Fozard Guest Post About Resigning as Worldcon Co-Chair

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.

136 thoughts on “Fozard Guest Post About Resigning as Worldcon Co-Chair

  1. As Meredith says. It was not nice to just take the name of CONZealand and attach it to an entirely separate event which in no was was associated with CONZealand. While I appreciate the hard work, I hope it doesn’t happen again and that people who want to do their own alternative online convention also will use their own name for it.

  2. @Colette
    I don’t know if you remember me, but we briefly virtually met at CoNZealand and I think we met in person in Helsinki as well.

    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.

    Like Red Wombat, I didn’t read the Twitter statement and longer policy statement on the DisCon III website that way and also assumed that the policy was four names max. per finalist. And while I’m unlikely to be affected, I know a lot of people who work hard on fanzines, fancasts and semiprozines, usually for little to no pay (Just like Worldcon volunteers). Therefore, I understand why many people, many of them POC or otherwise marginalised, were upset. Were some of the responses hurtful and overly vitriolic? Probably. And personally, I felt that boycott calls went a bit too far. But then, a lot of people have a short fuse currently because of the world situation.

    Regarding CoNZealand, I was a Hugo finalist and co-signed the first letter, even though I personally had no issues with the programming I had been assigned, because I wanted to support my fellow finalists, several of whom had been given no programming at all or only unsuitable panels. Also, there were genuine issues with panelist diversity and panel descriptions. In the end, several Hugo finalists and two CoNZealand staffers worked behind the scenes to imrpove descriptions, increase panelist diversity and personally recruited panelists. I like to think that the con was better for our efforts, but fixing issues with the programming was not our job.

    As for CoNZealand Fringe (which I wasn’t involved with, but watched come together behind the scenes), that was initially created as an overflow project for finalists who didn’t have programming and then grew from there. The organisers also made sure that the Fringe panels didn’t conflict with the official programming. In retrospect, borrowing the CoNZealand name wasn’t a good idea and running the Fringe programming the following weekend without impacting CoNZealand would have been better. But then, humans make mistakes.

    Ever since I started paying closer attention to Worldcon, I don’t think there has been a single one without issues and some kind of drama. And yes, volunteers often get crap for things they have little to do with. And yes, some people are rude to Worldcon staff and take them for granted, though I always try to be polite, even if I have an issue. However, even if criticism isn’t always voiced diplomatically, that doesn’t mean it’s not justified.

  3. Jay Blanc: Can you please immediately retract the claim that they appropriated the Worldcon name?

    Was it called “CoNZealand Fringe”? Yes it was. Case closed. Poaching a name other fans created for their event is wrong. The standard for wrongness isn’t whether you can be successfully sued for it.

    Unlike you, Alasdair Stuart, who worked on CoNZealand Fringe, isn’t trying to pretend it wasn’t a problem — see this issue of The Tip Jar:

    We also screwed up, twice.

    The first was the name. We knew there were a few hard and fast things we couldn’t use (waves at WSFS), but we sailed entirely too close to CoNZealand for anyone’s comfort….

    Our debrief is ongoing and we’re taking steps to ensure the issue doesn’t reoccur. We’re already in conversation with a couple of other shows and have a name change forthcoming.

  4. @Jay Blanc

    It doesn’t need to be an act in bad faith to hurt or annoy people – otherwise, after all, no-one would have been unhappy with ConZealand’s original programming. Motivation can be a mitigating or aggravating factor but it doesn’t dictate the whole of the response.

  5. @Jay Blanc–

    Using the term ‘X Fringe’ is and has been an accepted fair use term for conventions worldwide.

    Have any of those “X Fringe” events been associated with sf fan conventions? I had certainly not been aware of that happening before, nor do I recall any fannish examples being cited in explaining or defending what they were doing.

  6. @Cora,
    If I recall my fan history aright, counter to (and during) the first Worldcon (1939) there was an informal, off-site, and probably nameless gathering of most of the Futurians and a few friends to grouse for several hours about being formally excluded from the Worldcon. This could be construed as a “Fringe” event.

  7. I was Room Host at CoNZealand and was on for a programme item Alasdair Stuart was in. It ran smoothly. I made sure it did. But I was still pissed off at him for his involvement in “CoNZealand Fringe”.

    It was absolutely appropriation.

  8. Jeanne (Sourdough) Jackson: This could be construed as a “Fringe” event.

    It didn’t have a name, so no it couldn’t.

  9. Are we really going to resort to Whataboutism about Fringe in order to deflect the merited critique of Worldcon communiques and concom issues?

  10. KTO: That’s what happens when critics of something the 2021 committee did wrong try to use it as an opportunity to make something they did wrong look like a virtue.

  11. They didn’t need position Mike and this has been reiterated several times over the past months.

    The Fringe was done as a reaction to another perceived gap in a Worldcon it was high quality material and old timers need to move with the times at last. Imagine if a Worldcon had actually thought of it previously but sadly not

    Well done confringe

  12. I’m quite ok with people making mistakes. I think it wasn’t bad faith of Worldcon to make a failed programming with regards CONZealand. I don’t think it was bad faith of people to point out what they didn’t like. I don’t think it was bad faith to make a Fringe programning.

    I think all of it was fans working for free trying to do their best to make others happy. Some of it went well, some of it did not, but on the whole all of them made the world a little better.

    I don’t think anyone of them deserves any abuse or vitriol. I think we should all be happy these people exist and tries to do good things.

  13. Using the term ‘X Fringe’ is and has been an accepted fair use term for conventions worldwide.

    The other fringe festivals don’t use a distinctive mark like ConZealand in their names. They use the name of the city where they take place, which is obviously something no festival would have a claim to use exclusively. ConZealand Fringe should not have been used as the name without the permission of ConZealand.

  14. I think it’s a bit obnoxious to claim that fans own something, then complain when those fans do something with it. This was not an outside group coming in to ‘appropriate’ the name, this was members of ConZealand setting up a fringe for the convention they are supposed to also take part ownership of.

    It is twice that amount of obnoxious to use that complaint to deflect from the errors of those in formal ‘ownership’ of Worldcon.

  15. Anyone who thinks sf fandom dealt better with these issues in the mimeo days wasn’t around then.

  16. Whether or not you approve of the Fringe panels put on last year though doesn’t have any relevance to the actual resignation at hand and the more it’s continued to be criticised here the more it feels like commenters are more interested in relitigating old wounds than actually facing current Con’s actions.

    The Chair has resigned, not because of any actions of the Fringe, but because the WorldCon they were running received criticism over a policy they implemented which would have cut the most public recognition of over half of nominees in the Semi-Prozine and Fanzine categories last year. People have been legitimately hurt by that and the way the policy was announced was frankly half-assed at best. Deleting the original tweets, for example, to get rid of the images may just have been done for those reasons but it does not take immense foresight to see that they needed to say why they were doing that.

    That when resigning over that criticism they have thrown a lot of mud at multiple other grievances, some reportedly simply untrue from other commenters here, remains a complete distraction from the actual cause and that you might agree with some of it doesn’t stop it being a distraction.

  17. Jay Blanc: I think it’s a bit obnoxious to claim that fans own something, then complain when those fans do something with it. This was not an outside group coming in to ‘appropriate’ the name, this was members of ConZealand setting up a fringe for the convention they are supposed to also take part ownership of.

    No one has claimed that general fandom “owns” Worldcon, because of course they don’t. WSFS owns Worldcon and CoNZealand the organization owns the name CoNZealand. The Fringe organizers took IP that wasn’t theirs and used it for their own purposes. Then they tried to claim that it was okay because a couple of them were on the CoNZealand staff and therefore it was fine for them to take CoNZealand’s IP and do whatever they wanted with it.

    I’m just checking here: all of you defending the appropriation of CoNZealand’s name for the Fringe convention, you’d be okay with it if I created a podcast and called it Escape Pod Fringe, right? You’d be fine with it if I created a Booktube channel and called it Claire Rousseau Fringe, right?

    Of course you wouldn’t. You’d scream holy hell. And rightly so.

     
    Jay Blanc: It is twice that amount of obnoxious to use that complaint to deflect from the errors of those in formal ‘ownership’ of Worldcon.

    As Mike has already pointed out, that’s what happens when critics of something the 2021 committee did wrong try to use it as an opportunity to make something they did wrong look like a virtue.

    This post is some major childish bullsh*t which refuses to accept personal accountability for anything, when it should be doing so — but don’t for a second think that somehow justifies the appropriation of the CoNZealand name by people running an unaffiliated event. If you don’t want the discussion to be sidetracked by that, then quit claiming that it was an acceptable thing to do.

  18. rcade says The other fringe festivals don’t use a distinctive mark like ConZealand in their names. They use the name of the city where they take place, which is obviously something no festival would have a claim to use exclusively. ConZealand Fringe should not have been used as the name without the permission of ConZealand.

    Absolutely spot-on. ConZealand owns that name, and they had no right to use it.

    And many of the fringe festivals actually exist without there being any actual official programming they’re being run in counter to. Yeah I know that sounds weird but it is true. A fringe that’s not a fringe. Here in Portland, Maine a fringe festival ran for many years as a free standing arts festival that wasn’t done in junction with an official one here. It of course was cancelled this year though I think it might’ve gone virtual. Not being out and about this year, I lost track of it.

  19. @JJ

    Difference between “ConZealand Fringe” and “Escape Pod Fringe” is simple…

    ConZealand is formally owned by the membership of ConZealand. A subset of membership of ConZealand set up Fringe events, and a subset of membership of ConZealand set up a calendar to keep track of them. That can’t possibly be called ‘appropriation’, because ConZealand is owned by its membership.

    You do not have any ownership at all over the examples you claim to be equivalent. That would absolutely meet the definition of an outside party coming in to appropriate the name.

    You can’t both say that Worldcons are owned by their membership, and also say that membership are outsiders who would be appropriating the convention for fringe events. At the moment, the only rules for what names membership are not allowed to use, are the specified WSFS trademarks. If you want to explicitly prevent WSFS members being able to set up named Fringe events for the name of the convention they are a member of, you’re going to need to amend the WSFS constitution to explicitly bar it. And then it still wouldn’t be ‘appropriation’, just something restricted by the WSFS membership rules.

  20. Jay Blanc: ConZealand is formally owned by the membership of ConZealand.

    You are incorrect. The name “CoNZealand” is owned by Science Fiction & Fantasy Conventions of New Zealand Incorporated. Individual members of CoNZealand do not own the name.

  21. @JJ

    CoNZealand is not a registered trademark either in NZ or US.

    The formal name of the “The 78th World Science Fiction Convention” was “The 78th World Science Fiction Convention” which is a protected mark. It is also known as “ConZealand” which was not a protected mark. Are you claiming that a separate company owned that name? Are you claiming that membership of the “The 78th World Science Fiction Convention” had no ownership of the informal name of the convention?

    And what does any of this have to do with the problems that keep coming up with the Hugo Awards?

  22. Jay Blanc: CoNZealand is not a registered trademark either in NZ or US.

    You know what else isn’t a registered trademark in either the EU, UK, or US? “Escape Pod”. “Claire Rousseau”.

    The last time I heard the weaksauce excuses “But what we did wasn’t technically illegal” and “You can’t sue us, so what we did wasn’t wrong” was from the Puppies.

    Those excuses didn’t change the fact that what the Puppies did was wrong, and they don’t change the fact that what the Fringe organizers did was wrong.

  23. Jay Blanc: And what does any of this have to do with the problems that keep coming up with the Hugo Awards?

    As I’ve said, if you don’t want the discussion to be sidetracked by that, then quit claiming that it was an acceptable thing to do.

  24. So long as we’ve stopped telling other fans to retract their feelings I’m satisfied with the alteration in the terms of the discussion. Reasonable people can continue to disagree on the particulars of the Fringe, of course (and I’m finding the debate interesting to read), but it’s not a topic I’m personally all that invested in – although I rather hope that keeping it moderately fresh will lead to any future Fringe events avoiding upsetting people in the exact same ways.

    (To be honest, it’s a little weird to me exactly how attached some people are to defending the name: Quite clearly, it upset and annoyed a pretty substantial number of people. It’s also incredibly easy to fix in future. Why wouldn’t you go, oops, sorry, didn’t intend that – we’ll do it differently next time?)

    Re: the OP, the bit that really, thoroughly irritates me – and this is something I’ve seen before and it’s never been good – is the utter and awful lack of specificity in accusation. I’m sure that there are a small number of people who are constantly fussing at Worldcon organisers. I’ve heard something similar about the SFWA and I had no reason to disbelieve it then and no reason to disbelieve it now. But talking about it this way, where no-one is named and the whole of the reaction is attributed to this mysterious, privileged, malevolent and anonymous group, only dismisses and erases the legitimately upset folks and tars them as being abusive and unreasonable all at once. I really dislike it. No-one is held to account, only minimised and smeared. What good is that?

  25. Fundamentally, membership setting up a web calendar of fringe events for ConZealand is no more or less ‘appropriating’ the name, as membership handing out “I survived ConZealand” ribbons at a physical convention would have been. Does membership now have to seek permission to use the name when they publish their “ConZealand Convention Reports”?

    And the ‘affront’ at using the name appears to have been regurgitated here as deliberate distraction. But it’s just demonstrating that there appears to have been a strong movement away from “membership owned” towards “management owned”. Which is a root flaw demonstrated by sentiments expressed in the resignation letter.

  26. @Jay Blanc

    I dislike the implication of your scare-quotes that the upset feelings are not sincere. Just as feelings need no retraction, feelings exist even when you disagree with them.

    The discussion/derail is largely ongoing because you keep insisting people shouldn’t have the feelings they do about it. You have a great deal of power to change the topic: Simply talk about something else.

  27. Jay Blanc: there appears to have been a strong movement away from “membership owned” towards “management owned”

    Individual Worldcon names and marks have always been owned by the convention’s parent organizations: Baltimore Science Fiction Society, San Francisco Science Fiction Conventions, Inc., London 2014 Ltd., Victorian Science Fiction Conventions Inc., UK 2005 Ltd., etc. This has been going on for decades.

     
    Jay Blanc: Fundamentally, membership setting up a web calendar for   an unaffiliated virtual convention of fringe events using the name which belongs to ConZealand is no more or less ‘appropriating’ the name

    “But what we did wasn’t technically illegal!”

    This is just a tacit admission that it was wrong, and that no reasonable justification can be made for taking CoNZealand’s name and using it without permission.

     
    Jay Blanc: And the ‘affront’ at using the name appears to have been regurgitated here as deliberate distraction

    You and a couple of other commenters are the ones who chose to make this a topic of discussion in the comments on this post — which was not a terribly smart thing to do, since it is pretty much the only thing in the original post which is actually justified.

  28. I think it’s a bit obnoxious to claim that fans own something, then complain when those fans do something with it.

    You’re very confused about who owns Worldcon and the WSFS. I own a membership in each year’s Worldcon. I don’t own the right to use the intellectual property of Worldcon, the WSFS or each year’s con without permission. The fact that we own the WSFS collectively as members doesn’t give members the right to do anything they like with these marks.

    CoNZealand is not a registered trademark either in NZ or US.

    A trademark doesn’t have to be registered to be protectible. File 770 isn’t a registered trademark but OGH still has legal rights to protect the mark from confusingly similar uses. He also has the right to publicly object to uses of the name “File 770” he considered inappropriate, which is what people are doing here. We’re telling you ConZealand Fringe was an inappropriate choice of name because it was done without ConZealand’s permission.

  29. It’s hugely telling how so many ‘fans’ are more bothered about an events name than that the event organised a diverse group of genre fans and paid better respect to Hugo finalists than the Worldcon did.

    I find it telling same fans hide behind this as a deflection for the ex-chairs ridiculous behaviour and exit because their con was correctly criticised and this little reposted of theirs has not had the effect of gaining sympathy some thought it would do.

    Volunteering is to be credited but hurting minority groups through your actions is still something you should be criticised for

  30. @Gary Farber:

    “Anyone who thinks sf fandom dealt better with these issues in the mimeo days wasn’t around then.”

    You were there; I was there (and so was Mike Glyer, along with a few others). Things weren’t less hot when controversy erupted, but they heated up more slowly, except among the local groups who interacted personally (read: hollered and yelled at each other).

    My point was that the Internet acts as a powerful, extremely volatile accelerant. It is so easy to dash off an inflamed response to a comment or announcement that might or might not have been intended to be incendiary, and then hit “Send.”
    Back then, a lot of us drafted our comments before committing them to stencil (you can’t see me doing this, but I’m drafting this offline first). This at least allowed cooler thought a chance to moderate the message being sent. Postal time lags also slowed the spread of flame.

    I do remember a lot of bad stuff that went down, and heard dark rumors of worse that happened before you or I were in fandom. But it didn’t happen as quickly as it does now. A case in point: Denvention II (1981). Had we been burdened with the Internet and its antisocial “social media,” we would have caught hell multiple times for this misstep and that mistake (usually corrected) prior to the con. In the end, we put on a con that was well thought of in fandom—only a few of us who worked ourselves half to death occasionally referred to it as “The Rocky Mountain Horror Show.”

    I might as well weigh in on the controversy that started this avalanche. My $0.02 worth: There is no “I” in “team.”

    A fanzine, webcast, or other publication is almost always a team effort. There didn’t used to be any great worry when a Hugo was awarded to [name of publication]. Before categories changed from “Best Professional Magazine” to “Best Editor” (and later, “Best Editor, Short Form”), my favorite prozine, IF, won three of them in a row. The swell rocket ships did not go to Frederik Pohl, the editor, nor to Judy-Lynn Benjamin (later Del Rey), the editorial assistant, nor to Sol Cohen, the publisher, nor to the printers. It went to IF. The magazine was a team effort; the award was given to the team.

    Perhaps changing that custom is a good thing, in principle. It certainly sounds like a nice idea. In practice, I can see where it could become a logistical nightmare. I could cite extreme examples, but anyone who has sat all the way through the rolling of the credits for a modern movie will understand what I am talking about (in the 1950s and earlier, the credits took half a minute or less).

    To all who read all the way through this, clear ether!

  31. …and yet, there were valid critiques of programming as originally empaneled at CoNZealand, because while CoNZealand is a one-off so far, the institutional knowledge and accrued custom of Worldcon is a thing of SEVEN DECADES.

    “Hugo finalists should have an expectation of being on panels” is not some novel thing that was dreamed up just for CoNZealand and that they could be justifiably startled by.

  32. KTO: When you try to convert something that might be a good idea into an absolute entitlement, you end up shifting the discussion onto completely different grounds.

    You also end up having to defend the idea that fans are just as interested in hearing other fans talk as they are interested in hearing writers, artists and editors talk. Which they’re not.

  33. The name question is very simple.

    “New Zealand Science Fiction Fringe Festival”: OK.
    “CoNZealand Fringe”: NOT OK.

    Any questions?

  34. Matt Cavanagh:

    “It’s hugely telling how so many ‘fans’ are more bothered about an events name than that the event organised a diverse group of genre fans and paid better respect to Hugo finalists than the Worldcon did.”

    Fantasy strawmen are always fun. Lets see if you can get some windmills to attack in your next comment.

  35. @Meredith

    Re: the OP, the bit that really, thoroughly irritates me – and this is something I’ve seen before and it’s never been good – is the utter and awful lack of specificity in accusation.

    Colette said that “abuse and vitriol” directed at the volunteer staffers was so bad that she’s resigned her position. Do you need specificity beyond that, in order to accept that internet pile-ons are real, and that pushing volunteer staff away is bad?

    Wanting to vet specific claims distracts from this “big picture” issue.

  36. @bill

    Well, yes. That’s why I said I had a problem with it: because I have a problem with it. But I don’t think you understand what I think the problem is if you think I’m asking for receipts. May I request you read the whole of that paragraph again? I’m happy to clarify if you still have questions after that. The most relevant sentence begins with “but”.

  37. @bill

    Do you need specificity beyond that, in order to accept that internet pile-ons are real, and that pushing volunteer staff away is bad?

    Is that what’s being discussed? The abstract “internet pile-ons exist,” as opposed to the much more specific “we were attacked with vitriol by white gatekeepers” when I and most of the other people who were there saw lots of careful (if passionate) criticism from PoC who are invested in fandom? Because if it’s the abstract, you’re quite right; nobody can deny it.

    If we are, however, discussing the actual claims in the post these comments are being made on, then yes, citations are needed.

  38. @Cora: I apologize that I do not recall meeting you. One of the nice things about this decision will be the ability to meet people at Worldcons without a dozen other things going on in my mind. As I said in the post, Worldcon volunteers should be held accountable for mistakes, and for poor treatment, but I am seeing an endless cycle of viciousness that I am raising awareness of. If you attend DisCon III, I would like to buy you a meal of your choice over which we could brainstorm improvements.

  39. This has raised the ongoing question of how a convention communicates with fandom and vice versa. A handful of ideas, some pulled from here, in no particular order:

    [Please note: I’ve taken a sabbatical from conrunning so lot of this is coming from the outside; I don’t always follow things closely; without conventions don’t stay up on the gossip; and I have no connection with DisCon III. And, as I said, these are ideas.]

    The biggest problem we’ve been running into is the proliferation of places where people discuss things. Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, others I can’t recall. Obviously that horse has left the barn so the question is what to do.

    Never, ever post something major on Twitter. Tell people you’ve added something to the website, or whatever works best, but things on twitter go faster than a cat going for tuna.

    Internal vetting is fine but also have someone outside the convention, or at least with no dog in the fight, who both understands what the convention is trying to do and also see how the announcement is going to be read.

    If it’s a significant announcement don’t just have it as a news item, have it up where people see it first. This is especially true if it’s an apology. Perhaps and intermediate announcement along the lines of ‘we’ve heard you, we aren’t ignoring you, and . . . ” whatever is being done. Just don’t use boiler plate.

    Ask [whomever] if they will put a moratorium of perhaps three days before posting publicly. This allows a cooling off period.

    On your website put in large, friendly letters something along the lines of “If you think we’ve made a serious mistake we want to know as soon as possible. Would you help us out by dropping us a note here first so we can collect peoples concerns in one place” plus something about reply time. (Include it in anything you send out that might cause controversy.)

    That’s not the best phrasing, the gist of it being ‘we need to collect information from a variety of sources so we can consider them”. It need a fair bit of tinkering but people might, just might, start to notice that it’s an option. Someone, probably several someones, with tough skin goes through them. I don’t know about things sent to specific people, divisions, or anything else.

    Have someone monitoring the social networks. To the best of my recollection (I wound up busy with other things) whomever did this for Sasquan was excellent. But, as someone else here said, it’s a really tough job.

    This post raises a side issue: thank people. They had a job, even just printing signs and getting them in the correct order, and it doesn’t take more than a moment. A FB message or whatever if that’s the communication, just ‘hey, thanks.’ If you’re at a con, smile to the kid guarding the door, housekeeping staff, whomever. Sometimes just looking someone in the eyes and nodding. (Oh, and thank the people who, perhaps foolishly, have decided on this as a hobby. Again, only takes a moment when passing in the hall.)

    It goes a long, long way balancing the rest.

  40. They are good suggestions but this all about method of comms

    What it doesn’t solve is poor decision making – has a con asked itself who does this change actually impact rather than help save us money or save on adding a PowerPoint slide. A little more thought could have stopped this in the bud

  41. I am not excusing the bad policy on finalist names, but I do wonder if living with a pandemic has exacerbated, well, everything. From little oversights leading to big ones when uncaught, to responses more fiery because we are all more stressed than normal.

  42. @Matt

    They are good suggestions but this all about method of comms

    What it doesn’t solve is poor decision making – . . . A little more thought could have stopped this in the bud

    True enough: more thought wouldn’t have just nipped this in the bud, it would have stopped it from happening. But I don’t know enough to speak to it. A cliche because it’s true: Worldcons are held under the auspices (is that the correct word?) of the World Science Fiction Society but each Worldcon is it’s own entity. From there you go to solving poor decision making at all conventions. One can extrapolate from there: poor decisions anywhere. I hear skulls cracking with TMI.

    A long pause in writing because I’m remembering all sorts of things that did happen and many more that didn’t. The many different ways anything can be structured to stop mistakes. Flow charts in my brain . . .

    Back to what you said. There’s no one way to stop poor decision making. When thinking about how announcements are made in the back of my mind was vetting NCHS surveys for Mom. Someone who can see things from both sides. (A boyfriend came by once to break up with me: she insisted that I vet something for her first. Joy.) Another one used a facilitator to keep meetings moving smoothly. Another Chaired a WFC with about only 8 people on the concom: he picked the best and turned them loose.

    I’m sorry, I’m thinking through my fingers. There’s probably some that’s useful up there but what it comes back it is “I don’t know. I don’t have an answer for you.” Different things work for different conventions, several come to mind, but writing them up? There’s far, far too much. The one thing I’ve come up with is someone knowledgeable, trusted, flexible, and not emotionally involved. (No, I am not hinting for a job!) But having wracked my brains from when I was active I don’t know anyone who checks all those boxes.

    Okay, here it goes: know, and tell everyone on the concom, that people make bad decisions. If a bunch of people say “this is bad” step back and think about it. Don’t get stuck in what everyone in the world seems to do, stubbornly defending an idea when people disagree. If there is conflict get the relevant people together with a mediator. Hell, go to a bookstore and get [whatever] for Dummies and other related books. Leadership for Dummies, Organization from Dummies, whatever it is.

  43. [snip]…that many of the people who complained, both last year and this Monday, were also hurt and upset at WorldCon for continuing to get the same things wrong again and again, year after year.

    Claire Rousseau, Worldcon will continue to get the same things wrong again and again because it rarely has a consistent staff. Like its annual relocating around the world, the staff has 95–100% turnover every year. It usually takes experience to know where the potholes are and many unpaid volunteers take the job once and sometimes are never seen in fandom again. I learned from my mistakes when I was repeatedly organizing the Worldcon writers workshop, but I’ve had successors who taken the job without consulting their predecessors and just reinvented the wheel with mixed results.

    However, some Worldcon jobs are very demanding and the staffer can be working on other details when something else explodes on them. Unfortunately, diplomacy is also not a talent or temperament everyone has, especially among an unpaid labor pool. Most of us do try keep a professional attitude, though.

  44. @Meredith

    May I request you read the whole of that paragraph again?

    I’ve done so. I see that you think the problem is that marginalized people are being further marginalized by the way that OP grouped complainants together. But it also comes across that you think a problem with Fozard’s post is that it doesn’t name names. Maybe that’s not your intention, but that’s how I read it.

  45. @Adrienne Foster,

    Having a new group of organisers every year, and each new location bringing its own unique challenges certainly doesn’t help. But there are enough experienced conrunners around that we really shouldn’t be making the same mistakes over & over again. A group doesn’t win the right to host a Worldcon without having members that are not already experienced conrunners.

    We (meaning congoers & conrunners alike) can see what’s happened in previous Worldcons, and mistakes made by other genre cons. So why does this keep happening?

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