A File 770 column by By Chris M. Barkley:
“There will be a convention. There will be function rooms at the convention. Some will be right and some will be wrong. And then, IT WILL BE OVER!”
Daily mantra at the daily meeting of the Chairman’s Staff at Chicon 2000, attributed to super-fan Bridget Joyce Boyle.
I’m not gonna lie; if you are the Chair, Division Head, staff member or gopher of World Science Fiction Convention, right about now, you’re equal parts of excitement, nervousness, dread, nausea or any combination thereof.
At this very minute, three and a half days before the Opening Ceremonies and a full week before the Hugo Awards Ceremony, those working the convention may be feeling like astronauts approaching a black hole. It is inevitable, it’s happening and once you get to the event horizon, you don’t know what happen next and there’s NO GOING BACK!
And now, I find that Juli and I will be a little bit closer to all the action than we planned to be. Our original plan for Sasquan and I just planned to attend.
Several months ago, after the nominations came out, I made the acquaintance of Rajnar Vajra, author of the Hugo nominated novelette, “The Triple Sun: A Golden Age Story.” Although nominated on the Sad/Rabid Puppy slate, he has vehemently disassociated himself from them. When other nominees dropped out of the Hugo Awards race, he bravely stayed in, because he believed in his story and vacating the nomination slot may have given the ballot yet another puppy candidate.
I half jokingly told Raj that I would be happy to accept the Hugo on his behalf if it became necessary. He laughed it off at the time but a month ago, he found out that he could not attend.
I was slightly aghast when he emailed me but I accepted because I knew what he had in mind.
I believe that Rajnar’s only loyalty is to his craft and to his readers. In his absence, he chose a person of color represent him at the Hugo Ceremony as a pointed reminder of fandom’s diversity. Mr. Vajra has emailed his eloquent acceptance speech and if needed, I will proudly deliver it verbatim.
Earlier last week, my partner Juli and I were asked to assist in the Sasquan Press Office when a staff member found out he could not attend. We readily accepted. Because that is what fans do in a pinch. The staff has already done a tremendous amount of groundwork and we are merely stepping in to implement it.
Being part of the Sasquan staff has certain responsibilities. One of them is a pledge to be neutral about Puppygate during the convention. So this report will the last one about the convention from me.
Juli, the staff and I (especially me) will provide the media with anything they need to help cover Sasquan, and not be part of the story.
During this last week leading up to Sasquan, I have had diversity on my mind.
I work full time at Joseph Beth Booksellers in Cincinnati, the best retail bookstore in the metropolitan area. I was driving colleague of mine, Kim, home when she shared the following story:
A woman customer who had seen HBO’s Game of Thrones asked Kim about purchasing the first book in George R.R. Martin’s saga
When presented with a copy of A Game of Thrones, the woman asked her if that was the first book of the series. Of course, Kim replied. But the customer asked twice more about the the title of the first book and finally relented when Kim assured her that she had READ all five books.
There is nothing unusual about this exchange except for this: Kim is black and the customer is white.
Would this have happened to Claire, who is white and in charge of all of the genre fiction titles? I seriously doubt it, based on Kim’s assessment.
Alas, after the two election cycles with a African American President, any talk of this being a post racial era in America is about as real as a unicorn sighting in Yosemite National Park. Incidents like what happen to Kim continue to happen every day and will continue to happen as long as people of different races, and I do mean ALL races, continue to evaluate each other based on initial visual perceptions and an underestimation of each other’s intelligence.
Kim, I and other people of color working at Joseph Beth do our best to struggle against this disadvantage every day we step on the sales floor. With each passing day, we win doubting customers over, one at a time.
Which brings me to this item, posted on Tobias Buckell’s blog this week:
In summation, Mr. Buckell wrote:
So yes, Virginia, POC *do* read SF/F, and it’s common. To remain ignorant takes serious work.
Insisting we don’t exist is a tactic in making us invisible, and a huge part of the problem. Please stop this ignorance.
There is much more ignorance in this comment as well. “There are no African nations interested in space flight, exploring space, etc.” Seriously, 30 seconds with Google easily disproves this.
And this was posted by Jim Hines:
And Mr. Hines wrote:
This is not meant to criticize any individual convention. My frustration is with the trend as a whole. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with inviting John Scalzi or S. M. Stirling or David Weber or Jim C. Hines to be your author guest of honor. The problem is when conventions as a group stop looking beyond a narrow pool of potential guests, and when fandom focuses on honoring white authors to the exclusion of others.
To which I add a: C’MON, MAN! We collectively, as fans, are better than this. We don’t have to be part of the problem, we are part of the solution.
Finally, there are a few issues I need to address before signing off for duty at Sasquan…
First, I’d like to thank all of the people who responded to the previous column in the File 770.
While I have NOT READ ANY OF THE COMMENTS, as David Gerrold advised, word has filtered back to me that there was an unusual amount of verbiage dedicated to speculation about my sexuality, relationship status and my being able to wear pants. I want to thank everyone for your concern for my well-being. It’s really touching…
Lastly, there was this, which Juli found in my inbox this morning, dated two days ago:
Someone I trust to know the inside business of the thing, told me that Chris Barkley was Patrick Nielsen-Hayden’s stalking horse, for getting the pro editor category split — Patrick was tired of seeing Gardner take it every year. So, the long-form is born, and not coincidentally, TOR editors begin taking the trophy.
First of all, I REALLY need to check my email more often.
Secondly, to Brad Torgersen: look dude, has watching All The President’s Men taught you anything? I don’t know who your “source” on this fascinating tidbit of history, but s/he is totally and utterly WRONG about this.
Do you have any idea how these ridiculous conspiracy theories get started? When some person, is deluded in to believing that the historical record is inaccurate, incomplete or just plain wrong.
Then, a fevered imagination takes over and tries to fill in the gaps with “the truth” as they see it. Something literary scholars, writers and the general reading public call fantasy.
Here are the facts; I am NO ONE’S “stalking horse”; I alone was the creative force behind the creation of the Long Form-Short Form split of the Editor’s category. The reason this is not a generally known fact is that until now, I have chosen not to actively publicize any of my activities regarding the Business Meeting and the Hugo Awards. I value my privacy and frankly, I don’t need my ego pumped up because I supported something that I feel that deeply about.
It is true that my motivation for the change was due to concerns about the editor’s category; no book editor had won the award since 1987 and Gardner Dozois was dominating it. I and other like-minded fans wanted to attempt to bring some parity to the category.
Also, I sought out Patrick Nielsen Hayden’s support for the Editor’s split and brought him into the fold; I needed a prominent editor to co-sponsor the amendment or it would never have been taken seriously by the Business Meeting. He was reluctant to do so at first but eventually, he concluded that a split of the category was the best option available at the time. Until I finally shook his hand at the LACon IV Business Meeting in 2006, I think he had doubts that it would ever pass.
And, the very next year, it was he who was the recipient of the very first Long Form Editor Hugo Award. Was this a coincidence? Yes; Patrick Nielsen Hayden did not conspire to win his Hugo Award, he EARNED it from the voters for his superlative work.
Brad, what you really need to do is poll the editors nominated over the past nine years if they have they benefited from the Best Editor Split. I am willing to bet that a majority of them will answer in the affirmative.
I am also of the opinion that the Split may have outlived its usefulness at this point and that a better alternative may be in store. I welcome change because innovation is preferable to stagnation.
And no one wants that, Brad, not even you.