Monica Valentinelli Withdraws as GoH of Odyssey Con

Author Monica Valentinelli announced today she is withdrawing as Odyssey Con’s Literary/Game Designer GoH, just two weeks before the con takes place, due to a specific individual’s continued presence on the concom and her concern for her safety.

I was invited to be a guest of honor in 2016. At the time, a known harasser was working at the con. I, personally, had several uncomfortable interactions with this individual and I did not feel safe around him. At first, this individual was my guest liaison, and I had considered pulling out of the convention as a result. Thankfully, my point of contact was changed and I never had to speak with this individual again. I assumed that he was no longer working at the convention following this act.

Although the person was not named in her blog post, he was subsequently identified as Odyssey Con’s guest liaison Jim Frenkel, a former Tor editor banned from WisCon (permanently).

Yesterday, I found out that I was scheduled to be on programming with him and he was still part of the concom. I also learned that peers and friends were uncomfortable with his role at the show, and they had decided to avoid the convention altogether. His involvement with the con meant that I would have to interact with him, especially as a guest of honor, and I do not feel safe around him nor would I want to put any of my friends, peers, or fans in that situation either.

Yesterday, Valentinelli wrote to the concom.

To resolve this, I sent the concom an e-mail. I told them that I, personally, had several problematic experiences with him, and that if he was still working the convention that I would have to withdraw. The response I received was incredibly dismissive of not only me, but of past reports as well. The e-mail went on to say how this individual was a long-time close friend of the concom, and I should judge his behavior for myself.

I have judged his behavior for myself, and I do not feel safe being in the same room with him let alone the same hotel. This blatant disregard of my concerns also worries me that should any new harassment complaints arise, that they would not be dealt with appropriately. I am extremely disappointed that a member of the concom would be more valued that an invited guest, and though I recognize the invitation is an honor I cannot and do not find this resolution acceptable.

Program participant Patrick S. Tomlinson followed her out the door.

Tomlinson added, “If they change their mind, I’ve offered to attend. But not with him participating in any capacity”.

And Catherine Lundoff said:

On Twitter, dozens of writers have lined up to support Valentinelli’s decision.

Odyssey Con is an annual Madison, WI event founded in 2001. Frenkel, who also lives in Madison, has a number of friends among its organizers and works on the concom. The President of the convention’s executive board (OCSI) is Richard S. Russell. Russell, after having worked every WisCon since its founding, was ousted from the WisCon committee in 2014, in part for his continuing expression of his views in committee channels about WisCon’s People of Color Safe Space and the Jim Frenkel harassment complaint.

Odyssey Con’s program organizer, Greg Rihn, is another longtime Frenkel acquaintance. His answer to Valentinelli’s email was the first from someone on the concommittee and said in part —

I have known Jim personally for more than thirty years. Although there have been unfortunate events in the past, I do not now believe, nor have I ever, that Jim is dangerous to any one, in any way. I believe that the lamentably widely disseminated idea that he is, is exaggerated and grows from a lack of knowledge of the facts in his case. His reputation since the WisCon incident has been spotless.

I will, if you wish, take Jim off any panel that presently features both of you, which I hope you would find a reasonable compromise. Banning Jim entirely would be unfair to him, and, in refusing to attend if he is working the con at all, you are being unfair to yourself. Why let other people make your decisions for you? Come and see the man for yourself. You will see that he is a decent man, and not a monster.

Subsequently, Rihn regretted his answer and he has written on Facebook:

I take complete and personal responsibility for my stupid response to Monica’s e-mail. I believed the matter urgent and wrote with too much haste and too little thought. Hospitality is a sacred obligation. I would defend a guest against my brother, let alone a supposed friend (who would cease to be a friend the moment he offered harm to a guest).

Co-chair Janet Lewis posted the entire email correspondence between Valentinelli and the committee on the con’s Facebook page but those posts have since been deleted. Gone with them is OSCI President Richard S. Russell’s public response to Valentinelli:

There has been much discussion regarding Monica Valentinelli’s announcement that she has withdrawn from the Gaming Guest of Honor position at our convention. Much is being said in social media, so we would like to take a moment to make the following statement.

Yesterday, April 10th, Monica contacted our convention through various email addresses expressing her concern and problems with our convention with Jim Frenkel as a part of the event. Last night one of the members of our committee contacted her to try to address her concerns. Unfortunately the position and words were his own, but did appear to be an official statement from the convention. It wasn’t, and he sent a further communication to Ms. Valentinelli to help clarify that.

Up until yesterday we had no knowledge of any problems Ms. Valentinelli had with Mr. Frenkel at Odyssey Con – both had been at Odyssey Conn previously, and both had been on panels together during that time. So we were surprised to hear there had been a problem. Here are the facts as we know them to be:

1) No claims of harassment against Jim Frenkel have ever been made at Odyssey Con that current ConCom members are aware of. We have a firm anti-harassment policy and all charges are treated seriously.

2) We have never made a secret of the fact that Jim works at the con. The assumption that Ms. Valentinelli made to the contrary was an unfortunate failure of communication.

3) Jim Frenkel has volunteered to step down from any official capacity with Odyssey Con to help the organization involved to move forward with a successful event.

Before making any updates and changes on the website and social media, we have been working to verify everyone’s position before making the appropriate changes. These changes do take a little time. Please keep in mind these issues were brought to us less than 24 hours ago.

The official statement from the president of Odyssey Con Society, Inc.:

Odyssey Con has immense appreciation for Monica Valentinelli and her work. We admire, respect, and honor them both, and were fully prepared to do so publicly at our upcoming convention, before Ms. Valentinelli withdrew as one of our three guests of honor.

But Odyssey Con is now, always has been, and always will be, open and welcoming to all. We do not allow anyone, not even a guest of honor, to dictate that someone else must be excluded from it.

Odyssey Con is also a safe environment. We have policies in place ( http://odysseycon.org/policies.html ) strictly forbidding harassment and a designated ombudsperson to whom any such complaints may be directed. Anything beyond harassment, of course, is a police matter and would be promptly dealt with as such. No such allegations have been made with regard to anyone expected to attend this year’s convention, and therefore Odyssey Con has no basis for excluding anybody.

We sincerely regret that we will not be able to provide our members with the full experience we had advertised and will, of course, refund the membership fee of those who feel that they must now cancel their attendance.

Richard S. Russell, President, OCSI

Other people are weighing in outside of Twitter:

Jim C. Hines – “Odyssey Con, Frenkel, and Harassment”

As is the nature of these things, there’s a lot more that isn’t written about publicly. I’ve spoken with other people harassed by Frenkel who chose not to post about it online, or to file complaints. Given the way we tend to treat victims of harassment and assault — demanding details and proof, blaming them, excusing the harassment, telling them why they’re wrong or overreacting, and so on — I can’t and won’t blame anyone for making that choice.

Even so, knowledge of Frenkel’s history is widespread in the SF/F field. He lost his job with Tor Books shortly after the 2013 incident. He was banned for life from Wiscon. Hell, some of this stuff is on his freaking Wikipedia page.

In other words, there’s no way Odyssey Con was unaware of this history. But they still chose to allow Frenkel to serve as their Guest Liaison.

That’s their right. It’s their convention, and if they want to put a known repeat harasser on staff, they can do so. But that choice has consequences. Consequences like their Guest of Honor withdrawing from the convention. Or having other guests withdraw because the con prioritized a harasser over the safety of their guests.

Kelly McCullough – “On The Matter of Jim Frenkel”.

I don’t remember ever seeing Jim make unwelcome advances or any of the other reported behaviors that have given him his reputation as a serial harasser, but I don’t have to witness a behavior myself to condemn it. All I have to do is believe the accounts of the women who were affected, and I do. It’s that simple. So, though it gives me no pleasure to say this about a man who advanced my career and who I thought of as a friend, I will repeat myself.

Jim has no business being a guest liaison for any convention.

K. Tempest Bradford – OdysseyCon and Why Serial Harassers Are Safe In Our Community.

I’ve seen a bunch of people commenting on this wondering how it is that Jim Frenkel is in any way involved with any convention at this point in time given everything that’s happened. Well. This. This is why. It’s multiple people (see how many folks are listed on this concom who know Jim and are real sure he didn’t ever do anything wrong, despite those third hard reports from the Internet (who trusts that?? Pish) continuing to allow him to be in official roles because we wouldn’t want to lose all his knowledge and experience.

This is how fandom has worked for decades.

And the potential for today’s developments has existed for some time. Sigrid Ellis wrote an open letter to Odyssey Con a year ago criticizing the use of Frenkel and Russell on program.

[Thanks to Rose Embolism, ULTRAGOTHA, and Cat Rambo for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 11/2 Unstable Molecules: For Starship Captains Who Shift Shape, And Get Overly Personal With Hedgehogs and Fondue Pots

(1) Jon Zeigler has posted his “100 Year Starship Symposium 2015” report at Sharrukin’s Palace.

Executive summary: I was quite impressed by the whole endeavor. It’s a fairly small technical conference, but it’s attracting serious academics and scientists, and it has a distinctive focus on cultural and social issues as well as science and technology. I can recommend it for science fiction writers, especially those of us who are interested in doing work in the “hard” end of the field.

As with all technical conferences, I found myself wanting to be in several places at once. There are always more technical tracks going on that any one person can possibly take in.

A set of three one-hour “classes” was held first thing on Friday morning. I sat in on a presentation by Bobby Farlice-Rubio, from the Fairfield Museum and Planetarium in Connecticut. The title was Neighborhood Watch: An Advanced Look at our Space Neighborhood, and it served as a summary of recent discoveries in planetary science. I follow interplanetary exploration closely, so I didn’t hear much that was completely new, but there were a few details I hadn’t heard before.

One item in particular stuck with me. Apparently the New Horizons spacecraft that just made a flyby of Pluto contained a small canister of human remains – a pinch of the ashes of Clyde Tombaugh, the man who discovered Pluto in 1930. That makes Mr. Tombaugh the one human being thus far whose remains are destined for interstellar space. Don’t know if there’s a whole story in that, but it’s a very evocative image.

(2) Although he hasn’t gotten as close to Pluto as Clyde Tombaugh, the Guardian proclaims David A. Hardy “The space artist who saw Pluto before Nasa”.

In 1950, a 14-year-old boy found an astronomy book at his local library. As he pored over it, a light bulb lit up over his head. “It inspired me, really, to do it myself,” says that boy, David A Hardy, 65 years on. Not to become an astronaut, but to draw outer space with incredible military accuracy. Today, he is the world’s oldest living space artist. He’s 79 and he lives in the suburbs of Birmingham, churning out visions of the universe while his wife makes him cups of tea.

Chances are, if you’ve read books by Isaac Asimov and Arthur C Clarke, the covers were painted by Hardy. He worked with Sir Patrick Moore for over half a century. He has created spaceships descending upon Big Ben for Doctor Who and the Daleks. His art has been the backdrop for Pink Floyd gigs, and he counts the Rolling Stones and Queen among his collectors.

Hardy’s work is part of a new exhibition called Visions of Space at the Wells & Mendip Museum, Somerset, from November 7-21. David A Hardy speaks on November 6 at 7:30pm.

(3) A website now documents the “Aliens, Androids & Unicorns” exhibition at the University of Otago (New Zealand) held March to May 2015, that highlighted sf&f collection of the late Harold Terrence Salive (1939-2012). The exhibition contained (amongst others) his almost complete run of Astounding Stories, numerous works by Van Vogt, Delany, C.J Cherryh, Jack L. Chalker, Poul Anderson, and Piers Anthony. Salive’s Collection was donated to Special Collections in March 2013 by his wife Rachel.

(4) To avoid spoilers, the release of the Star Wars: The Force Awaken tie-in novel has been delayed.

Walt Disney Co. is so determined to maintain the secrecy surrounding its hotly anticipated “Star Wars” movie that it asked its publishing partner to delay the release of a hardcover book tied to the film and forgo a potential holiday sales bonanza.

“Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” the franchise’s first new installment in a decade, will hit theaters Dec. 17. But the print edition of the novel, which will be published by Penguin Random House’sDel Rey imprint, won’t be released until Jan. 5, after the lucrative holiday gift-giving season has ended.

The unusual delay reflects Disney’s fears that printed copies of the book, which would have to start rolling off presses long before they hit store shelves, could be purloined by people who want to spill plot details online. The e- book will be released Dec. 18, since it is easier to control digital files before they go on sale.

(5) “Amazon opens its first real bookstore – at U-Village” in Seattle.

Bookstore owners often think of Amazon.com as the enemy.

Now it’s becoming one of them.

At 9:30 Tuesday morning, the online retail giant will open its first-ever brick-and-mortar retail store in its 20-year life, in University Village.

The store, called Amazon Books, looks a lot like bookstores that populate malls across the country. Its wood shelves are stocked with 5,000 to 6,000 titles, best-sellers as well as Amazon.com customer favorites.

(6) “Holy Crap, They Are Officially Making a New Star Trek TV Series” reports io9.

Multiple outlets are reporting that Alex Kurtzman, co-writer of 2009’s Star Trek and its sequel Star Trek Into Darkness, will executive produce a new Star Trek show through CBS Television Studios.

The show will premiere in January 2017 with a preview episode on CBS and then, in the U.S., move exclusively to the CBS video on-demand and streaming service, CBS All Access. It’ll be the first developed specifically for the CBS streaming service.

Quoting the CBS press release —

The brand-new “Star Trek” will introduce new characters seeking imaginative new worlds and new civilizations, while exploring the dramatic contemporary themes that have been a signature of the franchise since its inception in 1966.

(7) Far more surprising – incredible, really — is Fox’s decision to reboot Greatest American Hero. Deadline reports —

In a preemptive buy, Fox has given a pilot production commitment to Greatest American Hero, a single-camera comedy inspired by Steven J. Cannell’s 1981 cult classic. It hails from Dope writer-director Rick Famuyiwa, Phil Lord & Chris Miller–  the directing duo behind the successful feature franchise based on another ’80s TV series by Cannell, 21 Jump Street — and Cannell’s daughter, television director Tawnia McKiernan. 20th Century Fox TV, where Lord and Miller are under an overall deal, is the studio.

Written and to be directed by Famuyiwa, Greatest American Hero is the story of what happens when great power is not met with great responsibility. An ordinary man, completely content with being average, wakes up with a superpower suit he never asked for and has to deal with the complications it brings his life.

Via SF Site News.

(8) Today’s Birthday Manned Space Mission

  • November 2, 2000 — The first crew docked at the International Space Station. Commander William Shepherd and Flight Engineers Sergei Krikalev and Yuri Gidzenko spent 141 days in space. Since Expedition 1, there has been a continuous human presence aboard the space station for 5,478 days and counting.

(9) Nate Hoffhelder responds to John Scalzi’s post about kids not reading the classics in “Culture and Relatability Are Why people Don’t Read Classic SF, Not Age” at The Digital Reader.

While all the points he made are correct, I don’t think he gets at the root cause of the shift in reading tastes.

I have trouble accepting the point that commercial availability driving demand because when I was growing up (in the 1990s) I frequented used book stores just to get those older books. I also combed through the library stacks for those three-, four-, and five-decade-old books because I liked the authors and wanted to read them. (In fact, there were a few early Heinleins that I didn’t find for the first time until the early aughts, and I still read them when I found them.)

Instead, I have to agree with the several commenters who argue that culture in the older books and the relatability of the characters have a greater impact.

(10) Harper Voyager’s open call for submissions runs November 2-6.

In this time of flux and accelerated evolution in the field of genre publishing, the editorial leaders of Harper Voyager Books are delighted to announce an exciting venture that will offer talented aspiring writers the chance to join the same science fiction and fantasy imprint that publishes such visionary authors as Richard Kadrey, Chuck Wendig, Raymond E. Feist, and many, many more.

For the first time since 2012, Harper Voyager is offering writers the chance to submit full, un-agented manuscripts for a limited five-day period. The publisher is seeking new authors with fresh voices, strong storytelling abilities, original ideas and compelling storylines. In this Open Call, Harper Voyager will be seeking out novels written in the Urban Fantasy and Military Sci-Fi genres. Submission guidelines and key information can be found at www.harpervoyagersubmissions.com.

The submission portal, www.harpervoyagersubmissions.com, will be open from noon ET on the 2nd to noon ET of the 6th of November 2015. The manuscripts will then be read, and all submissions will receive a letter notifying them of whether or not their submission is being offered publication on the Voyager list. As with every Harper Voyager project, the author will be paired with an editor, publicist, and marketing team in order to develop the manuscript and promotional efforts before and during publication.

The submissions and digital publications are spearheaded by Executive Editor David Pomerico.  He notes that: “The last time we had an open call, we had over 4,500 submissions, and were able to add 10 new voices to our growing list. We know, though, that writers are always eager to connect with editors here, and we’re excited to offer them an opportunity to do exactly that. These are two sub-genres we are finding a lot of readers for—especially in the digital space—and I’m looking forward to finding some great new projects.”

(11) Thomas Rossiter declares that “My Hugo Must Be Acknowledged” at Pelican Magazine, though it never is made evident why the headline refers to “my Hugo.”

This controversy led to the largest number of votes ever received by the awards committee (just over five thousand). Not one of the Puppies’ nominees received an award. Many of the categories were resolved with “No Award” where there was no alternative to a Puppy-approved candidate.

The Puppies have on numerous occasions stated that their goal is to make the Hugos as democratic as possible, so their anger now that their nominees have lost seems hypocritical to say the least.

(12) A review in the October Audiofile praises the audiobook edition of Francis Hamit’s novel The Queen of Washington.

Narrator Melanie Mason finds a wonderful Southern accent for Rose Greenhow that adds a great deal to the atmosphere of this novel. David Wilson Brown uses a variety of tones and accents–Southern and Northern, as well as French and Spanish–for the various male characters. Together, the two narrators provide tension and a theatrical atmosphere to the story. Rose, a rich nineteenth-century player in Washington, D.C., society is a spy, first for the Confederacy and later for British and French intelligence in the 1850s and ’60s. The many plot twists of this historical novel make for an engaging performance by two smooth narrators.

Says Hamit: “I could not be more pleased for my narration team, who worked very hard on this and are the real stars. I do call this ‘alternative history’ so it fits (barely) within the genre.”

(13) A Princess of the Chameln by Cherry Wilder ($5.99, ISBN 978-1-5040-2697-0) is going to be published as an e-book for the first time, on November 17, by Mashup Press, distributed by Open Road Integrated Media on all major retailers’ web sites. It will be available as a print on demand trade paperback a month later. The sequels Yorath the Wolf and The Summer’s King, which together with A Princess of the Chameln comprise the Rulers of Hylor trilogy, will be published at three month intervals.

It has been a while since this book has been available—two decades, in fact, since the Baen Books paperback edition, which reprinted the original hardcover edition ofA Princess of the Chameln.

Princess of the Chameln cover final COMP

A Princess . . . is the story of Aidris, the heir to the double-throne of Hylor. When her crown is usurped by pretenders and she must flee for her life, she must fend for herself, exiled in a world of enemies, forced to fight to survive as she seeks allies friendly to her cause. In the richly developed fantasy world of Hylor and the realms within it that vie for ascendance, Cherry Wilder deftly balances politics and warfare with the subtly nuanced, memorable characters whose lives play out in this uniquely powerful novel.

Jim Frenkel of Mashup Press predicts, “If you are familiar with A Princess of the Chameln or the trilogy—you already know that they are Cherry Wilder’s great epic high-fantasy adventure. If you don’t know these books, I think you’ll have a great surprise in store. Cherry Wilder died in 2003, but her great works live on, and we’re all thrilled to be able to bring these books to a new generation of fantasy readers.”

Stack of Old Books

(14) Free Special Speaker Event presented by the Greater Los Angeles Writers Society on Saturday November 21, 2:30 p.m. at the Palms-Rancho Park Library in Los Angeles, CA.

Spec fic then and now

(15) Steven Moffat told Variety to expect Doctor Who to be around for years to come:

You are credited with taking “Doctor Who” to a new level. What do you think allowed this format to be rebooted so brilliantly?

“Doctor Who” is the all-time perfectly evolved television show. It’s a television predator designed to survive any environment because you can replace absolutely everybody. Most shows you can’t do that with. For example, once Benedict Cumberbatch gives up “Sherlock,” what are we going to do? We are going to stop, that’s what we are going to do. Most shows have a built-in mortality. But here is a show that sheds us all like scales; a show that can make you feel everything except indispensable. It will carry on forever, because you can replace every part of it…

In terms of longevity of the show, I think you’ve said it could go five more years?

It is definitely going to last five more years, I’ve seen the business plan. It’s not going anywhere. And I think we can go past that. It’s television’s own legend. It will just keep going.

(16) Last Friday, Chuck Yeager stopped by the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum to say hello to his Bell X-1, the airplane in which he broke the sound barrier 68 years ago on October 14, 1947.

ChuckYeager COMP

[Thanks to Wendy Gale, Roger Tener’s Chronicles of the Dawn Patrol, Gregory Benford, Will R., Michael J. Walsh, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]