Friday, June 28, 2013

Sexual Harrassment at Conventions

I'm relatively new to this community, but that doesn't mean I can't take a stand when something important is happening. And this 'something important' is critical, because it affects the community as a whole, fans, authors, editors, artists... everyone.

I've been reading about sexual harassment at conventions, and it is very upsetting. There seems to be an undercurrent of keep-it-to-yourself, but many are now taking a stand.

This blog was posted by several authors, including Seanan McGuire, Jim Hines, John Scalzi, Mary Robinette Kowal, Chuck Wendig and Brandon Sanderson. It can and should be read in full at one of these sites.

Elise Matheson wrote this blog to detail what she had to do to successfully make a report about sexual harassment, because not every report is equal. It needs to be truly 'formal,' and not anonymous, if it is to make a difference. She wrote,

...I knew for certain that I was not the only one to have reported inappropriate behavior by this person to his employer. It turned out that the previous reports had been made confidentially and not through HR and Legal. Therefore my report was the first one, because it was the first one that had ever been formally recorded.

Corporations (and conventions with formal procedures) live and die by the written word. “Records, or it didn’t happen” is how it works, at least as far as doing anything official about it. So here I was, and here we all were, with a situation where this had definitely happened before, but which we had to treat as if it were the first time — because for formal purposes, it was.
I understand why formality is necessary, because it is possible for an unfounded claim to damage a person's reputation. When abuse of this sort occurs, especially regarding a corporation like a publishing house, there is a process for dealing with it, and those who suffer from attacks like these need to be willing to use it.

Elise offers a very straightforward and sensible guide to handling sexual harassment, specifically in the realm of conventions. Unfortunately, this ought to be considered beforehand so you don't have to try and figure out what to do about it should it happen.

Though I would certainly boost Elise's signal because it is important, I also have a personal stake in this. My wife, Heidi, went with me to WorldCon in Chicago last year and will be with me again in San Antonio. I expect that as my career picks up, we will attend more conventions. We don't always stick together because we are interested in different panels.

I would like to feel confident that the community is aware of this, that the convention staff are vigilant against it. While sexual harassment is a possibility anywhere two or more people are gathered, I want to feel at home and safe when surrounded by like-minded people.

And, you know what? I believe that the sci-fi / fantasy community is fully capable of achieving this, with strong voices willing to speak out against harassment and abuse.

We, as members of this generally-amazing community, should not deny that sexual harassment happens, but should actively stand against it.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Watershed moment

What is a watershed moment?

Merriam-Webster's online dictionary defines watershed as:

a crucial dividing point, line, or factor : turning point

This term is used in reference to a divide in a river where the water has two distinct paths it might follow.

In fictional terms, it refers to a key point where everything changes. It can be that a decision is made which will take the character down one of two distinct paths, and change the way the story will go for them, for better or for worse (or, let's be honest, for both).

This moment will define the lives of everyone around the character, even if the decision's significance is not immediately obvious.

Writing ain't easy. For me, it does not often come easily, or at least it doesn't *start* easily. Ideas may come simply, but ideas are cheap. Plenty of people have ideas, but those who follow through with them are more rare.

Tiring of my membership in the larger group of wannabes, I decided last week that I would do the unthinkable: stop sleeping in to 10 or 11 am and start waking up at the same time as my wife, roundabouts 7:30. Suffering from depression and chronic lack of energy, I did not enjoy making this decision, and I liked following it even less.

I got up, though. I got out of bed every morning. Not only did I get up, but I wrote, and almost each day I did it first thing. My numbers weren't huge; I didn't write more than 600 words on any given day. However, the decision to get moving so early was not easy, and each day was a victory.

The biggest victory occurred later in the week, when I was so tired I could hardly move. Heidi said that I could set an alarm for 9am if I needed to sleep longer. I set that alarm.

A few minutes later, I got up anyway, made us both some breakfast, and got to my writing.

My self-discipline is generally crap, so this surprised me as much as anyone, but it also showed me that I really can decide to make a change in my life and follow through with it. That one small victory gave me the energy to keep going, keep on this rather uncomfortable schedule.

I don't like the me who accomplishes nothing. I'm not a fan of dreamily thinking about what I might do someday. Talk is cheap, while making a sacrifice - in this case, sleep and a schedule to which I was accustomed - shows my mind that I'm serious about wanting to do the writing. Too much of this is a mind game, which frustrates the ever-living hell out of me, but I'm getting smarter about how to play.

Today, I'm here at the computer, chipping away at the ol' word mine, seeing what shiny bits I can dart back to the manuscript, while trying to keep an eye on the canary. (It's dangerous down there!) Tomorrow, I will be back.

And the next day.

And the next.

What are some of your watershed moments, whether related to artistic pursuits or otherwise? I am interested to hear about those little defining moments which gave birth to important changes.