Once upon a time (2006) in a land far far away (Chattanooga, TN) there was our hero, preparing to slay dragons and drink merrily with his comrades. We know he was our hero because, well, I’m narrating this and I say that he was our hero. Don’t like it? I’ll call you a wah-mbulance and I’ll use your tears to flavor my soup. He’s our hero, buttercup. Deal.
Anyways, where was I? Right. Chattanooga, Tennessee. Summer of ’06. It was a hot and humid evening, where the only respite from the overbearing heat was the body temperature rain which only seemed to fall at night. Our hero was drinking and carousing with friends when, in a fit of random mischief, he took a tumble and hurt himself badly. Fearing the worst, his compatriots sent him to the hospital to be examined. His heart filled with dread, he complied, and was poked and prodded for four hours before he was declared fit to return to the convention where he was (obviously) fighting for truth, justice and the Inebriated Beverage way. However, unbeknownst to our hero (okay, knownst, but our hero needed it, I swear), the villainous doctor pumped him full of an evil concoction which rendered his muscles weak and his mind blurred. Disoriented (but feeling a-ok), our hero finally managed to stumble into his bedroom sometime just before dawn. He was shocked by what he saw.
There, upon his bed, were a man and a women, sound asleep. Neither the man nor woman were our hero’s roommate for the weekend, or the other individual who was staying in the room with them. Our hero knew this man, and knew this woman, but… they were asleep on his bed. Confused, our hero stumbled down the hall with his allies and collapsed into their spare bed to sleep off the pain, all the while surrounded by nubile young women (true story, bro). When our hero arose from his slumber the following afternoon, he talked to the man and woman who had been occupying his bed and told them of his annoyance, but forgave them since word had gotten around that our hero would not be returning until the following day and the duo, who had been exhausted and in no shape to take their horseless carriage to their campground, had received (albeit in a roundabout way) permission from the hero’s roommate to stay. Our hero did not scream and rage, and he most definitely did not try to publicly shame them or harm them. Nor did he write an official letter of complaint to the convention because his personal space was invaded. He handled it, and the manner died a quiet death, banished to the murky annals of con lore and legend.
Many years later (like, 8), a new class of heroine arose from the depths of a forgotten land (Burlington, Massachusetts). This self-professed heroine was also at a convention, and was rooming with other people. However, when our self-professed heroine discovered that a mutual acquaintance had held a room party in her room without her permission (and using sorcery to unlock the door, apparently), she was deeply troubled. Our heroine was fortunate nothing was stolen, she thought. Our heroine stood up and felt shaken at the very thought that a group of people she did not know had ended up in her room. Why had the inviting individual not foreseen that she would be bothered by this? What sort of witchery had the individual used to convince people that an uninvited room party in someone else’s room was a good idea? Why hadn’t the individual known? Somebody must do something about this!
Sadly, somebody did. Using smear tactics and public ridicule (satire is wonderful, ain’t it?), our heroine began an effort to publicly destroy the individual who dared use sorcery to break into our heroine’s room, mind control her roommate and forced them to host a party and then leave. The Evil League of Evil publicly denounced these tactics, which obviously means that our heroine is the One True Heroine, because if publicly acknowledged evil is against it, then it must be Good. Many voices rose from the darkness of society to justify our heroine’s warrior-like effort to expose this charlatan of an evil enchantress.
Our story does not have a happy ending, for it is still being written to this day. We shall see what comes to pass…
In all seriousness, it’s a pain in the ass sometimes when you’re at a convention and you come back to people in your room. All you want to do is sleep and relax, and you feel a little bad about kicking them out. However… I’ve never had a group of people in my room who didn’t leave when asked. Usually a “Guys, I’m exhausted. Can you guys take it to another room?” gets the point across in a polite manner, and there are no hard feelings (except for that one bastard who drank too much and had gotten real damn comfy on your couch, but screw that guy) all around. There’s no problem the next day, and people are apologizing for keeping you up later than you wanted to. It’s called Con Culture, and it’s a wonderful thing.
But there is a key component to all this, and it’s communication. People do not usually read minds, and people at con (not the most social of critters known to man) are even worse at knowing what you’re thinking. Trust me, everyone will be okay with your choice if you tell them that you’re not cool with something. Sitting off to the side and staying quiet doesn’t do the trick. Staying silent about something and later slamming them publicly while voicing your distaste to the con committee weeks afterwards does nothing but engender negative feelings all around, because the first words out of someone’s mouth is invariably “I didn’t know. Why didn’t you say anything?”
And that’s a problem, because it’s far easier to write letters and bitch about things anonymously on the internet. It’s terrifying to stand up in public and be brave when surrounded by the “enemy”, so to speak. It’s too much for some people to state “No, this isn’t cool” in person. I understand this fear, because everyone suffers from it in various ways. Some feel a nagging little tickle right before they speak, others have an overwhelming urge to vomit and run away. You can toss around the “if only” afterwards, and blame others for your own lack of rules and fortitude to stand up (I don’t generally room with others now, and if I do, we know beforehand what is and what isn’t cool for our room, and it works out), but it never justifies publicly attacking them and defaming them, as a recent attendee of Readercon did.
For now, though, we all get to watch and wonder just what would have happened if she had said “This needs to end” during the event (or even “this can’t happen in our room” beforehand). Somebody should have done something.
…and now for our self-promotion. Jason Cordova writes. He writes a lot. He writes books. They are good. You should buy them all. His kitteh!s demand lambskin beds and kitteh! towers ten feet high so that they may jump upon his head whenever the whim strikes them. He is also the International Ambassador for the Kaiju Awareness Foundation. This means he gets eaten last. He lives in Virginia.