I’m back in Scotland after my five weeks in California. I have mostly gotten over my jetlag, and have plenty of work to keep me busy. I’ve been taking a brief social media break the last few days, which has been nice. I made it so I could only use Twitter/Tumblr/Facebook for 5 minutes (combined) before it blocked on my laptop. I deleted the shortcuts and turned off all notifications on my phone. So the only way to really lurk, which I did do a few times, was to physically go into my list of apps and click on them. Just that extra barrier meant my procrastination-via-social-media went way down. I have done more work the past few days, but I also found myself procrastinating in more productive ways–cooking, cleaning, practising French via Duolingo. I’ll probably start going back on more often soon because when I work from home it is my chatting-around-the-water-cooler, but I’ll keep the notifications off my phone and increase total allowance on my laptop to say, 30 minutes.
It is also…con and festival season! I’m not doing all that much con-wise this year, but I’m going to Nine Worlds next month, which is one of my favourite cons. Here is my schedule:
Emma Trevayne, Tom Pollock, Lauren E James, Laura Lam, Sarah Benwell, James Dawson, Marieke Nijkamp
More and more non-traditional characters enter the YA stage. Characters who defy gender norms and gender binaries. Characters who fall somewhere along the LGBTQIA* spectrum. Characters who kick ass and take names. How does YA explore these new stories, who are the characters we should be paying attention to, and what is there still to come?
Childhood Influences – I Want to be a Wild Thing When I Grow Up
Room 38, 5:00pm – 6:15pm (All of the Books)
Taran Matharu, Ed Cox, Frances Harding, Kim Curran, Laura Lam (Moderator)
From the fantasy worlds of Blyton’s Magic Faraway Tree to whizz-poppers and marvellous medicines of Roald Dahl, how important are childrens stories on us as adults and do they shape what authors write when they grow up?
Saturday (August 8):
From MPDG to SFC: the Girls of YA
Royal B, 8:30pm – 9:45pm (Geek Feminism, Young Adult)
Liz de Jager, Laura Lam, Tom Pollock, Amy Alward
Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Strong Female Characters. Girls in YA literature are often labeled and boxed in. But who are the girl characters behind and beyond the tropes? And what are the characteristics of the modern YA heroine?
Also, as part of the Aberdeen International Youth Festival, I’m doing a creative writing workshop for youth at the Lemon Tree on July 26th at 1.30-2.30 pm. Tickets are FREE, you just need to book! I think you have to be under 25, but it might also be flexible. There’s lots of other great events on at the festival, and I hope to go to some other events with my friend Erica, who will be out visiting from CA.
Here’s the link to the roundup of my last Fantasycon, and my first con in the UK. It was my third post on this blog. Re-reading that made me smile. It’s where I met Adam Christopher, who is still a good friend, and many of the people I met at that first con I know much better now.
It’s also crazy to think how much things can change. Three years ago my first novel was under consideration with Angry Robot. I went to the masterclass and wondered if I’d ever find an agent. Now I’ve two books out and more to come and I’m going part-time at my job. I have the best agent and ten of her other authors were at the con, too. The Mushens Cabal. If you’d told me that all that was to come in 2011 I’d have had to sit down.
Nostalgia out of the way, I did enjoy Fantasycon 2014. I was still worn out from the Loncon cons. Usually there’s all the excitement of seeing people you’ve not seen in months, but this time it was like “oh, hello! I saw you three weeks ago.” I took it a lot easier this con. I arrived at 3 pm on the Friday, taking the train down from Aberdeen. I checked in and hung about briefly, then Craig and I snuck off into town because it was our five year anniversary.
After dinner I headed back to the hotel and went to the karaoke. I made a very poor song choice in California Dreaming and messed it up. Juliet impressed everyone with as the killed “9 to 5” and then “Fat Lip” and lastly did a moving debut with Andrew Reid. Around 11, I called it a night.
The next morning I had all my programming back to back, which was actually nice as it means I sort of stayed in “professional author” mode. I had a signing, where I mainly hung out with the other authors, then my two panels. The dystopia panel was great, with everyone having great points to contribute and Guy Adams moderating very well. The main point I took away from it was that teen dystopia is often an escape because it’s teens potentially taking back control of the poor decisions their parents made. Right after that I had to dash to my next panel, about the lack of parents in YA. Mainly, it’s because parents can be inconvenient to stories. They cant very well nag about homework when the world is at stake.
After my panels, I snuck away for a few hours to see more of York. It’s such a beautiful town.
Afterward I saw Tea and Jeopardy live with Emma Newman and Peter Newman. I have never laughed so hard as when I heard a room of grown men and women clucking the Doctor Who theme as chickens. And to those who weren’t there: I shall not put that in context.
Later on was the Super Relaxed Fantasy Club, which normally is held in London, and is co-run by Den Patrick and Jen Williams (moar Team Mushens authors. We’re in ur genre, writing ur bookz etc). Simon Spanton of Gollancz was interviewed by James Barclay, and it was an excellent look into life as an editor in SFF. Then I had to read! Luckily, the opening of False Hearts seemed to go down well.
After me, it was readings from Edward Cox, Emma Newman, and Niel Bushnell. After that it was the disco, where I chatted with people and then boogied a little.
Sunday was another somewhat relaxed day. After breakfast I went back into York for a bit to do some work in a coffeeshop. The Cafe W in the Waterstones is adorable! Then in the afternoon was the British Fantasy Awards. I was up for Best Newcomer, and unsurprisingly lost to Ann Leckie, which I was fully expecting 🙂 I still got to go up on stage and accept the award for Lauren Beukes and The Shining Girls for Best Horror Novel, so that was fun.
And then it was pretty much time to head back. Thanks to everyone I chatted with. I’m not going to list everyone by name because it’s late and I’ll forget someone and then feel rubbish. It was a nice, sun-filled weekend.
And so my cons for this year are finished. Thank you to Creative Scotland for the Professional Development Bursary, which will have made it much, much easier to go to these events.
The last of the conventions! Until Fantasycon in a few weeks…
By the start of the convention, I was already pretty tired. I didn’t end up packing my schedule quite as full as I did for NineWorlds, because otherwise I’d collapse. But even so, I still managed to see and do a fair amount.
On Thursday I had a panel at 11, which was “Reimagining Families” with Cherry Potts, Jed Hartman, David D Levine & Rosanne Rabinowitz. I didn’t anticipate the Queue of Doom, but I was able to use the panel to jump it, which I felt vaguely guilty about. As it was so early on the first day, I wasn’t sure how many people would arrive, but the room was packed. In the panel, we discussed polyamory in SFF, the prevalence of chosen families, and other books that look at non-normative families. While more and more in our world, people live in different types of families, there’s still that expectation of the default nuclear family. It was a great discussion.
I saw a bit of the opening ceremony with my friend (Hugo nominee!) Foz Meadows, and wandered about some more. At 1.30, I went to the panel on “The Changing Face of the Urban Fantastic,” with Paul Cornell, Robin Hobb, Freda Warrington, Liz Bourke & Sophia McDougall. During the panel there was a brief but furious storm, with rain lashing against the windows and thunder echoing the panellist’s words.
Afterwards, there was a lot of greeting old friends and getting lost in the airport hangar of the Excel Centre. I bought a corset in the dealer’s room and proceeded to wear it over my normal outfit, and it looked quite cool, if I do say so myself. In the evening I went to the YA Set in London panel, moderated by Tom Pollock and featuring Edward James, Ian McDonald, Gillian Polack, and Liesel Schwarz, which was interesting though it featured more on London and why it’s such a strong location in fiction versus YA especially. I stayed around for a bit more before making the trek back to Kim’s house, where I was still staying. I was really starting to crash at this point, and felt grumpy most of the evening. A half-decent night’s sleep helped me ready myself to do it all over again…
Friday I also had to trek back fairly early to get to the Excel Centre for my 11 am signing slot. It was really nice to see the Hobblings, who are a group of people who post on the Robin Hobb yuku board. I used to post on there a lot a few years ago, though I don’t as much anymore. I still interact with a lot of them on Twitter/Facebook etc. I was touched that they came to keep me company, for I didn’t have a large queue of signers by any stretch. I also had one fan come and I signed her Kindle case! Louise Buckley of Tor also came to hang out so I wasn’t sitting there alone, which I really appreciated.
Again, not too many panels, though I was able to not only go to listen to Kim Curran read from her awesome book, GLAZE, she was kind enough to let me jump on and read a bit of FALSE HEARTS. I did have a reading on the Monday, but it was too close to my flight so I wouldn’t be able to make it. Afterwards we stayed in the room to listen to Lauren Beukes read from BROKEN MONSTERS before she had to head to the airport and fly back to South Africa.
I hung about in the fan village for a little while, and then Marieke Nijkamp, Sarah Benwell and I snuck into the “Trouble with Teens” panel a little late. This panel featured Julia Rios, Suzanne van Rooyen, Amy McCulloch, Eric Senabre & Janet Edwards, examining the obstacles with writing a teen-centric story. One thing I really appreciated was that they made sure to ask the actual teens in the audience what they thought.
I think at that point I went back to the hotel room and hung out for a bit, and then went to the party at the Fox bar, thrown by Tor UK, Jo Fletcher, SFX, and, in the upstairs bit, Titan books. Total squee moment: I got to see a bit of FALSE HEARTS in print in the Tor samplers!
There was face painting! And a magician! Tom Pollock didn’t end up getting his face painted, so I accommodated him by drawing the London skyline across his brow. At one point, I tried to be sensible and go to bed and a half-decent time, but before I knew it, I was at the ceilidh. And so I stumbled to bed quite late once again.
Saturday morning, I went to Amy McCulloch’s kaffeeklatsch, and then afterwards wandered around the dealer’s room for a bit. I spied Robin Hobb and said hi, and managed not to go pink and stammer like the first time I met her. There was an exhibition of Darwin’s pigeons for one of Robin’s earlier works as Megan Lindholm, so we got to pet a pretty curly-haired pigeon.
At 1, I had my own kaffeeklatsch, and was pleasantly surprised when seven people ended up turning up! I’m still not exactly sure what you’re meant to do for a kaffeeklatsch (which didn’t have coffee). I ended up doing a short reading of FALSE HEARTS and then rambling on about different things for a while. Afterwards I think I hung around for a little while and then went back to the hotel room. I read while my roomie Kim napped, then nodded off myself when she headed out. A few hours later, I staggered out of the hotel room to the Gollancz evening party, and stayed up chatting until 2.30 am.
Sunday was the last day of the con for me. I was feeling worn pretty thin by this point. I queued for the Robin Hobb interview with some fellow Hobblings, which was lovely. Jane Johnson did a great job asking the right questions, and since they’ve worked together for 27 years on many different books, it’s clear they’re comfortable and have such a mutual respect for each other.
In the evening, I was able to go to the Hugo pre-party as Foz Meadow’s +1, and felt super cool. But I had to duck out pretty soon because at 7 I had my last panel, which was “There are no New Stories, But…” with John Hornor Jacobs, Pierre Pevel, Jon Wallace & Kari Sperring. This was a bilingual panel! Our moderator Kerri translated for Pierre, who spoke in French. I was quite proud of how much of the French I could follow. We discussed tropes and how often if you reach for them time and time again, it can be a product of laziness and result in poor storytelling. Yet, at the same time, we all recognized that certain tropes speak to us and there’s a reason they’re so perennial.
Afterwards, I chatted with another Hobbling Skywolf and awesome Hermitknut cosplaying as the Fool!
I stayed for most of the Hugo ceremony, and near the end realized that I was about four feet from David Tennant! That was cool, but by then, I had no more fuel in the tank. I went back to Kim’s and the next day flew home.
I’ve come down with a bad case of “con crud,” and the head cold is only just now going away. Must now get back into the swing of writing! 🙂
Last weekend was the 2nd annual Nine Worlds Geekfest at Heathrow in London. Last year I heard nothing but amazing things, so I was glad I was able to go this year with my friend Erica, who was visiting from California.
I arrived Friday morning, with just barely enough time to check into the hotel before my first event. Note to self: don’t do that again. It was a bit stressful as I didn’t get a chance to unwind so I was more nervous. My workshop was writing LGBTQ+ Characters in SFF. I think at least 50 people showed up in the end, which was fantastic. I had people do a brief character sketch at the beginning of the workshop and then went on to discuss the importance of well-rounded characters, what are common stereotypes and how to avoid them, the difficulty of queerbaiting in fandom, and a few other subjects. I tried to have a lot of interaction with the audience so it wasn’t just me yammering on the entire time, plus some people in the audience were able to answer certain questions far better than I could. At the end of the workshop, I had people share some of their character sketches if they wanted, and the ones shared were of many sexualities or gender identities.
Later on I attended to “Looking Forwards” panel with Lauren Beukes, Nick Harkaway, Sarah Lotz, and Fabio Fernandes. It was an excellent panel, discussing what the future holds and what that means for the fiction we read. Superheroes came up, and Lauren mentioned how there was a group of vigilantes in South Africa who would serve justice without concrete proof if they believed the person deserved it, which of course raises a lot of questions of what is justice. Nick Fabio mentioned his native Brazil, and Sarah mentioned being a recent victim of violence and how a surveillance state in certain respects doesn’t scare her–had she been watched by CCTV, perhaps that violence could have been avoided, for instance. Harkaway also mentioned that he’d rather everyone in the world was 1% nicer and more empathetic rather than having a superhero, as that could make a much bigger difference to the world.
Afterwards I had dinner with Team Mushens (authors represented by Juliet Mushens), as there were many of our posse in attendance. The con menu at the hotel restaurant was not the best, and we had the angriest waiter ever. Peter Newman was a brave man, asking for the tap water we ordered three times until we finally received it after about 45 minutes.
Next, I had a reading on the first night of New Voices. Stephanie Saulter had a brilliant idea last year to get a large group of new writers together to do lots of short readings, as it’s difficult as a new writer to 1. fill a room when you’re an unknown 2. read for half an hour or so when you’re still new to this whole reading-in-public thing. So there were a bunch of writers reading for 5 or so minutes. I was planning on reading good old Pantomime, but Juliet told me I should read from my new book, and I listen to her, so I did. It was the first-ever reading of False Hearts and it seemed to go down well. I really enjoyed the other readings as well, especially the Seventh Miss Hatfield by Anna Caltabiano, which was just released last Thursday.
Saturday, Erica and I meant to get an early start for some 10am panels…but that didn’t happen. Kim Curran and I went to the Brain Hacking tech demo through the Future Tech track, though, which was brilliant. Two PHd students were discussing the ways we currently map brains and how electrical stimulation can affect learning new tasks. I’ve studied this topic a fair amount for False Hearts so it was relevant to my interests. They also showed how you could make your own brain stimulator, but as soon as they put up the electrical diagrams, I knew it was far beyond my non-engineer capabilities. Maybe I can get someone from my work to help me make one…? 😉
After a brief break for food, it was back to see “Where are the Women in the Creative Industries?” with Kim Curran, Juliet Mushens, Laurie Penny, Shalegh Rowan-Leg, and Dr Will Brooker. The panel looked at women within journalism, film, advertising, and publishing, discussing how strides are being made but there’s still a long way to go for total balance.
The next panel I attended was “Westerns: They’re Your Huckleberry,” which had Jared Shurin moderating Will Hill, Stark Holburn, John Horner Jacobs, and Joanne Harris (of Chocolat fame). There was a lot of discussion about how at the moment Westerns have been amalgamated with many other genres, but perhaps there will be a resurgence of straight Westerns again soon.
That evening there was the second New Voices panel, which had plenty of Team Mushens again in attendance. After yet more Cards Against Humanity, Saturday came to a close.
Sunday the first panel we went to see was the African Speculative Fiction Panel. It was interesting, but the entire panel was white. It wasn’t meant to be–one of the panelists was in a car accident on the way in and he was okay, but it meant at the last minute a few more panelists came on. It still meant that there were no black African voices heard on the panel, which I found problematic.
I was meant to have a signing at 1 pm, but I got the times messed up and thought it was 2. So unfortunately I missed my own signing, but at least a few people found me later on and got me to scribble on their books. 🙂
Next, I went to see the Epic Fantasy panel with Scott Lynch, Gaie Sebold, Rebecca Levene, Elizabeth Bear, and moderated by Den Patrick. I particularly enjoyed their discussion of using and subverting tropes to reflect the world we live in today.
At 5 pm, I had my last event, which was participating on the panel for Female Protagonists in Young Adult Literature with Juliet Mushens, Anna Caltabiano, Tom Pollock, and moderated by Rowan Williams-Fletcher. We discussed what do people really mean by “strong” female characters, does strength necessarily have to be physical, or does it mean women taking on more traditionally male characteristics, for instance. It was a great discussion.
By that time, I was definitely flagging, but I had a nice, lower-key evening. I had dinner with my agent, Juliet, and we toasted my recent deal, and then we played Cards Against Humanity until it was time to sleep and finish the first con.
As so many people have said, Nine Worlds is a particularly special con. It stands out from the rest – it’s overall a younger crowd, it mixes ALL sorts of geekery tracks, cosplay is encouraged. I loved that I could go see things on the future track or crafting panels as well as books and literature. The con itself is very respectful of everyone and it’s a safe space – there were gender neutral bathrooms, quiet rooms if you needed a place to unwind for a bit, and a firm harassment policy was in place. It was my first year going but I think I’m going to make it a priority con for me.
This past weekend I went to a con that, for once, didn’t involve a plane ride! It was just down the road in Glasgow and only required a short train journey. This was only my second convention since my books came out (I didn’t go to many last year), and the first one where I was on the programming.
It was a good con, with plenty of old friends and a few new ones.
On Friday I took an early train in and hung around, saying hello. The only programming bit I went to was the ceilidh workshop. I ate my first burrito in…a long time, as there’s not much Mexican food in Aberdeen. After seeing my friends I was staying with, I went back to the hotel for the ceilidh! There was much dancing with my dashing date for the evening, Andrew Reid.
If you’re not familiar with a ceilidh, it’s basically Scottish square dancing. I first discovered it at my friend Rhona’s wedding last month and really enjoyed it. It’s a lot of skipping and twirling, basically, and it’s completely fine if you don’t really know what you’re doing, as long as you laugh about it. Me and Andrew danced nearly every dance. It was a blast.
The next day, with slightly sore legs from all the skipping, I had a leisurely meal with my friend Grant before heading back to the con. I had my first-ever panel at three, which was on future representation with Stephanie Saulter, Ian Whates, Donna Bond, and moderated by Fran Dowd. I had worried that I wouldn’t have much to say, despite writing 5 pages of notes beforehand, but as we got going it turns out I had LOTS to say. We touched on race, the conservatism of SF and yet how it can be progressive, atyptical anatomies, LGBT content, disability, fan fiction, how Hollywood can often de-diversify SF books, and much more. It was a really good panel and every single seat was filled, so that was excellent.
Afterwards, Juliet and Den taught a swing dance, and that night there was a bit of dancing, but not near as much as the previous night, which was probably for the best for my feet. Saturday night also was a Cards Against Humanity outing, thanks to Tracy, a fellow ex-pat American. Quite a few of my friends had never played before, but as they’re all depraved it went over quite well. 😉
The Hugo nominations were announced, and I’m happy that my friends Wes Chu and Foz Meadows are on them (for the Campbell and Best Fan Writer, respectively), and Lee Harris of AR got a Best Editor nod, too, as well as many other good works and writers. Basically, huge congratulations to everyone except for the man whose name rhymes with Fox Ray, because he’s a racist rape apologist and the fact he’s on the ballot makes me sad (herearesomeposts if you’renot familiarwith the background). There’s also some controversy over Wheel of Time being considered, since it’s such a longspanning series.
Sunday the late nights, bad food, and dehydration of the Hottest Hotel Ever began to take their toll and I was pretty exhausted. It was more hanging about the con, and one of the highlights of the day was making sock puppets with Sophie Calder and Lisa. It was like being back in Kindergarden. I was really proud of my sock puppet, which I named Let Them Sock Cake.
In the evening, I went to the panel called Good Practice in Editing and Reviewing, which had Gollancz editor Marcus Gipps, freelance editor and writer Ruth Booth, another author/reviewer Jack Deighton, and my agent, Juliet Mushens of The Agency Group. It was a good panel looking at different viewpoints, and Gollancz editor Gillian Readfearn was an excellent moderator.
That evening we went out to the Bier Halle, which is a must-visit if you like beer and pizza and find yourself in Glasgow. So tasty! Monday was a brief visit and then a trip back to Aberdeen. Unfortunately, in the evening I started feeling pretty poorly and still feel very under the weather today.
The obligatory shout outs: I ended up mainly hanging out with: my agent, Juliet Mushens, Den Patrick, Andrew Reid, Rob Haines, Jenny Haines, Lisa, Emma Maree Urquhart, Tracy Berg, Marcus Gipps, Gillian Redfearn, and Sophie Calder. It was also nice to see some other familiar faces from twitter, such as Ann Smyth, Lor Graham, Ellie Hutchinson, Gianni Ceccarelli, Cam Johnston and more. I always feel nervous doing these shout outs because I know I’ll inevitably forget someone and feel like an idiot. Also, I’m too lazy to link all the names to their Twitter feeds, sorry.
The other cons I’ll be going to this year are: Nine Worlds, Loncon, and Fantasycon. Can’t wait!
In a few weeks, I’ll be in Glasgow for the Satellite4, the 65th Eastercon at the Crowne Plaza Hotel. I’ll also be participating in my first-ever panel. This is my only official part of the programming. Aside from that I’ll be bouncing around between other panels and in the bar. If you recognise me, please do feel free to say hello.
Sat 19 April 15.00-16.00
PANEL: Future Representation
The panel explores SF literature in the context of what stories actually are, or are not, being told. Who gets to be in the future; what happens to everyone else; and who gets to decide?
Fran Dowd (moderator), Laura Lam, Stephanie Saulter, Donna Scott, Ian Whates
So I’m back from World Fantasy Con in Brighton. I’m exhausted and distinctly under the weather, though I’m feeling a bit better now. It was my first and only convention of the year, I believe, and overall I had a wonderful, amazing time, though I do have one complaint, which I’ll get to after the excited squeeing.
This was my first con since Pantomime came out. It was so cool/bizarre/amazing to have a few people come up to me and say how much they enjoyed Pantomime, both some people I knew and even a few strangers! Thank you so much to everyone who took the time to tell me that. I even met Ellie (@patchworkbunny) who had just started Shadowplay. Thank you to Mieneke (@Pallekenl) for bringing me stroopwaffels 😀
The main highlight for me was being able to meet two of my favourite authors, and find out they’re both really nice people. I met Robin Hobb for the first time, and she gave me a big hug (I managed not to cry, but I came close). She’s been my favourite author since I was 15 and is a big influence, plus I also met my husband through her books. I even brought my husband’s battered childhood copy of Assassin’s Apprentice down to show her (much to his acute embarrassment). I also met Scott Lynch, another of my favourite authors, and got a hug from him too, as well as meeting the amazing Elizabeth Bear, whose books I must go hunt down now. In the photo below, Scott Lynch is wearing my glasses and making a sad face.
It’s strange, meeting authors whose work you admire for the first time. You don’t know them, not really, but you’ve spent so much time in their imaginations. It’s a funny little disconnect.
I wasn’t on any panels, but I managed to sneak on and do a ninja reading with Amy McCulloch, which was fun. Amy’s reading was fantastic, so I felt a bit nervous following on after her. I loved the giant Alice in Wonderland thrones they had in the readings. It was funny going back and reading from Pantomime, since I hadn’t read the start of chapter two in a while. I had to resist the urge to go back and edit ;-).
I went to a few of the programming events: the conversation with Terry Pratchett, which was sweet and a little melancholy. The “how far is too far” in YA panel, and the “are all the best books in genre now YA?” The first I found amusing as many of the authors were basically like “we have to discuss this so many times. When will we give the magical answer so that they stop making this panel at every convention?” Which, you know, is a fair point. I particularly enjoyed Francis Hardinge’s responses, and remember her saying something along lines of: “Books are comforting. Books are kind. Books are there when no one else is,” which stuck with me (though not enough for me to quote it verbatim with any certainty). The other YA panel was a veritable panel of YA royalty with Susan Cooper, Garth Nix, Neil Gaiman, Will Hill, and Holly Black. It was a good panel, though it seemed to sidetrack more into “what is YA?” rather than exploring what about YA makes them some of the most exciting works in genre, such as the blending of subgenres, et cetera.
On Saturday evening, I went out for dinner with my agent and the 11 or so of her authors that were in attendance! It was really great to meet some of them I only knew online and joke around with several more. There were a LOT of in-jokes spawned. To the left is a photo of Andrew Reid, Stephen Aryan, Tad Williams in the background, and a langoustine. That about sums up the tone of the night.
Mostly, what I came away from this con with was that so many people in genre are kind and welcoming, and it’s nice to geek out and see old faces and meet new ones. It’s fun to blend the lines between author, professional, and fan.
There was a bit of a dark spot on the con, unfortunately, and I did want to discuss it, as the con wasn’t as smooth for others as it was for me. There were complaints before the con about the lack of panel parity and the almost belligerent tone of official correspondence. Additionally, several people mentioned that there was no harassment policy, and this was an answer to the harassment policy FAQ:
“World Fantasy Convention 2013, as with any other predominantly adult gathering, will have a number of rules and regulations for the safety of attendees. These will be clearly stated in our Programme Guide, which will be given to each attendee when they register. In the meantime, we refer you to the UK’s Protection from Harassment Act 1997” (Source).
However, it was later changed to: “World Fantasy Convention 2013 will not tolerate any form of verbal or racial abuse, sexual harassment, aggression, violence or lewd behaviour towards any attendees or members of staff. If reported to our professional Security and Stewards or to a staff member—and substantiated by the event organisers—then any person deemed to have committed such an act will be immediately ejected from the convention without refund and may even be reported to the police under the UK’s Protection from Harassment Act (1997)” (Source).
Even though that’s much better, that’s not a specific, separate harassment policy, which many other conventions have. For example, here’s one for Nine Worlds, which covers what harassment is, what someone should do, also includes an anti-racism statement, and clearly states what will happen if they violate these conditions.
Two of my friends were harassed by a drunk man on Saturday night, making them feel incredibly uncomfortable. They compared notes and realized they should report it, and I helped them find someone to speak to. The organisers responded very well and quickly by taking down the information, but then the person in question was not, as far as they know, removed (though that FAQ answer up above says they would be), nor have they as of now been contacted for a follow up. There was one tweet that they were investigating a sexual harassment claim; however, they weren’t even sure if it was related to their experience, as there was evidently an author who was harassing women as well (though I’m not sure if anyone officially reported about the other person). I’m not mentioning names as I was not directly involved. I do know that these two names have been noted down for Bristolcon, and that they won’t be allowed to attend.
While obviously sexual harassment is protected by law, it would be nice if all cons, no matter how big or small, how professional of fan-oriented, put a harassment policy in place. Sometimes, people are lecherous and deeply unpleasant, but that doesn’t mean that the men or women harassed want to go through legal means and get them arrested. But if there is a policy in place, people who have been made to feel uncomfortable can know who they should contact (my friends couldn’t find any redcoats, as it was pretty late), and it would also make it clear what would happen should someone harass someone else. Ideally, this policy would never have to be enforced, but sadly, harassment is still all-too-common in conventions. By putting a harassment policy on the convention’s website, it’s at the very least a gesture that says to all attendees that the con itself cares about the safety and comfort of their attendees.
EDITED TO ADD: I’ve been informed that the incident was passed to the chairs of the convention at 8 am on Sunday and that the person who reported the incident has been followed up with today 🙂 I also want to clarify that I’m not attacking WFC, but mainly wished to stress the importance of clear anti-harassment policies for future conventions.
So, aside from that unpleasantness, it was a good con and I enjoyed myself. I’d do a huge name drop of all the wonderful people I saw again and met for the first time, but then we’d be here all day and I’d invariably forget someone. Often I come back after a con drained, but this time as Kim Curran and I took the train back from Brighton, we smiled happily, still buzzing from who we met and what we learned. Until the next con!