Among the things I learned today: French Canadians are literally unable to stop grabbing people inappropriately, and “Aspies” are all rapists but it’s OK because they don’t know any better. Thanks, Internet! I look forward to tomorrow’s lesson!
My friend Kelli Owen is a talented author and proprietor of one of the more interesting writer’s blogs around. She recently started a “Writing 101” series featuring guest authors and focusing on important lessons we wish people had told us when we were just starting out. Previous installments were written by Jack Ketchum and Lee Thomas. Now it’s my turn:
Click the text above to read the whole essay. I think folks will like it, but mostly, I hope it helps them (or you, if you’re just starting out in the business) learn a valuable lesson early on, so that no one has to make the same mistakes I did.
First, thanks to everyone who took the poll over at my LiveJournal! The overwhelming majority of you agreed that I should attend World Fantasy 2012 in Toronto — mainly because it would be my one and only opportunity to sleep on Simon Strantzas‘ couch.
But whatever! It’s official! I am attending World Fantasy 2012! I can’t wait to see everyone there!
Here is a copy of the email I sent the Readercon board tonight:
from: Nicholas Kaufmann firstname.lastname@example.org
date: Fri, Jul 27, 2012 at 8:13 PM
subject: Re: Rene Walling
Dear Readercon Board,
I am deeply disappointed in the way the situation regarding Rene Walling’s repeated harassment of Genevieve Valentine at this year’s Readercon has been handled. Aside from violating your own zero-tolerance policy toward harassment, a policy I heretofore applauded Readercon for implementing, and which I now see is not zero-tolerance at all, I find the Board’s decision to ban Mr. Walling for only two years, instead of permanently as proscribed in the policy, incredibly short-sighted.
I presume you believe that Mr. Walling will spend those two years at a finishing school, where he will learn to act courteously and respectfully toward others, and return to Readercon in 2015 a new man who has learned his lesson. Instead, the only lesson you have taught Mr. Walling is that he can do as he pleases and skate by with little more than a slap on the wrists. By contrast, the lesson you have taught the rest of us is that you do not take your attending membership’s safety and comfort seriously.
My wife and I have enjoyed coming to Readercon for the past two years, but we no longer feel the need to attend a convention where our safety and comfort are not taken seriously. We are not alone in feeling this way, either. I’m sure you’ve already noticed all the outraged and astonished comments from Readercon attendees on Twitter, Facebook, Livejournal, Google+, and elsewhere. But I can only speak for us when I say that we will not be returning to Readercon until this situation is rectified and you stand by your stated policy and ban Mr. Walling permanently. Because otherwise, next time, emboldened by the favored status you have granted him, Mr. Walling will have no reason to comport himself properly, and this will all happen again. At Readercon. Under your watch. Just as it did this time. So I suppose the question is, do you want to handle this properly now, or do you want to have to deal with it all over again, in a much more compounded manner, later? Because it takes a lot to make people who act this way stop acting this way, and a slap on the wrist won’t do it.
Genevieve Valentine is a talented author and well-liked personality who is a valuable asset to Readercon. You may have lost her already because of this. How many more are you willing to lose just so you can coddle someone who, by your own admission, broke your own rules?
While I was writing it, the Readercon Board came out with their own public statement, which you can see here. If you’re wondering why Mr. Walling was banned for only two years instead of permanently, let me spoil it for you now: He’s really, really sorry. Whoopsie! Guess he shouldn’t have followed her around like a stalker after all, or said weird things to her about the naughty thoughts she was putting in his head, or put his arms around her from behind in a surprise hug in a crowded hallway, or then followed her around some more insisting he only wanted to apologize despite repeatedly being told to leave her alone. But I’m sure he’ll never, ever do it again, because he’s super duper sorry.
My Readercon stance remains as I wrote above. Either they rectify this egregiousness, or I never go to Readercon again.