Jul 27 2018

Two kerfuffles for the price of one


Well, the kerfuffle surrounding Readercon’s disinvitation sweep (AKA “geezer purge”) — as, um, interesting as it was — has now paled in comparison to the new kerfuffle surrounding WorldCon’s programming.

The interesting thing about them is that they seem to be flip-sides of the same general issue:

The geezer purge, while claiming to be about making room for more diversity, had the effect of targeting a specific group (elders), and thus apparently actively discriminating — going against Readercon’s explicit, written policy of inclusion.

While the Worldcon newbie snub favored the established writers over unknowns even when those new writers are among this year’s Hugo finalists.  Yeah, that’s just nuts.  They are Hugo finalists!  People will want to see them, don’t ya think?  And how exactly do you think people become established writers?

One seemed to say: You’re old, get out of the way!  The other seemed to say: Never heard of you, don’t waste our time.

Well.  Mistakes were made, as the saying goes.

Readercon apologized for the disinvitation letter, calling it “not well written.”  Actually, having read it, it seemed to me to be very carefully written.  If the problem was simply that there wasn’t enough room for all the people who wanted to be on the program, a simple “Sorry, can’t fit you on the program this year, try again next year,” would have done it.  But that’s not what was said.  It was, “We’re deeply grateful for your years of participation….But that longevity is exactly why we need you to step aside…”

Personally, I never assume that any convention is going to automatically include me just because I was there last year.  Or because I’ve attended for many years.

The more I look at it, the more that it seems like they went so far overboard in apologizing that the justifications kept piling up, and the fact that the disinvitation was not permanent was never mentioned.  It really did look like “So long, and thanks for all the fish.”

Did they mean it that way?  Well, once people complained about it, they assured us that they did not.

I did attend Readercon, and when I looked around, the convention seemed pretty much like any Readercon of past years — except that a number of specific people I normally see there were absent.

Barry B. Longyear was gone — But the even older Samuel R. Delaney was present.

Jeff Carver and Craig Shaw Gardener were gone — But James Patrick Kelly, of a similar vintage, was present.

Ann Zeddies and Shariann Lewitt were missing — but I was there, about the same age, same gender, and same level of experience.

(During the convention, I ran into a longtime participant who had been disinvited — and who showed up, not as participant or even attendee.  Just sort of strolled in, and chatted to a few people, including me.  Hey, it’s a hotel!  The convention didn’t own the building.   But this person was rather bitter, and made some statements that I could not take at face value without further discussion and/or evidence, to the effect that it was in fact a targeted purge, and that Those in Power had explicitly informed this person of his unsuitability.  But that was merely a brief exchange.  If true, I need more info, from a reliable source willing to be quoted by name.)

And actually, it was quite an enjoyable convention, for me.  I had a good showing for my Kaffeeklatsch, a good showing for my reading (which was lots of fun), and um, exactly two people for my autographing.  Hey, it happens.  Hung out with some nice people, including Ruthanna Emrys, who has a new book out:

Deep Roots (The Innsmouth Legacy) by [Emrys, Ruthanna]

It’s the second volume of her Innsmouth Legacy series, which poses the question: what if all that stuff H.P. Lovecraft wrote about was true — and, oh, by the way, not a bad thing at all?  If you’re a Lovecraft fan, you should check these out.

Now, as for the Worldcon newbie-snub kerfuffle: once called on it, they did an interesting thing.  They acknowledged their error, withdrew the offending preliminary program listing, apologized, and set about fixing the problem immediately.  

And please note in the above link, all the well-established SF/F professionals who volunteered to give up their places on the program, specifically to make room for the newer writers.

The kerfuffle also included — was in fact initially sparked by — the misgendering of Hugo finalist Bogi Takács,  drawing an apology from Worldcon Chair Kevin Roche.  I do hope that one gets sorted out to everyone’s satisfaction.  Alternative gender identification is newly publicly acknowledged in modern society, and one of the very interesting things about living in the 21st century.