The new DisCon III chair is Mary Robinette Kowal. The announcement came the day after Kowal completed her term as President of SFWA, which ended June 30.
DisCon III started out with two co-chairs, however, Colette Fozard resigned in January and Bill Lawhorn resigned in June. The challenges they had already confronted included the bankruptcy and closure of the hotel they planned to use as their main facility, moving the convention’s dates to December so that it could be an in-person event, removing GoH Toni Weisskopf, and the resignations of two teams of Hugo administrators. Lawhorn’s resignation came as the convention faced a backlash about its policies toward Hugo finalists, discussed below, which he signed off, and are believed to have been behind the departure of the latest Hugo team, although they did not say so explicitly in their announcement.
Kowal has a unique track record of assisting Worldcons through crises, having memorably stepped in to assist changing the 2018 Worldcon program, and to facilitate discussion between 2021 Hugo finalists and the committee over DisCon III’s policies.
The 2018 Worldcon’s program troubles involved such issues as the respect for people’s chosen pronouns (and related concerns about LGBTQAI+ and POC participation); whether new writers were being accepted onto programming (with skepticism fueled by the realization that several newer writers who were Hugo nominees were not on the program); and dissatisfaction with responses by the Worldcon 76 program division. And these questions had led several well-known writers and editors to announce they were dropping off the program to make slots available for those they felt were being shortchanged. Kowal made sure multiple voices were heard, while diplomatically acknowledging “WorldCon is a huge, complicated beast. We know about the mistakes, but there’s also a ton of stuff they’ve done right. I don’t want to throw things out that are working.”
Then, this June, when the Worldcon sent finalists a message about the limit on invitations for the Hugo finalist reception and near-the-stage seating for the ceremony (see item #6 here), without previous discussion or canvassing to learn the amount of demand for them, some finalists discussed what measures they might take in response. Kowal facilitated a June 23 Zoom meeting between several Hugo finalists and representatives of DisCon III that allowed time for the committee to organize a number of changes, including rescinding the limits in the previous message.
As an author, Mary Robinette Kowal is well-known for The Glamourist Histories series, Ghost Talkers, and the Lady Astronaut series. She is part of the award-winning Writing Excuses podcast and has received the Astounding Award for Best New Writer, four Hugo awards, the Nebula and Locus awards. Her Lady Astronaut Universe is a 2021 finalist for the Best Series Hugo, and The Relentless Moon, a book in the series, is a finalist for Best Novel. New WSFS Division Head Linda Deneroff reports she has created the Hugo subcommittee provided in section 3.13 of the WSFS Constitution which makes it possible for others on a Worldcon committee to remain eligible for the award. Therefore, double-Hugo-finalist Kowal’s taking on the role of chair will not create any conflict of interest.
The committee produced an official press release but has not yet sent a copy to File 770. Readers may want to seek it out to see if it has any additional information.