The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA, Inc.) announced today that Ben Bova, Rachel Caine, and Jarvis Sheffield will be honored with the Kate Wilhelm Solstice Award at the 56th Annual SFWA Nebula Awards®. Bova and Caine are posthumous honorees, having died in 2020.
The Kate Wilhelm Solstice Award is given by SFWA for distinguished contributions to the science fiction and fantasy community. Bova, Caine, and Sheffield join the ranks of previous Solstice Award winners, including Octavia E. Butler, James Tiptree, Jr., and Carl Sagan. The awards will be presented at the 56th Nebula Awards®, the weekend of June 4–6, 2021.
A prolific and award-winning author, Ben Bova took over the editorial chair for Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact following the death of John W. Campbell and helmed the magazine for seven years. He established Omni Magazine in 1978, where he served as editorial director and provided a new market for short science fiction. Bova’s work ranged beyond the genre; he is the only SFWA president who also served as president of the National Space Society. Bova is a recipient of the Solstice Award for his long history of editorial work, including his efforts to nurture new authors and to advance the use of science in science fiction.
SFWA President Mary Robinette Kowal remarked, “Ben Bova was so deeply immersed in science fiction that having his name on a project was a stamp of quality, be that as an editor or as a writer. More than that, Ben was kind. He knew how hard breaking into the field was and created new opportunities for early career writers.”
Rachel Caine was the bestselling author of several fantasy, science fiction, and thriller series. She was dedicated to supporting newer authors, not only financially, but also mentoring them to successful careers. Caine was a champion of independent bookstores and classrooms, aiming to ensure that teachers had the tools needed to educate their students and that independent bookstores could remain in business in the face of corporate competition. Even after her passing, Caine’s dedication to supporting others continued, including directing donations in her memory toward SFWA’s Emergency Medical Fund and the Mary Crowley Cancer Research Institute.
SFWA President Mary Robinette Kowal noted, “Rachel Caine was a prolific and wonderful writer, but also dedicated herself to using her platform to lift up others. From mentoring to fundraising efforts, Rachel was always there for the community.”
Jarvis Sheffield has a long history of working to help diversify the science fiction community, among authors and fans. He helped establish and manage the Diversity Track at Dragon Con as the track’s director. He is also the founder of the Black Science Fiction Society and has served as the editor for Genesis Science Fiction Magazine. Sheffield’s work has helped strengthen and expand the scope of science fiction by welcoming Black authors into the field and providing them venues to express their voices in the speculative fiction community.
SFWA President Mary Robinette Kowal said, “The work that Jarvis Sheffield has been doing through the Black Science Fiction Society has created a dedicated home for promoting Black SF. The knowledge that he’s shared about independent publishing has created a path for many authors to do an end-run around the roadblocks created by systemic biases within traditional publishing. Many of the voices we celebrate today came into the field because of his efforts to create a safe space.”
The 56th Nebula Awards® will take place during the 2021 Nebula Conference Online, an annual professional development conference organized by SFWA for aspiring and established members of the speculative fiction industry. Registration is $125 and may be purchased at events.sfwa.org.
(1) FOUR CENTURIES OF ANSIBLE. Congratulations to David Langford on publishing his four hundredth issue of Ansible. In addition to all the sff news in every issue, there’s always a grateful balance provided by departments like “Thog’s Masterclass.” One of the classic quotes from #400 is —
When Relativity Goes Bad. ‘The ship trembled, twisted, shuddered as full mass returned with the disruption of the field. Mass flooded back into the vessel, titanic mass, mass impossible to contain, it transformed into sheer energy, blasted through the nulgrav generator and poured from there into outer space.’ (Volsted Gridban, Planetoid Disposals Ltd., 1953) [BA]
…There were a few interesting items to watch during Futuricon. I managed to visit some of them and a hmissed some others… The ones I was especially happy to attend were Alison’s Virtual GUFF Trip talk treating about this year’s GUFF delegate’s (Alison Scott) virtual foray to Australia and New Zealand. I was also fascinated by the great talk by Cheryl Morgan – Worldbuilding with Sex and Gender. It was a short introduction to how sex and gender look in nature. It was so interesting that I decided to buy one of the recommended books to read more about the topic.
(3) SLF GRANT OPENING. The Speculative Literature Foundation is accepting applications for the Working Class Writers Grant through December 31.
This grant is awarded annually to assist working class, blue-collar, poor, and homeless writers who have been historically underrepresented in speculative fiction, due to financial barriers. We are currently offering one $1000 working class grant annually, to be used as the writer determines will best assist his or her work. This year, we will accept applications October 1, 2020 through December 31 2020.
(4) LONG REACH. This English-language article from the German foreign broadcast service Deutsche Welle spotlights how the Chinese government is exerting pressure on foreign publishers: “Chinese censors target German publishers”. Tagline: “As China tries to expand its influence abroad, it’s going beyond politics and business to target literature and publishing. German publishers are among those that have been targeted by censors, as DW has learned.”
…When DW contacted Phoenix Juvenile and Children’s Publishing, the publisher in Nanjing which ordered the changes to Dragonfly Eyes, the employee who spoke with Frisch said the changes had been requested by the author.
But communication between the two publishers suggests a different story. In these messages, seen by DW, the Phoenix employee told the German publisher that “relevant departments” had given negative feedback on the book and that the issue was “sensitive.” She then reminded Frisch several times that she had to state publicly that the novel was a work of fiction, that it was “made up, not real.”
In the Chinese edition however, the author clearly writes in his foreword that the story was based on the memories of somebody he had met.
Later, the Phoenix employee told Frisch to stop all promotion of the book “in the interest of the author and the state.” She added that “because the story concerns the Cultural Revolution and because it is the anniversary year, you cannot not publish the book for the time being.”
This exchange took place at the end of October 2019, when the People’s Republic of China had just celebrated its 70th anniversary. By that point, the publisher’s tone had become slightly menacing. “Listen to our advice,” the employee said. “This will also protect the interest of your own publishing house.”
The licensing contract seen by DW does not mention any vetting of the final edition. “The deal is I get a text and I translate it,” Frisch said. “I don’t want to be used in political games.”…
…Although Tarkovsky’s adaptation wasn’t the first (a 1968 television movie of Solaris by Boris Nuremburg), it is certainly the most famous and has been immortalised for its contribution towards a better understanding of the cinematic medium. More than the science fiction elements in the film, Tarkovsky was interested in the human problem. This fundamental difference between their respective approaches contributed to the dispute between Lem and Tarkovsky.
In October of 1969, Lem met Tarkovsky and literary expert Lazar Lazarev at the Peking Hotel in Moscow to discuss the script. Lem was not receptive to the changes that Tarkovsky had envisioned for his adaptation and could not understand why Lazarev was present. The writer maintained that his novel already had everything needed for a film, ignoring Tarkovsky’s efforts to convince Lem that he knew what he was doing as a filmmaker. When Lazarev asked if Lem would like to watch one of Tarkovsky’s films, the writer coldly answered: “I don’t have the time for that.”
However, the meeting was ultimately fruitful because Lem gave in and allowed them to go ahead with the project. The writer said that it was a matter of principle to not forbid anything but apart from that, he was openly against Tarkovsky’s vision. Insisting that he did not write the book about “people’s erotic problems in space”, Lem recalled the meeting between the two creative geniuses: “Tarkovsky and I had a healthy argument. I sat in Moscow for six weeks while we argued about how to make the movie, then I called him a ‘durak’ [‘idiot’ in Russian] and went home.”
DH: As someone who reads and watches are broad range of things, that resonates. Obviously, authors, film-makers, and other creatives have a similar freedom to experiment to see what works for them. However, the prevailing advice for achieving commercial success (at least as an author) is to pick a niche and stick to it. Do you have any advice for authors and filmmakers who want to succeed in multiple areas?
JC: I think the crux is how a writer – and his readers – define success. It certainly has long been the case in certain parts of the US literary world, and probably in that of other nations as well, that rapid production of new versions of successful books is the best way to high sales, and certainly most publishers are happy to facilitate that. But there’s a divide that ought to be noted: My most recent book was sent in MS to some twenty editors; some were entirely uninterested, but a small number thought the book was great. But because the publisher didn’t see profits from such an oddity it was refused, until at length one editor with a private label within a big house took it. If that’s the common route now, I would tell writers that they may as well write whatever they like, and make it entirely different every time, and trust that someone will take it even if it doesn’t match market expectations. (I’m quite sure that my last three or four novels, if read without my name attached, would not be recognized as by the same author.) About films I know less, though I’d guess the quandary – and the approach – would be similar.
(7) FLAME ON. From the inaugural virtual Ring of Fire Convention (ROFCON), a video of the panel on modern publishing featuring Alexi Vandenberg (M), Toni Weisskopf, Shahid Mahmud, Kevin Anderson, and Eric Flint.
(8) CONRAD OBIT. Roxanne Conrad (1962-2020), who published thriller, sff and YA under the name Rachel Caine, died of cancer on November 1 at the age of 57. More tribute from her husband and associates here.
Roxanne Conrad, aka Rachel Caine. Roxanne lost her fight with a rare and aggressive cancer, soft tissue sarcoma, on November 1, 2020.
Roxanne was known worldwide as thriller, science fiction, and young adult writer Rachel Caine. With over 56 books in print and millions of copies sold, she was a popular guest at conventions in the United States and around the world. Her popular book series include the young adult Morganville Vampires novels, the Great Library series, and the #1 bestselling Stillhouse Lake novels in adult thrillers.
(9) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.
November 2, 1988 — The first part of Doctor Who’s “The Happiness Patrol” aired. Written by Graeme Curry, it was intended (by him and the other writers) to be a parody of Thatcherism, with Helen A representing Margaret Thatcher herself. Starring Sylvester McCoy as the Seventh Doctor, Sophie Aldred as Ace and Shelia Hancock as Helen A. with David John Pope as Kandy Man. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, referred to this story in his 2011 Easter sermon, on the subject of happiness and joy. Really. Truly.
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
Born November 2, 1913 — Burt Lancaster. Certainly being Dr. Paul Moreau on The Island of Doctor Moreau was his most genre-ish role but I like him as General James Mattoon Scott in Seven Days in May. And, of course, he’s really great as Moonlight Graham in Field of Dreams. (Died 1994.) (CE)
Born November 2, 1927 — Steve Ditko. Illustrator who began his career working in the studio of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby during which he began his long association with Charlton Comics and which led to his creating the Captain Atom character. Did I mention DC absorbed that company as it did so many others? Now he’s best known as the artist and co-creator, with Stan Lee, of Spider-Man and Doctor Strange. For Charlton and also DC itself, including a complete redesign of Blue Beetle, and creating or co-creating The Question, The Creeper, Shade the Changing Man, and Hawk and Dove. He been inducted into the Jack Kirby Hall of Fame and into the Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame. (Died 2018.) (CE)
Born November 2, 1928 – the Usual Don Fitch, 92. So he has long signed his name and referred to himself. But his usual is quite wonderful. Long-time helpful member of LASFS (L.A. Science Fantasy Society), earning its Evans-Freehafer service award in 1970. Fanzine From Sunday to Saturday in many apas, e.g. FAPA, SAPS, TAPS, The Cult, N’APA, ANZAPA, APA-L. Fan Guest of Honor at Minicon 28. [JH]
Born November 2, 1941 – Ed Gorman. Three dozen novels, ten dozen shorter stories for us; comics; a dozen anthologies with Martin H. Greenberg; detective fiction (Life Achievement Award from Private Eye Writers of America), Westerns; nonfiction in NY Times, Redbook. Interviewed A.J. Budrys in SF Review. Fanzine Ciln. Won a short-story contest sponsored by Scribner’s, invited by an editor to expand into a mainstream novel, quit after six months saying “I was bored out of my mind.” (Died 2016) [JH]
Born November 2, 1942 – Sue Francis, 78. Co-chaired DeepSouthCon 24 (with Ken Moore). With husband Steve Francis, mainstays of Rivercon for twenty-five years. Their reminiscence of NorthAmeriCon ’79 the 2nd NASFiC (N.Am. SF Con, since 1975 held when the Worldcon is overseas) here. Together Fan Guests of Honor at ConTact 6, Phoenixcon 5, MidSouthCon 10, DeepSouthCon 33, InConJunction XX, Con*Stellation XX; Rebel and Rubble Awards; DUFF (Down Under Fan Fund) delegates, report Sue & Steve’s Excellent Adventure in Australia; Big Heart (our highest service award). [JH]
Born November 2, 1942 – Carol Resnick, 78. A founder of Windycon. Noted costumer and judge of our Masquerade costume competition. Widow of Mike Resnick, who throughout his pro career (4 Hugos, 1 Nebula; Galaxy’s Edge magazine) remained also a fan; together Fan Guests of Honor at Rivercon VI, Pro Guests of Honor at Contraption 5. [JH]
Born November 2, 1942 — Stefanie Powers, 78. April Dancer, the lead in The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. which lasted just one season. Did you know Ian Fleming contributed concepts to this series and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. as well? She would play Shalon in the crossover that started on The Six-Million Man and concluded on The Six-Million Woman called “The Return of Bigfoot”. (CE)
Born November 2, 1949 — Lois McMaster Bujold, 71. First, let’s note she’s won the Hugo Award for best novel four times, matching Robert A. Heinlein’s record, not counting his Retro Hugo. Quite impressive that. Bujold’s works largely comprises three separate book series: the Vorkosigan Saga, the Chalion series, and the Sharing Knife series. She joined the Central Ohio Science Fiction Society, and co-published with Lillian Stewart Carl StarDate, a Trek fanzine in which a story of hers appeared under the byline Lois McMaster. (CE)
Born November 2, 1969 — Lucy Hawking, 51. Daughter of Stephen Hawking. Children’s novelist and science educator. With her father, she wrote the George’s Secret Key series which may or may not be genre. Anyone here from Britain who’s actually seen them? (CE)
Born November 2, 1972 – Masayoshi Yasugi, 48. (Personal name last, Japanese style.) Japanese SF New Face Award for The Dreaming Cat Sleeps in Space (2003); three more novels, a dozen shorter stories. [JH]
Born November 2, 1983 – Ádám Gerencsér, 37. Edits Sci Phi Journal (with Mariano Martin Rodríguez), two short stories there. “When … I wanted to read a comprehensive guide to Hungarian alternate history and realised that it didn’t exist, I wrote one (in English, Journal Hélice vol. III no. 6).” [JH]
(11) COMICS SECTION.
The Far Side visits the beach as two figures pass each other with the day’s catch.
Last year, Philadelphia-based boutique publisher Beehive Books launched a Kickstarter to bring literary lovers an interactive Dracula experience like never before: “You are not a passive observer. You are a scholar exploring this supernatural archive.” When it’s released in 2021, Dracula: The Evidence will deliver a briefcase full of letter correspondence, photographs, diaries, newspaper clippings, phonograph records and more, that make the saga of the centuries-old vampire more real than ever.
… When the finished project is delivered, readers will be able to unfold a map of London and track the characters as they move through the story. Letters and photographs will give them a chance to become “supernatural archeologists.” Blueprints and additional maps will turn them into amateur detectives.
All told, from the aged briefcase that holds all of the documents to the beautifully bound journals and framed photos, the planned design is downright dazzling.
For many moons,Star Wars fans have written off the Tusken Raiders as savage Sand People that bray like donkeys whenever they go on the offensive. Thanks to The Mandalorian, acolytes of the galaxy far, far away can now view Tatooine’s desert nomads in a new light. In Season 1, the bounty hunter known as Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) proved that one can actually make physical contact with the Tuskens and live to tell the tale. The Season 2 premiere took that dynamic to an entirely new level as Djarin forged a shaky alliance between the Sand People and the citizens of Mos Pelgo.
But before the show could have its titular hero communicating with the indigenous folk of Tatooine, it needed a new language through which they could speak to one another. That’s where Troy Kotsur came in; the deaf actor was hired to come up with a sign-based vocabulary for the Tusken Raiders and it wasn’t just a matter of bringing American Sign Language to the Great Dune Sea.
… Computing power has become as critical to rockets as the brute force that lifts them out of Earth’s atmosphere, especially rockets like the SLS, which is really an amalgamation of parts built by a variety of manufacturers: Boeing builds the rocket’s “core stage,” the main part of the vehicle. Lockheed Martin builds the Orion spacecraft. Aerojet Rocketdyne and Northrop Grumman are responsible for the RS-25 engines and the side boosters, respectively. And the United Launch Alliance handles the upper stage.
All of those components need to work together for a mission to be successful. But NASA’s Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) recently said it was concerned about the disjointed way the complicated system was being developed and tested.
At an ASAP meeting last month, Paul Hill, a member of the panel and a former flight and mission operations director at the agency, said the “panel has great concern about the end-to-end integrated test capability and plans, especially for flight software.”
…One impulse for this book was a conversation with a fellow philosopher, who assured Gray that he “had taught his cat to be vegan”. (Gray had only one question: “Did the cat ever go out?” It did.) When he informed another philosopher that he was writing about what we can learn from cats, that man replied: “But cats have no history.” “And,” Gray wondered, “is that necessarily a disadvantage?”
Elsewhere, Gray has written how Ludwig Wittgenstein once observed “if lions could talk we would not understand”, to which the zookeeper John Aspinall responded: “He hasn’t spent long enough with lions.” If cats could talk, I ask Gray, do you think we would understand?
“Well, the book is in some ways an experiment in that respect,” he says. “Of course, it’s not a scientific inquiry. But if you live with a cat very closely for a long time – and it takes a long time, because they’re slow to trust, slow to really enter into communication with you – then you can probably imagine how they might philosophise.”
Gray believes that humans turned to philosophy principally out of anxiety, looking for some tranquillity in a chaotic and frightening world, telling themselves stories that might provide the illusion of calm. Cats, he suggests, wouldn’t recognise that need because they naturally revert to equilibrium whenever they’re not hungry or threatened. If cats were to give advice, it would be for their own amusement.
(17) WARP DEED. “Tenacious D” covers the “Time Warp.” Vocals by Jack Black and Kyle Gass. Cameo appearances by Eric Andre, Ezra Miller, George Takei, Ilana Glazer, Jamie Lee Curtis, John Heilemann, John Waters, Karen O, King Princess, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Michael Peña, Peaches, Phoebe Bridgers, Reggie Watts, Sarah Silverman, Senator Elizabeth Warren, and Susan Sarandon.
It’s astounding… time is fleeting… and the 2020 election is here. Time to ROCK-Y THE VOTE! And remember: it’s just a jump to the LEFT, and not a step to the right!
(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Twilight Breaking Dawn Pitch Meeting” at Screen Rant, Ryan George summarizes both the fourth and fifth Twilight movies in one meeting because, unlike the last Harry Potter meeting, there really isn’t enough plot in the last Twilight novel for two movies.
[Thanks to Rob Thornton, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Danny Sichel, James Davis Nicoll, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, JJ, John A Arkansawyer, Cora Buhlert, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]
Two-time Hugo nominated fanwriter Mark Oshiro (Mark Watches Star Trek), ConQuesT’s Fan Guest of Honor in 2015, has publicly aired on Facebook his grievances about the racism, sexual harassment, and abuse he experienced at the con after working within the con’s complaint process produced no action.
In light of what I’ll reveal at the end, I find it more important than ever to talk about the persistent and pervasive racial and sexual abuse/harassment I was the victim of at ConQuesT because I did everything I was told to do in the event that I was harassed. I reported most of the events you’ll see described below, and I did not do so anonymously. I stuck my name on every incident report, partly because I was not afraid, but mostly because I wanted things to change. If putting my name on a report ensured that a better community could be built from my actions, then I felt it was worth it.
Alas, that does not seem to be the case.
ConQuesT is held annually over Memorial Day Weekend in Kansas City. The three-paragraph Behavior policy in effect at last year’s con began with clear expectations:
ConQuesT is committed to offering a convention experience as free from harassment as we can make it for our members, regardless of characteristics such as gender, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, age, race, religion, nationality, or social class. We do not tolerate harassment of convention participants in any form. ConQuesT attendees violating these rules may be sanctioned or expelled from the convention without a refund, at the discretion of the convention organizers.
Before suffering any violations of the con’s behavior policy, Oshiro’s weekend as ConQuesT 46 Fan Guest of Honor got off to a rocky start because of poor hospitality. He was due a comp room but had to use his own card to register ‘til the committee straightened that out. The room was in the hotel’s secondary tower. He and his friend (now partner) were driven to a restaurant for the guest of honor dinner, but were not seated at the chairperson’s table with the rest of the GoH’s (George R.R. Martin, Nene Thomas, Brandon Sanderson, and Toastmaster Selina Rosen). At the end of the meal they were asked to pay, another mistake that had to be fixed. Oshiro says there were added reasons for his sensitivity about these problems.
As a brief aside, I wanted to provide some emotional context to this. Baize and I were the only people of color in this entire group, and both of us are gay. I’ve struggled my whole life with reading situations to see if I’m actually being discriminated against, and the fear that that had happened to us was particularly strong that whole dinner. We are both part of marginalized communities that had very little representation in this group, and it became impossible not to consider the possibility that we were treated differently because of it.
At Oshiro’s first program item he was sexually harassed – by the con’s toastmaster.
I was moderating a panel titled, “Are Fans More Open Minded?” The panel progressed wonderfully for about ten minutes before it was derailed and then never made it back to normal. Early into the panel, someone in the audience made a joke about the panelist Selina Rosen, who sat next to me on my left and was ALSO a Guest of Honor at the convention. They called her a princess, and in response, she stood up and pulled her pants down to her ankles. For the next few minutes, Selina, wearing nothing but men’s boxers, proceeded to periodically rub her bare leg against mine. At first, I thought she was merely bumping me, but she kept doing it, over and over, and if I looked at her while she was doing it, she would make a face at me.
I texted Keri O’Brien, the Vice Chair for the convention, and told her that Selina had taken off her pants again. (She had done so at ConQuesT 45.) Within a few minutes, Selina had pulled her pants back up and Keri arrived and pulled Selina out of the room. Selina returned, and she made the bulk of the remainder of the panel about how fandom was NOT open-minded because someone had reported her for removing her pants. Multiple things happened in response to this. In a strange sign of solidarity, another panelist, Robin Wayne Bailey, removed his OWN shirt and kept talking about his nice body and his big muscles. Selina tried to grill multiple members of the audience to determine if they had been the ones to report her, even going so far as to yell at anyone who chose to leave the room, accusing them of being a “rat.”
Then Oshiro described how, later that night at a room party in the main hotel, his partner Baize was sexually and racially harassed. (The full text of Oshiro’s post appears below, following the jump.)
On Sunday he was the moderator on a panel titled, “Erasure is Not Equality” and had this experience:
This panel was specifically about the erasure of people of color in historical fiction, fantasy, and other genres. I was the only person on the panel who was not white. Furthermore, not one person on the panel seemed to understand the point of the panel, which was to talk about erasure. Instead, the conversation teetered between self-righteous back-patting and flat-out racism. Within the first five minutes of the start of the panel, I brought up a topic for us to discuss: how “historical accuracy” is often poorly used as a defense of the erasure of people of color. One panelist, Chris Gerrib, then began to talk about how people misunderstood history. The “Indian” people in Central America were already busy “killing each other” by the time the Spaniards arrived. When I asked for clarification, Gerrib confirmed that he believed that the Spaniards were “unfairly blamed” for the genocide of the indigenous cultures in Central America. I was so horrified by his continued talk of this ahistorical point that, after very little conversation, I asked that we change topic.
This set a tone for the remainder of the panel, which was easily the worst panel I have ever been a part of. All three of the white panelists confidently stated things that were simply not true; each of them kept saying “Indian” when they actually meant Native American or indigenous; every few minutes, more than half the audience was viscerally horrified by what the other panelists said. At one point, Jan Gephardt derailed the panel into talking about women instead of race and said that she was “happy to see any sort of women, like black or white or green.” Gerrib then chimed in with, “Or purple.” She also responded to a lengthy point that myself and an audience member made about the physical and emotional injury that can come from experiencing racism by reminding us that “racism is not real” because race “is just a social construct.” During a different conversation about how many authors mistakenly blur the line between different cultural groups, Chris Gerrib jokingly said, “Did you know that the Japanese aren’t the same as the Chinese?” Jan’s response? The Japanese and Chinese just think they’re different in their heads. She heavily implied that they were mistaken in this belief.
Oshiro told about several other disturbing comments on the panel. And he outlined another harassing experience he had at a fireworks viewing party. That night, he reported all of these incidents to committee members Keri O’Brien and Jesi Pershing.
They were both incredibly professional and sympathetic to myself and Baize, and I have nothing negative to say about that specific experience. They did exactly as they should: they made the two of us feel better, and they were very thorough in getting details about all of the above experiences. I was asked what I wanted done. I did not recommend that anyone get kicked out or un-invited for future years. I simply wanted two things:
1) That those I reported not be allowed on programming that triggered such a terrible response in them. (That was mostly in regards to the “Erasure is Not Equality” panel. A panel about race should not have one lone person of color on it.)
2) That someone tell these people that there’d been a report made about their behavior and that they should not behave in a way to make people feel so upset and unwanted.
I was realistic about what I wanted. You can’t make everything a teaching moment, and some people might not want to learn. But I needed someone to tell each of these people that their actions made someone else feel terribly unwelcome at the convention. I just wanted the conversation to be started.
Oshiro completed about seven incident reports and signed them.
I was told that the concom would discuss them, and that, at the very least, some action would be taken, either a notification about their behavior and a warning, OR people would not be invited back for programming in the future.
Months went by. Jesi Pershing, in her official capacity as part of the concom, would give me periodic updates. Sometimes, if I saw her at another con, I would ask her what the status of my reports were. She had recommended specific courses of action in response to my incident reports, and [convention chair Kristina Hiner] seemed to agree to them. But last month, she finally told me that, nearly eight months after I’d reported multiple people, ConQuesT and Kristina Hiner had done absolutely nothing with my reports.
In contrast, at another convention where he experienced a problem, the committee immediately resolved his complaint:
Harassment is unfortunately a part of my experience at SF/F conventions. Not at all of them, but at most of them, something happens to me. I’m an outspoken queer Latinx, and it’s inevitable. However, since ConQuesT, every con staff that I’ve had to make a report to has dealt with my report quickly and fairly. At ConFusion this year, the concom dealt with my incident report in two hours. Meaning they spoke to the person and that person apologized to my face within two hours.
Oshiro recognized that ConQuesT was not going to take action, and decided it was time to go public.
Shortly after the ConQuesT 2015 ended, I typed up the incident reports I had taken, along with my recommended follow-up for each incident, and passed them along to the chair. My understanding was that she agreed with the actions I recommended, and that the Board did as well. The actions I recommended either needed to come from the Chair or Board, or required certain decisions to be made by the Chair or Board before I could enact them. This is where things stalled out. I heard that the Chair and Board agreed with what I had recommended…and then I basically heard nothing.
I inquired several times, both in email and in person, over the next several months, as to where things stood, whether anything had been done, what the hold up was. At one point, it was expressed to me that the Chair was wondering, since we hadn’t done anything by now (I believe this was about four months after the con), should we even bother at this point? To which I gave an emphatic “YES” and was once again under the impression that action would be taken. It never was.
As Mark relates in his post, he was asking me for updates during this time. I let him know that a course of action had been agreed upon on (early on in the process when I thought that action being agreed upon meant action would be taken), and then, as time went on, I would have to tell him that, no, to my knowledge, nothing had been done. Still nothing. Still nothing.
In January, I had a sudden lightning bolt epiphany that, if nothing had happened up to this point, nothing was going to happen. I let Mark know that, in my opinion, the con was never going to take action on his reports, and that I was stepping down from the committee.
Combating harassment in our community is an issue that is very important to me – I’ve worked on writing and implementing Codes of Conduct at multiple conventions. When I take on a role like this at a convention, I feel that I am making a promise – a promise that complaints will be taken seriously and that, if warranted, action will be taken. I cannot work for a con that has made me break that promise, which is why I stepped down from the committee.
I have never felt comfortable talking from the perspective of a whole group of people. That is not something I think I can easily do here. I am also the current chair of ConQuesT in Kansas City. A good friend of mine, Mark Oshiro, told his story today. This needed to happen I feel. There were some horrible things that happened last year and they did not get the attention they deserved. This post is part apology. Mark Oshiro and Baize Latif White should not have found out 9 months later that nothing had happened. This was a mistake, a terrible one. Caused by a series of miscommunications over the course of those months. The reasons are not as important as the hurt the mistake and miscommunication caused. ConQuesT is a very old convention but has only very very recently instated any sort of behavior policy. ConQuesT 46 was one of the first years that formal reports were taken in under this system. It was not handled well, at all. But this does not mean that it cannot learn from those mistakes. As chair for this year, it is my responsibility to ensure that any reports taken at con are dealt with in ways that respect our membership and our policies. Thank you for taking the time to read this, Keri O’Brien
O’Brien is just one of hundreds of fans who left comments on Oshiro’s Facebook page. Among them was Chris Gerrib who set out to apologize, only getting it right on the second try after Oshiro answered his first attempt, “I don’t se an apology here.” Gerrib wrote in his initial comment:
Since I was mentioned by name in the original post, I feel I should respond. I want to apologize. What I *intended* to say was that the Inca and Aztec empires were unpopular with other native tribes, and that the Spanish used that unpopularity to form an army with themselves at the head. I did not communicate that correctly, and I’m sorry. I don’t recall saying that the Spanish were unfairly blamed for anything, but if I said or implied otherwise I was wrong. Much of the current issues with Central and South America can be traced to bad Spanish decisions and/or conduct.
Then he followed up:
I am sorry you were miserable on the panel, and I’m sorry what I said caused that. My statement at the time was in error.
Kansas City fans have pointed out that it is the very essence of a local con. Most folks running it and putting people on panels know each other well and know the panelists. Robin Wayne Bailey is a local and, from what I can gather, a regular at that con. Selina Rosen, who pulled down her pants, is apparently a serial pants taker off-er at that very con. Yes, this is a small local con. That means it’s probably even easier for programming volunteers to know that they’ve staffed a panel about diversity and erasure with one person of color and a bunch of problematic white folks who are prone to undressing at the slightest provocation.
But you know what? It’s not necessarily the fault of the volunteers throwing conventions. Audiences and panelists must hold each other accountable if fandom is going to continue as it began. ConComs are not gods. They can’t vet moderators, they can’t interview panelists about every panel topic to see if they’re qualified. They are organizers of a show for which they don’t get paid, and while they do shoulder the burden for responding to bad behavior, WE are responsible for responding immediately to the bad behavior in the first place. (I have been guilty of letting things slide, of trying to play “can’t we all get along,” of not pushing myself hard enough to be articulate and responsible. And I’m sorry. If you see me falling short or saying dumbass things, stand up and say so. I will learn and grow as a person from that discussion.)
Surprisingly, Oshiro says he’s still going to the Worldcon in Kansas City this year.
Mark Oshiro gave general permission to share his Facebook post; the full text follows the jump.
Coming to Denver for MileHiCon 42? It’ll be a treat. The guests of honor are writers Katherine Kurtz and Rachel Caine, and artist Donato Giancola. Paolo Bacigalupi, the Nebula-winning Colorado author, will preside as toastmaster.