The Australian Science Fiction Foundation, led by President Juliette A H Cavendish and Vice President Geoff Allshorn, debuted a rebranded and redesigned website on August 1. It included plans for a youth fiction award to be named after the late Bill Wright, a choice that a number of Australians immediately spoke against.
On the surface, Wright, who died in January, would seem to have the resume for a memorial honor by the ASFF. He was well-known as the Australian Science Fiction Foundation’s Awards Administrator for many years, a past DUFF delegate, and received the A. Bertram Chandler Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2017. For the ASFF he also established the Norma Hemming Award for Race, Gender, Sexuality, Class And Disability In Australian Speculative Fiction, and organized it for six years.
However, Wright, at a gathering 20 years ago, said in the presence of several hearers that while touring overseas he had paid for sex with children. It was hard to believe any award would be named for him, much less one aimed at youth.
Andrew Macrae and Ian Mond were among the people who heard Wright make this statement at the gathering.
Macrae said on Twitter:
And Ian Mond confirmed to File 770, “I was in the same room that Andrew was in. We heard it at the same time along with four others who I won’t name.”
Terry Frost tweeted to ASFF on the basis of something heard on another occasion:
And yet the ASFF leadership not only responded with disbelief, they threatened one of those who spoke out with legal action (a person, not named above, who promptly removed what she had written online about the issue).
The Foundation also posted on their website yesterday that they are “seeking legal advice” – a statement which has since been taken down:
“The ASFF Is currently seeking legal advice over social media attacks yesterday and today, concerning our positive awards relaunch. The online comments have been serious enough for us to cease all ASFF activities whilst legal advice is being sought. We will be taking immediate legal action if the advice is to do so. We apologise to all of our members for this pause in our activities. Those members who were involved are being blocked from all future ASFF activities and have been reported to FB for hate speech. Social media Is not the place to instigate vile attacks, make unsubstantiated comments nor undertake ‘mob attacks’ on others. The comments made are very serious and it is highly inappropriate to use a public Facebook platform to discuss them. Further public comments made solely about the ASFF which are derogatory in nature will be immediately reported to our legal team. Don’t believe everything you read Is my advice. Social media Is a poor playing field for the truth and many people use it as a cheap way to hurt others and cause distress. If you have any questions concerning the integrity of the ASFF please email us. We are more than happy to discuss matters. Inquiryasff@outlook.com There appears to be a single person who instigates these attacks against the ASFF publicly and we do not know why, as she is not a member of the ASFF. Despite knowing that she is causing distress and upset to others, she has continued this attack for twenty-four hours, inciting hate speech against an individual and defaming the integrity of the ASFF. Despite us reaching out and asking her to cease, she has continued. We have reached out to those involved and no apologies have been offered, despite the hurt they are collectively causing. I imagine they will also mock this message, such is their lack of insight into their actions and obvious lack of empathy. I am disappointed that all the work we have done to relaunch the ASFF has been seriously undermined by a group of nasty individuals, most of whom have not asked for any clarification for things that they are commenting on. Imagine. A world without hate. Imagine the truth.”
But today the ASFF appeared to have rolled back their plans for naming the award. As of this writing, their website features a page about the Short Story Writing Competition without any reference to Wright. Ian Mond commented on Twitter: