This is in response to Mark Oshiro’s harassment at CONQuesT, described here
I was unlucky enough to get tapped for a self-pub panel at CONQuest (Kansas City 2013) that consisted of me and two gatekeepers who bloviated the entire time, talking over anything I had to say. Lawrence M. Schoen was the moderator who opened his introductory email to me with a declaration that nobody should self publish unless they’d already been vetted by the publishing industry. He also used the term “politically correct” which prompted the following response from me:
“Please do not use the term ‘politically correct’ in my presence. My colleagues and mentors include survivors of the Chinese Cultural Revolution and the Soviet GULag. Current American usage of this term trivializes these mass atrocities in the service of defending lazy-minded reflexive bigotry.”
In response, he doubled down on his insistence on right to say anything he liked.
On the panel, Silena Rosen was particularly notable for her crude, hostile manner as well as rant about how self-pub was shit, fanfic was public masturbation, yadda yadda yadda. Schoen wasn’t so much a moderator as a partner in the pile-on. I had quality assurance experience from multiple industry jobs, and a whole list of suggestions for editorial collectives and the like. They talked right over me as loudly as they could. None of that stuff even got said.
I felt the whole time as if I were fighting with both hands tied behind my back. I was there to give the audience new ideas and perspectives and to present myself with courtesy and professionalism; they were there to beat me up in public.
It cost me and my buddy some serious money to take an eight-hour road trip to Kansas City and stay in a convention hotel. Why were we there? We were invited by convention organizer Kat Donovan who cited interest in “new blood.”
“New blood,” yeah, in the sense of throwing newbies into the gladiatorial ring.
At the post-con (“dead dog”) party, I told the person who invited us about Rosen’s extreme rudeness and she shrugged, “Oh, she’s just like that.” With a shrug, like oh, local eccentric.
Let’s be clear: I have a couple of decades on Mark Oshiro, I’m White-passing, and I have decades of experience in negotiating hostile audiences, and this was still a grossly unpleasant experience. I’ve survived full-on, many-on-one onslaught in more than one graduate seminar. But I was tired of this bullshit when I was twenty, and I’m approaching three times that now.
I didn’t bother answering the follow-up survey about my con experience. Why bother? I wasn’t going to be back, and that particular adventure was sandwiched in between an ER visit for major health problems and coming home to a fire scare in my apartment. It was really clear to me that the SFF con scene was just as ugly and abusive as it was when I left it in 1989.
Not that I didn’t meet some decent folk, but they weren’t locals. John Picaccio stands out as a positive, generous professional whose book-cover slide shows featured more of other people’s work than his own; he gave kudos to the art directors, editors, and graphic designers who combine efforts to make great covers.
Funny thing, Picaccio was a first-generation college student, and he’s in the first generation of artists who could make a living without moving to a major industry center like New York City. Our conversations were brief, but he set an example of the kind of community member I want to be: intellectually venturesome, excited about new talent, in word and deed inviting all the new kids to the neighborhood.
Picaccio got his start showing portfolios of his work to pro writers. That particular strategy wouldn’t work so well for a woman, given that one of those was troll and harasser Harlan Ellison (and yes, I have eyewitness accounts of his assholery, from decades before he publicly groped a colleague on stage).
For those of us whose bodies are All Wrong, who are marked as invisibles or prey, no amount of “leaning in” and patiently waiting is going to get us jack in SFF as it stands. The system is rotten to the core and beyond reform.