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.
These were responses to Chandler Morrison’s act at the Showdown two weekends ago (described in “A Reckoning for BizarroCon”).
O’Keefe announced many changes are in store, some already implemented:
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.