If I don’t speak truth I can’t seek truth. — Ursula K. Le Guin, The Eye of Huron
So much about the world these days leaves me feeling impotent. It seems like terrible things happen in a fire and windstorm that no amount of compassion can put out. For me, it can feel like a physical ache. It hurts in my heart and I feel it in my shortened, rage-filled breath. And yet, I often feel like this anger mounts and mounts and would burst in any other vessel. A firework locked in a safe, no place to let the pressure out.
When all of the #WorldCon76 controversy started and then came to a head, I felt so low.
To WorldCon’s credit, they’ve brought on a fantastic programmer in Mary Robinette Kowal to help fix the programming issues. But, still. Things like this shouldn’t happen.
But the truth is, not doing something is going to do the same thing that safe might do to a firework–pull out all the oxygen so the fire dies. That’s unacceptable.
The only thing to do is fight. And I need your help.
I can’t actually slap people (something, something pacifism), and I don’t know how effective writing my congressperson will be at effecting broader social change.
If there’s one thing I can trust to get a change started, it’s the internet.
(after all, if the internet can make rickrolling someone and the tide pod challenge a thing, we can also use those powers for good.)
What I need from you.
I’m still planning some outings for WorldCon and for those of you who show up, please make the effort to find me so I can feature you and your favorite underrated author on Instagram, but …
I want everyone to be able to work together for positive, community-wide change.
So, email me.
I’ll be posting video clips and text snippets from you. Email me some text or a video clip of you (30 seconds-1 minute) about your favorite authors. Include the authors you love who are persons of color, neuro-atypical, queer or who have a disability.
I want you and I to shout their names to the internet. Together.
Feel free to do your own posts using #diversityis4me
Message me on twitter or reach out to me at Bree.LowTea@gmail.com.
Well, I know it makes me naive and ignores a lot of fandom’s history, but damn if I don’t want it to be a haven. Science fiction and fantasy espouses some of what is best in humanity, and so I always hope that the people who love it will continue to espouse acceptance, love, and hope as well.
And so I made the best of the puppies.
And I forgave people who were internet jerks.
And people just keep giving me more and more strife.
Probably you’ve heard by now that there’s another dumpster fire in science fiction fandom. I wish this were less surprising.
TL;DR – Nothing that has come to light is great. I’m going to work to make it better. Here’s a plan, albeit limited by time, space and assistance.
I turned off my phone to sleep, and I woke up to news that the WorldCon 76 team had:
- Changed a person’s gender neutral pronoun bio to using the wrong pronouns
- Not put new Hugo finalists, largely persons of color and younger authors onto panels
- Sent dress codes to some individuals but not others “asking” that they dress professionally
Because, hey, it’s 2018 and why not?
I get it.
Conference running is really tough. Like on a scale of 1-10, probably an 8 or 9. I know; I’ve helped host thousands of people for academic events. Even in a place where you’re not coordinating dozens of panels and participants on top of booths, celebrities, vendors, and guests, you’re doing a lot of work.
But that doesn’t excuse shitty behavior
So, let’s talk about this.
Shitty thing #1 – Screwing with bios and using personal pictures on programming
Well, this is easily one of the things that makes me the most mad. Program creators requested bios and photos from authors and other hugo-nominees and panel participants. +1 for having people explain themselves. Except they didn’t.
Bios were edited, including switching someone’s gender pronouns.
People’s professional pictures were skipped and personal facebook pictures (listed on private accounts) were used instead.
I cannot even fathom why this was considered ok.
Guess what, if you ask for a bio, as long as it isn’t wildly unprofessional or lewd, you should stick with that bio. In particular, you should NEVER change someone’s own pronouns. If someone tells you their pronouns, you accept those pronouns and move on. You aren’t the arbiter of pronouns and I promise you don’t know someone’s gender better than that person knows their own.
I would very much appreciate a public apology from @worldcon2018 for rewriting my bio to change my name and my gender.
I have never, ever used “he” pronouns.
After many similar exclusionary actions, this is the last straw, I am honestly not sure I can safely attend. pic.twitter.com/agazsY1rmV
— Bogi Takács PERSON, 100% migráncs (@bogiperson) July 23, 2018
Using someone’s personal photos rather than a supplied professional one is a weird and invasive combination of ignoring privacy and not presenting your organization professionally. Just…What?
Shitty Thing #2 – Dress Codes
Rather than going on and on about this. I’ll just say, sending dress codes to some but not others isn’t ok. Hugo award nominees have enough on their plates, if a sparkly unicorn dress is their preference, it’s their damn night. Do what you will. I don’t care if someone is a man in a kilt, a woman in a miniskirt, or someone in a gender non-conforming outfit you don’t think is “pulling it off.” The nature of dress codes, in particular those espousing professionalism are both sexist and classist. I’m not here for that and I’m not here for it not being universally applied.
For a much more intricate look at the relationship between sexism and dress codes, here’s a fantastic piece by Everyday Feminism.
And this series of tweets shows a lot more at stake than who wears what type of heels.
Hi. My name is Elsa Sjunneson-Henry. I’m the managing editor of the Hugo Finalist magazine, @FiresideFiction, and last week when we all got angry about dress codes, I also got worried.
Because the email about dress codes ALSO talked about access needs at the ceremony.
— Elsa Sjunneson-Henry, Fancy Cyclops (@snarkbat) July 23, 2018
Shitty Thing #3 – Not Including Members On Panels Because They Aren’t “Popular” or “Well-Known” Enough
Hugo nominees, in particular many of the younger nominees and those who have diverse backgrounds weren’t put on panels. Some of them have been receiving emails saying that they aren’t well-known enough to be placed on them.
This is ridiculous on two fronts:
1- Hugo nominees are definitionally well-known. To be nominated, you MUST have a not inconsequential presence and respect within science fiction and fantasy. PLUS, in theory at least, over the last five or so months, people have been reading those works and watching those movies and looking at that fan art. They have been a highlight in the community.
2- There is no way to make our fandom last without incorporating new voices. New voices are important to science fiction and fantasy. Without them, there will be no growth, and, frankly, growth is exactly what SFF needs.
At the very least, I’m glad I’m not living in a world limited to Heinlein and LeGuin. I want innovation and new perspectives, because this genre set needs that to maintain its lifeblood. And I want SFF to be around for a long, long time.
Fine, Bree, But What Are You Doing About It?
Right now, I’m talking to folks about setting up some outtings in San Jose. I understand this isn’t the same as at-con participation, but at the very least we can be a community that accepts one another. I’ll be working to get us accessible transit and will announce any outing plans soon, both here and on YouTube.
I’m bringing a fuck ton of pronoun stickers. I want to normalize inclusivity. The only way to do that is to make people realize that their world doesn’t have the rigid limits they think ought to be there and to call folks out on their incivility. If you show up at WorldCon, hunt me down. You can have a pronoun sticker for your badge.
I’ll be wandering with my Instagram stories going on throughout WorldCon. I want to talk to people about their favorite works, especially those that are debuts, new to you authors, #ownvoices, and that feature intersectionality. I’ll be posting frequently throughout the week.
Other things. Right now I’m open to suggestions. I want to help build community in places where community should be. Let me know your thoughts about what events or other activities you think should take place. Tweet me, comment, plaster my insta and YouTube with suggestions. Let’s make it happen.
Featured image photo credit: Facepalm Glax by Mattia Basaglia © 2017-2018 CC BY-SA
I’ve been increasingly frustrated by the state of the SFF world. It seems like it’s been one thing after another for so long. Constant low-level hostility and tension has been at best worrisome and at worse disturbing. I’ve mostly tried ignoring the chaos, especially considering that much of the disruptions have come from a very small number of people.
I still hold by much of what was said in my earlier post.
Unfortunately, the chaos has continued. Most recently, a false police report was filed by a Hugo nominee against another, leading to a full WorldCon investigation and the nominee’s work being rejected from a magazine. In the fall out, death threats and harassment ensued. We’ll be talking a little bit about this. For the full background on the story, you can see some of the posts I’ll link below.
While the “victim” of the false police report has accepted Lou Antonelli’s apologies, the actions of Antonelli haven’t ceased to have consequences. Antonelli’s actions in particular aren’t really what I want to talk about. I’m going to be addressing the actions we have seen in our community more broadly. It feels a bit ridiculous that I should even have to do this; these behaviors are far from common. Unfortunately, they’ve insinuated themselves into our world.
I’m approaching much of this from a more libertarian perspective. This is for a few reasons (1) I think that a libertarian discourse about rights and the role of the state is fitting for the behaviors we have seen in this community; and (2) I think that a discourse about positive and negative rights is a broadly applicable approach for the rhetoric that accompanies the behaviors we have seen recently.
When we talk about rights we do so in two terms: positive and negative. In short, positive rights are rights that obligate action and negative rights are rights that impede action. For example, the right to a public education obligates the State to provide schooling, thus it is a positive right. The right to free speech prohibits censorship, and thus is a negative right.
Below, I am going to use this framework to talk about specific action we’ve seen in SFF fandom lately and why it is unacceptable.
I’ll also be talking about the difference between “public” and “private.” One of the trickier aspects of this conversation is that I am going to be using two sets of public and private. In normal discussions, we talk about public and private in terms of who views an action and who is effected by it. If I am walking in the mall, I am in public. If I am in my home, I am in private. This is complicated by the role of the State (by which I mean your governing body). For the State, there is the private individual and the public one. For instance, you are still a public individual when you make a phone call to the police. You are a private individual when you are in the store, purchasing an item. I’ll try to be as clear as possible when using these different approaches to public and private.
Before we start
I want to make sure that we’re on the same page, here. If you are an adult, you have the right to make your own decisions. That includes decisions you make for your self, your dependents, and your property. I’m pretty generous about the application of this. Where your decision-making ends, by necessity, is where that decision impacts another person (person’s property or dependents included) about whom you do not get to make decisions.
This may be more recognizable as “You can swing a cat until it hits someone.” Your cat, your space, fine. If your cat hits someone in the face, not fine. Obviously, in a modern society, this isn’t something we can roll with carte blanche, but you get the point.
Why you don’t get to make threats on the internet
I’m a big believer in the right to free speech. Want to say something ridiculous? dumb? mean? racist? Go for it. You have the right to say just about whatever you want in public.
Remember that you get to do whatever you want until it affects someone else. Threats to another inherently change the state of another person. The threat of bodily harm (or emotional, personal, or other) changes the ability of another person to make decisions. If you mean it or not, if you can carry it out or not, they must account for your reaction. Therefore, a threat is an impediment to them.
In this case, you have a negative right to censorship, but the other person’s negative right to bodily and personal safety takes priority. This isn’t because your right to say what you want isn’t important. It’s because the violation of theirs is (1) more serious, and (2) has a wider implication for their rights overall. The violation of the right to bodily and personal safety is the cornerstone upon which all our other rights are founded. You cannot speak freely if you aren’t physically safe. You cannot practice religion if you are not physically safe. See where I’m going with this?
Hence, that person would justifiably call the police.
When we talk about the role of the State, there are very few commonly agreed upon duties that we assign it. Government is tricky and should be limited. One of the almost universally agreed upon roles we attribute to the government is the protection of property against legitimate threats to its injury. This includes one’s person. You own your body.
The internet can be tricky. It sure feels like a private interaction when you send a comment or a message to someone over the computer. After all, you may only intend for them to read it. Here’s the kicker: the internet isn’t actually private and it wouldn’t matter if it were.
The internet is actually a public forum. Legally, we treat comment and message boards as though you were shouting in the park. This makes sense because by and large our internet usage is widely visible. When it isn’t, your data and message is constantly accessible by a large group of people and companies: your internet provider, the website you use, the website’s hosts, your recipients’ internet provider, the website they’re using, the website’s host, etc. Luckily, the same rules apply to the internet as if you were in a park. You can basically say whatever you want, with the understanding that, like in a park, you may be overheard even when it seems private.
Regardless, it wouldn’t matter even if a threat via the internet were privately sent. A threat to one’s person is still a threat. Even if you say you didn’t mean it. Even if it was just to scare them. Even if it was just out of rage. Any threat to one’s body, property, or dependents can legitimately be brought to the police. No matter who makes it or where it was said. The State’s involvement here is 100% legitimate.
Why you don’t get to call the police and make a false report
The police force is, at least in theory, a public good (note: I use public good here to mean public resource). Often, we think of the police as a way to keep people from breaking the law. Their role, however, is more fundamental.
The police force is a problematic presence at best. They must balance between protecting our fundamental rights (most notably property right) and enforcing the will of the State. If you’re suspicious of the police, you have good reason to be. The expansion of police duties necessarily comes at the expense of liberty.
So, how do you, oh suspicious one, keep the police force limited? You don’t invite them where they aren’t needed.
We tell our three-year-olds only to call 9-1-1 when there is an emergency. This is vital when we consider the police as a public good. The police has limited personnel. They cannot be everywhere at once and by calling them when you don’t need them, you limit the ability of the police to deal with real threats.
Moreover, when you call the police when they are not needed, you invite the expansion of the police force, further legislation, more government. If you are interested in limiting the size and scope of government — the amount of interference that the government can run in the individual’s life– you should not call in false threats. It’s the surest way to expand that which you want less of.
Why you don’t get to give out someone’s personal information to people
Private information. Private information. Private information.
We talked earlier about the difference between private and public. Remember?
There is a right to privacy. It protects your ability to make your own choices. You cannot be autonomous if you don’t have the right to keep other people from sticking their noses in your business.
So, when you go dig through the deep dark depths of the world to get someone’s personal information, like their real name, where they live, their cell phone number, you are violating their right to privacy (again a negative right).
When you do this, knowing that people are asking for that information, knowing that people will be using it for harmful and malicious purposes, you are culpable for the harm that results. You have violated a right, thus enabling harm. Don’t do it.
This is far from an exhaustive list of things that are happening. Regardless, I think if we respect one another’s rights, we cut a lot of the bad off at the head. Basically, just think WWHD? What would Heinlein do?
WorldCon Statement on Lou Antonelli and David Gerrold: https://www.facebook.com/sasquan/posts/880154438687988
Pattern Matching: Lou Antonelli and the Sad Puppy Slate: http://www.pretty-terrible.com/2015/08/10/pattern-matching-lou-antonelli-and-the-sad-puppies/
File 770 on Antonelli’s apology: http://file770.com/?p=24262
Another File 770: http://file770.com/?p=24256
Editor Carrie Cuinn on the reaction to her pulling Antonelli’s work: http://carriecuinn.com/2015/08/10/a-statement-about-lou-antonelli-lakeside-circus-harassment-and-safety/