Mary Robinette Kowal Is New DisCon III Chair

The new DisCon III chair is Mary Robinette Kowal. The announcement came the day after Kowal completed her term as President of SFWA, which ended June 30.

DisCon III started out with two co-chairs, however, Colette Fozard resigned in January and Bill Lawhorn resigned in June. The challenges they had already confronted included the bankruptcy and closure of the hotel they planned to use as their main facility, moving the convention’s dates to December so that it could be an in-person event, removing GoH Toni Weisskopf, and the resignations of two teams of Hugo administrators. Lawhorn’s resignation came as the convention faced a backlash about its policies toward Hugo finalists, discussed below, which he signed off, and are believed to have been behind the departure of the latest Hugo team, although they did not say so explicitly in their announcement.

Kowal has a unique track record of assisting Worldcons through crises, having memorably stepped in to assist changing the 2018 Worldcon program, and to facilitate discussion between 2021 Hugo finalists and the committee over DisCon III’s policies.

The 2018 Worldcon’s program troubles involved such issues as the respect for people’s chosen pronouns (and related concerns about LGBTQAI+ and POC participation); whether new writers were being accepted onto programming (with skepticism fueled by the realization that several newer writers who were Hugo nominees were not on the program); and dissatisfaction with responses by the Worldcon 76 program division. And these questions had led several well-known writers and editors to announce they were dropping off the program to make slots available for those they felt were being shortchanged. Kowal made sure multiple voices were heard, while diplomatically acknowledging “WorldCon is a huge, complicated beast. We know about the mistakes, but there’s also a ton of stuff they’ve done right. I don’t want to throw things out that are working.”

Then, this June, when the Worldcon sent finalists a message about the limit on invitations for the Hugo finalist reception and near-the-stage seating for the ceremony (see item #6 here), without previous discussion or canvassing to learn the amount of demand for them, some finalists discussed what measures they might take in response. Kowal facilitated a June 23 Zoom meeting between several Hugo finalists and representatives of DisCon III that allowed time for the committee to organize a number of changes, including rescinding the limits in the previous message.

As an author, Mary Robinette Kowal is well-known for The Glamourist Histories series, Ghost Talkers, and the Lady Astronaut series. She is part of the award-winning Writing Excuses podcast and has received the Astounding Award for Best New Writer, four Hugo awards, the Nebula and Locus awards. Her Lady Astronaut Universe is a 2021 finalist for the Best Series Hugo, and The Relentless Moon, a book in the series, is a finalist for Best Novel. New WSFS Division Head Linda Deneroff reports she has created the Hugo subcommittee provided in section 3.13 of the WSFS Constitution which makes it possible for others on a Worldcon committee to remain eligible for the award. Therefore, double-Hugo-finalist Kowal’s taking on the role of chair will not create any conflict of interest.

The committee produced an official press release but has not yet sent a copy to File 770. Readers may want to seek it out to see if it has any additional information.

23 thoughts on “Mary Robinette Kowal Is New DisCon III Chair

  1. Jeffrey Jones: I never doubted there was an official press release. I only said they didn’t send it to me.

  2. Congratulations to Mary Robinette Kowal, and best wishes for a successful convention.

  3. Sorry for any confusion. I didn’t think you doubted it. Anyway, the email may show up shortly.

  4. I got the official email from Discon 14 minutes after Mike’s article went up, by the way.

  5. So I see Mary Robinette Kowal received the small reel to reel tape player and the manilla envelope. “Good Afternoon Mrs. Kowal. Your mission, should you choose to accept it…”

    Seriously, the con is in the hands of over of them most competent people in SFF I can think of. I wish her the best of luck.

  6. Thank you so much to Mary Robinette Kowal for stepping in to this role. I do not envy her, but I am so grateful!

  7. This is such hopeful news. She’s really going from one enormous job to another, though, isn’t she?

  8. Good. I hope to attend and I wish her and the rest of the CONCOM all the best.

  9. Mary Robinette Kowal is an effective leader and an excellent communicator, as she showed in her work for SFWA and her help patching up the rifts around the draft program at Worldcon 76.

    She’s really an editor. And that’s a great thing. She knows how to figure out what’s already strong, what’s damaged, and is great at identifying where improvement can be made and needs to be made. She axed one of the program items I was scheduled for at W76. At my request. Because we agreed that the premise was fundamentally flawed. And we agreed that, with the people on the panel (and me being probably the most expert, and I wasn’t that expert…) it wasn’t reworkable into something good.

    She brings a skill set and a good personal reputation that DisCon III needs at this point.

  10. Best wishes to Mary Robinette Kowal & DisCon III CONCOM! I am heartened by this news, that the con is moving in a positive direction.

  11. This is great news. My best wishes to MRK, Linda Deneroff, and the rest of the DisCon III team.

  12. This is the very best news. I certainly can’t think of a better thing that could have happened to DisCon III.

    I have always been impressed with MRK’s ability to take on huge, emotionally tasking, potentially thankless jobs, with stunning results. I’ve seen her work in smaller spheres, too (I’m thinking of when an Airship Nebula writing date host was… badly behaved, and she was on hand the following week to issue an official SWFA statement about it and to host a breakout room for anyone who wanted to discuss the incident and be heard), and it’s always a joy and a wonder to see her in action.

    Best wishes to her, and many thanks, and best wishes to all currently tasked with making DisCon III the best it can be.

  13. Glad to see this. Also glad to see that there’s an explicit firewall between the Chair and the Hugos, given her nominations.

    I wish her the best of good fortune.

  14. “I’m Mary Robinette Kowal. I solve problems.”
    “Good, we got one.”

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