What I mean when I say ‘safe space’

I started going to conventions in 1986 when I attended Swancon XI. The people at Swancon XII welcomed me and, for the most part, made me feel that I was in a safe space; somewhere I could express myself, be involved, and not feel like I was likely to be judged or harmed.

I attended every Swancon for the next twenty years, and then became an occasional attendee as work and family life demanded more of my time. However, despite that I’ve usually wanted to attend each year and have enjoyed the times when I’ve been able to.

I was greatly disturbed, therefore, to hear increasing reports that Swancon was not a safe place: not safe for women, not safe for children, and often not even a place where people could express their thoughts without fear of censure or judgement.   It seemed to me, as I discussed this with a friend, that here was a problem that people like me needed to own, to do something about.  And the way to do something is not to point to other people, to name convention committees as people who should do things, or whatever (though those things may have a place).  It’s for people like me (and you, if you attend conventions) to stand up and speak out against unacceptable behaviours, to be present and to make convention environments as safe a space as they reasonably can be.

I mention this now because I was appalled to read a little while ago about the case reported on Crankynick’s blog about a woman who had been raped at a Swancon by someone she’d met at a Swancon. Apparently the perpetrator has admitted that he has done this and is unrepentant.  I don’t know enough of the details to know what happened, and in this instance, I’m not sure I need to know more than I do.  An attendee at a convention has been grievously treated and the person who did this has admitted it.  That, it seems to me, is completely unacceptable in modern society (or damned well should be).

Crankynick suggests on  this blog that we need to say this in public and private:

This man is not welcome at SwanCon.  If he attends he’s going to have a shit time. We will shun and ignore him for the most part, and humiliate him in public if that’s what it takes. If he attends alone he will stay that way, and if he attends with friends they too will be shunned and ignored while they continue to publicly support a man who has sexually assaulted a member of our community. The victim of this assault is not to blame, shouldn’t have to deal with this on her own, and shouldn’t even have to goddam ask for our support.

I join Nick in this.  This story is appalling (details are here). The man who has done this is not welcome.  The behaviour he has engaged in must not be tolerated. To the extent that I am involved in conventions I agree: this man is not ‘one of my people’, he is not someone I want near me, my family or anyone else. I reject him and call on you to do this same.

I would also apologise to Logansrogue, who I don’t think I’ve ever met, for how badly we have failed her and others like her.  If Swancons — if any science fiction conventions — are to continue it must be on the basis that it is understood that this will NOT be tolerated.

As to what I mean when I say say ‘safe space’ – I mean somewhere any person can go and not feel like they will be physically or emotionally harmed.  Plainly Swancon has not been that kind of place.

ETA: It was pointed out to me that the events related did not occur at a Swancon, though the people in question did meet at a Swancon. While it’s important to be factually correct, this does not change the point at all.

Leiber selected stories is almost done…

Way back when in August 2008 I flew out to Oakland to spend some time with Charles on my way to the Denver WorldCon. On the Saturday afternoon Jeremy Lassen of Night Shade came up to the house and we drank beer, laughed and talked science fiction for hours.

In amongst the beer, laughter and doing an online interview for Conflux’s Minicon, I agreed to do three books for Night Shade. One was a reprint anthology of dragon stories, Wings of Fire, and one was a ‘best of’ volume of stories by the late, great Fritz Leiber. I remember sitting there and looking across the table and realising that Charles had to be involved with the Leiber book. He’d known Fritz well, and knew his work intimately. I also wanted a chance to work on something with him again, just as thing for friends to be doing.

Jeremy was enthusiastic about the idea, and Charles was too. The very next day he arranged for us to have dinner with Fritz’s agent and, before we’d got to dessert, we were set. Charles and I would select the stories, and Charles would ask Neil Gaiman if he’d do the introduction. The paperwork took a little while, as it always, does, but Charles and I began back and forthing on the length of the book, possible contents etc etc.

As I recall, we’d got to an almost final list of stories when I got the phone call from Liza that Charles had died. It threw the project into something of a loop for me for a while, but when things had settled I looked over the list we had and made, I think, one change. I also did some shuffling in running order, which was revised again following a helpful note from Marty Halpern.

 And now, a year and a half after that first conversation Fritz Leiber: Selected Stories is complete. Night Shade has just released the cover, which I love, and the book itself should be out in April. I’m very, very proud of the book, and am happy to have it stand as something of an end note to a long friendship that a valued very highly.  And should anyone ever wonder, it was very much a collaboration, right to the end. I wish Charles had lived to see the book done, but I’m glad it exists and that we did it together. I’m also grateful to Jeremy and the Shade for their work on it, and to Liza and the Locus gang who helped with the book at the end.

Jack Vance for the Hugo!

The great fantastist Jack Vance won the Hugo for the first time in 1963 for his novella “The Dragon Masters”, and backed up the following year winning again for his novelette “The Last Castle”. He was nominated again in 1975 for “Assault on a City”, but has not appeared on a Hugo ballot since. That’s thirty-four years, during which time he amassed a wonderful body of work, won or was nominated for many awards, and become one of the most influential and best-loved writers our genre has seen.

Vance, who lives in Oakland, California, is now ninety-three years old and writes very little. However, in 2009 he made an enormous exception to a writer’s life that has seen him consistently reluctant to comment on his work or on his life.  That exception was the wonderful short autobiography This is Me, Jack Vance! (Or, More Properly, This Is “I”).  The book is revelatory without being confessional, and tells of a long and interesting life, without ever giving away too much about what drives Vance as a writer. I think it seriously deserves your consideration for the Hugo Award in the Best Related Work category.

Full disclosure. I met Jack Vance once, when I visited his home for coffee and conversation.  He was a charming host.  I have also co-edited four volumes of his work for Subterranean Press, who also published the autobiography.

Regardless of that, I think Vance deserves at least a Hugo nod for his important book, and can’t help feeling that a win would be appropriate after all these years.