Balticon Chair Apologizes After Author Stephanie Burke Removed From Panels

Author Stephanie Burke has protested Balticon 56’s handling of an alleged incident which the host organization, the Baltimore Science Fiction Society, is investigating under their rules governing violations of the code of conduct.

Balticon 56 Chair Yakira Heistand has apologized for how Burke was treated, but said the complaints are still being investigated:

I am utterly heartbroken at how events have played out at Balticon this year with our panelist, Stephanie Burke. Ms. Burke has been a long-time panelist and we have invited her back year after year because of her engaging commentary and insightful additions to our programming.

An incident was reported to us regarding Ms. Burke. The plan was to quietly ask her to step down from her panels for the weekend while we had a chance to investigate. However, an overzealous volunteer decided to remove her from an ongoing panel in a way that caused her embarrassment. This is inexcusable and we deeply apologize.

Multiple investigations are ongoing, and, per our bylaws, BSFS cannot comment on an active investigation. If, after investigation, we find any of the complaints were valid, we will take appropriate action per our Code of Conduct. However, please be assured that, in addition to interviewing independent panelists and audience members and trying to build a more complete picture of the inciting incident, we are also putting together better methods on how to handle complaints during a convention.

I offer Ms. Burke my deepest apologies for her embarrassment and the way the complaint was handled.

Stephanie Burke has posted a complete statement on Facebook, pointing to it with this tweet:

[May 29]

Home from Balticon and I will never return. I was accused of some nasty things, treated like a criminal, judged without proof save for hearsay, and stripped of my remaining panels. My only recourse is to make a complaint. My reputation which took close to 20 years to build is now destroyed. I am devastated. This is my complaint. I am angry and I am hurt and I am at a loss because all of the networking I have done here is dead. The publishers I wanted to talk to probably are hearing the lies

Stephanie Burke

May 29, 2022

Hello,

My name is Stephanie Burke and I have been coming and presenting, participating in, and moderating panels for Balticon since it was in The Omni Hotel in Baltimore City. Since then I have done my best to uplift the reputation of this convention and the people who come and participate as well as those who organize this event. I have brought in dealers, publishing house owners, and many authors in addition to budding costumers and have tried to make everyone who attends feel comfortable no matter what.

I have held people who cried, managed to deescalate confrontations between hostile people before damage could be done. I have assisted this ordination to the best of my ability for years and now I am devastated,.

I have been accused of saying some hurtful insensitive transphobic, racist, damaging things and there is no recourse for me to fight this. Why? Because the panel where I was accused of saying these things during Friday’s Balticon Panel Diversity readers and Why You Need Them. I learned of this today after being confronted by a very cold and angry person who demanded to know if I received an email and that I was needed in con ops. I had no idea what he was speaking of because I have received no such emails and was unaware what was going on.

I was escorted out of that room like I was a dangerous and disgusting criminal before the panelist who had arrived to see the next panel discussion. After being spoken to with much disrespect, I was escorted to con pps where I was informed that I was going to be pulled from my panels for the rest of the con. When I asked why I was told that I had complaints lodged against me about the mentioned panel on Friday. Then Lisa Adler-Goldman [sic] proceeded to yell at me, stating that I not only said transphobic things, that I advocated for stopping people with a belt, for people to not take their meds, and that some Balticon years past I had said something about the Romany people being gypsies and that they were liars, dirty, and thieves, all allegations that I denied. I was called a liar to my face and laughed at when I defended myself and demanded proof.

I, of course, demanded proof and Lisa stormed off and I could hear her spreading these lies to the people who were outside of the con ops room door. I was then approached by the director and told that I would be stripped of my remaining panels because of the complaints. I asked to hear the recordings and wanted proof to defend myself against hearsay. The program director explained that she would have to listen to the recorded panel and explained that sometimes people took statements out of context and that she would check. She went to another room to listen to the recording because she needed a device bigger than a cell phone and later came back to tell me that the panel she listened to was wonderful but the panel on Friday was not recorded. The decision to strip me of the remains panels and book reading was to stand and that I was being convicted on hearsay alone.

This is where I get more angry than devastated. I was pulled from a room like a criminal for something I did not do. There was no proof and no way to get proof outside of speaking to people who were in the panel, among them my boss, several acquaintances, and my niece. Still and yet after years of proof that I have never said anything like the accusations being made against me, I was not to be allowed on Balticon panels. There would be an investigation and my only recourse was to write a complaint here.

My major issue was with the person who so disrespectfully came to take me to con ops. I never received an email about a panel on Friday. I was walked out of that room like I was trash and the way I was spoken to made me feel the lowest I have ever felt in a so-called safe space.

The lack of checks and balances on your staff decisions is the second reason I am furious. In fact, today was the first time I ever heard of any complaints lodged against me, and the fact that there was no follow-up on the issue angers me more. I saw and had several conversations with people in con ops since Friday and no one person mentioned a complaint or an email. It took close to two (2) days for someone to get in contact with me and that is very unprofessional. Then to get even angrier with me because they felt I was ignoring an email or trying to flaunt their rules and carry on with panels I have been removed from when I didn’t have a clue to what was going on is hateful and hurtful.

Third, Lisa Adler-Goldman [sic], should not be in a position to communicate with people. From the moment I walked into con ops, she was aggressive, dismissive, nasty and outright lied to my face. She referred to some incident with Balticon 45 or 46, she didn’t have the correct Balticon, where I supposedly said nasty and disturbing and downright racist remakes about the Romany People. In her own words, she stated that I called them dirty, nasty thieves. I have never nor will I ever spew such racist hatred from my lips. I told her that she was lying outright. She claimed to be on a panel when I said these things but could not tell me the panel or produce any proof. She screamed and laughed in my face when I complained and demanded the proof. They then walked out and left me standing there. I have never before felt such derision and mockery and I am truly offended that she told other people these lies.

My reputation as a fair person and someone who respects others in marginalized and as someone who constantly uplift is now in tatters. The word-of-mouth lies are going to have an effect on the publishers I intended to deal with, on the networking that I have done, and on the friends and new acquaintances I have made because it is my word against Lisa’s. Because Lisa is a part of Balticon staff, her world will be taken over mine and the lies she spewed forth will forever be attached to my name. Even when the investigation proves that I am innocent, I have already been tired and judged as a racist, an ablest, and a transphobic individual who despite having a transgendered daughter, would say untrue and evil things. I couldn’t even get someone to inform me of exactly what I was supposed to have said that offended so many people.

So I am issuing this complaint about the above reasons and when this issue is resolved, no matter what, I am done at Balticon. I can never return. I no longer feel safe and with someone who has as many neural-divergent issues, it is devastating to lose a place that felt like my home, with the knowledge that I would be treated as a liar, a hypocrite, or even worse if I return. With those rumors hanging over my head, how can I ever hope to sit on another panel and actually help impart information, share opinions, and offer a different point of view and perspective when everyone will view my words as tainted and me a monster.

I have been attending Balticon for close to 20 years and in all of that time, I never had one complaint lodged against me or was treated like a criminal by staff. During that time, I spread the word about what amazing and inclusive non-judging, and fair the staff and committee were. I avoided con politics and did my best to help improve the lives of people I met as well as made some wonderful connections and developed friendships. Because of this fiasco, all of that has been stripped away.

For all the above reasons, I am making this complaint. The program director informed me that this was handled wrong and that they would try to put protocols in place to prevent this from happening again, but it is too late for me. My reputation at this convention is destroyed and I will never return here as a panelist, a con-goer, or promote Balticon and the Baltimore Science Fiction Society ever again. I can’t honestly recommend this convention again as safe when this was done to me and I feel brutalized and abused.

Stephanie Burke

[[Note: The Balticon 56 committee list shows the programming coordinator’s name is Lisa Adler-Golden. However, Burke above mentions the program director in a way that suggests that was a different person.]]

Here is the listing for the panel at issue:

Diversity Readers and Why You Need Them

[6] Gibson, 11:30am – 12:30pm

tag: In HotelWatch OnlineWriting
Types: Panel

Sarah Avery (moderator)Shahid MahmudCraig Laurance GidneyBrandon KetchumChristine SandquistStephanie “Flash” Burke

No matter one’s background or life experiences, everyone has blind spots. Diversity readers help highlight what an author may be missing. We’ll discuss different kinds of diversity readers and how you find them, etiquette regarding compensation, how to think about incorporating feedback, and more.

121 thoughts on “Balticon Chair Apologizes After Author Stephanie Burke Removed From Panels

  1. A bunch of the comments I have seen here and elsewhere are responding like Burke was pulled off of a panel. According to Burke’s own account, that’s not what happened. “I was escorted out of that room like I was a dangerous and disgusting criminal before the panelist who had arrived to see the next panel discussion.”

    That’s not mid-panel. That’s between panels Yes, there was someone else/other people in the room – it’s hard to find someone completely alone at a convention. As I wasn’t there, I can’t say if it was done harshly or not, and I believe Burke that it was probably handled with some level of exasperation if they had emailed her and never gotten a response (spam filters, bad email addresses, etc can all be a factor here). Some of this clearly could have been handled better, but lets not make up issues where they don’t exist, especially when there are actual issues to address.

  2. Improving the skills of moderators and recording all sessions are both ideas that would be great to see but would involve significant resources that would inevitably come (at least to some extent) from those available to other areas of the convention.

  3. Nchanter:

    “That’s not mid-panel. That’s between panels

    You failed to read the apology at the top:

    “However, an overzealous volunteer decided to remove her from an ongoing panel in a way that caused her embarrassment. This is inexcusable and we deeply apologize.”

  4. @Hampus I tend to believe the person who was wronged over the person apologizing for the wrong. Yes, Balticon owed Burke an apology for the way they handled this on-site, and they gave her one. I’m still going to point out best practices here for handling code of conduct complaints.

  5. Having some kind of centralised database about complaints and complainers in order to detect patterns, as Cat suggested, would be helpful as would be recording all panels. However, in both cases, those sensible precautions are stymied by privacy and data protection laws. Because I don’t think panels can be recorded without the consent of every panelist – at any rate, cons always ask for recording permissions in their panel sign-up forms – and the database would run up against GDPR and similar laws.

    Also the nuisance lawsuit against Worldcon 76 seems to have had a chilling effect in that cons are reluctant to say why exactly they removed or banned someone, because they fear they might get sued.

  6. The Worldcon 76 lawsuit should be seen as an argument for being careful in what you say in statements, not for not making statements.

  7. Both banning and not banning before investigation has the possibility to not look good depending on outcome.

    Because conventions ignored or downplayed bad behavior for so long, I think there’s now a greater cost to the appearance of going too easy. All the momentum in recent years has been on creating and enforcing codes of conduct.

  8. Regardless of the inevitability of resources being scarce to do so, any given panel has to be recorded word-for-word if panelists are to be held to account for each and every word they say. Whether holding them to account in this way is the correct thing to do is a separate question.

  9. Regardless of the inevitability of resources being scarce to do so, any given panel has to be recorded word-for-word if panelists are to be held to account for each and every word they say.

    Convention organizers can talk to people who attended an unrecorded panel for their report on what was said. The code of conduct is enforced for things that occur outside of panels in the absence of video evidence. At least with a panel there are more witnesses to what occurred.

    Presumably Balticon has talked by now to panelists and other attendees at the panel that was the source of the current complaint.

  10. Might be. Might also not be. Most likely depends on how popular and well-known the person involved is. Which is why I don’t really see status in the court of public opinion as a good argument by itself.

    I think with all of these rules, we have to think, how can this be abused? I.e, if the standard is to remove persons before investigation, how can people abuse that? Because someone will.

    I’m not really sure there is a good answer here.

  11. @JJ:

    Elspeth: we’re eating our elders
    Being old and having been involved in fandom for decades should not, and does not, give someone a pass for reprehensible behavior.

    Thank you for proving my point far better than expected.

    People are all about sensitivity and protecting people who are hurt. Someone is breaking down right in front of you, not just hurt but a specific mental syndrome. I’d expected the usual: unless something is the result of problems in the social mores it doesn’t matter.

    But you, you saw something and didn’t even notice that it was written under extreme distress. You didn’t bother with the whole, just that little piece important to you, JJ.

    Hi, folks! I’m a person who’s been traumatized by something, badly enough that I’m not just hurt, I’m terrified. It’s not part of the who’s right/who’s wrong discussion, someone went off the rails and no one stopped to help.

    Fortunately I’ve done some things that I have enough courage again to point out that this contradicts all the “safe place” stickers and reinforces that people would rather argue about classes of people instead of people as individuals. Actually doing something instead of talking? Nah.

  12. I was the moderator on that panel, and the first moment I heard about what happened to Stephanie was 30 minutes ago from a person whose only involvement with Balticon was as an attendee. I am Not Thrilled about having to go to Facebook and File 770 to get details about this situation. After searching my email inbox, spam, and incoming social media messages, I haven’t found any attempts to contact me from the people investigating the incident. It’s possible there have been attempts I haven’t found, or that the person investigating got my contact info wrong, but it’s not looking great at the moment.

    Because I got stuck in traffic on the way into Baltimore, I was a little over 10 minutes late for a panel I was scheduled to moderate. That is mortifying and entirely on me. It is possible that whatever the complaint is about happened while I was not yet in the room.

    I’ve been playing back my recollections of the panel from the moment I did arrive, trying to match things Stephanie said with the adjectives in her account of the accusations against her. As a white cishet woman, I know I am not optimally attuned to what is hurtful to all the kinds of people whose lives are unlike mine. (The reason I volunteered to moderate a panel on why writers need diversity readers is that I knew I specifically was a writer who needed them.) Until I can find out more about the contents of the complaint, I’m not able to make any kind of declaration on either the complainant’s assertions or Stephanie’s about the diversity readers panel.

    I can say that nothing I saw or heard called for the way Stephanie was pulled out of an ongoing panel. That event shocks me.

  13. Part of the problem here seems to be that the concom didn’t get hold of Stephanie Burke until she was sitting in another panel. I have no idea how long the time was between the two incidents, or in what ways the concom tried to reach Burke, but I think it reinforces two practical lessons for programming.

    The first is to not schedule people tightly in programming (guests are an exception to this). It gives opportunity for more voices in programming, makes it less likely that programming snarls impacts other programming, and gives more time for investigations in cases such as this.

    The second is to make sure that the concom has access to out-of-band communications with programme participants. Cons are socially intense times, and most people will cut down on their normal communications channels during that time. The concom should preferably ask each program participant about a way to reasonably reliable reach them and get a response if not within the hour at least the same day.

  14. Re; what Hampus Eckerman said above–I think this is, in fact, a case where someone is purposefully weaponizing the idea of Codes of conduct. Not sure of the reason–whether it’s directed at the author or the system. But if Balticon actually does investigate–and the fact that they haven’t yet even been in touch with the moderator of the panel doesn’t give me a lot of confidence in that–I would bet they will find this totally unfounded.

  15. @ Meredith :

    I would be very interested to know why the other panelists weren’t consulted, but if they have any sense they won’t announce it.
    ETA: Assuming, of course, that the complaint didn’t come from any of them.

    It’s clear just from the description of the panel that if she’d said something she’d have been called on it. Looking up the bios of the other people on the panel took opening a couple of links but it makes it even clearer that someone would have said something. Why was a person making a complaint believed, things are now “being investigated”, if none of them reacted to whatever it was Burke said?

    The first member of the panel is the most telling but I’ve included a bit about tw others.

    Christine Sandquist is an NYC-based sensitivity/developmental editor and author assistant to writers such as Hugo Award Winner Mary Robinette Kowal, World Fantasy Award Winner Tobias S. Buckell, and SOVAS Award Finalist Cadwell Turnbull. They specialize in analyzing and providing feedback on works that include diverse, queer casts, representations of sexual trauma, and broader gender-based violence. They volunteer as part of the team behind Reddit r/fantasy, the internet’s largest discussion forum for the greater speculative fiction genre, and with the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA).

    Craig Laurance Gidney . . . [Is] a three-time Lambda Literary finalist, and a Carl Brandon Parrallax Award finalist.

    Shahid Mahmud, well, not in his bio is that he’s a lovely person and a delight to talk with. He’s also a native from India and Monday we had a wonderful conversation about that as well as about books, bookselling, my paying in Euros, etc. I only now discovered he was on the panel but he obviously didn’t know anything had happened.

  16. Elspeth:

    Nothing in what JJ replied to is about your trauma. Yes, you posted several paragraphs in great distress, but you also made a point worth refuting, and JJ is right: we are not in any way “Eating our elders” to refuse to tolerate standards that were previously accepted.

    This does not refute or contradict your pain, or your distress.

    It does not even refute your point that in cases like Burke’s, and apparently whatever happened to you, some congoers and concoms are being quick to jump to the attack and to fail to actually look into the reported incident.

  17. Elspeth: But you, you saw something and didn’t even notice that it was written under extreme distress.

    Of course I noticed. But your distress does not exempt from scrutiny whatever claims you want to make about how fans are supposedly being targeted due to their age. If you don’t want that scrutiny, then don’t post such claims.

    You aren’t a mind-reader and I haven’t confided in you. Don’t presume to say that you know what I thought or noticed. That’s an incredibly arrogant thing to do, I do not take kindly to it, and your distress is not a valid excuse for doing it.

  18. @ Lenora

    Nothing in what JJ replied to is about your trauma.

    Which is exactly my point.

    Someone is clearly traumatized by the discussion, bleeding pain right there in public the same way someone physically traumatized would be bleeding blood right there on the sidewalk.

    It doesn’t matter. Someone traumatized by physical assault matters: we’re very careful about things that might trigger people who’ve been sexually assaulted. If we had a lot of veterans we’d realize that they’d clicked back to a bad place by something that sounds like a gun.

    Someone says something that requires being refuted they’ve just

    . . . posted several paragraphs in great distress

    I’ve dealt with people mentally ill, including those traumatized, professionally. Being a patient has made me all the better at my job and all the more protective of people. I’m temporarily able to pull myself back enough to think about them, that they’re more important, and that this isn’t just about me. The systemic ignoring people who’ve been traumatized increases the trauma.

    The concern about people who’ve been accused is part of that: people falsely criticized or arrested because of their skin color, interpretations of their political views, whatever are sensitized to accusations. I can personally speak to that: an accusation out of the blue in what is supposed to be a safe place can cause trauma where there wasn’t any.

    And I’ve abruptly run out of energy, having used up all I have left from fighting the PTSD.

  19. Having some kind of centralised database about complaints and complainers in order to detect patterns, as Cat suggested, would be helpful as would be recording all panels.

    I recall that when I proposed exactly this a couple of years ago, the general consensus was that it was a terrible idea, it would violate laws in European countries against defamation, and that I was a terrible person who clearly didn’t understand convention culture for having suggested the notion.

  20. Elspeth,

    Diagnoses aren’t an excuse to avoid criticism or to silence others. Neither my ADHD nor your PTSD. If my ADHD makes it hard for me to stop writing stuff I would regret or makes it harder for me to handle others writing, then it is my responsibility to withdraw from the discussion until I get my feelings under control.

    As regulars here can witness, that has happened several times. Because I can’t really control my writing when I’m upset and my feelings are in upheaval. When I was younger, I hurt many people during those times. It still happens, but more seldom because I have worked to not put myself in those situations.

    When people are having a reasonable discussion and you yourself admit that the problem is not with what they are writing, but with your past experiences, you might take a moment to think if you should take a break from the discussion as I sometimes have to.

  21. @JJ: Your post came in while I was responding to Lenora, a response that might also be a response to you but I think not.

    Interpreting your actions as you not noticing or caring isn’t arrogant. Someone was falling apart, you argued with something they’d said while in distress without any indication of knowing something was amiss.

    And it wasn’t just distress: you ignored that something had been triggered and clearly stated as having been triggered, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

    I said elders, you interpreted it as my saying that people who were old were exempt, fine. It doesn’t exempt you from not first stopping to acknowledge that they’re bleeding or even criticize without saying, “You said this. Okay, you were were distressed when I said it but you’re wrong.”

    I’ve considered posting the definition of PTSD to help people understand. I think that would lead to “of course I know what it is! Stop being insulting!”

  22. @Aaron

    I recall that when I proposed exactly this a couple of years ago, the general consensus was that it was a terrible idea, it would violate laws in European countries against defamation, and that I was a terrible person who clearly didn’t understand convention culture for having suggested the notion.

    I remember that. And yes, no matter how useful a central database of known bad actors would be, it would run up against GDPR as well as other privacy laws. Ditto for recording panels, unless giving your permit to record is made a precondition for being on programming.

  23. But it is not reasonable to expect every con-runner to know every potentially problematic person. And there have been cases of bad actors moving from community to community to cause havoc, which could have been prevented by having some kind of database in place.

    However, we have two importaqnt principles in conflict here, the right to privacy and how one’s data is used and the right of a con or other organisation to be informed about potentially problematic participants ahead of time.

  24. Elspeth: I’ve considered posting the definition of PTSD to help people understand.

    I know what PTSD is, I have my own history of trauma. Just because I haven’t put my trauma on display in this thread, it does not mean that I don’t understand it.

     
    Elspeth: Interpreting your actions as you not noticing or caring isn’t arrogant. Someone was falling apart, you argued with something they’d said while in distress without any indication of knowing something was amiss… It doesn’t exempt you from not first stopping to acknowledge that they’re bleeding or even criticize without saying, “You said this. Okay, you were were distressed when I said it but you’re wrong.”… And it wasn’t just distress: you ignored that something had been triggered and clearly stated as having been triggered, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

    I didn’t ignore your distress or PTSD, I simply didn’t comment on it.

    I don’t understand why I would be expected to act as your confidante or counselor or support person. If your current mental state makes you incapable of interacting with this discussion without expecting everyone to offer you extensive reassurances about your trauma and avoid saying anything contradictory to you, then why are you here — instead of engaging in whatever form of self-care is appropriate for you?

  25. And yes, no matter how useful a central database of known bad actors would be, it would run up against GDPR as well as other privacy laws.

    Every convention in the EU should have a convention policy that requires they give notice that the laws they operate under allow known bad actors to get away undetected and warn all con-goers that they can be harassed and attacked without any real recourse. If they don’t give that warning, then they are being irresponsible.

  26. I’d expect all US conventions without a centralized database shared among conventions should give the same notice then? And I’d expect signs outside every shopping mall, pub and bar too.

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  28. It’s pathetic that when people from Baen’s Bar read this post (someone put up a link for the sake of schadenfreude) they have to assure everyone they’re still pure by starting their comments with one of Larry Correia’s five-year-old insults about this place. Why don’t Larry’s disciples have enough integrity to simply refuse to read this blog?

  29. @JJ I’m am sorry that my personal comments have come off the way they did and I’ll drop the entire matter. Replying to your original comment:

    . . . a great many older people in fandom have either stopped learning to do better, or have no interest in changing or hiding their racism, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia.

    “We’re eating our elders” is an expression.

    The majority of people sensitive to and acting on these issues are younger, yes, but that doesn’t translate into an assumption about the class of people who are older. (“Never trust anyone over 25”?) Without them, those who were openly homosexual, or faced out the shame of being sexually assaulted, or were otherwise brave and all of this would still be hidden. Codes of Conduct only became standard in the past 10 years.

  30. Elspeth: .“We’re eating our elders” is an expression.

    Yes, it’s an expression which means “We are targeting these people because they are old.” That is not what is happening.

     
    Elspeth: … the class of people who are older… Without them, those who were openly homosexual, or faced out the shame of being sexually assaulted, or were otherwise brave and all of this would still be hidden.

    The correct terminology is “Without some of them…”.

    There isn’t a week that goes by here where some older fan doesn’t pop in to make a comment that’s racist, sexist (or outright misogynist), homophobic, or transphobic. And when they get called out on it, often one or more others will jump in to defend them. It happens all the time here. It still happens all the time at conventions, too.

    Those older fans do not get a pass on their bad behavior just because some of their contemporaries have been good allies.

    There is no “eating the elders” going on.

    There is just “sanctioning the bad actors, many of whom are older people who have been in fandom for decades, but refuse to learn and do better”.

  31. Hello All,

    My name is Stephanie Burke and I was told that my complaint had made it this far and that I was informed that I should read up and answer a few questions that were posed.

    To start off, I never found out directly what the complaint was about. I was led into that room and joined by my niece, a Marine Corps reservist and baby nephew. This was my niece’s first Balticon and I convinced her to come along and try costuming because Balticon could be a place where she could meet more of her tribe. I am glad that she came back, she was leaving to go home for the day early, but returned when I texted her that I was being taken to con ops for something. To be fair, I didn’t think of anything but that something had happened to my husband and that emergency services had been told to contact Balticon for someone to find me. He just last year had been bitten by a brown recluse spider and it took almost a year and 8 surgeries thus far to try and fix the damage. He just started with a prosthetic glove to be able to ride his motorcycle again and the only thing that I could think of was that something had happened to him. Thank goodness it wasn’t that, but what happened next was almost as bad.

    Some male appearing staffer approached me and snapped out loudly, Stephanie Burke? We had just finished one panel and were in the waiting period for the second which was moments from starting. There were people in the seats and more coming in as we were about to talk about how tp discover your people or tribe. I said yes and asked what was going on. I was snapped at to get my belongings and growled to follow them. I asked what was going on and was told I was needed in con ops. Then I got the evil glare. I asked if I should bring my things and I was all but growled at to take all of my stuff. That’s when I started to realize that this wasn’t about my husband. I was led to the elevators where they loudly demanded to know why I didn’t answer an email. And I told them it was because I didn’t receive an email and what was going on. Now everyone at the elevators are staring, a few people who wanted to say hi backed off and were giving us curious looks. They demanded to know again why I didn’t answer Lisa’s email and I told them again that I hadn’t received one and I had no idea what they was talking about. I got narrowed eyes over a mask and snapped at that Lisa needed me in con ops.

    I was taken to the ops room and my niece got there just before the doors we we inside so she came with me. I was told that I had made transphobic comments on 2 panels, that I advocated for people to not take their meds, that I advocated for people to be strapped and the last thing that Lisa got in my face, literally, and all but shouted was that I used the G word to refer to Romany people. She said it outright more than once and I had to correct her. I told her fist off the term is Romany and that the G-word was akin to the N-word in my book and that I never said that. Then I refuted the claims while she got up closer in my face and called me a liar, claiming that it was Balticon 45, then 48, then 46 where I was supposed to have said this and that she was right beside me when I said it. I told her she was lying and she laughed so manically in my face I stood back for a second with my mouth open. There were witnesses to this fact. Then she stormed out of the room and started telling the people who were in the hall outside of con ops that I had said the horrifying words. She was shouting and laughing and I stood there, well, feeling like a fish out of water with a gaping mouth. Then the doors were closed and the con director made her way inside.

    Next, I demanded to see the complaints. I was told that I couldn’t know who made the complaints and I responded that I didn’t care who said them, I just wanted to see what they stated so I could refute them. Again, it was transphobic statements, advocating for strapping, telling people not to take their meds with the added charge of prejudice against the Romany people.

    The only think I could think of that even sounded like this was when I was questioned about trans-people and I informed the panel that my eldest was trans. Then I said after she told me for about thirty seconds I felt anger and disgust but not at her. I felt it towards myself because I had failed her by giving birth to her in the wrong body and I knew the fight she was going to have. It’s irrational guilt but all I could think of was that my body failed my baby yet again. I lost her twin and had to struggle to hold on to her. It is a statement I had made several times on and off panels over the years and was the truth. I was mad at myself because my body had given birth to my baby in the wrong body and because of that her life was going to be harder with possible corrective surgeries and discrimination, and the mental and physical changes, and how she would be treated by society. I was interrupted twice I think while trying to make this statement and asked if they could be quiet so I could finish. When I did someone in the audience stated that it was a different perspective and I got a hug after the panel because it was something that the audience member had never considered, that a parent would feel this way.

    As for strapping and not taking meds, I said that when I was a child, there were no ADHD meds. I was strapped on the thighs by my grandmother’s pocketbook strap and told to sit still. After that I said that I learned to park my but on a bench but later learned other coping mechanisms. That’s all that I said about meds and strapping. I didn’t call for it, I just said what had happened to me as a child. Then I told the audience that I had ADHD, bipolar depression, anxiety, PTSD and a few other divergencies, about on par with my fellow panelists and the conversation went on after a laugh or two.

    When I stated this, I was again told that I couldn’t see the people who made the complaint. I repeated I didn’t care who made them, I just wanted to see what the complaints were. They told me the best they could do was pull the recording and by this time the guy who was supposed to be pulling the video was starring at me like I was dirt. I told them good, to pull the recording from both of the panels and let’s all hear it.

    The recording went first to the director’s phone and when she started to play it, she told me she couldn’t hear it clearly. A blue tooth speaker was offered but she left the room with the tech guy who called for the recording to be pulled. No, I was not invited to go with them. They came back about thirty or so minutes later… I kind of lost time there… and was told that I was an amazing panelist and that the director wanted to see this panel but that she had skipped it because of responsibilities, but heard nothing problematic. My response was okay, that’s nice and thank you but that’s not why we are here. I was told then that it was one panel not two, and it was Friday’s sensitivity reader panel. I told them okay, so where are the recordings, and I was told that they didn’t have them but my panels were still being stripped by decision of the board.

    I was apologized to about the emails because my niece got angry at that point. She pointed out that I had seen her and several members of the staff since Friday and no one mentioned anything about emails or any complaints and it was no Sunday. They had over a day and a half to speak to me and didn’t. I didn’t receive an email and there was no follow up. At any given moment since Friday when the complaints were supposedly made, I had spoken to several members of staff including Lisa and no one had said anything or even hinted that there were some complaints. I was informed that the process would be changed so that it wouldn’t happen to anyone else, but that didn’t help me any. I told her I was being castigated for hearsay and that it wasn’t fair, but announcements and been made and I was pulled from panels….mand that Lisa was still out there telling people I was racist against the Romany like she was telling people before they closed the door when I first walked in con ops. I was told she was sorry but the decision of the board stood. I wanted to know what happened to that particular recording but I was just told that my panels would remain stripped and I wasn’t given any answers.

    My nice then made several points I wanted to make but was in too much of shock to say. She pointed out that with this system, anyone or groups of people could lodge a complaint out of anger or fear or jealousy or if they wanted someone pulled for a panel or kicked out of the con for any reason, and that there were no checks and balances there. Again, I was told that they were going to try and fix it so that it wouldn’t happen to anyone else in the future but I was still stripped of my panels. I was told I didn’t have to leave the con, but I could not have my panels back.

    When I niece demanded to know how they were going to investigate if there were no recordings, we were told that they were going to ask people who were there. Already I’ve been told by a few panelists and people in the audience that no one asked them anything at all and that they saw noting transphobic or anything like I was generally told I was being accused of.

    At that moment, I didn’t care. I was anxious, ripping my hair out, and trying not to throw up. It was then that I decided that I would never come back and that I was done at Balticon. I was told it could be made right and that next year, but I cut them off. They didn’t understand my perspective on this so I informed them.

    I told them that I was done forever at this con. They really did look shocked about this. I told them that because of this hearsay and the outright lies told, I could never return. I had no idea how many people Lisa told her G-word lies to, but I did know that as a con staffer, her would would be taken over mine and at most she maybe would receive a slap on the wrist. I informed them that if any publishers I spoken to this weekend heard these rumors, then I would never get work with them. I am a writer and my reputation is over half my business and that my reputation that took nearly 20 years had been damaged beyond repair. I informed them that any networking I had done I couldn’t count on because they might have heard those rumors and I would be dismissed as a intolerant racist. I told them that friendships I had and acquaintances I wanted to strengthen into friendships could be lost because of some belief in these rumors. Then I told them that my safe space had been ripped from me because even when I am exonerated if they can ever find the recordings or speak to some people on the panel, that I would always feel paranoid, wondering if these people believed those rumors or wondering if someone else with an ax to grind could tell a few lies and have me pulled and banned from the con. Worse than that, even when I am exonerated I could never speak on the panel because some might have heard those rumors and believed them and I would sound like a liar or a hypocrite to them, and that everything I told them that from this point on, that every POV or experience I shared would be tainted by those rumors. I told them I didn’t have a word for what I was feeling at that moment but I still felt sick to my stomach and that my hometown safe space wasn’t safe, that it was gone and I could never return. Even now thinking about it and typing these words has my hands shaking and is making me feel ill.

    I left and I can say I can’t think of anything that would make me go back.

    It took me close to 20 years to build up my reputation there as a person who did her best to make sure everyone had representation, that willful ignorance would be avoided, to be someone who was safe for anyone to speak to, to offer info, links, and some perspective that may help them as well as learn how I can improv myself, and now it is gone here with no proof and no way to defend myself. All I got was the decision of the board still stands and I still don’t have an idea of what exactly I was supposed to have said. They told me they didn’t have the recordings in the room where ever panel was recorded so unless someone is lying about the recording, I’ll never get the chance to defend myself. Unless of course, the recording is found at the last moment but to me that sounds like looking for proof of guilt than proof of evidence of innocence.

    One of the last things I told them and still remains true, was that closest feeling I could aquait with being walked out of that room like that was a time when I was a teen working at a summer camp when some woman claimed that I had stolen her wallet. I was marched out of the room like the cops knew I was guilty, the accusing eyes and twisted lips, only to be let back in a few moments later with the woman happily calling out that she just misplaced her wallet and just found it in her purse and everything was all good and okay now, right? The cops kind of shrugged at me and said okay and that was it but I went into the bathroom and threw up my lunch. This was the closest I had ever come to feeling like that and I never want to feel like that again. I know would feel it again if I walked into another Balticon event.

    Thank you and I hope this answered some questions. Please excuse any typos but I am severely dyslexic and when I get upset or stressed, my typing gets worse.

    Stephanie Burke

  32. This is appalling.

    I’m sure all the people who have been defending the “process” applied to Stephanie Burke will also be calling for this “Lisa” to be named, shamed, and shunned as an unsafe person, right?

    Right?

    Because what Stephanie has said here matches up far better with what we’ve been able to observe from the outside, and the (lack of any) coherent information and explanation from Balticon

  33. In a story filled with worrisome behavior by Balticon management, one of the most worrisome is Lisa making a public announcement to people in the hall — something I’m guessing she was not authorized to do — and in general acting like a sheriff in a bad western telling the crowd at the Long Branch that the sidewinder had been brought to justice. Harlan Ellison spoke from time to time about people “trying to make a name for themselves in fandom,” and this feels creepily like one of those events.

  34. Stephanie: Thank you very much for taking the time to fill in the details. It is clearer than it already was that this was not the right process, and that you were treated hideously unfairly.

    Lis: Did anyone here defend the process? I literally just skimmed through all the comments from the start and I saw no such thing.

  35. @Lenora Rose–There have indeed been one or two people saying that “believing the accuser” means that immediately removing Stephanie Burke from all panels before any investigation at all is better than the other possible courses of action.

  36. In a story filled with worrisome behavior by Balticon management, one of the most worrisome is Lisa making a public announcement to people in the hall — something I’m guessing she was not authorized to do …

    Lisa Adler-Golden’s alleged comments break the stated bylaws of Balticon not to comment on an active investigation. She did not keep the allegation private while it was being investigated. There’s obviously a privacy concern in a member of con staff publicly discussing a complaint and making other allegations before the con has finished an investigation.

    The author Gail Martin has lodged a complaint with Balticon over its handling of the situation and withdrawn from future events

  37. Gail suggests

    My recommendation to fix this (aside from better policies and staff training) is: 1) The con officially records all panels. Panelists are encouraged/permitted to record their panels for self-protection; 2) A con staff monitor must be in every panel, observing and taking notes, which are time-stamp uploaded to a central database within 15 minutes after each panel; 3) all panels are moderated by con staffers to avoid retaliation against authors over moderation issues.

    This adversarial atmosphere is not the kind of social event I would want to attend. Clearly Balticon have screwed up, but I don’t think the answer is to generate this kind of monitoring infrastructure.

  38. I believe you, Stephanie. I don’t know this Lisa but I’ve encountered others like her. I hope you get some justice and I’m going to go buy some of your books.

  39. Thank you, Stephanie. And your text perfectly sums up how easy it is to abuse a system that issues punishments before investigation.

  40. We are going to have a massive fandom blow-up at some point when someone British uses the word Gypsy while in the USA, or in front of an American at a British con. It’s still in standard use in the UK. (Our slurs are different.)

    I am no more keen on monsterifying Lisa Adler-Golden than I was on monsterifying Stephanie Burke, at least for the time being.

  41. This is just appalling. I don’t expect anyone to agree with me when I say this, but it appears that, in a well-meaning (but not well-thought out) attempt to correct something that wasn’t actually that much of a problem, the con-running community has created a worse problem.

  42. @Meredith: I’d rather not dump on Lisa either, whom I’ve never had a problem with, but it just seems like she’s not stable at present. The whole thing is tragic.

  43. @ Stephanie
    File 770 is the one and only place I’ve found that reports this and while the ‘apology’ is quoted there’s no link. Have you even gotten it?

    There’s a lot of blaming conrunners. I’m not involved in Balticon but as a someone who works on conventions I sincerely apologize for what was done to you by people who clearly don’t grasp the basic responsibilities.

    Balticon was my first convention. Balticon has always been my ‘big tent’ home (I have two others) and I’ve always enjoyed it, even when there were some problems as older staffers phased out and less experienced ones came in. But this, this is beyond the pale. Not just what happened at the convention, the way they’re handling it now.

    I’m terribly, terribly sorry. We’re not all like that, cert – as always people don’t notice when things go fine – but were I you I’d have a hard time thinking well of any of us.

  44. First of all, Stephanie, thanks for giving us your side of the story. I’m very sorry that this happened to you.

    I think what this incident and others show is that we need better ways of dealing with CoC complaints which both take complaints seriously, but also do not jump to conclusions and prematurely condemn someone without a thorough investigation. And I think we can all agree that Balticon handled this situation very badly.

    We should probably also rethink what is grounds to remove someone from programming or the con altogether. I think we all agree that sexual or verbal harassers, panelists or moderators who attack other panelists and audience members or people who maliciously cause trouble or promise to do so like our friend the leading nuissance should be removed. However, should a single unfortunate remark or mispoken word be grounds for pulling someone from programming and removing them from the con? Should a single complaint about a program participant be sufficient or need there be multiple complaints? These are discussions we need to have.

    Especially since malicious or just plain wrong (someone misheard or misunderstood something) CoC complaints will and do happen. This case and Gail Z. Martin’s are two examples and I know of at least one other case, where someone was accused of something they did not say and removed from programming. And I suspect there are other cases we do not know about.

    Regarding the g-word, the German equivalent has been considered a slur for almost as long as I can remember and I would never use it. Hence I won’t use the English g-word either except when quoting something, though I know the g-word is not yet as taboo as the German Z-word. Usually, when someone uses the g-word, I politely inform them that it’s considered a slur and that Romany is the preferred term.

  45. . . . the con-running community has created a worse problem.

    Ginger, the “con-running community” doesn’t exist. “Author community” or “publisher community” are larger communities that don’t exist but it’s the same thing.

    The world has expanded. There’s now a huge number of conventions. There’s a huge number of people who work on conventions. Staff overlap is often within a small group of conventions.

    There is no con-running community. It exists only in some people’s minds.

    Think about it. You’ve attended many conventions where nothing has gone wrong. You personally know a lot of good, even exceptional, people who work on conventions. The very notion that there’s a con-running community clumps them together with those who toss people out on their ass for use of a word.

    I’ve long given up the fight that there’s no con-running community and we’ll all get blamed for what anyone does. But now and then it seems worth trying.

  46. @ Mike Thanks. It seems that Facebook blew up on me. First time that’s happened, believe it or not, so I didn’t notice.

  47. There is no con-running community. It exists only in some people’s minds.

    There is a con-running community in SFF that meets yearly at SMOFcon:

    Smofcon is an annual conference for convention planners. At Smofcon, we gather discuss many aspects of convention planning, at both the local level and at the Worldcon and other large conference level. We look for old friends, make new ones, attend panels on a variety of subjects about convention running, and express our views on best ways to do something. We often get recruited to work on other conventions — or recruit others to come work on our next convention.

    It only attracts 150-300 people but I’d definitely consider it a community. There’s overlap between these folks and the leaders of Worldcons.

  48. Elspeth: You may not believe there is a “con-running community” but others plainly do. Consider part of its genesis in the creation of the term “Permanent Floating Worldcon Committee” which has been in use since the Seventies — http://www.smofinfo.com/wsfs/Timeline.htm.

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