Things People Need to Understand, issue 223.2

For the past few days I’ve been engaged in a series of conversations on Twitter and Facebook about SFF fandom and its safety/egalitarianism — or lack thereof. I’ll just share some of what I’ve already said there, here:

Some bits of a conversation on Twitter that started with me generally ranting about how unsafe I feel at Worldcon and progressed to an argument with someone who said s/he spoke for the SMOFs (“secret masters of fandom”, i.e. convention organizers). I basically pointed out that if fandom wants to change, the resources to assist with doing so have been around for years. At this point I’m tired. I’m not interested in further talk until I start seeing some action.

Then from a conversation about Heinlein and the racism that has always been visible in his work, and lately has been made explicit through his letters:

Marc, the larger literary continuum in which Heinlein’s work existed was both created by *and contributed to* that flawed society. Heinlein’s work is one of the reasons why SFF has spent years calling itself progressive, and utterly refusing to listen to complaints about the racism embedded in the genre’s bones. That resistance is one of the things that’s made my career a greater struggle than a white author’s might be. The reason I read FF in the first place was because, when I first got active in SFF fandom and tentatively complained about some stuff that bothered me in the first Heinlein works I’d read, Heinlein fans yelled at me that he wasn’t racist or sexist, and Farnham’s Freehold was the proof of that. After I read that book I realized two things: a) that Heinlein was racist as *fuck*, and b) most of science fiction fandom was too.

Now, don’t get me wrong. SFF is where my literary muse takes me, so I’m committed to this genre; I care for what it’s done and where it’s going, if only out of intelligent self-interest. But I’m very aware of not only how flawed it is from an artistic standpoint, but how utterly hostile it has been to me and people like me. So this cannot be an abstract thing to me; the bigotry in SFF does not merely passively reflect that of US society. It is an active, ongoing, threat. It has done, and is still doing, real harm. So I’ll read it, but I’m not even going to pretend to love it. The best I can manage is love for its *potential,* and loathing for most of what it’s actually done.

Now here’s something I attempted to post as a comment in response to this blog post hyperbolically lambasting complaints about sexual harassment at cons as “plunging all fandom into war” (because demanding safety is just like attacking another country, killing soldiers and civilians, etc.):

You’re downplaying what actually happened. I don’t know whether you’re doing so intentionally or out of ignorance, but this is a situation that can only be understood in context, and you’re leaving out or ignoring a lot of the context that matters. I will attempt to explain.

No one has said Walling is a rapist. He has, however, been accused of repeatedly harassing women — and by “harassing” I mean stalking and groping and attempting to coerce into sex — not just at Readercon but many cons. He’s done it to at least two authors (including Valentine), to con volunteers and staff, and more. When Valentine came forward, these other women did, too — enough to show that Walling has a demonstrated pattern of doing the same thing everywhere he goes. People want him banned from Readercon simply because that’s what Readercon’s rules said. But this is why people want him banned from all cons: because he cannot be trusted to behave at any of them.

Then you complain about the behavior of Valentine’s friends. But you don’t mention that Walling’s friends have not only protected him from con rules enforcement, but they’ve gone after some of the women who’ve complained about his behavior in the past. Some of the authors haven’t been invited to other cons as guests, some of the con staffers have been marginalized until they quit. In other words, Valentine’s friends are hurting his reputation, but Walling’s friends are hurting women’s careers. Women cannot feel safe at any con Walling attends in part because of Walling himself, and in part because Walling is surrounded by (relatively) powerful people who’ve proven more than willing to use their power to harm others on his behalf. And he’s also protected by a throng of random bystanders who decry any complaint about sexual harassment as a “lynch mob”.

(Yeah, because asking a con to adhere to its own printed rules is totally like beating, raping, torturing, dismembering, and stringing someone up. Also, this is nowhere near “war”.)

It’s lovely that you’ve felt safe at cons. You’re very lucky. But your luck does not mean that less-lucky women are imagining things. Or that their unwillingness to tolerate being groped — even though it didn’t bother you when it happened — means they’re overreacting.

Sadly, the level of vitriol around this incident can set the general egalitarianism in fandom back by decades.

There is no egalitarianism in fandom.

There is a belief in egalitarianism. But it has mostly been used to support the usual suspects — the straight white men at the core of SFF — while marginalizing the usual targets — women, people of color, anyone the straight white men don’t like or want to objectify or want to own. When the usual targets complain about their treatment, they have to listen to what I like to call The Egalitarianism Speech. That’s the speech that goes, “Can’t we all just get along? Shut up a little and we can. Stop asking for change and we can. Everything was fine before you started complaining. We’re all equal here, after all.”

We are not. But we can be, eventually, if things change. What is necessary to bring about this change is sometimes, yes, vitriol, because polite discussions have already been had — in spades — and they haven’t worked. Walling has apparently been Talked To before; it didn’t stop him from pulling this again. Readercon’s no-tolerance harassment policy came out of a previous incident and discussion and they ignored it. Only vitriol made them follow their own rules. All the anger right now is because politeness has been tried, and all that’s done has been to protect and enable more bad behavior. The anger, however, seems to be having a positive effect.

So there’s your context.



I write science fiction and fantasy. I write other things too, but I can’t claim to be a mainstream writer; that’s not where my muse goes. It’s here. And I both love and despise this genre.

I love it because I’ve met wonderful people, and because through SFF I’ve been able to imagine things that I couldn’t have if I’d kept my focus on the here and now. I despise it because SFF is just as flawed as the rest of the world when it comes to bigotry and marginalization — but unlike the rest of the world, SFF thinks it’s progressive. Embraces the idea of its own progressivism with such fervor that I’d call it religious, if the field weren’t so full of atheists who would never be caught dead preaching doctrine or shunning unbelievers or anything like that. (That was sarcasm. The atheists have their own problems right now.)

We have to shed this idea that SFF is somehow special. That it is perfect. That it is in any way better than the mainstream society from which it derives. It isn’t. And in fact, SFF’s manifest unwillingness to examine itself is one of the things that makes it worse than the mainstream.

I and people I care about keep getting accused of having some kind of agenda, whenever we express a demand for some kind of positive change. So OK. You know what it is? Lean close. Here’s the secret. Here’s the goal of the big shadow conspiracy. I’ll whisper.

We want nearly everyone to have fun.

I say “nearly” because, well. Some people’s idea of fun is other people’s non-fun. But for anyone who doesn’t think “fun” means hurting, frightening, or stomping all over someone else? They should all be welcome under this tent.

That’s it. That’s the conspiracy. And it really doesn’t seem that much to ask.

70 Responses »

  1. @nkjemisin

    You are making big generalizations that are just as harmful and hateful as the issues you are fighting against. I know when you are passionate it can be hard not to.

    As far as what you call a threat. You’re being an ass. Do you expect someone to put their time and effort into you, and get their trusted business contacts to do the same after you have called them a racist rapist and then thrown all their and your fans under the bus with them?

    I wish you luck in your future ventures. Alienating and betraying your fan-base will be a hard thing to recover from if enough of them get wind of it.

  2. Martha,

    I’ve been getting a small bombardment of Stupid against my mod filters for the last few days. I’m letting the more coherent of them (yes, Facto makes more sense than most of what I’ve gotten) through so people can see exactly what kind of things are being said to me and to others who just want nearly everyone to have fun. Isn’t it interesting how calling for something so simple makes me a racist, a monster, and an ass?

  3. I think it is vitally important for implicit threats of the type Lisa made to be treated as actual threats, rather than rationalized based on an assumption of the author’s intent, at least until the author clarifies their meaning. While this may mean that someone who misspeaks is treated more harshly than their intent deserved, it’s been proven many, many times that dominant groups in our society will use implicit threats and roundabout means to exclude others from their spheres. This isn’t a court of law, and we don’t need to prove beyond reasonable doubt what Lisa’s intent was. What matters is that an environment in which implicit threats against people challenging the status quo can be made without being called out is an environment hostile to inclusion.

    I think as well that as fans we need to be more proactive in boycotting cons that turn a blind eye to harrassment, or blackball authors who bring up uncomfortable topics. It’s great that some people have the strength of character to refuse to attend a con in which people like them are marginalized or expected to behave a certain way, and it’s great that some authors have the ability and willingness to say “go ahead and blackball me!”, but nobody should have to choose between putting themselves in a situation in which they might be harrased and then ignored, or possibly seeing their career suffer for refusing to attend certain cons. Ultimately we will only eradicate that kind of choice if the people who aren’t at risk of being harrassed make it clear that they won’t support cons that facilitate that type of behaviour. It is most definitely not somebody else’s problem.

  4. So one person said something that might or might not have been intended as a threat of future blackballing, and was called on — meaning others will now be doubly on the lookout for any sign of blackballing. How is that “they’ve gone after some of the women who’ve complained about his behavior in the past. Some of the authors haven’t been invited to other cons as guests, some of the con staffers have been marginalized until they quit”?

  5. Nolly,

    That person said something that was intepreteted as a threat, whether she intended it or not, and implied that others she knew, with greater power, were threatening similar things. Please don’t downplay it; no author can afford to take something like that lightly, or to try and read the mind of the person saying it to see if she really meant it. And yeah, she got called on it — but I notice she didn’t retract it. Like I said, looked to me like she doubled down.

    But there have certainly been other incidents, most of which I can’t discuss because they’ve been communicated to me in confidence. Authors talk privately about this stuff, same as SMOFs, and I’ve been involved in both conventions and the writer-sphere long enough to have heard plenty. In our culture sexual harassment has been actively encouraged by conrunners, condoned and enabled especially when it comes from BNFs; how many authors or con staffers do you think would dare make a stink, or expect the stink to go unretaliated, in such an atmosphere? But if you want concrete examples, there’s the whole situation with Dragoncon, which people have been talking about quietly for years and recently blew up big. Several authors have complained of retaliation by the SMOFs involved with Dragoncon when they spoke against the con’s founder, who’s long been whispered to be a child molester. Among other things, there were public attempts to smear Nancy Collins as jealous and an anti-Semite when she complained.

    I bring up this incident because I couldn’t help thinking of it when I saw yesterday that Chicon has begun what I can only interpret as an attempt to smear Kate Kligman — who said she was marginalized until she quit. Again, that may not be how they intend for it to be interpreted, but that’s how it looks to me, as someone on the outside, and in the context of everything that’s happened.

  6. WOW! The more I follow this the CRAZIER this person gets. You can’t come on a public post and start slandering people calling them child molesters and shit with no proof just cause you have heard whispers. I hope he sues your ass to the point you can’t afford to do your next project.

    I get the feeling the only whispers you’re hearing are coming from your own head.

    And I’m sure the people who told you things in confidence are real happy you’re running your big mouth. When someone tells you a confidence you don’t start blabbing it to the world on the internet and leave out the name, well you do but apparently you’re trashy like that. By the end of this you may be fanless, friendless and penniless.

    Good Luck!

  7. Welp, that’s the end of that experiment. Apologies, sensible folk; I figured for a few days I would let the more coherent of my detractors through the mod filter so that everyone could see what kind of abuse I’ve been getting (which is nothing to the kind of abuse other people, who are more involved in this mess, have been getting). I suppose I should feel flattered.

    But there’s always a danger, when letting this kind of thing through, that it will stifle the people who are just trying to talk and not threaten or bluster or whatever, so I’m shutting these guys down now. Everyone else go on as you were.

  8. What’s been interesting about this whole thing — well, disheartening but also interesting — is that it seems clear we’re in a cultural shift with these conventions that I had mistakenly thought had occurred ten, twenty years ago, that we’re having to have the conversations now that I thought had already occurred, not the least of which because the government laws themselves have changed, which has a large impact on the legal responsibilities of people running an event like a convention — responsibilities that a lot of these con-running folk do not seem to be taking seriously, despite their importance to the cons’ operations. There seems to be a 1960’s/70’s ethos that many people are still clinging to — when Asimov used to grope young women, etc. — that really has no place in organizing and running conventions now and is having to give way to current reality and is doing the usual kicking and screaming about it. And again, I thought that had basically happened in, say, the late 1990’s, at least for sexual harassment issues if not race. But I guess that was overly optimistic of me.

    In any case, irrespective of the publicly witnessed groping and stalking that Walling did, which Massachusetts law could have arrested him for, the sheer fact that he, an organizer of cons, propositioned an author working the con, even if he wasn’t involved in running that particular one, is not only irresponsible but indicates an emotional control problem that would usually have friends wanting to get the man some help. Instead, a lot of them seem to be arguing that con organizers should act any way they want and state laws, the future of a con, etc., be hanged. And I guess that’s a painful part of the process. I’m glad the con committee at Readercon seems to have taken the situation seriously once it was known to them. I hope that continues.

  9. The threat-like statement, from a person who also said she has no power to carry it out, referred to the future. Your statement that I am questioning was a) plural and b) in the past tense. In my area, I know one author we don’t invite to our local anymore after we ejected him from the dealer’s room for selling the Paris Hilton video, but he’s welcome to come as an attendee still, if he were willing to buy a membership. That’s the extent of our “blackball” list.

    I don’t think anyone at Chicon is trying to smear Kate Kligman; I think those who were involved feel she is smearing them. I don’t know what harassment may or may not have occurred, but I heard from other sources, people involved in cleaning up the mess, well before that statement, that there was definitely failure to perform her duties. Maybe there was some of each; I don’t know, as I was not staff this year, and might not know even had I been — no one who was not directly involved can possibly know exactly what happened, and she said / they said is a fruitless game.

    But what were the Chicon people supposed to do? Let the accusation go unanswered? Submit, regardless of accuracy, and set a precedent where anyone can claim victimhood unquestioned? Maybe I’ve been burned by too many manipulative drama llamas (male and female), and it’s just made me wary. (For the record, I’ve only met Kate once, sort of, in a group setting, and have no idea what her personality is like; I am not assuming she is a manipulative drama llama, but I’m also not assuming she isn’t, having heard a far more heartfelt version of what Chicon posted from a young woman directly involved in the situation.)

    The smofslist tumblr is isn’t exactly reliable evidence of what conversations are actually happening; everything there is a) in violation of copyright, b) posted in violation of the community’s trust, and c) completely out of context — most importantly, what it was in response to and how it was responded to.

    A lot of things were actively supported and encouraged 50+ years ago which aren’t now; I don’t really see what that has to do with the present.

    I really have nothing to say about Cat Valente’s piece except to note that, unlike her phrasing (“Walling, who used his own “need” to apologize to Valentine as an excuse to follow, grab, and further stalk her”), there was no grabbing involved in the apology attempts; the attempt to apologize came after “you don’t touch me!”, and he did not touch her after that, as reported.

    Dragon*con is only loosely connected to the world of (mostly non-profit) fannish cons; I don’t know of any D*C folks on the SMoFs mailing list, though there may be one or two who are involved on some level in addition to working on more traditional cons — same for SDCC; there are a few SDCC staff on SMoFs, but only the ones who work on our other cons. I doubt most of the D*C folks identify as SMoFs, and I know most of the folks who do identify as SMoFs know little or nothing about D*C. Therefore, I know only what I’ve read, mostly recently, about the history of the founder with regard to abuse charges, and nothing about any retaliation that occurred. But that’s a different community, at the organizer level; the people making decisions there are not the people making decisions at Worldcon.

  10. Nolly, you seem very connected with the people involved in this — like you know them well enough to make decisions about them based on more than their words.

    I don’t know them. I’ve probably met a few of them but I don’t know them. All I know is that some of them run SFF cons — and I don’t know which ones, so if you say Dragoncon’s not one of those SFF cons, that’s nice to know, but it’s not exactly something the average outsider would (or should) assume. I have nothing to go on but words, and actions. And the people I know best in this are Genevieve and other authors and fans, and I know what’s said among us. I’m not planning to be more specific about which people I know who’ve suffered retaliation, because they’ve suffered retaliation, hello, and I’d rather be thought wrong than expose them to more crap. You seem willing to take other people’s unspoken motives on faith; I suppose you’ll have to do the same for mine.

    What are the people of Chicon* supposed to do? They can show that they’re taking Kate’s accusation seriously by not following the same script that occurs nearly every time a woman complains of harassment: the smear campaign that attempts to depict the woman as somehow deserving of or complicit in the harassment, or which simply attempts to gaslight her as crazy and a liar; that focuses more on defending the reputation of the company/harasser/co-workers of the harasser than showing any sort of compassion for the victim. It looks like a smear campaign because that’s always what it looks like when people malign the victim, or make bullshit excuses for the perpetrator, rather than doing something substantive. (Fathers are immune to being harassers? Seriously?) The people of Chicon could also try not assuming that anyone who complains of harassment is a “manipulative drama llama”, or even tossing around that kind of language — because holy fuck what woman would put herself through this hell without good reason?

    And most of all, Chicon should’ve thought about what message their response would send. Will women coming to future Chicons — or other Worldcons since outsiders don’t know they’re not the same, or SFF cons since apparently some SMOFs are involved in many of them — be reassured when they see Chicon following the Same Old Script in addressing a staffer’s harassment? Personally I’m thinking that if I go to a Worldcon and suffer harassment, I will not bother talking to the con staff; I will simply call the police. The police are at least bound by rules — and likely to adhere to them — and they are a neutral party. They have less reason to call me an incompetent crazy liar, defend the perpetrator because he’s a “nice guy” or has daughter!immunity, blame me for having somehow asked for it or been insufficiently forceful with my refusal, etc. The police will (probably) not put the interests of the convention before my safety. I distrust the police, but in this context I trust the people who wrote that statement even less.

    So they could’ve taken some cues from other cons/conrunners that have dealt with this well. They didn’t have to decide on Kate’s case immediately; they could’ve shown that they were taking the time to consider it in depth. They could’ve brought in a neutral mediator, if they felt it was a “she said/they said” situation. Their statement could’ve publicly asked observers to refrain from making personal attacks on Kate or the harasser. And in the meantime they could’ve understood that for every publicly-made accusation of harassment, there are others that haven’t been reported, and even one means that they have a problem. So then they could’ve used this as an opportunity to talk about what they’ll do to improve, going forward. Support the Backup Project. Train their security in how to respond to harassment (and also accessiblity issues and other things that were apparently a problem at this year’s Worldcon). Strengthen their Code of Conduct wrt harassment. There are all kinds of things they could’ve done.

    Instead they called her a liar and washed their hands of it. Which doesn’t actually fix anything, and instead makes a lot of things worse. You’ll forgive me for being unimpressed.

    * Look. I know that not all of SMOFdom thinks this way. I’ve been involved with Readercon’s concom, though it didn’t go well; I worked for Wiscon for awhile (that went better); I’ve started and run conventions, albeit not in the SFF sphere (Shoujocon, which alas did not survive once my regime ended). I’ve seen the efforts of people like Rose Fox and Farah Mendlesohn to try and change things from within, for the better. (I have no idea if they count as “SMOF”s and I don’t care.) I know that it takes an eclectic group to get these things off the ground; I suspect that it’s a relative few very vocal assholes perpetuating this image of utter tone-deafness, 1950s morality, and hostility to women/PoC/other marginalized groups. But if I’m pissed off and seeing “This con throws women under the bus” messages, what do you think other women, who aren’t authors or former con staffers, who don’t have positive experiences to go on or a nice loud public voice, are thinking as they follow this mess? As they see Chicon pull a Clarence Thomas? As they see conversation about positive change drowned out by nitpickers and apologists who are so invested in protecting the status quo that it seems as if they want to return to 50 years ago?

  11. Since Dragoncon & Worldcon had shared programming this year, and once served as a NASFiC, Nolly’s attempts to try and separate Dragoncon from “real” SFF cons strikes me as hair-splitting.

    Like it or not, Ed Kramer was, indeed, a SMOF. And still seeing 6 figure pay days from Dragoncon.

    The sad fact of the matter is that organized fandom has a long, sordid history of turning a blind eye, if not actively coming to the defense of the sexual predators in its ranks, whether they be fans or pros. Walter Breen, anyone?

  12. Let’s face it, when you still have to game under a ‘masculine’ name for fear of the flood of online harassment that comes your way when SOME of (and that’s an important distinction!) your fellow gamers realise you’re female (ditto for Xbox co-op play, claiming your mic is broken so they can’t hear your voice!)then it’s obvious all is not as equal in the geek/nerd world as we’d like to believe. But keeping quiet about it is not an option – otherwise things will never change. ‘How can we keep things the same’ is not an option, nor should we let it be.

  13. Even if we give Chicon the benefit of the doubt, and take it as true that Kate Kligman wasn’t performing up to their standards, they still have some problems.

    First, while performance may be relevant to their reasons for letting her go, it is totally irrelevant to their dealing with a report of harrasment. A person doesn’t deserve to be able to work, live, and volunteer in spaces in which harrasment isn’t tolerated and reports of it are taken seriously because they are a good worker or likeable or contribute, they deserve that because they are a person. Period.

    Second, if someone is performing poorly, and also reports that they are being harrased, the decent thing to do would be to fix the harrassment, then give that person a chance to work in a harrassment-free environment. Maybe, just maybe, people work better when they’re not being marginalized, victimized, and ignored.

  14. I haven’t yet read the other comments but I shall get to them. But I wanted to speak my own thoughts on the initial post. :)

    I have heard Heinlein glorified for years. I knew that he had serious issues with sexism, as I have heard his work criticized on that score for many years. I never got around to reading his work because, however much he did for the genre, I don’t care to read something that is going to put my blood pressure up.

    It may be that I’ve just totally missed it but I haven’t seen Heinlein’s racism discussed nearly as much. Reading the letters in the post that you linked, I had no fucking idea that he was that much of a racist, considering that the vibe I have gotten from so many SFF people is that he is the Progressive Grandfather of the SF Genre. Which… I had a problem with just based on the sexism, but dear goddess.

    So, thank you for posting this and bringing it to attention, because I at least have not seen it pointed out like this before.

  15. “Like it or not, Ed Kramer was, indeed, a SMOF. And still seeing 6 figure pay days from Dragoncon.”

    These sentences are a perfect example of why I say D*C is an very different sort of thing. No one is getting paid for running Worldcon. No one is getting paid for running any traditional fannish con. “SMoFs” don’t get paid. We’re volunteers. Everyone from the first-time gopher up to the chair is doing it because we love SF/F and the community of people who love SF/F. Some folks have other motives, too — I’m not claiming everyone’s a perfect idealist! — but without that love at the core, who’s going to put in the time and energy to make these things happen?

    The joint programming was a marketing effort, to try to reach some of the D*C folks who would be interested in Worldcon-style cons / programming if they knew more about it.

    I’m not sure how “outsiders” view of fandom is relevant; aren’t we mainly talking about fans, authors, artists, and other members of the SF/F community here? Conflating the two is a bit like attributing something Jesse Helms said to Bernie Sanders, then saying “Well, they’re both politicians, and I just live here; why should I pay attention to who’s running the place?”

    I know some of the people involved, not all; more are friends-of-friends. I’ve been reading a lot of what’s been said in a lot of places, and been in several offline conversations, particularly among the “younger” conrunners at Chicon. (“Younger” in quotes as there’s no hard age limit on who chooses to be part of that group / community / conversation.)

    For the record, “manipulative drama llama” is my phrase, no one else’s, and I had no staff or other role in Chicon other than as an attendee. By this phrase, I mean women such as my college classmate who regularly pulled stunts like going into hysterics and refusing to eat unless told to by one specific guy — who did not go to our school, wasn’t even in state, and was not available by phone. The result was that every guy in our social circle was fawning all over her, trying to cajole her into eating, giving her their undivided attention, and she was eating it up. And she’s far from the only woman like that I’ve known. So pardon me for being burned a few too many times to always believe every accusation a woman makes against folks I know as fine upstanding people, just because she’s a woman, and some of them aren’t.

    Maybe I’ve missed it, but is there any evidence that the complaint that was allegedly dismissed was even lodged? Is there anything other than one person saying “They fired me because I complained” and those accused of said dismissal saying “No, you were fired for incompetence; please stop making us the bad guys.” If there’s not some evidence one way or the other, we’ve just got to decide based on who we trust. And for those who’ve decided they don’t trust the Chicon committee, I doubt anything I say can change your mind entirely, but maybe someone can see that there’s more than one story here, not a straightforward narrative.

  16. Nolly: “No one is getting paid for running Worldcon. No one is getting paid for running any traditional fannish con. “SMoFs” don’t get paid. We’re volunteers.”

    That actually makes it worse. There’s no oversight on volunteers. A lot of the legal requirements placed on for profit businesses regarding discrimination, sexual harassment and other laws are not placed on volunteer operated, non-profit events to run those events. But other laws are, and saying we’re just volunteers is not going to protect cons from irresponsible and unprofessional behavior by the con-runners. The point of the Kramer story is not that he’s a pedophile or that DragonCon is a pro shop. It’s that SMOF’s went after people who spoke out against him and what he was doing and tried to ignore everything they said as hysterical attention-getting and lies. And it damaged DragonCon and embroiled them in lawsuits, and that can happen to a non-profit con as well.

    Rene Walling publicly harassed and groped Valentine in front of numerous witnesses at Readercon and my understanding is that Kligman has some evidence too. Readercon very publicly at first violated their own stated policy in Walling’s case, which caused them damage. And Walling was allowed to volunteer at ChiCon and when bartending at a private party there, was publicly seen to be harassing young women who were trying to get beverages from him. This is a pattern of ignoring troubled and dangerous behavior by con runners which could really impact the future of cons. But hey, you knew someone in college who had emotional problems, so let’s pretend the problem isn’t there. That’s not going to work, volunteers or no. If you truly do love the fandom community, you shouldn’t want it to work that way.

    I don’t know if Kligman got “fired” from her non-paid volunteer position for just cause or not. But the timing of it is damn suspicious, given that Walling was allowed to work ChiCon and continued to harass women, and that causes damage. Even if she’s mistaken as to the motivations of those who booted her, that doesn’t make her a liar about the harassment she had from Walling. A lot of the remarks that we’ve been hearing from SMOF’s on the Net are essentially that we should all put up with sexual harassment, that female authors and con attendees should shut up and are big fat liars or babies who should not annoy con runners, and generally that the people who make up the fandom community are not nearly as important as those who run the cons. Which has been rather shocking and dismaying for a lot of folks. These are supposed to be fun events for which people, including authors, pay. To which people bring their kids often. If con-runners will continue to ignore problems that ruin the fun and slander those who complain about the problems, then people are going to stop coming and cops may get called in. This is not somebody else’s problem. This is yours, since you all took on the job, and if you can’t handle it professionally, if people can’t trust the runners, then you are likely to be replaced, on liability issues alone, or seal the con’s death altogether. Sexual harassment cannot be swept under the rug with oh, she’s just crazy. And there are going to be not fun consequences for everyone if you keep trying it. I’m sorry, but I just do not understand these SMOF attitudes in this day and age.

  17. Heinlein was a… weirdo. He seemed to be ok with incest.

    I’m not sure he was a full blown racist in his fiction (granted, I haven’t read Farnham’s freehold). That said, Starship Troopers had a Philippino protagonist (how many white authors can claim the same even today?). The same book had women as commanding officers in the fleet – years before it became mainstream. Thanks to Starship Troopers he was accused of a being a fascist – but Moon Is A Harsh Mistress is, next to 1984, is probably the most antigovernment SciFi book of the 20th century I’ve read. Made me question the modern democracy as supposedly the best political system for the first time in life.

    Even though he was clearly a patriot and served in the US Navy during the war, he was publicly against the conscription (i.e. the army of slaves).

    Finally, was a believer in self-sufficiency and self-defense. In the world of “Moon..”, butt-pinching perverts would not have been tolerated (probably shot on the spot or something). Problem solved ;)

  18. Natalie,

    Yeah, trust me, he was a full-blown racist (whatever the fuck that means) in his fiction. It’s visible in more of his work than FF, though that’s where it’s most indisputable, IMO. (And, of course, in his letters.) And I”m really not interested in discussing Heinlein’s various bigotries again, or hearing them justified.

  19. I believe you. I guess I’m lucky I haven’t come across more egregious examples. And I don’t try to justify anything, I just happen to agree with some of the ideas in his books. No excuses for bigotry, of course.

    I did feel his female characters were often cartoonish and served mostly as love interests for the heroes. It really cracked me up when in Tunnel in the Sky all seventeen-year old girls wanted to get married and have babies – in the middle of the wilderness, no less. I know the book was published in the Eisenhower era, but really, even the 1950s housewives should have had more sense than that.