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Posts Tagged ‘cons’

Sirens postponed

I mentioned some time ago that I was on deck to teach at the Sirens Studio, the workshop preceding the Sirens Conference. Well, like everything else in 2020, this has been disrupted by the pandemic; but unlike many things in 2020, it is not moving online. One of the key aspects of Sirens has always been the cozy feeling of a weekend retreat, and that is not something one can achieve online.

Instead the organizers have chosen to postpone this year’s plans to next year. So yes, I am still planning on teaching a workshop on creating fantasy religions for the Sirens Studio; it will simply happen in 2021 instead.

And with this announcement official, I can also officially say that I will not be attending any in-person conventions in 2020. It simply isn’t safe. I hope to be able to go places next year — ideally sooner than October — but that requires the United States to bring this pandemic under control, to take the measures that are necessary to restrict the spread of covid and return us to a state of normalcy where things like conventions are not recklessly dangerous.

Flights of Foundry!

If you have spare time this upcoming weekend — at pretty much any hour of the day or night, regardless of your time zone — than may I recommend Flights of Foundry? The Dream Foundry, an organization dedicated to helping newcomers in any field of SF/F (not just writing but illustration, comic books, gaming, and more), has organized a virtual convention for this weekend, with presentations, panels, readings, workshops, and kaffeeklatsches. Because this is not solely targeted at North American attendees, they have programming more or less ’round the clock — note that you can set the program to be displayed in your own time zone, for greater convenience. It will be run through GoToWebinar (for the presentations and panels, because that can handle larger groups), Zoom (for the readings and kaffeeklatsches, because it’s better for interactivity), and Discord (for casual hanging out and also submitting audience questions to the panels). My own activities are as follows:

  • Saturday, 10 p.m. UTC/6 p.m. Eastern/3 p.m. Pacific: Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Folklore (presentation)
  • Saturday, 11 p.m. UTC/7p.m. Easter/4 p.m. Pacific: Geography, Maps, and SFF (panel with Jeremy A. TeGrotenhuis, Henry Lien, K.M. Alexander, and Marie Croke)
  • Sunday/Saturday 5 a.m. UTC/1 a.m. Eastern/10 p.m. Pacific: reading (I will almost certainly read from The Mask of Mirrors!)
  • Sunday, 6 p.m. UTC/2 p.m. Eastern/11 a.m. Pacific: kaffeeklatsch (limited attendance)

Note that while Flights of Foundry is free to attend, it is not free to put on. So if you’re in a position to donate, please do; you’ll have the opportunity during the registration process.

Where to find me at World Fantasy!

Next weekend I’ll be down in L.A. for the World Fantasy Convention. If you’re going to be there as well, here’s where you can find me:


Friday, 1 Nov, 17:00 – 17:55, Marquis 4-6

Experts in fighting hand-to-hand and sword fighting debunk myths and set the record straight as they talk about what authors get right, what authors get wrong, and why it matters.

Participants: Christopher Husberg (M), Troy Carrol Bucher, Scott Drakeford, Elizabeth Crowens, Marie Brennan


Magic Systems 101
Saturday, 2 Nov, 10:00 – 10:55, Marquis 1-3

What makes a magic system work? What do you need to do to make it believable for the readers? And what makes it so unique and compelling that readers can’t put down the book?

Participants: Barbara Hambly (M), Margo Lanagan, Susan Forest, Marie Brennan, TA Moore, Marshall Ryan Maresca


The World of Fairy Tales
Saturday, 2 Nov, 13:00 – 13:55, Marquis 1-3

Tales of events which occur outside of reality exist in most every culture throughout the world. What are the recurring themes that cross cultures? Are these expressions of societal norms or propagations of religious myths? Or are they just stories to scare kids into “behaving properly”?

Participants: Marie Brennan (M), Sheila Finch, Jack Zipes, Kathleen Jennings, Ann Chamberlin, Emma Törzs, David Drake

Saturday, 2 Nov, 15:30 – 15:55, Pac Coast 3

Where to find me at DragonCon!

This upcoming weekend, I’ll be at my very first DragonCon. I’ve got quite a full schedule, but fortunately everything has enough of a gap between it that I should be able to surf the crowds to my destination?

  • Friday, 1-2 p.m., Regency VI-VII Hyatt — The Heroes of High Fantasy (with Brandon Sanderson, Jim Butcher, Aleron Kong, and Jennifer Liang (M))
  • Friday, 3-4 p.m., AmericasMart, The Missing Volume booth #1201,1203,1300,1302 — signing
  • Friday, 10-11 p.m., Chastain 1-2 Westin — Magic Systems 101: Diverse Approaches in UF (with Patricia Briggs, Jim Butcher, Melissa F Olson, R.R. Virdi, Tim Powers, and Carol Malcolm(M))
  • Saturday, 1-2 p.m., Chastain 1-2 Westin — Back in Time: Historical Urban Fantasy (with Leanna Renee Hieber, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, Walter H. Hunt, Tina Glasneck, and Laura Mathews(M))
  • Saturday, 2:30-3:30 p.m., Macon Sheraton — Stand and Deliver: The History of Highwaymen and Bandits (with Tamsin L. Silver, John Floyd Rice, David Boop, and Darin Bush(M))
  • Saturday, 5:30-6:30 p.m., International Hall South 4-5 Marriott — signing
  • Sunday, 10-11 a.m., Roswell Hyatt — reading
  • Sunday, 2:30-3:30 p.m., Chastain 1-2 Westin — Powers of the Mind: Psychics in UF (with Cecilia Dominic, Alledria Hurt, E.J. Stevens, Leanna Renee Hieber, and Jennifer Morris(M))
  • Sunday, 10-11 p.m., Chastain 1-2 Westin — Wreaking Havoc: The Fae in Urban Fantasy (with Patricia Briggs, Eric R. Asher, E.J. Stevens, John G. Hartness, Ted Naifeh, and Carol Malcolm(M))
  • Monday, 11 a.m.-12 p.m., AmericasMart, The Missing Volume booth #1201,1203,1300,1302 — signing

Where to find me at WorldCon!

I have my schedule for Dublin WorldCon! If you’re going to be there, do try to catch me at some point and say hi.

What has science ever done for art?

Format: Panel
15 Aug 2019, Thursday 18:00 – 18:50, Liffey Room-1 (CCD)

From the making of art materials to the understanding of anatomy, what scientific discoveries have helped to make art what it is today?

Grzegorz Aleksander Biały (Atelier Improwizacji), Tom Toner (Gollancz), Marie Brennan

The above panel was unfortunately canceled.

Stories from other media turned into games

Format: Panel
16 Aug 2019, Friday 12:00 – 12:50, ECOCEM Room (CCD)

From the transition of ‘select-your own adventure’ books to Douglas Adams’ first computer game version of ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’, storytellers have been happy to entice their audience to play in their worlds through games. What are the different ways they done this? Which stories have transitioned well? Which have not?

Michael Cule (M), Rebecca Slitt (Choice of Games LLC), William C. Tracy (Space Wizard Science Fantasy), Marie Brennan, Keith Byrne (Tantalus)

Autographs: Friday at 14:00

Format: Autographing
16 Aug 2019, Friday 14:00 – 14:50, Level 4 Foyer (CCD)

Victoria “V.E.” Schwab (Tor Books, Titan, HarperCollins, Scholastic), Marie Brennan, Sarah Pinsker (SFWA), Taiyo Fujii (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of Japan), Sam Hawke, Mary Turzillo

Reading: Marie Brennan

Format: Reading
17 Aug 2019, Saturday 13:30 – 13:50, Liffey Room-3 (Readings) (CCD)

The bare bones of worldbuilding: archaeology in SFF

Format: Panel
18 Aug 2019, Sunday 10:00 – 10:50, Wicklow Hall 2B (CCD)

Whether it’s an actual archaeological dig looking for evidence of alien civilisations or fantasy characters camping in the ruins of their ancestors, archaeological evidence and research can be used to help develop a world beyond the here and now and add complex layers to a story without the need for exposition. The panel will discuss the ways in which archaeology has been used to deepen SFF worldbuilding and storytelling.

Ehud Maimon (M), Dr Katrin Kania (pallia – Mittelalter hautnah), Alyc Helms, Marie Brennan

Kaffeeklatsch: Marie Brennan

Format: Kaffeeklatsch
18 Aug 2019, Sunday 11:00 – 11:50, Level 3 Foyer (KK/LB) (CCD)

Invented Mythologies in SF

Format: Panel
19 Aug 2019, Sunday 19:00 – 19:50, Wicklow Hall 2B (CCD)

Whether it’s creation myths for sentient AIs or a pantheon of alien gods, invented mythologies can add depth and weight to SF storytelling. How have myths from our own past informed the creation of fictitious mythologies in SF? Where do you start when inventing mythology? What makes a mythos convincing, and how do you subtly weave your mythology into the narrative?

Fonda Lee (M), Marina J. Lostetter, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Marie Brennan

Dragons, wyrms, and serpents: why the myth endures

Format: Panel
19 Aug 2019, Monday 12:00 – 12:50, Wicklow Hall 2A (Dances) (CCD)

There are a lot of mythical beasts that can and do feature in fantasy, but the dragon/wyrm/serpent seems to be one of the most popular. What are the reasons for this enduring popularity? What roles does it perform? What mythic properties does it embody and why do these continue to resonate (if they do)?

Marie Brennan, Karen Simpson Nikakis (SOV Consulting LLC -SOV Media) (M), Aliette de Bodard, Naomi Novik, Joey Yu (Kino Eye Ltd. / Freelance)

It’s going to be a busy few days . . .

A last-minute change of plans

Up until a couple of days ago, I was not going to be at the Nebulas weekend down in Los Angeles. But then Alyc Helms told me that most of the panelists for their panel had backed out, leaving only Alyc and the moderator to carry the topic, and they wanted to know if I’d be interested in pinch-hitting. Here’s the topic:

The Gentle Art of Cursing

Cursing functions as punctuation in every language and culture. While some areas seem consistent, such as the use of excrement, others vary wildly. By taking a look at cursing, we can learn a lot about what a culture considers sacred or taboo. Extrapolating from that, one can use cursing as part of worldbuilding to create a well-rounded world.

Nah– We’re just f*cking with you. This is a bunch of linguists and folklorists sitting around cursing and pretending to be academic about it.

With a topic like that, how could I refuse?

So I’m going to be at the Nebulas! The panel will be at 5 p.m. Friday. If you’re attending, come hear us use bad language for intellectual purposes, or just say hi to me at some other point!

On Arisia, Pt. Last-for-Now

I know this blog has kind of been All Arisia, All the Time lately; I promise it won’t stay that way forever. But, well, when a friend of yours is the one who’s brave enough to finally tear the covering off a festering wound . . . you wind up following the story pretty closely. And there are three recent developments I want to specifically discuss.

The first is the simplest: the acting president of Arisia has found a way to finagle the bylaws so that anyone who attends the corporate meeting on November 11th will be able to vote. (Normally voting rights come at the end of your first meeting, i.e. you have to show up to a second one in order to vote.) I don’t know who the people are who have stepped up to the plate to run for office, replacing the members of the board who have resigned, but I know some people have done so, and I hope more will join them. If you’re local and you care about fixing Arisia rather than just letting it die, consider going to the meeting.

The second is this rather astonishing statement from the founder of Arisia, Matthew Saroff. He hasn’t been involved with the con since 2005, but he’s apologizing anyway, because he believes his own actions back then — especially in the final six months, when he refers to himself as a “legendary asshole” — contributed to the problems Arisia has today.

I don’t know if he’s right. Thirteen years is quite a long time, especially in con history; lots of other people have come and gone and left their mark on Arisia. Even if he did set things on a bad path, it isn’t like he’s wholly to blame, and everybody else can wash their hands. But that’s the thing about rape culture, and white supremacy, and all the other systemic ills of our society: they are simultaneously bigger than any one person and built by individuals, one brick at a time. Saroff recognizes that he did something wrong, and he’s apologizing for it, years after the fact, at a point in time where quite possibly nobody other than himself would think to point a finger of blame at him.

Good on him. And good on Cody Lazri, who was briefly on the executive board and has resigned as staff for A’19 and apologized (with some insight into Arisia’s internal politics). I’ve been pleasantly astonished by the amount of support I’ve seen for Crystal Huff, Maura Taylor, and everyone else who has come forward with their stories, and the lack of the usual accusations against them — though such statements always come with the asterisk of “I haven’t seen all the conversations about this” — but there’s still been a dearth of those responsible apologizing in a meaningful way. Neither Saroff nor Lazri is at the epicenter; those who were have, so far as I know, remained silent. And that part’s still not good.

The last thing is that the Olders have made a firm decision not to attend Arisia as the Author Guests of Honor this year. The Artist GOH, Elizabeth Leggett, will still be attending, but will be donating proceeds from one of her pieces of artwork to the Boston Rape Crisis Center.

I’m going to be very interested to see what Arisia does about the Author GOH void — or, to put it another way, to see who steps into that void. Anybody who does so runs a high risk of having half of fandom fall on their head: it’s going to look a lot like they wanted the spotlight badly enough that they were willing to hold their nose and ignore the stench. I don’t know if Arisia’s setup means they can limp along without a GOH at all; doing so might very well be the best course of action. But if not, then I sincerely hope whoever does take that slot does so on terms that make it less about them and their own prestige, and more about keeping the focus on the problem. A keynote address, a panel — one or more somethings to make it clear that GOH isn’t there to put a smiling face on the situation, but to help with the soul-searching.

We’ll see how it turns out. But for now, this is where things stand.

On Arisia, Pt. 3

So, one thing I find heartening: the overwhelming majority of the response I’ve seen to the Arisia blowup has been “this is bad and needs serious fixing.” I’m sure there are corners of the internet where that isn’t true, but the usual handwringing replies of “but won’t anybody think about how we’re ruining this poor man’s life” or “can’t we all just have a nice con” haven’t been in evidence.

In case anybody needed further nails in the coffin, though, the former head of Arisia’s Watch (their con safety team) has spoken up. They quit after last year’s con, not because of what happened to Crystal, and the mis-handling of the “investigation” there — but because Arisia’s leadership so thoroughly cut them out of the loop and made them feel belittled and demeaned for no perceptible reason that they just couldn’t take it anymore. They didn’t even know about Crystal’s situation until last week, because Arisia changed its procedures in order to keep them ignorant.

When we talk about Arisia’s board having lost all claim on people’s trust, this is what we mean. Keeping your own head of con safety in the dark about an issue of con safety? Is not a sign that you’re acting in good faith and have merely fallen a little short.

But back to heartening news: four members of the board have resigned, including at least one Crystal specifically called out as having aided and abetted this entire disaster. That one has quit entirely; the other three have resigned effective upon their replacements being voted in at the upcoming meeting on November 11th. Looking at this page, it seems there are three voting members remaining on the board (not counting the three who have resigned), plus four non-voting members whose involvement with these problems I’m not at all sure of.

This is a big step in the right direction, and I’m glad to see my pessimistic assumption that it wouldn’t happen is at least semi-unfounded. I hope the trend continues.

On Arisia, Pt. 2

Rather than attempting to round up all the links myself, I recommend you read File 770’s posts on the topic, particularly “Arisia Announces Rosenberg Out” and “Arisia Bans Rosenberg, Authorizes Membership Refunds.”

The good news: Rosenberg has resigned. (With absolutely no recognition that he’s done anything wrong, much less apology for same, but I am Jack’s complete lack of surprise on that front.) Subsequent to that, the board has banned him. Also, Arisia is suspending their usual policy of not refunding memberships, so that people who want to back away from the trainwreck this year can do so without having to worry about that sunk cost.

The bad news: Not yet convinced that anything material is going to change.

See, here’s the other totally unsurprising thing: after Crystal posted about her experiences, I saw numerous other people coming forward and saying, yeah, I had X problem at Arisia, and the response I got from staff wasn’t good. Complaints that took months upon months to be addressed, unsatisfactory action (often consisting of “well, just stay away from him and that should solve the problem”), or even complaints being dropped entirely, vanishing into the void. I’m not going to try to link to them all, especially since I’m not certain that all the people making those comments want them blasted all over the internet, but this one is detailed, public, and tagged #MeToo, so I feel perfectly comfortable sharing that as a data point. There are others, linked in the File 770 posts, describing other kinds of incidents, but Maura Taylor’s is the most similar to Crystal’s.

I said this in my original post, and I said it on Twitter, and now I’ll say it again. Rosenberg is only part of the problem. The rest of the problem is Arisia itself — its executive board, its process for handling harassment complaints, its wholesale failure to walk the walk when it comes to enforcing its own code of conduct. Its repeated tendency to protect Arisia staffers when complaints are brought against them, because those people matter to them. (And when it comes to a confrontation between two staffers? They choose the one at fault.)

So Rosenberg is gone. But if you were wondering whether I think Arisia has fixed the underlying problem, the answer is a resounding no.

Their first announcement said “we are going to acknowledge and apologize for our failures,” but they haven’t yet. The closest they come to apologizing to Crystal for what they did to her is to say that they failed her by disclosing her name publicly and that they apologized for it at the time. What about all the ways in which they gaslit her, the times they made promises and then broke them, the ways they closed ranks to protect her rapist even in the face of countless pieces of public evidence that he was stalking and harassing her? And that’s just Crystal’s experiences; it doesn’t touch on all the other people who have been through similar trials. The failures the Arisia announcement lists are woefully abridged. And they can pledge all they like to do better in the future . . . but so far it isn’t at all clear that they truly understand everything they did wrong in the first place. Until that part gets settled, how can anyone really believe they’ll improve?

Now, I will also note that they seem to not be done yet. I’m willing to grant that they may still do more, and better. But let’s be clear on what “better” means, and not let one resignation/ban and some refunded memberships obscure the work that still needs to be done. Sonya Taaffe’s message to Arisia compares this to the Readercon incident some years back, with good justification. I don’t think anything less than the eventual Readercon response — the resignation and replacement of the entire board, alongside an overhaul of their incident response approach — is going to suffice here. Right now various lower-level staffers have been resigning in droves, but the real problem lies with the Arisia board, which has for years been enabling and protecting not just one offender, but several. They have thoroughly demonstrated that their guests and attendees cannot trust them. Arisia needs fresh leadership, not tainted with the sins of the past. It needs a renewal.

For the sake of all the attendees who have long-standing loyalty to Arisia, I hope that happens. But whether the board will do it . . . we’ll have to wait and see.

On Arisia

Crystal Huff, a friend of mine, just posted this.

It’s long, and it doesn’t make for very fun reading, as it’s the story of how — after more than a decade of close involvement with Arisia, not just as an attendee but as staff — she has ceased to be involved, because the con has twice now elected Noel Rosenberg as their president, despite knowing that he raped her.

I’m not going to recount the whole story here, because Crystal has done that herself, and you should be reading her words instead of mine. But I do want to say this:

I went to college in Boston. At the time I didn’t really attend cons, so I never went to Arisia, but I heard about it, and the things I heard were good enough that it’s long been on my list of “I should think about trying to go there some year.” Unsurprisingly, this is no longer true. Not only because Rosenberg is in a position of authority, but because — as you will see, when you read Crystal’s post — Arisia’s leadership as a whole has done an abominable job of handling the entire problem. They have not followed anything resembling best practices for addressing such reports, up to and including publicly disclosing Crystal’s name without her permission.

This is not a con I can trust with my safety, or that of anybody I know. So while I did not have any existing plans to attend Arisia — just a vague “ooh, I should do that someday!” intention — I now have very firm plans not to attend. Not this year, not next year, not any year until and unless this is made better. And if you’re an Arisia attendee, I encourage you to rethink that plan.

Apparently we can’t stop this kind of crap from being swept under the rug at the level of the Supreme Court. But we can still make a change on the ground, and we should.