Let’s not surrender fandom to bullies

The illiberal factions in fandom just want power. They don’t care much whom they go after, as long as they can flex their muscles. The Worldcon 75 committee has offered the latest sample of this, shoving Dave Weingart out as the filk head.

Note: I’ve discovered that Vox Day has linked to this post, which doubtless accounts for the comments below. I’m not letting anyone turn my blog into a mud-slinging fest, so I’ve disabled comments on this post.

Dave discussed what happened here. In brief: Someone got the notion that Dave should never talk to her. He respected this. One day he inadvertently posted a Babylon 5 video link to a chat group which this other person was also in. For this, he was told he could continue to run filk only if he agreed to end all staff contact outside his division. Of course, it’s impossible to run a part of the program that way, so his only choice was to withdraw.
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Speech control at Worldcon?

On several occasions in this blog, I’ve expressed concern about speech restrictions in SF cons’ codes of conduct. An event at MidAmericon 2 (this year’s Worldcon) provides evidence that the threat is real, and that some people on con committees don’t care to allow views they dislike. A Hugo-nominated author named Dave Truesdale was expelled from the convention after making a long, off-topic speech at a panel which he was on.

I wasn’t there, and I’m piecing the information together from various reports, but so far the concom’s actions look hostile to the liberal ideal of open discussion and debate.
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Balticon’s speech code

This week I learned that Balticon is among the science fiction conventions that restricts speech in the name of prohibiting “harassment.” Its “Harassment Policy” states: “Do not use slurs or derogatory comments about a person, group or category of people.” With a presidential election coming up, this could put a real damper on discussions.

As usual, we can expect selective enforcement. I doubt that anyone would get into trouble for saying derogatory things about Orson Scott Card, the Sad Puppies, or conservatives. Speech codes operate to enforce conformity to views that are popular within the group or with the administrators, rarely to enforce a consistent embargo on discussion.

I wasn’t planning on going to Balticon, but it’s still sad to see how many cons are going in this direction, and how few people care.

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Arisia’s terms of service

I didn’t attend Arisia, but according to accounts I’ve seen on rec.music.filk, the registration lines were a disaster as a result of a bizarre policy. I’m going by second-hand information here, but I haven’t seen it contradicted, and if it’s correct it’s a good reason for me to keep skipping Arisia.

Arisia draws a few thousand people, so there are going to be lines under the best of circumstances, but they were made worse by requiring each person to sign a “document which looked to want a lawyer’s attention for a week to figure it out.” This document was Arisia’s code of conduct, or perhaps a document incorporating it by reference. That code is about 1800 words long and contains items which people need to think about carefully. People weren’t given a copy to sign until they reached the front of the line. If each person took five minutes to read the document, it’s impressive that everyone got registered by the time the convention was over. I suppose a lot of people felt pressured into signing without reading.
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The careless use of “triggering”

It’s become an obligation in some circles to to give “trigger warnings” when writing about anything vaguely unpleasant. Let’s think about what sort of view of the audience this presents and whether it’s really appropriate in so many situations.

Triggering implies the setting off of some kind of serious reaction, which might be anything from a panic attack to road rage. Traditionally it implies the triggering of a PTSD response. It suggests that some members of the audience are incapable of dealing with the topic. In severe cases, such as portrayals of graphic violence, this can be appropriate. With audiences that are particularly sensitive, such as a mailing list for abuse survivors, it’s reasonable to be generous with warnings. But it’s often overdone, and an overdose of warnings can be insulting to the people they’re supposed to protect.
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Tomorrow’s Songs Today on eBay

Cover for Tomorrow's Songs Today

The cover by Matt Leger for Tomorrow’s Songs Today

I’ve put a signed and numbered copy of Tomorrow’s Songs Today up on Ebay. My supply of the first run is getting low, so this may be the last copy of the original run that I sell, since I want to keep a couple of copies for myself.

The book is available for free in ebook form, and the book’s website has updates, but if you want to help support the book, or if you just like having a paper copy, this is your chance.

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Two flavors of zero tolerance

My posts on Ahmed Mohamed and on filk con harassment policies are about two aspects of the same issue. I’m sure, though, that most people who favor zero tolerance for electronics projects wouldn’t support Con2bil8’s policy if they knew about it, and most people who want zero tolerance for making anyone uncomfortable are unhappy with how MacArthur High School and the Irving Police Department treated the student.Stop sign with 'zero tolerance'

There’s a big difference in degree between the two, certainly. Much as I’d hate being kicked out of a filk con because somebody didn’t like what I said, it wouldn’t be as bad as being arrested, handcuffed, and questioned while being denied my legal rights. But I’m talking about the idea of designing policies so anything that deviates from the norm can be punished.
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Filkers can do better

Filk is a community more than a musical style. It’s people in different countries drawn together by the love of songs which are clever, which look toward the future, which examine many possibilities for the world. I’ve found myself as much at home at filk conventions in Canada, Germany, and England as in the United States. Many things about filk have changed over the years and will keep changing, but we should always keep this.

Dandelion logo from FilKONtario siteFilk is a part of science fiction and fantasy fandom, which loves to explore ideas. This means discussion and debate. It means hearing ideas which may make us uncomfortable and being able to think people are seriously wrong without treating them as outcasts. Fandom has been a stronghold of liberalism, in the sense I cited in my last post: “valuing tolerance, freedom, and reason rather than orthodoxy, authoritarianism, and tradition.” (This has nothing to do with the Democratic and Republican parties, neither of which is liberal in that sense today.)
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On the Sad Puppies

I’ve kept my distance from the “Sad Puppies” controversy in the Hugo Awards. I’m not registered for the upcoming World Science Fiction Convention, and I don’t follow a lot of current science fiction, so I couldn’t cast an informed vote without a lot of extra work. I have noticed quite a bit of nastiness from the anti-Puppy faction, including sniping at the people nominated because of the Sad Puppy and Rabid Puppy slates. If you dislike the methods of promotion, that’s fine, but attacking people for being nominated and failing to decline the nomination isn’t. It exemplifies the growing illiberalism and intolerance that I’ve seen in fandom.

I’d like people to read Gray Rinehart's article on this year’s Hugo situation. Though we’re both filkers, I don’t really know him personally, and his Christian philosophy is quite different from mine, but his core point is important:

Suffice it to say that various people, in various places, have characterized the “Sad Puppies” ringleaders and their “Rabid Puppies” counterparts — as well as those of us whose works were nominated — in … uncharitable terms. Words like racist, misogynistic, homophobic, and even neo-Nazi have been bandied about. Likewise, strong and often unduly harsh language has been used against those on the “anti-puppy” side, i.e., toward those on the side of the Hugo Award traditions and WorldCon fandom. …

I will, however, say this: I find myself somewhat ambivalent about the possibility that people I do not know might characterize me in unfriendly terms, whether directly or through guilt-by-association. The fact is that most of the commentators do not know me, personally or even by reputation, and their reports can hardly be taken as reliable. I admit that I am somewhat concerned that other people, potential fans or potential friends who read such things, could come away with a false impression; however, I am confident that those who know me, who have interacted with me on a personal basis, will not be fooled into believing falsehoods about me.

I also recommend Jeff Duntemann’s series of posts on the controversy. He clarifies the distinction between the Sad Puppies and the Rabid Puppies, which some people, including me before I read his posts, have had trouble following.

There’s an outside chance that my Tomorrow’s Songs Today could be nominated next year in the category of “best related work,” and I’ve thought about whether I’d want that. Some people would very likely lump me, because of my views, with the Puppy faction, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a few alleged friends turn on me. If it happens, I think I’d do more good by giving them reasoned responses than by running away from the situation.

The Helva CD project

In the early nineties, Helva Peters often sang at conventions in the northeast and MASSFILC gatherings. At the time she had a very impressive voice and gave a moving interpretation to her own songs as well as songs by others. She can be heard on the Wail Songs tapes Shoot the Moon, The Programmer and the Elves, and Let’s Have a Filk Sing, as well as the CD set Balticon Tapes. Since then, various health issues have taken their toll on her, though she still sometimes comes to filksings.

Things have lately taken a more serious turn with her; she now has Stage IV cancer, and family sources are advancing her money for a trip to Tijuana, where she believes a treatment not available in the US will be more helpful to her. She’ll be piling up a lot of expenses and would like to be able to return at least some of that money.

At the same time, it would be a wonderful thing if more of her old recordings became better known to filkers. Her presence at early MASSFILC meetings was one of the things that kept me coming. We’re both fans of the Ron Perlman-Linda Hamilton TV show Beauty and the Beast, and her song “Vincent (Wells)” is a favorite of mine. Helva is her fannish name, taken from Anne McCaffrey’s The Ship Who Sang, and she’d often sing Cecilia Eng’s “Helva’s Song.”

To accomplish two things at once — raising some money for her medical expenses and making this happen — Helva and I are working on a crowdfunding project to produce a CD of her recordings. Harold Stein has been enthusiastic about the idea, and some other people have set out digging for recordings of her performances. The current plan is that I’ll run the campaign on her behalf. If you read my earlier post asking about raising money for another person, now you know the reason.

I’ve made a video of Helva talking about her situation and asking for support. It will be a while before the campaign is actually online, but I want to start building awareness now. If you have photos or recordings that might be usable, please let me know. If you might like to donate something as a premium, let me know. I’ll be throwing in some number of copies of Tomorrow’s Songs Today. The basic premium will, of course, be the CD. We expect to offer downloads through Bandcamp as well.

A lot is still fluid, but I can promise that everything after expenses, which we’ll keep minimal, will go to Helva. None of the other principals will be paid anything.