BSFS Opens New Investigation of Harassment Complaints

The Baltimore Science Fiction Society has announced a new investigation of harassment complaints to be conducted by an outside investigator who will be looking into complaints the club addressed in an earlier statement. In the meantime, Balticon 55 chair Eric Gasior has voluntarily stepped aside from the club Board and the Balticon Committee, with Vice Chair Yakira Heistand to serve as the acting con chair.

The club’s press release says —


On the evening of January 4, 2021, the Baltimore Science Fiction Society (BSFS) Board of Directors (the Board) released a statement on the completed investigation of harassment complaints submitted against Mr. Gasior, the Con-Chair of the upcoming Balticon 55 convention.

At the monthly BSFS business meeting of the general membership on January 9, 2021, a BSFS member made a motion to reopen the harassment investigation. During debate on the motion, attendees raised concerns about the thoroughness, completeness, and transparency of the harassment investigation. Additionally, a previously anonymous complainant voluntarily identified herself as a complainant and repeated her complaint. After much discussion, the motion was tabled to be taken up at a closed meeting of the Board to be held the next day, January 10, 2021.

In light of the new information and the concerns the BSFS business meeting raised, the Board decided to engage an impartial, independent, outside investigator to perform a new, thorough, complete, and transparent investigation into the harassment complaints.

Using resources maintained by a locally based association of non-profits, the Board developed and is evaluating a list of investigators holding expertise relevant to performing a harassment investigation. From the list the Board will identify the best investigator available to perform a timely investigation. The Board’s expectation is to engage an investigator within the coming week to start work at the earliest date possible. The Board will provide the investigator with all the evidence the Board collected during the previous investigation. The Board will fully support the investigator’s efforts to gather additional evidence.

In the interest of cooperating with this investigation while Balticon 55 planning proceeds, Mr. Gasior has voluntarily stepped aside from the Board and the Balticon Committee for the duration of the investigation. Mr. Gasior’s status as a Life Member of BSFS remains unchanged. Effective immediately, and for the duration of the investigation, Ms Yakira Heistand, the current Vice Chair of Balticon 55, will serve as the acting Balticon 55 Con-Chair.

Upon completion of the investigation the Board will work with the investigator to publish the investigator’s findings and report. Within the context of the results of the investigation the Board may revisit the question of the Balticon 55 Con-Chair authority. The Board is committed to acting in accordance with the results of the investigation.


BSFS Reports Results of a Code of Conduct Investigation

The Baltimore Science Fiction Society (BSFS) Board of Directors has issued a statement about their investigation into “allegations that Mr. Eric Gasior acted inappropriately and/or violated BSFS’s Code of Conduct.” Gasior was Vice Chair of the Virtual Balticon 54 (2020) and will continue as Chair Balticon 55 (2021) now that the Board has determined his “actions were not behavior prohibited under the Code of Conduct.” However, “they did represent repeated and concerning problems in communication with Balticon volunteers” and the statement lists steps the club has taken to address those problems.

Specifics about the complaints and who made them are not disclosed in the statement.

This statement summarizes the results of the Baltimore Science Fiction Society (BSFS) Board of Directors’ (Board) investigation into allegations that Mr. Eric Gasior acted inappropriately and/or violated BSFS’s Code of Conduct.

The Board has investigated all complaints brought to our attention from Virtual Balticon 54 (VB54) and in October 2020. The complaints arose from two major sources. The first complaints the Board received were caused by communication failures caused by emergency changes to Balticon in response to Covid-19. In attempting to better understand changing plans for the virtual convention, Mr. Gasior disrupted some staff preparations creating confusion and additional stress. The BSFS Board deeply regrets that this was not effectively handled at the time. Other complaints did not arise directly from Balticon or BSFS activities; this information was considered in order to deepen our understanding of the problem and because, as Balticon Chair, Mr. Gasior represents BSFS. Based on all evidence presented, we concluded that Mr. Gasior’s actions were not behavior prohibited under the Code of Conduct;[i] however, they did represent repeated and concerning problems in communication with Balticon volunteers.

The BSFS Board takes all allegations of violations of the Code of Conduct very seriously and will not tolerate inappropriate behavior at any BSFS related event, including Balticon. All members and guests are encouraged to bring such matters to the Board’s attention at any time, without fear of any adverse action being taken against them for doing so.

The Board took a considered and deliberative approach to the investigation. Because the Board takes such allegations seriously, we took the time required to investigate these complaints to be confident we gave all parties a fair opportunity to provide any and all evidence each party wished to share. We regret that this led to the mistaken impression that the Board was not addressing the allegations. We appreciate our volunteers and the work they put into making Balticon happen. The Board apologizes for any stress caused because we did not intervene in these matters prior to VB54 and for any subsequent harm during the period in which we were working to fully investigate, understand, and deliberate on the matters placed before us.                                                            

During our investigation, the Board identified confusion about the role of the Anti-Harassment Working Group[ii] and concern that individuals holding a senior role in the working group, while also holding a major role in investigating alleged violations of the Code of Conduct, might have a conflict of interest[iii]. The investigation also revealed additional information about the number of VB54 volunteers affected by the behavior described in the complaints.

To address the problems identified during the investigation, the Board has taken the following actions:

1. Issued this statement to the BSFS community, including our apology for any impacts on our volunteers and the rest of the BSFS community.

2. Advised Mr. Gasior that the roles of Con Chair and Vice-Chair are not compatible with hands-on involvement in any Balticon department and strongly recommended he work through the department heads.

3. Renamed the Anti-Harassment Working Group to the Anti-Harassment Policy Group to clarify the Group’s purpose. We have accepted Mr. Gasior’s resignation from the Group. He will not be part of the Group while he is serving as Con Chair. This clarifies the separate roles of policy development versus incident investigation and resolution.

4. Recommended that Mr. Gasior work closely with the Balticon Vice-Chair, Ms. Yakira Heistand, and other members of the Board, for assistance in managing Balticon communications. The Board will continue to monitor preparations for Balticon 55 and take additional action if warranted by future events.


[i]  In general, prohibited actions include sexual harassment or misconduct, violence or the threat of violence, other unwelcome physical contact, coercion, stalking, or slurs and derogatory comments and similar behavior. For details on the Code of Conduct, please see https://bsfs.org/policy.htm.

[ii] The Anti-Harassment Working Group members provide advice to the BSFS Board on preventing harassment and drafting the Code of Conduct and related policies. The Group’s members have no role in investigating or resolving alleged violations, and were not part of this investigation or adjudication of these complaints.

[iii] Mr. Gasior was not part of any Board discussions concerning this investigation except for the opportunities provided to submit responses to the complaints.

Agner Wins NESFA 2019-2020 Short Story Contest

The results of the 2019-2020 NESFA® Science Fiction & Fantasy Short Story Contest were announced at Boskone 57 on February 16, 2020.

The contest “encourages amateur and semi-professional writers to reach the next level of proficiency.”

Steve Lee says, “We got submissions from all around the world, including one in Russian (which we sent back for an English translation).”

Winner:

  • “Stick in the Mud” by Mary Alexandra Agner

First Runner-Up:

  • “Hope Chest” by Sarah Day

Honorable Mentions:

  • “Author of the Dreams of an Outer God” by Jonathan Bronico
  • “Deathtree” by Kit Harding
  • “The Gravity of Grace” by Carina Bissett

First readers: James Boggie, Ann Crimmins, David G. Grubbs, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kerpan, Suford Lewis, and Kelsey Pouk.

Final round judges: Elaine Isaak, Tony Lewis, and Kim Stanley Robinson

Florida’s OASIS Convention Goes on Hiatus

Last year Central Florida fan club OASFiS – the Orlando Area Science Fiction Society – held their 30th annual OASIS convention, however, they announced today there won’t be one in 2020.

We’ve been generous with our conventions and our attendees. OASIS 29 & 30 revealed a need for restructuring our future conventions. As a result, we must regretfully announce that there will not be an OASIS convention in 2020.

We’ll provide the latest updates of our progress through Twitter, Facebook and the OASFiS web page.

We will be looking on getting an art grant from the same organizations that help support the Florida Film Festival, Orlando Fringe Festival, and the Enzian Theater.

We are looking into putting in a bid for Deep South Con.

Meanwhile, they appeal to people to join the club:

Each convention, we’ve asked people who love fandom to join OASFiS and help us build future conventions and events. In this critical time, we need you more than ever. It might be fun to watch fan activities from an audience seat, but it’s more fulfilling to make them happen and bring your own ideas to the world.

BSFS Receives Permit to Build ADA Ramp at its Headquarters

By Dale Arnold: The Baltimore Science Fiction Society has received a permit to construct an ADA compliant ramp outside its headquarters after a two year process which was delayed by both lost government records (improper hand recopying of data still held on physical index cards) at the Baltimore Zoning and Planning Department Office and not one but two ransomware attacks at that department which brought their computer systems down to the point where they had to rebuild the entire system… After explaining that even though the zoning code did not have a category for science fiction society or literary society, that the Baltimore Science Fiction Society was not like a union hall or a dance club or other things that the zoning folks believed might be similar…  

BSFS is happy to announce we finally received the permit. This ramp will finally allow people using wheelchairs to enter the front of the Baltimore Science Fiction Society Building and not use the steep scary freight ramp at the back of the building.  

The final ramp design is more complex than we had originally hoped adding to some of the approval delays and boosting up the price due to the slope of the property, placement of doors on the building, and location of gas and plumbing lines.  Engineering drawings and fund raising for this project began in 2013 and it has been a long haul, but we now have the funds, permit, and contractors lined up to perform construction in March 2020. (when the weather breaks as concrete sets poorly in the cold)  

All of the surplus funds raised at Balticon 50 where George R. R. Martin was guest of honor, as well as many thousands of dollars raised from fandom at other events will go to cover the total cost of over $30,000.00 for the project.  BSFS thanks everyone in fandom that contributed for their faith and generosity toward this project.   

Thanksgiving at BSFS

Miriam Winder-Kelly

By Dale S. Arnold: Thanksgiving of 2019 the Baltimore Science Fiction Society opened our building to all SF fans that fate has otherwise made the only practical family their fannish family. For some relatives live far away and for others relatives have passed, but all SF fans who needed a place were invited to our potluck Thanksgiving celebration.  (Note that the holiday Dalek decorations were deployed early this year so our Dalek could be featured as part of the Highlandtown Arts District First Friday in December tour.)

[Dale S. Arnold is President of the Baltimore Science Fiction Society.]

NESFA 2019-2020 Short Story Competition Taking Entries

The 2019-2020 NESFA Science Fiction & Fantasy Short Story Contest is accepting entries through September 30. The contest “encourages amateur and semi-professional writers to reach the next level of proficiency.” The complete guidelines are here.

Ineligible are writers who have been paid more than $1000 for their writing from any source, and/or have published a novel or multiple shorter works adding up to more than 40,000 words in any paying publication.

A qualifying story must have strong science fiction or fantasy elements and must be shorter than 7,500 words. Stories must be original works of fiction, submitted by their authors. No reprints, or fan fiction. …There is no entry fee. Please submit only one entry per author.

The winner will be announced at Boskone 57 in February 14–16, 2020 and receive a certificate of achievement, three NESFA Press books, and a free membership in one of the next two Boskones (their choice). Runners-up will receive a certificate, and two NESFA Press books. Honorable mentions will receive a certificate and one NESFA Press book.

BSFS and Balticon Volunteers
at Work

Fans form a human chain inside the Baltimore Science Fiction Society Building to move out of storage equipment needed to run Balticon, the Maryland Regional Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention.

The 53rd annual Balticon will be held May 24-27 at the Renaissance Baltimore Harborplace Hotel in Baltimore.

The Comet Science Fiction Channel provided t-shirts as a reward for the volunteer’s efforts.

[Thanks to Dale Arnold for the story.]

SCA Restricts “Symbols of Hate” and Updates Policies and Mission Statement To Be More Inclusive


The Society for Creative Anachronism has revised its mission statement to be more inclusive, and published updated restrictions on the use of symbols associated with hate speech.

MISSION STATEMENT: The revised statement now reads:

The Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) is an international non-profit volunteer educational organization.

The SCA is devoted to the research and re-creation of pre-seventeenth century skills, arts, combat, culture, and employing knowledge of history to enrich the lives of participants through events, demonstrations, and other educational presentations and activities.

The primary difference from the previous version is the elimination of the phrase “focused on Western Europe and its cultural contacts.” The revision addresses concerns that have been raised about the lack of representation of other cultures in the Middle Ages

BANNED SYMBOLS. The Society for Creative Anachronism’s College of Arms has published additional guidance on “Symbols of Hate”.

From Wreath: Symbols of Hate

The resurgence of white supremacist organizations and other hate groups has been in the news recently, and the SCA has not been immune to its effects. The use of Norse and Saxon symbols by such groups directly affects both submitters and the College of Arms.

Apart from the designs which are instantly recognizable as offensive (e.g., a swastika or a burning cross) it is nearly impossible to make a ruling on the offensiveness of an armorial motif that is objective, useful for consulting heralds, adaptive to the changing tactics of hate groups, and fair to submitters who have no malicious intent and merely seek to register armory. For this reason, the Laurel office has long been averse to making sweeping rulings on offense, preferring adjudication on a case-by-base basis.

Recently, Laurel and Wreath, with the assistance of Drachenwald’s heralds, reviewed several European laws and policies to try to determine a path forward in evaluating armory for offense. Going forward, if a symbol is banned as hate speech in all of its forms in a jurisdiction in which the SCA has a substantial presence, that symbol will be unregisterable in the SCA (the swastika, long banned by Laurel precedent, falls into this category). If a symbol is banned as hate speech in some forms, but is exempted for others (especially heraldry), it will not be disallowed immediately in the SCA; however, it will be scrutinized for context….

Examples and analysis follow.

STATEMENT OF CORE VALUES. In connection with the new Mission Statement, the following Statement of Core Values was also passed by the Board:

SCA Statement of Core Values

In pursuing its mission, the SCA is committed to excellence in its programs, communications and activities and to

  • act in accordance with the chivalric virtues of honor and service;
  • value and respect the worth and dignity of all individuals;
  • practice inclusiveness and respect pluralism and diversity;
  • promote a safe and respectful environment for all SCA events;
  • act with transparency, fairness, integrity and honesty;
  • be a responsible steward of SCA resources; and,
  • be committed to maintaining the trust of its members and participants.

It is the expectation of the SCA that its members and participants, in all events and activities of the SCA, will conduct themselves in accordance with these tenets.

LOCAL INITIATIVE. In a comparable spirit, the Society for Creative Anachronism’s Kingdom of Ealdormere, which takes in most of the Canadian province of Ontario, is circulating a “Declaration of Virtues of the Kingdom of Ealdormere” which members are invited to sign.

(Declaratio Virtutum Regni Ealdormeriensis)
These are the virtues of the Kingdom of Ealdormere to which we aspire and strive in thought, word, and deed: Honour: In all our acts, we strive to be true to the ideals that are the foundation of our Society and to keep our word.

Inclusiveness: We welcome those of all backgrounds, regardless of ethnicity, culture, sexual orientation, gender identity, religious beliefs, or abilities, and will endeavour to make all spaces open and safe for all.

Kindness: We strive to be generous and considerate, breaking down barriers, drawing strength from our community, rejecting bigotry, combating hate. Above all, Equity and Justice, respecting the rights of others, giving each person their due in keeping with the laws and customs of Society and Kingdom.

There shall be no place within our halls for those who by their words or actions reject these laws and customs, regardless of rank or status. We who here witness this document hold ourselves to this pledge This document shall not be sealed and is not complete. This strength of unity shall ever increase in perpetuity.

2019 Loscon Guests of Honor Announced

Loscon 46 chair Matthew B. Tepper has announced the 2019 convention’s guests of honor:

Pro: Howard Waldrop
Fan: Edie Stern
Artist: Julie Dillon

The theme of Loscon 46 is “Where Science Fiction Meets Fantasy.”

Loscon 46 will be held November 29 – December 1, 2019, at the LAX Marriott. Further details to be announced later.