Tag Archive | conventions

By their fruits you will know them — when people show you who they are, believe them

“Just a reminder. There's not two of you — Internet you and real you. There is just one real you. Which means if you're not kind on the internet, you're not kind.” —Glenn Melton Doyle

“Just a reminder. There’s not two of you — Internet you and real you. There is just one real you. Which means if you’re not kind on the internet, you’re not kind.” —Glenn Melton Doyle

Those of us who are fans of Geek Girl Con had a little scare this week, as a message that seemed to indicate a huge portion of the staff was quitting together came into our mailboxes. The post (also put up on the con’s Facebook page and elsewhere) was carefully crafted to push the outrage buttons of the types of person most likely to be attracted to the con’s spirit of inclusivity. And yes, the outrage machine seemed to be gearing up. But there were enough skeptical people to keep it from snowballing too quickly. And the manner in which the post was made was a big clue for many people: the folks who were resigned hijacked the official Geek Girl Con mailing list to post their vaguely described grievances, and hijacked the official web page to post it, and none of them were willing to sign their names to it. Even before I read it, once I knew that, I knew that it really didn’t matter what their grievances are. Anyone who would hijack the official mailing list and the web page were the kinds of people who needed to be removed from convention staff.

But you don’t have to take my word for it Rob Salkowitz breaks it down nicely: GEEKGIRLCON DEALS WITH THE PAINS OF PROFESSIONALIZATION.

“As anyone who has ever worked for or with a nonprofit can tell you, the transition from volunteer to professional organization is not always smooth. People who contributed to the growth of the organization may feel resentment toward an outsider brought in above them, whose job is to make tough decisions and impose management discipline on previously informal systems. As fair-minded and inclusive as you might want to be in that role, eventually you will piss some people off just because you are the boss and they aren’t.

“It’s not unusual for longtime staffers to quit in these circumstances, sometimes in a huff. Sometimes, to really make a statement, they’ll resign in a group. If there’s something actionable, they can call a lawyer. And if they really want to leave a mark, they’ll take their dispute public via social media.

“But taking over the organization’s official email to blast out their manifesto after they’ve already quit? Nope. NOPE. In no conceivable universe is that ok.”

We now know that all of those who quit were white guys who posted their grievances anonymously (vague claims of being discriminated against by the new executive director who happens to be a woman of color) because they didn’t think they would be taken seriously. And that might have been true no matter what, but the way they did it really shows all we need to know. I’ve been either on staff or closely involved with enough people on staff for a lot of cons to recognize both the dynamic Salkowitz explains above and the circumstances that likely led to the mass resignation. By the way, it was only five guys, out of a staff of a bit over 50, so while it seems like a lot, it certainly isn’t most of the staff, as their post clearly tried to imply.

I could go into more detail about why hijacking the con membership’s list was wrong, how it is triangulation and so forth. But the real reason is this: when I have been in situations where I felt I was the aggrieved party and have been tempted to do such things, I knew that the suggestion was coming from the little devil on one shoulder, and not the little angel on the other. (Although in my imagination it’s the evil fairy tale queen on one shoulder, and a happy glitter-covered fairy on the other).

We come up with rationales for vindictive, angry, destructive behavior all the time. It’s not fair, we say. Or they started it! Or it’s just the internet! Or I was joking! Or you took it wrong! Et cetera and ad nauseum.

Maybe you are right. Maybe you have suffered a great injustice. But here’s the thing: if you win by fighting dirty, that isn’t justice. The ends don’t justify the means. There is a big difference between righteous indignation and vengeful lashing out. Just as there is a difference between cruelty and kindness. How we take a victory or defeat matters just as much as the actual outcome.

Situations are messy and there’s always more than two sides to every story. But every side isn’t equally true, or equally valid, or equally relevant. And sometimes you can tell which side has the fewest facts in their favor by their tactics. And I, at least, can spot a sore loser from miles away. Even when they’re hiding behind anonymity, misleading verbiage, and the furtive fallacy.

There are not two of you. There isn’t literally a devil/evil queen on one shoulder and an angel/good fairy on the other. There’s just you. A noble and just person doesn’t have to resort to dirty tactics. If you’re fighting dirty, even if for a just cause, then you’re not the hero.

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Geek Girl Con

S0, my hubby and I are attending our first GeekGirlCon, which is held at the Washington State Convention Center. It’s a sci fi con, dedicated to welcoming and celebrating girls, women, young women in geek/sci fi/fantasy culture.

And it’s fun!

First impression while we were in line to get our badges was that the crowd is much more like a pony con than a traditional sf/f convention. Fewer guys. A lot more kids. Not that there aren’t a lot of guys of all ages, here, but we’re in the minority. Which is the point, and not at all a bad thing.

There’s a Do It Yourself Science area that’s set up for kids to sit down and do science projects. Every time I’ve walked by today, it’s been pretty full. I first learned about it a couple months back when the GeekGirlCon mailing list sent out a link for people to donate to pay for the supplies and such in the area. You know I jumped on that. We need more science-literate people in future generations!

I’m writing this blog post in Introvert Alley, which is a room the set up for people to have a quiet, dark place to retreat to if you need it. It’s nice. I can still hear the con outside, but we’re clearly in another space. I had to adjust the brightness of my iPad screen several times before it felt right in here. Now I wish every con had someplace like this. When I feel the need for this sort of thing at some cons, I just head back to our hotel room. But since this place is about a fifteen minute drive from our house, and downtown hotels are never cheap, we don’t have that option.

The Exhibitor Hall (or dealer’s den) is huge. We did one long methodical sweep through it, only stopping at a couple of booths. I was pulled to one by a 1954 Hermes 3000 typewriter. The author whose table it was at, Eva L Elasigue, had typed some poetry on it. We geeked out about manual typewriters a bit, then I asked her about her book. She said it was mythic space opera, “think, Les Mis meets Cowboy Bebop.” No, I’m one of those queer boys who hates Les Mis. I know, sorry, it’s just too grim for me. But I understand the pathos and appeal it has for a lot of people. And I absolutely love Cowboy Bebop. And Cowboy Bebop’s noir-ish vibe certainly could go well with a Les Mis sensibility. So, as I told her, based on the pitch alone I had to buy the book: Bones of Starlight: Fire On All Sides.

We hadn’t walked far from her table when we hit one of those traffic jams that happen in crowed dealer’s rooms, so I opened the book, and read a few sentences. Yeah, I could totally hear a Cowboy Bebop soundtrack playing as I read. I got through the rest of the first page in starts and stops every time we had to wait while walking. I like it already and have high hopes for the rest of the book.

I’m seen several people I know, but other than Joi, it’s all been from a distance through the crowd, so haven’t talked to any of them, yet.

Michael reminded me that he hadn’t eaten before we left, so we tried to walk to a restaurant 600 feet away, but I managed to get turned around and go the wrong direction for at least that far before I figured out where we were. We’d exited the convention center from a side I’ve never been on before, and thanks to some construction projects happening outside (I think for the new light rail station), I couldn’t see any landmarks I recognized until we’d gone a block and a half the wrong way. We got to the place eventually, and the way we both inhaled our meals, clearly he wasn’t the only one who needed to eat.

I had trouble finding the room the next panel I wanted to see was in. By the time we did, the room was full with a guard at the door telling people the room was full. But the next panel I want to see is there, so I now know where it is and I can go get there early. I hope.

When I do check twitter, I’m trying to just skim over all the deplorable stuff. I much prefer the bright future I see on display here to the rationalization and rape apologetics that the Republicans are trying to pass off as political discourse this week.

Someone who loves the same books as me…

“Happiness is discovering someone who loves the same books as you do.” lastlemon.com

“Happiness is discovering someone who loves the same books as you do.” lastlemon.com (Click to embiggen)

This was a very busy weekend. Seattle’s Pride Parade was Sunday, the Locus Awards Banquet was on Sa turday, and there were many other things we either needed to take care of or wanted to do. I’ve never attended the Locus Awards weekend, before. I actually hadn’t really realized it was a thing, despite having followed the Locus fanzine for years, and having each year looked forward to seeing which books, stories, zines, and so on would win the award.

I should pause here, in case you don’t know what the Locus Awards are. Locus (The Magazine of The Science Fiction & Fantasy Field) was founded back in 1968 as a fan produced news magazine and to promote a WorldCon bid. The ‘zine has continued for decades since, printing news about fannish and pro activities in the SF/F realm. In 1971 Charles N. Brown, the founding editor, decided to have the readership nominate and vote on deserving works in the field, in order to help the Hugo awards. Think of it as an organized recommendation list. Readers and contributors to the zine recommended books and stories and editors and so forth, and voted on them. The Locus awards has different categories than the Hugos, and since you don’t have to have a membership at WorldCon to participate, in theory the awards may draw on a more diverse crowd.

What I like about them is that they have multiple novel categories. While the Hugos just have Best Novel of the Year, the Locus Awards separate Science Fiction novels from Fantasy, and also have a separate category for Young Adult novels and first novels. Anyway, the recommendation list that is generated in the process alone is a wonderful resource for finding good things you would have otherwise not heard of.

Even though I have been reading the list of winners every year for a long time, it somehow never occurred to me that there was an award banquet, and even more important on a personal level, I didn’t know that the banquet has, at least for the last several years, been happening right here in Seattle. I found out because a woman mentioned it at a panel at NorWesCon, and handed out fliers.

The event is like a miniature sci fi con. There are a couple of Readings by pros the night before the banquet, followed by a party, then on Saturday morning there are a couple of panel discussions. There is an autograph session and a bookseller is there ready to sell you books by the authors who are signing, and there is the banquet. In addition to the awards, there’s several silly activities that have grown up as traditions around the event, such as a Hawaiian shirt contest (Charles Brown, Locus’ founding editor, was famous for his fondness of loud Hawaiian shirts).

We both have been having worse than usual hay fever lately, so neither of us have been sleeping well, and we both wound up taking naps Friday afternoon after work that lasted late enough that we skipped the Friday evening activities. Saturday, we made it to the event and had a great time.

First, no one told me that there would be free books. Apparently the publishers of books that make the shortlist often send boxes of the books to the event. So those (and other books) are set out in little piles on each banquet table. And a bunch more are on a give-away table in the back. We brought home free books whose retail prices definitely exceeded the cost of tickets to the event!

It was also just a fun event. There were a lot of familiar faces there (since I’ve been attending Northwest sci fi conventions for nearly three decades), but it was a smaller crowd, and a much higher percentage of the attendees were pros.

The event also overlaps with the first week of the Clarion West six-week summer writing workshop, and we wound up sharing our table with three of the students from the workshop. They were really nice, and were a diverse group: one guy was from Chicago, a woman was from Wales, and another guy was from India.

I knew our new acquaintances were “my kinda folks” when the young woman from Wales picked up one of the books in the free pile and said, “I should not pick up a new book that is this thick when I have no free time for the next several weeks” then, a second later she gasped and said excitedly, “It has a map!” and the other two immediately stopped their banter to add comments about how books with maps are temptations one can never resist.

I had been about to make a similar observation. Having written about it before: “Some of my favorite books have maps…”.

Whenever I go to a con, I come back feeling excited in new ways about my writing. Some of it is from hearing authors at panels talk about their own troubles and triumphs writing. Some of it is from learning new things or finding new stories that inspire me. Some of it is because I almost always wind up sitting in a corner somewhere with my laptop or iPad or a paper journal working on one of my stories in progress, and being out of my usual routine makes me look at the plotholes and so forth differently.

But a big part of it is simply the joy that comes from meeting other people who love the same kinds of books I do. Shared joy multiples. Chatting with another person who loves something you love, explaining to each other which bits made you squee and so on, increases that wellspring of delight inside you.

That remembered elation can help carry you over the rough spots in your next round of revision.

Performative badass—fannish or otherwise

200_sThere once was a fan artist whose schtick at conventions was to viciously attack and destroy plushies. He had a particular hatred for plush toys based on animated characters from programs that he disliked: Smurfs, for example. People would intentionally bring such plushies to his table in dealer dens or artist alleys and watch him scream and shout and foam at the mouth (not always figuratively)… and tear the thing to shreds.

A lot of people thought this was funny. Not just a teeny bit funny, but funniest thing ever in the history of funny things.

The first time I saw it, I was horrified. I was on the other side of the room, looking at some artwork in an artist’s portfolio, when I heard an angry shout. I barely got turned around to see what was happening before this man was standing up, screaming angry insults at what looked like a cowering young man. He lunged across the table, grabbed something (I couldn’t tell if it was a teddy bear, or what), screamed more angry insults punctuated with the phrase “Die! Die! Die!” and proceeded to shred the thing.

This was in the late 1990s, so I didn’t have a cell phone. If I had, I would have been calling 911. I thought this stranger had literally lost his mind. I thought someone was being assaulted.

And half the room (it was a dealer’s den at a smallish/medium-sized convention, so maybe 35-40 dealer’s tables, maybe a couple hundred people in the room) started laughing. “What the heck?” I said aloud. A fan I didn’t know standing next to me said, “Oh, that’s just so-and-so killing another Smurf.”

It was his schtick or signature move. Something he was known for. Everyone knew it was just an act. Several people assured me that he was really quite a sweet guy. He only did it when he knew the person wanted the plushie destroyed. It was all in good fun.

Unless, of course, you weren’t in on the joke. Like me. My heart was pounding like a trip hammer during the display. I was trying to figure out how to get over there and pull the person whose toy was being attacked out of danger. I was wondering why the hell no one else was doing anything. And I bet I wasn’t the only person in the room who didn’t know about this guy and his act.

Over the next few years I had other interactions with the same guy. Online he tended to be a curmudgeon and a crank. If he knew who you were and considered you an established person in fandom, and you happened to disagree with him, his arguments would be snarky, but he’d concede that you had the right to an opinion. If you weren’t in that category, he was a full-fledged asshole.

In person at conventions where I was staff, he behaved in a civil if gruff manner in our exchanges as long as things were going his way. He groused and grumbled and sometimes threatened if things weren’t. When I wasn’t staff, or when I wasn’t clearly identified as such, how polite he acted depended on whether there was an audience, and how big. If the dealer’s den was relatively quiet and he was browsing at my table or the table next to mine, he was soft spoken and almost friendly. If there was a crowd around, he would find reasons to declaim opinions, usually negative opinions, loudly and with colorful language.

I had a very hard time believing that he really was a sweetheart. Yes, some of his behavior was an act. The destroying plushies thing, once you had witnessed it a few times, had a rhythm and repeated sequence of phrases. He was performing. It was part of his brand. Exactly how behaving like a deranged ax murderer toward harmless toys was a brand worth perpetuating I wasn’t very clear about, but that’s what it was.

Performance or not, that doesn’t mean that everyone who witnesses the performance enjoys the experience. Particularly, like me the first time, if you aren’t in on the joke. Even once I was in on the joke, it was still upsetting. I’m a collector, and one of the things I collect is plushies. Anyone who has been to our house has seen that we have otters and tigers and teddy bears and other cute plush animals lined up on top of the bookcases and stashed in other locations. Some of those plushies have a lot of sentimental value. There’s a particular floppy tiger plush that was one late husband’s, for instance. There is a particular mouse in a Christmas scarf that my late husband gave me one Christmas that I have an incredibly strong emotional attachment to. Every time I have witnessed the performance of the destroy the plushie routine at a convention, part of me has wondered how does he know that the person carrying that thing past his table was in on the joke and wanted it to happen?

Call me a softy, but thinking of that happening to an unsuspecting person’s possession by mistake is almost as upsetting as seeing the act without warning was the first time.

If you’ve been involved in any fandom for any significant length of time, you’ve met or seen someone like kill-the-plushies guy. He or she has a schtick, whether it be:

  • partially disrobing in public spaces, declaiming loudly about body positivity, and daring people to be offended;
  • or making sexual gestures and comments at anyone and everyone while commenting to the significant other of said person about how lucky they are to have “that”; 
  • or pontificating loudly about people who don’t have respect for the classics while denigrating some new popular thing;
  • or spinning long humorous tales about how clueless some people are;
  • or being exaggeratedly offended at something and going on long, grandiloquent rants;

…and so forth. 

I’ve been thinking about that guy (and many other fans and pros I’ve known who have a reputation that their badass or angry or asshole behavior is just a schtick or a joke they do), while reading reactions and continued attempts at defending the things that happened to Mike Oshiro at ConQuesT.

Many of the defenders are using variations of the “it’s just a joke” excuse, of course. But there are other similar elements, as well. The fellow panelist who briefly defended himself (then deleted his comments) on the original post by saying, “We’ve been on panels together at conventions before” and “I thought we were friends” is essentially saying, “You should have known it was just an act. I’m really a sweetheart.”

But I think that the notion that he or she is really a sweetheart once you get to know him was also part of the brand. It is just as much a performance as the outrageous behavior. The outrageous behavior is only accepted by some of the audience because they know it’s only an act. They are making a choice when to treat someone with respect, and when to be a badass.

And the fact that often their attempt at apology is to simply say, “But I didn’t mean it that way. I thought you were in on the joke” is all the proof you need that the “sweetheart” part of the act is the least accurate representation of their true nature.

Problematic conventioners, take two

Secret Masters Of Fandom unoffical beanie.

Secret Masters Of Fandom unoffical beanie.

So the Mark Oshiro post has kicked off a lot of discussions all over the place. In other words, I was not the only person who linked to it and commented. One of the more interesting revelations is that one of the ConQuesT concom members was so upset that the rest of the committee refused to do anything that she resigned from the con a few months back. She posted her version of the situation here.

File770 has an extensive post, with links to several other comments and additional information, and a very long comment thread (which has remained mostly civil): Mark Oshiro Says ConQuesT Didn’t Act On His Harassment Complaints.

I’m more than a bit disappointed in how many people are still jumping to the defense of a couple of the harassers with re-treads of the “can’t you take a joke”/“But everyone knows she didn’t mean anything by it.” One version of that which has surfaced a few times in regards to the person who has a history of taking her pants off at panels is, “she does that all the time; I’m not offended by it; Therefore it isn’t offensive and there’s something wrong with you if you think there is.”

This is an old defense that has been used to excuse sexual harassment and sexual assault for decades. A woman complains that she was made uncomfortable by someone who kept commenting on some part of her anatomy, kept crowding in on her, et cetera, and people say, “Oh, so-and-so does that all the time, but he’s harmless!” By which, presumably they mean so far as they know he has never murdered anyone, or raped anyone at knifepoint. This completely ignores the fact that the leering, crowding, groping, or whatever that he does do makes the person feel very uncomfortable, unsafe, and completely obliterates any enjoyment she gets out of the activity/convention/party/panel whatever.

Similarly, the pants situation this time isn’t just about whether it is offensive for a woman to stand around wearing a pair of mens boxers as outerwear, it’s whether after dropping her pants bumping into and continuously rubbing up against another panelist who has previously indicated he isn’t comfortable with that behavior is an acceptable way to behave. Never mind whether it is conducive to a serious discussion about tolerance for a panelist to do that on stage at the panel.

To switch sides for a moment: I’ve been on the other side of the “is it offensive” debate. There are still people (they got quoted in some of the news stories after the last Hugos, for instance), who angrily insist that even including a platonic gay relationship in a story/movie/TV series is deeply offensive to them. Heck, there were calls for boycotts because a black actor was cast as a stormtrooper in the new Star Wars movie, not long after the calls for a boycott of one of the official Star Wars tie-in novels because it included a gay character. I totally understand that someone merely saying that something is offensive is not justification for utterly banning that something. For those people, seeing me simply giving my husband a quick peck on the lips before heading into a panel room completely squicks them out. And I refuse to stop being who I am just because some bigots think they have a right to live in a diversity-free world.

So, I understand that the woman who takes her pants off may be trying to make a statement about body positivity, and about women being in control of their own bodies and having a say in how they dress. I understand that I don’t have a right to veto her choices about herself. But if I happen to be on the panel with her, my lack of a veto over how she dresses doesn’t mean that I have no right to be upset if she rubs up against me, leers at me, and otherwise tries to turn me into a prop for her performative critique of societal norms. My lack of a veto over her sexuality or identity doesn’t mean I have to participate at that level.

Related to all of this, our local furry convention seems to have finally self-destructed: What really killed RF2016 was RF2011 to RF2015. Yes, I said finally. I know it isn’t nice to pile on when someone is already down, but there were very clear warning signs early (as the person, a recently resigned conchair, who wrote that post-mortem alludes to) that the concom had serious problems. The ones mentioned in the post are bad, but they were the tip of the iceberg from my experiences: as an attendee, as a dealer, as a panelist, as someone who offered to help on staff, and as someone who filed multiple reports of times the convention didn’t adhere to their own policies. The thing that actually brought them down was failing to deal with misbehaving attendees, but that was only a symptom of a deeper problem—just the most obviously expensive symptom.

These things don’t have to kill conventions, though.

Last summer, after the incident of the drunken writer contacting the local police to file a false report that one of the WorldCon guests of honor (with whom he had a political disagreement) was a dangerous person who might commit violent acts at the con, Lydy Nickerson posted a lengthy post about her own experiences as a staff member dealing with problems at conventions over the years: Harassment: What do we do? It’s really well done. She lays out a lot of real scenarios and explains the options and how to take some mitigating circumstances into account and so on. It is really worth a read.

Convention problems and problematic conventioners

SMOF = Secret Masters Of Fandom . Shirt by the DannyBirtStore www.zazzle.com/thedannybirtstore

SMOF = Secret Masters Of Fandom . Shirt by the DannyBirtStore http://www.zazzle.com/thedannybirtstore (Click to embiggen)

Recently a lot of stories have appeared on my various social media streams about problems at sf/f conventions. Problems at conventions are nothing new, and are certainly not unique to fandom. I’ve written before about bad behavior that matches or beats any fandom convention horror story at professional trade shows and even an evangelical Bible conference I’ve attended.

At least one specific post over the weekend warrants some commentary: Mark Does Stuff – TRIGGER WARNING: For extended, detailed… | Facebook. Mark Oshiro was invited as a Guest of Honor to ConQuesT, where he and his partner were sexually and racially harassed both on and off panels, treated very strangely by con staff (including the chair) at Opening Ceremonies and the GoH dinner, and so on. It is not a pleasant story to read, and even more infuriating to see how the con staff many times assured him things would be taken care of, then months later told that no action would be taken on any of his complaints.

He concludes the tale with this explanation for why he’s going public:

Harassment is unfortunately a part of my experience at SF/F conventions. Not at all of them, but at most of them, something happens to me. I’m an outspoken queer Latinx, and it’s inevitable. However, since ConQuesT, every con staff that I’ve had to make a report to has dealt with my report quickly and fairly. At ConFusion this year, the concom dealt with my incident report in two hours. Meaning they spoke to the person and that person apologized to my face within two hours. At that point, it almost seemed comical that over half a year had passed, and both ConQuesT and Kristina Hiner did nothing at all.

That’s why I’m talking. I did what I was supposed to. I kept quiet, I trusted the system in place, and it completely failed me. I will not be attending ConQuesT this year or for the foreseeable future. (I’m going to WisCon for the first time instead!) I don’t feel safe there, and ultimately, that’s why this bothers me so much. There are people who are part of that community who were actively hostile to me, and when I reported them, the message was sent loud and clear:

We don’t care about you. At all.

It left me wondering why a convention would invite someone to be a guest of honor, then treat them this way. I can come up with a number of explanations, but even the most benign ones still leave no excuse for not dealing with the harassment incidents.

A certain number of responses (both at Mark’s original post and on various blogs reacting to it) trot out the usual blame the victim/blame no one defenses. 1) Surely if Mark had simply politely asked the harassers to stop everything could have been avoided, and 2) Con staff can’t prevent bad behavior and certainly can’t be expected to anticipate everything that might go wrong.

The first defense, besides ignoring Mark’s account that he did ask and otherwise signal his discomfort multiple times, completely overlooks the fact that speaking up for yourself, no matter how politely, often leads to even worse consequences than the original harassment. When folks are confronted about their offensive behavior, they frequently deny and escalate. One example happened in the comments of Mark’s posting (which was subsequently deleted, but not before someone took a screencap of it).

The second defense contains truth, but is also very misleading. Three of the problem people named in the post have been known to say and do those (or substantially similar) things at previous conventions. The panelist who took her pants off and kept bumping up against Mark and making weird faces even said, at the time, that she had gotten in trouble for doing that sort of thing on panels at that very convention previously! Con staff can’t predict the future, but surely they can remember problems from previous years?

I get it. I’ve worked on convention staff many times. My jobs have ranged from very low level gopher to being in charge of programming and vice-chair. I understand that the con staff is all-volunteer, always overworked, always understaffed, always juggling lots of things, and frequently doing all of this on too little sleep and without enough time. I understand that no one has time to vet every panelist. I get all of that.

And I’ve been on the other side. I’ve said and done things I realized later that I shouldn’t have. I’ve had to go apologize to people. I’ve been in situations where I should have apologized but wasn’t able to for various reasons. And sometimes when I’ve been confronted about something I said and did, instead of taking the complaint to heart, I’ve denied and gotten defensive—aggressively defensive. So, I understand and empathize with those people, too.

Some folks are defending the other panelists by trying to say it was all in good fun, or it wasn’t meant that way (whatever that means). You know, that’s exactly what bullies say when they get called out. “I was just joking around. I didn’t mean anything by it.” You can hurt people without intending to. You can make people uncomfortable without intending to. Your intent doesn’t change how the person felt while you were behaving that way. Just as saying you didn’t mean to break something doesn’t magically repair the broken thing.

If you sincerely didn’t realize what you were doing was making someone feel uncomfortable or unwanted or despised, it is all right to mention that in your apology. But the rest of the apology has to be sincere. “I didn’t realize how my actions affected you at the time. Now that I understand, I deeply regret what I said and did. It was wrong to put you in that position. I will try not to do that to you or anyone else ever again.” Something like that is a real apology and shows that you value the other person.

While the “Can’t you take a joke?” sort of reactions just confirms your utter disregard for anyone other than yourself.

We skipped NorWesCon

Some of my bestest friends hanging out at the convention this year. I didn't take this picture, because I wasn't there.

Some of my bestest friends hanging out at the convention this year. I didn’t take this picture, because I wasn’t there.

So we didn’t go to the Northwest Science Fiction (NorWesCon) again this year. Quick background: I started attending the convention back in 1987, after being envious of friends who attended the previous few years, and I didn’t miss a single one for the next 25 years. Michael and I met at a NorWesCon. For years he has referred to NorWesCon as our anniversary, since neither of us can ever remember the date of our Commitment Ceremony (of course, both have been superseded since we were able to finally legally marry on December 9, 2012). For a couple of decades it was my habit to buy our memberships for the next year before we left the convention.

Since NorWesCon has been on Easter weekend since 1989, I have kept track of Easter by remembering when NorWesCon is going to be. I have habits built around NorWesCon. For many years, now, I spent a lot of time during the rest of the year plotting what new cocktail I will buy Keith on Saturday night at the con, because Keith almost never drinks, and it amuses all of us, including his wife, to watch him react to alcohol (and it’s tricky to find ones he will actually agree to drink more of). During the weeks leading up to the convention I start longing for the evening I’ll sit in the bar or restaurant with Juli-sans-e (not to be confused with Julie-with-an-e, who might join us with the wings, but is more likely to find ways to trick us into saying “nipple” at inappropriate times) eating plate after plate of hot wings and exchanging stories.

I could go on and on.

But, for a variety of reasons, the last few NorWesCons we attended were not much fun for either Michael or myself. And when I realized that four out of the last five we attended, I had found virtually none of the programming interesting (except for Auntie’s costuming panels). I had found it so unappealing, that I had wound up spending all of the time I wasn’t sitting in a bar or restaurant with our friends, sitting at my laptop writing.

To be fair, I got a lot of writing done each of those conventions. More than I usually get done on an ordinary weekend. But it seemed a little silly to both of us the spend all that money on a hotel room, memberships, and all of those meals at hotel restaurants, if all I was going to do was sit in a hotel room tapping away on my computer keyboard.

The one exception out of that span was the year that both Jim Butcher and Patricia McKillip were guests of honor. It’s pretty difficult for me not to enjoy hearing either of them talk about their writing.

So we skipped last year. We gave a few other local conventions we haven’t attended in a long time a try, and we enjoyed those. We would have enjoyed them more if our usual gang had been in attendance. I did miss hot wings with Juli. I really missed hanging out with the gang.

We were leaning toward coming back this year, but when we weren’t able to get certain answers we needed before the hotel room block filled up, we decided to skip again.

As it happens, another friend that I’ve been trying to get to attend finally went for the first time this year. So not only didn’t I hang out with our usual crowd and do our usual things, I didn’t get to hang out with Sheryl at the con.

I also regret missing this year because Michael Moorcock was Guest of Honor. I really like his writing, and given his age and the distance to travel to a west coast con, it’s highly unlikely I’ll get another chance to see him.

NorWesCon is almost always the same weekend as SakuraCon. My dear sweet husband was actually one of the founding SakuraCon committee members many many years ago. It’s been several years since we’ve attended it. So we had talked about the possibility of getting memberships to SakuraCon for this year, though by the time we had decided not to do NorWesCon, neither of us was feeling enthusiastic about anything. We had a couple of conversations this weekend about next year attending either SakuraCon or NorWesCon. I know we could both have fun at either. Most of our friends will be at NorWesCon, but we’ll have a few friends at SakuraCon.

A lot of people seem to be excited because George R.R. Martin is going to be the Guest of Honor at NorWesCon next year. Frankly, that makes me slightly less likely to attend. Not that I have anything against Mr Martin, it’s just that I suspect a lot of people who don’t normally attend fan-run conventions will decide to attend this one because of the television version of Game of Thrones, and the atmosphere may be more like a corporate con than a fan con. Yes, sometimes I am a fan-snob.

We need to decide soon enough that we can get the hotel rooms and everything else in order either way.

In related news, thanks to some suggestions from friends, since we were already planning to attend EverfreeNW again this summer, but we’ll stay at the hotel next door that many of us like a lot better, and since that same weekend a gaming convention, PaizoCon will be happening in that next door hotel, Michael and I now have memberships for both conventions, the same weekend. And several of our friends are doing the same. So, we’re going to be two-fisted congoers (or dual-weilding badge-holders, or something) this July.

So even though we’ve skipped NorWesCon two years in a row, I think we’re holding onto our geek/nerd/fanboy cred.

(Un)conventional solution

Close up of otter appearing to smile while holding his paws together.

Sometimes, only an otter will do!

I only got about 4400 words worth of new scenes written for the novel over the course of my weekend at RainFurrest, but I made more progress than the word count implies.

I’d written recently about a big plot hole problem which has been stalling the book for a while. Late on Friday night, while I was futzing with a new scene that wasn’t quite working, I had an idea. I revised a couple of lines of dialog, and suddenly the rest of the scene just flowed. Because I’d figured out the solution to the plot hole, and once I’d made the choice to go with it, a bunch of other things starting falling into place…

Read More…

Conventionally speaking

A toy dog, fanzines, and toy ponies.

This adorable corgi plushie is my table mascot this year.

I’m having a good time at the convention. I haven’t slept in very much, but I seldom do when running a dealer’s table at a con.

This year, in addition to the usual copies of fanzines full of anthropomorphic science fiction, we are also selling an anthology of fiction produced by another publisher, My Little Pony blind bags, buttons designed by my husband, satirical bumper stickers designed by me, trading cards based on the fanzine project, badge ribbons, and t-shirts.

Though it would be more accurate to say we are offering all of those things for sale. As there hasn’t been a lot of actual purchasing happening at the table this year.

Thursday I sold mostly blind bag ponies and buttons. Friday the big mover was the badge ribbons. Oh! And all the My Little Pony coloring books (I only had three left after Everfree NW) also went on Thursday.

I’ve had good traffic at the table, and a few interesting conversations. I also got a decent amount of writing done Friday.

I’ve been having more fun, as usual, hanging out with friends for meals or up in our hotel room after the dealer’s den closes.

I did have a surprise visit from Julie. She and her mother had returned from a trip to London and Paris, and after Julie dropped her mom off at the airport, she came over to the convention hotel. Someone from con staff sent someone into the dealer’s den to tell me Julie was out at the door. She dropped off Lucky Tuppence coins for several of us, and showed me a tiny fraction of the photos she took on the trip.

I should grab some breakfast…!

Running off to a con

The car is very nearly packed. I still need to pack the computer, make a final run through the house to get everything turned off, et cetera, and I may hop in the shower one more time before I go.

I go to conventions because I enjoy hanging and goofing off with my friends, enjoy seeing people I don’t see except at fannish events, also to people watch, get some writing done, and (it is hoped) sell some books and things. It’s my version of a vacation.

There is a point (or, to be honest, several points) before I get on the road where I’m stressed out about almost everything: Have I packed everything? Is the inventory ready and in an order where I can find everything? Are my display materials ready? Did I remember to back up my computer before I left? Do I have my medications? Did I remember this, that, and the other?

Then during the drive and/or flight at least half of those questions keep coming up again, along with a lot of others: Did I double-check that the stove was turned off? Did we get the windows locked? Did I start the dishwasher before we left? Did I take the trash out? Did I let the responsible neighbors know we would be gone for a few days? Did I make sure no leftovers that won’t last are sitting in the fridge? Am I sure I locked the door?

When I write them out, it sounds like I’m a complete mess. Which is usually a slight exaggeration. Don’t get me wrong, each question wells up from my subconscious delivered in a voice of utter panic (usually sounding like Don Knotts’ character, Luther Heggs, in the movie The Ghost and Mr. Chicken). But the more rational part of my brain will sigh and say, “Yes, yes we took care of that.”

On trips where I’m experiencing a bit more of the worry than usual (such as, say, during times near the anniversary of Ray’s death, or his birthday, when I’m been working a lot of extra hours at work…), Michael has to intervene and remind me that if something is wrong or missing or forgotten, we’ll deal with it, “We always do.”

Which is great when he’s with me.

Unfortunately, he forgot that this was a Thursday through Sunday con, so he didn’t arrange to take today off from work. He helped did most of the loading of the car before he left. He’s going to come home after work, change, grab a few things, then take the train down to the hotel to join me this evening. As he reminded me just before he left, I can call him if I realize I forgot something, and he’ll check the house once before I go.

He’s always so calm, and capable, and endures my worry attacks with the patience of a saint.

I don’t deserve him.

Anyway, time for me to do those last few things and hit the road. If you happen to be attending RainFurrest, come to the dealer’s den, find the Tai-Pan table, and say “howdy!”

You might get a free badge ribbon or something out of it!

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