Being Seen at Worldcon

A Twitter thread on the recent contrempts at Worldcon 76, where many newer writers (including some Hugo finalists) were not represented on the initial programming slate:

On the initial schedule, I was programmed for a panel and for a kaffeklatsch; I’ve written to the programming folks to let them know I was taking myself off programming to let other folks who were not previously on programming have a shot. I’ll still be around.

Update, 7:27pm: Read this Twitter thread from the head of Worldcon 76: “We will do better.”

30 Comments on “Being Seen at Worldcon”

  1. Thank you for all you do for this genre. <3 I hope there are some new faces at Worldcon for everyone to get to know.

  2. I don’t envy the staff in charge of programming. There are so many things to represent and only so much facetime to allot.

    I think it’s admirable of you to release your programming slots, John, in pursuit of allowing the newer set, the different set, their chance to share their time and knowledge and perspective with the wider audience. One can only hope it means further enabling the next great writer who’ll shake up the genre.

    I also think there’s a balance to be had (as with all things!). In this case, while it is definitely important to highlight the newbies — it’s speculative fiction! Isn’t the whole point to have an eye toward the future? — it’s also important to showcase those who have been there and done that. As a newbie myself, I know it’s important for me to feel like this is a group that I belong with, and it’s harder and far more intense if instead of being there to learn the craft from those who have succeeded at it, or struggle to continue with it, I have to take on a performative role.

    Either way, I hope for the best for this year’s Worldcon and look forward to the final programming!

  3. I did. It was called the Nebula Weekend, when I was the president of SFWA. I did it by outsourcing everything to more competent people, and then being around to sign checks.

  4. I watched this unfold on Twitter last night.

    The lack of Hugo finalists (suspiciously non-male and non-white) on panels was the least of it. Some panels were apparently ripped off from proposals submitted by others and given to others, the mis-gendered and unauthorized bios and photos, and the general lack of communication from programming to applicants (IT’S THREE WEEKS OUT FOLKS) just seemed amateurish to the extreme.

  5. John, I applaud your attitude of paying it forward. We need more of that in this world. I do like your books.

  6. 2006 was my first WorldCon, and meeting you was one of the highlights. I had not heard of you before that, but had read all the nominated works and really enjoyed Old Mans War. We got to talk twice and I was highly impressed with you as a person as well as a writer. I got to go to some of your panels and found that you were also someone who improved the panels you were involved with. (Not the case with many otherwise wonderful writers)
    That being said, I agree that one of the joys of going to WorldCon, as well as other cons, is meeting the new writers just entering this sphere. At the very least everyone nominated needs a chance to be out there where they can meet and greet and get a chance to show there stuff.
    Making the decision to drop off a panel in hopes of allowing some other worthy nominee to be presented is not only a good thing to do, it is the right thing to do.

    Thank you

  7. As someone commented on one of the various twitter threads about this, the programming staff were saying that the newer, less known authors wouldn’t be familiar to the audience even though some of them were nominees… and that this is vastly illogical. Of course many of the people would know those authors… they NOMINATED THEM.

    Yes, I get that not all of the people attending actively nominated authors, but still.

  8. ” the programming staff were saying that the newer, less known authors wouldn’t be familiar to the audience”
    And once I’ve seen them on panels, they’ll be familiar to me. It’s not onerous to have a mix of well known, getting known, and not-yet known writers on panels.

  9. There needs to be a balance. If there were no established names on the program, I wouldn’t attend the Con at all. If there are no new faces, the scene grows stale. Striking a good balance is important and not all that hard. It will be disappointing if too many of the people who have the drawing power to fill large rooms drop off the program in reaction.

  10. Dear John,


    I hadn’t thought about it that far. You thunk gooder than I.

    As it happens, our scheduling is — well, was — exactly the same: one panel and one kaffeklatsch. Or maybe not, I’m on the short list if a slot opens up to do a reading. But, close enough for jazz.

    I was startled when I got my sparse schedule. I haven’t been on that little programming (at any convention where I applied to be on programming) in over 30 years.

    Was I upset? No. I Really like being on panels, but I don’t feel like being on them is an entitlement (unless one is a GoH). I read Programming’s cover email where they talked about having over 2000 people asked to be on programming? A little mental arithmetic…

    Hey, we each did about average!

    It didn’t occur to me to ask to be taken off that one panel. Even after reading and APPROVING of your reasoning, I still wouldn’t. Programming is a tough enough job without handing the programmers any unnecessary changes, and I’ve already bugged Chris with two too many questions.

    Do I feel in any way dissed? Hell no. All three of the programming heads are friends of mine who I’ve known for years. And I’m a known quantity to them, someone with a reputation for being good on panels and really good at moderating them. You should see some of the nightmares I’ve been handed over the years, being told later “Well, we knew you could handle it.” (And, yes, I can.)

    I knew it wasn’t about me.

    I volunteered to be on a whole long shopping list of panels and topics. I offered up a large handful of panel ideas. None of that made the final cut.

    It still isn’t about me.

    Programming is probably the most thankless and most criticized job at a convention. It gets far more complaints than praise because people hardly ever say anything when they get what they want, but they get disappointed and complain when they don’t get exactly what they want, which is impossible for programming.

    I’m okay with whatever programming decides they want to do with me. Or not do with me.

    (So long as they don’t try to schedule me before 11 AM or over dinner, that is. Unforgivable!)

    – pax \ Ctein
    [ Please excuse any word-salad. Dragon Dictate in training! ]
    — Ctein’s Online Gallery. 
    — Digital Restorations. 

  11. I am so conflicted about this whole thing. I haven’t been to a con in decades, having dropped out of fandom shortly after WorldCon in San Francisco because of the gatekeeping towards people who have broader interests than the costume/subgenre/meme du jour. What do you mean I’m not a real fan if I haven’t read every single word a GoH new to me has written?

    This past weekend, a friend convinced me my life had changed enough that I could go and hang out alone and have a good time being around peeps who read and were smart and stuff. Downtown San Jose’s a really short drive for me which means I don’t have to mess with accommodations, I can go hang until I’m done and come home.

    So I coughed up the frickin’ $250 and got excited about being able to vote for the Hugos and getting exposed to new works I’d never even heard of. So excited.

    And then, this happens. I just read my first book by Mary Robinette Kowal and was stoked about the possibility of seeing her on a panel, and maybe an author signing thingie. Same with our esteemed host, whose work I have read a lot of.

    Part of me wants to demand my money back because this is so WRONG. Part of me wants to go on and go and just do what I was planning on doing. Hanging and people watching.

    I don’t give my money to authors who do heinous things (I’m looking at you Orson Scott Card and Junot Diaz), I don’t watch Kevin Spacey movies anymore. I deleted an app from my phone because the company supported big game hunting. How am I supposed to reconcile that with WorldCon?

  12. John I want to thank your for doing this, you show once again that you are a cut above the rest. A lot of white males talk about supporting women and minorities, but you walk the walk.
    I hope your example leads other white males to do the right thing.

  13. The only Worldcon I’ve ever been able to get to was the one in Melbourne in 2010. I had just published my first novel in Australia, and was a complete unknown to everyone there. They gave me a reading and a kaffeeklatsch (spelling?) and put me on FOUR panels, one of which included the Guest of Honour, Kim Robinson, and another of which I ended up doing alone because it was on the first day and none of the other panellists had got there in time.

  14. (It is likely that the Melbourne convention had far fewer applicants for panel participation, given the distance factor for American attendees, but I’m still grateful.)

  15. I will gladly offer to help anyone who wants to put on a John Scalzi focused event. Hopefully we could include Wil Wheaton and bring back Wil Wheaton’s Rock Band. I’d consider anyone that’s had a Big Idea piece on Whatever a potential participant (except “he who shall not be named”)..

  16. Also, in my low level behind the scenes vantage point, there were a lot of good panels proposed that never made it to the final stages. Hopefully those will get a second chance in the programming redo.

  17. Dear Lee,

    With 2000 panels proposed, which I’m guessing is five times as many as could be used, that’s going to happen. A lot.

    Many cons pass on the unused ideas to the next con. Makes Programming’s job easier.

    [An aside to people complaining that they proposed an idea and Programming took it and changed it. Yes, they get to do that, and they frequently will — that is how the process works. You are suggesting a panel topic. That’s all. You don’t own the suggestion. In VERY rare circumstances, someone has written to Programming with a specific topic, with the panelists pre-selected, and Programming has said, “Go for it.” I can’t think of more than a handful of times. If you can’t live with the notion of Programming taking your precious idea and reworking it to their taste, don’t submit an idea!]

    pax / Ctein

  18. PS Before someone goes all ad hom and argues, “But, how would you feel if your panel idea got rejected or turned into something different from what you wanted?”

    That’s happened at EVERY major convention where I’ve applied to be on programming. Every single time. I make a lot of suggestions. They don’t all get accepted, nor accepted without changes. And, no they don’t ask me before changing it. They don’t have to. I wouldn’t expect it; I don’t own the concept. This ain’t Hollywood.

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