At the introductory remarks for the BSFA Awards at Eastercon on Sunday, John Meaney dismissed gender parity panels as “babes in SF”, went on at length about Lauren Beukes’s looks, and joked about violent Israelis and African games with funny names. Apparently there was also a part involving Irish people and leprechauns that wasn’t caught on video. There were numerous complaints on Twitter and several people walked out, missing the closing in which Meaney claimed Charles Stross was actually Osama bin Laden. (Not to be confused with the earlier part where he put up a picture of Lavie Tidhar labeled “Not Philip K. bin Laden”. Why make a terrible joke once when you could make it twice?)
Martin McGrath, a BSFA committee member, responded with a blog post where he said that a) the speech was in poor taste because it insults individual people, b) it was absurd to think of it as insulting groups to which those individual people belong (because had Lauren Beukes been a gorgeous man, Meaney would totally have talked about standing in the golden radiance of her aura! her being a woman is irrelevant!), and c) Meaney (whom McGrath barely knows) surely meant well and his heart is pure, so any responses to him should be made in an appropriate tone. McGrath fights for equality all the time, so when he says that being offended by sexist and racist comments is “hysterical”, you know it’s not worth worrying your pretty little head over. He also not only emphasized that he doesn’t represent BSFA but claimed that in fact it is impossible for any individual to do so, explained that it is BSFA policy not to have policies (er…), invited people to come chat with him at the BSFA booth at Eastercon, and wondered what the point was of continuing to volunteer with BSFA. Reactions to this screed were predictably negative.
This awfulness unfortunately rather overshadowed the BSFA Awards themselves, which went to Paul Cornell for short fiction, Christopher Priest for long fiction (he redeemed both himself and the ceremony by making two genuinely funny jokes in under 60 seconds), Dominic Harman for cover art, and The Science Fiction Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition for nonfiction. Prior to Meaney’s turn at the mike, the James White Award was also presented to Colum “CJ” Paget, who very generously donated his prize back to the award fund, and a special commendation was given to Tori Truslow. Congratulations to the winners, and sympathies to them and the other nominees, who had little choice but to sit through that excruciating half-hour and the subsequent rehashing.