Group Sends Letter of Concern To CoNZealand Programming

Alasdair Stuart has published a “Statement of 2020 Hugo Finalists re: Worldcon Programming” on behalf of a group of CoNZealand program participants and award finalists. Stuart, co-owner of Escape Artists podcasts and a 2020 Best Fan Writer Hugo finalist, outlined the issues in a Twitter thread starting here.

Stuart told File 770, “The letter was workshopped by the entire group, and wasn’t published before they gave express approval so it very much is a group of co-signees.”

The group includes: Charles Payseur, Benjamin C. Kinney, Jennifer Mace, SL Huang, Shiv Ramdas, SB Divya, Jenn Lyons, Sarah Gailey, Paul Weimer, Sarah Pinsker, Claire Rousseau, Maria Haskins, Tasha Suri, Marguerite Kenner, Alasdair Stuart, Jonathan Strahan, Pablo Defendini, Elsa Sjunneson, Brent Lambert, Freya Marske, Julia Rios, Alix Harrow, Gideon Marcus, Janice Marcus, Lorelei Marcus, James Davis Nicoll, Neil Clarke, Cora Buhlert, Charlie Jane Anders, Brandon O’Brien, Erica Frank, Jen Zink, Adri Joy, Fran Wilde, Suzanne Walker, Chimedum Ohaegbu, Navah Wolfe, John Picacio, and Max Gladstone.

The letter says:

We applaud the courage and conviction of the CoNZealand organisers in pivoting to a virtual Worldcon during an unprecedented global event. Their work has been admirable and — in many aspects — both innovative and successful.

We are a group of Hugo Award finalists who identified concerns with our programming when we received our “final schedules” this week, and came together to help CoNZealand recognize and address these issues.

In brief, our key concerns are:

  • Many Hugo finalists have not been offered programming and panels relevant to their nomination.
  • We believe that many of our panels cannot be adequately performed without more diverse participants and/or a reframing of the topic.
  • Communication with Hugo finalists about the financial requirements for participation has been inconsistent or absent, with contradictory information on whether or not we were able to participate in programming without a full attending membership. This issue particularly impacted Black, Indigenous and people of color (“BIPOC”), leaving them more likely than other finalists to receive no programming.

We present our concerns in the hope that these issues represent not intentional choices on the convention’s part but the unavoidable consequences of Worldcon’s discontinuous structure, and the necessary prioritization CoNZealand has had to undertake in order to pivot successfully to a virtual event. 

We have tried to be brief and targeted in our recommendations so as to remain sensitive to the time pressure CoNZealand is under. Accompanying this letter is a spreadsheet containing specific examples of the issues above. We have listed (1) which panel topics we are missing; (2) which panels have problematic design or membership; (3) which panels we finalists want off or are willing to leave to create space; and (4) finalists that were deterred from participation due to lack of membership.

Our data are incomplete because we could only recruit a limited number of Hugo finalists to provide input without further delaying the process. Among our group of finalists, about 25% entirely lack relevant panels, and about 45% are dissatisfied with the fit of the programming they have.

We recognize there is a difficult balance to strike when raising concerns to an overtaxed team less than two weeks before an event, however many of us have repeatedly raised these issues or volunteered only to receive no response. We have intentionally not sought to assume ownership of programming items, but we are committed to assisting where possible and desired by CoNZealand. However, we emphasize that our bringing awareness to these issues does not obligate us to single-handedly resolve them.

As part of our offer to assist, we have begun identifying additional and replacement panelists who could add necessary diversity. If CoNZealand lacks sufficient BIPOC attendees, we hope you will provide free attendance to needed panelists who aren’t members. Moreover, there remain issues we cannot address on our own, especially (1) communicating with all finalists whether paid membership is required for programming; and (2) making sure all finalists with memberships are on relevant programming.

We are not united in what actions we intend to take if our concerns are not addressed. Many have already begun the process of asking to be removed from programming in its entirety, while others are actively working to locate replacements for the programming items they feel need improvement. Our focus at this stage remains taking action to make our concerns known, and to support CoNZealand addressing them in the combined spirit of fostering an environment for all to share in the celebration of our genre.

Although there are some echoes of the representation issues raised before the 2018 Worldcon (which a team led by Mary Robinette Kowal stepped in to address before the con), so far the efforts have been collaborative.

The CoNZealand’s Programming Division Head Jannie Shea emailed this reply to Stuart:

Thank you for sending us your concerns. We are addressing those we can. We encourage indigenous, marginalised and historically underrepresented fans to apply for our Inclusion Initiative, (https://conzealand.nz/blog/2020/07/03/conzealand-chairs-inclusion-initiative) which offers two types of opportunities to join CoNZealand. 

We appreciate your volunteerism in contacting all those people for us. As you know, due to privacy regulations, we cannot contact people more than once without a response from them. We hope they will get in touch with us directly and soon, to see if we can fit them in.

All the best,
Jannie

Shea points to CoNZealand’s inclusion initiative in answer to the letter’s question “whether paid membership is required for programming.” Typically, only people who have bought attending memberships become Worldcon program participants. The introduction to the  inclusion initiative explains what help is available:

Marginalised communities are overrepresented in the group suffering the greatest fallout from this pandemic, and as such, we want to ensure that our community does not suffer a loss of its hard-won diversity. We want to lower the barriers for participation for those from underrepresented communities. 

We want the convention to be a global one, where all communities and viewpoints are represented, and this fund is intended to help those who would otherwise not be able to participate fully in the activities of the Worldcon.

The initiative upgrades eligible members from supporting to attending memberships. …There are a small number of attending passes available.

CoNZealand is especially challenged in its efforts to answer these needs because, as a virtual convention, it isn’t limited to programming people who can afford to come to Wellington, as would have been the case before the pandemic — it could draw people from everywhere. But like most non-U.S. Worldcons it has a smaller membership base from which to draw the financial support needed to make its budget.  

Following the jump is a roundup of Twitter comments from participants.

45 thoughts on “Group Sends Letter of Concern To CoNZealand Programming

  1. I absolutely believe that Worldcon should be defraying membership costs for PoC Hugo finalists and members. I’ve contributed to the financial assistance funds run by 4 Worldcons now, for precisely that reason.

    But I’m seeing a lot of straight white people on Twitter stomping their feet, demanding to have their memberships comped, and demanding to be able to dictate how many panels they get and on what subjects, and that is some seriously unjustified sense of entitlement.

    Worldcon is a community of fans who all jointly contribute to create a wonderful event, but in recent years I’m seeing a lot more people who don’t actually give a shit about Worldcon as anything but an opportunity to grab award nominations and advance their careers. I think that’s pretty damned sad, and they should be ashamed of themselves. 😐

  2. Well, given who is running programming, this is entirely not surprising. Stuart is being too kind. And anyone who is has access to SMOFS knows this, and still gives these people responsible positions.

  3. I think a lot of these people aren’t aware that Worldcon runs on the “everyone pays” model. It’s not at all like your local annual con.
    Also, programme (to use their spelling) is only as diverse as the people who volunteer for it. They do some outreach, but by the time the Hugo finalists are known, much of Worldcon programme is already set, so those people often get squeezed in as best they can.
    Finally, with the expansion to 6 slots, and often multiple in a slot, and the expansion of categories, it isn’t actually feasible to have multiple programme items for all the finalists — there’s too many of them! CoNZealand only has about 75 programme participants. I suspect the number of Hugo finalists comes close to that.

  4. JJ: What a concept. Though it reminds me that the 1972 Worldcon had around 80.

  5. Lisa Hertel, those people are aware. many of them filled out the questionnaire, as they have said. John Picacio is another who was left off, though he has had a membership and did the survey.

  6. Lisa Hertel: with the expansion to 6 slots, and often multiple in a slot, and the expansion of categories, it isn’t actually feasible to have multiple programme items for all the finalists — there’s too many of them!

    Considering that if you count the multiples involved with semiprozines, fanzines, and podcasts, there are at least ~125 Hugo finalists. That’s a lot of people to have to work into a programming schedule after it’s already mostly done, even if you leave a lot of empty reading and kaffeeklatsch slots — especially if a lot of the finalists are each demanding several program items.

     
    Nina: John Picacio is another who was left off, though he has had a membership and did the survey.

    John Picacio only had a Supporting membership as of the time of his tweets (according to the Members list on CoNZealand’s website, which said it was current through July 18). And he knows how Worldcon works; I’m wondering why he would expect to be put on program if he’s not an Attending Member.

  7. My impression is that at least some finalists believe they were informed that this year full memberships would _not _ necessarily be required for finalists to be on panels.

  8. My impression is that at least some finalists believe they were informed that this year full memberships would _not _ necessarily be required for finalists to be on panels.

    I have the same impression. Apparently, some finalists were told that full memberships would not necessarily be required for finalists to be on panels, others were told that they may attend the Hugo ceremony without a membership, but not do panels and yet others were told they need a membership period. Plus, some finalists apparently did not receive the programming questionnaires that were sent out.

    I got my full membership in February, so none of this applies to me. I also filled out the programming questionnaire at the beginning of the year, since I was a GUFF candidate, with the caveat that I didn’t yet know whether I’d be able to come. As a result, I’m fine with my panel schedule.

  9. “I absolutely believe that Worldcon should be defraying membership costs for PoC Hugo finalists and members. I’ve contributed to the financial assistance funds run by 4 Worldcons now, for precisely that reason.”

    Thank you. 🙂

    I offered to give my membership up to two creator friends of marginalized background. Worldcon offered them comped attendance immediately. The Worldcon staffer I spoke with (Jannie) was gracious and nice.

    I can’t speak for their interactions with everyone, and its possible their outreach could have been better (I don’t know enough about it to judge either way), but at least with me, they were great.

    Lack of diversity is a problem endemic to the Worldcon-attending community and the Hugo Finalists, not (just) a problem with the staff. Fixing this is a from-the-ground-up, group effort.

  10. What Cora and James said — one of the major issues is disparity in communication. If they’d told everyone they had to have a membership, that would be fine — it was, in fact, what most of us expected. Whether intentionally or not, they told some finalists (predominantly white from what we can tell; I think I’m the only POC who was told this and I was genuinely surprised and grateful at the time) that we could participate without a badge because of the virtual con situation and told other finalists (predominantly, or possibly exclusively, BIPOC finalists) that they couldn’t participate without a badge. This helped skew programming among the finalists pretty drastically. (I made graphs.)

    I contacted the con weeks ago to try to clarify these discrepancies, by the way, and I’m not the only one who tried to flag some of this for them prior.

    There are other broader issues with people being paneled inappropriately that weren’t limited to BIPOC people but seem to have affected BIPOC people a lot more than others. (By “paneled inappropriately” I mean both a high number of individual misfits so bad the person had to drop the panel — in BIPOC spaces the level of that I’ve seen for this con has been genuinely shocking, far higher than either in mixed spaces or for other cons — and also paneling that doesn’t reflect the topic, such as a panel about a minority group that doesn’t include anyone in that group.) I suspect this has further disproportionately impacted participation from BIPOC panelists. I’m frustrated because my guess is that all this isn’t actually limited to finalists but impacts the whole program, but the finalist data is what we had to work with — the full schedule wasn’t out yet, and I hope to do some data on it now that it’s been released. Anyway, I suggest reading the bullet points in that light.

    To be honest, most of us don’t care much about our own programming but are much more upset about the people who got left out. Echoes of San Jose.

  11. Hugo finalists have been known since April, that’s plenty of time to add folks to programming for a con in July/August. The draft schedule hasn’t been sent to anyone at that time, everyone is only marked in grenadine as ‘potential speaker’, so it’s possible to move folks around on the schedule.

    This is a systemic issue that needs to be fixed in a systemic way. I was on the lit programme team for Dublin and we did a systemic cross check between the Hugo finalists and the draft programme to see if we’d missed anybody. The graphs that SL Huang did are another good way to identify issues – though I’m going to be honest, I didn’t really understand the maths when she showed them to me!!

    To the question of “too many Hugo finalists”, I straight up refuse to think of the genre recognising MORE COOL PEOPLE as a problem. The WorldCon membership is giving us a ready made list of people they’re interested in, we should be taking advantage of that.

  12. Speaking of San Jose:

    I was scheduled for panels and ended up with a single “Walking with the Stars” appearance (which I enjoyed and spent time largely talking with Greg Hullender, but also offering some background and history on Fandom so that was fine).

    I was “upset” that my promised greater involvment never materialized and I never received a full explanation as to why.

    But I’m not complaining. I suppose that having been on both sides of the programming and scheduling equation, and having been attending conventions since 1973, gives me some additional perspective and/or more patience with “Fannish things”.

    That being said, I find it hard to believe/understand how Worldcon programming could not prioritize programming for “potentially attending” Hugo Finalists (even if reduced to a couple of “Meet Your Hugo Finalists” grab bags).

    I’m willing to put up the difference between a supporting membership and an attending membership for an individual Finalist. But that needs to go hand in hand with them getting some program time.

  13. Claire Rousseau: Hugo finalists have been known since April, that’s plenty of time to add folks to programming for a con in July/August. The draft schedule hasn’t been sent to anyone at that time, everyone is only marked in grenadine as ‘potential speaker’, so it’s possible to move folks around on the schedule.

    But there’s not enough room on the schedule to give 125 Hugo finalists 3 panels each — not when the convention also has to try to accommodate the hundreds of other members who also want to be on programming.

    How many Hugo finalists did Dublin have on panels, and for how many total panels?

     
    Claire Rousseau: To the question of “too many Hugo finalists”, I straight up refuse to think of the genre recognising MORE COOL PEOPLE as a problem.

    That’s a nice strawman, but that’s not what anyone said.

  14. If future Worldcons continue with some virtual panels and add virtual/online memberships (part-way between full and supporting)…then it would be good if all individually named fan-category Hugo finalist got a virtual/online memberships.

  15. I think that from now on, there should be an annual fund raiser for coming up with 120 x current year’s Attending Membership fee (20 categories, 6 finalists in each; overlaps go into other charitable supports for WorldCon).

    This year, roughly $200 for attending, so the fund would need 24k.

  16. But there’s not enough room on the schedule to give 125 Hugo finalists 3 panels each

    There seems to have been enough room to give me spots on five panels.

  17. The nice thing with a virtual con is that you can’t run out of room space. It should be at least a bit easier to add things to the schedule.

  18. Hugo finalists have been known since April

    Late March, surely? Or do only a small number of Hugo admins know who the finalists are before the formal announcement?

  19. @JJ and @Lisa Hertel: Where are you getting “at least three panels each” and “multiple programme items for all the finalists”?

    Some people are asking to be on at least one panel, or asking the concom to put other Hugo finalists on at least one panel.

    Meanwhile, at least one person who signed that letter is asking to be removed from a panel, both for reasons of diversity and inclusion, and because it’s not an appropriate topic for her.

    I hope the programming people at CoNZealand aren’t thinking something like “we can’t put everyone on programming who wants to be there, because 500 people asking means we’d need a total of 1500 slots. We only have 450 slots, so there’s only room on programming for 150 people.” (Thoise are arbitrary example numbers, of course.)

    Yes, put the guests of honor on more than one program item each, but it doesn’t follow that they need to find multiple program slots for everyone who’s going to be on programming at all. That might be nice, if the numbers allowed, but when you can’t do that, the solution is to put most program participants on fewer program items each, not to put fewer people on programming.

  20. Several of us have been offering panel spots to finalists without one or offering a spot on an all-white panel to a POC member. And CoNZealand staff (shoutout to Cassie Hart and Melanie Harding-Shaw) has been helpful.

  21. James Davis Nicoll: Or do only a small number of Hugo admins know who the finalists are before the formal announcement?

    For what it’s worth, in my experience only the members of the “Hugo subcommittee” have that information before it is announced. That includes working on programming for half a dozen Worldcons (running it once) and chairing one (where I put myself on the subcommittee, and recused myself from the award that year.)

  22. @Lisa Hertel: you describe the practice for conventional Worldcons — which might not have made a difference gien the expense of getting to NZ at all (although I would hope the con would look very hard for indigenous and other local writers or readers for scholarships). This is no longer a conventional Worldcon. It is also possible that future Worldcons should consider courtesy memberships for constrained locals and for constrained out-of-towners who are being otherwise assisted (cf Picacio’s fund-for-Latinx, or TAFF/DUFF/? delegates being comped), but that’s going to take a lot more thought to work out.

    @Steve Davidson:

    I think that from now on, there should be an annual fund raiser for coming up with 120 x current year’s Attending Membership fee (20 categories, 6 finalists in each; overlaps go into other charitable supports for WorldCon).

    ISTM that’s using a hammer on a problem that isn’t a nail; many nominees won’t need the help, and there will probably be non-nominees who do. Picking them won’t be trivial, but I’d like to see more effort rather than a blanket that might make people think all the issues were covered. I do see one advantage to a continuing fund — memberships bought by it could be rebated to it (to the extent that program-participant memberships are refundable), so fundraising after the first year wouldn’t be as difficult — but the fund shouldn’t be restricted to nominees. (I’d also save any overage instead of giving it to other causes — you never know when future fundraising efforts will come up short.)

    @James Davis Nicoll: There seems to have been enough room to give me spots on five panels. You’re known to be coherent on a wide range of subjects; many of the Hugo categories are for people who don’t have to speak ex tempore. OTOH, picking just the known quantities is an issue for programming generally — cf the hoohah last year over Readercon saying it was not going to guarantee panel slots to some (undefined?) fraction of long-term panelists; Worldcon traditionally has enough tracks that it ought to have room for people who aren’t known. I’ve heard that small cons should serve as a sort of farm / minor-league system, with Worldcon panels drawn from people who’ve been articulate and not too time-grabby at smaller cons; however, there are so many small cons that ISTM this system is unreliable at best — we don’t have scouts traveling to all the cons. (Worldcons might be improved if concoms got to more conventions — but concoms that made this an obligation might be short of members who have skills but not money.) Online con reports can help with this — but only so much as they can simply push off the reliability question.

    (later): Late March, surely? Or do only a small number of Hugo admins know who the finalists are before the formal announcement? That’s been my impression from 3 worldconcoms (ignoring the nominees themselves, and special circumstances like the 1989 mess). ISTM that program shouldn’t be assigning participants that early, given the way memberships run up in the last months.

  23. Personally, I have enormous respect for Alasdair Stuart and for most of the people who have signed on to this letter. Efforts to diversify some of the panels can only be helpful, and there are definitely some odd omissions in the programming.

    That being said, I disagree with a lot of the rhetoric around this scheduling debate.

    Claire Rousseau on July 20, 2020 at 1:40 am said:
    To the question of “too many Hugo finalists”, I straight up refuse to think of the genre recognising MORE COOL PEOPLE as a problem. The WorldCon membership is giving us a ready made list of people they’re interested in, we should be taking advantage of that.

    I fundamentally disagree with the assumption that “Hugo Finalist” is synonymous with “cool people.” Frankly, there are a lot of deserving Hugo finalists who are terrific people, but are dreadful panelists.

    On a broader perspective, I’m more and more of the opinion that there are too many Hugo categories, and that several of the current ones are superfluous and only diminish the institution. But that’s an argument for another day.

    Vicki Rosenzweig on July 20, 2020 at 6:42 am said:
    Some people are asking to be on at least one panel, or asking the concom to put other Hugo finalists on at least one panel.

    I fundamentally reject the notion that any particular person has the absolute right to be on a panel, even a Hugo finalist.

    Mike Glyer on July 20, 2020 at 9:06 am said:
    For what it’s worth, in my experience only the members of the “Hugo subcommittee” have that information before it is announced.

    In recent years, some social media staff have had that information under embargo so that they could prepare tweets / social media posts.

  24. Olav Rokne: In recent years, some social media staff have had that information under embargo so that they could prepare tweets / social media posts.

    I hadn’t thought about that — you’re right, of course, I’ve received those embargoed press releases myself.

    And the finalists themselves are notified of their own individual status — and politely asked not to publish the news ahead of time. But I know in the year that Vox Day put up his first slate a lot of people compared notes, trying to guess the extent to which he monopolized the ballot.

    Generally, though, Programming isn’t considered to have need-to-know, so why take the risk of sharing the info more widely.

    It seems like in the discussion we’re having right now, there is an underlying assumption being contested of whether a Hugo finalist is an intrinsically good panelist, so that a committee should add them even if they are unfamiliar with them.

  25. @Olav: I’m not arguing that anyone has an absolute right to be on a panel. I’m saying that the scarcity argument doesn’t hold up. “We don’t know whether Nominee X would be a good panelist, and aren’t choosing anyone we aren’t sure of” is a fundamentally different approach than “there aren’t enough program slots to give at least three slots each to all the Hugo nominees, therefore we can’t include everyone at least once.”

    Every convention panelist was at some point on their first panel: some con decided to take a chance on them. Sometimes that con is a Worldcon: the first time I was on programming was at the 1995 Glasgow Worldcon.

    Some of the best convention panelists I’ve seen were people with lots of previous experience; so was at least one of the worst.

    @Mike: Whether a Hugo finalist is an inherently good panelist is absolutely a reasonable question; I don’t know how many other cons have assumed they are. I’ve seen Worldcons put TAFF and DUFF winners on panels because they were fan fund winners, even though a lot of TAFF and DUFF voters are voting for people they know only from the printed page.

  26. Point of Curiosity:

    The letter states “making sure all finalists with memberships are on relevant programming.” This can mean a few different things.

    Does it mean relevant as in related to their role in the Hugos, i.e. the logistical stuff for the awards ceremony, parties, press, etc?

    Does it mean that they should all be on panels about the category they are in, which would likely mean multiple items on each Hugo category to discuss the topic. I’m thinking that would be fine as long as the discussion topics were unique to avoid overlap.

    Does it mean relevant to the type of story/content that got them nominated?

    Does it mean relevant to them as a creator, fan, author, editor, etc?

    Does it mean as long as any one of these categories appears on their individual schedule?

    I think clarifying this point might actually help programming find more clever and interesting ways to assign participants.

  27. What’s the source for the “at least three panels” thing? I must not be very with it today because I can’t find it.

  28. @ Chip Hitchcock. If someone doesn’t need the help, let them say so in good Fannish tradition.

    Fundamentally, I don ‘t think there is anything wrong or too over the top to decide that Hugo Finalists (not nominees) get their membership fee covered…another perk for having produced exemplary work the previous year. Well-heeled creators can make a deal out of not taking the funding, demonstrating their support for the process; artists starving in garrets can accept without feeling that they are receiving charity; the community gets an additional way to express their appreciation and how much they support the whole thing.

    But I would not make it a line item on Worldcon’s budget: a separate fund (with roll-over as you suggested); funds distributed pro rata from what is available.

    It might very well encourage some who might not otherwise attend to do so.

  29. @Meredith

    Meredith on July 20, 2020 at 11:28 am said:
    What’s the source for the “at least three panels” thing? I must not be very with it today because I can’t find it.

    It’s a general rule of thumb. Most programs that give out a free pass to a participant try to also provide them with at least 3 program items. I don’t think it’s a firm and fast rule, just something that cons try to do to make it a more fulfilling experience for all.

  30. @Erin Underwood
    Several Hugo finalists were put on panels for which they felt they would not be a good fit. This didn’t affect me, but I’m comfortable with a wide variety of topics. I’ve also never had problems being put on programming and even had multiple panels at my very first Worldcon when no one knew who I was.

    Hugo finalists were also put on panels that conflict with the Hugo ceremony or take place directly before or directly afterwards. I was affected by this, on a panel that was all Hugo finalists, even. We got together, contacted programming and got the panel time changed.

  31. The only times I’ve been involved in planning the programming of a convention, it hasn’t been a science fiction convention, but a labour union convention. The principle is the same though, and the challenges seem similar.

    At every convention, people want to be on panels to promote their ideas, to promote their works, to burnish their resumes, to promote their careers, and sometimes just as a big old ego trip. And that’s fair. [side note: if you think egos are oversized in SFF, you have no idea what labour union conventions are like.]

    The tension arises because the people creating the programming are tasked with creating panels that put butts in seats. That’s it. That’s their job. They’re going to be looking at which potential speakers will draw in the crowds and which combinations of people are likely to produce interesting discussion.

    Their job is not to bolster anyone’s ego. It’s not to help anyone promote their ideas. Their job isn’t to provide people with a chance to promote their books. Their job is to create panels people want to see.

    This doesn’t preclude considerations of diversity or inclusion of marginalized groups. It just means that no particular person has a G*d-given right to be at a lectern.

    It’s not easy to do scheduling of panels, or choosing what should happen or who should be seated on the podia.

  32. waves at the other Nina upthread

    I can understand that it may not be feasible to offer panels to every single finalist, especially with so much programming having to be rearranged to accomodate the virtual con. But they should be able to give consistent answers about whether or not panelists are required to purchase memberships.

  33. You’re known to be coherent on a wide range of subjects;

    In print, with an editor. In realtime, roll the dice to see if it’s a brain fog day and if I thumbtacked the human face on correctly,

  34. @Olav Rokne: Their job is to create panels people want to see. ISTM that having a Hugo finalist on the panel would forward that goal. (It might be further helped by putting rocket-shaped asterisks by the names of finalist panelists.) The exception would be a finalist widely known to be a jerk in public. (I emphasize “widely”, because I know of a case where someone was blocked — at a WFC, where the preference is for one appearance per non-guest — on the grounds that they’d been blocked from one specific salon-blog. I would be astounded if there were no other examples of a program manager working from insufficient evidence.) There might be other exceptions — e.g., if somebody revived the Puppies (since IIRC an analysis of EPH was that it would have let at least half of the bloc-voted candidates onto the final ballot) — but I think we should be wary of trying to draw hard lines in gray areas.

    It’s true that a significant number of authors think of panels as personal publicity; it is also true that there are a significant number of your-first-con-as-a-pro webpages telling them this is a bad approach. Absent personal history, I don’t think this (or any other) bad behavior should be assumed of an unknown.

  35. Chip Hitchcock: It’s true that a significant number of authors think of panels as personal publicity; it is also true that there are a significant number of your-first-con-as-a-pro webpages telling them this is a bad approach. Absent personal history, I don’t think this (or any other) bad behavior should be assumed of an unknown.

    I wasn’t referring to unknowns, I was referring to people who have demonstrated a pattern of behavior over the last few years.

  36. @Hampus Eckerman said, “The nice thing with a virtual con is that you can’t run out of room space. It should be at least a bit easier to add things to the schedule.”

    That would be nice, but unfortunately, it’s not possible. Online panels and meetings still have costs in servers/software/hosting companies and in people to monitor and support the panel. More panels mean more infrastructure and more volunteers to help manage them.

  37. Pingback: The 2020 July Short Story Challenge – Day by Day | Cora Buhlert

  38. Melita: Are you saying that in some kind of official capacity or is it guess work from your side saying that it is impossible to add new panels?

  39. Guesswork. I’m not involved with the con at all beyond having a supporting membership. But they will hit a limit of resources at some point.

    I’m basing my guesswork on being involved with my company’s conference which was virtual last week and is normally in-person. They had presenters revisit all the planned sessions to reduce the numbers, used a hosting company to handle the web hosting of sessions, ‘expo’, bumped up the number of employees working because they didn’t know how certain areas might be affected…There were over 4x the number of attendees compared to the usual in-person conference.

    They could throw money at the problem when they decided to go virtual but I’m sure there were still resource bottlenecks.

  40. Hampus, they can add more sessions — I can see that they’ve added a couple of sessions in the last couple of days — but every single session requires a trained staff monitor who will watch for trolls and see that any technical issues which arise get resolved ASAP. And they can’t put that job on session Moderators, because moderators need to concentrate on their job of moderating the panel. And staff monitors will not be able to do that job continuously, they are going to need a break every couple of hours. And in many time slots they’ve got 10 sessions going on at the same time, in addition to the Discord.

    Likewise, the Discord — which, if it’s even the size of Balticon’s Discord, and I imagine it will be considerably larger than that, will have a lot of different chat, audio, and video channels going on all at once — is going to need to be continuously staffed 24/7 by a group of monitors who can watch the various channels, answer questions, and take care of trolls.

    So there is indeed going to be a sizeable amount of staff resourcing required for the existing program schedule, and any additional sessions would likely require adding trained staff, which — along with whatever limitations they have in IT resource bandwidth — means that the number of new sessions which can be added is not unlimited.

  41. Pingback: Will Plans To Counterprogram CoNZealand Bear Fruit? | File 770

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