FanX Salt Lake Comic Convention Sharply Criticized for Handling of Anti-harassment Complaint

Best-selling author Shannon Hale (Princess Academy, Ever After High) received wide support today when she said on Twitter that FanX Salt Lake Comic Convention violated her privacy by posting a message she had sent them that included her email address.

Here is a screencap of the convention’s tweet (with the email address blacked out).

The Salt Lake Tribune has been following the original harassment complaint story for the past few weeks. They reported on May 6, “After complaint, Utah author Richard Paul Evans is among many reflecting on when and how to hug”. However, they soon learned Evans and unnamed others had been dropped as guests (May 8): “Utah author Richard Paul Evans among guests not invited back to FanX, as convention faces pressure to write anti-harassment policy”

Several celebrity guests, including Utah author Richard Paul Evans, won’t be invited back to FanX Salt Lake Comic Convention in September, as event organizers deal with accusations of sexual harassment at past conventions.

FanX officials sent an email Tuesday to members of an authors’ group, telling them the convention is updating its harassment polices and has decided “to not invite back at this time several guests,” The Salt Lake Tribune has learned. The writers have posted an online petition demanding a firm policy against harassment.

FanX co-founders Dan Farr and Bryan Brandenburg posted a modified version of the email on a private Facebook group for the event’s regular panelists. Once they have received input from panelists, the organizers said, they plan to post an updated harassment policy publicly. FanX has acknowledged its policy focuses on attendees, and not celebrities and panelists.

The Facebook message does not mention that anyone would not be invited back for panels, book signings or other convention events.

“Generally, there are some people who are not coming back, whether it was a mutual decision or whether we’ve decided not to have them back,” Farr said Tuesday. “We don’t maintain a blacklist, or anything like that.”

When asked if FanX is investigating accusations of harassment, Farr replied, “We’re always reviewing information as it comes in.”

The email sent to the authors said FanX is creating a committee to “further investigate any allegations,” and said it has been looking into “specific issues” since its last show.

Though FanX will not discuss specific cases, Farr said one person who has agreed to stay away this fall is Evans, known for such sentimental tales as “The Christmas Box” and the science-fiction “Michael Vey” series. Evans has been accused of inappropriate behavior after a panel at last September’s Salt Lake Comic Con (now called FanX). A woman complained to FanX officials, but has not made her name public.

While the press developed the story about the complaint and the way it was being handled, the convention organizers announced a new “FanX® Salt Lake Comic Convention™ Anti-Harassment Policy”.

However, convention co-founder Bryan Brandenburg reacted to the pressure by making the unguarded remarks to author Hale quoted above.

The Salt Lake Tribune summarized the exchange — “A popular Utah author criticized how FanX has responded to harassment complaints. It invited her to ‘sit this one out’ and published her private email.”.

Best-selling author Shannon Hale and other writers, troubled by how FanX organizers have reacted to allegations that a recurring guest repeatedly touched a female author without her consent, have been considering whether to appear at the convention in September. On Monday, Hale wrote to co-founder Bryan Brandenburg about her continuing doubts.

Brandenburg responded in part: “Maybe it is best that you sit this one out and then wait to hear how it went. I don’t think there is anything we can say to convince you to come and quite frankly I’m not willing to try. I know in my heart that we take this seriously and I don’t think you get it. I have four daughters and I’ve been sensitive to these issues for decades, long before it became trendy with #metoo.”

Hale took a screenshot of the reply and posted it to Twitter, where it drew dozens of furious responses — further fueling debate over the convention’s attempts to develop and promote a new anti-harassment policy while defending what Brandenburg describes as a fun environment of touch.

“John Barrowman will gladly hold your buttocks in your Photo Op. … Stephen Amell will hug you tight at his signing booth,” he assured fans on Facebook last week, while sharing the new policy.

By changing the subject to touch explicitly requested by fans, Hale said, FanX organizers are blurring the conversation about consent and minimizing women’s experiences of harassment. FanX should work on building a culture that gives guests confidence that harassment is not tolerated — but it’s doing the opposite, she said.

On Monday, FanX’s official account tweeted an image of the email Hale had sent to them, including her private email address. It later deleted the post.

Another good resource for this story is Ally Condie’s Twitter thread, which includes analysis, screencaps, and links to articles. The thread starts here:

Her thread includes these comments:

Bryan Brandenburg has now posted an apology on Facebook (May 21):

Public Apology:

I made multiple mistakes in handling the report of harassment at our event. I was insensitive to people that were communicating to me about this issue. It was me and me alone that responded to one of the people involved and I handled it terribly. I am so sorry. I wish I could take it back but I can’t. I was wrong, I made more than one mistake, and it was a very painful lesson. I’m ashamed that I didn’t handle it better and I hope that I can be forgiven. I’m so sorry that I came across like I did. Please forgive me.

All day authors have been tweeting support for Shannon Hale. (Most of these are Twitter threads which can be accessed by clicking on the timestamp.)

Utah author Howard Tayler supports the grievances:

Justine Larbalestier empathized —

Author Brendan Reichs opined that the convention had failed to live up to the confidentiality promised by its new anti-harassment policy.

The section of the “FanX® Salt Lake Comic Convention™ Anti-Harassment Policy” Reichs has in mind says —

CONFIDENTIALITY

FanX® Salt Lake Comic Convention will make every reasonable effort to protect the confidentiality of all parties involved in investigations of alleged harassment, intimidation, or discrimination. However, confidentiality is not absolute, and those with a legitimate business reason to know and be informed of the allegations will be informed. All parties in the investigation should treat the matter with discretion and respect for the reputations of all involved.

The FanX® Salt Lake Comic Convention Anti-Harassment policy prohibits retaliation against any member of the community for reporting harassment, intimidation, or discrimination. The sanctions for retaliation are the same as sanctions for any other form of harassment listed here.

And Reichs is among those who have cancelled their plans to appear at the con.

So is Gwenda Bond:

Dan Wells issued a warning:

Daniel Jose Older wrote:

As noted above, the convention has deleted the post containing Hale’s email address.

Update 05/21/2018: FanX has posted an expanded apology: “A Message from Bryan Brandenburg”.

I would like to apologize to Shannon Hale for the events that happened on Twitter today, and my overall handling of the reports of harassment from our last event. In an overly emotional state, I took to social media in response to a tweet that quoted an email exchange between the two of us. In doing so, I didn’t notice my screenshot still contained her personal email. This was overlooked and not meant maliciously.

I felt my comments were taken out of context from the original email exchange, and I responded hastily and inappropriately. I deeply regret sending the original email and the tweets that followed.

In response to my poorly chosen words about the #metoo movement being “trendy”, I came off insensitive to people’s pain, and I am sorry. After today’s events, I admit that I am not fully aware or educated about the importance of the #metoo movement, and this is something I am actively working to change. I need to improve on listening and making people feel validated.

Everyone working at FanX, including Dan and I, are still learning how to communicate about this serious and very important topic and to understand the sensitivity and different perspectives that come along with it. As a team, we want to learn how to do better.

Moving forward, our goal is to create a safe environment for everyone. Training for staff will happen within the next 90 days, so we are equipped to handle sexual harassment and assault reports. Our new harassment policy now includes instructions on how to report an incident anonymously or in person. It also clearly states the sanctions that will be taken when a report comes in.

The harassment policy also includes more defined behavior expectations for our attendees, guests, agents, cosplayers, panelists, moderators, staff, vendors, vendor models, and volunteers. Consent is key. These improvements would not have happened without your voice.

Pixel Scroll 9/18/16 I Scroll The Pixel Electric

(1) WISCON GOH SPEECH. Justine Larbalestier posted “My WisCon 40 Guest of Honour Speech” in August.

Teens have made YA the second most profitable fiction category in the USA—after romance. Twelve years ago I mostly had to explain what YA is. These days not so much. Some of those folks who were bewildered as to why anyone would write YA back then, now read it, and some of them even write it. YA advances are, on average, higher than those for SFF writers.

Most of the top-selling SFF books in the USA are YA, not adult. Many YA books sell millions of copies all over the world. Not my YA books, alas. Can’t have everything.

YA, of course, could not be this huge if only teens were reading it. The Hunger Games trilogy sold far more copies in the USA than there are teenagers. Adults are reading YA in huge numbers. Adults are making YA super profitable for publishers.

But it was teens that started the YA explosion. They were the ones who pushed the Harry Potter, then Twilight, then Hunger Games series on their parents and teachers and other adults in their lives. Pretty much every mega-hit YA book starts out that way.

You’d think the shared bond of loving books would diminish the hatred and suspicion of teenagers and the things they like.

You’d be wrong.

There’s now a whole genre of op ed pieces about how YA is destroying the minds of the adults foolish enough to read it, turning them into blithering, infantalised ninkompoops who will never grow up. At the same time we YA writers are also corrupting the teens who read our books. Multi-tasking!

(2) SEUSS/STAR TREK MASHUP. A Kickstarter appeal is raising funds for Oh, The Places You’ll Boldly Go!

oh-the-places-youll-boldly-go

[It’s] a parody mash-up from the mind that brought you “The Trouble With Tribbles” that brings together two of the most beloved creations in history in a joyous celebration that will inspire you to join the high fliers who soar to high heights!

We’re creating a 48 page, 8.5″ x 11″ book that’s familiar and brand new at the same time, a perfect gift for children and adults of all ages, for anyone looking forward to the future.

  • David Gerrold is one of those gee-whiz-bang writers Who’s written for Star Trek, and Babylon 5, and Sliders, He wrote the Dingilliad, When HARLIE Was One, And won Hugos and Nebulas for his Martian son. (And really, to answer the question that wearies, He promises there’s a book 5 in the series.)
  • Ty Templeton‘s also a name you should know; We’ve followed his work back from Stig’s Inferno. He’s done Spider-Man, Star Trek, and Batman (it’s true!) And won Eisners and Shusters, and taught comics too.
  • Glenn Hauman‘s the person we brought in to edit. He’s okay, we guess. (Hey, don’t blame us, he said it). He’s wrote Star Trek and X-Men and colored some pics And now does the works over at ComicMix

The Kickstarter has raised $18,818 of its $20,000 goal at this writing, and has 11 days left to run.

(3) BOOK COVER AWARD. The ingenious Camestros Felapton’s new project is ranking SFF book covers from the current year. Here’s what he’s got so far – “Best SFF Award Nominee Book Cover Award 2016: longlist”.

Last year I ranked the Hugo best novels by book covers. I am going to do the same this year but I’ll extend the field to include the Nebulas, Clarkes and whattheheck The Dragons (winners only – too many nominees). So not quite the Felapton Towers award for best SFF book cover because that is wayyyy to big a field but instead the Felapton Towers award for best SFF book cover for books that got nominated for an award.

PLUS: BONUS AUDIENCE PARTICIPATION! Regular readers (yes, even Phantom) please suggest one other book not on the initial list!

And here’s his scoring system: “Best SFF Award Nominee Book Cover Award 2016: Criteria”.

Eligibility: yeah whatever

Prize: A jpeg of Timothy the Talking Cat

Criteria: Not going to just rank the covers but consider them on the basis of some different strands:

  • Artwork: 0 to 4 points. Not every book cover needs its own epic painting but if it has one then the work gets graded from 0 to 4. Note that this is purely in terms of the artwork on its own merits. Relevance and appropriateness to the book will be covered elsewhere.
  • Functionality: 0 to 3 points. A cover has a basic job to do. Can you read the title and who wrote it? Is all the relevant information there? Is the information well ordered?
  • Graphic design (aesthetic): 0 to 6 points. Text, art, borders, colour, everything – as a complete image how good is the cover in terms of making all the bits work together aesthetically? An extra couple of points are available here for covers with no artwork per-se, so that artwork-heavy covers don’t get an in-built advantage.
  • Relevance/appropriateness: 0 to 2 points. I haven’t read all the books, so I don’t want to weight this too heavily. Based on plot synopsis/reviews, does the book cover fit its contents? Does this horror story set in feudal Japan look like a cyberpunk western set in Mexico?

Jump in and give him a hand!

(4) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • Born September 18, 1917 – June Foray, voice of Rocky the Flying Squirrel and innumerable other cartoon characters. Chuck Jones is reported to have said, “June Foray is not the female Mel Blanc, Mel Blanc was the male June Foray.”

(5) FLYING W. Rumor has it that ”Whataburger is having words with DC Comics over Wonder Woman’s new logo.

w-logos

The worlds of fast food and comic book superheroes are colliding in a way that we’ve never seen before.

According to a Whataburger spokesperson, the San Antonio-based burger chain and DC Comics are currently involved in what the chain terms as a “friendly trademark discussion” with the classic comic book brand over the recent redesign of Wonder Woman’s stacked W logo.

A story making the rounds on a handful of comic book blogs suggested that the two parties were at war with each other. It seemed like bunk on the outset but we decided to go directly to Whataburger to see if this was anything of note.

“Contrary to some suggestions, Whataburger is not at war with Wonder Woman over her newly redesigned logo. In fact, Whataburger supports superheroes like Wonder Woman and her friends in the Justice League,” a Whataburger company spokesperson wrote in a statement to Chron.com. “Truth be told, Whataburger’s own superhero – Whataguy – would love to team up with Wonder Woman and her friends sometime to battle evil together.”

(6) YOU ORDERED SHELLFISH? John Scalzi, in Hawaii for a convention, has found all kinds of things to pretend to be distressed about at his luxury accomodations. For example:

(7) NEVER WERE TRUER WORDS SPOKEN. Wesley Chu hit the bull’s-eye:

[Thanks to Glenn Hauman, John King Tarpinian, Steven H Silver, and Darren Garrison for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Lis Carey.]