How Others See Us

RaceFail09 continues to rumble on in the blogosphere, and if you are one of the people who haven’t been following it then Peggy at Biology in Science Fiction has a lengthy round-up of links. However, that’s not why I’m pointing you at her post. Peggy produces some of the best fan writing about science fiction around at the moment (and was on my Hugo ballot), and I’d love to get to meet her one day. But despite being white and a book reader she says she doesn’t feel comfortable about going to cons. She has the impression that con-attending fans are not only racist, but misogynist and elitist as well. And the killer point for me was:

Of course it’s only convention-goers (or people willing to pay the convention fee) who are allowed to vote on the Hugo Awards, so in that sense it’s people who attend cons who help define which novels are the “important” ones in the genre.

As with the whole of this debate, it really doesn’t matter whether people’s perceptions are correct or not, what matters is that they have those perceptions.

I have another post about the future of Worldcon coming – hopefully later this week. I’ll keep trying, but sometimes it seems very much like a losing battle.

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37 Responses to How Others See Us

  1. Jonathan Strahan says:

    I think she has a point. I’ve long thought a very cheap voting membership – maybe $5.00 – would be appropriate.

  2. Tero says:

    Well, the Hugos are an award specifically meant to be voted by those fans who like going to Worldcons (and can afford it), and like it or not, I don’t think that is going to be changed any time soon. And a voting-only membership is probably also going to be voted down for the foreseeable future, because that too is decided by the members of the convention — so those fans who would be most likely to use the voting membership don’t get a say.

    But a thought occurred to me — has the idea been suggested that the Hugo voting rights, while still tied to the WSFS membership, would last for example for four additional years after the convention you attended? That way, you’d still not “sell out” the Hugos to be a general public award or a “reader award”, they’d be decided by fans (meaning “Worldcon members”), but the people who can’t afford to go to conventions each year still would get to vote. And for example Europeans who only go to those conventions that are on our continent (every ten years or so) would still get to vote about half the time.

  3. Cheryl says:

    Absolutely she has a point (though hopefully that characterization doesn’t apply to all of us). However, to effect change you have to convince the WSFS Business Meeting, and that means convincing people who think that there is nothing wrong with the Hugos and that the results would be negatively affected if you allowed “outsiders” to vote. And yet many of those same people are woefully ignorant about the current state of the field, as evidenced by some of the ridiculous statements made during the semiprozine debate in Denver.

  4. Cheryl says:

    Tero:

    Where the Hugos become known as only an award voted on by people who attend Worldcon, people lose all respect for them. I know it is true right now, but it really is very bad for their reputation.

  5. Tero says:

    Cheryl: I agree it’s bad, but I was trying to think of a somewhat realistic first step outside the current “voted on by people who regularly attend Worldcon” model.

    Similar to what you said in #3: as long as the rules are decided by people who regularly attend Worldcon, I don’t think they are going to see much wrong in Hugos being decided by the same. But there might be a middle ground (yeah, with fans, I know…) of “people who read science fiction, care about the Hugos, and at least occasionally attend a Worldcon”.

  6. Tero:

    You may well be right. After all, WSFS did vote to modify their rules to allow the members of the previous Worldcon to nominate in the following year’s Awards. It’s likely, however, that said amendment was solely based on self-interest, on account of it was tied to the rule that theoretically reduced the incidence of would-be vote-buyers sending in a bunch of ballots just before the deadline with the notorious sequentially-numbered money orders.

    As with all other changes, it would require getting the existing Business Meeting attendees to be willing to accept the change, and to do it for two consecutive years. With the next two Worldcons being outside the USA, I see there being a reluctance to introduce major changes this year or next; therefore, the first opportunity to even start such a movement would be for an initial vote at the 2011 Worldcon.

  7. shirleytemple says:

    Similar to what you said in #3: as long as the rules are decided by people who regularly attend Worldcon, I don’t think they are going to see much wrong in Hugos being decided by the same. But there might be a middle ground (yeah, with fans, I know…) of “people who read science fiction, care about the Hugos, and at least occasionally attend a Worldcon”.

    Or perhaps the slow infusion of fresh blood can make a difference as well. Sometimes, by a fluke, someone who would normally think cons were a waste of time might get drawn in and realize the opportunities to make change there as well…

    If we had more European Worldcons I think it would help too, especially in places where fandom is newer or at least convention-going fandom is…. (I can think of some . . .)

  8. shirleytemple:

    If we had more European Worldcons I think it would help too,…

    Quite probably, but this is highly dependent upon people willing to put on the event, and it’s a lot of work. Conventional wisdom at the moment is that Europe is good for about one Worldcon per decade. But if more European fans would step forward and offer to run Worldcons (and do the necessary work to win bids), then we’d see more Worldcons there.

    One a decade may seem like not very many, but when you consider that a Worldcon’s working lifespan is on the order of six or seven years (2-3 years bidding; 2 years planning; 2 years wind-down), it may be more obvious how much of a time commitment it is. It was worse when we chose the sites three years in advance, as I know from personal experience with ConJose.

  9. shirleytemple says:

    Kevin Standlee: 2 years wind-down?

  10. Is there anywhere we can go to get a sense of what the out-of-touch views from the semiprozine debate in Denver were? I sometimes wonder if the general interest convention culture isn’t biased towards suburbia in a way that feeds in fans to the best path to WorldCon and Hugo-voting in a fashion that slices white-ish.

    The media-lit component of the divide is terribly interesting. I have enthusiasms in both camps, but it is literature I fear for, and hence when I see fans of media who don’t read in the genre I do get a little nervous. Undoubtedly a thread in the elitist strain, I imagine.

    In a merely technical issue, I assume you meant to have linked to Biology in Science Fiction? Finding it is easy enough, indeed I’ve been there many times before, it just looks to me like a case where you probably intended to link and forgot.

  11. shirleytemple:

    Yes, for the leadership of the organization, it can take years to completely wind down a Worldcon. Sure, for the rank-and-file and the attendees, things are done when the convention ends. But for the leadership, you have months of paying bills, reimbursing members (if possible) who worked on the event in various ways, and dealing with reporting requirements of the World Science Fiction Society. If you have any surplus left, you must keep reporting on how you’ve spent it until it’s gone. One particular Worldcon was still submitting reports ten years after their convention ended.

    I was one of the directors of UK2005 Ltd., the non-profit-equivalent set up to run the 2005 Worldcon. I received a notice within the last few months advising me that the organization was in fact being officially wound down. (Some Worldcons set up one-shot organizations; others are put on my ongoing non-profit organizations.)

    So for anyone contemplating taking on a Worldcon bid in a leadership role, you can assume that it’s going to be a significant part of your life for the better part of a decade at least.

  12. Jason:

    I have the video recordings from the 2008 Business Meeting, but YouTube and its ilk won’t let you (as far as I can tell) upload multi-hour recordings as single files. I have been meaning ever since last August to sit down and edit the recordings into pieces small enough to be uploadable, but have never found the time to do so. If I could do so, then you could listen to the actual debate of the proposal that took place at Denvention Three.

  13. Peggy says:

    Hi Cheryl, thanks for the mention!

    Having been completely out of the fandom loop despite having been a SF reader for many decades I was really surprised to learn that the Hugos were basically a Worldcon attendee award. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but it does make me question the prestige that the award has, since the voters are a really limited bunch.

    Since I haven’t attended a con – and that has as much to do with my wallflowerish personality as it does my perception that cons aren’t particularly friendly to women – I obviously don’t know what they are really like. My perception is that SF cons in the U.S. are mostly put together by and for white men. (And the fact that the club that runs the nearest big con lists a “bikini-clad gold-painted woman” as the first item on their membership info page reinforces my perception that SF fandom is primarily a boy’s club.) I’ve also read about pros behaving like obnoxious adolescents and being given a pass for bad behavior because of their status in the SF world, which I also find troubling.

    So SF cons don’t really appeal to me, and that’s fine. But it bums me out that I can’t really be considered a true “fan” unless I go to one. And it makes me aware of the fact that people like me don’t have any input into who gets one of SF’s prestigious awards.

  14. Peggy:

    The Hugo Awards are presented by a club called the World Science Fiction Society, the same way the Nebula Awards are presented by a club called the Science Fiction Writers of America. SFWA charges membership dues and requires that its members meet certain requirements. WSFS only charges membership dues, which start at around $50/year for people who don’t actually attend the annual conference and go up to over $200 depending on how long you wait to join. (People who attend every year tend to keep their cost down below around $150 by paying early.) You do not actually have to attend a convention to be a member of WSFS, but the only way to have membership in WSFS is to buy a supporting (non-attending) Worldcon membership. So that extent, you can have input into who gets the Hugo Award without attending a convention, but you have to pay your membership dues to do so.

    While I’m one of the people who have said that membership in WSFS is probably overpriced, I also don’t really see that the fact that you have to buy a membership in a club makes the awards presented by that club automatically suspect.

    In a sense, all awards are wrong, because no matter how they are determined, someone can find fault with them. Either they are juried, in which case a small cabal is obviously biased, or else they’re popularly voted, in which case they’re too democratic, or something in between.

    What would you suggest would be the best way to select the Hugo Awards? Think of any plausible way your system could (and thus would) be criticized?

  15. Cheryl says:

    Tero:

    Your idea is an interesting one, and it is very similar to what World Fantasy does. But as long as people still think that the Hugos are only for people who attend Worldcon then the problem remains. It is the perception that has to be changed, the mechanics are to some extent secondary. That is, if we change the mechanics, if the perception still remains, no matter how unfairly, we have achieved nothing.

  16. Cheryl says:

    Jason:

    Specifically, Ben Yalow said that there were not enough semiprozines in existence worthy of a nomination, and Seth Breidbart said that some of the semiprozines that did get nominated were not worth reading. Both men appear to be totally ignorant of the many good quality small press fiction magazines in existence (including Clarkesworld, of course, but also Interzone, Weird Tales, LCRW, Fantasy, Subterranean, Albedo One and so on).

  17. Deb Geisler says:

    Peggy:

    Since I haven’t attended a con – and that has as much to do with my wallflowerish personality as it does my perception that cons aren’t particularly friendly to women – I obviously don’t know what they are really like. My perception is that SF cons in the U.S. are mostly put together by and for white men.

    It seems to me that you have gotten your view of SF conventions from some rather odd sources. Mainstream television depicts SF conventions as the exclusive province of nerdy boys with no social skills, but mainstream television also finds that sells better: making fun of people makes for more lucrative television, I suppose.

    Fandom is no more designed for white men than any other institution in the U.S. these days. In the 1940s and 1950s, the population was more male — but in large measure, that’s because there were more men than women interested.

    This is not to say that women did not face sexism in fandom…but talent was recognized and encouraged.

    When we were putting together the 2004 World Science Fiction Convention in Boston in 2004, one fan asked me, “Are you the first woman to chair a Worldcon?”

    Not a chance. That honor belongs to Julian May, who chaired the 10th Worldcon — in 1952. And even though female fans might have been in a minority then, they are certainly no such thing today, where it’s about 50:50.

    [As for the general discussion of awarding the Hugos, my $.02: is fandom elitist? Yep. Is there an elite group of people who vote in the Hugo awards? Yep. Do I have a problem with that? Nope. The awards have always been given by those who cared enough to join the World Science Fiction Convention. If someone doesn’t want to pay to play, they can start their own awards.]

  18. Peggy says:

    Kevin: But membership in WSFS doesn’t seem to get you anything other than the ability to vote on the Hugos and be a member of Worldcon, attending or no. $50 just to place a vote seems pretty steep.

    But I don’t have any good alternatives (and I know you and other people have been discussing alternative possibilities for a while). I think there should be at least some small barrier to voting, just to prevent organized jerks from trying to game the system. And I don’t think it’s really worse than other media awards, which all have their own limitations based on who the voters are. So, I’m not really any help.

    I do have a problem with the Hugo being seen as the “fan award”, because it’s not. It’s “the (small?) subset of fans interested in and able to afford the membership fee for Worldcon” award. I think that reinforces the idea that fan = con-goer. And many of the fans seem to also be writers or editors or otherwise members of the SF industry, which I think confuses things, since I think of a fan award as being presented by admiring outsiders rather than insiders.

    So I’m pretty much no help in making suggestions, except to encourage people to describe the Hugo as the “Worldcon-member award” rather than the “fan award.”

  19. Cheryl says:

    Peggy:

    I think your impressions of fandom are a few decades out of date. That’s not to say that there are not sexist men around, but things are not what they used to be. There are plenty of women involved in running Worldcon, often at a very senior level, and we don’t stand for nonsense. There have been a few high profile incidents such as the Harlan thing in LA a few years back, but they are exceptions, not the norm.

    There are all sorts of groups of people who think that they are the “real” fandom. Most of them exclude me, and I go to a lot of conventions. Attending cons does not grant you admission to in-groups. I’d ignore the whole nonsense if it wasn’t for the bad effect it has on people like you.

    Kevin is right that the fee for voting in the Hugos is as much a WSFS membership fee as it is a convention membership. There are people who think that you ought to have to attend the convention to vote. Indeed, I am sure there are people who would like to restrict voting to people who are prepared to sit through hours of nonsense at the WSFS Business Meeting. Thankfully neither group currently gets their way. And if I get my way then WSFS will start to reach out to people like you, rather than expect you to come to us. There will be more about this in a day or two.

  20. Peggy:

    Thank you for your thoughtful comments.

    And many of the fans seem to also be writers or editors or otherwise members of the SF industry, which I think confuses things, since I think of a fan award as being presented by admiring outsiders rather than insiders.

    That may be because many people treat “fan” and “pro” as opposites, which they are not. There are many professionals who are also fans. (And not every professional SF/F writer could be considered a fan of the genre, I think.) The opposite of “professional” is “amateur,” which isn’t the same thing. “Fan” and “pro” are two overlapping non-exclusive sets.

    So I’m pretty much no help in making suggestions, except to encourage people to describe the Hugo as the “Worldcon-member award” rather than the “fan award.”

    There, I fear, you’re unlikely to ever convince people to change. It’s simply too easy to use “fan award” as the shortcut. Personally, I try to make it clear that the Hugo Awards are presented by the World Science Fiction Society, not just by “every SF/F fan in the world” or something like that.

    Actually, you can have some indirect influence in who/what gets nominated, even if you aren’t a WSFS member, by contributing toward the growing number of recommendation lists out there. I think many people (I know I’m one of them) are influenced by these lists when we undertake the daunting prospect of filling in that nearly-blank sheet of paper that is the Hugo Nominating Ballot.

    For example, ever year for the past few years the Bay Area Science Fiction Association has held a series of Hugo Recommendation Nights where we discuss our mutual recommendations for that year’s Hugo Awards. We don’t limit participation to those members who are also Hugo-nominating-eligible. We encourage every BASFA member, even those who aren’t Worldcon members, to make suggestions. We then post them to to the Hugo Award Recommendations LiveJournal community.

  21. Peggy says:

    It seems to me that you have gotten your view of SF conventions from some rather odd sources.

    Deb: My impression isn’t so much from the MSM (which has an annoying tendency to do LOL SF Fans-type articles), but from reading blogs of con goers and similar sources*. Some women have felt uncomfortable. I’ve seen a focus on women in “hot” costumes. And a lot of my impression of in-group pros being given a pass for their behavior has come from some of the comments during Racefail.

    And, as I’ve said, I haven’t been and can’t say from personal experience.

    * And I’m excluding Wiscon, because as an explicitly feminist con, it’s a different kettle of fish.

  22. Susan Loyal says:

    Peggy,

    I’ve never attended an SF con in my life, although I’m not ruling out the possibility, but I’ve also nominated for and voted in the Hugos for a number of years now, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the experience. While $50 represents an expense I have to budget (as distinct from, say, $20, which might pass through my fingers unaccounted for), the voting process gives a focus to my hobby that I think has value. So there are some World Science FIction Society members (in a supporting capacity), who aren’t con-goers. There’s plenty of room out here in the Kuiper Belt of fandom!

    (I’ve been to enough professional conferences to wonder whether a certain amount of off-the-hook behavior doesn’t just go with being away from home and in a crowd.)

  23. Deb Geisler says:

    Peggy:

    Deb: My impression isn’t so much from the MSM (which has an annoying tendency to do LOL SF Fans-type articles), but from reading blogs of con goers and similar sources*. Some women have felt uncomfortable. I’ve seen a focus on women in “hot” costumes. And a lot of my impression of in-group pros being given a pass for their behavior has come from some of the comments during Racefail.

    I’ve come late to the discussion of RaceFail, and I’m not going to get involved with it. (Don’t have a dog in that fight, but I hope that some useful dialogue and progress comes out of it.)

    The problem with experiencing conventions through others’ reports is that they always attend different conventions than do other con-goers. That’s because everybody attends a different convention than everybody else.

    What I can tell you is that I, as a woman in fandom, almost never have sexist comments aimed at me at conventions or bad experiences involving my gender. In fact, in fandom I’ve had to tolerate far less gender bias than in the mundane world.

    As for professionals in the field and the RaceFail discussion, I’m going to take a pass on commenting. My concern here is the issue of gender bias.

  24. Peggy says:

    Cheryl and Deb: thanks for your comments. I’m sure things are better than they used to be (aren’t they everywhere?) and I didn’t mean to imply that every woman had bad experiences at cons or even that the issues are unique to cons.

    I’ve been to enough professional conferences to wonder whether a certain amount of off-the-hook behavior doesn’t just go with being away from home and in a crowd.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if that were true. And I may have gotten a false impression of what it’s like from the subset of people who attend cons specifically to hook up, which makes it sound like a meat market, and comments by women who have experienced unwanted touching (like strange men coming up and giving unwanted backrubs, creepy). It’s the thought of having to navigate that in a situation where I am alone and know no one that makes me squeamish.

    Anyway, my larger point was meant to be that I think the attitudes of con-goers are largely going to reflect the society they come from. And that’s where I have the problem with the kind of SF fan elitism that assumes SF fandom is so “forward thinking” that its not affected by social issues like sexism or racism. Which, IMHO, is simply not true. That’s in contrast to what I consider appropriate elitism, which when an expert holds herself above non-experts in the area of her expertise.

    For example, ever year for the past few years the Bay Area Science Fiction Association has held a series of Hugo Recommendation Nights where we discuss our mutual recommendations for that year’s Hugo Awards. We don’t limit participation to those members who are also Hugo-nominating-eligible. We encourage every BASFA member, even those who aren’t Worldcon members, to make suggestions. We then post them to to the Hugo Award Recommendations LiveJournal community.

    That sounds great. I would so love to find a club to discuss SF books that is less than 50 miles from where I live. Alas, I live in the boonies.

  25. Cheryl says:

    Peggy:

    What you have to remember about Internet discussion of conventions is that much of it is meta-conversation. Something happens at a con, such as the Harlan incident, or the Open Source Boob Project, discussion of it them goes viral on the Internet, and before long the “common wisdom” about what happened can be unrecognizable to people who were actually there at the time.

    It is also worth noting that some of the discussion will involve a small number of people who are deeply into victim politics, a game that pretty much requires that you find examples of your oppression in everything that happens, whether actual oppression took place or not.

    So yes, bad things happen, but if it is something that causes a great fuss online then you are probably not reading about what really happened, just people’s reactions to what they heard reported as having happened.

    It is also worth noting that not all cons are the same. There are some that are popular with people who are into alternative sexualities such as S&M. There are others were you won’t find anyone in costume, let alone anyone in bondage leathers.

    As for WisCon, while it is supposedly a safe space for women fans, it doesn’t exclude men, so it can still occasionally have problems with the stereotypical loud and stupid male fan who attempts to hijack the panel from the audience. And in the days when we had to share the Concourse Hotel with a mundane wedding party we got a lot more harassment of female attendees than is normal at a convention.

    The main point about WisCon, however, is that it has a prevailing political ethos. I stopped going because I felt uncomfortable there, and I know other women who find it equally off-putting. There are many things about WisCon that I still admire, and I’m very glad it exists. I’d like to go back one day. But I’m also painfully aware that there are few conventions where I am more likely to encounter aggression and hostility than WisCon.

  26. Liviu says:

    Today everyone writing about sff online has their own best of year lists, Amazon has them, BN has them, there are more and more awards popping up, so I think that paying undue attention to a particular award decided by several hundred votes is a waste of time.

    Hugo, BSFA, Clarke, Amazon top,10, BN top 10, BookSpot annual book tournaments, SfSite top 10, sffworld top 5, top 5/10 lists from bloggers/reviewers I follow and so on, all are the same with me; I skim them to find out about books I have not paid attention to.

    Actually if there are best of lists I pay more attention than average to, there are some from bloggers I know their tastes and from Jeff Vandermeer at Amazon.

    And more and more sff books have blurbs from bloggers on their covers, the author getting a top of **** from this or that site is mentioned prominently….

    So in a way this debate about opening up the Hugo’s is quite irrelevant, the fans are taking out of the hands of any particular person, committee, organization…

  27. Cheryl says:

    Liviu:

    So what you are actually saying there is that the Hugos are becoming irrelevant because so many fans can’t participate in them. Which I think brings us back to my original point.

  28. “Julian May, who chaired the 10th Worldcon — in 1952.”

    According to the Wiki entry she was not yet 22 when she chaired the Worldcon… a Worldcon larger than the last 3 combined. It wouldn’t be until 1967 that a larger Worldcon was held.

    And the only other officer listed in the first progress report was the Secretary-Treasurer:Bea Mahaffey.

    See: http://fanac.org/fanzines/Chicon/Chicon2b1-02.html

    Which is not to say that all was wonderful and perfect. But rather our perceptions of the past may not be as accurate as we think.

  29. Jason:

    Is there anywhere we can go to get a sense of what the out-of-touch views from the semiprozine debate in Denver were?

    I have posted video of the debate on the subject, split into two halves:

    the first half is the technical debate that concerned itself mainly with trying to define the precise effect of the proposal and how to accomplish it, and probably is mainly of interest to people interested in meeting mechanics.

    The second half is the substantive debate on the merits of the proposal. Both segments are 13-14 minutes long, but if you’re interested in the meat of the matter, you can pick up with the second half and you will not have missed much.

  30. Liviu says:

    Hugos are now like Locus and the big 3 sff magazines; more prestige than the upstarts, but starting to get drowned in the river of “best of” that started flowing on the Net, the same way Locus is getting drowned by all the free sff info out there, and the big 3 by all the online sites that publish shorts coupled with the increased number of original anthologies around.

    I subscribed to Locus for several years and I liked it, but now I find it too expensive for its worth – I can find almost anything that made Locus worth free and timely – heck I could do author interviews myself as an associate reviewer for a sff blog, had lots of queries, just not the time, I write reviews, I easily find comprehensive lists of sff/associational books to be published any given month, while for publishing insider stuff SFScope and others offer such, with SfSignal as good aggregator

    Same with Asimov’s and FSF (I am not an Analog type sf fan), subscribed for a while, but now I’d rather buy the occasional issue that piques my interest, while I still spend lots of money – comparatively speaking – on shorts in new magazines like Aeon, Gud, Escape Velocity, new anthologies of all kinds including small press like Hadley-Rille “Ruins” ones…

    So the same with “best of” and headlines on books; in the past Hugo winner/finalist was a big deal, but now books trumpet “top BN sff pick of 200*”, “this or that” award, quotes from blog reviews, and Hugo is something still useful, but one out of many
    And for the casual sff reader an award is an award so to speak, could be Hugo or “best of..”, while for the regular sff reader, well the above applies so to speak

    The whole point of opening the Hugos up, would be to have a valid claim to some sort “universality”, rather than just using the hallowed past as legitimacy.

    I bet that with a low entry hurdle, say free voting with some kind of registration with a valid email address the way the Gemmell award works, the Hugo voting would spike tenfold or more since the name still commands some respect

  31. Mike Glyer says:

    Three Worldcons between 1952-1960 had women as sole chair 1952 (Julian “Judy” May), 1958 (Anna Moffatt), and 1960 (Dirce Archer). And the 1955 Worldcon was co-chaired by Noreen Falasca.

  32. Deb Geisler says:

    Mike Glyer:

    Yes, I did a bit of math yesterday. Omitting the 2011 Worldcon (which is, at this point, likely to be chaired by a woman), there are or have been 16 women in the hot seat as Worldcon chairs, or roughly 22%.

    I suspect the low numbers have far less to do with sexism and far more to do with women’s ability to figure out this is a losing proposition and run very fast in the opposite direction. Some women, however, were not so smart.

    😉

  33. Cheryl says:

    Liviu:

    YES!!!!!

    Thank you!

    (Though actually I don’t think we could go to free voting immediately as there will be people who will try to stuff the ballot just to prove it can be done, and to embarrass the people in charge. Besides, a small fee would provide valuable income for Worldcon.)

  34. Thanks Kevin, I’ll go and take a look at those.

  35. Peggy says:

    What you have to remember about Internet discussion of conventions is that much of it is meta-conversation. Something happens at a con, such as the Harlan incident, or the Open Source Boob Project, discussion of it them goes viral on the Internet, and before long the “common wisdom” about what happened can be unrecognizable to people who were actually there at the time.

    It is also worth noting that some of the discussion will involve a small number of people who are deeply into victim politics, a game that pretty much requires that you find examples of your oppression in everything that happens, whether actual oppression took place or not.

    Oh sure, I realize that. And even single bad experiences often stick out in people’s memories. But I thought I should note that a big part of my impression about bad male behavior at cons was from a long thread at Making Light where people were looking forward to and reminiscing about Worldcons. Many women (who I’m pretty sure aren’t into “victim politics”) reported having experienced really creepy male behavior. Sure it was stuff that had mostly happened in the past, and it seemed like many women didn’t think it was a big deal. But to me, as an outsider, it sounded very uncomfortable, and I’m skeptical that behavior that was prevalent 10 or 15 years ago has vanished completely today. (And I don’t think whether women are chairing the con has much bearing on the way the participants behave.) But that’s just my perception. I just haven’t felt it’s worth spending hundreds of dollars to find out whether I’m wrong or not.

    Anyway, I’ll leave you guys to discussing the Hugos.

  36. Mike Glyer says:

    Deb – Hey, but you got to keep the welcome mat!

  37. Deb Geisler says:

    Um, Mike? There were times when it felt like I *was* the welcome mat!

    (If you ever come visit, it’s down in my basement, all clean and stuff. Getting it professionally cleaned was almost as expensive as getting it printed in the first place. There were ~5600 footprints on it!)

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