You guys have a blast, though…

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.

This entry was written by Peter Watts , posted on Friday November 18 2011at 04:11 pm , filed under On the Road, public interface . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

17 Responses to “You guys have a blast, though…”

  1. What you are demonstrating is a trait called integrity. It is in rare supply of late. One look at politics in the US will serve as a prime example of this shortage.

    Not to blow smoke up your ass, but thanks for sticking to your convictions and demonstrating what society lacks!

  2. That’s really a shame that a con would do that.

    Definitely bullshit. I’ll never understand why people allow things like this to happen. The fucked up apology is the best part.

    I wouldn’t trust them either. Sorry you had to deal with this, Peter.

  3. On a lighter note, not being a Canadian I spent a few seconds wondering what SFContrario was, and whether Contrario is even a real word.

  4. Well done. This kind of thing needs to have consequences. On the public record consequences.

  5. It pisses me off that our society has come to a point where the fear of litigation is stronger than any sense of genuine remorse or empathy when someone screws the pooch like this.

    Anyway, I applaud your conviction and your boycott, its good to see someone take a stand against ignorance.

    And here I was feeling bad I couldn’t get there this year thanks to that prick they call responsibility, but now I feel a little better.

  6. Ah con politics. It sounds like it is more a case of amateurism than anything else. A lot of smaller organizations lack real experience and look towards the only models they see, the larger ones who are lying and obfuscating and legalizing. But you are very right to be sending this message. The organizers need to learn from their mistakes and if they grow, to grow in the right way rather than allowing this kind of internal thinking to take hold and grow with them.

  7. And now for something with tentacles.

    http://boingboing.net/2011/11/25/octopus-table.html

  8. Well, just add that to the ol’ christmas list…

  9. ooo, random tentacle drive by links? has everyone seen

    http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/octopus-chronicles/2011/11/24/land-walking-octopus-explained-video/

    that is so cute!

  10. Welcome to how much of fandom runs. There are some good individuals, there are some bad individuals. There’s far too much herd mentality (or, often, diverting to high school politics) and not nearly enough being actually accountable.

  11. followup to land walking octopus…

    another example of skeleton-less crawling

    http://blogs.nature.com/news/2011/11/rise_of_the_soft_robots_1.html

  12. Yet more octopoidal statuary:

    http://boingboing.net/2011/11/30/expressive-octopus-with-lanter.html

  13. darn it, i just added that to the top most article…

  14. SF has been through some very weird exclusionary changes in the past five years, and it is important to attempt to preserve the community value that the science fiction field is supposed to be a place were people can peaceably disagree. Being on the “wrong” side of an issue shouldn’t get you banned from a convention, kicked off the program, or stripped of a Guest of Honorship.

    I was at SF Contario. I had a good time, though not the spectacular blow-the-roof-off good time that we had at Ad Astra. I was sorry not to see you there.

    I myself have become much pickier about what conventions I will go to, and am finding matters of principle an important way to gage whether to go to a con.

  15. “darn it, i just added that to the top most article…”

    It’s okay, we forgive you.

    On the other hand, the army of cthulhoid horrors standing behind you would like to register a complaint.

  16. For what it’s worth–and as the offended party I think it’s worth something:
    My view is that the concom was put in a difficult position by someone else; they were put, unwillingly, in the middle. Yes, they mishandled the situation, but eventually apologized properly and I accepted the apology. At least they did what they (thought they) could to make it up to me. I had a fairly good time at the convention, with only a couple of examples of the sort of petty nonsense I’ve had to deal with elsewhere, elsewhen for some time. I suppose I could say more, but I’ll leave it to others to assign responsibility as they see fit.

  17. I’m not sure I buy this “difficult position” schtick. Sure, when they were off the record the ConCom threw Rob Sawyer’s name all over the place, but no names were named in any official context (and even you can’t bring yourself to name the dude here, Allan, which says something). I approached Rob directly; not only did he deny asking them to do anything, he stated that he didn’t even know that anything had been done until after the con. He stated this immediately, unequivocally, and on the record. In contrast, all anybody else can do is whisper about a “difficult situation” and he-who-is-not-to-be-named. What’s any objective observer to conclude from this?

    Seriously, it’s this kind of candy-ass shit that makes me want to swear off the whole damn scene.