st_emma: (Default)
( Aug. 5th, 2012 02:42 pm)
The concom of Readercon has issued a public apology for the Rene Walling harassment debacle, as well as a statement of actions going forward. While the whole thing is obviously still very much a work in progress, these are very encouraging signs.

I'm cautiously optimistic that the forces that wish to make Readercon a safe and welcoming space are prevailing. The only remaining question is whether or not I want to volunteer for the safety committee. I have the physical energy these days, but given the uphill battle that I'm perceiving this entire clusterfuck to have been, do I have the emotional energy?
st_emma: (Default)
( Jul. 28th, 2012 02:55 pm)
I was unable to make Readercon this year, and now it looks like that non-attendance may become permanent. Here's the backstory:

Genevieve Valentine was sexually harassed by Rene Walling at Readercon, and a report was made to the concom.

Although I have never heard of him, Walling is apparently some sort of big name in fandom, well-connected, with a lot of friends. And in a move that I'm sure is not coincidental at all, Readercon's Board has decided that the "zero tolerance" harassment policy is too harsh, and fails to "allow for the possibility of reform", so they're not actually going to apply it in this case. They're going to give him a two-year suspension instead.

I'm not even going to go into the fact that "reform" can bloody well happen without a return to Readercon in the predator's lifetime.

My response to the Readercon board follows. )

Zero tolerance policies are blunt instruments that are easy enough to apply when the malfeasors are not really part of the community. It's harder to apply them to the popular crowd. That alone should necessitate a rethink of the whole zero tolerance concept, but the message being sent here - and it's being received loud and clear by an increasing number of people who are backing away from the thought of attending future Readercons - is that if a predator is sufficiently popular among the right crowd of people, the rules will be bent for him. This little handslap doesn't make anyone safer - and the nonsense about requiring "substantiated reports of continued inappropriate behavior" to enforce their rules merely ensures that future incidents will occur well out of eyeshot of witnesses. That doesn't make anyone safer, either.

What would I have them do? For starters, follow their own damn rules. Since the incidents occurred when the zero tolerance policy was in place, that is the policy that applies. If they want to change the rules for the future, they are welcome to do so. If they want to change the rules to allow for an appeal after a set period of time - two to five years, say - that would be fine, provided that the final say on whether or not a harasser returns goes not to the board, but to the people who were harassed. Their safety - really everyone's safety - should take precedence over the alleged redemption of a known predator.
st_emma: (Default)
( Jul. 11th, 2010 06:07 pm)
The Good
Let's start with this year's guests of honour, Charles Stross and Nalo Hopkinson. Fantastic choices, especially considering the early panic regarding the rumours of possibly not having any guests of honour at all.

Coming home with a backpack stuffed full of books and a head stuffed full of ideas. This is maybe my very favourite part of Readercon. Which brings us to...

The dealer's room. I live for my annual Readercon book binge. This is the best dealer's room in all of fandom.

The clearly-spelled out harassment policy. I really hope that there isn't a particular incident that prompted this, but I am really heartened to see it in print, especially when it's combined with...

The Open Source Women Back Each Other Up Project. Women should feel totally safe at cons, and while I personally have never had any problems at Readercon, it's nice to know that there's a safety net. I was horrified and outraged by the events that sparked the OSWBEOUP (and would have taken them exceedingly poorly, had I been subjected to them personally), and was/am an enthusiastic supporter of women backing each other up. So, yay Readercon!

The immense breadth and scope of the panels. From readings of A Midsummer Night's Dream to discussions of fanfiction, global warming, the works of H.P. Lovecraft, and carnivorous plants. The range of choices is dizzying, and very frequently one is left trying to decide between two or more interesting subjects. (Those rare hours where nothing appeals are mostly useful for lunch breaks and visits to the dealers' room.)

Cthulhu cupcakes at the Tiptree bake sale. Ia! Ia!

The Meh
The Tiptree Bake Sale blurb in the program guide could use a good updating. I'd bring it to someone's attention, but I'd probably wind up volunteering to rework it all myself, which is not something I'm willing to take on in a year when I'm studying organic chemistry.

The cell phones. Last year, pretty much every panel I attended had at least one attendee who failed to either turn their phone off or set it to vibrate; a couple of these people even started to take the call while the panel was in session before the death glares of their neighbours sent them scurrying. This year, it was only really every other panel that was interrupted this way, and no one was rude enough to start talking while still in the room, which is a slight improvement. Still, it shouldn't have to be an issue at all.

The schizophrenic air conditioning. Salons F and G were freezing - for once, I wasn't the only person wearing a bulky sweater to the Kirk Poland - while Rhode Island sweltered. Only New Hampshire/Maine were comfortable. (And they're the reason that this is in the "meh" category, instead of "not-so-good"). I'm not sure how much control over the air conditioning that Readercon actually has, but I do know I would have enjoyed the guest of honour interviews a little more if I wasn't preoccupied by the fact that I couldn't feel my feet.

Finally, why, why, why is Friday's programming generally more compelling than Saturday's? Don't get me wrong - I love compelling programming, and I love showing up on Friday; I always feel so bad for those who can't just take the day off and wind up missing out on stuff like a kaffeeklatsch with either of the guests of honour.

The Not-So-Good
Not enough of Nalo Hopkinson's works in the dealer's room. And where the heck was Inanna Arthen's latest novel? All you have to do is make them available to me, dealers, and I will cheerfully exchange cash for text.

The pack of children whose minder saw fit to allow them to play loudly in the hallway outside several of the conference rooms Saturday afternoon while panels were in session. At one point, several of these children burst into the room where a panel was taking place, only to be ushered out by their apologetic attending adult. On the one hand, they left quickly and were pretty much silent after that, but on the other hand, it shouldn't have happened in the first place. Hopefully this won't be an issue next year.

11:00 - How to Write for a Living promised to be pretty interesting, but it was regrettably scheduled into the smallest of the conference rooms, which meant that by the time I got there, it was standing room only, and the air conditioner was not exactly working optimally. I was so sticky and uncomfortable I couldn't focus on what the panelists were saying, so I bailed and went to...

The Shirley Jackson Awards. Karen Joy Fowler's acceptance speech was particularly artful, even if she couldn't be there in person. Congratulations to all the winners. And since that wrapped up early, back I went to...

How to Write for a Living, where I stood miserably, jotting down as much information as I could take in (mostly web sites) until someone left early and I could scoot into their seat. Thank you, mysterious early leaving person. I love you. And if anyone from the Con Comm is reading this, for the love of all that's holy, schedule your practical writing panels in a larger room. Thank you!

Once the room cleared out a bit, Peter Straub entered to enthrall me (and several other people) utterly with his talk, How I Wrote The Skylark/A Dark Matter. His tale of how his book wended its way through the publishing industry was quite possibly the most horrifying thing I've heard all year.

1:00 - Final pass through the bookstore, snapping up last minute bargains, and getting off the fence about those books I was previously on the fence about.

Followed by Through the Portal to Promise and Peril, which I picked up about halfway through, and which would have benefited from audience members not asking questions or raising points that had already been asked or raised before.

2:00 - There was a bit of a scheduling dilemma for me here, with Gender and Sexuality in Contemporary F&SF competing for my time and attention with The Appeal of Lovecraft. I started out at Gender and Sexuality, and gleaned a new entry for my wishlist (Cat Valente's Palimpsest), but then the whole thing seemed to get bogged down in a discussion of taboo, and whether or not writers did (or should) consider the taboos of their audiences. I wasn't immediately envisioning a way in which this would lead back to anything interesting to me, and panelist Shariann Lewitt appeared as disinterested as I, so I bailed and went off to discover instead...

The Appeal of Lovecraft. Of whom I have not read nearly enough. Yet another thing to be rectified in the near/immediate future.

And then the con was over and we came home.

12:00 - Fanfic as Literary Criticism (Only More Fun) was a serious look at not only the possibilities inherent in fan fiction to fill in the gaps in the text left by the author (either deliberately or otherwise), and to provide the authors with a forum in which to experiment with writing and receive feedback from a community of readers. The terrifying possibility of Aaron Burr/Alexander Hamilton slash was raised, and Cecilia Tan gave out some of her Potter fanfic at the end. Yay, fanfic.

1:00 - Book shopping.

2:00 - Fiction of the Unpleasant. The topic was made even more visceral by the small infant who started screeching halfway through the discussion. The point was raised that many of the topics of horror fiction - depression, alcoholism, death, despair - are also prominent topics of literary fiction.

3:00 - Suzy McKee Charnas reading her excellent short story "Late Bloomer," which will be published in an upcoming YA anthology of vampire fiction, entitled Teeth.

4:00 - Guest of Honor Interview: Charles Stross. He impressed me as the kind of witty, politically savvy author I enjoy reading, and we have several of his novels floating around, so why haven't I read anything of his yet? Have you seen my to-read pile? Nevertheless, I'll get on it soon.

5:00 - Guest of Honor Interview: Nalo Hopkinson. Now, I have read Brown Girl in the Ring, so I'm not totally unfamiliar with her work, but I really would like to read more of it. It's a shame it's in such short supply in the dealer's room.

6:00 - Home to get some socks and a sweater because I was freezing. While the air conditioning at Readercon hasn't been quite as frigid as it has in years past, the main salons were extremely cold. Add to that the fact that my feet got somewhat wet after the rainstorm, and by the time the guest of honor interviews were over, I could no longer feel my feet. After that, we got dinner.

8:00 - The Kirk Poland Memorial Bad Prose Competition, which always makes me laugh so hard I almost cry. This year, we had excerpts from John "Overused Semicolons of Gor" Norman and Robert "Spunging Nipples" Heinlein, among others. We also had a small child in the front row who is no doubt at this very second pestering their mom to explain to them what an orgasm is, why slaves both desire and fear punishment from their masters, and why on earth grownups think it's funny to hear about nipples going spung. Conversations like that are a major reason why I don't have kids.

And then we went home.
For some reason, I can't quite recall if we've ever done the Thursday evening track before, but it occurs to me that we must have. Which in turn makes me think I should write this all down, or I'll forget all about it by next year.

At any rate, Barry Longyear's talk Imagine or Die was a fascinating look at how he feeds his imagination as part of his writing process. It gave me not a few good ideas for germinating ideas, and led directly into Friday's first activity.

12:00 - Barry Longyear reading from his forthcoming novel Confessions of a Confederate Vampire. I'm not really into gritty war novels, but this actually seems like something I'd be into, so I'm going to be watching for it. Apparently it's being shopped out to publishers as I type, so hopefully it'll be in print soon.

1:00 - New England: At Home to the Unheimlich? Which raised (at least for me) the question: if New England is the quintessential horror setting because it's essentially informed by its climate, seasons and the lingering darkness, why doesn't the same hold true for Canada? Is it the newness of Canada, or it's vastness, as opposed to New England's insularity? After all, vastness has a kind of horror, too. This bears exploring.

2:00 - Peter Straub reading from The Skylark

3:00 - Lunch.

4:00 - Book shopping - my first pass through the store. The booths aren't all set up yet but most of the wares are there, and I came away with a few things that were on my wishlist, and saw a few more goodies that weren't.

5:00 - Authoritativeness in Fiction, which purported to examine one of my favourite fictional tropes, the appeal to an authoritative source to ground the fiction in the so-called real world, be it in the form of an epistolary novel, a manuscript merely "discovered" by the author, or the extensive use of detailed footnotes and sources real and fictional. Wherein I learned that Caitlin R. Kiernan is as passionate about House of Leaves as I am, and for pretty much the same reasons.

6:00 - Cecelia Holland reading from Kings of the North.

And then we came home for the evening. It starts all over again tomorrow, after a brief trip to the chiropractor.


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