Help with “Missy” Response?

October 11th, 2012

In the post-ReaderCon sexual harassment revelations and groundswell, something that incensed me equally didn’t get much discussion. With autumn con season upon us, it’s on my mind again, and I welcome input.

Genevieve Valentine’s account of her harassment at ReaderCon also included mention that she, while on a panel, was referred to by a fellow panelist as “missy.” I find such belittlement, of anyone for any reason, colossally offensive.

Having at the time just moderated a ReaderCon panel myself, I immediately wondered, what’s the best response to something like that, when it’s happening?

I’ve thought about it, but I’m not the most socially adroit, so I would appreciate hearing others’ thoughts.

I think the response would be different depending on what role I was in: audience, fellow panelist, or panel moderator. Here are the responses I came up with. All comments welcome.

As an audience member: when the panel opens for questions, ask the disparaging panelist a two-part question. ‘Did you actually call that other panelist _____, and if so, why in the world would you disrespect a fellow panelist like that?’

As a fellow panelist: when the disparaging panelist finished, or maybe even interrupting them, ‘Did you actually call this other panelist _____? If so, then I’m not interested in a single other thing you’ve got to say.’ And leave the panelist table and walk out of the room.

As the moderator: when the disparaging panelist finished, ‘Did you actually call this other panelist _____? We don’t belittle people like that, at least on any panel I’m moderating. If you do it again, you can answer to the con-com.’

(My vindictive side would like to include in that last one ‘or I will call security and have you removed’ or the Conan-esque ‘or you and I can step outside and discuss it.’ But those don’t seem wise. :) )

Any thoughts? I do think it’s something that deserves pointing out in the moment. But if the disparager chose to get belligerent, things might get tense.

I hope to never need this. But if I ever see this sort of thing happen, I would like to have an idea of what might be a good thing to do.

Thanks very much for any comments.

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Posted in random rants, SF/F | 4 Comments »

At Capclave This Weekend

October 9th, 2012
Capclave

Capclave

I will be at Capclave, my local DC-area SF/F con, this weekend, where reading, unlike the beanie-capped fellow at right, is not extinct!  With a stack of shiny new BCS flyers and anthology postcards.

I’m on several panels and will have a reading. Here’s my schedule:

Friday 6:00 pm: Reading
I will be reading from “The Sadly Only Mildly Dramatic Tale of Sijo Uthewn,” my Clark Ashton Smith pastiche that was recently accepted by Space and Time magazine.

Friday 7:00 pm: Small Press an Ebook Perspective
Small press editors discuss ebooks. How are ebooks affecting the small press industry? How do you compete with the big boys?  (This one includes editor Neil Clarke.)

Saturday 11:00 am: Rejection
Thank you for submitting your story, unfortunately… Nobody sells everything. How do authors cope with rejection? What do editors do to help?  (This one includes editor Sean Wallace.)

Sunday 2:00 pm: Online publishing, from blogs to e-magazines
What are the advantages and disadvantages of publishing online? Who are some of the best online publishers and what do they do? What can be learned from some pioneers? And how can new would-be publishers get started? (This one includes both Neil and Sean!)

Feel free to drop by these if you’d like to hear my insight on any of the above. Also drop by my reading if you like Clark Ashton Smith and/or dry wit.

And if you see me after panels or in the halls or the bar, feel free to say hello.

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Imagine That

August 7th, 2012

As anyone in publishing or writing knows, the most popular pastime of authors and publishers lately is pontificating on the current upheaval in the publishing industry.

Not so much on what is happening now, for example the rise of ebooks and major authors self-e-publishing, but what they are certain is going to happen next, and what they think–or know–that you should do about it. “Trad-pub” is dead, agents are evil and unnecessary, self-publishing is crap, editors are right, readers are right, etc, etc. Not observations; declarations.

Finally a synthesis of observation and acknowledgment, along with some well-warranted grumbling at those strident declarations, from author, editor, and publisher Jeff Vander Meer. I have great respect for the Vander Meers–Ann bought my first genre sale, for WT, and she and Jeff were very cool to me at Capclave a few years ago and very complimentary of BCS.

And this post of Jeff’s really nails it. It’s great to hear an established figure calling out many of the “bullshit solutions” that people are lately spewing, and the fact that promulgating them on young writers is a disservice to the field. Admitting that he has no great answers (neither do I). And calling for more imagination in approaching this new landscape.Bravo.

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Gutless

July 30th, 2012

By now, most ReaderCon fans and attendees have heard about the sexual harassment that occurred this year.

ReaderCon’s stated policy on harassment is zero-tolerance: violators are banned for life. As one of the more progressive-seeming cons in the field, I was pleased to learn of this and delighted that the perpetrator of this egregious behavior (multiple incidents) would never again be present to so reprehensibly ruin ReaderCon for anyone.

On Friday, the ReaderCon Board of Directors banned this violator not for life but for two years. As justification, they cited his remorse and that the policy felt too severe for cases without intent.

What a gutless move.

If you have a policy, you need to follow it. If you don’t, you are signalling loud and clear that people in the future cannot expect you to keep your word on anything. You are rendering your entire rulebook, all your policies, meaningless.

If you no longer believe that your policy is right, that’s fine, but that’s a separate issue. Reform the policy later, to cover future cases. But for existing cases, you must follow it.

I know this because I’ve been in a similar situation.  In a freshman Chem course I taught, my penalty for cheating was an F for the whole semester. Somebody cheated. And I didn’t have the guts to stick to my policy either. I wished in hindsight I’d made the penalty for first offenders an F on that assignment, then an F for the semester only for a second offense. Just as ReaderCon seems to wish they hadn’t made their policy zero-tolerance either.

I was saved from the temptation to make the same mistake ReaderCon has made because the student, before I could meet with them, cheated a second time. That made my stated penalty fit my new opinion of what offense deserved it. I handed it down with no qualms. And the next semester, I changed my policy.

ReaderCon should have stuck to their policy and banned this perpetrator for life, then started changing what they don’t like about the policy. They could allow banned-for-life people to apply for reinstatement after a certain number of years, and at that time consider any remorse. Ironically, such changes would have accomplished the same ends as their gutless current solution did, but without obliterating all trust in the con.

Let alone that this type of behavior seems to happen often in the con circuit; is reprehensible and even criminal; that remorse or intent have no place in any case involving multiple incidents; and that it’s profoundly sad that some peoples’ behavior makes a progressive con and indeed a progressive field need to have such policies at all.

I can only hope the groundswell of discussion will help the ReaderCon board realize they’ve made a huge mistake.

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