Apr 10, 2012
Alex Dally MacFarlane

(╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻

Ready your bingo cards, for we are about to descend into the pit of fools people responding to my Eastercon post on Twitter.

I posted it at lunchtime and got a few positive replies/mentions/retweets during the afternoon. Then I got home from work to find, alongside another couple of positive mentions, this first set of gems:

While he doesn’t use the word “censorship”, I can’t help but see that kind of idea lurking behind the bottom tweet: it’s upsetting that I’m denying the worth of idiots’ statements? Really? I didn’t say this on Twitter because 140 characters, but I give an ever-decreasing shit about how well-travelled someone is. Expats can spew some of the worst racist garbage out there, so visiting another country clearly doesn’t grant someone automatic knowledge. The point of my post isn’t to say “Oh no you haven’t been to China or read a book about China, you can’t comment!” but to say “Do not make blanket statements about something you are ignorant of!” Own your ignorance, people.

The top tweet seems to place the responsibility on me to fix this, which, LOL. Next!

As I said in reply to this person, we are not in primary school: no one gets gold stars – or exemption from criticism – just for trying. Racist shit went down at Eastercon and we will do the con and its attendees much more of a disservice by not talking about it. I do appreciate the efforts of the con staff, but they cannot pretend that racism (and other fails) did not happen!

I feel that my position is neatly summed up in this exchange:

Fuck the Cult of Nice. I am not here to be nice. I am calling attention to a problem, because otherwise I am complicit. Apparently this is not as important as saving face? HOKAY THEN.

Because, you see, it is upsetting that people are being critical of the con. It makes people sad!

I am going to table-flip FOR ALL FUCKING TIME.

Do you know what makes people sad? What makes people feel that they don’t belong in what should be their own community, their own country? What makes people isolated and alone and afraid and depressed? RACISM DOES THOSE THINGS.


I have now been accused of bullying Emmzzi, who has left Twitter as a result of what I’ve said. This is what I said to Emmzzi:

I’m one of those apparently rare geeks who was never bullied (ignored and friendless for certain periods of time, but not actively bullied) so idk, I’m no expert on bullying.

Yes, Emmzzi was helping to organise the con and did a lot of hard, admirable work – but denying that faily things happened at Eastercon is actively harmful to the people who are consistently ignored and marginalised and misrepresented and attacked by the white-dominated world of Western cons. What a twist: this situation is complicated! The con did some excellent things. It also did some bad things. WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT THIS.

We actively need to talk about this, or it is never going to stop.

As long as you criticise me for speaking out, I am going to do everything I fucking can to speak louder.


  • I have stayed out of this to some extent – as I feel you raised some valid points in your orginal post. All of these points could in fact have been raised *at* the con directly with the chair at one of the feedback sessions held every day for exactly this purpose and who has very publicly stated one of her chief aims is to increase awareness and diversity within the famdom community and as a punjabi sikh living in the uk is more than aware of the problems and issues around racism first hand, but that really isn’t why I am posting here.

    As you know I did respond to one post you made – which is also the post I notice you left off this page.

    What I think you might be missing is that it is the tone of that specific post that has upset people more than the point you were trying to make and somewhat hurting your own cause and It is not that you are questioning some of the views of panelists at the con but that you then crowed about upsetting someone (who never said you werent raising valid points) to they extent they deleted their twitter acount, without any reguard as to how genuinely upset this person might be.

    I am of course refering to the
    Alex D MacFarlane‏@foxtailedgirlReply
    By criticising #Eastercon’s fails, I have upset someone enough that they’ve deleted their Twitter acount. Wow. Achievement unlocked?
    To which my response – sent directly to you as a reply to the above post – was

    @foxtailedgirl no. Its something to be ashamed of. You have just upset someone who has spent the last 100 hours plus dealing with issues you
    @foxtailedgirl know nothing about. We are tired. I’m not talking about your blog post but the one I am replying to. You should be ashamed

    It was that I belive that has upset people the most – myself included. You talk about this not being primary school – however that remark I find incredibly offensive.

    You are one hundred percent right in saying that people should not be criticised for speaking out and some of the responses you have had posted back at you are dead wrong. However most of them have been triggered down to your own attitude here, you have managed to hit another sensitive spot which is as much an issue as racism – in, as you say, bullying (percieved or real) is something many many fans have suffered and feel very strongly over.

    I think this part of things is what has made people angriest – and has detracted from your own point. I don’t think people are really reacting to your criticism of the con more the Emmzzi situation.

    I’m sorry, I hope the tone of what I am saying above convays its intended message. Like Emma I have been involved in a situation over the last few days which means I have had even less sleep than the little a comittee concom would normally have. I also appologise for spelling and gramatical errors (I am registered dylexic on top of being extra ordinarily tired) I was going to leave this untill tomorrow but I felt I had to say it,

    All the best
    John Medany. Gaspode.

    • You talk about this not being primary school – however that remark I find incredibly offensive.

      In the light of day, I still do not feel bad about making that tweet. Here is why: I am looking at the bigger picture here, and in that bigger picture, getting upset about criticisms of the con (and not of the concom, incidentally, just of the con and its attendees) is not anywhere near as important as the fact that there was racism at the con. What I wanted to highlight in that tweet was the ridiculousness of the situation. If I gain some amusement from people doing daft things in internet discussions, that’s one of the ways I don’t go slowly mad from the idiocy.

      That all said, I do also understand that Emmzzie was incredibly tired after a long weekend of hard work and took my blog post quite personally. The thing is, I was never attacking the concom! Of course they can’t vet every remark – or every attendee – and they shouldn’t! There was racism at the con and that’s all I wanted to talk about, yet Emmzzie decided I was attacking the concom for not doing a good enough job – which is an understandable reaction, given her tiredness, but daft nonetheless.

      Ultimately, you and I differ somewhat on degrees of offensiveness.

      All of these points could in fact have been raised *at* the con directly with the chair at one of the feedback sessions

      Nope. Not under obligation to do this face-to-face. But hey, thanks for assuming I’m comfortable having face-to-face conversations with strangers.

      However, most of them have been triggered down to your own attitude here, you have managed to hit another sensitive spot which is as much an issue as racism – in, as you say, bullying

      Firstly, you are the only person who has directly called me out on being unpleasant about the Emmzzie situation. While I’m sure you’re not the only one who didn’t like it, the vast majority of people I have been interacting with are more concerned about the contents of my blog post than with my fucking tone throughout any part of the argument.

      Secondly, if you think my comments are in any way comparable to racism, you need to go fuck off. (Note, I am not talking about bullying as a whole, but about my specific comments.)

      (Edited because I realised when you said “post” you meant “tweet”.)

      • Hold on a moment. Gaspode certainly wasn’t the only person to call you on bullying.

        In fact, here’s the conversation we had about it last night.

        You don’t have to be nice. No-one has to be nice.

        But given that no-one here is trying to be racist, and we’d all like racism to stop, perhaps trying to work with people who support your views instead of driving them away might be a good place to start?

        I’m sure you didn’t realise how someone could take offense at your words. And I’m also sure that the people on the panels you attended weren’t aware they were being offensive either.

        That doesn’t make it right in either case.

        • Okay, two people compared to a lot of people.

          *slow clap*

          perhaps trying to work with people who support your views instead of driving them away might be a good place to start?

          Not interested in working with idiots.

          • I’ve thought long and hard about posting this comment. Basically I want to say: please count that as three people from this point onwards.

            I agree with nearly everything you said in your original blog post, and I thought you were inspiring on the Personal is Political panel. But you said yourself that it is important to point out when something offends you. I have decided that I would feel complicit if I did not stand up and get counted at this point.

            I am not objecting to your arguments, whatever tone you have employed for them. They are important arguments that should be heard.

            I do however think you stepped over a line with this twitpic – which I’m guessing might have been the prompt for accusations of bullying. To me it seemed insensitive and unnecessary, especially given that Emmzzi had disengaged from the debate and was heading to bed. I also thought ‘achievement unlocked’ seemed an unpleasantly self-congratulatory response to having upset someone – again, this is just how it came across to me as an observer.

            As others have pointed out, whilst you may not have intended to cause hurt, these comments do seem to have caused genuine upset. It’s hard to own your behaviour and its consequences on the feelings of others – much easier to dismiss people who disagree with you as idiots, or accuse them of not seeing the important bigger picture. It is obviously up to each individual to determine the place at which they draw the line – what level of hurt is justifiable for what level of gain. However, you can’t accurately judge the level of hurt without feedback from those affected, and if you are trying to improve a community then feedback from your community should probably also be a part of that process. Which is why I am offering my opinion now. It is different from yours, which doesn’t mean I don’t respect your position, as I hope you will respect mine.

            • I also thought ‘achievement unlocked’ seemed an unpleasantly self-congratulatory response to having upset someone – again, this is just how it came across to me as an observer.

              The thing is, I don’t feel especially guilty about upsetting Emmzzie because (as far as I can tell) I upset her by pointing out that racism happened at the con.

              I made a post pointing out the racism. I never suggested in my post that the concom was to blame for this. Then she sent me the bottom 2 tweets, expressing her upset at my post.

              I was frustrated by her reply, because, well, talk about missing the point?

              I can understand why she took it personally, I can, because I have been tired and overworked before, but that doesn’t matter to me as much as the fact that she got “pissed off” (to use her own words) at me for talking negatively about the con – about the racism that happened at the con.

              I sent my 2 tweets in reply, then she sent her 3rd and disengaged. I posted the screencap of her replies because they frustrated and annoyed me and I wanted to point out the problems in them. I included the table-flipping thingmy because that was how I felt: ready to flip some tables. I said “Achievement unlocked?” because, again, frustrated and annoyed and, as I said in another reply, getting snarky is how I deal with people saying stupid things.

              I understand that Emmzzie was tired but she said stupid things. And, looking at her reply to Amanda Rutter, she was missing the point before she even read my post: getting upset about negativity rather than caring about the nature of the negativity. I’m not convinced that the opinion in her 3 tweets to me was entirely heat-of-the-moment. That is why, even after thinking about this all day, I do not feel guilty about my actions.

              • I felt bullied. I spent a day crying off and on. Then being angry. Now just depressed.

                I get the issues. I work in diversity training and have a slew of certificates on the subject. The handling of it upset me, mainly because I was not at all clear who you were suggesting need change. Given, from the comments on the version of this post on LJ, you don’t know how the convention is organised and run, that does not now surprise me.

                I’d have been interested in having the debate but not in public; and given that you cherry picked which tweets to share with your wider readership, I don’t feel there is such a thing as a private conversation with you. I’m late replying as I have been locking down my online information in case it is used against me/ friends get drawn in further. Yes, paranoid. Yes, feels justified. Yes, think you should take down the tweets from people who are not me.

                Know that you will not be troubled with me running events again. Which lessens the people running events which promote books. Well done, author. I didn’t realise one needed to “toughen up” in order to do this. I believed emotional diversity was also ok.

                I await another tirade of swearing and self justification. Go on. Knock yourself out. I’m too tired to fight back.

              • And another one. The intent of my tweets was that you had a point, and I had no objection to that point. But I *did* object to the coverage that it was getting. I’m seeing it crop up in a number of places, referenced by people who say “this was my first Convention, and gosh, look, it had problems”. In comparison, yes, there are many distinct posts saying it was good, but they’re *not* being re-referenced.

                Which *isn’t* to say there aren’t problems, but they’re problems of people and fandom in general, and *not* of Eastercon in particular. Yet your post, under the heading of Eastercon makes it look as though the organisers are condoning the problem. I have never attempted to stop people’s reaction to racism. I have been concerned about an otherwise superb convention being given an undeserved reputation.

                The organisers do *not* condone the situation, and unfortunately, weren’t even aware of it, because they weren’t even in the room (being too busy to attend most of the panels because they were working themselves to exhaustion trying to ensure that everybody, including you, had a good time). Despite the opportunity, you couldn’t be bothered to tell them. Apparently, the outrage you feel about casual racism isn’t as important as your fear of standing up and being counted.

                And, finally, I think Emmzzi’s /ragequit was an over-reaction, but one I can understand. So I’d been avoiding bringing it up, as it was a secondary issue. But refusing to take personal responsibility for your actions in favour of the “bigger picture” is an appallingly bad excuse. There are many forms of discrimination which have used that sort of thinking for decades. Shouting that “You’re all doing it wrong, and this is how I’d do it, if only I didn’t have issues” is just cowardly. And, by missing out the middle clause, you’re not even being *that* constructive.

                • Okay, wimble, I had decided to not saying anything more, because I felt that I’d said my piece and would only be repeating myself, but:

                  I have been concerned about an otherwise superb convention being given an undeserved reputation.

                  Really? Really? Any reputation it gets based on the facts I reported is entirely deserved. Your priorities sicken me.

                  Despite the opportunity, you couldn’t be bothered to tell them.

                  a) Didn’t realise I could until after the con.

                  b) Didn’t occur to me to find a way to tell them, because it’s not the concom’s fault and I have never blamed them and I am not even sure they could have done anything at the con to change the situation if I had told them. Idiots will be idiots, even if the concom make public statements about zero-tolerance and invite non-white GOHs and so on. What I am pointing out is the presence of idiots.

                  Apparently, the outrage you feel about casual racism isn’t as important as your fear of standing up and being counted.

                  Fuck you and your high fucking horse, you piece of repugnant shit. Grow a clue. Do you know what happens to women when they stand up and get counted?

                  So far in this debate I have not received rape threats or physical violence threats, which is honestly starting to surprise me because it usually happens like clockwork.

                  • That’s alright. I’m not particularly impressed by your priorities. In particular, you seem to wish to continue your outrage, rather than just apologising for upsetting Emmzzi. ‘Cos, y’know: you could do that, and get the upset out of the way, and then go back to the bigger picture in peace.

                    And get over your expectations of our threats. Now who’s being bigoted and generalising?

                    • Gosh, well, it seems that no-one has read or cares about my comment, or is trying to understand both sides, so it seems that I have to also become “the enemy”. Oh well.

                      I think that, if apologies are to happen, right here you need to apologise for caring more about the con’s public image than a discussion of (unconscious, societal) racism in fandom. Personally, I care about people not getting upset, but I care more that POC friends can’t come to cons because of the problems with the space. There are spaces which are better, so it’s not an insoluble problem, though it’s a difficult problem.

                      It’s not about Alex, or others, “not being bothered telling them”. Oh, Christ, you seem to think that racism would go away if only those LAZY POC and allies would just bother speaking up about it! (Surely, if anything demands an apology, this attitude does). Speaking up is difficult! It attracts a lot of upset and anger! Hence EXACTLY WHAT WE’RE SEEING HERE! Trying to speak up in person leads to isolation, blame, and leaving an environment in tears never to return, which is why these conversations *have to* take place in public.

                      Let me speak as someone who knows the media rather well: there has already been positive coverage of Eastercon in the Guardian. There will not be coverage of this, because no-one cares about societal racism. The police can waterboard black suspects in several boroughs, and it gets in the Telegraph, and no-one cares or changes anything. That is the strength of what we are up against. A few tweets will not cause any damage at all to anything at all.

                      And, r.e. rape threats and such, they wouldn’t have to come from anyone you know in order to be “on your side”, if we’re opposed sides now, that is.

                      enerally, any blog mentioning feminism positively attracting more than a dozen readers attracts them before long – it’s a problem with general culture. Alex’ expectation of rape threats for keeping a public blog is *a reasonable expectation*. Believe me.

                      Blaming Alex for “having issues” is also… hmm, rather sexist, and stigmatic of mental health stuff – and “mental health” is certainly a stigma to anyone who is too nervous to speak up in many a situation. So that’s three apologies needed, right there, if we’re listing apologies needed before a conversation can take place.

                      Or we can accept that we need to talk about the issues first – while also accepting that (from my POV) the con committee worked unbelievably hard, did a superb job and there might not be much more that *can* be done, at present.

                      But we can have a conversation. Can’t we?

    • I’ve been keeping very quiet too. I’d just like to add that:

      1) I had no idea that the feedback sessions would be anything like a safe space for talking about these kind of issues – and I also rather doubt that I could have made that time in the morning. It’s good to know that there’s already a mechanism in place, but I suspect that most people with concerns would feel too nervous to approach the feedback panel. It’s a mechanism that rather supposes that people already have an emotional support network in place and have confidently verbalised the issue to supportive others several times – this often isn’t the case, especially for someone at their first con, someone who has a racism-related issue, someone who has had a shocking bad experience, and so on.

      These people just won’t have the same unstated social presumptions that con communities have: everyone is an equal, things will be taken seriously and fairly, and so on. It’s just not how someone coming into a community – and I’ve felt the Eastercon community to be a lovely one which I very much like – it’s just not how most fans new to conventions feel. And it’s very much not how people who face discrimination in daily life feel. It takes a lot to come and speak to someone face to face about one’s experiences and concerns, and doing that is something rife with misunderstandings and opportunities for miscommunication. And that happens because someone who is a solid member of a community has more power in that situation than someone who is not.

      From my perspective it’s also really obscure how cons work – it’s taken me 3 Eastercons to about “get it”, and it’s not at all apparent to an outsider. I really appreciate the work that the con committee have done and I think things are definitely moving forward.

      I hope that we can all keep moving forward, and purely from a selfish and ignorant POV: I know POC fans who don’t feel comfortable at cons, in fact are so uncomfortable due to various experiences that they don’t come to cons at all, and one day I want to know that things are at least a bit better and that cons are an option that’s more available to all fans.

      2) I think a lot of the difficulty here comes from where both parties are coming from. I very much hope that what I have to say here is helpful, and doesn’t function as derailing.

      It is very difficult to raise these sorts of concerns around #fail and racism (in particular), and 99 times out of 100 – at least – people simply remain silent. Therefore a new discourse has arisen to allow people to speak slightly more often about them – a process of challenging where anger around the issue is centralised, which allows verbalising and speaking to power (even when that power is unaware, not terribly more powerful, really, and already working to better things, and sympathetic).

      I personally have complained and spoken and raised points about many issues in many different social spheres in the past, and often been ignored and mocked, and can really see the utility of a way of speaking out that centres anger and demands a response.

      It’s a way of challenging that often gets taken for bullying, but it’s used because otherwise people would not have the energy to speak at all, and because otherwise anger would dissipate and lead to silence and sadness and lack of change.

      It’s very much where Alex is coming from here, I feel, and while I feel that this way of challenging doesn’t work for me and I very much don’t want anyone to be hurt over this, I also really support her in speaking out.

      I really hope that this leads to understanding rather than exhaustion and sadness, and hope that this helped the discussion rather than derailing things.

      • I can’t reply to your reply to me. No link. Don’t know why. *Shrug*.

        At the time I was originally commenting, there was no discussion: the twitter stream was filling up with retweets of foxtailedgirl’s original tweet, which specifically included (in the equivalent of big letters) Eastercon fail. And those retweets were from people who admitted this was their first con (so had no idea of what might have been even worse in previous years), or even worse, weren’t even *at* the con. If they’d actually *had* a discussion, I wouldn’t have commented. Or, if had been about society in general, or fandom in general, then yes, I completely agree. But just glossing over the (literally) years of hard work that was put in in all the other areas of the convention, and focussing on a couple of hours of screw up does make all those who’ve made the effort feel … taken for granted.

        Gloating over their upset, and refusing to feel any sympathy for them (which is what *this* argument is about) is a personal failure, whatever the bigger picture.

        No, issues won’t go away if we merely know about them. But maybe we can do something constructive, instead of crawling off home to have a flame fest. Snarking at the people who might have been able to do something because we’re “assuming I’m comfortable having face-to-face conversations with strangers” doesn’t help (has anybody noticed this yet?). And that’s where my accusation of issues comes from. I can *sympathise* with not wanting to talk to people I don’t know. I certainly don’t particularly enjoy it. But I don’t then follow it up by refusing to do so, and then going off on one afterwards. I actually get over myself, and *go and discuss*. And if that involves finding out who to talk to, well, gosh. I’ll just have to have *two* conversations. I don’t *let* myself hide behind my issues: I actively try to work around them.

        I’m not quite sure what to make of your comment re: rape threats. As far as I know, nobody’s mentioned them, except Alex, who *seemed* to be attacking me because she expected them. I’m perfectly happy to surprise her, and not be a violent, brutal, white male (can’t do anything about being a white male, but I will attempt to be polite towards others. And I take it more seriously when they return the courtesy). And yes, I do think it’s a serious subject, and was surprised to see it raised as an emotive distraction.

        I’ve got no objection to the criticism. I do object to the anger. And I certainly think the criticism could have been better framed: do you really think that slapping honking great #Eastercon fail hashtags *wasn’t* going give the wrong impression (compared with, for example, #fandom fail at #eastercon?)

        As for it being “challenging that is taken for bullying”, then it quite probably *is* bullying, and a defence of “I was only being challenging, they should grow a thicker skin” is compounding the error.

        Apologies? I’m willing to apologise for not caring about racism today, in favour of caring about the the way the criticism of the event comes across. I’m willing to care about racism tomorrow though.
        I’ve not intend to have a lazy attitude. If I’ve got one, then yes, I’m genuinely sorry. But that wasn’t my accusation. It was that a forum was available, and it was refused. And no other suggestions have been forthcoming beyond “you all got it wrong, and I don’t have to tell you how to do it better.” A refusal to engage doesn’t help.
        I *completely* fail to see where an accusation of “issues” is sexist. Or is issues a female only term? Wow! I genuinely never knew that! And, whilst I’m being sarcastic, I’m also serious. I genuinely didn’t know that. If it *is* sexist, then I apologise. But I think you’re reading more into that that I intended. It’s harsh, I’ll certainly agree. But I think that’s a standard that’s being raised by Alex more than anybody else. Do you see anybody else swearing, and making random accusations *in this group of people?* (I have *no* idea what comments might be provoked by visitors in *other* threads, but these visitors are not *those* visitors. Do not tar us all with the same brush). Does it overstep a mark? Maybe. In which case, yes, I am sorry. But I don’t think mental health (if you want to go so far) should be used as a defensive shield, whilst simultaneously, and knowingly, going on the offensive.

        I think that covers my three, although probably not as unconditionally as you wanted. Some kind of progress though?

        • You are so repugnant I can’t even.

          I actually get over myself, and *go and discuss*.

          My issues are not needing to ~*~get over myself~*~, my issues are:

          a) being extremely introverted.
          b) being possibly non-neurotypical (yes, that’s “mental health” stuff) in ways I have zero interest in elaborating with someone so completely unsympathetic as you, but ways that reduce my ability to deal with people face-to-face further and make it a lot easier to deal with this in words.

          I mean never mind that it’s not even my responsibility to do a face-to-face call-out and why the hell is this so important to you (oh wait, you’re worried about the reputation of the con being damaged by my negativity, lol you), the fact that you can’t fathom why I might have legitimate reasons for not doing face-to-face stuff and accuse me of just being full of myself is just enlightening.

          I am very close to banning you because of this, fyi.

          • I get over myself. Yes. I wrote that from my perspective. I wouldn’t write it from any other. And, yes, it was clumsy of me. I’m sorry about that.

            May I put it another way? I actively make an effort to use the access methods that other people have given me, rather than making them conform to my expectations.

            And I’m not making any assumptions about anybody’s issues, beyond the assumption that attempting to cooperate is preferable to pissing people off (I recognise that I may be failing on that attempt). So not your mental health, mine, or anybody else’s.

            • Oh look, it’s the tone argument. I was wondering when that was going to rear its ugly head into full view.

        • “I’m willing to apologise for not caring about racism today, in favour of caring about the the way the criticism of the event comes across. I’m willing to care about racism tomorrow though.”

          …and as a brown person, I am deeply, deeply grateful that you might choose to care about this at your convenience.

          • Mmm. Yeah,. Alright. Yes, I *am* sorry about that. Incredibly clumsy of me :(

            I do care. Can I have my own priorities though, and postpone *action* slightly? At the moment, in favour of sleep.

            • *rereads* Not really any better, is it? I’m really sorry about that.

              Your priorities are not my priorities. Today I have to collect my car from being serviced, chase up my MOT, sort out the insurance, deal with my credit card payments and the fact that I’m missing a wall from my garden. All of these things are important to me, urgently. And they’re all quite expensive too.

              I really do mean tomorrow, not “some unspecified time in the future”.

              • You just made it about 100 times worse.

              • Funnily enough, Wimble, I too have lots of other priorities every day. Paying bills, juggling finances is something we all have to do. Those are things that happen alongside our decision to be racist or to not be racist, to care or not to care. Some of us are capable of worrying about getting our car fixed at the same time as trying (i don’t claim to succeed) to be non-racist.

                To get back to the original point, if there had been no racism or sexism at the con then damaging the con reputation would not be an issue. It really is that simple.
                Yes, of course I wish people were talking about the steps fandom has taken in my 26 years of con-going and BSFA activism, but the fact that we aren’t suggests to me that those steps are not big enough yet. So we can be smug about what we’ve achieved and leave it at that, or we can recognise the good things are really only good things if we build on them.

              • Actually, your first response was far better than your second. Amazingly, those of us who have to real with racism on a regular basis also have to deal with other things – jobs, homes, families, finances. Except that we don’t get the choice of setting racism aside until we feel free to deal with it because, you know. It is happening. to. us.

                When I read Alex’s first post (I’m one of the people on twitter who shared it. For the “controversy” apparently, not because racism and sexism within the SF community is something that might legitimately affect me) my impression of Eastercon was that people had genuinely tried hard to make it an inclusive space, and wasn’t it a pity that there were still people within SF fandom who still held silly, bigoted opinions. At the time I was hoping to attend a future Eastercon. I can’t speak for anyone else, of course, but for me the responses to Alex’s post have done far more to damage the con’s reputation than anything Alex posted on her blog or on Twitter.

              • For the love of cats, STOP TALKING. Can you really not see how appalling it is that you just compared caring about racism–which affects real people’s lives in major, traumatic ways and is the root cause of deadly violence–with caring about your bills, and racism lost out because it costs YOU less?

                Let me tell you what racism is costing YOU. Let me tell you how expensive it is. Medication you’ll need for a health condition down the road? Doesn’t exist because the bright young scientist who would have developed it was assaulted by some drunken louts and became too depressed to finish school. The amazing, caring person who would have been your best friend? Never born because their grandmother was forcibly sterilized. The builder who would repair your garden wall? Deported under racist laws that restrict who can apply for asylum even if they face genuine persecution. The schoolteacher who would have encouraged your child to pursue their dreams and realize their fullest potential? Committed suicide rather than face another day of being taunted by pupils and patronized by colleagues for their foreign accent. The person who would have married your child and given them decades of joy and beautiful biracial kids? Believed the well-meaning white friends who told them interracial marriages never work out and they’d be better off with “you know, someone more like you”.

                Obviously racism cost those people a great deal more than it cost you, but since you only care about yourself, I will put it in terms you can understand. Your world has people-shaped holes in it because of racism. And every time you perpetuate it, actively or passively, you are contributing to a world where things like this happen, where people die and disappear and withdraw and never exist in the first place.

                Go recalculate your cost/benefit analysis. And the next time you think it would be smart to compare your credit card payments to a systemic bias that destroys people’s lives and livelihoods, think again.

                • Rose, this was beautiful – and so true. Thank you.

                  • YES! This, this so very very much, Rose. You are awesome and wonderful.

        • “I’m willing to apologise for not caring about racism today, in favour of caring about the the way the criticism of the event comes across. I’m willing to care about racism tomorrow though.”

          That and jam. How very nice of you!

          Seriously, though: don’t you think that your comments would be better taken if you (plural, not personal) hadn’t immediately responded so defensively? An immediate rush to defend the event’s reputation against criticism, rather than taking criticism graciously on board, looks really bad and tends to prejudice onlookers against you.

        • I really wish I hadn’t wasted all that time making nice posts and saying nice things about the con, now. What a bloody idiot I am for going, for speaking, for writing, for saying anything from my perspective at all and expecting that at least it might be read before being commented on.

          What a lot of idiots we all are.

          • Cel, there are people who read and care and understand the emotional costs it takes to speak out, even if these people are not connected to the con. Thank you.

      • Cel. Keeping of this beyond what I have said above about a particular comment.
        Just to say – we are reading *and* listening.

        I’m just sorry this has degenerated like this.

      • I don’t have much to say in this thread that hasn’t already been said, but I agree with all of this comment. On point 2, I think you’re right that this is a style and type of discourse which is not new in general, but is not something which has been a big part of discussions of previous Eastercons I have attended, and that combined with the general tiredness and high emotions of everyone involved in the con goes some way to explaining (but not excusing) the reponses to Alex’s criticism. It is a conversation which it is necessary to have in order to make things better, even when it is difficult and uncomfortable and hurts people’s feelings, and the way I deal with my instinct to be upset and hurt is to remind myself that everyone who is calling the convention out on the fail is doing it because they have the same aim I do, and that how I feel is less important than making the convention a place where people of colour feel welcome.

        On point 1: do you think some mechanism of sending anonymous feedback to the committee during the con would be useful? I’m thinking a suggestion box in a neutral place, or similar idea.

  • Sometimes it feels as though this Cult of Nice is taking away the potential for people to improve. We daren’t criticise anything because that’s mean. We daren’t express our own opinions because they’re different from the approved ones.

    What I got from it all was this: you enjoyed Eastercon, but some of it was marred by racism, white-centric thinking and ignorance. And then suddenly, you were told you were wrong to have an opinion and you should have kept quiet so the organisers wouldn’t have any idea of what had actually gone on at their con. This reaction makes no sense whatsoever. Yes, criticism is hard to hear, but it’s not given to be mean – it’s offered in the hopes that it might help and that things can be improved.

    I just hope all of this twitter nonsense was an immediate, gut-reaction and that the people involved will come to their senses soon.

    • Gosh, it sounds like you read my blog posts and care about the issues at hand. Right now that feels depressingly refreshing.

    • This, a thousand times this! It beggars belief that politeness can be considered more important than speaking out / talking about issues which actually ruin people’s lives.

    • I have long said that Anglo-Western politeness norms serve to perpetuate oppressions, since only people of certain kinds are ratified to speak at any point, and the Anglo-Western paradigm expects people to *wait their turn* to speak – but the non-ratified people either never get a turn or get a very *short* turn, which they are then expected to mostly spend on being properly deferential to people who will not otherwise attend to them. And if these marginalized speakers ARE being properly deferential, the non-marginalized speakers as a rule attend only to the deferential, positive face-reinforcing segments of the marginalized folks’ speech, while tuning out for actual *content*.

      Other cultures are not like this. Politeness paradigms are not universal.

  • I read through this, having been referred to here by the blog “Requires Only That you Hate” and no, I was not at Eastercon. However, just from reading the comments it’s obvious that this was a case of Tone Argument Derailment.

    Instead of actually discussing the issues you had with the con, people came in here to tell you how wrong you were and just how ANGRY and MEAN you were to the nice white lady.

    “You mean mean lady, how dare you make the con developer cry and ragequit twitter. Racism? Who cares about that, you were being so MEAN!”

    It’s not strange, it’s par for the course that this kind of derailment was the first kind used to undermine your issues with the con. Heck, it’s on the list of Derailing for Dummies, and here’s a link for those who need to educate themselves on the matter:


    I’ve only just started reading your blog, but I’m going to continue readiing your blog. You’re a smart person with smart things to say.

    • Yeah, it took me a while to realise that’s what was going on. Then I saw a derailing bingo card and went “Hang on, that’s like half the comments I’ve been getting” and the lightbulb illuminated. Derp.

      And thank you!

  • Obtuse people are obtuse, Alex. Even when they think they’re not.
    Be strong.

Leave a comment

Out now!

"...the 33 stories that MacFarlane has gathered for this volume dazzle with the virtuosity of their contributors’ talents."

- Publishers Weekly: STARRED REVIEW

"Works from around the world, some in translation, provide an invaluable snapshot of this moment in the genre as well as some tremendously enjoyable reading."

- Publishers Weekly: Best Books of 2014

"The stories range widely in scope and form — from prose poems to metafiction — to capture a dynamic, forward-thinking genre that plays with history, myth and science."

- The Washington Post: Think science fiction is dominated by men? Think again.

"...ground-breaking and superbly conceived..."

- Nina Allan: Strange Horizons: 2014 In Review

Aliens: Recent Encounters

"...this [anthology] blew us away more than any other. Mostly because of the sheer volume of greatness contained in these 32 stories... These are classic stories of alien encounters, from some of the best science fiction writers working today."

- io9.com Best Books of 2013

Short Stories