A Little More On Recent Worldcon Stuff

I just did a tweetstorm about the recent contretemps involving Worldcon. As many of you know, there was a dustup about programming (among other issues) for which the head of the Worldcon apologized and took action on, including bringing in a team headed up by Mary Robinette Kowal to help fix things. Here’s what I wrote about that, formatted here in essay form.

Also, while I’m on the subject of the Hugo and Worldcon, I see some various turdlings out there are gleeful about the recent dustup re: the Worldcon program. “The SJWs are eating themselves!” is the basic line of the turdlings. In fact, something entirely different happened.

Which was: When the problems cropped up (and they did) and people started to complain (and they did), the Worldcon, within a day, acknowledged that various mistakes had happened and actively moved to correct those mistakes. Not perfectly or instantly, but it still happened.

Which is what you want to happen! In an ideal world, mistakes don’t get made, but we don’t live in an ideal world and none of us is our ideal self. The next best thing is, when mistakes are pointed out, you move to fix them and to learn from them.

The turdlings who are gleeful at the Worldcon’s temporary woes don’t care about anything other than an institution they dislike and tried (or are still trying) to sabotage having a stumble. That’s because they’re basically awful, whiny menchildren. No surprise there.

Many folks who like or feel invested in Worldcon weren’t pleased about the stumble, and moved prior to the Worldcon itself to help address the problem by offering up their programming slots to folks who didn’t have them. This exemplifies the best aspects of the SF/F community.

What is not laudable about people saying “it’s important that we have more and different voices in the mix, and I’m ready to share my time and space to make it happen”? Is this not what you would want to see?

“It’s just virtue signaling!” One, it’s okay to signal that you support bringing new people and perspectives into the genre’s mainstream. Two, giving up your space to make space for others isn’t just signaling, it’s action. Yay, virtue actioning!

Equally as important, the folks running this year’s Worldcon, the premier lit-focused convention in the genre, listened and followed up with action of their own, and took help offered to change for the better. Mistakes were made, but action to improve is worth noting.

This action is not caving or retreating or [insert other negative spin here]. It’s *learning*. There’s more work to be done, and not everything will be done perfectly, but the situation is already better than what it was a few days ago. Worldcon 76 wants to be better. Good.

We all stumble, and the test is what we do after. We’re seeing some people point and laugh, because that’s who they are. We’re seeing others use their position to help, because that’s who they are. And we’re seeing an organization trying to improve, because that’s what IT is.

So, yeah. A lot of people in science fiction and fantasy have revealed themselves in the last few days. It’s been instructive. For myself, I can say I’m supporting Worldcon 76 trying to be better, and supporting those working to make it happen.

33 Comments on “A Little More On Recent Worldcon Stuff”

  1. With three weeks left before Worldcon, the entire episode sounds like an accordion-pleated train-wreck.

  2. If people can’t learn from their mistakes and earn credit for progress, they have no reason to make progress.

    There’s a thing going around FB the basically boils down to – don’t punish the behavior you wish to see. i.e. Sighing “Finally decided to join your family, I see”, when your kid shows up to the dinner table on time.

  3. I know this Worldcon’s organizers in passing, and every single interaction has reinforced my image of them as thoughtful, well-intentioned people. This type of graceful response and willingness to admit mistakes and correct them is entirely in keeping with what I would expect from them. Would that all of us dealt with our inevitable screw-ups as forthrightly.

  4. Yes. Adding Mary is, indeed, a substantive solution.

    Lots of cringeworthy stuff was done by folks…and doing all this work to help fix is a necessary (though not necessarily sufficient) step forward. You’re not going to get 100% trust back all in one fell swoop, but it’s a long step forward.

  5. Part of the “caving/retreating” thing comes from the reactionary’s tendency to respond to being called on any sort of error by doubling down on it. Anyone who does otherwise, they will try to paint as weak and “flip-floppy”.

  6. Interesting situation, glad the problems are being fixed. I’m not part of that world (thank goodness). I keep seeing a lot of politics going on to diminish others. Perhaps some people are desperate to try to make a name for themselves. What ever it is, it is mean spirited and exclusive. Hopefully the con will go well.

  7. Virtue signalling is only a reasonable critique when the action in question is ineffective at actually helping. When that criterion is met, then it is especially appropriate when the action is optimized for being seen. If the action is reasonably effective at helping, and especially when the action reduces exposure, the virtue signalling critique is vapid.

  8. I agree with everything, but add this: there is room for just about everyone on a Worldcon program. I’ve been to lots, worked in programming on some. Program participants are like jello: there’s always room for more. While it is a kind gesture for you to drop your slots for those who are left out, I informally (and respectfully) suggest it just might be even kinder to add these folks to panels – as a 5th or 6th even – in which you’re participating. Because like it or not, you are a big deal, and you have an audience. Nearly any non-puppy writer would be thrilled to be on a panel with you. Sharing your audience just might be better than giving away your spot. Might. It’s a thought.

  9. Lemmingpudding: I’m inclined to agree that it does more to attract an audience if a panel is anchored by a well-known draw, which means more people will now get acquainted with the newer or less-known people on the platform.

  10. “Virtue Signaling”: what shitty people call a good deed.

    See also “Politically Correct”

  11. Mike Glyer: I’m thinking out loud again. And I’m about to argue with myself. In this particular case, that may not be true. I imagine that panels exploring the issues raised, particularly presenting the people who raised them, would be packed, whether those people are well known or as obscure as me. I, for one, would like to hear what they have to say.

  12. Wait a second – Tamora Pierce mentioned some (supposedly) Latino writer alleging Scalzi, Mary Robinette Kowal, Patricia Nielsen Hayden, and Jim Hines “deliberately” trying to silence minority writers. Tammy (who’s not going to this WorldCon b/c she’s got a book to write!) said it didn’t remotely smell right given she knows most of the writers accused, and that doesn’t sound like them at all.

    I have to say, this fellow Tammy mentioned sounds like a Sad Puppy sockpuppet, stirring up trouble – and no doubt delighting in his racist “comedy” Schlick. She flushed the post so I don’t have his name – which is probably just as well on the off-chance he’s legit, and is mistakenly blaming the people trying to help….

  13. @Lee:

    Part of the “caving/retreating” thing comes from the reactionary’s tendency to respond to being called on any sort of error by doubling down on it.

    …which causes sensible people and myself to look askance at said reactionary and decide that they are either stupid or evil or both (depending on the mistake being doubled-down), and therefore not worth listening to or engaging with.
    If the “Latino writer” in question is Jon del Arroz, he’s a known shit-stirrer who got banned from WorldCon and rejected by the SFWA for being a serial harasser and shit-stirrer.

  14. I’ve only gone to worldcon once, and it will be some time before I can again. But having said that, the more panels and kaffeklatches sp? the better. The more new authors, the better. I realize space is not limitless, so choices will have to be made, but my current thing for choosing books to read is to find stuff by people of color and from other groups not commonly represented. So, that is likely to be new authors. Let’s make room for them. And I quite like how they are trying to handle this kerfluffle. Nothing like saying oops and then making a real try to fix things.

  15. @timeliebe: Most likely this fellow, who’s currently suing Worldcon. The details are probably off-topic, despite involving Worldcon, so I’ll say no more.
    As for the panels–I’m with Mike Glyer. The best approach is to have a mix of well-known writers and newcomers, fairly evenly distributed. Who is on the panels is almost always the first thing I look at, and makes a huge difference in how interested I am. And I’ve definitely discovered some interesting folks by going to panels because someone else I already knew about and was interested in was on it.
    Yes, as lemmingpudding points out, you also want to have relevant people on panels. But that’s an also, not an instead….
    As for whether Worldcon has enough time to put something together? I suspect so. It probably won’t be perfect, but if it were, they’d be the first Worldcon ever to achieve that! 😀

  16. @ timeliebe:
    The author you’re referring to is a real person, and is better described as a wannabe sad puppy than as a sockpuppet. But you’re right in being sceptical, his description of events bear little resemblance to reality.

    The short story is that he have a history of harassing people, and then complaining that the reactions to that harassment is discrimination because he is latino or because he is conservative.

    I believe he also have a habit of running into any comment field where his name appears, so I won’t name him here – but if you go to your favourite search engine and enter “files suit against worldcon” you’ll find more information than you want.

  17. I love the idea of “virtue actioning” – yea indeed!
    The idea of a mix of established and new resonates with me. I’ve regularly found new authors by reading/listening to the suggestions of established writers that I enjoy.

  18. @madlibrarian: if it meets those last two criteria, then issuing that critique is invalid. Vapid was meant in the sense that it’s just a meaningless thing they say. Alternatively, it’s bullshit.

  19. Small correction:
    @timeliebe ~ *Patrick* James Nielsen Hayden is a senior editor at TOR Books. ;-)

  20. @Wilf

    Possible a typo when “contretemps ” was the intended word?

  21. “Virtue signaling” is just a way for conservatives to dismiss good actions as a sham, the same way some misogynists insist any action respectful of women is just a sleazeball trying to get into their pants. The point in both cases is that you don’t have to feel bad someone’s nicer or more generous or more helpful than you, they’re just pretending.
    Of course when their side does it, it’s a good thing. As long as you oppose and condemn abortion, extramarital sex and gay rights, it doesn’t matter if your personal life is a mess of sin, adultery and immorality.

  22. Nobody should be allowed to complain about “virtue signaling” unless they can both provide a cogent counter-argument to Pascal’s Wager and explain how a society where everyone is doing the right thing out of a need to be seen as right is different from a society where everyone does the right thing just because it’s right.

  23. Running a convention is hard. As an unknown Hugo Finalist who signed up to anchor queer-content panels, I am happy to say that my interactions with the staff have been nothing but positive.

    Yes, they dropped our panel (but are now bringing it back), and yes, the queer-themed panels were “Queer 101” (but even in the first communication, they said, “Hey — can you help us make better ones?). We spoke up (all of us, not just the Journey!) and the staff immediately altered course for the better.

    Power to the people, props to the staff.

    (P.S. You don’t want to miss our panel. It’s a really good one. Toot toot goes my horn.)

  24. Don : “explain how a society where everyone is doing the right thing out of a need to be seen as right is different from a society where everyone does the right thing just because it’s right.”

    Exactly. Accusing someone of virtue signaling is no different than accusing someone of having “IMPURE THOUGHTS”(tm).

    The accuser ignores what the person actually did, and invents thoughts in their head that turn that action into a “thought crime”.

    At which point it becomes like spectral evidence: i have divined by spectral evidence that you are a witch, and the court will hold that as true unless you have proof beyond a reasonable doubt that you are not.

  25. America, 2018 in three takes:


    Actual Sane Space: “Woaw. American sure went full Trumpist when you have “God Bless You or whatever that meta nod was” in a Starwars film. I mean, Mitificrofocholinianismeugenicnod was a bit much, but woah. That’s shoe-horning in the Religion a bit much. They went from Eugenics Fascist nod to the full Gilead Monty

    Also: “Why use gravity based space bombs with no droids helping the door mechanism if you can like use space ships, asteroids, small donuts as super-base killers. Like WHY. PLEASE WHY. WHY HAVE BOMBS IF YOU CAN ATTACH A FTL TO A MOON AND MAKE A PLANET KILLER WITHOUT THE TRADIIIIILION CREDIT SPEND ON A NEW NEW NEW REVISED BATTLE STATION AND ALL THAT JAZZ. WHHHHHHHHHY

    Also: Carrie was totes not a Christian so wut? Wtf is this making a Christian gesture to her legacy. That’s really not fucking on.

    Priorities: USA is a bit special. And not in a good way.


    E eeiurr eeeeeem eeeeehjjj kkkkhhhhh! Yeah, they’re all valid, ffs, it’s just a courtesy that takes 0.0001% of your time and respects the individual[0] and does no harm. It’s like 101 basic “do I give a fuck”[1].

    [0] Psssst: Most US Libertarians are secret fascists.

    [1] Please stop slut-shaming the Tentacles: they each have a Mind of their own, and we TOTALLY are instigating a communal ban on touching without consenus but PLEASE BE AWARE: OUR TENTACLES ARE TOTES HORNY AND LIKE WE ARE TRYING HARD NOT TO GROPE THE FUTARI SO BEAR WITH US – BRING A SPATULA AND JUST SPANK THEM (NOT THE 5TH ONE, THAT’S E’S KINK, UNLESS YOU WANT, SO

  26. Note to E’s and Other Otherkin:

    We know it’s Futanari, we’re making fun of the Vanilla People having so much trouble with the terminology.

    You do you, it’s beautiful and butterflies are pretty.

    But avoid the groping tentacles, ok?

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