WisCon, Harassment, and Rehabilitation

On Friday, WisCon posted a statement that read in part:

The WisCon committee has completed our harassment review process with regard to Jim Frenkel, who engaged in two reported violations of WisCon’s general and harassment policies at WisCon 37, in 2013 … WisCon will (provisionally) not allow Jim Frenkel to return for a period of four years (until after WisCon 42 in 2018). This is “provisional” because if Jim Frenkel chooses to present substantive, grounded evidence of behavioral and attitude improvement between the end of WisCon 39 in 2015 and the end of the four-year provisional period, WisCon will entertain that evidence. We will also take into account any reports of continued problematic behavior.

Natalie Luhrs has posted a roundup of some reactions. There’s a great deal of anger and frustration over poor communications, procedural failures, and more. I’m still reading, but my initial reaction is that the whole thing has been a mess that went rolling down a hill of mistakes, snowballing into a giant boulder of crap.

I’m still catching up on the conversation, and a lot of people have weighed in more thoughtfully and eloquently than I could. (See Natalie’s roundup for links.) One thing I wanted to talk about, however, was the “provisional” aspect of WisCon’s statement. Because my initial gut-level reaction was that it seemed reasonable to allow for the possibility of growth and change.

A little while back, I responded to an article titled, “The Naive Idiocy of Teaching Rapists Not to Rape.” The thing is, rapists can learn not to rape. People can and do change, especially when they’re confronted with consequences and forced to look at their own actions.

I’ve worked with college students, mostly men, in an early intervention program where we tried to help people recognize and change their own aggressive, boundary-crossing, harassing behaviors. I’ve sat in on batterer’s groups. I’ve spoken with pedophiles after their release from jail. My wife has designed and run domestic violence groups. My father spent much of his life working with juvenile offenders who had committed assault, robbery, rape, and more.

People can change. It’s kind of a no-brainer. Our behavior changes throughout our lifetime. We learn new habits, new values, and new choices. I’ve said and done things in the past that I wouldn’t dream of doing today, because I’ve learned better. We all have.

Does that mean all rapists and harassers will come to see the error of their ways if we only give them another chance? Of course not. Some people go right back to the same pattern of hostile behavior. But others can and do come to recognize the harm they’ve done to others, and find a new path.

I believe very strongly that there should be consequences for our actions. But I also believe in education and rehabilitation.

I don’t know if Jim Frenkel will ever truly accept responsibility for what he’s done, or if he’ll change a pattern of harassing behavior that goes back decades. He seemed genuinely remorseful when he spoke to me about this several years ago, but his behaviors didn’t change.

I hope this time is different. I hope the consequences of his loss of employment and being banned from his local convention force him to confront his choices, and that he comes out a better man.

The problem is when we choose to make his growth and change more important than the safety and security of his victims and potential victims.

When you’ve wronged someone and they throw you out of their life, you don’t get to force your way back in to prove that you’ve changed. You don’t get to violate their boundaries because you want to apologize. If the wronged party chooses to forgive and to allow you back into their lives, that’s one thing. If they choose not to, then you need to accept that loss as a consequence of your actions.

WisCon banned a known serial harasser on a relatively short-term “provisional” basis. While I share the same philosophical hope and belief for change, they’ve taken the choice away from his victims.

WisCon is not a judicial body. They are not a rehabilitation program. In my opinion, they are not qualified to judge the sincerity of serial harassers, many of whom have spent years or decades learning to hide their behavior behind the mask of the “nice guy.” Their job is to investigate complaints, and when those complaints are found to be valid, to take steps to protect their membership.

Protection for Frenkel came in the form of WisCon’s investigation process. I believe every complaint should be investigated and decided based on evidence and testimony. In this case, there have been multiple people reporting incidents, with multiple witnesses backing them up. According to the WisCon Harassment Policy, Frenkel also has the right to appeal the decision. Again, I think that’s reasonable.

But throughout this process, despite what I believe to be the best of intentions in a difficult and ugly situation, WisCon has failed to protect its members.

Detcon1 Pics

Detcon1 was tremendous fun. The volunteers who spent the past two years working to make this happen have a lot to be proud of.

I hope to have some thoughts and write-up once my brain wakes up, but in the meantime, I’ve posted some of my photos from the weekend. I was lugging the camera around pretty much everywhere, and while not all of my shots turned out, I’m rather happy with some of them.

Folks who were on the other end of my lens — that sounds odd — might note that I haven’t posted a certain set of pics yet. I’m hoping to do something a little different with those.

Detcon 1 Photos on Flickr

Here are a few of my favorites:

I took a selfie at opening ceremonies. Author GoH Steven Barnes YA Author GoH Nnedi Okorafor Tobias Buckell and I were having a moment. Detroit at night, viewed from my hotel room.

Radio Interview, Newsletter, and Generally Frazzled Jim

I was interviewed about Detcon1 for Michigan Radio’s Stateside program. The interview aired yesterday. I haven’t listened to it myself, but I’m told it sounded pretty good. Mostly, I just tried to talk about how awesome I think the convention is going to be, and how much I’m looking forward to it.

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I’ve created a newsletter for announcing new books and stories, author appearances, and similar stuff. I’m planning to send it out quarterly, i.e., once every three months. If you’re interested, you can go here to sign up, or you can send an email to goblin-updates+subscribe@googlegroups.com.

This was inspired from discussion on an author group that got me thinking. I’ve got some decent outreach on the internet, but a newsletter would let me put out a sign-up sheet at signings and such, and keep in touch with fans who might not spend a lot of time online. Not to mention that people might miss an announcement on a blog or Twitter or such. Basically, it just seemed like a good thing to try.

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I am officially brain-fried. Work deadlines and trying to get everything done with a significantly reduced staff, revising the Secret Project, working with my co-Toastmaster on the Detcon1 Opening Ceremonies, heading over to the hospital so they can ultrasound my thyroid … interesting times.

(The ultrasound is almost certainly nothing serious, and I’m sure it has nothing to do with that weird monster starfish-like thing that hugged my face for a day and a half while I was up north last week…)

A Barricade in Hell, by Jaime Lee Moyer

A Barricade in Hell [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy] is the sequel to Jaime Lee Moyer‘s debut novel Delia’s Shadow. I enjoyed the first book enough to blurb it. (And that blurb appears on the cover of the second book, which is awesome!) I’m happy to say Barricade was just as enjoyable.

From the publisher:

Delia Martin has been gifted (or some would say cursed) with the ability to peer across to the other side. Since childhood, her constant companions have been ghosts. She used her powers and the help of those ghosts to defeat a twisted serial killer terrorizing her beloved San Francisco. Now it’s 1917—the threshold of a modern age—and Delia lives a peaceful life with Police Captain Gabe Ryan.

That peace shatters when a strange young girl starts haunting their lives and threatens Gabe. Delia tries to discover what this ghost wants as she becomes entangled in the mystery surrounding a charismatic evangelist who preaches pacifism and an end to war.  But as young people begin to disappear, and audiences display a loyalty and fervor not attributable to simple persuasion, that message of peace reveals a hidden dark side.

As Delia discovers the truth, she faces a choice—take a terrible risk to save her city, or chance losing everything?

Like the first book, this one invites us into a believable San Francisco of the early 20th century, with characters who are likable, strong in their own ways, flawed, and at times both larger than life (or death) and all too vulnerable and human. Delia has been learning about her gifts, working with a more experienced and tremendously entertaining medium named Dora. Delia’s more comfortable with what she can do, and one of the payoffs of the book is seeing her partnership with her husband Gabe. They work as equals, and come across as a team, though each has their own partner. Both Delia and Gabe recognize their own limits and trust one another to do what they do best…though they both love and worry about the other.

There are a number of things going on in the book–the scope of the story is bigger, and there are more characters this time around, which makes sense for a second book, but resulted in a few speed bumps and loose ends along the way. But these are minor complaints, some of which I’m hoping will get developed in future books.

Evangelist Effie Fontaine made a good villain, for the most part. Smart, confident, powerful, and nasty. My only complaint was that certain developments near the end of the book felt like they undercut her character. I don’t know how to explain it without spoilers, and it certainly worked as an ending. I just found myself wishing the book had gone in a slightly different direction there.

Overall, these are good books, richly detailed, with enjoyable characters. I raced through them both, and look forward to the next. Recommended.

Detcon1 Schedule

This weekend I’ll be joining the amazing filker and all-around fun person Tom Smith as co-Toastmasters of the North American Science Fiction Convention, aka Detcon1 here in Detroit.

I’m really excited about this one. There’s going to be a ton of great people, and from what I’ve seen, the convention staff have been doing some incredible work. I’m getting preemptively bummed because I know I won’t have time to see and hang out with everyone. Too many cool people, too little time…

This is what the weekend currently looks like:

Thursday

  • 8 pm: Opening Ceremonies, Ambassador Salon 1

Friday

  • 1 pm: Writing Humor and Comedy in SFF, Ambassador Salon 2
  • 3 pm: Fanzines and Professional Writing, Mackinac West
  • 6 pm: Gender Roles in Genre Fiction, Ambassador Salon 1
  • 8 pm: Mass Autographing Session, Ambassador Salons 1&2

Saturday

  • 11 am: Reading, Joliet A
  • 4 pm: Kaffeeklatsch with Jim C. Hines, Kaffeeklatsch 1
  • 8 pm: Extravaganza – Masquerade & Literary Awards, Ambassador Salon 2

Sunday

  • 2 pm: Closing Ceremonies, Ambassador Salon 1

For the reading on Saturday, I’m torn between reading my story for the next Chicks in Chainmail anthology, or an excerpt from Unbound. Any preferences?

Who else is going to be there?

A Few Pics from Up North

Hello, world! Still up north for a few more days, but after much patient hunting, I have captured the elusive and wild wifi. I figured I’d share a few pics. (Those of you on Facebook have already seen a couple of these.)

Starting with a shot of my son watching fireworks. This is the first time I’ve tried longer-exposure shots with fireworks. A bunch of them turned out too blurry, but I really liked this one.

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A few bird pics from wandering around camp:

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Sunset!

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The beach at Little Presque Isle:

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Random dragonfly:

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Book Giveaways and Other Stuff

SF Signal’s Libriomancer giveaway ends tomorrow, July 3, at 9 p.m. CST.

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Twelfth Planet Press is giving away 10 copies of Kaleidoscope over at Goodreads. This is a collection of “fun, edgy, meditative, and hopeful YA science fiction and fantasy with diverse leads,” and includes my story “Chupacabra’s Song,” about Nicola Pallas (from the Libriomancer books) as a teenager.

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What are your thoughts on author newsletters? For authors, do you think they’re worth it? For readers, do you subscribe to any? What do you want from an author’s newsletter, and what don’t you want?

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I’ll be heading up north tomorrow, so blogging will probably be light until I get back. Or nonexistent. There shall be family time and relaxing and fireworks and working on the Secret Project of Doom and trying to catch up on some reading, including:

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Thus endeth the random blog post of stuff.

Detcon1 and Diversity

In talking about diversity in SF/F fandom, I’ve pointed before to convention committees and staff that are mostly or exclusively white, and often male-dominated. This isn’t uncommon, and it’s part of a larger systemic problem with fandom and genre. Recognizing that your favorite con isn’t as diverse and inclusive as you thought doesn’t mean it’s a Bad Con, or that the people running it are Horrible People. What’s important, at least to me, is to recognize and work to change things for the better.

Detcon1 has gotten a lot of things right on that front. They established a Diversity Advisory Board, consisting of Muhammad A Ahmad, Anne Gray, Mark Oshiro, Kat Tanaka Okopnik, Mike VanHelder, Pablo Vazquez, and Sal Palland. They chose to honor a range of guests that acknowledges the broader scope of the genre. They established the FANtastic Detroit Fund to help provide free memberships to fans who might otherwise be unable to attend.

What follows is a video discussion between Pablo Vazquez and Anne Gray about the work Detcon1 has been doing. I’m also including a transcript of the conversation. (But the video is better, because it has music and special effects and stuff!)

Michigan is my home base, so I’m biased, but I think Detcon1 has been doing some awesome things, and I’m really looking forward to the convention.

Detcon1
North American Science Fiction Convention

Renaissance Center Marriott
Detroit, Michigan

July 17 through 20, 2014

[Welcome to Detcon1.]

PABLO: Hi. I’m Pablo Vasquez.

ANNE: And I’m Anne Gray.

PABLO: Yeah, we’re part of the Diversity Committee, and also doing work with the Afrofuturism programming at Detcon1. And we’re really excited about it.

ANNE: Yeah, we’ve – Right from the first, Detcon1 has been dedicated to having a diverse group of attendees – and, when we started inviting our guests, for example, we really wanted to have a diverse group of people so that it was, I think as you said, “representative of the modern world.”

PABLO: Yeah, of Modern Fandom.

ANNE: Yeah

PABLO: Detcon1 has definitely diversified and found absolutely quality people for their guests.

ANNE: For instance we have people of color…

PABLO: Yeah, like John Picacio and Steven Barnes.

 John Picacio, Artist Guest of Honor

Steven Barnes, Author Guest of Honor

ANNE: Yeah, including Nnedi Okorafor

Nnedi Okorafor, YA Author Special Guest

PABLO: mm-hmm.

ANNE: Which is also part of our reach out to young people, cause she’s our YA Author. Our Scientist Guest of Honor is a woman. Helen Greiner. She’s a roboticist.

Helen Greiner, Scientist Guest of Honor

ANNE: Musicians are a couple, a man and a woman. Bill and Brenda Sutton.

Bill and Brenda Sutton, Music Guests of Honor

ANNE: And you were really excited about our Fan Guests.

Bernadette Bosky, Arthur D. Hlavaty, and Kevin J. Maroney, Fan Guests of Honor

PABLO: Yeah! And I like that our fan guests, I mean, it’s the first time that I’ve seen, like, a polyamorous triad as a fan guest. And as a polyamorous person myself, I was, you know, exceedingly happy to see that. And I’m sure a lot of other people like me will as well. Lifestyles or racial diversity or gender diversity. We also reach out to typically ignored parts of fandom, like the video game fandom, by having our video game guest Jon Davis, who’s worked on, like, Titanfall and other popular video games.

Jon Davis, Video Game Special Guest

PABLO: We have outreach to those communities. We reach out to tabletop role players; we reach out to video gamers; comic book fans. So on and so forth.

ANNE: Steampunk

PABLO:  Steampunks, you know.

ANNE: Afrofuturists…

PABLO: Exactly.

ANNE: I mean one of the things – We’re in Detroit.  I mean, we are the North American Science Fiction Convention, but we’re in Detroit. So we wanted to make sure that Detroit fans, even if they’ve mostly gone to a comicon, or they’re just readers, or something. When they find out about us, they wanna come, and when they come—

PABLO: mm-hmm.

ANNE: They feel welcome. We want everybody to feel welcome and included.

PABLO: By making Detcon1 diverse, we’re introducing fans who have never, like, met each other, or knew about their specific subsects of  fandom, to be able to connect with one another, and share their love of, you know, what makes them a fan within greater fandom as a whole.

ANNE: mm-hmm.

PABLO: So, you know, I can’t wait to see that, to see all these different people actually connecting with one another, on, you know, our greater love of science fiction and fantasy; of speculative fiction.

ANNE: Yeah. Science fiction conventions are where we come together, we have great conversations, and then we take that out into the rest of our lives, and … this should be exciting.

PABLO: Yeah!

Repetitive Stress Injury

I’ve heard it said that if you’re a writer, it’s not a matter of if you’ll develop a repetitive stress injury, but when. Looks like 2014 was my year.

I’ve been getting pains in my shoulders for months now. In the beginning, it was little more than a twinge. I assumed I’d pulled something at karate, and then when it didn’t go away, I thought maybe I was sleeping on my arm wrong, or I needed a different pillow. It was annoying, but not incapacitating.

But it didn’t go away, and it gradually got worse. If I used my right hand and tried to reach around to touch the back of my left shoulder, pain jabbed through the core of those upper arm muscles. If I used the left hand and reached for the right, it was worse. So I finally headed over to the friendly neighborhood Doctor-Man, who had no problem diagnosing me:

Chris Rock

Wait, what? No, that’s not– Stupid random Dogma references sneaking into my blog post!

Anyway, the doctor diagnosed me with biceps tendonitis, which is an inflammation of the long head — get your mind out of the gutter — of the biceps tendon.

The good news is that it’s not terribly severe. He put me on anti inflammatories, told me to try icing the shoulders, and talked about the kinds of thing that can cause this injury to develop, and what to do about it. This talk can be boiled down to, “Whatever you’re doing to mess up your shoulders, stop doing it!

As far as I can tell, the problem is that the arms of my desk chair at work were a little too low. This means the tendons were strained by holding my arms up all day while I’m typing. Why was the left shoulder worse than the right? Because I mouse left-handed.

It’s been about a week, and my right shoulder is noticeably improved. The left … that’s going a little more slowly, but hopefully it will catch up.

Ah well. If all else fails and my left arm never heals, there’s always this option from He-Man…

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