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November 30, 2011 3:03 PM   Subscribe

"When I said in the beginning that absolutely everything that’s represented in this document is in response to stuff that has actually occurred at conventions, that is not hyperbole..." Author Peter David has posted his Fan/Pro Bill of Rights for sci-fi conventions and convention-goers.

He invokes the Neil Gaiman Assertion ("Authors are not your bitch") the Misha Collins Declaration ("Actors are not your performing monkeys"), and the Prime Directive (which looks a lot more like Wil Wheaton's Law than anything from Star Trek).

David also writes in the Comments:

"What I’m trying to focus on here is behavior that results from people not necessarily knowing any better of giving the matter any thought...."

"...There are, in fact, many fans new to conventions who have zero idea of protocols involved. They don’t know how to approach pros, or if they should. They don’t know how many books to get signed is too much or how to find out. And I’ll bet that every person who asks for a hug during a panel thinks they’re the first person to come up with that."
posted by magstheaxe (78 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
Mr. David was a GoH (Guest of Honor) my convention at last year. I hope that nothing at that convention inspired this post.
posted by magstheaxe at 3:06 PM on November 30, 2011


Any convention with a sharp dividing line between "fans" and "pros" (or "talent" or whatever) is problematic in the first place. I realize this attitude is a relic of SF lit conventions where many or most pros start out as fans in the first place but it is, I think, a good outlook. Media cons where the talent would really rather be somewhere else and are only present because their contract requires them to be there (or because they are being paid a bunch of cash) strike me as little different than booth babes with added clothing. Yeah, I realize there are a lot of authors who attend WorldCon or the like for professional reasons but there is a difference between that and "oh god I wish I didn't have to do this, ick".
posted by Justinian at 3:15 PM on November 30, 2011 [10 favorites]




Paging Harlan Ellison. Mr. Harlan Ellison to the red rage phone. Paging Harlan Ellison.

Eh, Harlan Ellison has earned the right to be a little short sometimes.
posted by loquacious at 3:20 PM on November 30, 2011 [15 favorites]


HAH. I see what you did there.
posted by Justinian at 3:21 PM on November 30, 2011


I see some obligations that he thinks organizers have to attendees. I see an exhaustive code of conduct detailing what he thinks fans owe to pros. What I don't see is a statement of what he thinks he owes to his fans as a pro. This isn't a constitution, it's a royal decree.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 3:21 PM on November 30, 2011 [10 favorites]


The contrast used with Neil Gaiman in that second video is hilarious.
posted by Stagger Lee at 3:27 PM on November 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


What I don't see is a statement of what he thinks he owes to his fans as a pro.

It's in there, for what it's worth. There are basically three things:

1. Don't complain if a fan praises a work that you no longer care for, unless it's well known that you don't care for it.
2. Turn your cell phone off when you're on panels or you might get laughed at.
3. Don't be on a panel if you're so exhausted you might fall asleep.
posted by jedicus at 3:27 PM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow, did you and I read the same thing? I saw lots about what pro's owe fans, and what fans owe other fans.

I was a bit upset at his segment on fans with disabilities. Just because I don't use a wheelchair, don't assume I can move as fast as you. I've taken to using my cane at cons even when I don't need it, just so people can SEE that I have a reason for walking so slowly and not using stairs. (It is also useful for smashing toes of people who think they can step on me.)
posted by strixus at 3:29 PM on November 30, 2011 [9 favorites]


The only list you need, fan or pro, is as follows:

1) Don't be an asshole.
posted by Justinian at 3:29 PM on November 30, 2011 [17 favorites]


Perhaps there needs to be a code of conduct for some so-called pros as well. Last October, I listened as the toastmaster at MileHiCon, a Mr. Mario Acevedo, make tranny jokes during the opening ceremony speech.

which made me so mad/sad I went to the bar afterwards and got royally pissed which led me to buy Vernor Vinge and company a round from my table which led to a nice convo ... but still...
posted by Poet_Lariat at 3:31 PM on November 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think I've attended my last convention.
posted by zomg at 3:41 PM on November 30, 2011


This looks good to me, and it makes some sense to me that there are more rules here for Fans than for Pros (though the rules for Pros are certainly not wanting) if simply because 1.) there are a lot more fans than pros, with a subsequently more wildly divergent set of unpredictable behaviors, and 2.) fans don't have or need publicists who keep them on the straight-and-narrow that fans can so easily veer off from.

Also, some asshole tried to get Emma Watson to sign an upskirt photo? CWAA!
posted by Navelgazer at 3:41 PM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


I wonder how much of this is in response to people that science fiction conventions are looking for an excuse to invite "not back". There was once a guy from somewhere in Southern Illinois who had a lot of socialization issues and a talent for pushing things just as far as he could without getting thrown out by the hotel or convention staff. He'd eventually blow it, but he definitely went out of his way to shit all over any good will the hotel had for the convention.

I'm not sure how he interacted with the pros but I know how I'd bet.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 3:46 PM on November 30, 2011


This isn't a constitution, it's a royal decree.

Oh, horsehocky. When you create things, you really shouldn't let your fans dictate to you or woo you with praise outside of their willing patronage otherwise you end up with crap like Joss Whedon.

It's one thing to give fans what they want, to listen to their feedback and criticism and hone whatever art it is you're practicing - but just because you made a creative work that someone liked enough to purchase a copy (or original) of it doesn't mean that they own you or that you owe them anything more than that same creative work.

One of the major problems of fandom (and celebrity worship in general) is that people build up incredible false expectations about who the artist is and what that artist means in their life and vice versa. Good art especially has the power to move people and become an integral part of their lives - pop songs become milestones marking breakups, a good book changes someone's entire outlook on life.

Powerful, memorable things happen. Things that aren't known to the author or artist. They literally have no clue, because they weren't there. And people (myself included) tend to transfer these powerful emotions to the artist, but the artist has no idea whatsoever. The fan thinks or expects that they have some kind of personal relationship to the artist - but they most certainly do not have a personal relationship outside of their patronage. Most fans at best have a tenuous third party financial relationship to the author/artist via a publisher.

So. People get a little unhinged when they meet their favorite artists, especially when the artist inevitably doesn't match nor meet their expectations, especially when fandom crosses well into idolatry.

The telling one's life story thing happens way too much. The fan may only be trying to express appreciation for how a creative work moved them or helped them through hard times, but the artist doesn't really have the time nor energy to listen to an entire wall of rushed, nervously spoken text about how a book helped someone through a perfectly mundane difficult breakup or loss or other major life event. Especially not while they're probably jet-lagged, hung over or overwhelmed with stimulation and attention.

Artists are often expected to be more than human while everyone is (sometimes literally) tearing them to pieces and trying to claim their erroneous ownership or misguided feelings that they have any sort of real relationship with the artist beyond appreciating their work and maybe buying it.

I recently "met" Ursula K. LeGuin at a book signing. Standing in line at a library with what may have been 200 other people, and I went through all of these emotions, expectant that somehow she would just know how much her books meant to me, that cosmically she would just recognize me, say something wise just for me - bless me with her magnificent genius and give me more... more than her books did.

Hogwash. Utterly unrealistic. I was just someone who liked books. A complete stranger - and a rather looming and intense one at that. And she was just a tired, hard-working old women - if gracious and brilliant. Not cranky, but understandably economical. There was no magic to be had, there - no spark of recognition, and that went both ways.

Because my ego got in my way, I missed the chance to really thank her for the great books, thoughts, and stories. In exchange I purchased a book, and had it signed with my own lackluster words - "Keep writing" as though talking to myself through her somehow gave it more power. It didn't.
posted by loquacious at 3:51 PM on November 30, 2011 [21 favorites]


C'mon, half the fun of a con is watching all of the weird behavior. Obviously no one should be groped or otherwise harassed, but the rest of this seems rather picky and personal. If someone tries to corner you and get you to sign every blessed thing they have, just say no. Con floor too crowded? Give yourself extra time to get places. It's a con, if they're paying you to be their, that crowd is paying you, attendance is generally considered a good thing. It sounds to me like he just doesn't like the experience of being around a LOT of people, in which case, I'd say cons aren't his thing.
posted by doctor_negative at 4:00 PM on November 30, 2011


How about a rule stating you can't use the word "Comic" in your convention name if you have panels for Twilight?
posted by weirdoactor at 4:02 PM on November 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


HAH. I see what you did there.

It's just some low hanging fruit. An easy, cheap joke. I'm hoping if I do it enough times he'll eviscerate me in a public forum. Which I'd probably print out and tape to my pillow so I can make out with it.
posted by loquacious at 4:04 PM on November 30, 2011 [9 favorites]


just because you made a creative work that someone liked enough to purchase a copy (or original) of it doesn't mean that they own you or that you owe them anything more than that same creative work.

I agree, and I have great respect for Bill Watterson's decision to retreat from the public eye after Calvin and Hobbes. However, people go to conferences because they want face-to-face interaction. That interaction has to be weirdly asymmetrical given the fan's attachment to the work of a pro who is a stranger. I was wondering what the pro-fan conference relationship looks like when its going well, and what pros need to do to maintain that.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 4:10 PM on November 30, 2011


So. People get a little unhinged when they meet their favorite artists, especially when the artist inevitably doesn't match nor meet their expectations, especially when fandom crosses well into idolatry.

I totally agree with this, but that's also why they're fans. People who don't have an irrational attachment to the artist would probably not go out of their way to to see that person, let alone pay for travel/hotel/con ticket. Expecting people who define themselves as fanatics to act rationally is, conceptually, a few bricks short of load.
posted by doctor_negative at 4:18 PM on November 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


The only list you need, fan or pro, is as follows:

1) Don't be an asshole.


I would also consider adding:

2) Get over yourself.

3) No, for real, yo, get the fuck over yourself
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:23 PM on November 30, 2011 [7 favorites]


Goddamn, nerds love rules.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:23 PM on November 30, 2011 [11 favorites]


> Paging Harlan Ellison. Mr. Harlan Ellison to the red rage phone. Paging Harlan Ellison.

My mind is blown!

Canada had a TV series dedicated to covering SciFi/Fantasy, and it ran for 5 seasons?
posted by mrzarquon at 4:24 PM on November 30, 2011


I can only speak with experience about anime and videogame conventions, as Comicon or DragonCon style stuff has never appealed to me...but from the standpoint of someone who's been a fan, a panelist, and a senior staffer at various gatherings in several cities on both coasts I have to say that some of these expectations/demands really fall outside what's possible to guarantee. I'm not saying they're irrational or unreasonable desires, but sometimes "a con is a con" and certain things happen the way they happen. If the very nature of a specific kind of gathering goes against one's expectations, then my recommendation would be not to attend.
posted by trackofalljades at 4:33 PM on November 30, 2011


I totally agree with this, but that's also why they're fans. People who don't have an irrational attachment to the artist would probably not go out of their way to to see that person, let alone pay for travel/hotel/con ticket.

Nine times out of ten, I think people go for the community aspect more than the guests. I think there are a small number of sf/f/horror writers people would straight up make plans to go to a con simply to see those people, and most of them don't attend that many (or any) cons...I'm thinking Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore, William Gibson. I've seen a lot of fan/pro interaction up close, but not that much idolatry. Awkwardness as people try to articulate their response to a person's work, maybe. Rudeness as one party or the other succumbed to impatience or the effects of sleep deprivation or some unguessable X-factor. Mostly casual friendly interaction, though.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:38 PM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Canada had a TV series dedicated to covering SciFi/Fantasy, and it ran for 5 seasons?

Yes.
posted by maudlin at 4:38 PM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Goddamn, nerds love rules.

A level 3 Pro needs to roll a 13 or better to save vs. Roaming Douchebags...
posted by mikelieman at 4:43 PM on November 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'd make a joke about rule number whatever being "Thou Shalt Not Ever Get Laid," but I know a female who at one of these conventions, humped a guy in a Klingon costume, so, whatever works, I guess.
posted by jonmc at 4:47 PM on November 30, 2011


The only list you need, fan or pro, is as follows:

1) Don't be an asshole.


This rule, even with Kittens For Breakfast's addendum (get over yourself), is actually insufficient, because many people who attend cons literally do not know what either sentence means. Some people require the codification of rules that are common sense to others, because their acculturation process didn't cover those rules.

(This is not to say that Wheaton's Rule shouldn't apply; obviously, it does. But it doesn't suffice.)
posted by Fraxas at 4:49 PM on November 30, 2011 [6 favorites]


I know a female who at one of these conventions, humped a guy in a Klingon costume

I gleefully abandoned my virginity to a girl who came on to me at a SF convention. 25 years ago. And we're still married today.
posted by localroger at 4:51 PM on November 30, 2011 [8 favorites]


But have you taken off the Klingon costume?
posted by jonmc at 4:51 PM on November 30, 2011 [10 favorites]


4) Question and answer sessions are designed for succinctly phrased questions that will, in turn, elicit answers. They are not intended for fan pontifications, declamations, circumlocution, or soliloquies... This is a panel, not The Bridge of San Luis Rey. Fans choosing to ignore these guidelines proceed at their risk and better hope their personal narrative is compelling enough that audiences will not find it onerous.

I wish this part could be legally enforceable in all Q&A situations.
posted by grapesaresour at 4:53 PM on November 30, 2011 [14 favorites]


There was no Klingon costume involved. The whole Klingon thing was 10 years in the future. Back then it was mostly Star Wars.
posted by localroger at 4:54 PM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


And that fond memory aside, he forgot the rule "Pros shall not form drunken bands which seek out Fans of unliked political persuasion and seek out an excuse to use them as punching bags."
posted by localroger at 4:56 PM on November 30, 2011


I think I attended the panel (at ConJosé) that gave rise to this bit:
9) Pros have a right to express unpopular or inflammatory opinions on panels or elsewhere without it immediately resulting in fans announcing that henceforth they will never read anything by that author ever again. Pros also have a right to believe monkeys will fly out of their ass.
There are a couple of authors who will only resume their place on my reading list when I receive their notarized buttmonkeys by airmail.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 5:02 PM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've never been to a con, but every article I've read about them has involved people acting like total jerks. If I didn't know better, I'd have a really bad impression of nerd culture and behavior.
posted by naju at 5:03 PM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hunh, I remember when This American Life covered this exact topic, down to the toilets, 10 years ago. (Intro, first three minutes). But with a different sci fi writer --- Stephen Goldin.

I can't say I've been to one of these myself. I wonder if people think things have changed at all, in the ensuing decade? 2001 was practically before the interwebs.* But it seems like sci fi and fantasy and superheros and whatnot have risen to a position of cultural prominence they didn't have even back then, and people have a lot more resources to find each other ---- so are conventions any more mainstream?




*Not really.
posted by Diablevert at 5:11 PM on November 30, 2011


9) Pros have a right to express unpopular or inflammatory opinions on panels or elsewhere without it immediately resulting in fans announcing that henceforth they will never read anything by that author ever again.

Funny, how that free speech thing works both ways- you can say what you want, and other people can say how they feel about what you said. Of course, Peter David has a history of being pretty unhappy how people get to actually respond to "any slight, real or imagined".
posted by yeloson at 5:20 PM on November 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


This is why I haven't been to a con in years.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:24 PM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Funny, how that free speech thing works both ways- you can say what you want, and other people can say how they feel about what you said. Of course, Peter David has a history of being pretty unhappy how people get to actually respond to "any slight, real or imagined".

OH GOD OH MY GOD IT'S LIKE SETTING A HOT IRON ON MY BRAIN
posted by kittens for breakfast at 5:27 PM on November 30, 2011


Time to track down my Essential Ellison to find his essay "Xenogenesis," which covers some egregious behavior from years ago.

Sadly, all of these rules come out from somebody ruining it for everybody. Speaking of which, there should also be a rule here about "Fans should not make everyone wish for spontaneous combustion by turning a panel into an excruciating, hour-long pun contest where the bystanders long for the sweet release of death," but that was one panel a long time ago in a con far, far away.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 5:54 PM on November 30, 2011


MileHiCon

I lived in Denver before I moved overseas for grad school, and I was a pretty regular MileHiCon attendee. I was sort-of friends with the organizers, so I managed to score myself free admission a few times by volunteering to chair panels and such.

The main panel I chaired that was always a big draw was the Turkey Readoff, which was mainly an excuse to let people get together and read excerpts from the worst published science fiction and fantasy that they could find. (The perennial "winner" was the guy who kept bringing in novels from the 50s written by an author who dictated everything instead of typing and who was paid by the word. You haven't lived until you've heard a page and a half devoted to describing the exact shade of purple an alien landscape is.) The unwritten rule was that anything newer than about twenty years old was kind of iffy, unless it was really that amazingly bad or acknowledged by its author as not all that great; the idea was more gentle mockery of things like E.E. Doc Smith's "You talk like a man with a paper nose" than savaging a new author's first book.

One year--not entirely coincidentally, one of my last years--one of the other members of the panel was one of those people who thinks he's funny and is tragically wrong. He was the kind of person who describes himself as "an inveterate punster" without having a clear grasp on what a pun actually is and how it functions, and has never quite assimilated the fact that they should be used like scalpels: quickly, sparingly, and never on anyone who's in a position to hurt you back.

When it was this guy's turn to read something, he proceeded to read from a science fiction romance novel. It actually wasn't that bad, apart from being, y'know, a science fiction romance novel, and my attention wandered a bit. I found myself wondering why the author's name sounded familiar...

Then it hit me.

This was a new just-published book.

The author was at the convention.

She was in the room with us.

There has to be some word in German for "douche chills so overpowering you wish you could actually die from them". I would have used it then. As quickly as I could without a.) looking like I was panicking and b.) actually clubbing the guy over the head and hiding him under the table, I shut him down and moved on to the next reader, and didn't call on him again.

After the panel wrapped up, fortunately with no further incidents, I made two trips--one to the author to apologize profusely, and the second to the convention organizer to tell her that under no circumstances should Beardy McDouchebag ever be permitted to volunteer for that particular panel again. (She assured me he wouldn't be.)

So, yeah, moral of this story: any time someone tells me about a particularly egregious failure of etiquette or social skills at a convention, 99% of the time I'll believe it.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 6:02 PM on November 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'm a guest at RPG/gaming conventions from time to time. If there's one thing I'd like to get rid of, it's the way panels are done. A couple of years ago I tried to break the mold by just inviting everybody out for a drink. It was fun. I know this isn't an option for famous folks or anything, but I'd love it if the interaction was more . . . *normal*. I'd maybe double the length of panels and let people get to know each other for that extra time. There would be snacks and a cash bar.

It'd be like a good wedding.
posted by mobunited at 6:03 PM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Never been to a convention, never really plan on it. I'm happy having exchanged a few emails with some of my favorite authors (Charlie Stross, John Ringo, Larry Correia) and letting them know how much I enjoyed their work and thanking them for their efforts.

Having grown up in rural Oklahoma, even having the ability to contact people who's works I like in email, and get a response, is still sort of amazing.
posted by mrbill at 6:03 PM on November 30, 2011


The other thing that gets me, I guess, is when I read/hear elaborate descriptions of the things I do, how I do them and why, and even what I get paid for them and/or what's wrong with people who like them that are factually inaccurate, but you know would never, ever be modified by saying anything to the contrary.

But that ain't a fuckin' Article of Confederation.
posted by mobunited at 6:08 PM on November 30, 2011


I like him, but I'd add for Pros:

1: You don't charge for autographs.
2: Since you laughed at #1. Then you really shouldn't charge kids.
3: If a fan is a fan about your least favorite work, you should smile and thank them. As loud as you may be about hating a work, this fan may not know it. And in the end they are a customer and don't want to hear your tirade.

I'd also like to rescind the 'photo shoot' rule of his. Sorry. That's the beast. It takes ten seconds and you have to wait a sec. Enjoy the costume. We're all brothers and sisters. There's no reason for the huffing and puffing and foot stomping. "Oh my God. I was going to Hall A and there was somebody taking a picture of Chell and I had to wait five seconds for the photographer to press a button and say, 'Thanks.'"
posted by CarlRossi at 6:11 PM on November 30, 2011 [6 favorites]


There's no reason for the huffing and puffing and foot stomping.

Yeah, I mean, I gotta be honest and say, no one is entitled to life as a professional writer. If you think it's bad when someone wants to take a picture with you, you really wouldn't like it when some asshole in a suit was yelling at you at five in the morning because you just fucked up his triple-latte espresso turbo-douche. If the worst thing that happens to you all day is that someone is so impressed with you that they would like to be photographed just sharing your air space, and this is something you think sucks, then Christ almighty I can't imagine how awesome your life must be when something's actually making you happy.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 6:39 PM on November 30, 2011 [7 favorites]


4) Question and answer sessions are designed for succinctly phrased questions that will, in turn, elicit answers. They are not intended for fan pontifications, declamations, circumlocution, or soliloquies... This is a panel, not The Bridge of San Luis Rey. Fans choosing to ignore these guidelines proceed at their risk and better hope their personal narrative is compelling enough that audiences will not find it onerous.

I wish this part could be legally enforceable in all Q&A situations.

I'd like to add explicit restrictions on questions in either of these two forms:

1. "So, like, that time on the thing you were in, like behind the scenes, can you tell us like, a practical joke or something that was really funny that happened?"

2. "So, like, that time on the thing you were in with so-and-so, where you were a couple in the show? Did you, you know? For Real?"
posted by odinsdream at 6:58 PM on November 30, 2011


Yeah, I mean, I gotta be honest and say, no one is entitled to life as a professional writer.

That, too. See also: Get over yourself and don't be an asshole. To be clear I should say I do find the whole "constitution" concept in the post presumptuous and a bit pointless.

The photo thing at cons does get pretty elaborate and time consuming. But getting upset about it is pretty pointless.

As is expecting perfectly normal behavior at cons. Weird, expressive and even transgressive behavior at cons is fine. That's always been part of fandom. It's like Burning Man for otaku and comic dweebs and the pimply sugar-rushing gamer in all of us. Well, maybe just most of us.

But ridiculous bullshit like the Emma Watson upskirt autograph attempt happens where it's possibly not even intentionally malicious at all - sexist, sure - but just utterly and completely clueless, tone deaf and straight up ignorant.

And it's not just from fan to guest, but fan to fan.

And that's not really new in fiction, Science Fiction, literature or the world at large - but "Fandom" had and has a major problem with sexual objectification. See also: Robert Heinlein and other notable and less notable authors.

And I've met way too many fans, geeks and nerds that are seemingly incapable of referring to, addressing or interacting with women conceptually outside of the objective "female" as though they were actually a completely distinct species or even genus. I see it like a weird language virus all over the web, and it seems like it's kind of a new thing with how casual and common it is.

And it's not just out of shyness or fear but from a truly objectifying, ignorant and rather toxic space. It seems to run statistically a bit higher than the median background for misogyny and/or ignorance, and it's a known problem in SF and greater fandom. Cons can be extremely hostile places for women, as is trying to write SF or engage in other fiction creation.
posted by loquacious at 7:03 PM on November 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


Cons can be extremely hostile places for women, as is trying to write SF or engage in other fiction creation.

Err, let me soften this. I do mean can be, as cons are traditionally also places that have been more welcoming to women than many other activities and venues. It's certainly generally not worse than a given meat market pickup bar or something.

But nerds and geeks ought to know better. It's dismaying when generally empathic dweebs and geeks who know what it's like to be marginalized do the same thing to people, especially at a con when it's supposed to be party time for said geeks.
posted by loquacious at 7:09 PM on November 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


1) Fans have a right to an efficient registration procedure.

DRAGONCON, PLEASE TAKE NOTE.

(Although it wasn't as bad this year as it had been the past couple.)
posted by JHarris at 7:10 PM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's weird, but I've gone to various cons since I was a young teenager, and other than the kinds of things you just get when there are a thousand young men in a room and the topic is Family Guy, I haven't been profoundly horrified by bad behavior. The worst thing has been the Q&A "that is not a legitimate question, sit down and shut up" stuff. Mostly conventions are about people who like Thing coming together to surround themselves with the aura of Thing, in my experience. It's a lot better than the same number of people celebrating a football victory, for example.

I admittedly also avoid alcohol-related events and the official hotels, and stay away from celebrities as much as I can, unless I'm obligated to be near a booth they've decided to hang out at. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: the best parts of Comic-Con are the rooms that are nearly empty because everyone else is trying to get into the overflow hall to see Sarah Michelle Gellar. But then, I'm an introvert who looks forward to academic analyses of the racial tolerance themes in Superman versus those in Batman, so.
posted by SMPA at 7:17 PM on November 30, 2011


And that's not really new in fiction, Science Fiction, literature or the world at large - but "Fandom" had and has a major problem with sexual objectification. See also: Robert Heinlein and other notable and less notable authors.

On a related topic, is it me or is it kind of weird to segue from:
At a recent West Coast convention, female fans were harassed by a serial groper, who had his membership taken away and was eventually forcibly removed from the convention.
to
By the same token, the abuse that pros have had to suffer at conventions borders on the legendary.
When that abuse is not, as it turns out, sexual assault, but rather fans wanting too many books signed at once or not telling you about an unusual spelling of their name when requesting a personalized autograph?
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:27 PM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Loses any possible credibility by quoting Star Trek right off the bat.
posted by signal at 8:08 PM on November 30, 2011


The Zeroth Geek Social Fallacy: (a) People who don't understand the unwritten rules will be aided by having them written, and (b) more rule-writing will provide further help.
posted by AkzidenzGrotesk at 8:47 PM on November 30, 2011 [5 favorites]


(a) People who don't understand the unwritten rules will be aided by having them written

Thank you for your condescension, but, um...yes. Yes, they often will. In my experience, at least, there's a large slice of the population which doesn't really know how to deal with certain social situations but would desperately love to, and spelling things out is the bluntest and most effective way to communicate that desired knowledge.
posted by AdamCSnider at 9:26 PM on November 30, 2011


Why is there nothing there or here about showering daily?
posted by ZeusHumms at 9:55 PM on November 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


Too bad he had to say alla that instead of just "Keep it cool."
posted by Twang at 10:26 PM on November 30, 2011


Pros have a right to express unpopular or inflammatory opinions on panels or elsewhere without it immediately resulting in fans announcing that henceforth they will never read anything by that author ever again.

Soooo... I have to buy someone's output, even if it turns out they think the main thing Hitler got wrong was not finishing the job?
posted by rodgerd at 11:03 PM on November 30, 2011


At Godwincon?
posted by The Hamms Bear at 12:04 AM on December 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


(The perennial "winner" was the guy who kept bringing in novels from the 50s written by an author who dictated everything instead of typing and who was paid by the word. You haven't lived until you've heard a page and a half devoted to describing the exact shade of purple an alien landscape is.)

I met Lionel Fanthorpe, the author of said books a few years back at a Discworld convention and he was quite aware of how bad they were. Nice guy, totally unashamed of what he did.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:22 AM on December 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


As for the original post, PAD's advice seems to be written for a more commercial sort of convention, with a sharper divide between fans and pros than I would be comfortable at. I find it depressing to see that asking money for autographs e.g. is becoming common at cons.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:26 AM on December 1, 2011


>> Paging Harlan Ellison. Mr. Harlan Ellison to the red rage phone. Paging Harlan Ellison.

>My mind is blown!

>Canada had a TV series dedicated to covering SciFi/Fantasy, and it ran for 5 seasons?


I was even more surprised that someone has what is apparently a VHS recording of someone complaining about what people say on the internet.
posted by Anything at 1:02 AM on December 1, 2011


It's perhaps a good thing that Asimov has gone to atheist heaven. There'd have to be a sealed addendum to the protocols otherwise.
posted by Devonian at 1:41 AM on December 1, 2011


Pros have a right to express unpopular or inflammatory opinions on panels or elsewhere without it immediately resulting in fans announcing that henceforth they will never read anything by that author ever again.
Rogerd: Soooo... I have to buy someone's output, even if it turns out they think the main thing Hitler got wrong was not finishing the job?


David has expressed a particular dislike of this kind of statement in the past. During the discussion over people not buying Shadow Complex, a game he wrote, due to its association with Orson Scott Card (previously), David contributed to the comments to this article by Christian Nutt.

Broadly, he seems to believe that boycotts are inevitably a process intended to have a chilling effect on free expression, that not buying a product and/or broadcasting the decision not to buy a product is equivalent to a boycott of that product, and that people who support causes should buy products created by people who speak out against them, in order to show the greater moral strength of their cause.
How refreshing would it be for a massive call that said, "Instead of having a boycott, let's support this person financially because we want to show that we're bigger and better and more tolerant and more accepting than he is, and our business is with the type of material he produces rather than his opinions. Let's demonstrate by our actions what it's like to understand and accept that different people have different ways of life and shouldn't be attacked for it."
It's a specific (and arguably somewhat esoteric) position, but I think it helps to explain why fans saying that they will not buy works based on the public speech of a creator would be something worth restricting in a Bill of Rights - for David, that doesn't count as a speech act, but rather an attempt to suppress free expression.
posted by running order squabble fest at 3:14 AM on December 1, 2011


I met Lionel Fanthorpe

Thank you! I was going nuts trying to remember Fanthorpe's name--I used to have a bookmark for a site about him, but it apparently was a victim of my most recent bookmark purge. I'm oddly relieved to hear that he's a nice guy with no illusions about his early books.

For those of you who were wondering, a taste of Lionel Fanthorpe's pulp output from March of the Robots:
Terrifying things, steel things; metal things; things with cylindrical bodies and multitudinous jointed limbs. Things wthout flesh and blood. Things that were made of metal and plastic and transistors and valves and relays, and wires. Metal things. Metal things that could think. Thinking metal things. Terrifying in their strangeness, in their peculiar metal efficiency. Things the like of which had never been seen on the earth before. Things that were sliding back panels. . . Robots! Robots were marching.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 3:23 AM on December 1, 2011 [7 favorites]


Funny that the section on kids just lists all the competing factors and then says, "Ok, now everyone just work it out" instead of including prescriptions/proscriptions like the rest of it. Honestly, there's not much conflict between "kids are the future of fandom" and "if your kid won't stop screaming you need to take it out of the room, seriously." Seems weird to not include something specific about such a clearly disruptive behavior.

for David, [saying "I'll never buy your work again"] doesn't count as a speech act, but rather an attempt to suppress free expression.

Wow, those comments are fascinating. David's fury at boycott tactics is enormous; he calls them "financial punishment," "cheap and vicious and small-minded," "antithetical to the notion of a free society," and later adds, "I always--always--separate the creative product from the creator."

Good for him, I guess. But his proposed "right" - pros get to say dumb shit but fans don't get to make consumption decisions in response - is tone deaf, idiosyncratic and absurd. Now that I think of it, in addition to running order squabble fest's example, David was the recipient of a helluva lot of "I'm never buying another thing from you again!" fury from folks who blamed him for the takedown of Scans_Daily, so I guess I can understand why he's come to the fierce position he has.

And now that I think of *that*, I recall David had trouble understanding fan communities during the Scans_Daily mess, when he failed to get what was lost when years of S_D LiveJournal archives disappeared overnight. He actually kind of poo-pooed the idea that any kind of "community" had existed there at all. I remember being shocked at that. Hmm. I'm not sure he'd be my go-to person for any kind of community bill of rights.

I am sure, however, that I want to see YouTube videos of sleeping nerds being awakened by air horns.
posted by mediareport at 4:19 AM on December 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Why doesn't it surprise me that PAD is clueless about what freedom of expression means? Hint: it's not the freedom of avoiding the consequences of expressing your opinions.
posted by MartinWisse at 4:24 AM on December 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wow, those comments are fascinating. David's fury at boycott tactics is enormous; he calls them "financial punishment," "cheap and vicious and small-minded," "antithetical to the notion of a free society," and later adds, "I always--always--separate the creative product from the creator."

Well, it's a very personal-is-political position - his example of doing so is that he buys the work of John Byrne, even though John Byrne doesn't like him. Those are pretty low stakes - a net expense of at most a few hundred dollars a year and a personal dislike between two people for whom a few hundred dollars is not a huge amount of money. The NoM, I think, is higher stakes, for both Card and for gay men and lesbians in the US.

Likewise, I think it's odd that this Bill of Rights is trailed as being inspired by sexual harassment of female fans, when the first right is about autograph etiquette, the second is about trade floor etiquette, the third is about the etiquette of fans approaching guests, and the fourth is about the etiquette of attending panels. The only element that has any direct reference to harassment (other than harassment of pros by fans looking for autographs) is:
Conventions should take security measures and have people designated specifically to handle disruptive individuals, crowd control, etc., as well as an advertised security ombudsman to whom fans can go if situations of harassment arise. Should the convention opt for security forces composed of local groups of Storm Troopers, Dorsai, Klingons, etc., it should be emphasized to them that they are there for the convenience and safety of the fans, and not to cosplay as bad-asses. Security guards should be able to distinguish between groups of fans blocking access as opposed to a single fan who is simply standing still for a minute or two deciding which direction he’s going to go.
Which is very good advice. But it's odd to start off by saying that this has been inspired by incidences of sexual harassment, and then spend the majority of the following on a series of guidelines on, as Jenna Maroney might say, respecting celebrity privacy. Autograph queue annoyances just don't seem to me to be as important as women being able to attend cons without having to worry about being sexually harassed, and therefore this Bill of Rights seems to me to be answering if not the wrong questions then the least pressing ones, even within the parameters it has set itself.
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:37 AM on December 1, 2011 [3 favorites]



Living in Atlanta, and having a cadre of friends who like gaming, Dr. Who, anime and etc, we do get innundated on Labor Day Weekend. Essentially, I run a bed and breakfast for folks who dress up and play.

Normally, I'm happy to make the sausage gravy for the biscuits (as a West-coaster, I STILL have not figured out why people like this, but to each his own.) and leave the con stuff to the guests. This year, my five-year old Godson, his mom, another friend and her 12-year old daughter and I decided to go to DragonCon night at the Georgia Aquarium. Weirdness abounded.

First of all, let me go on record that I myself had been a fixture at various Star Trek cons in the seventies and eighties, that I even attended a WorldCon (not going to sign up for that priviliage any time soon) so I knew the drill. I was wholly unprepaired for the sheer, dense insanity of it.

The sign warning against using weapons should have been the tip-off. The kids both were wordless, mouths hanging open as the costumed paraded by. Sure, sharks, beluga whales and an octopus were interesting, but not as interesting as the Zombie prom, Steampunks, Klingons, any number of Arwens. This begs the question, "so why are you at an aquarium in all of your gear?"

My friend and her daughter are looking forward to attending DragonCon in person at some point in the future, but I'll stick to towel laundering and breakfast making thank you.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:36 AM on December 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


With regards to the "Misha Collins Declaration", for the prices fans pay for those Supernatural conventions, the actors should be their performing monkeys. There is definitely a price point that seems like straight up exploitation of fans, and those things have to have crossed it. I can't really blame fans for feeling a bit entitled when they're dropping hundreds to thousands of dollars just on convention events/pictures/autographs alone.

Charging that sort of money just doesn't seem like something that will create a mutually respectful environment.
posted by madelf at 6:44 AM on December 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


With regards to the "Misha Collins Declaration", for the prices fans pay for those Supernatural conventions, the actors should be their performing monkeys.

That's something to consider, I think. I've not been to one of those cons in particular--and really only a few cons ever--but there's probably something instinctive about the whole "I paid to be here, and you're getting paid to be here" thing. Yes, pros are people and need to be treated with respect. I'm hoping to be one next year, so yeah, I can see that side of things. But at the same time, the fans have paid money for this, and the pros frequently do get paid to appear, I don't think it's entirely unwarranted for the concept of customer service to at least be in play.

So yes, the Gaiman Assertion has some truth to it, but the idea that pros don't owe fans anything seems mistaken. But fans should remember that pros don't owe them anything more than the common courtesy owed to every other fan.

This is why I'm pretty sensitive to the Zeroth Fallacy above. Someone who lacks the wisdom to govern his social interactions with others in a reasonable way is not going to be assisted by the introduction of a written rule set.
posted by valkyryn at 8:29 AM on December 1, 2011


Bear in mind that the Gaiman assertion isn't actually that the author is not your bitch. That's a gloss on George R R Martin is not your bitch. He's talking about the level of entitlement fans have that their favourite author will produce new work on a tight schedule. And that's talking about creating, not conventions.

Authors are creatives when they are creating, but at conventions they are part of a different industry - they've been retained by the event (and paid, or given the opportunity to make money from paid signings or auctions, or both, or at least are fulfilling a contractual obligation to their publisher to do x number of personal appearances) to create a particular ambience and a reason to attend. They're like the celebrities doing paid personal appearances at product launches, essentially, or the stars of Twilight turning up at a premier. They may be called "special guests", but they are there to do a job, for which they have been contracted.

Like anyone in a service industry job, they have the right to turn down an unreasonable request (like signing 400 comic books, or doing a sketch of Superman saying "I was drawn much better by [$otherartist]!"). And they have the right to discharge their duties without harassment or threats, just like anyone else in a service industry job. And once their job (signing stint, panel) is over they have the right to wander around unmolested, although, just like someone still wearing their uniform, they should probably try to reflect the values of their employer (being relatively nice to people on the trade floor if they walk up). And, as Peter David says, if they have a bad experience they have the right to turn down work from that employer in the future.
posted by running order squabble fest at 8:49 AM on December 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


This begs the question, "so why are you at an aquarium in all of your gear?"

Just a wild stab in the dark, here -- because they thought it would be fun?

Suppose it had instead been [Insert Local Football Team Here] Fan Appreciation Night. Would you look at a crowd of people in their sports jerseys and think "Man, what a bunch of weirdos?"
posted by webmutant at 9:56 AM on December 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


The whole dynamic of "I paid to be here, you're paid to be here" is just wrong, though probably a lost battle at this point. The charm of old skool science fiction fandom is that there is no barrier between the fans and the filthy pros and we all like sf and to hang out and have a good time together.

Not so much possible at trade shows like what Comic Con has mutated into of course and I do appreciate that doing conventions and selling stuff, including sketches and the like, can be a significant chunk of income for a lot of cartoonists, but I draw the line at paying for autographs.

I'll be in the bar instead.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:21 PM on December 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


How refreshing would it be for a massive call that said, "Instead of having a boycott, let's support this person financially because we want to show that we're bigger and better and more tolerant and more accepting than he is, and our business is with the type of material he produces rather than his opinions. Let's demonstrate by our actions what it's like to understand and accept that different people have different ways of life and shouldn't be attacked for it."

The problem here is similar to the basic flaw of classic utilitarianism, in which whatever behavior generates the most utility is compulsory and all others prohibited. He's not just saying people have a right to say whatever they want. He's saying the most moral thing to do is for others to reinforce publically anyone's right to expression by subsidizing financially every person in proportion to their most reprehensible ideas, in the name of proving one's own tolerance. This is, of course, insane, not least because it plays upon the notion that people need to prove their own tolerance and subtly reinforces the notion that tolerance and multiculturalism are really just ways for people to preen in front of each other.

He dislikes the idea that an artist's output would be disowned by the public on account of their unrelated opinions. I too dislike that idea and tend to believe that art is distinct from the artist. That doesn't translate into a market compulsion to prove that I think that. He's afraid that great works of art will go ignored because of an author's unpopular politics. I'm pretty sure great works of art will be recognized as such regardless. Ultimately, though, his view is one of a classist separation between Pro and Fan, such that Fans exist primarily and necessarily to provide for Pros, and so not doing so is a violation of the patronage contract. In his view, Fans owe Pros their money and allegiance, simply because that is the natural order. It's not often you see a free-market advocate arguing openly for a stratified caste structure.

One of my more embarrassing moments was at DragonCon many years ago. I was on the show floor with a friend, talking about books, and as we stopped in front of a booth to browse I waxed loudly and effusively about how much I disliked some Storm Constantine short story. We finished browsing and turned around to keep moving, and there was Storm Constantine's booth, right behind me, with Storm Constantine standing right there staring at me. Oops.
posted by Errant at 4:20 PM on December 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: five slave Leias and a Wookie.
posted by cereselle at 4:41 PM on December 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


This list is classic Peter David, who seems to regularly do and say things that put substantial numbers of people off, while insisting that he's done nothing wrong. The bit about Q&A sessions being used for their intended purpose, for example--fans asking actual questions and getting answers, without their using their turn at the mike to declaim their opinions or even insult the panel member--is perfectly reasonable and even righteous.

But marching through the middle of a group taking a photo, rather than detouring around or, heaven forfend, waiting a few seconds? That's pure, sheer, unadulterated dickery, whether it's at a con, a national park, or even a street corner in an area that's popular with tourists. And the whole thing about fans not bringing any work that any particular pro has "a well-known hatred of"--really? You're supposed to research Peter David's Verboten List now before approaching him? I think that David has to reassess whether he really even wants to go to conventions any more; he's this close to becoming another John Byrne.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:43 AM on December 2, 2011


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