By Colette H. Fozard: By now the news has been announced. I resigned as co-chair of DisCon III.
I have been part of the Worldcon community since 1995 when I attended Intersection as my honeymoon and I welcomed my now husband to the community with a Wedcon room party at Noreascon 4. I started volunteering in 1996 and have volunteered either at the Worldcon or for one I was working or bidding for at every Worldcon I have attended since then. I have volunteered at the Division Head level or higher at every Worldcon since 2017 save one.
In my years of growing responsibility of working for Worldcons, I have become increasingly alarmed and upset at the level of abuse and vitriol spewed at the all-volunteer staff. So much so that I have now abruptly walked away from probably the best chance I had to improve matters ‘from the inside.’
The Hugo announcement made Monday (and since retracted by DC III) made it clear that for the first time ever, all contributors to a Hugo finalist work would be listed and recognized as Hugo Finalists. No matter how many persons were named by the finalist work – everyone would be credited in the permanent record of the Hugo Awards, receive the finalist pin, and be celebrated as a finalist. The limits that were set were where resources and readability might become an issue. If you review the Hugo Finalist listings over there years, I can say with strong knowledge that if the listing said “Team [X]” or “X, Y, Z editors and the Staff of A” it was because the Hugo Administrator told the finalist that there was not the ability to list everyone they wanted to. DC III decided to drop those limits for the first time.
NOT GOOD ENOUGH, said some of the worst abusers of Hugo Admin staff over the years. They twisted the announcement to meet their selfish ends and I had to watch my staff despair that people were yelling at us for a misunderstanding. Because there were concerns about the readability of the ballot (most vote electronically, but paper ballots are required by the WSFS Constitution) and the physical ability of how many people we could fit together in reception and ceremony spaces, we were accused of stifling BIPOC creators. A rich accusation from the white editors/gatekeepers who pride themselves on being performatively abusive, in a social media community where this is not just tolerated but rewarded.
If this were the first time The Internet rounded on Worldcon staff, I would be less worried, but it happens over and over. As a member of CoNZealand’s committee, I saw how upset the staff were when numerous Hugo Finalists loudly and publicly proclaimed how upset they were with their programming, did not give CoNZealand a chance to make modifications, and then ran their own programming scheme attaching the convention’s name to it without asking, and finally had the gall to remind everyone at the end that their programming might be eligible for a best related work Hugo Award. A former staffer accused Worldcon 75 of withholding the souvenir book based on her misunderstanding of internal communications, and even though she was clearly wrong, I got to watch former Worldcon chairs, among others, pile on with cheap rhetorical shots, here on File 770 and within the complainers FB post.
Worldcon staff are people. People who are working hard to do the right thing and put on a convention where all feel welcome. Worldcon staff should be, must be, and are held responsible to ensure their work is welcoming and inclusive as possible, but the endless cycle of assume-bad-faith, attack-without-mercy is wearying, toxic and destructive to the very community these people claim to be a part of and care about. I have seen senior professionals in the field repeatedly abuse staff, cutting them off to berate them as they are trying to explain how they can help them. I have spent more time listening, comforting and caring for upset, traumatized and dejected staffers who have just been on the receiving end of nasty and vicious abuse (both verbal/in-person and in writing/online) than I care to think about.
I have managed and worked with thousands of Worldcon staffers over the years, from all over the world, and all of them come to their roles at Worldcon wanting to make this event better, inclusive and enjoyable for all. Mistakes will be made, but it is horrifying to see how vicious and unforgiving some in the community have become.
What is going to happen if this dangerous cycle doesn’t end? I don’t know, and since I’m leaving the Worldcon volunteer community, I no longer have to care. However, to paraphrase Gritty, the Hero of Philadelphia – keep f*cking around and we’ll find out.
I don’t think naming individuals would fix what I’m pointing to. The problem is the whole framing of the criticism, not that she didn’t go you-yes-you in the middle of it. If anything, doing so would only enhance the sense of erasure, I think.
ETA: Heck. I hate being the first comment on a new page.
… Must be nice to think that the biggest concern with DisCon is that last year, at a different con, some people provided a bunch of extra programming that should’ve been provided by the con.
Meanwhile, some random person is resigning because people were mean to her, without seeming to be able to point out which people were mean to her, or show them being mean to her?
Then you have the two people actually responsible for issue at hand, one of them was asked to resign and did so without a tantrum, and then the guy in charge of the Hugo Admin, also resigned because he felt that it was his responsibility to better manage what had happened so that his subordinate didn’t feel the brunt.
Seems like of the people that resigned, the writer of this post is the one that least hurts the con by doing so.
Alex von der Linden: Did you learn that style of empathy from Game of Thrones?
Alex von der Linden says … Must be nice to think that the biggest concern with DisCon is that last year, at a different con, some people provided a bunch of extra programming that should’ve been provided by the con.
Wait a minute. I’ve done many festival of a musical nature, mostly Celtic. (My fav artist? Dougie MacLean.) I never expected anyone to decide that they needed to add more programming to my festivals elsewhere. So no, the fringe didn’t need to exist nor did the programming they did need to be provided by CoNZealand. There was certainly more than enough programming produced by Worldcon for a fan to partake of.
Fringes are acts of ego, nothing more or less. The participants are saying that they know better than the official festival organisers what the fans want.
I’m going to presume goodwill on the part of Fozard, and also that she thought that being more specific wouldn’t help things at this point.
Unfortunately, that still leaves the problem of a combo of erasure and tarring. Which is in the OP, and is also part of an overall pattern – I have seen this several times – outside one individual concom member. The problem is still a problem, because naming/not-naming wasn’t part of it.
@Soon Lee said
Easy. Priorities and motivations. Some conrunners (I hate the term SMOF) do it as an act of service for the community and to help celebrate members of fandom. Some do it for other reasons. Some conrunners have inclusion as a priority and use it as a lens from which to create (or adapt existing) process and policy. Some don’t. Some people care more about doing right than being right.
There are years where there are fewer bumps with the participation and treatment of Hugo Finalists and other members of the community, and those are usually the years that people on staff make a conscious effort on that front from the beginning instead of as an afterthought.
The group of people willing and able to run a Worldcon bid are small and hold a lot of privilege. Until we change the way bidding works, that’s likely to continue to be true, and we’re gonna continue to get Worldcons where the people in charge don’t prioritize the things that lead to the type of consistency and/or growth that stops making the same mistakes. I can offer guidance and process docs to the people doing the job after me – I can’t make them care enough to follow the advice.
Matt Cavanagh: You probably read Jared Dashoff’s comment on this post. If “a little more thought” is the answer, how would you apply it to overcome the momentum of the decision-making that happened?
Well as the last three cons have all had some problems with treating finalists and diverse groups poorly then for me the do use con runners are saying you’re all separate groups is a fiction and an excuse.
Project management has a simple approach – do a proper lessons learned exercise. What went wrong; what went right, what should you start doing and what should you stop doing. There are at least three con groups working at any one time – actually have proper meetings with each other and problem solve. Agree actions to stop repeating the same avoidable mistakes again and again. To repeat this three years on the run is just plain stupid
I hear SMOFs say they do this and yet the evidence did quite clearly you don’t
If Worldcon has a problem treating finalists and in particular minority groups then that should be something EVERY decision needs to be looked at. From ticket prices, guest lists, comms and con panels etc and you should be asking yourselves have you got this right? If we have not what would the impact be.
Have these con groups actually got people knowledgeable in those areas? Are they being involved in this? Have you planned the decision making? Then you can focus on communicating it out.
Peopel are not complaining because this was a badly worded tweet it’s because it was a poor decision from a con that was claiming it was doing things better.
@Alex von der Linden:
Nice to see that the Co-Chair, one of the 2 Persons in charge of the whole con is for you just a random person.
Fringes are acts of ego, nothing more or less.
I’m sorry, Cat, I highly disagree with that statement. You might as well then say that all Cons of any type are acts of ego and nothing more or less.
@Paul I’d argue that some conrunners do it as acts of ego (vs acts of service) and those are the ones who get us into the stickiest situations.
Paul Weimer says to me I’m sorry, Cat, I highly disagree with that statement. You might as well then say that all Cons of any type are acts of ego and nothing more or less.
I strongly disagree. Most cons are strongly communitarian and very low on ego in nature. I think that fandom had done an exemplary job of putting of these on as volunteer efforts down the decades.
Being a prominent conrunner seems to be a thankless task nowadays. Well, I’d like to thank Colette, and I’d certainly not want to enter the the tempestuous seas that surround conrunners nowadays.
Does anyone think that Discon should have opened up the issue of five-or-more finalist names on a work to public discussion while still drafting a policy? If the first announcement had been a request for public comment that identified how this was a problem and what potential solutions were under consideration, it would have given those of us who are interested a chance to be a part of the deliberation. Instead, our first chance to weigh in was after it was decided.
Though obviously this wouldn’t be workable for every issue a Worldcon tackles, in this case I thought limiting names on the ballot was a big one worthy of getting feedback from con members. In the long term a limit, if there is one, should be part of the WSFS Constitution so that individual cons don’t have to take the heat for imposing one at their discretion.
No, @rcade, because fandom decided that DisCon should run the Worldcon, and we should let them get on with it. Too many things would become big issues it the eyes of some critical fans, and no-one can do a job with someone looking over their shoulder. DisCon’s possible date change was worthy of consultation, very few other decisions are.
This became a big issue after it was decided and is now open for public feedback before being decided again. I think it would be better to get the public involved before a decision so there’s more members who were part of the deliberation and can defend the reasoning.
I do agree that some issues aren’t big enough to open to the public for discussion before a policy is announced.
I agree with you that cons are communitarian efforts, which is what makes them so great.
However, I watched Fringe come together behind the scenes, even though I wasn’t involved myself, and it was also very much a community effort. In retrospect, many things such as the name and running it on the same weekend as CoNZealand would have been handled better, but it was just as much an event created in a few days by a community of fans as any other con.
@Matt, very well said. When there’s a pattern of (intentional or not) bad behavior, there needs to be some way for the institution to stop it. It doesn’t matter if Worldcon Alpha and Worldcon Beta are completely separate organizations; what matters is that, for instance, Worldcons should be designed with an eye to accessibility. And should put BIPOC on panels other than the “BIPOC in Science Fiction/Fantasy, Part 211.”
I have no idea how to accomplish this; I just think it should be an explicit goal.
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No, for several reasons.
– Previous conventions had, according to Fozard’s post, had a policy of limiting names to receive an award. Discon was formalizing a policy which had been ad hoc until then — formal is better. The also committed to adding all relevant names to the official records. Also an improvement.
– The idea that only so many names will be recognized is common among major awards. The Oscars, Emmies, Tonies, and Grammies all reserve the right to do this.
– The constraints that pushed Discon to make the decision still exist.
– The fact that the decision may have disparate impact on particular groups doesn’t make it a bad decision.
Cora says However, I watched Fringe come together behind the scenes, even though I wasn’t involved myself, and it was also very much a community effort. In retrospect, many things such as the name and running it on the same weekend as CoNZealand would have been handled better, but it was just as much an event created in a few days by a community of fans as any other con.
No, I’m not forgiving them. They were created to show up existing CoNZealand programming, so they were coming from a rotten place to begin with. So using the name was just more insulting. No excuses here.
If ConZealand had done a better job then there would not have been a call to action for a fringe. It’s not showing up it’s fans showing there are other ways and strangely quite doable if given thought
Matt Cavanagh: “A better job”? At least it was the CoNZealand committee’s job to do. It was wrong for the other group to appropriate the name and attach it to whatever they were doing.
There were CoNZealand staffers involved in Fringe.
And this means what? It doesn’t mean that the Fringe had permission to use the CoNZealand name. The committee has officially said they didn’t.
Cora Buhlert says There were CoNZealand staffers involved in Fringe.
As Mike days, that means nothing. I’ve worked for any number of arts organisations down the decades. However that means I cannot use their name in any undertaking I do without their written permission from the person authorised to grant permission to use it. And those staffers should bloody well have known that they were not to use ConNZealand in manner what-so-ever without getting that permission explicitly in writing from the organisation likewise.
Cora Buhlert: There were CoNZealand staffers involved in Fringe.
Again, that did not give them rights or permission to take the name and attach it to an unrelated event.
That was an unbelievable act of unjustified entitlement.
That’s not what I meant. Fringe didn’t have permission to use the CoNZealand name and they shouldn’t have used it.
However, I just wanted to point out that there is no dichotomy between ConZealand and Fringe, because some of the same people were involved in both.
Here we go round the mulberry bush, Iteration Number [I’ve lost count].
This is not a productive discussion but I need to say this: just because there were CoNZealand staff working on “CoNZealand Fringe”, does not mean there was no dichotomy.
I don’t speak for File770 even though I am a regular here. And I certainly have no authority to speak or act for File770. It was the same with CNZ staffers.
Also: when has any group of fans ever been a unified whole? Even the first Worldcon contained factions. It’s Fandom First Principles…
Puppies gone, wokesters turn on each other. Who could have predicted?
My advice to SMOFs (and everyone else, really) is to never indulge in those abject apologies and struggle sessions that people want to force you to undergo. Listen to complaints, and if you believe you need to fix something, do it. If you think you did something wrong, explain, apologize forthrightly once, and then stop. If you think you’re doing something correctly, explain forthrightly once, and then stop. The people who want to make you suffer aren’t your friends, and nothing you say will mollify them. They get their power and satisfaction from torturing you.
And here comes the next 8chan troll. Like old times.
@ Hampus: You can set a calendar by it. (Shouldn’t there be a 16chan by now?)
Why did I wake up and have that same thought this morning? Slow motion telepathy?
…excellent job of deflecting from the motivations of the Fringe crew, which were closely tied with the issue around panelist representation in the form of Hugo nominees who were new to Worldcon community, and the issue of the number of names per nomination.
Well done. It’s not like it’s plausibly actually about moving Worldcon from a justified critique about insiderism and being a bastion of looking-backward SFF fandom, or anything.
Ah well. I like the new works, and whatever leads to celebrating them is a joy to be around. I’d like it if that were Worldcon, because it’s where I meet a lot of my old friends.
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