SFWA’s Nebula Conference Mass Autographing – open to the public – will be held during the 2019 Nebula Conference on Saturday, May 18 from 1:00 p.m. — 3:00 p.m. in the Warner Center Marriott Woodland Hills Grand Ballroom (21850 W Oxnard St, Woodland Hills, CA 91367).
On the first night of the con, Hugo nominee Alec Nevala-Lee will
speak about “John W. Campbell & Astounding,”
the Pulp Factory Awards will be presented, and a major auction will be held.
Friday night auction consists of 230 lots of material from the estate of famed
collector Robert Weinberg, while the Saturday night auction begins with 100
lots from the estate of Glenn Lord, literary executor for the Robert E. Howard
estate, followed by 56 lots from a few other consignors. And more lots will be
added to the Saturday night auction at the convention, to include material
consigned there by convention attendees.
the highlights in this year’s auctions are:
The first issue of the legendary pulp, Weird Tales
A fine copy of the December 1932 issue of Weird Tales, featuring the first appearance of Robert E. Howard’s immortal barbarian, Conan
“The Case Against the Comics” by Gabriel Lynn, an extremely scarce 32 page pamphlet published in 1944 by The Catechetical Guild, advocating the censorship of comics, predating Wertham’s “Seduction of the Innocent” (note that an 8 page version was also published, but this is the full version)
H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Shunned House”, printed in 1928 by The Recluse Press but never bound by them, which Glenn Lord later had professionally bound
Two of famed SF editor Ray Palmer’s bound copies of the legendary fanzines, Science Fiction Digest and Fantasy Magazine, later signed and inscribed by Julius Schwartz to Bob Weinberg
Correspondence from SF author Philip K. Dick, signed by him, with great content regarding his “The Man in the High Castle”
A complete bound set of the legendary fanzine, The Fantasy Fan, edited by Charles D. Hornig
The complete auction catalog can be downloaded here.
Friday through Sunday, the dealer room will be buzzing, with
roughly 100 dealers from the U.S., Canada and the U.K. displaying pulps,
vintage paperbacks, science fiction, fantasy and mystery hardcovers, golden and
silver age comics, original illustration art, and movie memorabilia.
Acclaimed artist and pulp enthusiast Mark Wheatley willhave an extensive gallery show. In the spotlight will be his illustrations for Swords Against the Moon Men, part of the new “Wild Adventures of Edgar Rice Burroughs” series published by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc.
The inked originals will be framed and presented along with high
quality, full size Giclée prints of the digital paintings, offering a unique
chance to see the entire set of illustrations for the book in one place. This
is made possible because a single collector purchased all the art for the book
and is allowing it to be displayed for the public.
The show also will feature artwork from the pulp Planet Stories, pulp and paperback art with a Chicago connection, and a unique display of original photographs featuring pulp authors, artists and publishers.
And Sunday morning will see the new Director of Publishing for
Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc., Christopher Paul Carey, leading a panel on the
exciting things planned from ERB, Inc., followed by “New Pulp Sunday,”
programming devoted to the vibrant and colorful world of New Pulp organized by
Ron Fortier of Airship 27 Productions.
Will Kevin Standlee realize his dream to bring Westercon to
Fresh off hosting the 2018 Worldcon, San Francisco Science Fiction Conventions, Inc. has filed a bid to host the 2021 West Coast Science Fantasy Conference (Westercon 74) in Tonopah, Nevada. With Kevin Standlee as the bid chair, and Bruce Farr as treasurer, they propose to hold the con from July 2-5 at the Tonopah Convention Center and nearby hotels.
In case there are any doubts that they mean business, they reassure everyone:
Tonopah is a serious bid. While the town itself is somewhat smaller than the typical Westercon site, the town has expressed its enthusiasm for hosting us, and we think it has the right mix of facilities to accommodate a small but entertaining and affordable Westercon.
We have filed our bid with Westercon 72 (SpikeCon) in Layton, Utah. You can read our complete filing here.
With site selection voting to take place less than three months from now at SpikeCon (Westercon 72), Tonopah isn’t selling “pre-supporting” memberships — but donations are welcomed.
The bid’s web site is here. Not only is there a wealth of detail about the facilities and local attractions, you’ll find your time repaid by the amusing fanwriting. For example, the myriad transportation options include horse rental (price quoted!), or for those driving, an attractive alternative route:
The primary access to Tonopah is by highways US-95 and US-6; however, there are interesting alternative routes and side trips along the way
From Las Vegas and points south: US-95 north, or take the alternative route via US-93 and the Extraterrestrial Highway and stop by the Little A’Le’Inn. (Convention not responsible for alien abductions or misadventures at Area 51.)
Let us return now to those thrilling days of yesteryear when Australian
fans were called upon to vote for the “Best Fannish Cat” in the Ditmar Awards.
The earliest of these two forgotten episodes in SJW credential
in 1991. The nominees were:
1991: Suncon, Brisbane
Best Fannish Cat
Apple Blossom, humans: Elaine Cochrane & Bruce Gillespie
Constantinople, human: Phil Wlodarczyk
Emma Peel, human:
Ian Gunn & Karen Pender-Gunn
Gerald [Smith] & Womble
Mark Loney & Michelle Muijsert
human: Roger Weddall
Typo won the award.
“It’s a long story,” recalls Bruce Gillespie. “The person who was
Chair of the convention in Brisbane stuffed up many aspects of the convention.
She was also part of a non-Melbourne group who believed that every aspect of
the Ditmars was a cruel plot by Melbourne fans to keep all the Ditmars for
themselves. So she allowed members of the convention to vote for the categories
as well as the items in the categories. Irresistible bait to Melbourne fans in
general — who ganged up to include Best Fannish Cat in the categories.”
Marc Ortlieb says that wasn’t the only mischief fans got up to at Suncon.
“That was the year that things got really silly. The NatCon was in Brisbane
and, as a joke, Mark Loney created stuffed cane toads to present at the
ceremony, with the real Ditmars to be presented at the closing ceremony. The
cane toads were presented, but the real Ditmars weren’t ready.” The real ones would
be distributed later at a Nova Mob club meeting.
Even though the award was a put-on, “Best Fannish Cat” made such an indelible impression on Australian fanhistory that the category would be revived in a future round of Ditmars.
As Gillespie sees it, “The list of nominees was regarded as so exemplary that the category was repeated (once) in a later set of the Ditmars. Apple Blossom was our nominee in 1991, and Flicker was our nominee in the much later Ditmars. Neither won, but the winners were very popular cats who had been met by many Melbourne fans. The general effect was to confirm the suspicion of Perth fans that Melbourne fans ‘did not take the Ditmars seriously’.”
Roger Weddall, owner of the winning cat, Typo, was elected the DUFF
delegate in 1992. Unfortunately, he was diagnosed with lymphoma shortly before leaving
for North America, and ended up cutting short his trip after attending Magicon.
He died a few months later. Thus it really was with affection that in 1993 someone
drafted “A Modest Proposal for the [Swancon 18]
Business Meeting” urging the creation of the “Roger Weddall Memorial Ditmar
Controversy” and crediting him with some of these shenanigans:
It happens without warning, under no man’s control. None can predict where it will strike or how often. Yes it’s the Ditmar Controversy! It is time to take the guesswork out and have a permanent, official Ditmar Controversy each year and every year. Let us not leave it to chance and ConCom whim to arrange a proper and fitting controversy but instead let us make a firm and binding commitment for now and forever to have
The Roger Weddall Memorial Ditmar Controversy
In honour of Fandom’s best Ditmar Controversers, the man who brought you the best Fannish Cat, Cane Toads and other Ditmar atrocities,
At the 1993 Natcon Business meeting
However, there are Aussie fans for whom these memories of the ’91 Ditmars are not bathed in a golden glow. A 2005 Swancon XXX progress report solicited nominations for the Tin Duck Award (a genuine, annual award) with the warning – “Please do not invent new categories. (e.g. No Best Fannish Cat. We’ve heard it before, and it wasn’t funny the first time.)”
But with the passage of time nostalgia kicked in. Dudcon 3, the 2010 Australian National Science Fiction Convention revived Best Fannish Cat as a special committee award. The less facetious eligibility rules included requirements that nominees be “natural members of the species Felis Catus,” and be alive and resident in Australia at the time of the nomination.
Thoraiya Dyer unsuccessfully advanced her cat, Aerin, as a candidate by forcing it to be photographed in a Darth Vader costume.
He is a big, lazy, neutered Tom, who just hangs around the house and sleeps on Genevieve’s bed. Sometimes he lays on the couch with us while we watch Doctor Who, but I cannot claim any other great fannish activity.
– James Allen
His real breeding name is Mystical Prince Felix, but he answers to Fifi. If fannish credentials other than his owning us are required, I will point out that the last line of the bio that Damien Broderick wrote for my story in the current Cosmos is: “She devotes her life to Mystical Prince Felix, a truly enormous Ragdoll cat.” – Jenny Blackford
Peri Peri Canavan
Named for being orange with attitude, just like the sauce. Is a firm believer in First Breakfast, Second Breakfast, Elevensies, Luncheon, Afternoon Tea, Dinner and Supper. Knows that a library chair is a great place to nap. Enjoys a good SF TV show/film/book because it means an available lap. Can time travel, if the time involved is dinner time. Stomach is larger on the inside than the outside. – Trudi Canavan
Origin: derelict building in Collingwood. Official description: black domestic shorthair. Fannish credentials: How many fannish cats know their fathers? Flicker is father of Harry and Sampson Gillespie, as well as Miss Smith Endacott and Rascal Taylor. Now that his fathering days have been cut short, Flicker will sit on any visiting fannish lap that stays still for more than a few seconds. – Elaine Cochrane
Named for the Exorcist’s demon, He meows ’cause he’s endlessly dreamin’ Of food and the flap Which he knows is a trap Set up by that bad Nemo”s schemin’
His nemesis one day will pay But meanwhile he spends all the day Knowing instead That fridge, pantry and bed Are all his, and that that way they’ll stay.
So he’ll crash at a run through the door, Spread litter all over the floor, Scrounge every crumb, Bite my elbow and thumb then curl up with Foyle and his war. – Robert Hood
(The verse is by Robert Hood the Australian writer – not our Rev. Bob.)
By Daniel Dern: Boskone 56, held
Friday, February 15 through Sunday, February 17, 2019 at Boston’s Westin
Waterfront Hotel, was a fun con — good guests, fun interesting sessions, good
readings… and good (for Boston winter) weather — bearably cold, and no snow
or rain coming down or on the streets or walkways.
us still have memories of 2015’s Boskone when the MBTA (locally aka “the
T”) pre-emptively announced, mid-Saturday, that due to the impending
blizzard, they were
shutting down the T starting 7PM Saturday, through Sunday.)
Boskone 56 were:
Guest of Honor: Elizabeth Hand
Special Guest: Christopher Golden
Official Artist: Jim Burns
Young Adult Fiction Guest: Cindy Pon
Hal Clement Science Speaker: Vandana Singh
unfortunately, was unable to make it, due to a last-minute emergency; however,
his art was still on display.)
always gets a good bunch of writers, artists, editors and other sf pros. This
year’s 150+ program
participants included (drawing mostly on people I know/names I
recognize) Ellen Asher, James Cambias, John Chu, Brenda W. Clough, John Clute, Br. Guy
Consolmagno, C. S. E. Cooney, Bruce Coville, Vincent Docherty, Sarah Beth
Durst, Kate Elliot, Greer Gillman, KJ Kabza,
James Patrick Kelly, Justin Key, Dan Kimmel, Mur Lafferty, Patrick &
Teresa Nielsen Hayden, Errick Nunnally,
Suzanne Palmer, Julia Rios, Erin Roberts, Michael Swanwick, Catherynne M. Valente, Jane Yolen, and
note: I just came back from the library with the 2018 “Year’s Best Science
Fiction and Fantasy” edited by Rich Horton – and there’s a good handful of authors
whose names might not have recognized a week ago, but, thanks to Boskone, I
recognize many more names and know I saw several panelize/read.)
of as 11AM Sunday, according to the con’s Helmuth newsletter, came in at 1,382
total members, 1,061 “warm body count,” and 270
“at-the-door” registrations — pretty consistent with the past few
as always, no shortage of things to do.
items spanned classic through current sf/fantasy people, titles and
topics, from the serious through silly, plus a range of media-oriented
discussions including comics, Star Wars, and Star Trek, along with a number of
sessions aimed at new authors and artists. Plus readings, kaffeeklatsches, and
a room for movies/anime and other videos, also filking, board-gaming, the Art
Show, the Dealers Room, noshing in the Con Suite area (which was, sadly, due to
new hotel regulations, limited only to individual-portion-packaged,
no-refrigeration-needed snacks’n’such). And a few evening parties, plus NESFA’s
Saturday evening chocoholics-delight schmorgasbord.
non-program items like “meet new people, schmooze with friends” and
“be a volunteer.”
Friday afternoon sessions were free — a nice way to help let potential
first-timers get a sense of the con (particularly, I suspect, for people who
have never attended a con). (ReaderCon has been doing this, too, for the past
several years, with its Thursday evening programming.) Free-to-public panel
topics included “The new Dr. Who,” gaming tournament
demos/rules/Q&A, “Welcome to Boskone,” “Laundering Your
Fairy Tales,” along with media/TV-themed sessions, and useful panels for
show had good stuff to look at (I’ve used up my quota of wall space, so I’m
just looking, these days), although it seemed slightly smaller than last year.
Dealers Room was mostly booksellers, including publishers and groups like Broad
Universe, along with a handful of single-author tables. (My bookshelf space is,
like my wall space, mostly full, although I did buy a few books… plus
snarfing up about a foot of read-and-pass-on magazines and books from the Free
between books and magazines, I had no trouble spending thirty or forty bucks on
additions to my Mount To-Be-Read (referring, of course, to that pile of books,
often near the bed). Of course, by the end of the con, I had a vision of
foothills forming around my Mount TBR of yet more books and authors to pursue,
hopefully as library borrows.
Morris Keesan once remarked (possibly at one of the monthly RISFA-North sf fan
gatherings), when somebody mentioned to him their stack of TBR’s, he responded,
more or less, “Stack? I’ve got a bookshelf.”)
chatted with was having fun — schmoozing with friends, going to sessions,
getting autographs, more schmoozing, etc.
Me, I had
One of the things I did this year was go to
more readings, including well-known’s like Jane Yolen, John Chu, Fran Wilder
and Bruce Coville, as well as some newer and lesser-known authors and groups of
authors. All were good, and helped add to my “authors and books to look
Also, kaffeeklatsches, in particular, Jane
Yolen and (her son) Adam Stemple), and Patrick Nielsen Hayden and Teresa
Nielsen Hayden. (I still wish Boskone could find a less noisy space for the
‘klatches rather than the public area in between the Art Show and the “Con
I got a Press ribbon, to point at as I was
I wasn’t originally on the program (not a
complaint, I’ve had my “turn at bat” at Boskone plenty of times, in
main and DragonsLair programming), but while I was buying my membership, I
inquired at Program Ops, and was given an empty-as-of-then slot in the Readings
track. (I had come prepared with a handful of my short-short stories.)
Equally nice, when I went to see if there were
any open slots for the Flash Fiction Slam competition — with points deducted
if you run over three minutes — I discovered I was already signed up! So I
read my newest shortie, “Vampire, T.Rex Bite Robot, Chomp! Gnash!
One of my
favorite Boskone Program Items is Mark & Priscilla Olson’s “Trivia For
Chocolate” contest — SF trivia, of course, from way back when through
current stuff, where speed matters as much as correctness, with the
green-rectangle chocolate Thin Mints used as point counters totaled up at the
end (emptied wrappers don’t count).
I tied with Bob Devney for 4th place, with 23 points. Karen von Haam thirded
with 30 points, Kimball Rudeen came in second with 35, and Rich Horton ate all
our lunches with 60 points.
browse through past Helmuths
(“Helmith”?) confirms my sense that Devney and I often place in the
top five, e.g.:
Boskone 55: Bob Devney 52, Daniel Dern 44, Tim
Liebe 27. Peter Turi 23.
Boskone 54: Kim Rudeen 65, Tom Galloway 45,
Jordin Kare 45, Bob Devney 32, Daniel Dern 29.
(Boskone 53: I wasn’t there.)
Boskone 52: Kimball Rudeen 51, Karen Von Hamm
44, Bob Devney 16, Naomi Hinchen 15, Daniel Dern 12.
Boskone 50: Bob Devney 54, Athena Martin 30,
Zev Sero & Peter Trei: 16
Boskone 49: Jordin Kare 69, Bob Devney 48,
Christopher Davis 40, Daniel Dern 35, Team of Burton, Klein-Burton, Wall &
BizarroCon Director and Eraserhead Press publisher Rose O’Keefe today posted an “Open Letter To The Bizarro Fiction Community”, a thorough and detailed apology for the Ultimate Bizarro Showdown at BizarroCon 11, and for failing to take appropriate steps when informed about the online conduct of some authors she publishes. She outlined a series of actions she’ll be taking.
About the Showdown, O’Keefe wrote:
On a personal note, I need to deeply apologize for things that have gone on in our community.
First, to the people who witnessed or heard about The Ultimate Bizarro Showdown performance at BizarroCon 11 and were hurt by it, and in particular to those of you who experienced PTSD responses, I’m so sorry. This should have never happened. The Showdown event is intended to be a fun, interactive, entertaining time and I deeply regret that didn’t happen this year.
O’Keefe announced many changes are in store, some already
I am dedicated to making BizarroCon, Eraserhead Press, and our online communities safe and comfortable for all. To that end, I’m announcing the following changes, in response to your concerns:
Effective immediately, I will step down as coordinator of the current Bizarro Writers Association, and encourage the formation of a new BWA to be run by writers.
Effective immediately, Jeff Burk has stepped down as Head Editor of Deadite Press and is no longer employed by Eraserhead Press.
Effective immediately, Chandler Morrison’s DEAD INSIDE has been removed from Deadite Press’s 2019 publication schedule, and the book contract has been canceled with all rights reverting to the author.
Effective February 28, 2019, G Arthur Brown’s KITTEN and GOD’S MEAN OLDER BROTHER will no longer be published by Eraserhead Press. The titles will be removed from distribution and all rights will revert to the author.
Jeff Burk, no longer editor of Eraserhead’s Deadite Press imprint, told Facebook readers that he parted ways with them “due to artistic and creative differences.” According to Chandler Morrison, one of those differences was the cancellation of Deadite’s plans to publish his book.
O’Keefe also said Eraserhead Press was dropping two books by G. Arthur Brown. Brown has been a past subject of sexual assault allegations. While Brown is not addressed by name in today’s statement, part of O’Keefe’s apology is addressed to Tiffany Scandal, whose extensive comments about BizarroCon’s latest issues included this said about “Gary” (Brown):
But this performance [Morrison’s] is just one of many events that brought people to this point. The people who have exhibited predatory behavior at past cons have never been officially banned from the con, a person [Brown] who had legal action taken against him for predatory behavior not only gets a new book out, he also got a beer to celebrate him! And everyone who has experienced something less than pleasant at this con has been told to not talk about it, to not fan flames, and we don’t, and it’s like all that happens with this shit gets swept under the rug.
O’Keefe addressed her today:
To Tiffany, I want to clarify I had no intention of maintaining a working relationship with the person who harassed you. I barred him from the convention and have had no contact with him. The reason I advised we not burn bridges with him was because I was trying to avoid creating a hostile competitor. I appreciate you calling me out over this. It revealed to me the conflict of interest in being a book publisher and also being in charge of determining appropriate action related to harassment.
O’Keefe says she will be making other changes to BizarroCon and Eraserhead Press.
Going forward, I will also institute the following changes.
The creation of a BizarroCon Safety & Inclusion Committee.
Myself, the committee members, and the staff of Eraserhead Press will enroll in diversity, inclusion, equity, and crisis management training.
Revisions to the format of the Ultimate Bizarro Showdown.
The creation of new positions on the BizarroCon Planning Committee, and clarification for the roles and responsibilities of each position including the Book Nook Coordinator, Guest Liaison, Fundraising Director, Workshop Coordinator, Program Booklet Editor, Clean-up Crew, and other volunteer positions.
Creation of a Social Media Policy for Eraserhead Press which will outline best practices and standards for online conduct of our editors and authors.
Meanwhile, Chandler Morrison wrote a blog entry today trying to ameliorate public reaction to his BizarroCon Showdown performance by explaining its symbolic meaning.
In light of recent events, the time has come for me to directly address the controversial performance that has now brought about the pulling of my book, Dead Inside, and the subsequent termination of Jeff Burk, head editor of Deadite Press. Up until now, I’ve been clinging to the admittedly pretentious hope that someone was going to “figure out” the message I was trying to convey with the skit in question. As I watched hundreds of people…some of whom had been at BizarroCon, most of whom had not…take me to task in dozens of various social media threads, I ping-ponged back and forth in my head about whether or not I should respond. It was tempting for me to jump in and say, “Wait, no, you didn’t get the allegory, what I meant was…” Whenever I started to type, though, I would think to myself, “No, dammit. I’m a capital-A Artist. I shouldn’t have to explain myself. I will not explain myself. If they didn’t get it, that’s not on me.”
What I’ve now realized, however, is that the fact that nobody seemed to get it…even the ones who weren’t actually offended by it…means that I failed in my attempt at creating capital-A Art. The audience isn’t the problem. I am. I was trying to make a statement about a very specific cultural phenomenon, but the statement was so obscure and mired by my own affectations that it failed to resonate. I demanded too much from my audience. Because of that, the hidden meaning (the fact that I didn’t think it was all that hidden is a sign of my own arrogance) of my “statement piece” flew right over everyone’s head like a comet on a cloudy night.
Morrison says his act symbolized his feelings about the “Pizzagate” conspiracy theories bandied about in the media.
Chandler Morrison’s performance during the “Ultimate Bizarro
Showdown” at BizarroCon
11, simulating sex with an aborted fetus, not only provoked a flurry
of protests, it ignited a wider discussion of predatory behavior at the
convention which one commenter says “has been
insufficiently addressed for years.” (Warning: this article includes some descriptive
The annual BizarroCon, held last weekend near Portland, OR, celebrates the work of various small press publishers of “bizarro”
fiction, described by some as transgressive surrealism and associated
fantasy/crime, and by Eraserhead Press publisher Rose
O’Keefe, the Director of BizarroCon as something that “clearly wasn’t horror, science-fiction, fantasy, or even
experimental fiction. The only real way to describe it would be: weird,” and as
“the literary equivalent to cult movies. Our books are quirky, campy, freaky,
funny, lewd, rude, and just out there.”
[The] banquet hall is transformed into Bizarro Thunderdome! 20 authors enter, only one leaves victorious. Each author gets 2 minutes to tell the weirdest story they can come up with to a drunk and impatient crowd. After 2 minutes, if the story entertains the audience enough they are allowed to continue. If their story fails they are fucking decapitated! The distinguished bizarro judges will choose the top three readers. Winners will receive fabulous prizes and bragging rights for a year.
Author Chandler Morrison spent more
than three minutes simulating sex with a doll covered in fake blood to look
like a recently extracted fetus, using a dildo positioned adroitly enough to
lead some to believe he had used his penis.
In today’s overly sensitive snowflake society, in which art of a transgressive nature tends to be derided and scorned, Chandler brazenly dares to speak truths that others are afraid to even acknowledge to their innermost selves. He sees the writing on the wall, and transcribes it for the world in a language as breathtaking as it is blasphemous.
Brian Keene, a BizarroCon guest of honor and one of the event’s judges,
Personally, I did not care for the performance.
It wasn’t because of the prosthetic penis, or because of the baby doll (the view from the judges table was that the doll looked dead and bloody — which mirrored the dead fetus of the story in question. It wasn’t until the next day, in listening to the privately shared concerns of others, that I understood that some interpreted the doll’s color as a skin tone).
The reason I didn’t care for the performance was the same reason I have never watched A SERBIAN FILM — sexual violence against children is something I abhor, and I don’t care to be exposed to the imagery, even if the imagery in question is in the context of a fiction, be it film, prose, or performance art.
My other personal issue was that, as a parent who lost three children before birth, I don’t dig dead baby jokes.
In addition, Keene now feels compelled to apologize for not
putting a stop to it:
Watching the crowd from the judges table, I saw people who were clearly entertained by the performance in question. But I also saw people who were clearly upset by it. And seeing the looks on the latter group’s faces, I thought to myself, “I should stop this.” But I didn’t, and for that I apologize. I didn’t because I thought, “You’re 51, Brian. Maybe you just don’t get it.” I also think that I — quite stupidly — mistook the uneasy laughter by some in the crowd as complicity. In hindsight, it clearly wasn’t. I can’t speak for all the judges, but I echo what Gina said above about sitting there sort of stunned. I kept thinking, “Okay, this is going to go somewhere. There’s going to be a truth, or a twist, or maybe just a punchline.” But there wasn’t.
I thought perhaps the crowd would speak up at the 3-minute mark. When they didn’t, I again mistook this for “Well, they are into it, Brian, and you’re just an old mainstream guy who doesn’t get it. You speak up and vote no, and it’s just going to be another case of, ‘Brian Keene was an asshole and ruined BizarroCon’. So I didn’t.”
… I hope that the dialogue and conversation will take precedence over the finger-pointing and blame game. If anyone still needs someone to blame, then blame me. Like I said, I should have spoken up…and I didn’t, because of my own personal insecurities.
Since the convention Facebook has played host to discussion
threads with hundreds of comments protesting and defending Morrison’s
performance, while raising wider implications for the BizarroCon community.
The realism of the performance is an issue here. The performer said he was having sex with an abortion as part of his narrative. The doll was a full-grown baby shape, not a cluster of cells. The color of the doll was a darker brownish color, not a bright blood red. Several people were taken aback by the uniform brown color of the doll and assumed that it was a racial statement meant to be shocking. As for the dildo, even men close to the stage have said it was hard to tell whether it was real or a prosthetic, and the same with the eventual cum. So I’ll shift the question to this: If the performer didn’t want to say “brown skin” he should have put more care into picking a red fake blood to cover it, because many audience members saw brown. If the performer wanted to say “abortion-fucking” and not trigger PTSD or other violation-related reactions in the crowd, a full-blown baby doll is not how to say it. How many ways can there be to say babyfucking is not a good thing to show with these props at a literary convention? The number of audience members who have condemned it should be bringing the organizers to seriously consider what damage has been done, and what they want to encourage as free speech in the year 2019.
And in case that sounded inconsistent with what people are used to from her, Robin explained:
How can I, who regularly has explored surrealist and dadaist and cathartically ritualistic performances over the course of my life, who has almost ALWAYS played devil’s advocate for free speech, how could I suddenly make a declaration that shocking for shock’s sake is low, is crass, is a form of sadism?
Well, I did. And I haven’t gone soft at all. It isn’t soft to talk about consent of an audience, or about whether the artist’s intent is to dominate a crowd and hurt them—versus illuminating concepts about the barbarism and strangeness of the human psyche.
… After a century of artists exploring actions like this, it is no longer innovative, no longer something that enhances our awareness of taboos, or starts up fresh conversations about “what the human race really is.”
It’s no longer an innovation to be naked, or cut your chest open, or have an orgy on stage, or do anything regarding blackface or incest or involving suspension or projectile vomiting or threatening to cut off an audience member’s hand. For a lot of performances like this, the idea that you are “SHOWING PEOPLE” what fear or darkness or reality or a soul is made of…is…expired.
I strongly value the existence of ritualistic theater, avant-garde art, horror and gore and darkness, but I feel that in 2019, the “edges” aren’t what they once were, and that we are facing the deepest global and existential crisis a sentient species on this planet has ever had to face.
Yes, everything we took for granted is going extinct, as are we.
Meanwhile, Morrison is not without his defenders. Monica J.
O’Rourke, an author published by Eraserhead Press’ Deadite imprint, wrote
This is NOT directed at anyone specific. And for those who don’t know me, I’ve been around for decades and have either organized or participated in (or both) gross-out contests at several major conventions, some of which i’ve chaired or co-chaired.
Sorry, and maybe I am SOOOO not PC on this one … but if you go to a horror convention, and a gross-out contest (or even an open mic — what do you believe you’ll get at a horror convention???? especially a bizarro convention), why do you get to pick and choose what’s considered offensive? You seriously go to a gross-out contest and have triggers? Really? Were your legs broken, sweetheart, that you couldn’t get up and walk out? Have you not seen a gross-out contest before? Jesus.
Censorship is censorship, regardless of the topic. This was about feelings and sensibilities being hurt in a venue where people could have walked out. BTW, some of the people in that thread complaining the loudest about that performance either 1. weren’t even in the room during the event or 2. congratulated the author at the end on his performance. Suddenly they’re all offended. And in another juicy bit of irony, these same people decrying censorship are calling for the author to be banned from future conventions and are even trying to get his book pulled. Sure doesn’t sound like kneejerk overreaction!
I sincerely apologize to anyone whom I hurt with my performance at the BizarroCon Showdown. I have remained silent until now because I was listening and reflecting. I made a lot of new friends over the course of those very special few days, and I am deeply troubled that some of those friends were hurt by an act that was clearly in poor taste and insensitive to the audience to whom I was presenting. It was truly never my intent to inflict mental harm or emotional distress, but that’s no excuse, and I am genuinely sorry.
And Brian Keene offered:
One final thought on the young author in question. I’ve seen some characterizing him as an “edgelord”. Having met him, I don’t think that is a fair characterization… From what I know of him I think this young man has a good heart, and I hope he learns from this and is given that time.
However things play out for Morrison individually, the lid has come off a much wider discussion about BizarroCon’s handling of antiharassment issues.
There’s never really been a scene like bizarro before—genre literature that often overlaps themes of violence, fetish, fantasy, sex, and the grotesque, while encouraging people to let out their inner “weirdo/cult” selves without being shamed for what they’re into. But it’s also a scene that’s got almost no firm boundaries for what’s acceptable, for consent and respect, because all scene performances or art/literature exists in the name of free expression. And that’s what’s at the heart of all this, right? It does require noting that Rose O’Keefe, after endless criticisms of the bizarro scene being a “boy’s club” over the years, did make great effort to bring more women into the scene and largely succeeded. But with the arrival of more women, also came the arrival of some predatory shitbirds. I won’t list them here, but it’s become a thing. A similar compliment can be made of Rose reaching out for more diverse voices, LGBTQ authors.
That in mind, there is an institutional problem (and now a proportional backlash to that problem) that’s only grown over the past five or so years. Both are reinforced by those infirm boundaries, as well as inadequate responses to inappropriate conduct and a tacit enabling of the accused. Also, shutting down concerned voices as a first response has been the worst possible move this week. I realize that folks want to defend the scene from any attack, and there have been needless ones in the past, but now an outcry over a performance has become an outcry over trending sexual impropriety and is on the verge of becoming an exodus of those concerned voices etc etc etc. On a long enough timeline, no one benefits but predatory shitbirds. This seems a conflict of “Do you try to keep the peace?” or “Do you take major corrective actions?”
What I understand is that people are feeling unheard and are dissatisfied with my response and/or lack of response to past as well as to present grievances related to their experiences at BizarroCon and in our community. I am truly sorry. Especially to my fellow women and to anyone who has felt harassed in any form. I let you down.
…I acknowledge that I have made mistakes and that there are problems in our community. Actions such as establishing an anti-harassment policy, appointing a trained counselor to handle issues that arise, recruiting the assistance of security professionals and military veterans from within our community to help during the event, banning offenders and unwelcome individuals privately rather than publicly and making unilateral decisions on who to welcome into our scene have not eliminated the sense of unease that many are expressing. Moreover, they haven’t sufficiently prevented instances of harassment and trauma from continuing to occur at our event. Therefore these things are insufficient and are in need of improvement. I am deeply regretful for this and it is my greatest wish to continue to work together to find meaningful resolutions to those problems and develop actionable plans to improve our future.
…Additionally, effective immediately, I would like to establish a Safety and Inclusion Committee for BizarroCon. It could be a group of 3-4 people whose responsibilities include fielding any complaints pertaining to our anti-harassment policy and creating very clear and specific protocol for handling and addressing these complaints. They may also audit panels for diverse panelists and topics.
I will also be expanding and improving the BizarroCon committee, establishing clear lines of responsibility, and delegating some of the roles and responsibilities that are in the best interest of the community. There is a lot that goes into running this thing and I know I am not alone in my desire to see this genre expand and improve and its level of professionalism increase. I see this moment as an opportunity for change and I am ready to embrace it.
…For now, one thing we can share is that in addition to the creation of the Safety and Inclusion Committee we will be crafting changes to the Ultimate Bizarro Showdown that will fully empower the hosts, the judges and the audience. I’d also like you to know that I have sent a letter to Edgefield apologizing to the staff who were on-duty at the Showdown last week.
Postscript: In case you wondered what artistic achievements are ordinarily presented at this event, author Zé Burns’ (“BizarroCon 11”) conreport describes 2019’s winning entries:
Then came the highlight of the convention: the Ultimate Bizarro Showdown. Each participant was allotted six minutes to perform their weirdest story or sketch. These ranged from amusing monologues to such depravity that I dare not soil this page.
Cameron Pierce won, rapping humorous poetry under the moniker “Young Stepdad.” Danger Slater sang “Rainbow Connection” in a Kermit the Frog voice, wearing a green bodysuit and face paint and strumming a cardboard banjo, while Karl Fischer gave a pitch about teaching horses to ski, stopping here and there to moon the audience who in turn pelted him with oranges.
Update 01/26/2019: Dropped the comparison to the WHC “gross-out” contests after further comment from Brian Keene: “The Showdown was inspired by the old World Horror Gross Out contests, but they have always been separate things. Sometimes there has been some crossover content (Shane Mackenzie’s The Aristocrats, for example) but by and large, very different material for very different audiences. Only reason I compared them was to illustrate the Showdown’s origins. Didn’t mean to imply they are similar.”
“Writers from along the Wasatch Front are invited to join with
us for multiple seminars and panels to improve their craft, hone their stories,
and get published,” said Christina Re Anderson, founder of the Fellowship.
The conference will feature best-selling author Dan Wells as the
keynote speaker, a Utah writer who has made the New York Times Bestsellers list. He has written a variety of young adult
novels in the horror and science fiction genres, including books like the Partials
series, where a war and a baby-killing virus have devastated the
population, and the Mirador novels about a teen cyber hacker in a
futuristic Los Angeles.
The conference will be held at the Hopebox Theatre in Kaysville,
Utah, located at 1700 Frontage Road. Tickets are currently on sale for $25
through the Fellowship website www.writersfellowship.com, and will be sold at the door
for $28. Writers in any medium are encouraged to attend and the general public
is also welcome.
The Wasatch Writers Fellowship was started in 2015 as a
Meetup.com writing group and has grown to include over 500 members, over 40 of
which are regulars at the meetups. “I started the group to find other writers
who could give me, and each other, encouragement and support in working on our
projects,” said Anderson. “Our overall goal is to help writers to improve their
craft, finish projects and ultimately get published.”