Four Winners Refuse Parsec Awards

Four 2018 Parsec Awards winners announced today they will decline their awards because the committee has sustained the award given to an alleged harasser.

The December 17 announcement of the 2018 Parsec Awards for sff podcasting was hailed by protests that one of the winners “has a history of extremely disturbing behavior”, according to a follow-up statement the committee issued the same day. The person was not named in that statement, nor in the committee’s December 19 release explaining why they were allowing the award to stand. The reasons given were —

…It is the goal of The Parsecs to judge solely on the merit of the content and not on gender, heritage, religious belief, sexual orientation, politics, or other factors not in the podcast as presented to the audience. To do more would be to fail at our core purpose.

There is neither precedent nor procedure for The Committee to intervene in the results based on information outside of the stated policies….

The target of the protests is Edward Champion, winner of the 2018 Parsec Award for Best Speculative Fiction Story: Large Cast (Short Form).

Some of the allegations against Champion were covered by Gawker in 2014:

Last night, a Brooklyn-based literary blogger/podcaster/personality named Edward Champion suddenly began attacking the novelist Porochista Khakpour on Twitter, after Khakpour tweeted about Champion’s private threats against her. Before the night was over, Champion had been kicked off Twitter, and several other writers and literary agents had come forward to tell stories of Champion’s threatening and bizarre behavior….

A Parsec Awards judge, Wil Williams, also says she has been harassed by Champion. Her thread starts here.

Several winners have answered the Parsec Awards committee’s decision not to take away Champion’s award by refusing to accept theirs.

Escape Artists has publicly declined their two 2018 Parsec Awards, as explained in the post “If You Stand for Nothing, What’ll You Fall For?”

In light of recent events, Escape Artists is declining its 2018 Parsec wins.

Escape Pod, edited by Mur Lafferty and S. B. Divya, won Best Speculative Fiction Magazine or Anthology Podcast.

PodCastle, edited by Jen R. Albert and Khaalidah Muhammad-Ali won Best Speculative Fiction Story: Small Cast (Short Form) for its production of “Six Jobs” by Tim Pratt, narrated by Stephanie Malia Morris.

EA co-owners Alasdair Stuart and Marguerite Kenner have been in consultation with both editorial teams and Mr. Pratt, and we have unanimously decided to reject both awards. We also reached out to Ms. Morris, but have not head back from her as of the time of this post.

… The systemic failure of care that has taken place with this year’s Parsec Awards can’t go unanswered and this is one of the strongest ways we can express our displeasure.

Pendant Productions has rejected the award they won for Best Speculative Fiction Video Story:

And Grant Baciocco of Saturday Morning Media has refused the award for Best Podcast about Speculative Fiction Content Creation.

Escape Artists co-owner Alasdair Stuart gave an overview of their decision in “The 2018 Parsec Situation”. He concluded:

…Letting down judges like this is bad. Lacking a complaints policy at a minimum in this day and age borders on unforgivable. The community’s trust in the Parsecs has, at the very least, been torpedoed by this incident and the committee’s response to it. Whether that torpedo hit under the water line remains to be seen.

For me, I’d love to see some changes. A complaints policy is years overdue. More awareness of the field and problematic behaviour within it even more so. That doesn’t have to, and shouldn’t, be political either but rather based on fundamental decency. Sexism, racism, homophobia, harassment. These aren’t political lines, they’re lifestyle choices and choices that podcasters up for awards should be aware of, just as prose authors are slowly starting to be. Blindness isn’t necessary here, and ignorance is the opposite of bliss. Engagement, compassion, dialogue and change are all needed. I hope the committee feels the same way and I hope that next year, these awards can be what they deserve to be; celebrated.

Escape Pod assistant editor Benjamin C. Kinney added his thoughts in “The Year of Declines: Parsecs and WOTF”:

…I understand the appeal and principles of above-the-fray neutrality. But in practice, any organization must choose between those who would act abusively, and their victims. If you won’t banish anyone, the harmful people will do the banishing….

And Adam Pracht, who worked on Escape Artists’ Parsec Award submissions, endorsed the decision in a thread that starts here.

25 thoughts on “Four Winners Refuse Parsec Awards

  1. So Mur Lafferty was one of the founders of the award and is now refusing to accept one?

  2. Hampus Eckerman: So Mur Lafferty was one of the founders of the award and is now refusing to accept one?

    Yeah, it must have really broken her heart to make that decision. But the podcasting community is a relatively small one, and a jury choosing to recognize, with an award for greatness, someone who has a history of vicious harassment of other podcasters, is a tacit endorsement of that behavior.

  3. I see Mr Champion’s account was un-suspended at some point. As someone who’s totally new to this whole situation, does anyone know if he’s continued to be a bully since the incident in 2014?

  4. @Hampus Eckerman

    Thank you for posting that link. Wow. This definitely isn’t a “but how could we have known?” situation.

  5. I have now read the Brooklyn Magazine article. That is appalling and scary. The man may well need help (and his description of shelter life is, make no mistake, completely factual.) That doesn’t excuse his behavior, or obligate his targets to accept his abusive and threatening behavior.

    This is a dangerous man whose abuse of others should have the community shunning him.

  6. Is there a consensus as to what the criteria should be for denying someone an award? For example, should persons with a criminal record be barred from competing for awards that are based on artistic merit?

  7. Thanks for the additional information, Hampus. That changes my opinion. Given that the abuse in 2014 was apparently accompanied by a suicide attempt, and as a person who has behaved badly to people I care about when I was in the bottom of a depression, I was thinking that IF his depression was a contibuting factor to his behavior, and IF he had gotten treatment/counseling in the meantime and IF he had made amends to the people he abused, he should have a chance to move out from under the shadow of things he’d done in the past. But it sounds like I was giving him too much credit.

  8. I should also have said IF he was diagnosed with depression at all. That’s an assumption on my part that I shouldn’t have made.

  9. Wow. The more I read about this guy the more of a horror show each interaction appears to be. The trail of very public overreactions, feuds and threats just keeps getting longer. https://www.salon.com/2014/09/30/he_didnt_care_if_he_destroyed_himself_as_long_as_he_hurt_you_the_sad_disturbing_case_of_ed_champion/

    What’s interesting is these high-profile accounts of his behaviour in 2014 (e.g. above in Salon but also Gawker and others) only impacted his reputation in one circle; with a shift in genres and medium, he got to start over…and then repeat the same behaviour.

    I can’t say I’d ever heard of him until this week.

  10. I’ve heard of some of the people he threatened and attacked such as Sarah Weinman, though I mostly know her as an author of true crime books, but I haven’t heard of him before this.

    It’s still troubling that he has a lengthy and well known history of this behaviour and was still able to repeat his behaviour in another genre and medium.

  11. I’m reading this article and the links. He actually has apologized for his past behavior, from his 2014 tweet on his own blog Ed rants. Any other actual screen shots I read of conversations online, seem to be a reaction of Ed Champion’s pain and hurt from no one getting over his 2014 tweet. He seems hurt that people won’t give his art a chance and keep dreading up his past. The parsec awards judged him on his art. This is the first year of his audio drama and he won. His Instagram account shows how he makes breakfast for his actors. No chickens seem to be his apartment as other articles allege. One link that is here is from 2014. The other link to an article gives only one screen shot which shows his pain over someone that he thought was his friend, then admits she cannot be friends with him due to social pressure not to be friends with him in the audio drama community. I’m confused, I really have seen no hard evidence for what this man has allegedly done. I feel like this is the 1950s where actors are accused of being communist abs can no longer work. If he was put in jail for his 2014 act he would have been released already and accepted into society? This man has suicide attempts and homelessness over a tweet. His art is amazing. People get off the band wagon and produce some evidence that is not from 2014 and where he isn’t reacting to someone blacklisting him because of 2014. Thanks.

  12. @Cora: “I’ve heard of some of the people he threatened and attacked such as Sarah Weinman”— Weinman was actually his partner and enabler, who threatened people on his behalf.

    I was vaguely aware of Champion online in the 2000s. I remember his blog being pretty unpleasant but, having been in New York in the 90s, I often reflexively assume that people whose public persona as a writer is like that are just posing (a college acquaintance who wrote a lot for the extremely unpleasant weekly New York Press described the general scene as basically “being an asshole was cool”). But sometimes the private person is even worse. That Brooklyn Magazine article was an eye-opener.

  13. Ic:

    There are examples of continued bad behaviour from 2017 in the link I gave. And it is not as if “hard evidence” is missing, there are plenty of screenshots going around. And lastly, it has not been about “a tweet”, but about abusive behaviour that has gone on for years.

    Your comment is very disingenuous.

  14. @Eli

    Weinman was actually his partner and enabler, who threatened people on his behalf.

    She seems to have aquitted herself, however, since she was all over the crime fiction web a few months ago, when she had a true crime book about the 1940s kidnapping case that inspired Lolita come out.

    Which suggests that the current reactions to Champion are not just about that one tweet from 2014, but about his continued bad behaviour.

  15. @lc, your several references to “one tweet in 2014” make it obvious that you either didn’t really read the linked material, or are hoping that none of us did, since they’re utter bullshit. Champion had a history of many, many years of abusive behavior, not the kind where someone loses their temper and says something they regret, but the kind that requires premeditation. He managed to find out personal information about Porochista Khakpour that he knew would hurt her, and threatened her with it over and over again— NOT in “one tweet” but in an extended sadistic series, and then carried out his threat. He tried to ruin people’s careers and only didn’t manage to do so because he wasn’t as powerful as he’d like to be. And he threatened people with violence over and over again. 2014 happened to be the point where it all caught up with him; it should’ve been sooner.

    Even if he had been a perfect angel since 2014– and it really doesn’t sound like that’s the case, though I haven’t tried to seek out the stories that other podcasters have apparently been telling— I wouldn’t blame anyone for not wanting to associate with him in any way, including just being on the same award list, purely because of his behavior before. People deserve second chances, but not 20000th chances.

    As for his art, I haven’t been super impressed with the bits of his writing that I’ve seen, but you know what? If it’s great, and now it’s getting a bad rap, there’s exactly one person to blame for that. Every hour that he spent deliberately causing other people pain is an hour he could’ve spent on his art. So, apparently, he doesn’t really give that much of a shit about it and neither do I.

  16. Ic: I’m confused, I really have seen no hard evidence for what this man has allegedly done.

    Then why don’t you try reading the articles, at the links others have posted here, in their entirety, instead of claiming that the evidence doesn’t exist? His history of abuse and harassment went on for 12 years. TWELVE YEARS. During which he frightened and intimidated people, harassed them into abandoning projects, harmed their employment relationships by contacting and harassing their employers, hunted down contact information and harassed their FAMILY MEMBERS. And you think that apologizing for one tweet fixes all that? Especially when he has been engaging in the same behavior since then?

    If he genuinely wants to make amends, be forgiven, and make a fresh start, that would require him first to publicly acknowledge the harm that he’s done, make a genuine apology to all of the people he’s harmed, and then stop doing it.

    He hasn’t done any of those things. Why would you think that his past more-than-a-decade of harassment and abuse should be forgiven and forgotten when he’s neither accepted responsibility for it nor changed his ways?

  17. Dear Becca,

    Following on from your post:

    “Making amends” does not mean being sincerely sorry and apologizing. It means that you do *work* — you make up for the loss or injury that you have caused others. If you can’t compensate them directly, then you compensate in kind to others. But until you do that work, you have not made amends, you have not atoned, you are not forgiven, no matter how sincerely you regret your behavior. It is not enough to say “I’m sorry;” you did damage and there must be real labor to fix it.

    Threatening suicide is a standard tactic of abusers — “If you leave me, I’ll kill myself.” It’s a way to control other people. It is also a threat made by depressives, but if one is not attacking or threatening the depressed, one is not responsible for their actions. If one decides someone is a horrible person — because, in fact, they are horrible person — and that person goes and kills themselves because they don’t have any friends, well… that is not on you!

    Given Edward’s history of depression and suicidal thoughts, I wouldn’t kick him when he’s down (or even when he’s up.) But choosing to disassociate from him and exclude him? That’s of his making, not mine. If he goes and kills himself because nobody loves him anymore, that is not on my head.

    – pax \ Ctein
    [ Please excuse any word-salad. Dragon Dictate in training! ]
    ======================================
    — Ctein’s Online Gallery. http://ctein.com 
    — Digital Restorations. http://photo-repair.com 
    ======================================

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  20. I personally think that IF an award is to be based on merit for a given work or period of time, then an awardee should not ever be disqualified for poor behavior. It seems hypocritical.

    If the award is based on merit, that is.

    Are there stated lines one would cross to be disqualified for such an award?

    I know very little about this Parsec award, so mine is more a question than an advocacy. If the award prides itself on being based on the merit of a particular piece of work, then it shouldn’t IMHO really matter if he or she is an ax murderer. He or she is clearly an ax murderer with some talent. That’s not a shame on the organization that is giving it. It actually reads as a fascinating statement on the human condition.

    I’d further argue that if it is intended to be merit based (and not popularity), pulling an award for a non-merit-based reason is a stain on the award itself.

    I can see an argument from both angles, but it’s hard to say unequivocally that it is wrong a messed up person received an award. Messed up people may have talent. Hell, Hitler was a middling (better than I) artist. It happens.

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