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Catching Up: That WindyCon Panel

One of the posted panels at WindyCon, a Chicago convention that took place this past weekend, was called “Tutti Frutti Literature.” The panel description read, “With changing social norms and lifestyles, how is this affecting our literature?”

Annalee Flower Horne tagged the convention about this on Twitter, saying this was not okay. A number of people agreed, including WindyCon attendees and former guests of honor.

When I saw the panel write-up, my mind went to the anti-gay slur. The reference to changing lifestyles also made me think this could be a panel about how “the gay” was getting all over our books.

I knew one of the listed panelists, Chris Barkley, and tagged him to ask if he knew what was going on here.

Barkley ended up posting his thoughts on the matter at File770. He spoke with Louisa Feimster, who explained:

“We were under a lot of pressure to come up with titles for panels and we kinda finished up in the middle of the night. Really, we didn’t mean to offend anybody, we were just tired.” She also went on to explain that in her end of the BDSM world, “tutti frutti” does not have a negative connotations and she thought it would be an interesting way to title a panel on the changing forms of literature.

Fair enough. I’m glad it was a mistake, as opposed to a deliberate slam on the LGBT community.

However, Barkley also calls this a witch hunt, and gave a statement at the panel (reproduced in the column), saying, “The main point is that damage has been done to the honor and reputation of Windycon because someone was offended. To which I respond : BIG DEAL!” Basically, if I’m reading his statement correctly, people were offended over nothing, and should save their energy for real injustices.

Panelist Mari Brighe ended up walking out of the panel after Barkley’s statement there. She’s written a blog post about what happened. She says about the panel title and description:

“My general assumption with this panel is that it had been proposed by a queer and/or trans person who was couching their language to make the panel sound more widely applicable, and that the panel title was something of an attempt to reclaim some previously hurtful language.”

She also explains her reasons for leaving the panel:

“Mr Barkley’s egregious tone-policing of queer concerns made me feel quite unwelcome. As a young queer trans woman on panel of unfamiliar older men who clearly had some anger at my community and were predisposed to thinking we were overly-sensitive, I did not feel especially safe. I’ve been in similar panel situations before (including one at Windycon several years ago), and the usual result is me being shouted down by men until I’m nearly in tears. Given that I already had one clearly angry, hostile panelist harboring very negative beliefs about someone like me, I made the decision that I would recuse myself from the panel for my own safety and emotional well-being, and in protest of the kinds of over-the-top tone-policing and complete dismissal (and denigration) of the concerns of queer folks that Mr Barkley had engaged in.”

Finally, WindyCon posted an apology on their website.

“Now that the convention is over, we have had the opportunity to read through the many posts and comments on the subject. We have taken to heart the hurt and anger caused by the poor choice of wording used in the title and description of this panel. We are very sorry we offended. While this was not our intention, it was the result, and for this we sincerely apologize. We will be working to ensure this does not happen in the future. These are some specific steps we will take moving forward…”

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Speaking as someone who was not at this WindyCon, but who has attended many of them in the past (including as a Guest of Honor), I’m impressed with the convention’s apology. I believe the offense was unintentional. I appreciate that they recognize unintentional hurt is still hurt. There are no excuses, and they give concrete steps they’ll be taking in the future to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

In an age of excuses and fauxpologies, I thought this was very well done.

I’m disappointed by Barkley’s response. As he says:

“[T]here was no grand conspiracy to offend the gay community. While the choice of the term ‘tutti frutti’ may be regrettable, it was NOT done in any sense of malice, at least from my point of view.”

I believe him. But he seems to presume that because no harm was intended, no harm was done, and therefore everyone should just STFU about it. He acknowledges being angry and enraged, while telling people who were offended to save their anger and rage for bigger targets.

Of course, it’s possible to be angry about big issues like national politics and also be angry about things like a convention panel description at the same time.

Nobody was calling for WindyCon to be burnt at the stake. They were calling out a panel description which, intentional or not, came off as hurtful, insulting, and dismissive.

I’m glad it wasn’t intentional. I would have been much more pissed if this had been a deliberate thing. But we’ve got to stop thinking “I didn’t mean to hurt you” is some kind of magic eraser. “I told you I didn’t intentionally run over your goat. How dare you continue to be upset!”

While I understand the convention was this weekend and everyone was hellabusy, I wish WindyCon had posted their apology sooner. I wish Barkley hadn’t attacked people who were upset about the panel title/description.

I also feel like my tagging Barkley into the conversation on Twitter was one factor in this becoming a larger blow-up than it needed to be, and for that I apologize.

Personally, I appreciate people calling out problematic and troublesome stuff like this. And I very much appreciate WindyCon’s apology. This is how we grow and do better.

Catching Up: Harassment and George Takei

I’m still scrambling to catch up with everything after last week’s book release. Huge thanks to everyone who supported, signal-boosted, posted reviews, came to the events, and so on.

A lot has been happening, and I don’t know that I’ll be able to talk about everything I want to, but I’ll try…starting with the sexual harassment/assault accusation against George Takei.

We’ve seen a lot of these stories coming out recently. It feels like the Weinstein revelations helped to break the dam of silence, and we’re beginning to hear from victims who have been suppressed for decades.

In the case of Takei, model Scott Brunton accused Takei of groping his genitals while he was unconscious. There’s also a suggestion that Takei might have drugged him. This allegedly happened at Takei’s house in 1981.

Takei has denied the accusation, saying he has no memory of ever knowing Brunton.

However, a radio interview with Howard Stern a month earlier included the following exchange:

Stern asked Takei if he had ever grabbed a man’s genitals against his will.

Takei paused, said “uh oh” and laughed. Stern repeated the question and Takei said: “Some people are kind of skittish, or maybe, um, uh, afraid, and you’re trying to persuade.”

Stern’s co-host, Robin Quivers, asked if Takei did “this grabbing at work”. Takei said: “Oh, no, no, no, it wasn’t at work. It was either in my home. They came to my home … it didn’t involve power over the other.”

#

Like many others, I’ve admired and respected George Takei for ages. I recognize that I very much don’t want to believe Takei did this.

I also know false accusations, while they do happen, are rare. And while Takei’s interview says nothing about drugging people, he does admit to grabbing men’s genitals against their will, which he justifies as “trying to persuade.”

As I said on a friend’s FB post, I’m still processing. But I’m seeing a lot of reactions that are troubling as hell.

1. “I’ve met George Takei and he’s always been a gentleman” and “I’m friends with Takei and don’t believe he could do this.”

Harassers don’t go around wearing signs that say “I drug and grope people against their will.” They don’t greet everyone they meet with a hearty handshake to the genitals. Abusers tend to be very good at maintaining a pleasant, friendly public persona. The fact that you’ve never seen someone behave inappropriately doesn’t mean it’s never happened.

And yes, Takei has been outspoken against harassment and abuse and such. Unfortunately, there are predators even among anti-rape, anti-harassment circles.

2. “Why would Brunton wait all these years before saying anything?”

This is the same criticism being thrown at accusers against Moore, Spacey, Weinstein, and so many others. There are too many real, valid reasons to list here, but some of them include:

  • Fear of the consequences of speaking out
  • Shock and confusion over what happened
  • A desire to “get on with your life” and not relive the assault
  • Believing you’re alone
  • The power difference between you and your harasser

3. “This whole thing is turning into a witch hunt” and “It’s McCarthyism all over again!”

Why? Because there are so many accusations and revelations coming out?

We as a society have spent decades silencing victims of sexual harassment. What the hell did you expect it to look like when the dam finally began to crumble?

Victims of harassment — particularly women — have been saying for ages that this is a huge problem. Most of the stories we’re seeing involve multiple victims coming forward, and most of their accounts are corroborated by others. The Takei accusation feels like an outlier in some respects, since to the best of my knowledge, Brunton is the only one to have spoken out against him.

What pisses me off the most about this deflection is that when people try to defend Takei by calling it a witch hunt, they’re undermining everyone who’s been speaking out about their harassment. They’re suggesting all of these victims are lying, caught up in hysteria and publicity.

If you want to say you don’t believe a particular allegation, that’s one thing. If you say it’s all a witch hunt, then intentionally or not, you’re joining everyone else who’s silenced victims and helped to perpetuate this harassment and abuse for so many decades.

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Like I said, I love George Takei and his work. I don’t want the accusation to be true. But Takei’s interview is troubling as hell. And so are some of the knee-jerk defenses I’m seeing from others who simply don’t want to believe.

Terminal Alliance Publication Day!!!

Terminal Alliance Cover Art by Dan Dos SantosToday marks the official release of Terminal Alliance, book one of the Janitors of the Post-Apocalypse trilogy!

My thanks to everyone who has supported, encouraged, reviewed, and generally just been wonderful and awesome during the writing and production of this book. It’s currently available in hardcover, e-book, and audio. I believe the mass market paperback should be coming in about a year.

Care to read the first chapter? We’ve got you covered:

The reviews I’ve seen so far have been great! Here’s a sampling…

  • “Hines delivers a fantastic space opera that doesn’t skimp on the action and excitement but pairs it with a hefty dose of slightly scatological humor.” –Library Journal Starred Review
  • “[R]aises the bar for humorous postapocalyptic science fiction with charming underdogs, fascinating alien races, complex intergalactic politicsa genuine pleasure to read.” –Booklist
  • “[A]n exciting white-knuckle adventure awaits to engage sci-fi fans and genre newcomers alike. Hines breathes life into a stunning number of otherworldly beings, but his skills with the human characters really shines here.” –Romantic Times
  • Terminal Alliance works both as amusing comedy and as rousing military SF, and I recommend it to fans of either.” –Amazing Stories
  • “Hines is one of the funniest, and most fun, writers in our genre! Terminal Alliance skewers science fiction tropes and takes on a wild romp through an original universe.” –Tobias S. Buckell, New York Times bestselling author

Finally, I should have some guest posts and interviews and such going live over the next few days. I’ll add those links here as they appear.

I hope you all enjoy the story.

#SFWApro

One Day to Launch!

Terminal Alliance Cover Art by Dan Dos SantosOnly one day until the official release of Terminal Alliance! The blog and the rest of my social media will probably be a little promo-heavy this week. I’ll do my best not to be too obnoxious about it.

Things to know:

  1. Want a free copy? I’ll be sending out a newsletter tomorrow, and one random subscriber will win an autographed copy! Sign up at https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/goblin-updates/join
  2. Are you in the Grand Rapids area? I’ll be at the Grand Rapids Schuler Books tonight at seven o’clock!
  3. If you’re around Lansing, I’ve got a signing on Thursday at the Eastwood Schulers at seven o’clock.

Also, an apology. Ilona Andrews’ name is misspelled in the Author’s Note. I’m annoyed about this — it’s my own fault. I managed to spell Gromgimsidalgak right, but messed up Ilona. Bad writer!

This is a good month for new books. In addition to mine, we’re getting books from Fonda Lee, Tim Pratt, Mira Grant, Joe Zieja, Charlaine Harris, Deborah Blake, and so many more.

Jade City Cover The Wrong Stars Cover Into the Drowning Deep Cover Communication Failure Cover Sookie Stackhouse Stories Cover Dangerously Divine Cover

What else are you excited to read this month?

Cool Stuff Friday

Friday was on the radio this morning!

For folks on Dreamwidth, I still haven’t figured out how to automatically import the links. So here are the URLs:

  • https://www.space.com/38639-nasa-halloween-pumpkin-contest-2017.html
  • https://www.boredpanda.com/wild-european-hamsters/
  • https://www.buzzfeed.com/summeranne/happy-animals

Five Days Left!

Terminal Alliance comes out in five days. This means life around here is 623% more hectic than usual.

I’ve got many things I’ve wanted to blog about — the wave of sexual harassment revelations and conversations, the state of politics in general, not to mention…well, the new book! But most of my energy right now is going into guest posts and interviews and other promotional stuff, along with trying to finish up the first draft of the sequel. (Only a few scenes left!)

I’ve also got events next week in Grand Rapids (Monday) and Lansing (Thursday). Hopefully some of you will be able to make it out to Schulers to celebrate and hang out a bit!

Basically, I’m still here, still alive, and trying not to lose my mind with pre-book chaos…

How’s your week going?

Book Q&A

13 days left until Terminal Alliance comes out!

I’m a little overwhelmed between prepping some promotional stuff and trying to wrap up the first draft of the sequel. So I figured I’d try something new.

Ask me any yes/no question about the new book or series. I’ll answer as honestly as I can without spoilers.

Have fun!

 

The Nice Guy Myth

There’s no such thing as a Nice Guy.

Not because all guys are monstrous, evil, puppy-kicking scum, but because we’re all human. We have moments of kindness and generosity, and we also have asshole moments. The ratio varies from one person to the next, but the mixture’s there in all of us.

What a bunch of a-holes

I bring this up because it’s relevant to the ongoing conversation about sexual harassment in Hollywood, in SF/F, and pretty much everywhere. More than a million people spoke up this week with the #MeToo hashtag, talking about their own experiences being harassed. According to a 2011 United Nations report:

  • Between 40 and 50 percent of women in European Union countries experience unwanted sexual advancements, physical contact or other forms of sexual harassment at their workplace.
  • In the United States, 83 percent of girls aged 12 to 16 experience some for of sexual harassment in public schools.

It would be a lot easier if the harassers were all mustache-twirling villains, heartless evildoers with zero redeeming qualities.

You know. Bad Guys.

Skeletor

The trouble is, most harassers and rapists and abusers are just…people. They’re friends and family members and coworkers and colleagues. A lot of the time, they’re perfectly pleasant. Maybe they have a great sense of humor. Maybe they always shovel their neighbor’s driveway after it snows. Maybe they donate money to animal rescue every month.

This is the first part of the Nice Guy problem. Because when someone speaks out and names their harasser, we look at them and think, How can he be a harasser? He’s such a nice guy. Nice guys don’t harass people. Ergo, this so-called victim must be lying or exaggerating or overreacting or misunderstanding or whatever. Because logic!

I remember the first time I sat in, learning how to facilitate a domestic violence intervention group. The man to my right had been sentenced to participate after a conviction for abusing his wife. He was friendly and charismatic. It would have been easy to like him. There was almost nothing to distinguish him from anyone else.*

Nice Guys can harass others. Nice Guys can be stalkers. Nice Guys can be rapists and abusers. Our belief in that false Nice Guy/Bad Guy dichotomy helps those abusers. It provides another shield against accusations, a first line of defense against any consequences for their actions.

Some of these guys know exactly how to play up that defense, using it to protect themselves and punish any accusers. Some abusers deliberately craft a Nice Guy persona in order to better harass their victims.

And we let them. We see someone crossing the line, but we rationalize it in our heads because we know they’re a Nice Guy. We hear the stories, but refuse to accept them. We allow the behavior to continue.

Just like the Myth of the Nice Guy makes us likely to excuse other people’s problematic behavior, it also gets in the way of us recognizing and being accountable for our own.

I believe harassers and abusers can learn to change their behavior. (Though many choose not to.) Better yet would be for them to have recognized the harm they were causing and learned to do better before it reached the point of chronic harassment or assault or abuse.

It’s hard to step back and realize you’ve done something abusive. It’s harder if you’ve built yourself up in your head as a Nice Guy. It’s called cognitive dissonance. Someone points out that you’ve been being creepy and inappropriate. That contradicts your self-image as a Nice Guy. So your mind searches for a way to safely resolve the contradiction: She’s wrong. She’s lying. She’s misremembering.

Even if you bring yourself to acknowledge you did something wrong, you recount the story in a way that preserves you as the Nice Guy. You minimize your actions. You obfuscate the details. You mention reasons the accuser might not be giving a fully truthful or reliable account. And you stress what a nice person you are, how you’d never intentionally hurt anyone, how the guilt is tearing you apart, and so on.

What you don’t do — what we don’t do — is own our shit. We don’t dig deep to look at where our own behaviors come from.

We grew up in a society that treats women as lesser. That teaches men to be “strong” and to take what we want. We learn about the “friend zone” and the idea that women owe us sex and companionship. We hear our peers boasting about groping a girl between classes. We see them passing around nude pics of their girlfriends, because girls are things to be shared and used.

You can’t grow up like that without some of it rubbing off.** It takes active, conscious work to change those attitudes, and to do better. And you can’t do better if you’re so fixated on being a Nice Guy that you won’t even acknowledge your shit.

And now, a few disclaimers…

  • I’ve referred to men as harassers and women as victims in this post, because that’s the most common dynamic. But it’s absolutely not the only dynamic. People of all genders can be victims, and people of all genders can be harassers.
  • “But what if she’s lying?” Why is that the first response from so many people — almost always guys? Yeah, false accusations are a thing. A rare thing. You know what’s a hell of a lot more common? Sexual harassment. Sexual assault.
  • I believe there are good people out there. I believe there are assholes out there. But nobody is 100% lawful good or chaotic evil.

We need to stop letting predators off the hook because they’re Nice Guys. We need to stop excusing ourselves, too. The goal isn’t to be a mythical Nice Guy. The goal is to be accountable for our behavior, and to strive to do better.

Ms. Marvel: Good is a thing you do.


*I say “almost” because I did pick up an undertone of attempted manipulation from him a few times. It was subtle, but it was there. That said, I don’t know if I would have caught it if I hadn’t been looking for it.

**Yes, I’m including myself here. I’ve spent decades trying to uproot the messed-up assumptions I grew up with. I’m still working on it. I suspect I always will be.

Jim C. Hines