Tag Archives: good causes

Link Roundup

Link Roundup

What Conventions Are and Aren’t

A glossary moment before I begin: In this post, I use “harassment” as a catch-all term for one person deliberately inflicting unwanted touch, commentary, or intense attention upon another. In the real world things are considerably more complicated than that, and I’m not for a moment advocating treating all harassment incidents equally; but I do think it is worth addressing general cases before moving on to the specific. English doesn’t have good one-word terms for people who have been harassed: “harassee” and “victim” define a person by something that’s happened to them, and “survivor” is wonderful but only for those who survive. Throughout this post, I use phrases like “people targeted by harassers” to emphasize that these people are people, putting them front and center in their own stories and counteracting the tendency in this culture to dismiss and objectify them.

A disclaimer moment: I volunteer with Readercon, and have volunteered with other conventions in the past. The following post expresses my personal views only.

Finally, please read Genreville’s comment policy before commenting, especially if you would like to comment anonymously or pseudonymously, and be aware that ALL comments are held for approval. I will go through them as quickly as I can, but that may not be very quickly over the weekend.

There has been a lot of conversation lately about harassment and other reprehensible behavior at science fiction conventions. As the program chair of Readercon, I’ve been following that conversation with considerable interest, not least because the latest round started when one Readercon attendee harassed another at the convention and the convention’s governing body did not handle it well. Discussions about building and enforcing safety policies have encouraged me to think very hard about the philosophical approaches that those policies might be founded on, and my personal conclusion–which, I would like to stress again, is mine alone–is that the following words do not belong in any such policy, nor in descriptions of how those policies are implemented:

  • punishment
  • consequences
  • reprisal
  • deterring
  • ostracizing
  • apology
  • recompense
  • redemption

Conventions are not communities in the traditional sense of the word. They are not townships. The conchair is not the mayor; the head of safety or security is not the chief of police; the concom and the board are not tribunals or juries. The organizing bodies are not directly or representationally elected and are almost never demographically representative of the convention-attending population. I think that treating conventions as in some way parallel to real-world communities governed by law is a really bad idea, especially when we get into these crime-and-punishment discussions. Conventions are not in the business of dispensing justice. They aren’t designed for it or equipped for it, and no one–especially not anyone involved in running a convention–should behave as though they are, even for a moment.

What conventions are designed for and equipped for is helping people to have fun. That’s the business model! And I think that is what conventions should stay focused on when someone pops up and starts making their spaces less fun for their customers.

Take a moment and look back at that list of words. What they have in common is that they are focused on perpetrators. We do this all the time. All the time. When someone does something we find noxious, they become the focus of attention: how will they be punished? Will they apologize? Can they be brought back into the fold? Meanwhile, the person they targeted with their noxious behavior is forgotten, dismissed, or scorned. Harassers are often charismatic, which is how they get close enough to harass, and they often target the shy and vulnerable, who are that much easier to ignore if they manage to speak up at all. We are all intimately familiar with the narrative of sin-repentance-redemption, and it’s startlingly easy to try to follow someone through it while all but forgetting that they wouldn’t have even started down that road if they hadn’t treated another person badly.

As for popular, commonly understood narratives for people who have been targeted by harassers: well, we don’t really have any. We notice them only long enough for them to accept an apology or teach the transgressor a lesson. The closest we get to a complementary narrative to sin-repentance-redemption is victimhood-struggle-triumph, and that still focuses the person’s entire story on the perpetrator’s behavior: experiencing it, coping with it, learning from it, being made stronger by it. These are all just different kinds of objectification, of the person as acted upon rather than active.

It’s clear that cultural programming teaches us to minimize and ignore people targeted by harassers at conventions (and elsewhere, but conventions are my focus here). I believe that the most immediately effective way of overcoming this programming is to focus on conventions as businesses providing services, and on convention attendees as customers. Specifically, conventions are in the business of providing safe, enjoyable environments where fun things happen and people have a good time. And that means conventions need to feel entirely free to oust any individual customer who’s causing problems for others, without focusing on where that person will go or how they will feel afterwards. (It also has implications for other aspects of convention-running, such as selecting sites and designing spaces and materials to be universally accessible, but that’s beyond the scope of this post.)

The narrative that conventions should care about is not sin-repentance-redemption or victimhood-struggle-triumph. The narrative is purchase-enjoy-repeat: that is, “I went to a convention, I had a good time, I plan to go back.” It is the narrative of a satisfied customer, which makes for a healthy business. Anyone who perpetrates harassment at a convention is disrupting that narrative, and convention organizers should not hesitate to write them out of it.

That’s the business side. Now for the personal side.

It’s very easy for the organizers of an individual convention to dwell on how someone might feel to be denied access to that particular space, because when you run a convention it becomes your world. I know that feeling well; I am passionately devoted to Readercon, which is why I put endless hours and effort into helping to make it happen every year. If I try to imagine what it would be like to be kicked out of an individual instantiation of Readercon, much less banned from it for life, it’s absolutely devastating. But we need to step away from that habit of putting ourselves in the harasser’s shoes (and what does it say about our culture that we do that more easily than putting ourselves in the shoes of the person they harassed?).

Taking the broader view, every convention is just one convention that happens one weekend a year. There are hundreds of other conventions, just like there are hundreds of other stores. There are online communities as well. (And let’s be honest: rape culture being what it is, in the vast majority of those conventions and communities, harassment and even rape aren’t going to be seen as good reasons to kick someone out.) And there are a billion other ways to spend a weekend. So quit worrying about the poor harasser! They have lots and lots and lots of options.

I have seen occasional concerns that if we kick out everyone who behaves badly, there will be no one left to come to conventions. This is farcical and insulting. The vast majority of congoers comport themselves well within acceptable parameters. Many people stay away from conventions for fear of being harassed; oust one harasser and you might get ten or twenty new attendees who want to show their appreciation or simply now feel safe enough to attend. Thoughtful, well-behaved fans are really not in short supply.

What is in short supply is safe space for people who have been harassed. Again, rape culture being what it is, in the vast majority of both online and offline communities, speaking up about being harassed only leads to being harassed even further. Making a safe space for someone who’s been harassed, and pledging to them that within that space they will never have to encounter the person who harassed them? That is a big deal. That is an amazing thing to do. Offering any kind of help at all to someone who’s been harassed, even a moment of listening and support, is a glorious bounty of kindness compared to what they get from most people. Going a bit out of your way to make a little oasis of safety for them is pretty high on the mitzvah list.

So to run the cost-benefit analysis from this perspective, with all numbers on a scale from 0 to 10:

Cost to the ostracized harasser: .0001
Cost to the convention (investigating and verifying the accusation, having the awkward “you can’t come back and this is why” conversation, making sure that person really stays away, one fewer attendee to contribute funds or volunteer time): .01
Benefit to to the convention (knowing they’ve done the right thing, making the space safer, promoting the convention as a place that takes harassment seriously, gaining attendees who feel safer): 4
Benefit to the person who was harassed: 1000

The conclusion is obvious.

“The customer is always right” obviously is not 100% true, but it’s still a useful starting point because it reminds businesses that customers are people, not just sources of funds. Well, if there’s any situation where we need to be reminded that certain people are people, it’s the situation where those people have been harassed. Imagine the cultural shift if we started from “the person who has been harassed is always right” instead of “the person who has been harassed isn’t worth thinking about, or is probably lying, or was asking for it”. Just take a moment to sit with that. I don’t know about you, but I get a little teary-eyed trying to imagine that world. It wouldn’t be perfect, but it would be so much better than what we have now.

I know conventions have decades of history as people throwing parties for their friends. I know it’s hard to make the shift from that mindset to the mindset of being a business and offering a service. But it’s worth doing, and it’s necessary if these businesses are going to survive. “I went to a convention, I had a good time, I plan to go back”: let’s write those stories, hundreds and thousands of them, every weekend around the world. And let’s not let a little nasty cultural programming and a handful of creeps get in our way.

 

(Thanks to Marie Brennan for starting a conversation that helped to crystallize a lot of these thoughts, and to the many people who have discussed these matters online and off. It is tremendously heartening to see so many people taking harassment seriously and working out ways to decrease it in fan spaces. We may not be a formal incorporated community, but we are a community and I’m proud to be a part of it.)

Pennies from Heaven

Feeling generous? Here are some places to throw a few coins:

  • Crossed Genres made their original and stretch goals for their Kickstarter, so now they have a new one: paying pro rates! They pledge to always keep a space open for a new writer, which is a neat idea.
  • Fireside Issue Two has some great perks left for higher pledge levels.
  • Saladin Ahmed posted an awesome pulp story that’s absolutely free to read, with an online tip jar if you enjoy it.
  • The Baker Street Babes podcast has gotten so popular that they need more bandwidth, and could use a hand paying for it.

A Palate Cleanser

On a lighter note, some great links have been coming my way:

  • Stone Telling‘s long-awaited QUILTBAG speculative poetry issue is live!
  • Tales of the Emerald Serpent, a mosaic anthology with some great authors lined up, is almost halfway to its Kickstarter goal.
  • Laura Anne Gilman is Kickstarting a pair of novellas that tie in to her popular Cosa Nostradamus/PSI series.
  • Helen Keller describes the view from the top of the Empire State Building. Do not miss this. Just gorgeous!
  • There’s going to be a steampunk festival in Waltham, MA in May, with a bunch of free events. I happen to know most of the people in the banner on the top of the page, and I can vouch that they know how to have a good time. Also, the Charles River Museum of Industry and Innovation sounds like approximately the best museum ever and I can’t believe I’ve never even heard of it before. Must go the next time I’m in Boston.
  • Jennifer Pelland defends unhappy endings.
  • After reading the Scientology/Writers of the Future piece in the Village Voice, WotF winner Carl Frederick has backed out of association with the contest.
  • Brian Keene starts an interesting discussion by talking about why there weren’t any women on his list of his 25 favorite authors, and how such lists can be strongly influenced by what’s available to read when one is growing up. There’s some gender essentialism in the post that had me rolling my eyes a bit, but the conclusion is strong, and the ensuing conversation is pretty good.
  • I just found out about this and I’m sorry I couldn’t link to it sooner! In honor of Women’s History Month, Cambridge University Press is offering free access for the month of March to Orlando, their electronic database that relates to British women’s writing from the earliest times to the present. It is searchable and is a valuable resource for scholars, writers and anyone interested in literary and cultural history. To access it, go to http://orlando.cambridge.org/ . In the upper right click Login. For username, enter womenshistory; for password, orlando.
  • The 2012 Million Writers Award nominations are now open.
  • Finalists have been announced for the RITA (romance) and Clarke (U.K. SF) awards.

Link Roundup

  • Congratulations to Andrea Hairston on winning the 2011 Tiptree Award! There are some great works on the honor list and long list as well.
  • M. Christian and Marilyn J. Lewis have launched the Black Marks Literary Award for unpublished SF, which will give $500 and an offer of publication to the author of the winning manuscript. No word on how they’re defining “science fiction”.
  • Speaking of awards, I’m going to the Nebula Awards Weekend! Are you? And now that the Hugo nomination ballots are in, what was on yours?
  • The Other Change of Hobbit has received a loan that will let it stay open for a short time. If you want to help them stay open beyond that, stop by their fundraiser on March 18th.
  • Francesca Lia Block is facing foreclosure despite never having missed a payment on her mortgage. She’s asking her fans to sign a petition urging Bank of America to help her renegotiate the mortgage and keep her home.
  • Cabinet des Fées has released a chapbook of Cinderella jump rope rhymes, with 50% of profits going to charity.
  • London in 2014 is the only 2014 Worldcon bid to file by the deadline, so now would be a great time to become a supporter and lock in the lowest possible rate. Josh and I have been pre-supporters since Arisia 2011 and just upgraded; we’re really looking forward to it.

Awards and Fundraisers

We’re not even a month into 2012 and already seeing awards for 2011 titles. Those award committees work fast!

The first batch of 2012 fundraisers is also underway:

Magick for Terri

Fans and friends of Terri Windling, whose list of accomplishments is extraordinary and whose influence on fantasy and interstitial fiction is incalculable, have come together for a good cause:

Terri Windling and her family have been coping with health and legal issues that have drained her financial resources at a critical time. Due to the serious nature of these issues, and privacy concerns for individual family members, we can’t be more specific than that, but Terri is in need of our support. As a friend, a colleague and an inspiration, Terri has touched many, many lives over the years. She has been supremely generous in donating her own work and art to support friends and colleagues in crisis. Now, Terri is in need of some serious help from her community. Who better than her colleagues and fans to rise up to make some magick for her?

Magick 4 Terri will auction off books, art, editorial critique, jewelry, and other items and services donated by Terri’s friends and fans. Since her friends and fans include big names like Ellen Kushner, Charles Vess, Jane Yolen, Delia Sherman, Catherynne M. Valente, Ellen Datlow, and Cory Doctorow, this is an excellent opportunity to acquire rare and signed books and artwork, and fan-on-the-street donations are also very welcome. Information on how the auction works is here.

The organizers are also using @Magick4Terri and #Magick4Terri to spread the word on Twitter. The auction opens today and closes December 15.

Generosity

One of the things I love about the fannish community is the way we support one another. Just a few examples:

We may have our squabbles and our differences, but when push comes to shove, we all pull together.

A Bright Light No Longer Shines

I am tremendously grieved to learn of the death of Leslie Esdaile Banks, better known to her legions of fans as L.A. Banks. She was an utterly vibrant, tremendous woman and I can’t even describe how bewildering it is to refer to her in the past tense.

I only met Leslie once or twice, so I suppose it wouldn’t be quite accurate to say that we were friends, except in the sense that she instantly befriended everyone she met. She was always reaching out: as a writer, a presenter, an activist, a colleague. Her books inspired a generation of writers and readers to diversify the overwhelmingly white landscapes of urban fantasy and paranormal romance. She introduced Barack Obama at a healthcare reform event (video and transcript here), which reminds me to note that this Saturday’s fundraiser in Philadelphia is still on and will benefit Leslie’s daughter, who has a stack of hospital bills to contend with on top of her grief. Blogs all over the web are filling up with posts from writers and readers about how Leslie changed their lives or simply showed them a little kindness and good humor when it mattered. She will be greatly, greatly missed.

Via RT Book Reviews, Beverly Jenkins provided info on the memorial service:

When: 11:00 A.M. Saturday, August 13, 2011
Where: Holy Apostles and The Mediator Episcopal Church
206 South 51st St.
Philadelphia, PA 19139
(215) 472-3000

Leslie requested that donations be made to UNCF in lieu of flowers. Expect the service to be crowded; I think everyone who ever met Leslie loved her and will want to be there to honor her memory.

A New Global Fan Fund

Via Aliette de Bodard comes news of this fabulous venture:

A combination of genre professionals and fans from the international scene and the United States have gathered together to create the World SF Travel Fund. The fund has been set up to enable one international person involved in science fiction, fantasy or horror to travel to a major genre event.

The first recipient of the fund is genre blogger and activist Charles Tan, from the Philippines. Charles is a tireless promoter of speculative fiction. Besides his own Bibliophile Stalker blog, he contributes to the Nebula Awards blog, the Shirley Jackson Award blog, SF Signal and The World SF Blog. He also edited two online anthologies of speculative fiction from the Philippines. Charles is highly regarded in the SF scene both in the USA and internationally. The Fund’s intention is to facilitate Charles’ travel to World Fantasy Con 2011 in San Diego, California….

The Fund has set up a Peerbackers Project with the hope of raising $6000, enabling two years of running. The Board, tasked with selecting future candidates, is composed of Lauren Beukes, Aliette de Bodard, Ekaterina Sedia, Cheryl Morgan and Lavie Tidhar and reflects the truly international nature of the SF world today. For inquiries and further information please contact worldsftravelfund@gmail.com.

Charles Tan is exactly the right person for this. That’s a great list of board members, too. Peerbackers is much like Kickstarter, as far as I can tell, so this effort is entirely crowd-funded; I hope it gets enough support to get off the ground.

Protecting Our Own

As we reported in June, beloved author L.A. Banks is battling cancer and the bills are piling up. Leslie has tons of fans and several of them have organized events to help support her. If you’re in NYC, head to Hue-Man Bookstore & Cafe in Harlem on Thursday July 28–that’s tomorrow!–at 6 p.m. for an auction and book signing event co-hosted by the L.A. Banks Fan Club. Those closer to Philadelphia should check out the party and silent auction being hosted by the Philly Liars Club, of which Leslie is a proud member, on Saturday August 6 at 7 p.m. at Smokey Joe’s.

If you know of any other fundraisers for authors in dire straits, please post the info in comments or send it to rose@genreville.com; we’re happy to spread the word.

Online Pen Pals Help Kids Read

Someone on Twitter (I can’t remember who now, sorry!) linked to In2Books, a really cool project that connects adults with kids as online pen pals. The kid picks books, you both read them, and then you discuss them in letters (vetted by teachers, of course). It’s a great way to show that it’s a fun thing that grown-ups love to do. I’ve signed up and am looking forward to being matched up with a student this fall.

Con or Bust Fall Convention Deadline is Today!

As posted on the con_or_bust LiveJournal community:

Con or Bust is pleased to announce that as of this very moment, and through May 31, fans of color/non-white fans may request assistance to attend SFF cons in July, August, and September 2011.

Because there was no advance notice that we’d be taking requests, please repost and link to this post far and wide so that people know that assistance is possible. I will announce the precise amount after WisCon, but a minimum of $700 will be available to help fans of color attend cons for the next three months, plus two memberships to Renovation and memberships to Think Galacticon (one full, two half-price).

These cons are taking place in July-September and are supporting Con or Bust:

  • Renovation, the 2011 WorldCon, August 17-21, Reno, Nevada, USA (donated memberships);
  • Readercon, July 14-17, Burlington, Massachusetts, USA (donated money).
  • Think Galacticon, July 8-10, Chicago, USA (donated memberships).

Read this post for how to request assistance. Donate con memberships by e-mailing knepveu@steelypips.org. Donate money with a PayPal account or credit card with this button:

Or learn more about Con or Bust generally. And thank you for your help in spreading the word!

Con or Bust is awesome; I’m very proud that Readercon supports it. I believe there’s still one free membership to Worldcon available, and today is the deadline for fall convention assistance, so please spread the word and help to desegregate fandom!

Genre for Japan Charity Auction

Floor to Ceiling Books reviewer Amanda Rutter, Solaris editor Jenni Hill, BFS reviewer Louise Morgan, blogger Ro Smith, and Hub editor Alasdair Stuart have formed Genre for Japan, an SF/F-themed auction to benefit the British Red Cross Tsunami Appeal. Josh and I have many friends and relatives in Japan, and we’re very glad to promote this excellent cause.

According to the press release, items already donated include “a year’s supply of books from Tor, signed artwork from Solaris Books and editing/critiques from professional authors and editors.” The @genreforjapan Twitter feed also mentions a package of a dozen Gollancz masterworks and signed books from Lauren Beukes and Joe Abercrombie.

The deadline for donations is Friday, March 25th, so if you have something to offer, offer it soon! Bidding opens on March 28th.

Con or Bust Bidding is Open!

Con or Bust is a program for sending fans of color to SF/F conventions. Their fundraising goal this year is $7000, which they plan to earn through auctioning off donated items such as signed first editions, artwork, and e-readers. All the starting bids are astonishingly low. After you whet your appetite on the long, long list of donated items, see this page on how bidding works. Know someone who might benefit from Con or Bust? Point them here. Bidding opens today and closes March 6th.

If that seems too complicated, here’s a much simpler way to buy a book and make someone’s life better. Julie Czerneda, Tanya Huff, John Mierau, Fiona Patton, Jennifer Roberson, Kristine Katherine Rusch, and John Zakour have contributed speculative stories about dogs to this e-book anthology, which is being sold to raise funds for an adorable and ailing beagle. I’m a cat person and very much not a dog person, but even I have to admit that is one cute dog, and if you’re looking for a great antidote to all those SF/F cat anthologies out there, here it is!

Happy New Year from Genreville!

It’s 2011! How did you ring in the new year? Are you enjoying living in The Future?

Josh and I started our year by going through our massive pile of books to donate and setting some aside for Operation Paperback, an organization that sends books to U.S. troops overseas and their families back home. Turns out (no surprise) that a lot of folks in the military read SF/F and a lot of military wives read romance, so we’ve got six big stacks of books ready to ship out. If you’re a reviewer like me and have lots of spare ARCs, this is a great way to get them out of the house while being assured that no one’s going to sell them or put them into wider circulation before the finished book is out. Regardless of your political leanings and feelings about the military, this is a really nice way to get some books to people who are in difficult circumstances.

Write a Letter, Fund a Library

Yesterday I got an awesome email about the Letters About Literature competition, for which children write letters to authors talking about how books changed their minds and lives. The writers of the best letters (selected by a panel of judges) choose libraries to receive substantial grants. With libraries closing and cutting back and privatizing, this is a really terrific opportunity to boost reading within a community.

If you know kids, parents, or teachers, spread the word; the submission deadline is December 10.

The Power of Geek Compels You

Last night I finished a freelance project at 1:30 a.m. and got to bed at 2:30 a.m. I spent that intervening hour reading Clash of the Geeks. Yes, I downloaded a PDF and read it on my laptop, something I generally refuse to do. (I am pro-e-book in theory but have yet to find a way of reading e-books that really works for me.) Yes, I stayed up an extra hour past my bedtime despite knowing that I really needed to turn out the light and get some sleep. This little e-chapbook was just the sort of temptation I find very difficult to resist. Maybe I was hypnotized into reading it by the dewy gaze of the unicorn pegasus kitten.

Clash of the Geeks cover image

Or maybe not.

The chapbook is free, and DRM-free; the contributors and instigators request that anyone downloading it make a donation to the Lupus Alliance of America. All the details on both counts are at UnicornPegasusKitten.com. I love that so many people in the SF/F/H community are using e-books to raise money for good causes! It’s wonderful to see geekdom being a real force for good in the world.