Like a goodly number of my friends and colleagues, I went to the Worldcon in San Jose in August. How could I not? It’s literally just down the road from me. Plus, chance to see all sorts of people I don’t see nearly often enough–writers, readers, fans, people I have known for an unflattering number of years.
A few days before the convention I started hearing odd things. Like “Don’t Worry We’re Hiring Extra Security” type odd things. I, being blessedly deaf to most scandals and brouhaha, had missed out on this new wrinkle in a several-years-old brangle. A wing of SF writer/fandom has been objecting to SF and fantasy that features women, LGBTQ folk, and persons of color. These folk believe that they–white, male, straight–are the Default Setting, and our genre is being ruined by these forays into the Other. Some of these folk attempted to establish a beachhead and die on it, and take the Hugo Award with them. To that end there was an attempt a few years ago to stack the deck of the awards, which was thwarted (the announcements of No Award garnered louder and louder applause as the evening went on). Then the rules were changed to make this sort of tampering harder to do.
I had thought (see above, blessedly clueless etc.) that this particular wrinkle was ironing itself out. Yes, even in this contentious age. I was naive. This year a writer was banned from attending the convention after he thoughtfully served notice that he intended to come to the convention and break the Code of Conduct, specifically by filming people whether or not they consented to be filmed. Apparently in order to establish how discriminated-against he was. The Convention Committee, bound to take this seriously, offered to refund his money if he could not conform to the Code. Me, I find this totally reasonable.
Someone who gets into rumbles on line and talks about wearing a body-cam into a SFWA meeting (presumably so he can film… what? The treasurer’s report? I’ve been to SFWA meetings, plenty of them, and they are rarely hotbeds of conspiracy. And usually they run out of coffee and danish before I get there) is not likely to go quietly, and The Guy did not. He attempted to gin up a protest on Saturday afternoon, posting an announcement on Facebook in the hope that oppressed Millions would converge on the convention center to make their wrath known.
Then Antifa* apparently said they’d be there to stage a counter protest. Why can’t we all just get along?
Such warnings have to be taken seriously, on the off chance that something really nasty happens. So the convention paid what I assume is a healthy amount of money for a heavy security presence (it paid off on Friday, when The Guy apparently came to the convention and was escorted out), and the city of San Jose spent what I assume is a healthy amount of money for police–in full riot gear on a hot, sunny day–stationed outside the convention center.
The photo shows the plaza of the San Jose Convention Center. Even when the assembled hordes of the right and left were there (fittingly, on the right and left respectively), it was almost as empty as it appears in the photo. About twenty souls on each side, separated by about 100 feet and many barriers. I should note that the instigator of the whole shebang did not come, announcing publicly that his son was ill (in which case props for him staying home and being a good Dad), but possibly going sailing instead. What if we gave a riot and nobody came?
That evening the Hugos were awarded. Quite reasonably, because she’s a phenomenal writer who wrote a brilliant novel, Nora Jemisin won the Best Novel award. The fact that the other winners of writing awards were women is because they wrote what the voters most admired. (I now have a huge number of new things to read and new authors to research; I particularly want to read the story by Rebecca Roanhorse which won the Best Short Story Hugo. Roanhorse–who is half black and half indigenous–also took the John W. Campbell award for best new writer. (Anyone who is familiar with who Campbell was will appreciate the delicious irony of this.)
So, Worldcon: I got to eat meals or have a drink with almost everyone I wanted to see. I did a panel and an autographing and have a new list of a couple of dozen books I need to read, like, right now. Worldcon celebrated SF and fantasy in the myriad ways that it can be celebrated. In other words, Worldcon did exactly what it was meant to do, and everyone went on with their lives. Even, I assume, The Guy.
* Antifa, for those not current on the niceties of US political movements, is a freeform movement of militant “anti-fascist” groups who work via “direct action” (which sometimes looks a lot like violence) in reaction to aggressive right-wing protestors.
Madeleine Robins has been a nanny, an administrator, an actor, and a swordswoman; trafficked book production, edited comics, and repaired hurt books. She’s also the author of the dark urban fantasy The Stone War, three alternate-Regency-noir mysteries — Point of Honour, Petty Treason, and The Sleeping Partner; and Sold for Endless Rue, a retelling of Rapunzel set in the medieval medical school in Salerno, Italy. She is a founding member of the Book View Cafe. An unregenerate New Yorker, she now lives in San Francisco , where she manages the American Bookbinders Museum, bakes cakes, and is a slave to the dog.