Loscon Statement from Isabel Schechter

[Since LASFS distributed a statement by Gregory Benford as its determination about the code of conduct issues at Loscon 45, published here as part of a report about the incident, I have agreed to host Isabel Schechter’s statement about the outcome as well.]

By Isabel Schechter: It is unfortunate that I have to make a statement regarding the incident that happened last week at LosCon 45, but there has been lack of information, misinformation, and deliberately incomplete information being put out, and given Loscon’s lack of communication, I feel I need to set the record straight on some things.

The comments made by Dr. Benford at the “New Masters of SF” panel have been discussed elsewhere, and I will not address them or the reasons for my report of them further. However, the actions of the convention and the LASFS board, and my connection or lack thereof, to those actions have been confusing, and that is what needs to be made clear.

To begin, right after the panel, there were several people who spoke with the Programming department head, Justine Reynolds, about Dr. Benford’s comments. After that, various concom staff members sought me out regarding this incident. First, Justine followed up with me to let me know that Dr. Benford had been asked to not be on programming for the rest of the convention. Later, the con chairs sought me out to tell me that they had removed Dr. Benford from the convention. The third time I was approached, it was by Ops to ask me to make an official report of the incident. Each time concom staff sought me out, I thought that was the end of it.

Apparently, that was not the end of it. It was only after the convention that I found out that Dr. Benford’s removal from the convention had been reversed. It was only after reading social media posts about the incident that I found out that Dr. Benford’s removal from the convention was not actually because of my or anyone else’s report of his comments on the panel, but rather because he didn’t follow the concom’s directions, used foul language, and referred to one of the con chairs as “honey.”

I was not informed that the con would be issuing a statement about the incident on social media, nor was I informed that they would be publicizing Dr. Benford’s statement or asked if I would like the opportunity to do the same. In addition, contrary to what at least one concom member stated, Dr. Benford and I did not have contact of any kind after the panel.

In my on-site interactions with Loscon staff, I felt that they took their Code of Conduct seriously and wanted to ensure that this kind of incident was handled appropriately. Sadly, as I have now found out from other sources more about how Loscon did not follow their own procedures and has still, one week later, not communicated any of this to me directly, I am now extremely disappointed with their disorganization and unprofessionalism.

While I appreciate that the con chairs had good intentions in taking swift action against Dr. Benford, I need to make it absolutely clear that at no point did I request, pressure, insist, or demand that Loscon bypass their policies or procedures, or to remove Dr. Benford from the convention. I was never asked by Loscon for my input or opinion regarding any actions the con took toward Dr. Benford. His removal was a decision made by the con chairs without my knowledge and only communicated to me after it was already done.

I take CoC’s very seriously and believe it is imperative that all conventions not only have a strong CoC, but to also consistently follow policies and procedures to ensure all incidents are handled in an appropriate manner. I reported Dr. Benford’s comments and spoke to File 770 about what happened at the convention because I initially trusted Loscon would properly implement their CoC rules. Unfortunately that trust was misplaced, putting me at risk. When conventions bypass their own CoC policies and procedures, misinformation and confusions result. CoC policies and procedures exist to not only protect the convention, but also to protect attendees, including those who report problems to the convention. Failure to follow procedure can often lead to those who made reports leaves them vulnerable as targets for retaliation and threats, including some I have seen encouraging physical violence against me that have made because of the unclear and conflicting statements and actions taken by Loscon. Convention attendees need to feel safe enough to report incidents, and when failures like this occur, they can discourage other attendees from reporting issues because they don’t want to expose themselves to harassment and threats for doing the right thing.

Loscon did not handle this incident well to begin with, and has made it worse with their lack of communication. I hope that they will learn from this incident and do better going forward, and that other conventions will take note and strengthen their own procedures to prevent a similar situation from occurring.


Update 12/02/2018: The formal address in this post has been corrected to Dr. Benford. Isabel Schecter explains: “I was unaware the he was Dr., and would have used the proper address if I had known. I apologize for my error.”

Loscon 45 Incident: What Happened, and the Committee’s Update

“New Masters of Science Fiction” panel at Loscon 45 with Mel Gilden, Alvaro Zinos-Amaro, Gregory Benford, and Brad Lyau. Photo by Kenn Bates.

Over Thanksgiving weekend at Loscon 45, code of conduct violations were alleged against Gregory Benford for a couple of statements he made on the “New Masters of Science Fiction” panel. Afterwards, a Loscon co-chair took the unprecedented step of removing Benford from the convention. However, this action bypassed Loscon’s incident process. The board of directors of LASFS, which owns Loscon, got involved. The issue was returned to the process so con Ops could gather information. Loscon later made an announcement that “the actions desired by the aggrieved parties have been either met or exceeded.” However, at the time Ops met with the party who reported the incident she was still under the impression that Benford had been removed, which was not the ultimate outcome. On November 28, the club posted as its final resolution a statement written by Benford himself which says the co-chair apologized and he accepted the apology.

What happened at the panel: On Saturday morning the “New Masters of Science Fiction” panelists — Alvaro Zinos-Amaro, Mel Gilden, Brad Lyau, and Benford — were discussing the question: “We know the old SF masters — Heinlein, Asimov, Vogt, de Camp, McCaffrey, LeGuin — who are new masters?”

Alvaro Zinos-Amaro and Gregory Benford. Photo by Kenn Bates.

According to Kenn Bates, who was present, Benford said N.K. Jemisin should get her science right.  “He did qualify his comment by saying that he liked hard SF and he was sure that his opinion was biased by that. He also said that PSI powers to control the earth and earthquakes had already been done in the fifties.”

Benford later told readers of David Weber’s Facebook page specifically, “I said, not to anyone in the room, ‘If you write sf honey, gotta get the science right.’”

Isabel Schechter says, “In addition to the ‘honey’ comment, Greg also made another comment-when one of the panelists recommended a Latino author, Greg asked him to spell the name, and then asked again several times before giving up and saying that some or those ‘names have too many vowels.’ He made this comment several times.”

Schechter, who has been in fandom over 20 years and co-chaired the successful San Juan in 2017 NASFiC bid, asked to be called on and made several comments:

I said that we were supposed to be talking about new masters but instead were talking about old ones. I remember saying “old white men” at some point in that description of the old masters, but not about the panelists (two of whom are not White). I did say that there were not any women on the panel (there was one assigned, but she didn’t show up-which I didn’t know). My comment about the female authors was in reference to the contrast between the men being discussed.

I did tell Greg that his use of the word “honey” was “offensive.” He tried to interrupt me and I told him I was still speaking. Shortly thereafter, he declared, “This panel is over!” and left the room. The panel went on without him, with panelists answering several questions after that.

The process: Isabel Schechter says she contacted the committee about events at the panel, beginning with Program organizer Justine Reynolds. Other conversations followed with Loscon co-chairs Christian McGuire and Crys Pretzman, then head of con Ops Lee Almodovar, and Robbie Bourget.

After the panel, several people were talking to me about the panel and Greg’s behavior, and Justine Reynolds, the Program Chair happened to be just outside the room as we walked out. I told her what happened, as did the other people. She apologized and said she would look into it, or something along those lines. I then went about my business. At some point, maybe an hour later, I was told that Greg had been asked to not be on any more programming. I said thanks and thought that was the end of it.

Then maybe an hour later, someone (I don’t know who, but they looked like staff) told me the conchairs wanted to talk to me, and walked me over to them, where they apologized for Greg’s behavior. They said they didn’t want me to think that the convention found his behavior acceptable and that they would not allow that kind of thing there. I thanked them, and again thought that was the end of it.

What happened next is that Christian McGuire, accompanied by someone from the hotel, located Benford at his 1 p.m. signing in the dealer’s room. According to Brandy Grote, “My husband witnessed him being escorted away by Hotel Security during his autograph session.”

Ginjer Buchanan, who read about this on David Weber’s Facebook page, commented, “Short of someone physically assaulting someone else in public, I can’t think of any reason for tracking down a person, no matter who they are, and having them do a perp walk out of a con. This strikes me as a bridge too far…”

What’s more, this step was taken without going through Loscon’s process for handling code of conduct violations. In response to my question, LASFS’ Kristen Gorlitz explained, “We do have a process for dealing with violations, but in this case, the proper channels were bypassed in favor of haste. This was thereafter rectified and the proper channels were consulted. (This is why we have an Ops team).”

Hours after Benford was led out, the committee asked Isabel Schechter to make an official statement:

Later that evening, I was asked by someone (don’t remember who) if I could make an official statement to Ops, so I went to the Ops room and gave a statement to Lee Almodovar. While doing that, [Robbie] (an older blond woman) asked me for details because it turns out that the conchairs didn’t follow convention procedures/coordinate the process with Ops. She said the conchairs overreacted or were extreme or something, and that she preferred to talk to everyone involved to try and reach a resolution, but now that Greg had been kicked out, he might not be willing to talk. She asked me if I was satisfied with the outcome or if I wanted anything like an apology. I told her I would like an apology but didn’t think I would get one. Otherwise, I was fine with the resolution. After that, I again went on about my business.

What happened to Benford led to a retaliatory petition calling for Christian B. McGuire to be removed from the LASFS Board of Directors, signed by a number of LASFS members including Larry Niven, Harry Turtledove, Laura Frankos, and David Gerrold. The next meeting of the Board is in December.

What the public was told: Ops was still collecting information on Sunday morning when LASFS asked File 770 to post this announcement (which also went up on Facebook):

Please be aware that the Loscon committee and LASFS Board are aware of an issue which occurred yesterday during a panel and are conducting a full investigation to ensure that all parties have been heard and then making a final decision based on that investigation. We would request that if anyone believes they have information to approach Ops in the Board Room. We will have an official resolution within 24 hours.

Among the people who reacted to the Facebook request was Barbara Landsman, who had a different perspective.

I was at that panel and I was horrified. I actually stood up and told her that I did not want to hear her political agenda and that she should just stop. Gregory Benford caught my eye and I just made the cut it off sign to him and he just shrugged. He finally got so pissed off that he stormed out. I again made a comment to try to stop her from continuing on with her rant and she just wouldn’t give it up. So I left. If anyone wants my testimony I’ll be very happy to speak on this. She came into this panel with a notebook and made notes and took down names and she definitely had an agenda. She wanted to fight.

Two more fans said they’d been at the panel and had given statements to Ops, but they did not repeat them on Facebook.

On Monday morning, Kristen Gorlitz issued this update:

All parties have been spoken with either yesterday or today. The actions desired by the aggrieved parties have been either met or exceeded through the follow up actions by the Co-Chairs and Ops. We would like to remind everyone and also future Loscons of the importance of being fully aware of our Code of Conduct and how language can cause emotional and psychological harm.

The resolution: Convention committees usually keep confidential their internal deliberations about alleged code of conduct violations so, unsurprisingly, it remains unexplained why the Loscon leadership didn’t follow the process, or how LASFS decided the outcome. Nor does LASFS really show an understanding that it’s their process and they need to take ownership of the outcome, because at the end this what they distributed:

November 28, 2018

Greg Benford gave us permission to publish this statement, if you wish to update file770. Thanks!

Gregory Benford’s message to LASFS:

At the 2018 Loscon there was an incident at a panel where someone took exception to something I said in general—which that someone took to be about a third party, who was not there.  Things got heated.  I left the room, not wanting to continue.  Apparently that someone complained to the convention chairs and they over reacted. The chair has apologized to me and I accepted it gratefully. He and his co-chair were probably trying to do the right thing in these over-heated times.  We all are, I trust. I have been attending Loscon since it began, and my first LASFS meeting was in 1963. I respect these enormously.

People were upset by the way the chairs acted.  Many later came up to me to say they were disturbed over it.  They were more upset than I was.  Since then, I’ve received vastly many emails, calls, Facebook posts, the lot. It’s exhausting. Things are fine with me now.  I’m not upset.  And I hope people will keep cooler heads in the future.

I want to especially thank Craig Miller, John Hertz, Matthew Tepper, Harry Turtledove, Larry Niven, Steve Barnes, John DeChancie, Gordon van Gelder and Michelle Pincus for their help in dealing with this.

At risk of being too professorial, I recommend reading

https://quillette.com/2018/05/17/understanding-victimhood-culture-interview-bradley-campbell-jason-manning/?fbclid=IwAR0hPL1hJRW_ERe6hhokHE6QJL784V4qSojSR5zwLNLwMUcnoHzK08Lwkpg

This is probably the first time the subject of code of conduct allegations ever wrote up the determination for the con committee.

When Kristen Gorlitz answered my follow-up questions about the statement, I learned she was under the impression that Isabel Schechter and Gregory Benford had met and resolved things, which never happened. (Do any other LASFSians think that happened?) Schechter says —

They did not copy me on Greg’s statement. It would have been nice if they had, given that it concerned me.

As for me and Greg resolving things, I have no idea what they mean by that. I never spoke to Greg after the panel, or at any point during the convention, before or after the panel. He did not approach me, I did not approach him, no one put us together, and we had no interaction during the convention other than during the panel. I have no idea why Kristen would say this, and am at a loss for words to explain how confused I am by her comment.

Also, Greg’s statement, “someone took exception to something I said in general—which that someone took to be about a third party, who was not there,” is misleading at best-his comment was not “in general,” he specifically named N.K. Jemisin, I did not need to make up a third party.

After neutralizing effects of the co-chair’s startling decision to walk Benford out of his autograph session, and, so far as the statement shows, managing to keep his good will, it is probably unrealistic to expect LASFS to speak explicitly to the original complaint and say whether its code of conduct was violated by Benford’s comments about Jemisin’s sf, or the spelling of Hispanic names. However, since they are standing behind his statement, how that blank would be filled-in should be easy to guess.


Update 11/30/2018: Robbie Bourget of Loscon Ops forwarded this additional information about their role: “Ops was not involved until the day after the issues, although we did take a statement from Isobel in which she did say when specifically asked ‘what would you have wished to have happen’ she said ‘for Mr Benford to be spoken to about his use of language’ and when I asked if she wanted an apology she said it would be nice but did not expect it. Therefore, since Greg was spoken to, twice, about his language – the requests (actual) of all parties were met or exceeded, since he was excluded from panels that he was scheduled for from the point the Chairs first talked to him and from the floor from after the autograph session on Saturday until sometime Sunday when he was finally interviewed by Ops.”

NASFiC 2019 to Host Chesley Awards; New Trimble Sponsor Steps Forward

The Utah Fandom Organization has issued an update about events, guests, and other plans for the combined Westercon 72, NASFiC 2019, & 1632 Minicon (Spikecon.org) convention to be held July 4-7, 2019 in Layton, Utah:

  • The Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists (ASFA) Announces NASFiC 2019 as the location to host the Chesley Awards – The Chesleys will be held at the NASFIC in Layton Utah, July 4 -7, 2019. ASFA member Vincent Villafranca is the artist guest and we can’t wait to get involved.  There will be ways for artists to participate at the convention so please check http://www.asfa-art.org/.
  • Westercon 72 Gaming Guest Tim the GM (Mottishaw) – We regret to inform our gaming guest Tim Mottishaw had to cancel his appearance at Spikecon due to conflicts in dates. He offers his regret and apology to everyone, and is assisting us with possible candidates to honor in his stead.
  • NASFiC 2019 Master and Mistress of Ceremony, Bjo & John Trimble (and Sponsorship) -A fan, professional photographer and writer, Ctein (Kuh-TEIN), has volunteered to continue the sponsorship, and support Bjo and John Trimble in their appearance at Spikecon 2019. Utah Fandom Organization wishes to thank everyone for their support in making these combined events fun and exciting.
  • (Ctein is a professional photographer and writer. He is the co-author, with John Sandford, of the New York Times best selling science fiction thriller, “Saturn Run.” He is currently writing an natural disaster thriller, “Ripple Effect,” with David Gerrold. Ctein is also the author of “Digital Restoration From Start To Finish” and “Post Exposure.” He is best known in the SF community for his photographs of eclipses, aurora, natural and unnatural scenics, and space launches and his hand-printed fine-art books.  His photographic work can be seen at http://ctein.com and photo-repair.com.)
  • Updates to Departments – The website, https://www.spikecon.org/ , has updated forms to apply for the Art Show, Dealers Room, Program Participation, Gaming, Panel Suggestions and Membership Updates.
  • Future Announcements – Upcoming plans include a special event 4th of July breakfast with Bjo and John Trimble to discuss Star Trek(™), A filk/music guest announcement and a new progress report due at the end of November.

Loscon 45 Committee Statement

The Loscon 45 committee has posted a statement on Facebook and asked File 770 to give it a signal boost:

Please be aware that the Loscon committee and LASFS Board are aware of an issue which occurred yesterday during a panel and are conducting a full investigation to ensure that all parties have been heard and then making a final decision based on that investigation. We would request that if anyone believes they have information to approach Ops in the Board Room. We will have an official resolution within 24 hours.

Arisia Inc. Posts Apology and Announces More Bans and Restrictions

In an Apology To The Arisia Community posted November 23, the corporation broadly apologized for a large number of enumerated failings, and also announced that it has banned three people and restricted the participation of eight others, with more action possible once other incident reports are fully processed.

To our community:

We, the Executive Board (Eboard), apologize unreservedly on behalf of Arisia Incorporated to every individual who has come forward with mishandled incident reports, some of whom have asked not to be named, and to every individual who has had reason to hesitate in coming forward or has felt unsafe doing so. As an organization, Arisia has failed you. We must do better by everyone who seeks our aid. Prior to posting this statement, we extended private apologies to multiple individuals. As time passes, and we as a board develop a better understanding of the mistakes we have made, we expect to extend further apologies.

We also apologize without condition to the entire Arisia community. You trusted us as an organization to prioritize community safety. Many of you have brought forward incident reports, trusting in the process to see justice done and safety concerns addressed. Some of you, in the face of inaction or errors in judgment, have turned your back on Arisia entirely. In all of these ways, we failed you as well.

We do not expect these apologies to be accepted as a matter of course. We are not owed the forgiveness of those we have wronged. We cannot demand the trust of those who have seen that trust broken. We hold no ill will toward anyone who has had to step back from Arisia as a result of these events. All we can do is acknowledge the harm that we have done, make amends to the best of our ability, and strive to do better. We must earn your trust back through actions, not words.

As an Executive Board, we have been working to determine and articulate our actions going forward. The public process of acknowledging our errors, making apologies, and making amends begins now. In this letter, where “we” is used unqualified, it refers to the Eboard. Where “we as an organization” is used, it refers to the Arisia organization as a whole.

Over a span of years, we as an organization have mishandled multiple incident reports, putting the safety of the entire community into question, and causing grave harm to several individuals. Whatever mistakes have been made by individual officers or staff, the wider problem stems from failures in our process and our culture. Recent accounts have brought some of these errors to light. In the wake of these revelations our community – including attendees as well as volunteers, staff, and corporate members – has been widely hurt and justifiably angry. We recognize the anger of veteran Arisians, who have seen Arisia withhold vital information and allow important details to slip off the radar, leaving these individuals oblivious to and unwittingly complicit in our organization’s failures. We recognize also the anger of the community, who may not have been directly involved but now question Arisia’s worth, as well as its commitment to the safety of everyone involved in the convention.

On November 11th, following the resignation of five members of the Eboard, the membership of Arisia, Inc elected new officers. That same day saw the induction of over 100 new voting corporate members, more than tripling the overall size of the corporate body. These new corporate members, together with veteran members, staff, and volunteers, are now working to make Arisia safer, to make amends to those injured by the organization’s actions, and to regain public trust. The current members of the Eboard have the specific mandate to drive this change.

In accordance with this mandate, we have taken multiple actions, with a particular focus on community safety at Arisia 2019. A brief note: when we speak of banning someone from Arisia, this means that they are banned from the convention as well as Arisia, Inc. sponsored events, and that they are not allowed to staff or volunteer in any capacity, including pre-con work, post-con work, and remote work.

– In addition to Noel Rosenberg, two other individuals have been notified of permanent bans from Arisia, through our existing incident process. One of these individuals has been the subject of multiple incident reports, both new and reopened.
– Five additional individuals have been the subject of serious incident reports that we cannot fully investigate in the time remaining before Arisia 2019. Due to the nature of the reports and the information we have received so far, we have decided that we will not allow these individuals to attend, staff, or volunteer with Arisia 2019, to allow time for further investigation.
– Three other individuals will be restricted this year, again allowing time for a full investigation into their reported behavior. These individuals will be restricted from participating in any capacity beyond that of a standard attendee, including staff or volunteering for the convention.
– There are additional reports on which action requested by the reporter and/or the target of the behavior has been taken, and still more reports that are under investigation.

In all cases of disciplinary action, we reserve the possibility of further measures in accordance with our published Disciplinary Processes (https://corp.arisia.org/DisciplinaryProcessInformation).

While we recognize that it may be difficult to trust Arisia as an organization with incident reports at this time, we ask that you report unwanted or unwelcome behavior at or outside of con – including but not limited to Code of Conduct violations – to incidents@arisia.org. We will do our best to respond and investigate as swiftly as we can.

Lastly, we can announce that the Convention Committee has created a dedicated programming track at Arisia 2019 that will provide opportunities for reconciliation, discussion, and community healing. The Eboard is actively encouraging and consulting on this task under the leadership of the Arisia 2019 Programming Division.

We will announce more changes and further actions in the weeks to come. We look forward to working with our corporate members and engaging the wider community to drive policy and process changes which will make Arisia safer and more welcoming as a whole. If you are willing to help in this process, we welcome your participation. Please contact us directly at eboard@arisia.org, or via the anonymous feedback form at https://www.arisia.org/feedback.

Humbly and sincerely,
The Arisia, Inc. Executive Board
– Nicholas “phi” Shectman, President
– Alan Wexelblat, Vice President
– Kris Pelletier, Treasurer
– Sol Houser, Clerk
– Cassandra Lease, Member-at-Large
– Andy Rosequist, Member-at-Large
– RaShawn Seams, Member-at-Large

posted to https://corp.arisia.org/News November 23, 2018

Arisia Changes Hotels in Response to Strikes

The Arisia Eboard announced November 16 they are moving Arisia 2019 from the Westin Boston Waterfront hotel to the Boston Park Plaza Hotel, as a result of strikes affecting the hotels they were planning to use. The dates of the convention remain January 18-21, 2019.

The Eboard explained on the Arisia Inc. Facebook page:

An ongoing labor dispute between the Marriott Corporation and the UniteHere labor organization has resulted in strikes at Marriott properties across the country. The strike includes both the Westin Boston Waterfront and the Aloft Boston Seaport, the hotels where Arisia 2019 was to be held. The consistent message that we’ve heard from our members – attendees, staff, and corporate – is one that aligns with Arisia’s values: that we must take seriously the very real concerns that have driven these workers to strike. As a result, we cannot cross a picket line and support a corporation that is in serious dispute with its workers.

A Park Plaza Move FAQ page has been added to the convention website with additional background:

Why now?

Moving a convention of Arisia’s size in just two months is a major undertaking. We gave the Marriott management as much time as we felt we could. We hoped for a quick settlement to the labor dispute, but we also have to be realistic about the time, travel, and money commitments made by our community. We could not wait any longer. When polled on the question of whether to cancel the convention or move, Arisia Corporation members indicated by nearly a 4:1 majority that they preferred the convention move. Our Hotel Search Committee was able to find another host hotel that enables us to have an Arisia with most of the amenities and programming our attendees have come to expect in the last decade, on our target weekend dates, without requiring a drastic cut in attendance.

What is the effect on Arisia convention activities?

We do not know the full impact yet. The Park Plaza offers us sufficient space that most of the usual types of programming (panels, games, LARPs, dances, etc.) can occur, though some things will be downsized. Some event organizers and panelists had already indicated they could not attend this year, and we are likely to reconfigure some things to fit into the different spaces of the Park Plaza.

The Arisia Innkeeper team will cancel all Westin and Aloft reservations made through their booking links. They will announce when reservations open for the Park Plaza, and have assured fans, “We have a room block large enough that we do not expect to sell out.”

Arisia 2019 will have a lower membership cap in the new facility. What that number will be is not yet known.

The Eboard’s general announcement noted that the hotel situation is just one of the critical issues on their plate:

We also understand that the strike is not the only or overriding concern for our community. We acknowledge concerns around the safety of attendees, and around our ability to handle incident response in ways that meet our standards and goals. On Sunday, November 11th, the corporation elected new members of the Eboard with the implicit directive to correct the mistakes made by the previous board and move forward with initiatives to improve our culture, our responses, and our processes. The Eboard will have much more to say on all these subjects in the days to come.

Arisia Inc. Election Results

Arisia Inc. has posted the result of today’s Eboard elections. Over 150 members, many of them new, participated in the seven-and-a-half hour meeting held November 11.

President

  • Nicholas “Phi” Shectman

Vice President

  • Alan Wexelblat

Treasurer

  • Kris Pelletier

Clerk

  • Sol Houser

Member-at-Large (one vacant of three total positions)

  • Cassandra Lease

Lease fills the vacancy created by the resignation of Sharon Sbarsky. Two other Members-at-Large elected in September continued in office —

  • Member-At-Large: Andy Rosequist
  • Member-At-Large: RaShawn Seams

Neither Benjamin Levy nor Rick Kovalcik, who resigned from the Eboard but stood for re-election, were returned to office.

Arisia Inc. Meets November 11 to Pick New Officers

Help is on the way — Arisia Inc. has gained over 50 new corporate members who will be on hand when the convention begins to search for the path to its future at their November 11 meeting. This will include the election of many new officers.

Arisia Inc.’s corporate president was removed after Crystal Huff wrote a post “Why I’m Not At Arisia Anymore: My Rapist is President. Again.” charging the convention with failing to enforce its code of conduct in situations where she had been the victim. Almost the entire remaining Eboard resigned after more people, inspired by Huff’s post, published statements of their own criticizing Arisia’s handling of the incidents they reported. Two of Arisia 2019 GoHs have dropped out, and another author declined an invitation to be a GoH in 2020.

A burn-it-all-to-the-ground sentiment has been voiced by some who see Arisia’s newly-revealed chronic problem with enforcing its code of conduct as deserving the convention equivalent of capital punishment.

At the other end of the spectrum are a large group who still intend to work on holding the con over the January 18-21 weekend as scheduled. That group includes both those who see themselves as working to attain the kind of “safe” con enforcing its code of conduct that there ought to be, and an indeterminate number of others who say there is more to know and that the various CoC outcomes over the years were understandable.

Arisia Inc. has been updating a Google Doc with nominations by candidates for office as they come in. Interestingly, the candidates include two people who submitted resignations from the Eboard, Benjamin Levy and Rick Kovalcik.

From each candidate’s statements come these excerpts about the issues of incident reporting and code of conduct enforcement:

For President:

I was first elected to the board in 1993 and served on it for 17 of the next 20 years, in every officer position and as convention treasurer and convention chair.  In 2013 I chose not to stand for reelection because I was developing patterns in my relationship with the board that were keeping me from being objective. I felt that I would not be able to discharge the board’s then-new obligations to our incident process.  Since then I have learned that it was not just me, and that it is easy for well intentioned people to come together into faulty systems which then persist until they are disrupted. I have worked to address negative patterns in myself, and I have been waiting for an opportunity to move forward from them as part of creating a new system.  That moment is now.

The new board will need to focus heavily on changes we need to make to our incident process.  I don’t pretend to know what all of the problems with our current process are. I see how we have failed in particular with respect to incidents involving our own staff.  I see how even the incidents we thought we responded to successfully were not handled as well as we thought, and that in many cases it was only the at con portion of our response that was correct.  We will need to make changes, and it seems clear that these will require particular attention to how we address abuse by the people in positions of power in our community. We will need new processes for staff, and we will generally need to separate the post con incident process from the centers of power as we have done at con.

To really address abuse of power, though, I believe that we also need a new process for determining how we staff Arisia, particularly in regards to how we maintain continuity between conventions and enable the organization to take on large, multiyear projects.  Currently, our ability to do this too often rests on the personal power of individual volunteers and on an assumption of their entitlement to a position. We need a staffing process that focuses on the work we are trying to accomplish and the environment we are trying to create rather than on any one individual, and which explicitly provides for planned transitions as part of a multiyear process instead of relying on power and entitlement to preserve continuity.  In this way we will become less reliant on particular individuals and untie the hands of our incident process. None of this will be easy to accomplish but whether you elect me or not I am looking forward to contributing to this work.

I have served longer on the board than any other person in the history of Arisia.  Whether you elect me or not, I look forward to sharing my perspective on the roles I have held and helping any board members who are new to those roles get up to speed.

For Vice-President

In terms of creating consent culture, I believe that harassment and sexual assault are more likely to run unchecked when we only believe reports which include witnesses, physical evidence, or misconduct within official convention spaces. The current process is slanted in favor of the accused and doesn’t do enough to protect our community.  We need to reform our incident reporting process to be more versatile in responding to reports of sexual assault and other misconduct-in-private to improve safety. I am not seeking to run amok with the ban-hammer at minimal provocation, but I do seek credible investigations and meaningful consequences. I also want to teach younger members of our community what appropriate interpersonal behavior looks like, and what falls into the “not ok” category.

…Our community has a problem around believing survivors, and several people asked me to elaborate on that.  Here is a blog post that Andy Piltser-Cowan and I created to address that question: “Believe Survivors” vs.
“Due Process”
https://www.andrewcowanlaw.com/believe-survivors-vs-due-process/

I support creation of one or more roles to do specific tasks around IRs. First, to report out summary statistics on a regular basis. Second, to track progress so we can concretely measure how timely our responses and actions are. Third, to be a ‘translator’ to ensure that everyone involved in an IR knows their options. These tasks may fall to an existing Board member, or can be delegated; the key is not who does it, but that it be done in a clear, open, and consistent way.

I support the decision to engage with an outside entity to review our policies. I have asked several questions about the scope, timeline, and outcome of this review, as I believe it needs to be thorough and effective, not simply quick.

For Treasurer:

Along with the other members of the previous Eboard, I have resigned because of concerns with how the eboard dealt with some of the Incident Reports (IRs).  I am asking for a second chance from the members of the Corporation to serve as Treasurer.  I want to make sure there is at least one candidate for the position who understands the complexities of the job of Treasurer.

Working on the Incident Reports is a complicated process. This is of part why Arisia added the three “Member At-Large” positions to the Eboard.  I think that at the time that the eboard made the best decisions it could with the information available then.  As a member of the Eboard, I apologize for helping to cause the crisis that developed.  With the new information that has become available, it is clear things could have been handled differently. It is possible that more members of the Eboard should have recused themselves, but at the time the idea of bringing in others to help deal with IRs when there are a large number of recusals was not in our toolbox.  I think that how the Arisia Eboard handles IRs is an evolving process, and I would like work with the Corporation to improve it.

I am proud of the strides we have made in the at-con processes around incident response – a process that has now been used at several other conventions – while understanding that it still has room for improvement. I also understand that no matter how good our at-con process is, if it is not backed by a similarly robust post-con process at the Eboard level then Arisia is not living up to its promise of providing a safe and inclusive con experience. Whether or not I am elected, I look forward to contributing to
the improvement of our incident response policies across the board.

A agree with what others have said about there needing to be more diversity on the board. I am not the ideal candidate for diversity, as I am a cis gay white male. I do, however, think there needs to be an option when it comes to the board, and we should not be stuck with an unopposed position. At least not at this time.

I will happily step aside for a POC, or someone who is non-binary. Please ask me any questions you may have. I can’t promise to have all good answers, or all the right answers, but I can promise to do what I feel is right for the community.

For Clerk:

Q: Would you, if elected, voluntarily recuse yourself from
decision-making on IRs. Please share your reasoning.

A: Yes. Though I feel well prepared for the duties of clerk, I do not for making decisions on IRs. Gathering information, absolutely yes, but decision making no.

I hope to bring a fresh perspective to the board as a new member. I’ve been reading all of the documents available on the website and am confident that I can come up to speed quite quickly.

As you probably know, I resigned along with the other re-elected
members of the Eboard in order to allow new elections…

I believe the Arisia Eboard, myself included, made the best decision it thought it could with the information available and POLICIES in place at the time. However, it is clear the Arisia policies need to change and it is a shame this had to happen for Arisia to realize that.

I apologize for what we did. We made mistakes. I’m sorry many people got hurt. At the very least I should have recused myself from being involved the vote pertaining to the incident report about Noel Rosenberg. There are many other ways the situation could have been handled which would have been better than the way it was handled. Some of them have been suggested on email or Facebook, and I have been considering those. But, this note isn’t the time to go into solutions or changes. The time for that is after discussion with the greater Arisia Community which probably continues well after Arisia gets a professional outside review of its policies and procedures. There probably will be multiple rounds of changes – the Disciplinary Process is an evolving thing.

…I’ve talked about the Disciplinary Process a bit above. I’ve cared about it from the beginning. Back in 2013, I was one of the people who first proposed the Disciplinary Process and got it implemented. Over the last couple of years I have been one of the people pushing to get IRs resolved and making sure they don’t fall through the cracks or linger. The Disciplinary Process and the procedures around it have evolved and improved over time. It is time for it change some more. Clearly we need to be better about recusals. Since October 25th, as we have opened or reopened over a dozen new Incident Reports, the Eboard has paid a lot more attention to recusals and, as of this writing, almost every voting Eboard member has recused themselves from one or more of the IRs for being too close to a Subject or Focus. I have been one of the people pushing for that. A number of other ideas for improving the Disciplinary Process have been kicked around the Corp email list. I firmly agree that getting an outside group to look at our policies and procedures is an important early step. We are all going to need to think about this and make well thought out, not reactionary, changes.

The incident-report handling issue was what drew me into this race, and in answer to a standing question on this list, I would not be at all inclined to recuse myself from IRs in general (I would recuse myself from any specific IR in which I had a conflict of interest or in which I felt my judgment was clouded or could reasonably be perceived as clouded by personal relationships).  The question has been raised as to whether board members, as a general class, possess relevant skills to handle IRs. I have been a
practicing attorney for ten years with the majority of my practice consisting of criminal, restraining order, and victim’s rights work. In September of this year I won a case in the Massachusetts Appeals Court that expanded the definition of “involuntar[y] sexual relations” in our restraining order law, and established for the first time that a restraining order may be granted for continuing an act after the other party has withdrawn consent.
I have also been involved in these matters outside the public courts: I am a co-author of Cornell University’s Code of Conduct, have represented students before the disciplinary authorities of Cornell, Westfield State, and BU. I advised a local community theater nonprofit on establishing a CORI policy in 2016, and I have been involved in non-profit governance issues of various stripes on and off since high school. I drafted the current bylaws of the National Lawyers’ Guild, Massachusetts Chapter. As perhaps the least sexy of the clerk’s responsibilities, I already deal with the Secretary of the
Commonwealth’s office on a frequent basis in my professional capacity, so maintaining
the Corporation’s records there would not be heavy lifting for me.

For Member-at-Large:

I want to listen to people’s concerns and entertain all possible solutions to the set of problems facing us. I want to make Arisia feel safe for people. Part of the way I want to accomplish this by making sure that the Incident Reporting policy is well documented and publicly available (which it now mostly seems to be, in the last week), and that disclosures about the conduct of any staff members is made in a timely manner. I want to open all our policies to public feedback, so that we can get a diversity of opinions and ideas. I want to continue the third party audit promised by the eboard.


Another problem looming over tomorrow’s meeting is the strike against Arisia’s hotel. Many conrunners say they won’t cross a picket line. Imagine a con being in doubt about the loss of its venue this close to the event. Arisia 2019 chair and Eboard member Daniel Eareckson said in an update on November 8: “There has been some talk about the options this convention has regarding the strike at the Westin. Some of these strikes have been settled in other cities, but not yet in Boston. In the event it does continue much longer, the con staff, the Eboard and corporation are all discussing options and plans and are actively exploring options including moving to a new hotel.”

Update 11/10/2018: Changed “entirely new slate of officers” to “many” per correction in comment.

2020 World Fantasy Convention Announces Guests

World Fantasy Convention 2020 in Salt Lake City officially opened for registration at the close of this year’s WFC in Baltimore. The Salt Lake committee so far has named five guests:

  • Stephen Gallagher – British author of many novels and screenplays, including episodes of the fan favorite Dr. Who and the television drama series Eleventh Hour. A new television reboot of Gallagher’s debut novel, Chimera, is currently being produced.

  • Stephen Graham Jones – award-winning author of sixteen novels, including his latest, Mapping the Interior, which was a finalist for this year’s World Fantasy Award.

  • Anne Groell – Executive Editor for Penguin Random House, Ms. Groell has worked in the fantasy genre for more than twenty-five years. Her current author list includes George R.R. Martin, Terry Brooks, and Robin Hobb.

  • David Cherry – An award-winning artist of renown, Mr. Cherry is known for his work in the science fiction and fantasy genre. He is the former president of the Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists.

  • Tracy and Laura Hickman – Utah locals who will serve as toastmasters for the 2020 World Fantasy Convention. Tracy is a NYT Bestselling author and game creator, who first became known for his work on the Dragonlance series. He and his wife, Laura, currently write together.

“We’re excited about our confirmed guests,” said Ginny Smith, co-chair of the 2020 World Fantasy Convention. “We have a great lineup so far, and soon we’ll announce the addition of several more professionals in the fantasy genre.”

The convention’s theme is “Fairyland was Nothing Like This” (< i>quote from “Finian’s Rainbow”)

Utah is proud of its pioneering heritage. Like the pioneers who traveled vast distances to explore strange new lands, fantasy and horror have journeyed far from their origins. From folklore and fairy tales to dystopia and steampunk, who could have foreseen the genre as it exists today? This con will highlight books and authors who have pioneered new trends in fantasy and horror over the years. Discussion panels will explore sub-genres of fantasy — the elements that have changed through the decades and those that have remained the same. Who blazed the trails in the genre’s beginnings, and who are the pioneers of today’s fantasy and horror markets?

WFC is an annual gathering of authors, publishers, book dealers, artists, editors, agents, and serious-minded fantasy fans. “For fantasy authors, WFC is pretty much a must,” says award-winning and NYT bestselling author David Farland, from Saint George, UT. “Not only do writers get to learn from the best of the best in the field, but it’s also an important convention when it comes to meeting editors and agents, and doing business in general.”

Scott Edelman’s GoH Speech for World Fantasy Convention 2018

[[Editor’s Introduction: With Scott Edelman’s permission, File 770 is posting the text of his World Fantasy Convention GoH speech, given in Baltimore this weekend. (It’s also up on his website. And a link to the video appears at the end of this post.]]

Scott Edelman at WFC 44

By Scott Edelman: Welcome, everyone! I’m Scott Edelman, and I’m touched that out of all the things you could possibly be doing here in Baltimore at the 44th World Fantasy Convention, you chose to spend these moments here, with me. Believe me, I understand what a tough decision it was. I know all about having to study the program to figure out where best to be when, while still leaving time to hang out in the place where we all know the most interesting conversations really happen — at the hotel bar.

The reason I’m aware of your struggle is because I’ve been having to pore over programming exactly like that myself at World Fantasy Conventions ever since my first, which was the fifth World Fantasy Convention, held in 1979 at the Biltmore Hotel in Providence, Rhode Island. To illustrate how long ago 1979 was, back then, Stephen King, one of the Guests of Honor — and how we got from inviting Stephen King as a Guest of Honor to ending up with me, I have no idea — could still wander among us without being trailed into a public restroom by writers who would shove their manuscripts at him under his stall.

Yes, that was really done! Not by me, of course. I wasn’t one of them, really. I promise!

That was the same World Fantasy Convention, however, at which — and I’m not joking about that — the Dalai Lama and I had a brief encounter one afternoon in front of the hotel …

So I got that going for me, which is nice.

But that’s another story for another time. Maybe later … in the bar. Because as I told you, that’s where the most interesting conversations take place, remember?

Anyway, by five years after that, in 1984, at the 42nd World Science Fiction Convention in Anaheim, California, Stephen King’s freedom to mingle with con-goers was no more, and I personally saw a ring of fans — off in the distance, so again, I promise I wasn’t one of them — form around that restroom door waiting for him to come back out. And if you want to know the true face of horror, all you have to imagine is Stephen King’s expression as he opened that door and was greeted by that circle.

That wasn’t my first Worldcon, by the way. My first was ten years earlier than that one, in Washington, D.C. at 1974’s 32nd World Science Fiction Convention. And my first could have been, and almost was, a year earlier than that, in 1973 in Toronto, but … I didn’t go because I was afraid of being arrested, I think.

There’s a story to go with that as well, but I don’t want to go off on too many tangents here as I bounce around time this afternoon, and trust me, there’s going to be a lot of bouncing, for my time, as you’ll see, has been even wibblier and wobblier and timey-whimier than The Doctor’s, so again, for that one … you have to meet me in the bar.

As you can tell by now, I’ve spent a lot of my life at events like these. And I suspect some of you have as well.

Or if you haven’t yet, are considering doing so. Which is why I think I could have started this afternoon’s talk by paraphrasing the great Criswell’s opening monologue to Plan 9 from Outer Space, and have begun by intoning:

Greetings, my friends. We are all interested in conventions, for that is where you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives.

But the thing is … and this makes me sad … I also know there are likely those out there who are considering not doing so, and not because the books we read and write or the stories we absorb or tell and gather to discuss here don’t interest them. No, they’re thinking of staying away from what to me has been a magical place for different reasons entirely, and ones which sadden me.

I have listened to their concerns. I have read their blog posts, and seen their tweets.

So while I’m in a reminiscing mood — and I’ve shared and am going to continue to share some stories of past cons with you — reminiscences alone aren’t what I wanted to give to you today. I’ve been thinking a lot about conventions lately, more than I usually do — what they’ve been, what they are, what they could be, and what they should be, and once I learned the themes for this year World Fantasy Convention, I realized there were a few things I needed to say about that topic.

World Fantasy Conventions always have a theme around which the programing tries to focus, and this year, the committee came up with two.

One is a celebration of the 200th anniversary of the publication of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and yes, I could easily have spent an hour talking to you today about that.

Not only because the original novel made an impression on me at an extremely young age, but also because I suspect I’m the only World Fantasy Convention Guest of Honor since the beginning who’s not only alluded to the Creature in his fiction, not only included that Creature in one of his short horror stories written for the DC Comics title House of Mystery, but who has also portrayed the Creature — the one given to long philosophical speeches, not the one who only grunted “fire” — in community theater, so I truly know that character from the inside. That role, by the way, was back before I decided I’d dedicate myself to having a go at being a writer rather than an actor.

And yes, there’s a story behind that decision, too. But again — that one’s for later in the bar.

But it’s the other theme of this year’s convention I want to talk to you about: Ports in a storm. Safe havens. Sanctuaries for the body and refuges for the spirit. Places which offer respite to not only the characters in our favorite fantasy, horror, and weird tales as the theme states … but to us.

And I want you to know: That’s what conventions have been, are, and continue to be to me.

Recently, in the final moments of the last panel of a busy three-convention weekend — see, I told you I love these things — which occurred during a period I was binge-watching Steven Universe, and found myself yearning for that sense of family, that sense of belonging, that sense of being a part of something bigger than oneself the characters on the show, the Crystal Gems, feel, I came to a realization, and that yearning stopped. It went away, because it came to me, as I looked around — and as I told the people who surrounded me, with a meaning far more than metaphor — they were my Crystal Gems.

You are my Crystal Gems.

When I dream — and I have a vivid dream life — I often dream of conventions. And those dreams are never anxious. Those dreams are never fearful. I don’t have the equivalent of those cliche “I forgot to do my homework” dreams when it comes to cons. I’m never lost in the maze-like halls, never late for a panel, never worried that I’m unprepared, never afraid I’ll be judged.

Never in my underwear.

Well … sometimes in my underwear. But only, I assure you, when it’s entirely appropriate.

I am usually with a conglomeration of friends lost, and friends still alive, some of whom are even now in this building. Some are even in this room. I’ve dreamed so many of you, and at one time was sharing so many of those dreams across social media, that Patrick Nielsen Hayden once jokingly tweeted that the new SFWA membership requirements were going to have to be one novel, three short stories, or two appearances in my dreams.

I’ve been going to cons for a long, long time, and I plan to continue going to them for a long, long time, because there’s something special in this thing we have, this thing we’ve built and are still building, in rooms like these spread across the world. I’ve been to so many it seems as if rather than having attended hundreds, perhaps nearly a thousand of them, I’ve only been to one convention, a single gathering stretching back to my first, and lasting until now, one never-ending convention.

I’ve been lucky.

But here’s that other thing I want you to know, and which some of you know already:

Not all of us get to feel lucky. Not all of us are embraced. Not all of us are welcomed.

Not everyone gets to experience the sort of convention life I’ve been privileged to live for 48 years now.

My first ever convention was in 1970. I was 15. It was Phil Seuling’s 4th of July Comic Art Convention at the Statler-Hilton Hotel in Manhattan. And let me explain a bit what I mean when I say that first con hasn’t yet ended.

One of the first people little kid me met there was the revolutionary Marvel Comics artist and writer Jim Steranko, best known for his work on Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., the X-Men, and Captain America. And I sat in the front row as he gave a talk and dazzled me with tales of, among many other things, the Houdini-like escapes he did in his younger days, the ones that inspired Jack Kirby to create the character of Mister Miracle. I wouldn’t have believed back then anyone that cool in the pages of the comics I read could also be that cool in real life. But he was.

Flash forward 48 years.

Just a few weeks ago, here in this very city, less than a mile away at the Baltimore Comic-Con — during a different one of three conventions I attended over a single weekend I was telling you about, because yes, that’s how much I love this life — you know what I was doing? Sitting again in the front row before Jim Steranko as he told tales of slipping out of ropes and handcuffs, and again, I was dazzled.

Forty-eight years later, and not a moment had passed.

For that hour, it was 2018. And it was 1970. I was living outside of time.

Because I was living convention time.

My con life has been filled with many such moments like that.

Here’s another one, that took place at Readercon, a Massachusetts con I love so much I’ve attended it every year since it began in 1987, except for the one year my day job at the SCI FI Channel meant I had to report on the conflicting San Diego Comic-Con instead, and so I sent a friend to Readercon with a life-sized photo stand-up of myself, along with a note begging everyone who knew me there to take selfies and put them online, because I knew that would be the only way I could avoid spending a morose weekend missing them all terribly.

Well, not that year at Readercon, but a different year at Readercon a couple of years back, a screening was announced of what I’d heard was a wonderful documentary about Samuel R. Delany titled The Polymath, Or The Life And Opinions Of Samuel R. Delany, Gentleman. And I knew I had to be there. Because I’d read Delany long before I’d attended a con of any kind, and had loved him ever since. I got to the meeting room early, and sat in the front row center as I often do, which, by the way, is why I ended in so many comics convention photos from the early ’70s. Just as the lights were about to dim, who should come into the room but Chip himself, taking the one lone remaining unoccupied seat in the room … right next to mine.

And in the darkness, with our faces lit only by the reflected light off the screen, I remembered another con, also more than 40 years earlier, the 1972 LunaCon, my first LunaCon. LunaCon that year had organized special interest groups attendees could sign up for, and even provided pretzels, chips, and sodas to encourage fans to host those get-togethers in their hotel rooms. I decided I’d go to the one devoted to a discussion of the works of one of my favorite authors, Theodore Sturgeon, who’d attracted me then, and attracts me still, because of what his stories were aiming for, as explained in his essay “Why So Much Syzygy,” when he wrote “I think what I have been trying to do all these years is to investigate this matter of love, sexual and asexual.” Those are the kinds of stories which have always interested me the most, and those for the most part were, and still are, what I wanted to try to write about, too.

So I wanted to talk Sturgeon with others who felt about him the way I did, and so a 17-year-old me found himself sitting in a ring on the floor of a stranger’s hotel room one night with about a dozen others, and immediately beside me … I’m sure you’ve guessed who it was … Chip Delany.

I thought back to that 1972 night as I watched the documentary play at Readercon just a few years ago, a documentary which included footage of Chip looking as young as he had when I’d first met him, and also some footage from The Orchid, an experimental film he’d directed which I’d first seen at an early ‘70s con film show, and in that moment, with us in the front row together and seeming as if no one else was in the room with us, I existed in all times at once. I might as well have been Billy Pilgrim from Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five, totally unstuck in time.

My first cons, and those recent cons, were one, are one, a continuation of what began when my grandfather drove into Manhattan to take me to that first convention in 1970. I hope you get to experience that sort of feeling in your own futures. But most important, I hope you decide you want to hang around these rooms long enough to experience those wondrous moments when decades can vanish.

I can understand, though, why some of you might not want to, understand that some of you are not feeling welcomed, or embraced, or wanted, and might be thinking, what’s the point? Why am I banging my head against the wall? Is it really worth the effort?

I have heard too many stories about moments like those, filled not with the feelings of welcome I experienced in my privilege, but the feeling of exclusion. And I believe those stories, all of them.

I believe N. K. Jemisin, who in a moving acceptance speech earlier this year when she won her third consecutive Best Novel Hugo Award for The Stone Sky — a speech much better than anything you’re going to hear out of me today and one of the best I’e heard in a lifetime of con-going — spoke of the naysayers who told her to tone down her allegories and anger, who didn’t believe anyone but black people wanted to read about black people. And who in her recent Locus interview said, “When I come to Worldcon, I am braced to enter a space that is not friendly, that is hostile, and that is not safe.”

I believe Alyssa Wong, who returned from a Nebula Awards weekend a few years back feeling exhausted and disheartened, writing on her blog that she looked around and perceived a generational divide — what seemed to her a “strict social striation” between the cliquish impenetrable old guard who kept to themselves and didn’t seem interested in interacting with anyone outside of their circle.

I believe Mary Robinette Kowal, who shared on Twitter recently that after explaining to a friend what it was like to be a woman in Science Fiction and Fantasy, how she had to be hyper-aware of her surroundings and do constant threat assessments, was told by that friend, “That sounds like PTSD.”

And I believe the others out there, with similar stories, and similar despair, so many I could easily fill my time with nothing but their words if I chose.

I can understand how easily we might have lost any of those voices I named. How grateful I am that we did not.

How much poorer the field would have been for that loss.

And I’m also aware we have surely already lost others. And we already are the poorer for that.

Though did we simply lose them? Or did we drive them away?

Whatever verbiage you want to use, we can’t afford for any more to decide the prize isn’t worth the fight. Or that it isn’t attainable even if they did fight.

The examples I just mentioned are just three different problems, three different issues, of many. But with, I believe, a single solution.

Let us all do better.

We talk of the Golden Age of Science Fiction, both the real one of the 1940s, and the metaphorical one, the one we’re told we each go through when we are 12. But there’s something else more important, something else that’s Golden. Something I wish I could conjure into existence and imprint on all who are a part of this thing I love:

The Golden Rule of Convention-Going.

It’s something as true now as it was when we first heard it as children, though it wasn’t being applied then to what goes on in these rooms now.

We need to treat others in this space as we would wish to be treated.

Respectfully.

Professionally.

Lovingly.

Unselfishly.

The field has come far in its treatment of those who don’t enter it, as I did, presenting as a straight, white, cisgendered male in a time when most, though not all, of the others who bothered to show up presented as the same. But we have so much farther to go. And we won’t get there merely by wanting to get there. We have to do the work that makes us worthy of getting there.

For example — I can remember how surprised I was the first time a longtime participant to events such as these stepped up beside me in the SFWA suite at a Worldcon, looking somewhat lost, and said, “I don’t know who most of these people are.” I was sad and hoped such a statement and the feelings of insularity which engendered it was an anomaly. But then it happened again. And again. Most recently at one of George R. R. Martin’s post-Hugo Awards ceremony Losers parties, an event he invented before I ever got into the con scene which he rejuvenated at the Spokane Worldcon to heal then-recent wounds, to bring us together again during difficult times. I was asked, by someone with a furrowed brow, “Who are all these people?”

There, in a room filled with music, and dancing, and laughing, and smiling faces, most of which I knew.

To which I say — whose fault is that? Any one of us is certainly free to be the person gazing around a packed room of happy, unfamiliar faces, remembering when the field was smaller and less diverse then when we entered, and think, “What happened? I used to know everybody.”

Or we can go over, say hello, and — surprise — we will surely know who those people are.

I haven’t always said that aloud to those who in bewilderment said that to me. And I must admit I’m somewhat embarrassed about any time that in my shock over such words, I let that sentiment slip by unchallenged. But I commit to you today to never do so again in the future.

We must all work to get out of our bubbles. Yes, it would be easy to spend these events only with friends we’ve known for years, because there are so many of them. But we have to do more. If not simply to honor this thing we have, then for self preservation. So if I can’t reach these people any other way, I will appeal to their selfishness. Because if they only hang out with the friends they already have, and survive to be the last of their generation, they will die alone.

I can remember a Meet the Editors panel at a mid-‘90s Philcon. (Another convention I once attended for decades.) I was on there representing Science Fiction Age along with Gardner Dozois of Asimov’s and Gordon van Gelder from F&SF.

And out in front of us was a sea of hopeful writers eager to learn the secrets of selling stories to us. (The open secret being, of course, that there is no secret.) They were all beginners. All but one. Because in the midst of them was Jack Williamson, already in his mid-‘70s by then, with a career going back half a century.

And when I asked him, what are you doing here, he replied —

“I just want to find out what you guys want.”

And he talked to those around him, some 50 years his junior and just starting out, as if they were the same. Which is how I always saw him in the final decades of his life.

To him, there was no us and them, no thoughts of “I don’t know whose these people are” in him.

They were the same. We … are the same.

Let’s all strive to be more like Jack Williamson.

I urge those who might like me perhaps have the privilege of age or success or a gender expression more readily accepted by society or even just the privilege of having been around long enough to know everyone, to join with me in stepping from our familiar circles, walk out of our ruts, and welcome those who need welcoming.

If you see someone wearing a FIRST WORLDCON or FIRST WORLD FANTASY CONVENTION or FIRST WHATEVER ribbon, do as I do. Walk up to them and tell them you’re glad they decided to join us. Ask the catalyst that caused them to come this particular year rather than any other. Tell them you hoped they were having a good time so far, and that if they had any questions for you about how to navigate this place, you’ll try to answer them. Share an anecdote or two about why you fell in love with cons yourself so long ago.

In fact, don’t wait to get permission of a ribbon. Do this kindness for those without such a concrete sign, to anyone with an unfamiliar face, or sitting outside your group, looking tentative, wondering if they could possibly fit in.

Our organizations have begun to do this as official policy in various ways, and that makes me so happy. The mentor-mentee program begun over recent Nebula Award weekends by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America is great. The Horror Writers Association has a similar program, and in fact, Linda Addison, this year’s World Fantasy Convention Toastmaster, was winner of HWA’s 2016 Mentor of the Year Award. But again, it’s a thing we all should be doing whether it’s official or not. Not as a matter of policy, but as a point of humanity. There should be no standing in corners and whispering you don’t know who these people are, and it shouldn’t take a committee of bylaws to cause us to break out of our cliques.

I challenge you all to reach out to someone new this weekend, a face you don’t know, a name you don’t recognize, somebody you don’t expect to help your career in any way, and say hello, and make them feel welcome. Make them feel, once they get home, that they can’t wait to get back.

Making sure, of course, let me add, to be aware of social cues and when such welcome is welcome. Because for some, the lack of any negative interactions is all the positive reinforcement they need. Not all of us are as outwardly social as some of us appear to be, and that must be respected, too.

Let that, in all of its possible aspects, be our Golden Rule.

But that’s not the only way we’re trying to be better, while needing to be better still. Another improvement I’ve seen at conventions over the decades — but as always, even further improvement is devoutly to be wished — is by the addition of inclusive language, for example, the proliferation of preferred pronoun buttons and stickers. This and other instances of inclusive language are good. But inclusive language must be followed by inclusive actions, and the things I see at some cons need to spread to all cons.

For example:

I noted one con recently which included a note for moderators by the microphones instructing them that when they call on audience members during Q&A sessions, they should not identify them by perceived gender. Don’t want to commit the faux pas of misgendering anyone? Unless you know someone’s name, then call on “you with the green backpack in the third row” or “the person wearing the TARDIS T-shirt.” Doing that’s easy for you, will make them happy, and might make someone feel comfortable coming back.

And by the way, when you do talk to the audience, use the microphones. I know we all like to think our voices will be heard loud and clear all the way in the back of the room, and I was guilty of such hubris myself years ago. But we owe it to those we’re trying to reach not to force them to ask us to speak up.

Also, we must continue to provide diverse and inclusive programing content populated by diverse and inclusive program participants, not as an afterthought, but as a mission. And it begins with the suggested programming surveys. Looking back is good. We all came here on the shoulders of giants. But different ones. Remember, not every generation bears the mark of the same influences. One generation may have been molded by Lovecraft, the next by Le Guin, the one after that by LaValle, and generations to come by writers just entering the field now. So when we do create panels to look back, let’s not be blinded by personal nostalgia. Programmers should keep in mind that all of our pasts are not the same. But all of our futures can be.

Accessibility, too, must be a priority. A con that can’t be open to all has no business being open at all. I don’t want to ever again see programming in rooms which can only be reached by stairs, containing stages without ramps. That’s insulting for the participants, embarrassing for the field, not welcoming at all, and has to stop.

And conventions should provide American Sign Language interpretation and any available assistive technologies to allow all members of the community to join the conversations. Readercon’s hoping to provide CART services, that is, live action closed captioning, for next year’s con. I don’t know whether they’ll manage to pull that off, but I hope they do. I hope all conventions decide to try to pull that off, because I’ve heard from members of the community that currently can’t fully engage in what we share here, and losing them, I repeat, is as much our loss as it is theirs.

And I don’t ever again want to see a con runner say a code of conduct is unnecessary because “after all, we’re adults here and know how to behave.” Because not everyone does, and those who are preyed upon — whether those who have the privilege not to be aware of it are aware of it or not — need to know the rest of us are watching out for them, that we care, that they will be believed, that they will be protected, that we will not force them to rely on a whisper network sharing missing stairs.

I know some of you listening to me rattle off these things might be thinking, “Not all con-goers. I never did anything to make anyone feel unwelcome.” Well, then most of this isn’t for you. Not all of it, anyway. But at least some part of it is there for all of us, I think. Because anytime we’ve stood around while someone else has crossed lines which never should have been crossed and not called them out, we’re complicit.

My final wish for everyone here, based on — oh my God, has it really been nearly half a century attending conventions? — is to live your life in these rooms so you won’t have to fear what people will write about you in Locus when you’re gone. Or even worse, fear what they will not write because they can’t think of anything to say which won’t make you sound … problematic.

And to those with hair grown the color of mine who have been around these rooms awhile and who may have become accustomed to things being a certain extremely comfortable way, please — do not fear these changing times. Embrace them. Fight the feeling that because newer voices and visions are filling our books and magazines and winning awards that you have been left behind. As I mentioned, we are all present because we were borne here on the shoulders of giants. Try to be someone who will be remembered for having lifted others up, not having held them back.

Screenwriter Josh Olson recently shared something on Facebook which was said to him by Harlan Ellison during one of their last conversations. Harlan is someone whose legacy is being reassessed by those coming after, as all of us will be reassessed by those who come after us, and based on what Josh and Harlan talked about, Harlan knew it.

Josh pointed out to Harlan that there were things he’d done openly and without shame in 1962 which would be regarded with horror today, to which Harlan replied — and Josh admits this to be a paraphrase —

“We work to create a world in which the people who come after us regard us as monsters.”

Wherever you fall on Harlan’s legacy, there’s still wisdom there.

I thought about those words, and I don’t fear the tomorrow they predict. That’s as it should be. I take comfort in knowing future generations will look back on us and perhaps consider us monsters for issues and actions which are beyond our individual comprehension right now. “How could they have acted that way?” they’ll ask. “How could they have said that thing, written that story?”

I’m sure I’ve done things, and will continue doing things, for which I will be judged. Who knows? This speech might even be one of them.

And you know? I’m OK with that. Because that is progress. That what was once acceptable is acceptable no longer is fine by me, and that the cons of 2018 are not identical in tone and content and participants to those of my past is also fine by me. Because I want the joys I’ve had to be had by all, not just only by those who look like me or have had my background or privilege. And that will only come with change.

Nothing would please me more than for this to be someone’s first con.

Someone who came here having heard both the good and the bad about this thing we have.

Someone vacillating about whether it’s really for them.

Someone who’ll see that, well, at least they’re trying.

Someone who’ll think … maybe I’ll hang in there long enough to find out whether we, you and me, will figure out how to fix the broken parts.

And maybe decades from now, they’ll still be here. And they’ll tell stories of what it was like 40 years earlier to have been there to see, and to still be seeing in that future — the way I saw Chip Delany and Jim Steranko — writers who have stayed here and grown old here and built a life here long after I am gone.

Writers like Alyssa Wong. And Sam J. Miller. And Nnedi Okorafor. And Amal El-Mohtar. And Rebecca Roanhorse. And Carmen Maria Machado. And Brooke Bolander. And Fran Wilde. And Victor LaValle. And JY Yang. And A. Merc Rustad. And the oh, so many more I wish I had time to mention who make this field so wonderful.

And then that newcomer to this thing we have will, 40 years hence in a room not so very different from this one — but only if we make things right — know the joy which I have lived, know the experience of having attended the convention that lasts forever.

I would like that.

Now let’s go make that happen.

Thank you.