Octocon News

The program schedule for Octocon is now online here (PDF). It looks like the LGBTQ panel is still on, though I’m not sure whether I’m actually on it. The panel on the Bechdel Test looks interesting too. Hopefully a good weekend is in store.

In less good news my email is currently buzzing with the news that my good friend Pádraig Ó Méalóid has apparently been banned from the convention. I know that Pádraig has been rather critical of the Octocon committee this year, and perhaps rather more aggressive about it than he should have been, but I know my fan history well enough to remember that banning people from conventions rarely ends well. The right way to deal with one’s critics is to prove them wrong by running a great event.

Unfortunately, as another Irishman has just pointed out to me, as a nation they do have a tendency for a bit of hot-headedness. Here’s hoping that this doesn’t degenerate into a legendary feud carried on unto the nth generation.

116 thoughts on “Octocon News

  1. Seth:

    ‘I note that “We will not inform Pádraig of the specific reasons behind this decision” is not part of that statement. I do not know whether or not they would have had they been asked privately; nor can anyone determine that now.’

    Nichola was asked by Pádraig at 23:00 (UTC+1) on Monday for clarification, as per http://slovobooks.livejournal.com/302269.html

    There has as yet been no response to this request; Nichola has committed to providing a response in her comment above, but not given a time period. In that period, Nichola and James (who is no longer Concom) have found the time to post to this forum on multiple occasions. Emails sent from third parties to the Concom on other subjects have been answered rapidly; yet there has been no explanation for the ban, either to third parties or to Pádraig.

    Now, obviously, you have to cut the Concom some slack, especially in the runup to the Con; as Nichola says, they’re very busy.

    But if they’re prepared to ban someone, you might have expected them to have some ready-prepared reasons, surely?

    Something a little more discrete than the vague generalisations given to date?

    The impression given is that they are not prepared to discuss the ban with Pádraig; or at least, not until *after* the convention – which is effectively identical to ‘you’re banned because we say so!’

    And that’s a bad thing for Octocon, because it suggests that the Concom are letting a personal animus get in the way of running the Con – certainly, there is nothing in recent Irish fan history that suggests that such a ban is reasonable or proportionate.

    Ideally, I’d like to see the Concom go ‘Er, we goofed, sorry, *unban*’ – it wouldn’t necessarily unmake all of the controversy, but it might at least show willing.

    Failing that, I think Pádraig deserves something concrete *before* the Con.

    I don’t envy the Concom their job right now. Octocon has been a bit shaky recently, especially following 2007, but last year was a success and a good effort; and 2010 should be a big one.

    Right now, though, I suspect that they’re in some form of crisis management mode after kicking off one of the most impressive PR cockups in recent European fan history; when the guy you’ve banned is vocally supported by a fair proportion of the recent guests in GB/IE SF&F con history (including multiple Hugo winners!), then you’re not likely to come out of it smelling of roses either way; but if they could stomach the embarrassment of retracting their ban, they could at least undo the material wrong.

    Of course there are going to be personal clashes in fandom; and this sort of petty drama will happen as long as fandom lasts, but harming the communal institutions in pursuit of personal grudges is not something that rewards anyone in the long run.

  2. Gideon (and everyone else):

    I understand that some conversation is now taking place. It may take a few days for any results to be produced.

  3. @Seth #96:

    (2) We will not discuss it online (i.e. publicly).

    You know, that makes sense? It is an entirely plausible interpretation of “we will not enter into any online discussion regarding this”. Yet I swear that until I read your message it hadn’t crossed my mind. I read the letter multiple times, read the discussions about it, and all along to me that line meant “We will not discuss this by e-mail”.

    I wonder how many other people thought/think the same.

    If that was indeed the intended meaning, the mail becomes a tad more reasonable (though I still think the banning was wrong in a number of ways). On the other hand, if the misreading was not just my own, it all goes back to “clarity of communication”…

  4. “This matter is not open for discussion and we will not enter into any online discussion regarding this nor will we discuss this with any other persons. This decision is final.”

    I don’t see how anyone could interpret the first statement there (“This matter is not open for discussion”) as anything other than a flat statement that they won’t discuss it with Pádraig or anyone else. The rest of the sentence is pretty redundant, though, if that’s what they meant.

    I’d add that telling Padraig why he’s been banned would, to my mind, come under “discussion”, but again, that’s perhaps not what they meant.

    But if that’s *not* what they meant, they’ve had ample opportunity to say so. And it indicates they have serious problems expressing themselves clearly.

    I’m pleased to hear it might be resolved after all, though again I wonder if that would have happened without all the online discussion that’s taken place, and without the Octocon committee being shown how badly this reflects on them.

  5. I’m also pleased that discussions are taking place, and I hope they result in something reasonable and very soon.

    Mark, at least in colloquial American English “not open for discussion” can mean “the decision is final” rather than “we won’t talk about it”. Especially in fandom, the likelihood that some topic will not come up in conversation is not very high.

    I think it likely that the discussions would not have taken place without all the online noise, but that really doesn’t matter (except maybe as an example for the future, a counterexample to a hypothetical claim that it’s better not to talk about something).

  6. Seth – I think most Irish people would read “not open for discussion” as meaning is not open for any discussion end of story and that’s all we’re going to say on the matter. They stated they wouldn’t talk about it online, which given Padraig is banned from Octocon and doesn’t know the person who banned him personally would be the only way he would be able to talk with them and saying the won’t talk to the 3rd person means he couldn’t even ask someone else to find out. Poor choice of words but then it was a poor choice to ban him in the first place.

    People can argue back and forth about wither it was right or wrong or what to ban someone but the way he was banned is what gets my goat – Padraig pays for two supporting memberships even though he doesn’t think he’ll be off work and won’t be able to go so they were happy to take his money at that stage. Then on the 4th of October Padraig posts and says O I’m actually free and I paid for theses tickets I’m going to go, then on the 5th he gets an email saying he is banned. O they’ll refund his money but one has to wonder if he hadn’t posted on his blog at all his intention to go would this have happened? Were the con happy to take money from him as long as he wasn’t showing?

  7. Hello from the environs of Dallas, Texas, US. I thought I’d drop by to confirm the “bajillions of people who now know only THIS ONE THING about your con and Irish fandom” remark from early in the comments thread. I got wind of it because Paul Cornell was recently a guest (a wonderful one) at a local con, and he commented in this thread.
    Just hello. I have no information to contribute.

  8. I really hope this matter can be resolved amicably and swiftly. Whatever the rights and wrongs of claims made in this thread, it’s doing fandom as a whole and Octocon in particular no favours whatsoever.

    I don’t know most of the key figures in this particular melodrama so will make no comment on the specifics, but I do feel obliged to say that Pádraig was an attendee and energetic supporter of an event I was instrumental in organising last year, NewCon 4. Next year we’re staging NewCon 5 (GofHs Paul Cornell, Pat Cadigan and Paul McAuley) and I greatly look forward to seeing Pádraig there again.

  9. Point taken, but I used that comment precisely because, as I went on to say in the very next sentence, I wanted them to prove the stereotype wrong.

    It doesn’t really read that way. The form of what you said in your post is more on the lines of “As a woman just pointed out, women do tend to be ruled by their emotions. Let’s hope these ones can bring some rational thought to bear.” The second sentence doesn’t really challenge the stereotype in the first. I do see that you were wanting to forestall any unpleasantness, but it wasn’t the best-judged way to do it, imo.

    On the other hand, I’m very glad to hear there are signs that this whole mess is being sorted out!

  10. Charlie:

    Point taken. I’ll try to be more careful next time.

    Though at this point it doesn’t really matter what I meant to say, does it? No one is going to change their view of what they thought I said.

  11. Johan:

    It is already pretty clear that I can’t go to cons in Ireland any more.

    I was rather hoping to go to the Eurocon in Sweden in 2011…

  12. As long as you don’t stereotype us, you’re welcome. We prefer monotypography over here… but I’ll have to discuss the matter with Lally next weekend.

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