Tools, Spanners and a Gentle Tap by James Bacon

EDITOR’S INTRODUCTION: This ninth reprint from Journey Planet’s “Be the Change” issue. James Bacon calls for the creation for Worldcons of a whistleblower mechanism, and a requirement for Worldcons to hire an independent firm to monitor and audit the Hugo nominations and voting. He would restrict chairs of seated Worldcons from being on the Mark Protection Committee, require full minutes be taken of MPC meetings and made available to all members, and adopt rules to make the composition of the MPC more international.

By James Bacon: In my job, which involves a 300-ton piece of machinery, made of steel and glass, I have had to effect repairs on the go, as one might say.

I have often used a type of black and yellow duct tape, my go-to, to fix flooring, seats, doors, and panels. In non-emergency but dangerous situations, a tripping relay was held in, doors were forced open, and what mostly did it was a bit o’tape. One time, a piece of equipment was playing up, and I used some manual adjustment to try and effect an improvement. This fixed it, but a while later the equipment started playing up again, and when I applied my attention to it, sadly I broke it. When a plaintive, imploring voice down a crackling line asked what happened…I said I gave it a gentle tap. Fucked it though.

So let’s not totally fuck this up, right. The Hugo Awards are incredible, and last year, it really got fucked up. People – eligible nominees – were excluded, the figures stank, and there’s been no apology or explanation. I have no faith in the process that was undertaken last year, nor in those involved, and I am appalled by behaviours since.

Here are the proposals that I am currently working on. I have already had some input, and the next phase is to get the constitutional wording right. It is also important that future potential chairs, especially, think these proposals through. To me right now, the views of people like Esther, Kathy, Joyce, and Marguerite and Sara (who all contributed here) are vital.

Independent oversight of the Hugo Process

We pay for accountants, and we pay for advertising. We need to pay for oversight. It is a £1.2 million pound event. Let’s cost it. Figure out how to do this. This would include a whistleblower mechanism where the independent overseer/verifier can inform the community that there is an issue via the Mark Protection Committee (MPC). Also included would be a Constitutional amendment requiring the Worldcon Committee contract with an independent firm to monitor and audit the Hugo nominations and voting. This contract with the independent firm would need to be submitted as part of a Worldcon bid paperwork.

Chair the Worldcon or be on the MPC

The concept that one member of the MPC could authorise Hugo use, and also be the person who could authorise the use of the Hugo to themselves seems utterly incredible. I have yet to ascertain if this is allowed, but something occurred in Chengdu, decisions were made to do “Hugo” things, one person said the MPC approved it, but then another MPC member said they were totally unaware. Chairs should not be on the MPC; they have representatives, and only the committee can approve usage. Furthermore, this process should be minuted, noted, and communicated.

All MPC/WIP meetings should be fully recorded, and all minutes should be made available.

It is appalling that four hours and forty minutes of an MPC meeting dealing with the censure of individuals who have acted badly is not recorded. Disappeared like lies in the wind. Complicity in hiding the truth from members of WSFS is unacceptable. But it is not just hiding the truth, it is also enabling this behaviour that is wrong. This cannot occur. No silencing of the MPC/WIP. Decisions and meeting minutes need to be communicated in matters of censure, or other areas of concern, to all members.

Any current MPC/WIP should resign and seek re-election

Whether they do it voluntarily, or by a vote in the Business Meeting, all should step down and seek re-election. Indeed, there are many who I respect who I think should seek reelection to the committee. Self-respect and decency calls for it; they know this. Also this would ensure that bad or incompetent actors are removed.

International representation is key – MPC/WIP should not have more than 14% of its membership from one country

This would be a six-year plan, where incrementally increasing international representation occurs, starting (if this were to pass), with no more than 49% for any one country and then to 32% and then to 14%. Fans could welcome this and work towards it. There could also be scope for the MPC to bring on officers to learn, to take it on board so that not all recruitment occurs in the Business Meeting which is hard to access for many members. Let’s allow for international recruitment.

I shall be at Glasgow 2024. I shall be at the Business Meeting, and I shall work between now and then to refine, prepare, and in some cases, adjust, merge, or step in behind with similar proposals.

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5 thoughts on “Tools, Spanners and a Gentle Tap by James Bacon

  1. “It is appalling that four hours and forty minutes of an MPC meeting dealing with the censure of individuals who have acted badly is not recorded.”

    We would all love to see such a recording, but don’t get your hopes up. Even when governments are compelled by Open Records/Meetings Laws to provide access to or recordings/transcripts of meetings, there is almost always an exception for meetings in which the “good name and character” of individuals is discussed. The members of the meetings have to be able to openly discuss bad stuff about people without the threat of being sued for slander/libel.

  2. As a member of WIP, I endorse the “Any current MPC/WIP should resign and seek re-election” proposal; it’s moot for me, as I’m appointed for Chicon 8, so I’m not elected, but I think that it would be beneficial to review the membership.

  3. James, I heartily endorse your thoughts. I have my own proposal on oversight, but would back yours as well.

  4. No silencing of the MPC/WIP.

    No one is silencing Judy Bemis, Alan Bond, Joni Dashoff, Linda Deneroff, Don Eastlake, David Ennis, Bruce Farr, Dave McCarty, Chris Rose, Linda Ross Mansfield, Kevin Standlee, Alissa Wales, Nicholas Whyte, Mike Willmoth, Ben Yalow, or Joe Yao.

    They determined that they could close ranks and fandom would quietly accept it.

    And it seems like they were right.

  5. more to the point, the committee BARELY assembled the votes to get the censor motion passed. It would be important to know why the vote was so close.

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