought a horribly human attribute to Shazam–the ability to forget…

 

The purpose of the campaign was to tell young people that Alzheimer’s disease doesn’t just concern seniors; it can affect people as young as 40 years old. Over 40,000 people under 65 are living with dementia in the U.K. alone.

The effort ran through the month of April in the U.K. In mere hours, the agency says, “The Day Shazam Forgot” yielded 2,018,206 impressions, with 5,096 visitors visiting the Alzheimer’s Research U.K. donation page. (Hopefully they remembered their credit card information.)

(11) HUGO SHORTS. Camestros Felapton continues sharing his ballot, and the reasons therefore: “Hugo 2017: Short Story”.

  1. “Seasons of Glass and Iron” Amal El-Mohtar It had a tough job against strong competition but I do think this one stood out. The story takes two elements from lesser-known fairy tales: a woman who has to live on top of a glass mountain and a woman who has to walk the earth in iron shoes until their soles are worn away. El-Mohtar captures the atmosphere of the stories but also turns them to her own purposes.

(12) HUGO LONGS. Ethan Anderton’s Twitter robots made me look, but it was later pointed out to me that the material had been thieved from Mark Kaedrin, so here’s the direct link to Mark — “Hugo Awards: The Dark Forest and Death’s End”.

Those ideas that evoke the fabled SF goal of Sense of Wonder are what make these books work. The more sociological and philosophical aspects of the story are a little less focused and successful, leading to some inconsistency in terms of characters and pacing that perhaps make the series too long and pull the books down a peg or two. I suspect some things are lost in translation here, but this is not meant as a slight on Ken Liu (who translated the first and third books in the series), just an acknowledgement that translations naturally produce, for example, awkward dialog and pacing. I’ll put this on me too, as reading a book from another culture always presents challenges that I’ll readily admit I’m not always equal to. However, most of my complaints are far outweighed by what this series gets right, and this will rank high on my Hugo ballot, though I don’t know that it will unseat my current frontrunner (which remains Ninefox Gambit).

(13) THE DAMN DOGS DON’T LIKE IT. WIRED ponders “Why Are Colleges So Hostile to Fantasy Writers?”

For decades aspiring fantasy writers have been subjected to dismissive behavior from college professors who disparage genre literature, even though such professors often admit they’ve never actually read any fantasy or science fiction. This sort of hostility is unfortunately alive and well today, as college freshman Alina Sichevaya can attest.

“I’d heard everyone else’s horror stories, because occasionally this comes up on Twitter, and people will talk about their college experience,” Sichevaya says in Episode 257 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “But I definitely wasn’t expecting such a strong response from my professor about genre fiction.”

Sichevaya says she attempted to defend fantasy, and to recommend high-quality examples to her professor, but she’s not optimistic it’ll do much good.

(14) HOW TO LOSE THE SALE. Stay away from these if you want to sell to Dave — “Dave Farland’s 10 Points to Avoid in Writing Short Fiction” at Writers of the Future.

…Seriously, though, I sometimes wish that I could explain to a young writer why I’m passing on a story. So I’m going to talk about it here.

Here are ten reasons why I reject stories quickly–usually within the first page:

  1. The story is unintelligible.Very often I’ll get submissions that just don’t make sense. Often, these seem to be non-English speakers who are way off in both the meaning of words, their context, or in their syntax, but more often it’s just clumsiness. I’ve seen college presidents who couldn’t write. But this lack of care is on a gradient scale, from “I can’t figure out what this is about” to “I don’t want to bother trying to figure this out” to “there are minor problems in this story.” For example, yesterday a promising story called a dungeon the “tombs.” Was it a mistake, or a metaphor? I don’t think it was a metaphor. The author had made too many other errors where the “almost correct” word was used.
  2. The story is unbelievable. “Johnny Verve was the smartest kid on earth, and he was only six. He was strongest one, and the most handsome, too. But the coolest part was when he found out he had magical powers!” At that point, I’m gone, and not just because there were four uses of “was” in three sentences…

(15) TROLLING. Squawks over women-only screenings of Wonder Woman in Texas.

Now unimpressed men are lambasting the idea on Facebook, claiming they are being discriminated against.

“Great, let us know when you have guys-only screenings of Thor, Spider-Man, Star Wars, etc. Let’s see you walk the walk now that you set this precedence [sic],” one man wrote.

“Very sorry if you feel excluded,” came the reply on the [Alamo DraftHouse] cinema’s official account.

(16) ALL WOUND UP. Picture of cyclones on Jupiter’s south pole: “Juno Spacecraft Reveals Spectacular Cyclones At Jupiter’s Poles”.

NASA’s Juno spacecraft has spotted giant cyclones swirling at Jupiter’s north and south poles.

That’s just one of the unexpected and puzzling findings being reported by the Juno science team.

Juno arrived at Jupiter last summer. It’s the first spacecraft to get a close-up look at the planet’s poles. It’s in an orbit that takes it skimming close to the cloud tops of the gas giant once every 53 days.

(17) HOW TO TALK TO FILM CRITICS AT MOVIES. The BBC trashes the movie of Gaiman’s “How to Talk to Girls at Parties”: “This is one of the worst films ever made”.

It may seem harsh to say that How to Talk to Girls at Parties is one of the worst films ever made, given that it isn’t a cynical studio blockbuster, but an indie passion project with a budget that wouldn’t pay for the Botox on most Hollywood productions. But this shambolic punks-meet-aliens rom-com is directed by John Cameron Mitchell, the acclaimed auteur behind Hedwig and the Angry Inch. It’s also adapted from a short story by Neil Gaiman, it has costumes by the triple-Oscar-winning Sandy Powell, and it features Nicole Kidman and Elle Fanning. If nothing else, then, it should seem vaguely professional. Instead, it’s like a shoddy school play put on by a drama teacher who thinks he’s cool for liking the Sex Pistols.

(18) MONSTROUS HIT. Carl Slaughter notes: “The Munsters wasn’t just a horror sitcom. It was a cultural phenomenon. After only 2 seasons and 70 episodes, it was buried by another cultural phenomenon: Batman.”

[Thanks to Mark-kitteh, Mark Kaedrin, Chip Hitchcock, Francis Hamit, Carl Slaughter, Cat Eldridge, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W.]