August 24th, 2012


Conventions and Creeps

I think I worked my way past my roadblock yesterday, with great effort. Today I plan a serious marathon of work. Really. Plus I need to proof the e-book files for book 6 and write a couple of guest blogs. It's a good thing I don't have anything scheduled for this weekend.

As I've mentioned, I'll be at WorldCon in Chicago next week. Normally I don't post my convention schedule because I figure if you're there, you know how to find me, and if you're not, you don't care, but WorldCon is huge and the way they post the schedule on their web site is wonky, so here's what I'll be doing:

Thursday, 4:30-6, Faith in Fiction panel
This approaches the use of faith in world building. I'm moderating, which means I need to come up with some discussion questions.

Saturday, 9:30-10 a.m., my reading
What I read will depend on what happens between now and then, who shows up, what of my works they've read, what they've heard me read, etc. At 9:30 on a Saturday morning, I may be reading to myself. Depending on what I read, there may also be singing. Maybe even dancing. Who knows? Come and find out. Please!

Saturday, 1:30-3, Panel on what's on TV in the general genre space
I'm moderating, so I imagine this will go a lot like the SyFy Smackdown we do at FenCon, in which I play the Oprah of geekery and turn it into a talk show panel kind of thing. I already seem to have a problem panelist who started e-mailing the rest of the panel to try to dictate what the panel would cover. When I realized I was the moderator, the power went to my head and I told everyone to chill. I will do everything in my power to make this fun and funny, even if I have to smite someone with my Invisible Lightsaber of Moderation to do so. My experiences dealing with children may come in handy here.

Saturday, 4:30-6, the Warehouse 13 vs. Eureka Smackdown
We have to come up with which character from which show would win various challenges. Should be good for a lot of laughs. I anticipate at least one epic giggle fit.

Sunday, 3-4:30, panel on the artifacts of Warehouse 13
This one should also be fun as we get to talk about what's really in the Warehouse.

I'm not sure how I ended up on all the Warehouse 13 panels other than I said I was willing to do them. There was a lot of other stuff I was also willing to do that I didn't get.

Speaking of conventions, this summer there's been a lot of talk about harassment policies, safety, etc., and probably about time. When you think about it, conventions are kind of a recipe for disaster in that area. We've got a lot of people with not necessarily the best social skills getting together, it's traditionally a male-dominated environment and not everyone seems to be comfortable with the way that's changing, and the depiction of women in a lot of the works traditionally popular in that crowd doesn't necessarily lend itself to equality and respect (in fact, women are far too frequently depicted as objects to be won). So you get the "creepers" who can't (or refuse to) tell the difference between "cool, we like the same stuff" interaction and "I want you." And then you get the nasty situations when they refuse to believe that it really, truly isn't "I want you." Strangely, I haven't actually run into anything majorly awkward with the fanboys. I've had to deal with a couple of uncomfortable situations with fellow professional authors, and that brings me to my bit of advice for men at conventions:

If you offer to escort a woman to her hotel room and she declines, back off, totally and immediately. Don't attempt to talk her into it, don't try to bargain ("How about just to the elevator?") and above all, don't follow her. Even if you're going back to your own room and you need to take the same elevator, take a lap around the lobby and let her go on her own before you go. Because if you do any of these things, you've just made yourself more potentially threatening than any hypothetical stranger she might encounter, since you're demonstrating that "no" doesn't mean "no" to you and you don't care about her wishes or her comfort. After having to use the ugly voice to remove a guy from my room doorway after I told him I didn't need an escort to my room, I now make a lap through the lobby instead of returning to my room after an offer has been made and declined, and then I'll stop and talk to friends. If I don't find friends, I'll probably lead my would-be Galahad straight to the convention operations office.

But what if you really do feel like it's a safety issue and it's bad for her to go alone? Well, for one thing, there's a totally different vibe, voice inflection and body language between "I'm concerned for your safety" and "If I get as far as her hotel room door, I'm totally going to score." For another, I've never had one of the creepy offers come in a situation where safety was genuinely an issue. Those offers always seem to be made from the lobby bar/restaurant to my room on the last day of the con, after I've made the trip safely on my own dozens of times. These guys are nowhere to be seen when I need to get from the party hotel to my hotel through a deserted downtown area in the middle of the night.

If you think a woman needs an escort for safety's sake and you want to make sure she doesn't decline you because you're scarier than the unknown, put together a group. Find a group of people, both men and women, who already know and trust you, and then invite the woman you don't know as well to join that group. Then follow her wishes. If she only wants you to escort her to the hotel entrance, stop at the entrance. If she wants company farther than that, allow her to make the request. Keep a respectful physical distance from her the entire time and allow her to initiate contact like farewell hugs. If she needs an escort to her door, stay back to where you can see that she's safely getting through the doorway but you aren't close enough to be looming over her as she unlocks the door, then leave once she waves to let you know she's okay.

And, seriously, guys, when you gallantly offer to escort me from the hotel lobby to my room on the last day of the convention, I know exactly what you're up to and it's a total turn-off. I actually kind of liked the first guy who pulled that on me, and him doing that totally blew any chances he might have had because he was so cheesy about it and because he disregarded everything I said and followed me to my room even though I told him not to. If I want you in my room, I'll invite you.