By Colette H. Fozard: By now the news has been announced. I resigned as co-chair of DisCon III.
I have been part of the Worldcon community since 1995 when I attended Intersection as my honeymoon and I welcomed my now husband to the community with a Wedcon room party at Noreascon 4. I started volunteering in 1996 and have volunteered either at the Worldcon or for one I was working or bidding for at every Worldcon I have attended since then. I have volunteered at the Division Head level or higher at every Worldcon since 2017 save one.
In my years of growing responsibility of working for Worldcons, I have become increasingly alarmed and upset at the level of abuse and vitriol spewed at the all-volunteer staff. So much so that I have now abruptly walked away from probably the best chance I had to improve matters ‘from the inside.’
The Hugo announcement made Monday (and since retracted by DC III) made it clear that for the first time ever, all contributors to a Hugo finalist work would be listed and recognized as Hugo Finalists. No matter how many persons were named by the finalist work – everyone would be credited in the permanent record of the Hugo Awards, receive the finalist pin, and be celebrated as a finalist. The limits that were set were where resources and readability might become an issue. If you review the Hugo Finalist listings over there years, I can say with strong knowledge that if the listing said “Team [X]” or “X, Y, Z editors and the Staff of A” it was because the Hugo Administrator told the finalist that there was not the ability to list everyone they wanted to. DC III decided to drop those limits for the first time.
NOT GOOD ENOUGH, said some of the worst abusers of Hugo Admin staff over the years. They twisted the announcement to meet their selfish ends and I had to watch my staff despair that people were yelling at us for a misunderstanding. Because there were concerns about the readability of the ballot (most vote electronically, but paper ballots are required by the WSFS Constitution) and the physical ability of how many people we could fit together in reception and ceremony spaces, we were accused of stifling BIPOC creators. A rich accusation from the white editors/gatekeepers who pride themselves on being performatively abusive, in a social media community where this is not just tolerated but rewarded.
If this were the first time The Internet rounded on Worldcon staff, I would be less worried, but it happens over and over. As a member of CoNZealand’s committee, I saw how upset the staff were when numerous Hugo Finalists loudly and publicly proclaimed how upset they were with their programming, did not give CoNZealand a chance to make modifications, and then ran their own programming scheme attaching the convention’s name to it without asking, and finally had the gall to remind everyone at the end that their programming might be eligible for a best related work Hugo Award. A former staffer accused Worldcon 75 of withholding the souvenir book based on her misunderstanding of internal communications, and even though she was clearly wrong, I got to watch former Worldcon chairs, among others, pile on with cheap rhetorical shots, here on File 770 and within the complainers FB post.
Worldcon staff are people. People who are working hard to do the right thing and put on a convention where all feel welcome. Worldcon staff should be, must be, and are held responsible to ensure their work is welcoming and inclusive as possible, but the endless cycle of assume-bad-faith, attack-without-mercy is wearying, toxic and destructive to the very community these people claim to be a part of and care about. I have seen senior professionals in the field repeatedly abuse staff, cutting them off to berate them as they are trying to explain how they can help them. I have spent more time listening, comforting and caring for upset, traumatized and dejected staffers who have just been on the receiving end of nasty and vicious abuse (both verbal/in-person and in writing/online) than I care to think about.
I have managed and worked with thousands of Worldcon staffers over the years, from all over the world, and all of them come to their roles at Worldcon wanting to make this event better, inclusive and enjoyable for all. Mistakes will be made, but it is horrifying to see how vicious and unforgiving some in the community have become.
What is going to happen if this dangerous cycle doesn’t end? I don’t know, and since I’m leaving the Worldcon volunteer community, I no longer have to care. However, to paraphrase Gritty, the Hero of Philadelphia – keep f*cking around and we’ll find out.