Imaginales in Crisis

Long-time readers will remember that I very much enjoyed my trip to Épinal (the ‘home of comics’) in France for the Imaginales festival. It had a lot of the feel of a traditional science fiction convention, but was run in conjunction with the municipal authorities which meant that it was a) free and b) very well attended.

Well, it was good while it lasted. The trouble with working with local government is that the people you are working with can get voted out and replaced by people with very different attitudes.

Thanks to friends from France (primarily Aliette de Bodard and Lionel Davoust) I have learned that the new mayor, Patrick Nardin, has fired Stéphanie Nicot, the Creative Director of the festival, and many other staff are leaving in protest.

Stéphanie was the founder of Imaginales, and has been in charge since it started. She is getting on in age these days, but had put a succession plan in place. Possibly more importantly in this case, Stephanie is a trans woman, and one of the better known advocates for trans rights in France. I’m hearing of various women and people of colour complaining that their role in Imaginales has been reduced since the new management took over.

M. Nardin has also accused Stéphanie and her team of being unprofessional. Having been to the event, I’m happy to say that’s absolutely not the case. However, I suspect that what is meant here is not ability to do the job, but desire to make profits. My guess is that M. Nardin wants to see Imaginales run more like San Diego ComicCon, and have the festival bring in big money for the town. If that’s the case, he certainly won’t be interested in the top quality literary guests that Stephanie used to bring to the event. He’s also going to have to find a whole lot of fans daft enough to work for free to make money for him.

There’s an interview with Stéphanie (in French) here.

It is all very sad, but probably kind of inevitable given the rightward drift of politics around the world. I hope that French fandom rallies round and finds somewhere to put on a new event. They may not be able to do it in conjunction with a local council, and they might have to charge for memberships, but at least they’ll be in control. Hey, they might even bid for a Eurocon…

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