Why I Won’t Be Attending Context 28

This post is extremely difficult to write, but I feel these things need to be said, so please bear with me if I digress or rant. I’ll try to keep it simple. (There is a TL;DR at the end if you’re pressed for time or you prefer not to read my rambling.) I’ll also try to keep things as objective and factual as I can, but obviously this is how things happened from my point of view.

Context 27 was an amazing event. I’ve attended Context since I became really serious about writing and I’ve learned more than I can possibly encapsulate here, had the chance to do invaluable networking with other writers, and made friendships I hope will be lifelong. I’ve said many times to many people that it’s my favorite convention. And Context 27, in my opinion, was the best of all the conventions I’ve attended. The volunteers did an astounding job, especially considering the limited resources they were sometimes given. I had an incredible time.

This post is extremely difficult to write.

My friend Lucy Snyder has been volunteering with Context for a long time, something like eight years, and revived the convention from near-death by instituting a very successful workshop program. Last year she was looking for new people to volunteer with the convention committee, and my friend Steve Saus was going to volunteer to be the programming director, so I jumped on board. It was a chance to give back to the convention I loved.

As my expertise lies in marketing and teaching, I had a lot of ideas concerning how Context could reach out to young writers and flesh out its dwindling attendance. Most of these were naysayed at concomm meetings. I was told “We already tried that,” no matter what I proposed. Dealing with certain concomm members became so unpleasant I stopped attending meetings. I developed so much anxiety about volunteering I was stymied. I kept telling everyone I was out of spoons (this was the year I was diagnosed with stress-induced vertigo and high blood pressure; I completed my student teaching; I took my licensure exams; I sought my first teaching job) but this wasn’t really true; I was out of spoons when it came to dealing with the Context concomm. In the end, I took marching orders directly from Steve. I helped organize the Saturday night parties; I bought supplies for the parties; I was on a number of panels; I posted on twitter and facebook and took flyers to libraries and invited a number of my aspiring writer friends to the convention (a couple of whom actually attended). I encouraged next year’s Writer GOH to come to Context. Most of the work I did was minor and behind the scenes. It wasn’t as much as I wanted to do, but it was what I could do this year given my circumstances.

This will all be relevant in a minute; bear with me.

After Context 27, a blogger posted a blog post mentioning that she was harassed at the convention. A volunteer made inappropriate comments to her and a friend in the convention suite. I’m not going to link to that blog post because I think that blogger has received enough negative attention since her post. Though the harassment was mentioned, she went on to detail how amazing every other aspect of the convention was. She stated that she would return despite the incident.

Steve had already received one report of harassment at Context 27. He saw the blog post and contacted the blogger to let her know he was concerned. He also emailed all the attendees, panelists, and guests, asking if they had any experiences with harassment at Context 27 the convention committee should know about. He received several reports of harassment committed by the same individual. At least one report claimed the harassment spanned years. At least one woman was uncomfortable going into the consuite at Context 27 because that was the harasser’s hangout; at least one other said she would not be returning because the harassment was so troubling to her. The reporters asked to remain anonymous.

Steve reported this information to the entire concomm. He probably should have gone directly to the convention chairs instead. He has publicly acknowledged and apologized for this mistake on at least two occasions. Again; this will be relevant in a moment.

The harassment reports made it clear that we had to ban the harasser, especially since one of the complaints was public. Several of us stood up for the targets of harassment and their safety and insisted that the harasser be banned. We had a meeting of the FANACO Board and the Context convention committee (these are separate organizations, with some overlapping membership) where we voted to compromise and ban him for five years, with the option to reapply to attend the convention later. This meeting, at which those of us who supported banning the harasser were interrogated and yelled at and accused of wanting to destroy the convention, was a deeply upsetting meeting for me that had me on the edge of panic for days afterward.

No one was happy with this five-year ban, because the older members of the FANACO Board and certain members of the convention committee did not want the harasser banned at all, and obviously those of us standing up for the harassed felt that he should be banned forever. We couldn’t guarantee anyone’s safety otherwise. Members of the Board and concomm said the following (either in person or via email):

  • The reports should be ignored because the reporters didn’t go through the proper channels (i.e. the reports were made to Steve instead of to the con chairs).
  • The reports should be ignored because Steve accidentally emailed the whole concomm about the reports instead of just the chairs.
  • The reports should be ignored because the reports came in after the convention, rather than immediately.
  • The reports should be ignored because one of them (the most minor) was a public blog post.
  • The reports should be ignored because the targets of harassment wished to remain anonymous and wouldn’t make public their accusations.
  • Banning the harasser was “petty” and “vindictive” and not a precaution to keep convention attendees safe from a known harasser, much less prevent possible future litigation for the convention.
  • The harasser should not be “punished” with banning, because he is elderly and had a stroke and/or too much to drink.
  • All reports about harassment should be ignored without an independent third-party witness.
  • Those of us defending the targets of harassment were trying to destroy the convention with our negativity, refusing to appreciate all the hard work done by the volunteers, focusing only on one bad thing that happened, even though we all stated in person and via email how wonderful we felt Context 27 had been.

I was singled out with Lucy and Steve for a bullying email from a member of concomm who disagreed with us on one occasion; on another, I was singled out alone by one of the convention chairs for verbal abuse when I admitted that I no longer felt safe attending Context if the harassment policy was not going to be enforced. I was the low-hanging fruit because I did not provide any crucial services to the convention this year. I was told that my opinion didn’t matter because I didn’t do enough work for Context 27. The words “how dare you” were actually used.

On the day I received that email, several of my coworkers were laid off, and the stress of being singled out for verbal abuse by someone I thought was a friend on top of the layoffs was simply too much to bear. My blood pressure was sky-high and I could barely walk. I asked to be removed from future email threads and the concomm email list. I quit the concomm, in other words, but I did so quietly, because I don’t believe in flouncing. I made my opinions clear, and it was also clear many members of the concomm and Board had no respect for my opinion and would continue to ignore me or verbally abuse me if I continued to disagree with them. I couldn’t continue to work for an organization that causes me so much stress, even if I had been receiving a paycheck, which of course, I wasn’t.

Let me be clear: I was bullied for standing up for the targets of harassment. I was personally attacked for saying I didn’t feel safe attending the convention if the harassment policy wasn’t enforced. I quit because dealing with the concomm started to negatively impact my health. Since then, Lucy and Steve have both publicly resigned.

I don’t often discuss controversial topics on this blog (okay, I never do that), but this is a blog post I feel must be made. People need to know what went on behind the scenes. They need to know how Steve and Lucy and a few other people stood up for the harassment victims, and were ignored or called names. I’m sure this blog post will open me up for further abuse and harassment. But if I knew there was going to be a serial harasser at a party and the hosts were aware but did nothing, I would warn all my friends not to attend that party. I can’t fail to say something and take the chance that a friend I encouraged to attend Context will be next harassment target. I couldn’t live with myself.

Other writers I like and respect are saying they won’t attend Context 28 because they are signatories to Scalzi’s anti-harassment pledge, and because they’re uncomfortable attending a convention that doesn’t enforce a harassment policy. My reasons are more personal.

I’m not attending Context 28 because, as a survivor of sexual assault, as a woman, as a human being, I don’t feel safe at my favorite convention anymore. I keep wondering what would have happened had I been one of the women who was harassed, or even assaulted. Would my reports be ignored because I waited to report, and had no independent third-party witnesses? In my opinion, instead of vilifying the blogger who brought this to all our attention, the Board and concomm should be thanking her. Who knows how much worse the harassment would have been next time. Who knows what kind of damage that would have done to Context in lost attendance, negative PR, and even possible lawsuits.

As Steve says, this should have been simple.

This post has been very difficult to write. Thank you for enduring my rambling, if you got this far.

I would love to see the people in charge at Context “fix” this problem. But at this point I see only a few options for them if they want their attendees, panelists, and guests to return: ban the serial harasser; publicly apologize for the way they treated (and continue to treat) those of us who stood up for the harassed; and resign from the Board and concomm. I have absolutely zero hope that’s ever going to happen, and I’m devastated by it, especially because Ellen Datlow and Chuck Wendig (next year’s GOHs) were my picks. I was so excited to meet them in person.

Context was my favorite convention. But I guess now that I’ve seen how the sausage is made, I don’t want to eat it anymore.

TL;DR: I am not attending Context 28 because it’s clear the people in charge have no intention of enforcing the harassment policy. I feel unsafe attending, especially after being verbally abused by members of the concomm. I have zero confidence that, were I harassed or even assaulted, my report would be believed or appropriately handled, and that is an unreasonable risk for any convention to ask me to take.

Context 27 Schedule

Context 27 is this weekend! I’m super excited! This will be my last convention for some time, and it’s one of my favorites, so I’m definitely going to be hitting it hard.

Here’s my schedule:

Saturday

12:00 – Skewering the Trope “Tough Women” in Literature

4:00 – Crowdfunding

5:00 – Reading

9:00 Sentence Slam Judging

I’m also organizing the parties for Saturday night and I’ll be attending several workshops. Keep an eye out for me if you’ll be there, and say hello!

DetCon1 Schedule

DetCon1 is this weekend! I’m really looking forward to visiting Detroit for the second time this summer. Here is my panel schedule (please note that this schedule is subject to change and you should check the final schedule at the convention to confirm times and locations):

Friday

11:00 Dystopias Across Time and Space (Mackinac West)

5:00 The State of Short Fiction (Mackinac East)

8:00 Mass Autograph Session/Reception

Saturday

11:00 Teens Talk to…Editors (Duluth A)

12:00 Fiction Reading with Balogun Ojetade and Emmy Jackson (Joliet A)

6:00 Crowdfunding: A New Path to Possibility (Nicolet A)

 

Will I see you there, dear reader?

SteamTopia Schedule

I’m really excited to be a panelist at the first-ever SteamTopia this weekend! You can find me in the writing track:

Thursday:
7:00 Opening Ceremonies
8:30 Writing Track Meet-up
Friday:
11:30 Agents, Small Press, Big 5, Self-Publishing
4:00 DIY Characters Workshop
5:30 Magical Checks & Balances
Saturday:
11:30 Book Signing
2:30 Genre Mash-ups
4:00 Role-Playing for Fiction
7:00 One-Sentence Contest Judging
Sunday:
11:30 Building on Ideas/Last Minute Writing Advice
Looks like it’s going to be another busy weekend for me. Hope to see you there!

MARCon Schedule

I took a break from MARCon for a couple of years because they moved the convention to April. Now that it’s back to May, I’m happy to be a panelist once again! Here’s where you can find me this weekend:

FRI5:30PMFairfieldMeet the Fan Groups

FRI7:00PMSuite 501 Steampunk Story Time with Sarah Hans

FRI8:30PMFranklin ASAT2:30PMUnion BHeroine Addict: Take Two

SAT10:00PMUnion CPublishing Mishaps

If you attend my reading at 7:00 on Friday night you may win a print copy of Time Traveled Tales! See you there!

 

Steampunk Empire Symposium Schedule

Convention Season begins this weekend (for me, anyway) with the Steampunk Empire Symposium! Here’s where you can find me:

Friday

9:00 pm  – High Times in the Victorian Era

Saturday

1:00 pm – SteamLolita: Where Steampunk Meets Lolita

4:00 pm – Multiculturalism in Steampunk

I asked about having a table for Steampunk World, but the organizers never got back to me, so sorry. If you have something you want me to sign, you’ll have to corner me after a panel. I wish I was doing a reading, but this is not that sort of convention. Maybe someday when I’m a Big Name they’ll make me a guest and give me a reading slot. A girl can dream!

2014 Convention Schedule

Here are the conventions at which I’m planning to appear in 2014:

Steampunk Empire Symposium: April 25 – 27, Cincinnati

Mo*Con 9: May 2 – 4, Indianapolis

MARCon - May 9 – 11, Columbus

DetCon 1: July 17 – 20, Detroit

GenCon: August 14 –  17, Indianapolis

ConText 27: September 26 – 28, Columbus

TeslaCon5: November 7 – 9, Madison**

**This is very tentative. If I manage to get a teaching job it may be out of the question.

You may note that the Origins Game Fair Author Library is not listed on my convention schedule for this year. I have not received any communication about this convention from the organizers. If you’re an author-friend who is going to be in town for Origins, however, I’d love to get together! Drop me a line so we can schedule a lunch/dinner/play date. I can bring Munchkin! ^___^

TeslaCon 4 Schedule

Look for me at TeslaCon 4 in the Archon Aerodrome! That’s right, the Airship Archon has been given our very own room for panels! I’m also exceptionally pleased that I’ll be sitting on some panels on Steampunk literature, as the convention has added a literary track. Hooray!

Find me here:

Friday

2:30: Steampunk is Everywhere  (Archon Aerodrome)

5:30: High Times in the Victorian Era (Archon Aerodrome)

Saturday

11:30: Steamlolita: Where Steampunk Meets Lolita (Archon Aerodrome)

4:00: Write to Win: Getting Through the Slush Pile (Thor Amphitheatre)

5:30: Found in Translation: International Steampunk Literature (Thor Amphitheatre)

See you there!

Context 26 Flash Fiction Contest

Context 26 will be hosting another flash fiction contest, and I’m thrilled to be judging it again for the second year in a row! Hooray! Lest you be hesitant about reading your flash fiction publicly, keep in mind that you’ll be reading your work in front of a Bram Stoker award-winning author (Gary Braunbeck), a Clarion graduate who runs the most long-running genre writing group in Columbus (Jerry Robinette), an author and publisher who is always looking for new talent (Steve Saus), and an author and editor who published all three of last year’s winners in her first anthology (that would be me). So in addition to the official prizes offered, you never know what opportunities such a public presentation of your work could net you.

Always put yourself out there. You never know who could love your work!

I’m only involved in a single panel this year, on Sunday, “Anthologies Help How?” at 11:30 am in Griswold BC.

I’ll also be reading my fiction at 10:45 am on Sunday, but I don’t know what room I’m in, so you’ll have to check your schedule. Bring your brunch and let me regale you! I’ve got 45 whole minutes which is about 1.5 times what I usually have, so I can probably squeeze two entire stories into that slot.

There will also be a mass autograph session Saturday at 11:30 am in Griswold BC. I have no idea why anyone would want my autograph, but they say you should dress for the job you want, so I’ll probably be there.

This is one of my favorite conventions (up there with GenCon and Mo*Con) so I hope I’ll see you there.

What happens at GenCon…

…doesn’t have to stay at GenCon! This isn’t Vegas, people. So here’s a rundown of amazing things that happened to me at GenCon this year, recorded for posterity because I have a notoriously crummy memory.

  • I got to hang out with lots of awesome people I don’t see very often, which was fantastic. I even got to play some games! Indianapolis is a beautiful city full of great people; If I were ever offered a job there, I’d be fine with moving.
  • I was lucky enough to be on one panel for the Writer’s Symposium, which also entitled me to a reading and a signing. I actually sold a copy of Sidekicks! at the signing! That’s one more copy than I expected to sell. Of course I also managed to injure myself on an errant staple, but that’s pretty much par for the course when you’re me.
  • I attended a panel on novel outlining that completely blew my mind. All the authors on the panel outlined in different ways, but it was Brandon Sanderson‘s method that spoke to me the most. He calls himself a “discovery writer,” and writes to learn about his characters and explore their perspectives. He doesn’t do exercises to establish the personalities of his characters or outline beyond the events that must occur to make sure the book actually goes somewhere (instead of just meandering, which is one of the dangers of being a discovery writer). This is exactly how I write. I usually have a vague idea of what’s going to happen, but I always instantly know everything about my characters, and I drop them into a situation and see where they’ll go. If I do a ton of exercises to learn about my characters and setting, I lose interest in the book or story entirely. It was incredibly heartening to hear that a professional writes the same way I do! I’m not alone in the woods!!
  • My reading was scheduled alongside the delightful Elizabeth Vaughan, who read a great piece from the anthology Chicks Kick Butt. I read my story “Invincible” from the anthology Heroes! (Heroes! was only available at Origins Game Fair, but I have a few copies if you want to get your mitts on one). I’m really proud of that particular story, and Beth was incredibly complimentary about my reading, which meant a lot to me. I enjoy reading my stories to an audience as much as I enjoy writing them, and it’s a thrill when other people (especially accomplished, talented novelists, ahem) also enjoy it.
  • Marc Tassin, the fantastic author who also runs the Writer’s Symposium, said some very kind, generous things to me on Saturday at the Writer’s Hangout. Things I’ll never forget, and which will motivate me for years to come.  I’ll do my best to live up to your expectations, Marc!
  • Author, professor, and musician Gregory Wilson very kindly recommended me to someone who edits and coordinates fiction for a particular gaming company. Assuming that I don’t screw it up, hopefully that means the opportunity to work on some fiction for said gaming company. Cross your fingers for me! Hopefully I’ll owe you one, Greg!
  • I got to hang out with lots of great authors, including the aforementioned folks as well as Lucy Snyder, Lucien Soulban, Brad Beaulieu, Maurice Broaddus, Jennifer Brozek, Gary Kloster, Kelly Swails, Bill Bodden, and Doug Warrick, who I was especially glad to spend time with, because he’s moving to Korea. To write children’s books for ESL students! I’m pretty much totally jealous of everything he does. There was also a little meetup of the Ladies of the Crimson Pact, which is a real thing now, because I say so.
  • For the culmination of an incredible weekend, I met the illustrious Larry Dixon, who had me sign one of my Steampunk World postcards for him, and who said he hoped we will get to work together someday. Squee! He also introduced me to his wife, the singular Mercedes Lackey. And then John Scalzi compared the color of his ukulele to my hair! And I had a little writer-gasm and died. The end.

Next year, I hope I’ll be able to do more panels, because I really enjoy sharing my knowledge and teaching is kind of my Other Calling, so I want to do it at every opportunity. In the end, however, not having many panels to do was pretty great, because I got to see gobs of my friends and I wasn’t constantly stressed out and exhausted. So even if I’m still doing only one panel (or none), GenCon will still be worth it next year. I would really like to check out that True Dungeon thing though. Lots of people were doing it this year so I guess it must be pretty great. So that will be my goal for next year: dungeon crawl!

And now, I need to go do some writing, because Marc Tassin believes in me, and Brandon Sanderson says I’m doing it right, and being around so many successful creative people is, as always, so inspiring that I came away bursting with ideas and motivation. Let’s do this thing!