Stir the Pot
I don’t like to stir the pot. Primarily because I’ve discovered that the best slow cooker involves a pressure cooker and only 20 minutes!
But today I’m definitely stirring the pot with a big ol’ wooden spoon (we ran out of wooden assterisks, sorry) because Worldcon just went and jumped the shark.
If you’re a longtime reader of Mad Genius Club then you know that some of the members here have had, ah, issues with past Worldcon committees. Especially after the boondoggle of Sad Puppies 3 (link here)(and here)(and also here), quite a number of us simply decided to quit playing the stupid awards game and get back to writing. I know I did, since I asked Kate Paulk to not list anything I’d written that year for Sad Puppies 4, and publicly asked to not be nominated for the Campbell Award in my second year of eligibility. We’ve also run into a few “us vs them” mentalities on both sides, and I’m pretty sure that most of the MGC simply want to read entertaining science fiction and fantasy, so… there’s that.
Recently the term “concern troll” made it into my lexicon. For a guy who earned his spurs on USENET, 4chan, and various other forums, I’d actually never heard of the term before. Once I delved into it’s meaning, however, it quickly became obvious that yes, it makes sense and HOLY CRAP people are concerned for other people’s safety because they might not agree with them politically and the best place to put them is a safe space! *pant pant pant* All in one breath, I’ll add.
Recently, science fiction author and self-proclaimed “leading Hispanic writer in SF” (I use quotes because we’re going to duel over that title one day… probably using rubber chickens and tortillas as projectile weapons) Jon del Arroz was banned from attending Worldcon 2018 in San Jose, CA. Now, Jon is… pushy, since he plays the same game that most of those who sought to discredit and destroy the Sad Puppies played. He understands how their minds work and pretty much goes right back at them with vigor, cheer, and sometimes even breathless exclamation!
The issue is really a two-part issue, but I seriously doubt that anyone is going to want to wait until February for me to finish this, so I’ll go ahead and plow on through it today.
The first issue is quite simple: Jon is local to Worldcon (he lives in the Bay Area) and was on the fence about going to the convention after claiming to have been doxxed (along with his children) by certain unidentified individuals. I remember Jon talking about this either at or shortly after Libertycon 30. At the time I didn’t really know what to think. I doubted that he would lie about something that could be so easily disapproved, but I also had a hard time believing that people who claimed to be on the side of good and equality would doxx one of the few male Hispanic authors out there in the SF&F community. I was in a quandary — someone was lying, but who?
I chalked it up to convention jitters (it was Jon’s first Libertycon, and that much fun can overwhelm some attendees) and moved on. I stayed in contact with him, since we shared a few interests (he likes the A’s, and I’m a Braves fan, but we both agree to boo the Yankees and Dodgers), and we talked about potentially collaborating on a project down the road. Then Jon made a public query about the value of attending Worldcon. Quite a few of us were reasonably gun shy about it given our past dealings, but we also remembered that since the convention rotates every year, there was the distinct possibility that the attitude and professionalism of the San Jose team would be exemplary. I don’t recall if I said “give it a go”, but I do know that Jon decided to go ahead and buy his attending membership for him and his wife. He contacted the Worldcon 76 chairperson, Kevin Roche, on August 21, 2017 speaking about room rates as well as table rates when the dealer’s room tables went live. Jon expressed excitement about attending and everything seemed to be on the up-and-up.
In the correspondence you can see that on November 2, 2017, Jon expressed concern for the safety of his friends and family amidst the potentially hostile environment. Here he repeats his claim that his family has been doxxed in the past, and identifies them as members of the SFWA. Now, since the SFWA is a huge organization with lots of good people (and some bad) running around, this is sort of a blanket claim. Still though, the claim was made to the conchair well in advance of the Worldcon happening. Around 9 months, to be specific.
On December 22, 2017, Mike Glyer of File 770 contacted Jon via email and asked him if it were true that he was attending Worldcon. Jon confirmed this and Mike simply replied with “Goodbye Jon”.
Now, to any typical individual, this could be taken as a “short and sweet” response to end a conversation. I don’t like you, you don’t like me, but let’s be amicable. I’ve written many emails like this to coworkers and individuals over the years, so really there’s nothing to it. However, there is a strange sense of “finality” to the email, when one looks back in hindsight. Perhaps everyone is skittish since the world was going to end soon(ish)? Hard to say.
Quick addition: on December 20, 2017 Jon applied for membership of the SFWA. I can’t really see the benefit of the organization myself, since any org that claims to represent the author’s interests but lets in publishers and listens to their votes is kinda self-defeating, but Jon states multiple times that since it’s a 501c3 non-profit and insists that it helps authors, he should be able to join so long as he meets the requirements. Allegedly members of File 770 lost their collective minds over his joining, but I have yet to find evidence of this. Perhaps it happened and then was later deleted? Or it could have been other comments taken out of hand? At this point of the game, who knows?
On December 24, 2017 Jon made a Twitter post about his concerns regarding people using and abusing the Code of Conduct at Worldcon in order to justify banning him. He throws out a ridiculous argument that even saying “Hi” to someone can be construed as threatening. However, as much as it might pain some to admit it, he’s correct here, since any overzealous individual who is expecting to be verbally abused or attacked can misconstrue just about anything as “threatening”.
Jon’s concern about people trying to create problems is understandable, because this popped up on Facebook this past week:
Taken by itself, it’s harmless. But apply this standard to the one that is being forced on Jon, and it takes on a different vibe entirely.
Now, quite a few people would immediately point out that Jon is a dick at times and knows how to push the right buttons. He stirs the pot and some people simply don’t like him. I’ve attended enough conventions as a pro and as a fan to understand that if someone you know has a decent following, is known for stirring the pot, and is planning on attending, you keep an eye out for any concerns they might have so that you can nip any potential problems in the bud and take away any potential ammunition they might try to use to discredit your convention. I’ve seen this done to perfection at such cons like MidSouthCon, Penguicon, and Libertycon.
On January 2 2018, Jon received an email from the something called the Incident Response Team at Worldcon 76 (side note — I could not find a Lori Buschbaum on the convention committee and I don’t see any department within Worldcon that the IRT would fall under… maybe Ops or Members Services?) informing him that his attending membership has been revoked and instead he will receive a supporting membership. His right to attend the convention was banned after it was stated that he had made comments on his personal blog about walking into a hostile environment and expecting problems at Worldcon.
Now, this accusation is somewhat troubling, because I scoured Jon’s site while writing this and I cannot see any indication that this is the case. Primarily he talks about his excitement of going and how to nominate for the Hugos, and he does throw out the comment of “Trufans” and mentions a supporting voter block, but other than that it’s pretty harmless stuff. Okay, he taunts some when his qualifications are called in to play for the SFWA membership. He points out that he is eligible by their standards. Yeah, he probably could have been less of a dick about it, but I don’t blame him at this point. Still though, he hadn’t lost his excitement about attending quite yet. Again, past experience and all are negative, but for someone new to worldcon, this is probably all fascinating and thrilling.
Yes, I’m a jaded veteran. I probably like my coffee black because it matches the darkness of my soul and all that. Hail Santa!
Once word got out that Jon had been more or less “disinvited”, the feces struck the rotary impeller and exploded. People went onto Twitter and lauded the Worldcon’s decision, which smelled a little fishy. Why the emotional outpouring of support for a decision to ban someone who expressed concern over safety issues for friends and self? That just reeks of politics, and Woldcon is supposed to be above politics. Now, as a jaded veteran of the Hugos, I can say with all honestly that EVERYTHING about Worldcon is politics. They eat, drink, breathe, and fornicate politics. It’s what makes their happy little heads spin, and is primarily why I stopped paying attention to their inane pleas for money and support.
Why a grown man is concerned about face-to-face meeting with probably the friendliest author I’ve met at a con is beyond me. I’ve met probably thousands of authors over the years and, outside of Larry Correia, the most gregarious and open to conversation with just about anyone is Jon.
However, this in itself is not that annoying. Many people in today’s society have discovered that passive-aggressive attacks lobbed from a keyboard are far more effective than dealing with a potential problem face-to-face. What is annoying and really has me riled up is the following quote from Worldcon 76’s Facebook page explaining Jon’s expulsion and violation of the Code of Conduct.
Worldcon 76 has chosen to reduce Jonathan Del Arroz’s membership from attending to supporting. He will not be allowed to attend the convention in person. Mr. Del Arroz’s supporting membership preserves his rights to participate in the Hugo Awards nomination and voting process. He was informed of our decision via email.
We have taken this step because he has made it clear that he fully intends to break our code of conduct. We take that seriously. Worldcon 76 strives to be an inclusive place in fandom, as difficult as that can be, and racist and bullying behavior is not acceptable at our Worldcon. This expulsion is one step towards eliminating such behavior and was not taken lightly. The senior staff and board are in agreement about the decision and it is final. If you have any questions or concerns feel free to share them here or in email at IRT@worldcon76.org
Edit to add permalink to the notice on the Worldcon 76 site (it can be found via navigating through the news link on the left sidebar).
I italicized, underlined, and made bold that one sentence for a very particular reason. Because later on IN THE SAME GORRAM THREAD they make the following statement:
Worldcon 76 in San Jose He’s been asked to provide more information about the threats against his safety. We have not yet received anything. General ‘I feel unsafe’ is not actionable.
Excuse my language for our younger readers here, but WHAT. THE. F*CK?!?!
Then, after being called out for the hypocrisy, this post appeared at the end of the thread:
Worldcon 76 in San Jose This thread is now over. If people persist in posting to it they will be banned from the page.
This is a link to a Twitter thread that is, ah, enlightening. To sum it up? Most of the people watching from the outside are questioning Worldcon’s antics, methodology, and agenda, since they continue to ban people who argue and ask pointed and uncomfortable questions while Jon had let it be all out in the open.
I’m not going to say that Worldcon is hiding anything, but… well… ahh… this is awkward.
Well then, I’ll go right ahead and pick it up here, since you’re afraid to, Worldcon. Don’t worry, I won’t let the big scary Hispanic guy invade your safe space. TRUTH is on OUR side!
In a world where hate-crimes lurk around every corner to jump out and attack an innocent bystander, where thought-crimes are perpetuated against the children born in the 70’s and 80’s every single minute of every single day, there is a place you can go where everyone who thinks proper thoughts and only hates the proper hate. Where dirty minorities who refuse to comply with the thought monitoring are excluded, and white people can ensure that their lowly people of color acquaintances (“No, really, I have a ton of black friends…”) can have extra help because they obviously aren’t good enough to pull themselves up by their own merits. The place where victims of sexual assault of famous people are not welcome but kiddy diddlers are protected, venerated, and adored.
That place? Worldcon!
(I feel so dirty…)
The second issue (I told you I’d get to it) involves Worldcon’s past, their present, and their admittedly bleak looking future. Until the Sad Puppies campaign kicked off… 6? 7? years ago, Worldcon had some seriously dwindling numbers, and the Hugos were even suffering harder. It almost appeared that a lot of in-crowd voting and not-so-subtle eye winks were going on during the nomination and voting process. Now, that’s been hashed to death (and, if you believe how viciously Larry was attacked by those disagreeing with him, proven), so I’m not going to go back over that. Instead, I want to look at the actual soul of Worldcon proper.
It’s freaking dark, man.
Somehow, somewhere, a convention that began as a way for us outcasts, nerds, geeks, dorks, and everyone even remotely not-vanilla had its very soul hijacked by those who would use it as a vehicle to push their own thoughts and hide their own horrid deeds behind what one could call A Thin Nerd Wall. It only got worse for them this past December when Moira Greyland Peat’s autobiography was released by Satan Himself, Vox Day.
“Who is Moira Greyland Peat?” you may ask. Well, I’ll tell you. Moira Greyland Peat is the daughter of Marion Zimmer Bradley, child abuser, child rapist, and definitely not “mother of the year”, and Walter Breen, convicted pederast and longtime member and attendee of Worldcon… where he actively groomed and hunted his prey, typically young boys from the ages of 7 up to 14. And was protected by his fellow Worldcon attendees for over 20 years, and some even supported his habits. Check out what is typically referred to in fandom as the great Breendoggle, but you better have a strong stomach and a lot of time for reading.
To this day people vociferously defend Marion Zimmer Bradley — at least they did until Moira’s book came out. This leaves a very dark stain on Worldcon’s soul, one that will not come out as long as people who have differing opinions are excluded and/or banned from attending. This stain is horrific, unsightly, and has yet to go away.
More recently, the attacks on authors who do not toe the line has gotten more childish and damaging. Besides authors being publicly ostracized and accused of racism for questioning certain “truths”, individuals have used the Worldcon and Hugo Award ceremony for their own grandstanding. Even a so-called “elder statesman” of science fiction and fantasy, David Gerrold, used the Hugo Awards ceremony to hand out wooden assholes to everyone who was a finalist and not a Sad Puppy.
He called them asterisks. It was almost clever.
There is no other way to put it — Worldcon’s behavior over the past 40 years is vile and disgusting, and it does not appear to be getting any better. I am very happy that they finally decided to protect those who would be harmed by sexual predators. In this, they also decided to swing the pendulum the complete opposite way and make it unwelcoming to anyone who does not share their beliefs 100% of the time. Now they will ban those who are worried that their families and personal attacks and are prepared to take safe, non-violent measures to protect themselves from harm and/or slander and libel.
If you have nothing to hide, then why not let everyone see?
Why not, indeed? Or are they afraid of what might rise to the surface when people stir the pot?
Coming January 12, 2018 from Anticipation Press
Devastator, Book 2 of The Warp
By Jason Cordova