Well. Nothing like waking up to a hot mess on Twitter.
I’ll start off by saying I have a very small pony in this horse race. There are other writers out there, specifically writers of color, marginalized people, pro writers just starting out, and so on, that have a much bigger horse running right now. I’m not trying to lump myself in with them or their issues regarding this convention, nor am I looking for sympathy. I’m not saying my issues are more important than theirs; quite the opposite. This particular post is just about me.
First of all, I understand that there are more Worldcon attendees than there are panels and rooms to hold said panels. Most of us are there as fans anyway. I get that. But a considerable segment of us are also writers, struggling to make a name for ourselves with minimal or no help from promotion departments. We sign up for these conventions because it’s one of the few ways we writers know how to get our name out there.
The programming decision to leave out so many writers and professionals of all levels ‘because they’re not known’, on the other hand, is elitist, rude, and unprofessional.
I’m a self-published author and proud of it, but this decision sent a message that to me felt like I was destined to stay at the community access channel level of SFF conventions. (Not that that’s a bad thing — BayCon and FOGcon have done me extremely well the last few years and I can’t thank them enough.) It felt as though I hit a glass ceiling.
And imagine how that feels to others — the women, the people of color, the LGBTQ writers and fans — who get hit with this bullshit every single fucking time.
Us early career writers (and career self-publishers for that matter) rely heavily on conventions to get our names out quickly and easily, and also to network. We especially rely on a Big-Name convention like Worldcon as a major boost to our career because of the sheer number of attendees. We hope to be on panels and readings, because this method of exposure works for us.
Furthermore, many writers, both self-published and professional, happen to self-publish because they’re not getting any help from the regular commercial avenues. Or that they aren’t getting the proper (or any) promotion. Cons are a HUGE help to combat that. And leaving them off the panels is NOT the answer.
Especially if they’ve been nominated for a Hugo this year.
I’ve also seen tweets from a few authors stating that they saw their own panel suggestions on the programming but they are not part of the panel at all.* That might be an oversight (and a gross one at that), but it also sends a similar message: it might be your idea, but someone else more popular is going to benefit from it instead. We writers create these panels because a) we think it’s interesting and want to share it, b) it’s something relevant to our own career, and c) again, it helps put our name out there. Keeping us off our own panels essentially closes a door in our face.
* – I was unaware the programming had gone live on the website this weekend, and it has since been taken back down, so I do not know if any of my panel suggestions have been accepted or not.
I would have loved to have been on a few panels, especially those dealing with self-publishing so I could Pay It Forward. And to be honest, I’d also would have liked to at least gotten a form rejection letter saying I wasn’t going to be on any panels. To not get any response at all — not even a simple ‘check our website on (date) to see if we’ve accepted you as a panelist’ — sent the message that I wasn’t worth it in the first place.
That I was still labeled a fan and not a writer, despite having multiple books out.
[Yes, I do know how rejection works in the publishing biz. Some houses don’t even respond back because they just don’t have enough people to do it. But this is a convention, not a publishing house. There’s room for creativity and covering bases here.]
We’re still going, of course. Even though I won’t be on any panels, we’re still going. We have friends we’d like to see. There are writers we’d like to meet. I have freebie cards to give out, and other writers to network with. Despite the annual wave of ‘Worldcon done fucked up again’ tweetstorms, we still have a lot of fun in general. It’s not a complete shitshow. Not like some cons I’ve heard about.
I’m not asking Worldcon to be perfect, flawless and infallible. We all fuck up now and again. All I’m asking is that they be professional and have a better awareness of the variables. It’s a big project with a lot of moving parts that need monitoring. And this really felt like there were a lot of people sleeping at the switch, or worse, weren’t aware of it in the first place.
EDIT: Earlier this afternoon the Worldcon 76 committee agreed to the numerous complaints that had been placed about this issue, and have decided to “[tear] the program apart and start over.” Good on them. Their Twitter message can be found here.