The furor over harassment and policies against it provoked by events at this year’s Readercon also opened the floodgates for pros to express a general resentment about their treatment at many other fan-run conventions. It’s made for depressing reading.
Would-be peacemakers Lynne Thomas and Steven H Silver have each written an article for the current Apex Magazine hoping that open communication, and educating writers and conrunners about each other’s roles in convention programming, will help improve the atmosphere.
In “The 21st Century SF/F Professional at Conventions” Lynne Thomas tells what she expects as a pro participating in convention programs, and what cons should expect of her.
This is a symbiotic relationship between two groups of volunteers. We need each other to make a great convention. And that is the goal, right?
All her points are good, especially this often-overlooked fact of life:
4. Recognize that I, too, am paying to be at this convention. Unless I’m one of the Guests of Honor, I’m spending money to be here: on travel, lodging, food, and registration if I’m not eligible to have it reimbursed or comped. Writers and editors are often freelancers. When I’m attending conventions, here’s what I’m not doing: billable writing or editing to earn money. Nor am I doing any of the following: relaxing, spending time with my family, or performing upkeep on my house and yard. Travel, logistics, and being away from home take their toll.
Steven H Silver explains the pressures that program organizers work under in his piece “Behind the Convention Curtain: Programming”:
Earlier, I mentioned that programming invites scrutiny at a time when it is in major flux. Sometime shortly before the convention, always later than programming participants, webmasters, social media, publications, and members want, the Programming Team will send out a preliminary schedule. The key to remember is that these schedules are preliminary. When I began running Programming, if a panelist was disappointed with their schedule or had a conflict, they would call, write, or e-mail me and I could work to fix it. Now, the disappointed panelist is just as likely to post their issues on Facebook, Twitter, or a blog, often without first letting Programming know there is an issue. Because this is a very busy time for the Programming team, the team is unlikely to stumble across the online complaint. It is also probably the worst way to handle the situation because merely mentioning it online doesn’t provide an opportunity for Programming to fix the problem and essentially calls them incompetent in a public forum.
I agree that everyone should make Steven’s suggested plan their default setting, however, to be perfectly frank there are situations every year where corrective action would never be taken without the encouragement of a public kick in the ass. I don’t know how a writer is supposed to guess in advance which kind of crew they’re dealing with if they have no previous experience, so if they tell the program organizers there’s a problem and ask them to fix it by some specific point in time, I would think it’s fair to say something online if the problem hasn’t been addressed by then.