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.


6 Responses to “Two kerfuffles for the price of one”

  • Pixel Scroll 7/27/18 Why Do Pixels Scroll? …Because They’re Made Of Wood? | File 770 Says:

    […] (3) RETURNED FROM THE FRONT. Rosemary Kirstein makes observations about the panelist purge at Readercon, and compares that controversy to the latest one about Worldcon 76 programming in “Two kerfuffles for the price of one”. […]

  • Michael Grosberg Says:

    I’m planning to attend the 2019 Worldcon in Ireland; here’s hoping it’ll be less, uh, exciting, in that respect.
    Also – I’m reading Deep Roots at this very moment! love the series.

  • Ben Says:

    Sometimes, these days, I just want to yell “everybody stay calm! The ship’s not actually on fire!”, but I know it’d be a pointless exercise.

    • Rosemary Says:

      Well, in the SF/F world, one can generally wait for the fuss to die down.

      Out in Real Life, alas, it’s always possible that the ship might actually be on fire…

  • Amanda Bankier Says:

    Ah yes, like the province of Ontario. I don’t know if you would’ve noticed a couple of years ago when the city of Toronto became a worldwide laughingstock for electing a drunken, cocaine-snorting bigot called Rob Ford as Mayor. We used to refer to him as “the two-headed Mayor” since most of his ideas, such as they were, were dictated to him by his brother Doug. Rob Ford might still be our Mayor if he had not been diagnosed a couple of weeks into his re-election campaign with an advanced and viciously aggressive form of cancer. He left the race and died some months later. Sentimentality in some quarters about Rob was not enough to get Doug elected Mayor in his place. However, after a truly horrifying leadership race for the provincial Conservative party, and an absolutely Trump-like election campaign, Doug Ford is now the Premier of Ontario. In his first month he has fired every scientist connected with the provincial government (one of them might mention that climate change is real), repealed or cut every initiative designed to prevent further environmental degradation, started a court case against the federal government for promising to implement a carbon tax in any province that doesn’t have its own, is planning in the next month to shred the social assistance system, and is currently taking his revenge on Toronto by completely reorganizing its municipal structure in the middle of a local election. Members of his government have stated outright that this is designed to reduce the influence of progressive politicians on city Council. The Irish had a word for this I believe – gerrymandering?

    These are only the first few segments beneath decks, with the fire already jumping down the length of the ship.

    I wish that contemplating the likelihood that the fuss will die down in the SF/F world could distract me more effectively than it has so far. I think that, as I did after your presidential election, I need to go off and listen to Tom Lehrer’s “We’ll All Go Together When We Go”: “I always like to end on a positive note, so here’s a rousing, uplifting song which is guaranteed to cheer you up.” It did, too, as did my discovery on the way back that someone has posted one of the Ian and Sylvia’s lesser known songs, “National Hotel”, where, we are informed, “the carpet lives on ketchup, and the light bulb lives on flies; the wallpaper pattern lives on anything it can hypnotize.”

    I do hope that you make it to Ireland!