So, the second iteration of SFContario is underway just down the street. A few people asked if I was attending this year. Then they asked why not.
It’s a good question. The con is local. A lot of my friends are going. If the inaugural edition is anything to go by, the panels will be lively and the management professional. Plus I haven’t seen Scalzi for a while. So why am I staying away this year?
Because of something that happened last year, actually. SFContario banned someone from attending— turned them away right at the door, without warning. The only reason, as it turned out, was because that person was disliked by another attendee whose patronage the ConComm valued more highly — and I don’t think that’s an especially good reason.
Neither did the ConComm, in hindsight. I’ll give them that much. They stonewalled relentlessly during the event itself, delayed and obfuscated for a couple of months afterward, but they finally apologized to the offended party (even if that apology was originally sent to the wrong person). They patched things up, offered the victim free admission to this year’s festivities. The victim accepted. As far as I can tell, it’s a closed issue to everyone but me — which is why I’m naming no names here.
The problem — and again, I seem to be the only one that would describe it so — was in the nature of the apology. When you fuck up that royally, the right thing to do is fall on your sword; you make your amends in public, you explain why the fuck-up occurred, you promise never to do it again. This was not that kind of apology. It presented no explanations, named no names, reserved the right to pull the same shit in the future. It was a case study in mealy-mouthed legalistic ass-covering, basically boiling down to “We regret that mistakes were made”. It was in no way an expression of sincere remorse.
It was good enough for everyone else, though, so what’s my problem? Only this: without that explanation, without that reassurance, there’s no reason to think this couldn’t happen again. Simple third-person animosity was enough to get one person banned; I’m pretty sure there are people out there who don’t like me all that much either. I could even name a few. I could be next. Anyone could be.
I’ll grant you I don’t think it’s likely. While I’m unconvinced that the ConComm truly regret what they did, I firmly believe they regret getting caught; they’ll think twice before trying something like that again. But they haven’t put that in writing; they’ve put hardly anything in writing except for lawyer-approved weasel words. So I’m keeping my distance for now.
I have to reiterate, though: except for that one egregious lapse, last year’s SFContario was a really good bang for the buck. And I should also say that I know a number of the organizers personally, and I like them. They are good people, and they do good work, and I really kinda regret missing out this year because I’m sure it’s going to be another winner. But I remain uncomfortable with the way this was handled. I like them, but I’m not sure I trust them any more.
I suppose it’s just as well. I have a lot of work to catch up on this weekend anyway.