Tag Archives: Readercon

My Finnish Adoption (Into Fandom)

Why are you with Helsinki in 2017?

While working on the bid for Helsinki to get Worldcon for the first time ever (which is being voted on RIGHT NOW, in case you didn’t know! and you can find out how you can still vote here!) … I’m often asked why I’m with the Finns. Now that there’s a competing bid for Washington, DC, why wouldn’t I join the other Americans? I really should’ve written this post ages ago, but love letters take me time to write and are often embarrassing.  This is most definitely a love letter to Helsinki.

Helsinki harbor is beautiful. With bonus sailboat.

Helsinki is freaking gorgeous. Seriously.

What’s great about Finland?

There are many reasons why one might join the Finns. They’re efficient and get shit done. They’re hilarious once you get to know them. They’re respectful of your space and need for silence. They’re an amazing group of people. Their country is also really damn beautiful, has incredible sights to see, and makes gorgeous and strange art. You’ve got to love a country where reindeer sleigh is a legitimate form of travel.

That’s not why I’m with the Finns, though.

Getting personal

My connection with the Finns is a personal one, but not familial. So far as I’m aware, I don’t have a drop of Nordic blood in my family tree. I’d love to be wrong! But there’s nothing to indicate that I’m biologically related to a Finn.

The first time I’m aware of meeting anyone from Finland was in December of 2011. I attended an international convention on convention-running, Smofcon, and it was actually in Europe for a change. Hells yes, I wanted to go. With some frequent flyer miles donated from a friend, it was actually possible to get there, so hells yes, I went!

I don’t remember much about the Finns from that visit. I definitely met Jukka Halme and Eemeli Aro there, amongst other international fans. Later on, what was more important was that the Finns remembered meeting ME.

Readercon impacted everything, for me

A year later, I chaired my first Readercon. I was nervous because I’d been to only one day of Readercon prior to chairing the convention.

At con, it seemed to go well. I had a good time. Everyone else seemed to, as well. After the con was over, however, an incident of harassment was reported to us. The Readercon board failed to handle it at all well, initially. You can read more about that on the Geek Feminism Wiki (and other, related issues on the Timeline of Incidents). Rose Fox and I organized a reversal of the board’s decision and (in a loooong committee meeting) finished hammering out a public apology and statement of actions we would take as a convention committee (“concom”) to start to address the issue of harassment within Readercon’s community.

That was an incredibly intense time for me. Among other things, I received a metric ton of email, before and after the reversal of the board’s ruling. My inbox could be easily divided into categories:

  • What Readercon (or I) did that we shouldn’t have
  • What Readercon (or I) didn’t do that we should have
  • What Readercon (or I) should do now
  • What Readercon (or I) shouldn’t do now
  • Hatemail in general (lots of it…)
  • Death threats

There were only two emails that fit into that last category, but they were … memorable. I did not appreciate them, shall we say. Who sends death threats to a stranger on the internet? Horrible people, so far as I can tell. To receive death threats over a science fiction convention seemed particularly absurd. By and large, however, my email’s tone was incredibly shouty. Everyone was angry with me, it seemed.

One singular email from Finland

I received one incredible email in that deluge that fit into a category of “other.” Eemeli Aro emailed with a much simpler message. He said that he saw on the internet that something was going down with Readercon. He asked if I was okay. He expressed appreciation for me as a person, and hoped to see me again at a Worldcon in the future.

When I go back and read Eemeli’s email now, it’s a pretty normal-sounding email from one semi-stranger to another on a sensitive subject. At the time, though? He didn’t yell at me or threaten me. He didn’t treat me as someone whose “fannish reputation” was ruined (in fact, he argued it wasn’t). He sent kindness my way.

So when people ask me why I’m with the Finns, that’s the first reason. The Finns reached out and treated me like a real person when it felt like the rest of fandom was screaming at me and might never stop.

Visiting Finland, myself!

After such kindness from the Finns, I figured I wouldn’t be able to afford to visit their country, but I could help the (sadly unsuccessful) bid for Worldcon in 2015. I joined up and threw a few rather popular parties at conventions in the US. Then, due to an incredible salary raise (50%!) in 2013, I suddenly had extra money in my budget. I decided to go to a Finnish SFF convention myself so I could tell people about it from personal experience!

One of the highlights of my year in 2013 was therefore my first Finnish SFF convention, Åcon6.  This was exciting not just because I got to go to a Finnish con for the first time.  It was fantastic in particular because at the end of the convention, I was part of something particularly special and unique as far as I’m aware.

I was officially adopted into Finnish fandom.

My Finnish fannish adoption certificate, signed by Eemeli Aro and Karo Leikomaa. Finnish SFF characters around the border and an alien baby wrapped in a Finnish flag feature prominently in the art.

My Finnish fannish adoption certificate, signed by Eemeli Aro and Karo Leikomaa.

No, really! That happened!

I and a couple of others were called into the bar (the major social space of the con after the function rooms were closed down). There was some laughter, and then, along with three others, I was declared officially an adopted Finnish fan. I have framed the adoption certificate they presented to me, which was drawn by my friend Petri Hiltunen and features several Finnish SFF characters around the border.

I am apparently the alien baby at the top, wrapped in a Finnish flag. I adore this piece of paper. It hangs proudly in my dining room.

I didn’t have to learn any Finnish in order to be accepted into this group, although I have tried to retain basic greetings and courtesies such as “kiitos” and “ole hyvää” (aka “thank you” and “you’re welcome”). I am having great difficulty learning how to roll my R’s, I must say.

Pic of me with Johan and Johan, my new siblings!

Johan and Johan became my new siblings at Åcon6! I make much hay of calling them my siblings. As is my right.

Now I have Finnish siblings!

I wasn’t the only one that Finnish fandom decided to publicly claim that evening. Johan Jönsson, Johan Anglemark, Linnéa Anglemark, and Cheryl Morgan all joined me as siblings. I’m honored to be in such great company! (Cheryl and Linnea weren’t available at the time we took this photo, unfortunately.)

So here’s something I know now about the Finns — they can easily be inspired to do amazing things! They took an offhand remark someone made months prior and from it created this most treasured memory of mine. There was a kind of semi-official ceremony, and they presented us with a very remarkable and unique piece of art. It was fantastic.

(Just saying, Åcon was awesome in 2014, as well. I met Karen Lord! Who is fabulous! I didn’t get adopted there, though.)

Inasmuch as I can sum up …

So, yes. Why am I with the Finns for Worldcon?  I have a great love of the Finns, at this point. I’ve now been to several events with them (in Finland, the US, Canada, the UK, as well as other countries).  I would love to share Finnish fans with Worldcon (and vice versa). The Finns are, frankly, amazing.

If nothing else, a group that gathers for scifi-themed summer picnicking and sings songs to Cthulhu is a group we should all embrace! (Or possibly fear …?)

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Filed under Fandom, Helsinki, Personal, Readercon, Worldcon

Yes, Codes of Conduct Are Required.

Anyone who’s spoken with me over the past couple of years, after Readercon 23, probably knows that I have a strong opinion about harassment and how we handle it, particularly in fannish events like conventions (and parties, and work weekends, and all sorts of other fannish gatherings).  I’ve also been in HR in my professional life, so hopefully I know something about the topic, at this point, from multiple perspectives.

Let’s be clear, though — I developed some of my strongly-held opinions and beliefs after experiencing harassment myself, and I did a lot of reflecting on the topic during my three years as chair of Readercon.  It infuriated me to read the following email about whether or not a convention needed to have a code of conduct (which I won’t attribute because I don’t have permission to do so and suspect I’d never get permission from the person in question)…

“Do we need such a thing?   I have never heard of this being an issue at [convention name redacted] and see no reason to open a can of worms that is best to keep closed until there really is a need to open it.

“And if we do need one, I’d rather have a very short ‘act reasonable, don’t do dumb things, or we may ask you to leave.'”

I would like to say, unequivocally, that we DO need such a thing as a code of conduct.  The time of pretending that harassment doesn’t happen is behind us (not that that was ever an appropriate decision to make, on the part of people running events).  Now is the time of making sure that our conventions are as safe as we can make them, and that when someone behaves in an unsafe fashion, their behavior can be addressed in a clear and unambiguous fashion.

As for a “don’t be stupid” statement in lieu of having a real policy?  Pardon me, but that’s bullshit.  Poorly-developed policies don’t serve anyone well, as we’ve experienced in the past.  Poorly-defined policies don’t set people’s expectations for what they can or should do when they have a problem, other than that people might expect the problem won’t be handled well by the event organizers.  The only thing a lack of policy or barely-existing policy might do is send people the message that you don’t care if they harass other members of your convention.  That’s not quite putting out a welcome mat at the door of your convention for poorly-behaved attendees, but I do note this:  at [convention name redacted] referenced above?  I experienced being harassed multiple times, and no longer want to attend it.  I don’t trust the convention staff to take it seriously if I report a problem, nor address problems appropriately.

I have been the convention chair of Arisia in the past.  A few years ago, despite some objections about it “not being relevant to science fiction” (among other things), I was one of the people who started the tradition of inviting BARCC (the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center) to run workshops with Arisia staff in order to offer some helpful training and tools for addressing harassment and other inappropriate behavior at our conventions.  Since then, I have helped coordinate workshops with BARCC for Readercon, Arisia, Vericon, and local SCA staff.  Readercon ran BARCC workshops as part of the convention programming in 2013 (and possibly also 2014; I can’t recall).

I believe it really helped to have these workshops.  Fandom is not historically good at dealing with harassment, but I hope we are improving, as evidenced by things such as this post about harassment at RWA 2014 and this post about dealing with harassment at Arisia 2014.  I have hope.

But I base that hope partly on having codes of conduct that help set the tone for attendees.  So yes, I think codes of conduct are required.  Not having one is a different message you send to your attendees, if that’s what you choose to do.

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Readercon 25, Meet the Pros(e)

It’s not the most essential thing I’ve been writing a post about, but I wanted to follow up on a request from this year’s Readercon.

Every year for the past several, at least, Readercon has had an event called “Meet the Pros(e)” on Saturday night of the convention. The program participants are given stickers with quotes from their work (which they’ve previously selected for this purpose) and encouraged to pass them out to fans and pros alike at a meet-and-greet type of setting.  I’ve collected my stickers for the past couple of years, but this year, I was asked if I could post them online somewhere with the attributions.  Sometimes, uh, many of us don’t remember whose words are which after the convention is over.  😉

So here are my pics from my notebook, presented for your perusal.  Enjoy!

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Readercon 25

I don’t have time to blog about it, really, but Readercon 25 started last night. This is the third and final time (at least in a row, at least for now) that I’m chairing the con. I’m so very proud of this team, glad to be a part of it, and excited to see things working. Just wanted to take a moment to note that, since too often we blog about and commemorate the challenges rather than the triumphs.

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Also, here is an adorable photo of one of our guests of honor, Andrea Hairston, with her birthday cake. 🙂

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Reading Now (or Soon), and Psyched For It

On the one hand, telling people what I’m reading or about to be reading is a sure way to start a conversation.  On the other hand, telling the internet what I’m reading when I converse with so many authors is a little worrisome.  If you read this list, and if you’re an author, and if you’re not on this list, please assume it’s because I didn’t remember to list that amazing book you’ve written?  (Always attribute to stupidity before attributing to intention …)

That said, here’s what I’m reading or about to read:

The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson.  Someone I’ve met through Readercon, Alaya’s always seemed very nice in person.  Her book is what I’m actively reading *right this second*.  It’s really, really good so far.  This book is nominated for the new YA Award at Detcon, and I’m a sucker for YA.  Aside from that, though, it’s a novel about future Brazil and technology and a society ruled by centuries-old women.  What’s not to love?

The True Deceiver by Tove Jansson.  Tove Jansson is a famous Finn for her Moomin Family characters, and I love those adventures too, but Jansson apparently wrote several adult novels.  This one was only translated into English this past year, so I decided to grab a copy (and bought several extras to give away at events for Helsinki in 2017).

Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor.  This book is officially not yet available in the US, but it’s already out in the UK, so I was determined to get my copy.  Nigeria and alien encounters — how could I miss this?  I *loved* Who Fears Death (despite the book alternatively scaring the shit out of me and making me cry).  I had the privilege to listen to Nnedi read from that novel when she won the Carl Brandon Award for it in 2010 or 2011.  Basically, after that, I had to read everything obtainable written by Nnedi.

Systems Fail by Hiromi Goto and N.K. Jemisin.  These two amazing women were the guests of honor at Wiscon 38 this spring, and they both had amazing guest of honor speeches.  If you haven’t read them yet, do so now:  Nora Jemisin’s speech here and Hiromi Goto’s speech here.  You can now understand why a book of fiction, essays, and interviews by these two women is high on my list of things to be read.

My Real Children by Jo Walton.  I love imagining the road not taken.  A book about two roads possible, colliding into one reality?  I love this concept.  Can’t wait to read this book.

The Girls at the Kingfisher Club by Genevieve Valentine.  I am embarrassed to admit that the only words of Valentine’s that I’ve read are her blog and twitter posts.  I am very much looking forward to this book, a story of twelve sisters, dancing, and fairy tales.

Valour and Vanity by Mary Robinette Kowal.  I’ve been tearing through this series like there’s no tomorrow.  And perhaps there isn’t a tomorrow!  What will happen next to the “glamorous” Vincents?  What new scientific/magical discovery will save the day?  These books are addictive.  Fourth book in the series.  I think I read the first three over the course of four days.

The Best of All Possible Worlds by Karen Lord.  Karen was the Guest of Honor at Acon 7  this spring, and I spent several amazing hours conversing with her about Worldcon, science fiction, the universe, and everything.  I am psyched to read her book, and hope it’ll be even half as great as talking with her in person was.  The reading she did at Acon was amazing.

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch.  I know Scott through Readercon and Worldcon, but I’ve been hearing about his books forever.  It’s time to take the plunge!  I look forward to this adventure, and hope Scott isn’t reading this, because then he’ll know that I haven’t yet read his books.  I look forward to having an informed opinion by the time I see him next!

Indexing by Seanan McGuire.  I *think* I’ve read everything else that Seanan has written.  Maybe.  She’s so damn prolific!  It’s hard to be sure if I’ve caught it all.  This book is a new urban fantasy which turns fairy tales into reality.  Totally my cup of tea.  🙂

Mothership: Tales from Afrofuturism and Beyond, edited by Bill Campbell and Edward Austin Hall.  I met Bill Campbell while at Wiscon 38, and we got to talking about Afrofuturism.  I actually don’t know the second thing about Afrofuturism, it turns out, and since my friend Pablo is running the Afrofuturism track at Detcon, it behooves me to read this book very quickly.  So I can hopefully not be an idiot in the future.

The Lascar’s Dagger by Glenda Larke.  I met Glenda while at Worldcon in Australia (I know! I got to go! It was awesome!).  She’s an Aussie author whose Watergiver series definitely hooked me that summer.  I’m psyched she has a book out in 2014, and had to obtain it as soon as I heard.

Ghost Train to New Orleans by Mur Lafferty.  Travel guides for the undead, and New Orleans.  I’m totally there.

Salsa Nocturna Stories by Daniel Jose Older.  I’ve had the privilege of listening to Daniel read stories at Readercon and at a party for Helsinki at Wiscon.  They are creepy, and honest, and completely engrossing.  I’m really looking forward to reading the printed work, although I may have to read it aloud to myself, now.  😉

Three Parts Dead and Two Serpents Rise by Max Gladstone.  He writes interesting things online (his blog is a good read).  He attended Vericon this year and seemed cool.  Plus I offered to have tea with him on Twitter.  That deal probably only works after I’ve read his books.  Luckily for me, his books are about killing gods.  Sounds awesome to me!

Servant of the Underworld by Aliette de Bodard.  Here’s another person whose words I love online (and I talk with her on Twitter; she’s cool!).  I just have somehow not yet read her work in print.  This is going to change, and soon.  I obtained this book last week, and I am psyched to read about Aliette’s Aztec murder mysteries and gods walking the streets.  I just hope she’ll forgive me for not reading it before now!

New Amsterdam by Elizabeth Bear.  This book is from 2008, so I’m almost certainly the last person to be reading it, but I confess my sins and my intention to repent.  Well, inasmuch as reading this book could be considered at all the opposite of sin.  😉

Great People Decisions by Claudio Fernandez Araoz.  I bought this book for professional reasons, and put it aside for a while, but find that the more I work with volunteer teams, the more I’m thinking about what I read in it.  So I need to actually finish the book.  Nonfiction isn’t usually my cup of tea, but this is important stuff.

 

What else is in my library?  You can always look at my books on Librarything.com, although maybe that’s only accessible if you log in.  Anyway, I have updated the fiction section (tagged “entertainment room” for locating purposes) pretty recently.  The children’s lit section has a few more piles to be added, and the reference and nonfiction books are not really up-to-date at all.  Baby steps, I guess.

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Safety at Conventions

Safety at conventions is a topic I care a lot about, and it is receiving a fair amount of attention recently in the community of convention-goers and convention-runners. This includes a large amount of email discussion on the SMOF (Secret Masters of Fandom) email list. I posted to the SMOFs list recently in response to a thread in which people were discussing (and dismissing) someone’s expressed concerns about safety at conventions and within fandom. Here’s what I wrote:

No place is utterly safe from danger. There is a wide continuum to describe people’s experiences of safety at cons, and if you (generic “you,” not any person specifically) have had an easier time feeling safe than others, you are lucky, but that doesn’t mean other people are wrong to be concerned for their own safety.

Now, I am totally one to hope for sunshine and rainbows and kitties. I like to keep things positive, and have fun. I do consider fandom to be a place where I am relatively safe, generally speaking. I also received death threats as a result of my chairing Readercon 23, and I don’t think that’s sunshine or rainbows or kitties. I chose not to report them to the police because I didn’t figure they would be followed through on, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t have that experience, along with many other negative experiences in a fannish context.

Sincerely, Crystal Huff (Who chaired Arisia 2011, Relaxacon 2011, Readercon 23 and 24, and is chairing Readercon 25 as well as co-chairing JOFcon I next year…)

I’ve been on several panels at conventions this past year, on the general topic of safety at conventions, harassment, and codes of conduct. The differences between each was striking.

My panels at Arisia 2013 (a year ago) were rough and emotional for me, but the panelists and attendees were very clearly invested in listening and addressing the issue. Readercon 23 had only recently happened, and some of us were still in shock, but trying to grapple with the issue of harassment.

At Eastercon last year, while I was frustrated with the panel topic being the question of whether the convention should have a code of conduct or not, I was impressed by the con’s intention to deal with challenges, and the sexist con newsletter comment that was brought up by an audience member was something the con staff on the panel wanted to address, as opposed to running away from it.

Readercon 24 had a lot of programming on this topic, as you might imagine, in an effort to address the issue with our community and keep the commitments we had made in our public statement after Readercon 23. I was too busy chairing the convention to be on many panels, but I did preside most memorably over the feedback session at the end of the convention. Several people felt that Readercon overreacted and should have emphasized far less the importance of safety and addressing sexual harassment. I believe, however, that the safety of others is more important than my personal comfort, and the Readercon committee stood with that belief as a group. We do not regret making a clear statement about prioritizing safety.

I was on a fantastic panel at Swecon, the Swedish national convention, this past fall. The panel deserves its own post, really, when I have time. There was a moment for a real-life learning opportunity within the community, in addition to everyone really wanting to tackle how to make their conventions safer. The attitude in the room was very productive and engaged. I felt comfortable talking about the complex way in which we all make mistakes, using myself as an example. It was a great discussion.

Then the panel at Smofcon last month, titled “Sexuality and the Human Fan,” was a different kind of trying to address the issue. I think that went the least well, frankly, of the panels I’ve been on. The more times someone uses the excuse “that’s just the way things were, back then” or says that if someone is feeling harassed, they should call the police … Well, this entire post was left on my drafts pile to see if I could better tackle just how poorly some of that panel went, and I think I’m going to set it aside for future contemplation rather than continue to sit on this post.

As we’ve come to a new year in Arisia, I’m on two panels this year:
“Addressing Sexual Harassment in Our Communities”
and
“Shame on Slut-Shaming.”

You can see the full Arisia guide here. It looks great, and I’m greatly looking forward to the convention this weekend.

I’m also very intrigued to see what conversations we will have at JOFcon in a few short weeks!

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