Archive for the ‘Announcements’ Category
The people who are wearing yellow badges are convention members who have volunteered to act as “Safe Responders” in the case of reported harassment.
You can report harassment to members of the concom (easily identifiable by our CONCOM badges), to the Safety volunteer on duty, or to others who identify as Safe Responders (bright yellow badges).
—Ursula K. le Guin
Star Trek gave us communicators. Telzey Amberdon had a pocket law library. Arthur C. Clarke wrote of the newspad in 2001: A Space Odyssey and the minisec in Imperial Earth. Philip Jose Farmer offered the panrad in “Mother.” Even Dick Tracy had a two-way wrist radio.
Plenty of science fictional stories feature astonishingly miniaturized devices that would tell you the time, alert you to news, show your calendar for days or years to come, communicate with others via voice and text, instantly find obscure information, guide you through unfamiliar streets, and provide entertainment in the form of books, music, and movies. In other words, a smartphone. Or a tablet.
FOGcon is glad to be living in the future, where these devices are readily available.
In addition to providing old-fashioned ink-and-paper schedules, we have apps for the FOGcon schedule. We have to thank the smart, kind, and skillful Ayizan Studios, who also do the WisCon apps, for their willingness to do the same for us. Also the tech team at Wiscon, who lent us their custom-made scheduling software, which has made the whole thing possible.
The FOG Guide is free. However, we do not provide the technology to use it. Bring your own device.
As part of our process in dealing with the issues that have been raised around the Safety department, we promised to publish a statement from Alan Bostick. We’ve already posted the concom’s statement and an explanation of how Safety works at FOGcon.
I am working on the committee for FOGcon 4, being held in Walnut Creek, California, on the weekend of March 7-9 of this year. As I have done since FOGcon’s inception, I am running the department called Safety, whose volunteers are intended to be among the first responders to problems that arise for convention attendees. Among the potential problems I might have to deal with is an attendee experiencing unwanted attention or contact from someone else. Debbie Notkin and I together wrote the convention’s harassment policy.
On February 9, the convention received an email that reported a statement I made at a panel at last year’s WisCon, in which I said I been a harasser in the past. The email’s author said that they thought that because I had disclosed this, it was inappropriate for me to run Safety at FOGcon, that harassment victims would be uncomfortable reporting an incident to me, and that I should step down or be removed from this job.
The facts detailed in the email are true. I did disclose my identification as someone who has harassed at conventions.
This is a challenging statement for me to write. As an able-bodied, white, college-educated cis man born to parents who were property-owning professionals, and as someone who has participated in SF fandom for four decades, I carry a lot of privilege, in many dimensions. It is hard for me to write about this while trying to avoid being defensive about my past bad behavior or inappropriately defending against attacks on my privilege.
My harassment behavior was more than thirty years ago, when I was eighteen years old or a little older. I made unwelcome passes at people, followed them around, and made lewd innuendoes in their presence.
I brought this up at the panel at last year’s Wiscon to state my opposition to “zero-tolerance” harassment policies at conventions. I think there is a continuum of possible behaviors ranging from subtle microaggressions at one end to violent attack at the other without a bright line where we can agree that what is on one side is intolerable and on the other acceptable. I also personally believe that zero-tolerance policies are an obstacle to official reporting of troublesome behavior, because the social consequences of following through on a report are so high that the temptation is to sweep the issue under the rug or otherwise ignore it. I can elaborate on this, but that would be beyond the scope of this statement.
People are complicated and multidimensional. Nobody is any single thing; we wear multiple hats and play different roles in different contexts. I am not simply a harasser then, now, and forever. I am also (among many other things) a survivor of childhood trauma and sexual abuse. And I have myself been the target of unwanted sexual attention, at conventions. To deal with the long-term effects of my childhood experience I have worked a lot on myself, in therapy and elsewhere. It has been through that work that I have gained enough self-awareness that I can name my earlier behavior as harassment. Without that work, I don’t think re-evaluating my behavior would ever have crossed my mind.
As a harassment target, I would personally much rather report a new incident to a person who had done similar work of self-examination and was open about whatever their history might be. But everyone is different. My triggers are not another survivor’s triggers, my fears are not their fears, and my comfort zone isn’t theirs.
I cannot tell you what you should be comfortable with: that is yours and yours alone to judge. If you aren’t comfortable reporting a harassment incident to me in my capacity as Safety leader at FOGcon, I think I understand that, and I’m confident that you are likely to find someone you would be comfortable with.
And if you are sufficiently uncomfortable with me in the role of safety coordinator, I will understand that too. I will be sad if you choose to stay away from FOGcon as a result, but I respect your choice to find your comfort and safety zones.
We’d also like to point out that the head of Safety has never been the single point of contact for reporting harassment complaints. You can report harassment to members of the concom (easily identifiable by our CONCOM badges), to the Safety volunteer on duty, or to others who identify as Safe Responders (bright yellow badges).
At last year’s Wiscon, the FOGcon head of Safety, Alan Bostick, participated on a panel called “Exclusion and Inclusion, or Kicking People Out: A How-To Guide,” about dealing with harassment at cons. He spoke about his hope that harassers can be rehabilitated, as he has been; yes, 25 years ago, he treated fellow con-goers in a way that he now recognizes as harassment.
A FOGcon member recently emailed us about this situation. The member said having Alan in charge of safety would make her reluctant to report harassment.
We view this as a serious issue. FOGcon was founded on a basis of being safer space. We’ve spent the past couple of weeks thrashing out all the implications. At first, it seemed that it might be necessary for Alan to resign or be asked to resign.
To be clear: nobody, including the letter-writer, is accusing Alan of harassing anyone now. Alan has done an excellent job in safety at a number of places, including Wiscon, FOGcon, and Pride parades. When Elise Matthesen was harassed at Wiscon, Alan was the safety staff member on shift, and Elise has publicly discussed her satisfaction with how WisCon handled the incident.
This is not a case of our accepting Alan’s word over a victim’s. This is a case where Alan’s word is the only reason we know this happened. Alan’s willingness to look at his own past behavior and honestly name it for what it was indicate a commitment to not minimizing or concealing harassment.
It might be useful to explain how Safety works at FOGcon. Safety carries out many activities in addition to responding to harassment. The chief duties of the head of Safety at FOGcon are to recruit, coordinate, schedule, and train Safety volunteers. The Safety volunteers respond to emergencies, help the confused, find the lost, and de-escalate difficult situations. Furthermore, members can report a harassment incident to a number of different people, depending on
who they are most comfortable with. The possibilities include the Safety volunteer on duty, the Con chair and vice-chair, and a number of Safe Responders, in addition to the head of Safety. Once the report has been made, the Concom as a whole and ultimately the Con chair are responsible for deciding how a harassment incident should be handled. It has never been left up to Safety.
Not everyone would be comfortable reporting to Alan, that’s true. But it’s also true that for a number of different reasons, someone may prefer to report to someone of a particular age, race, gender, orientation, or even emotional style. They might be more comfortable reporting to a friend than a stranger, or vice versa. It’s impossible to have one person who feels safe to everyone.
We also understand that the idea of rehabilitation makes many people uncomfortable. We want to emphasize that while many of us involved in FOGcon do believe that harassers should be allowed the opportunity to come back into the community, we don’t believe that this should be a consideration at the time of a harassment incident, at the convention
where an incident occurs, or in any way that adversely affects anyone who has been a target of the harasser in question. Our priority is always stopping the harassment, giving the person harassed what they need, and ensuring the safety and comfort of convention attendees.
We’re working to create safer space. We hope this information better enables our members to make choices based on their values and their needs.
The FOGcon 4 ConCom
Over the weekend, a team of highly skilled professionals at the peak of their game met to make history. The Super Bowl? Nope. Scheduledome, the annual FOGcon programming marathon. The members of the programming team, plus a few other essential concom members, gathered to sort, assign, juggle, schedule, and ultimately produce the final slate of readings, panels, workshops, and events that will take place from March 7 to March 9 at the Walnut Creek Marriott Hotel.
Programming signup is closed. If you’ve signed up, you will receive an email telling you what panels you’ll be on. (We expect by February 9.) Please check the email immediately. Occasionally schedule conflicts occur; our programming staff have multiple superpowers, and they may have thought you could teleport or bilocate as effortlessly as they do.
Soon we will be posting the programming schedule. And you can all get as excited as we are, because we have an amazing lineup.
While you’re waiting, invite your friends to FOGcon!
What do you find most worthwhile about attending conventions?
Being around people who think things like books and reading and Speculative Fiction matter is both validating and nurturing, because a lot of people in the everyday world don’t get that these things are important. If you’re a writer—and I’m a writer as well as an editor/publisher—this is especially the case. You need to know you’re not nuts for thinking the way you do. There’s also the fact that SFF con-goers are, in general, high-IQ people, so intelligent conversation typically isn’t hard to come by. So although I’m actually not a very outgoing person and don’t enjoy crowds much, hanging out a con is very energizing for me.
If you could design your dream convention panel, who would be on it and what would you talk about?
Oooh! I like high-energy, dynamic panels run by quick-witted, humorous people with strong opinions and the brains and experience to back those up. A little friendly friction over a contentious topic is also a plus.
My panelists would be Robert Silverberg, Pat Cadigan, Mike Resnick, Bruce Sterling, and Larry Niven (Moderator). The topic would be “Design an interstellar empire that would be fun to live in, stand the test of time, and conquer anything it encountered.”
As a publisher, what do you look for in SFF stories? What do you wish you saw more of?
I’m mostly interested in story, which I believe has become something of an endangered species in contemporary SF. People pay lip service to sense of wonder, but most current SF reads to me more like literary work than genre fiction. In the last four or five decades of trying to escape the pulp ghetto, I think we’ve reached a point of serious over-correction and lost sight of what SFF really is. I’m not interested in seeing literary work where someone’s slaved for hours over each sentence and the story is more concerned with the character’s inner journey. Good fiction can be character-driven and fun and imaginative and saturated with sense of wonder—it’s not an either/or choice.
At the same time, I’m interested in non-formulaic work. Work that takes risks and which isn’t written for agents and editors and with an eye to the market, but which comes from a place of raw, hot vision; that’s exciting (or horrifying) to read, that takes me to another place. The kind of work I’m looking for has often been rejected elsewhere because it doesn’t fit the traditional holy categories that agents and editors and marketers obsess over, or doesn’t follow the dogma that we see on endless writer blogs.
I have one very simple initial criterion—do I care enough to finish the story? In most of the books I pick up, and 80% of the fiction in the pro SFF mags today, the answer is no. If I want literary I’ll pick up the New Yorker or some obscure literary review. In fact, some of today’s best SF is as likely to appear in unexpected venues like Nature, New Scientist, and Popular Mechanics as in the pro magazines.
Panverse’s three SFF titles this year are all what Herma, my business partner, calls “orphan books,” phenomenal novels turned down by shortsighted agents and publishers not because they weren’t good, but because the idiots didn’t know what to do with them or—and this is common in today’s nervous publishing market—weren’t willing to take risks. Doug Sharp’s extraordinary novel Channel Zilch (vol. I of the Hel’s Bet SF quadrilogy), after months of uncertainty at a well-known publishing house where all the editors loved it, was finally turned down because the marketing department didn’t know how to position it. T.L. Morganfield’s Aztec Fantasy/Historical, The Bone Flower Throne, an amazing, epic tale, had trouble getting traction because of length and challenging subject matter like incest, which actually was pretty standard among the nobility of the period. Bonnie Randall’s debut novel, Divinity and The Python, a terrifying supernatural mystery with romance elements which has kept many of those who reviewed it, including several librarians, up all night, was turned away by everyone else because it wasn’t mainstream paranormal and instead blended different genres. This lack of vision and willingness on the part of agents and publishers to take chances is their loss and our gain.
Finally, I’ve always been interested, since the very first Panverse novella anthology of 2009, in publishing new authors. Not just because I believe it’s the right thing to do, but because these are the people who often take the most chance and don’t limit themselves by trying to conform to editors’ and agents’ needs. Even the normally welcoming pro SF magazines like Asimov’s and F&SF are wary of giving new authors novella-length spots, which is how an unknown fledgling press like Panverse came to publish Alan Smale’s 2011 Sidewise-winning novella, A Clash of Eagles and Ken Liu’s—then a newcomer—searing 2012 Hugo- and Nebula-nominated novella, The Man Who Ended History.
So what I want to see more of is daring, fresh work that focuses on story, that takes risks, that doesn’t pander to current trends and conventions.
How would you describe the “mission statement” of Panverse Publishing?
Panverse’s philosophy is unconventional. We believe readers are smart, and I’d sooner eat worms than chase the market and publish formulaic pap. We acquire extremely selectively, always putting story first. We’re very open to work that takes risks and breaks the rigid barriers of category and genre. We believe a book should carry the reader away and resonate long after the last word is read. We’re also particularly interested in discovering new voices and getting new authors into print.
All Panverse’s titles are released in both print and digital formats. We have high production values and put a great deal of effort into each title. Our contract is especially author-friendly. We’d like to be the go-to publisher for readers who are looking for something fresh, new, and edgy, and who are tired of seeing formulaic genre work.
Do you have any projects that you’d like to share with FOGcon fans and participants?
All of our current ones! I’d encourage everyone to download the free Panverse Reader’s Sampler, a 30,000-word ebook which features a full chapter or more from each of our six top titles, including the three novels mentioned above. It’ll give you a really good feeling for the quality and tone of our novels. Do it now, it takes about fifteen seconds. You can download the free sampler in all ebook and digital formats including pdf, and even as a plain text file, from Smashwords. Grab it at this URL: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/377740
You can keep current with what’s happening at Panverse by checking in at our website. We have an opt-in mailing list, and we never spam. If you’re a writer, you’ll also find submission info there. The URL is http://panversepublishing.com.
Each year we commission new art for the cover of the program, which also serves for T-shirts, mugs, and other souvenirs available from our Zazzle store. The 2014 art, Eli Bishop’s brilliant “Shh, Tell Everyone,” conveys the multilayered mystery of Secrets. A man in a fedora and trenchcoat is making a “hush” gesture at the moon. The moon is looking back, skeptically. It’s a foggy night. The man’s face is a half-mask shell. Visible beneath it is a woman’s face. She’s pensive, eyes closed. Some of her hair is visible under the hat. But her face is also just a partial layer. Underneath is an ambiguous assortment of alien features— eyes, scales, fur, a tusk. At one corner of the alien face, another cutaway, just a very small window where we can see something vaguely mechanical inside. But there’s another cutaway below, revealing black space with a blazing star deep inside.
You can get t-shirts, mugs, water bottles. tote bags, mouse pads–almost anything your heart desires, really. Order soon to ensure that you can show off your beautiful new item when we see you March 7-9 in Walnut Creek!
Con harassment is an ugly topic. Far too many cons have failed to deal effectively with reports of harassment. So we’re glad to see that Arisia has just handled an incident of con harassment with grace, skill, and sensitivity. The perp has been banned, and the target of harassment was treated with respect. Her account of the incidents and her thought process offers a useful perspective.
As a convention founded by a woman and largely run by women, we take harassment seriously. Since before the first FOGcon, we have had a strong harassment policy in place. We have a trained group of safety volunteers who respond to reports immediately. You can also call on any concom member — identifiable by our badges — to help you if someone is bothering you.
We also strongly recommend the following posts about con harassment and what constitutes creeper behavior.
The first time I volunteered at a convention, I did it more or less on a whim. I was at Torcon 3, the second Worldcon I’d ever attended, pondering how remarkable it was that such a giant event was being run and staffed by unpaid volunteers. Seized by something that was partly a desire to contribute and partly sheer curiosity to see who these people were and how they worked, I found my way to Con Ops and said, “Hi. I can fetch and carry and touch type pretty well. Do you need a hand?”
I was welcomed instantly. I put my typing skills to work for a bit, typing some corrections to the program schedule. Then I spent some time going around to panel rooms giving the “5 minute warning” and “time’s up” signals to panelists. It wasn’t complicated work, but I went back to the rest of my convention with a sense of satisfaction at having done a tiny bit to help make the convention happen.
Ever since then, I try to make a point to volunteer every so often at a convention. Why volunteer? Partly, I do it because I think fan-run conventions are a special kind of event, very different from professionally run for-profit events, and volunteering is one way that I can help ensure that they continue. More selfishly, I do it because it’s a great way to meet people and find out about what’s going on at the convention. If I go to a convention where I don’t know many people, spending a few hours volunteering is a great way to come out with a few new friends and the lowdown on where the most exciting parties are happening.
Of course, the culmination of my convention volunteering has been FOGcon. I joined the Concom for FOGcon 2, and have filled a variety of roles over the last few conventions: Consuite, Student Writing Contest Coordinator, and Publications, among others. At present, I am Vice-Chair of FOGcon 4, which mostly means doing whatever needs to be done that isn’t being done by someone else.
In addition to my Concom duties, I’ve also taken a turn at doing just about every volunteer job at FOGcon. Volunteering at FOGcon doesn’t have to take a lot of time – one task that we can always use volunteers for is going around to programming rooms during each program slot and counting the attendance at each panel. It only takes 5 minutes, but it’s information that really helps us in planning future programming.
If you’re interested in putting in a little more time volunteering, you can always take a shift at the Registration desk, welcoming people to the convention and helping them buy memberships and get their registration packets. Or you can volunteer in the consuite. Take a shift in the morning, and you’ll be the instant best friend of every coffee drinker at the con — as long as you don’t let the coffee pot run dry! Or take a shift late at night. Some of the best conversations at FOGcon happen in the consuite after formal programming is done for the day. Volunteering in childcare gives you a chance to hang out with the future of fandom.
We usually have a few other tasks that need doing as well, so if none of the above appeals to you, but you’d still like to contribute, get in touch. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Or, if you like to do things on the spur of the moment, find a Concom member at FOGcon and ask them if they need a hand!
Wendy Shaffer is Vice Chair of FOGcon 2014. She is also the database wizard whisperer.