Odyssey Con Fucks Up But Good

Written by Natalie Luhrs

I'm a lifelong geek with a passion for books and social justice. And I give absolutely no fucks.

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April 11, 2017

Live footage of the Odyssey Con concom.

Odyssey Con, what the actual fuck are you thinking? ARE you thinking?

When one of your Guests of Honor emails you and says she doesn’t feel safe around one of your committee members—the guest liaison in this case—you believe her. You don’t gaslight her, you don’t dismiss her concerns, and you certainly do not call the women he harassed over decades liars.

When your Guest of Honor withdraws from your convention because of your refusal to deal with the serial harasser because you’ve known him for many years and have never observed him harassing anyone and anyhow all those women were exaggerating, you don’t then turnaround and throw her under the bus.

You made a choice, Odyssey Con. Your choice was to prioritize your comfort over the safety of every single woman at the convention. I’m sure that you think this was an expression of neutrality since no one’s ever reported this man at the convention where he is close friends with the conrunners and is on the concom (GOLLY), but it’s not. It’s apologizing for abuse and redirecting blame and it’s not a good look.

Furthermore, when people figure out the choice you’ve made and are upset by it, you need to own your choice. You don’t gaslight people, you don’t selectively post emails, and you don’t point at your code of conduct like it’s a +20 bonus to defense because you’ve just proven to the entire world that it’s utterly worthless. Not worth the paper it’s printed on or the electrons to display it on a screen.

And then there’s the statement. Oh, the statement. I don’t even know where to begin with it, but this post from K. Tempest Bradford should shed some light on the history between the president of Odyssey Con’s parent organization, the programming chair, and the guest liaison. In other words: the riders of Brohan are on the move.

The thing is this: the statement starts with what we’re calling alternative facts these days.

“Last night, one of the members of our committee contacted her to try to address her concerns. Unfortunately the position and words were his own, but did appear to be an official statement from the convention. It wasn’t, and he sent a further communication to Ms. Valentinelli to help clarify that.”

Monica Valentinelli’s post went up around 9:43 am Eastern time (8:43 am Central time, the time zone in which Monica lives).

The “clarifying” email was not sent until 10:11 am Central time, nearly an hour and a half after the post went up and nearly 12 hours after the dismissive email. This was not an immediate clarification and I’m finding their claim that it was done without their imprimatur dubious at best.

This afternoon, Janet Lewis posted the texts of the email exchange to Odyssey Con’s Facebook page in “the interest of full transparency”. Did she ask for Monica’s permission? Nope! They’ve taken the posts and the statement down, but I have preserved them here:

I’ve asked Monica if Janet Lewis was copied on Gregory Rihn’s email the evening of April 10 and she was. And yet it took 18 hours before anyone but Rihn reached out to her—it took the internet falling on their heads for them to realize that this was something they needed to deal with.

As for the rest of the statement: it’s a trashfire.

They claim to not know anything about Jim Frenkel harassing anyone at their convention—of course they don’t. Who would report him and expect any action to be taken? Better to not put yourself through that.

They attempt to blame Monica Valentinelli for not realizing until this week that Frenkel was on the concom—the thing is this: the Guest Liaison job is the single point of contact between a Guest of Honor and the rest of the convention. Once Frenkel was no longer Monica’s liaison, they probably believed his presence was no longer going to be a problem.

Jim Frenkel’s offered to throw himself on his sword for the sake of the convention. How fucking noble of him. He may not have the ability to learn to not harass women, but conventions certainly have the ability to not allow known harassers on their concoms. There is absolutely no excuse here—many of the Odyssey Con concom are former members of the WisCon concom, so they know perfectly well what kind of person Jim Frenkel is. And they don’t care.

And finally, the statement that Odyssey Con is opening and welcoming to all—no, it’s not. They’ve made it clear both through Jim Frenkel’s continued presence on their concom and their transparent attempt to paint Monica Valentinelli as the villain here that they don’t care.

Oh, and since Odyssey Con has taken down the page which identifies all the concom members, enjoy this screencap I saved this morning. Just in case.

A few other people have had things to say:

Thanks to Joyce Chng for making me aware of the existence of the glorious gif at the top of this post.

Previous posts about Jim Frenkel and WisCon:

ETA: Odyssey Con posted the following statement in the middle of the night.

I, for one, am incredibly tired of the “run by fans, for fans” excuse. The writers and other people on programming are working. They deserve a professional working environment and pulling out the old “we’re just fans, we didn’t know any better” excuse is increasingly not a good look. No one cares that you’re all volunteers when their personal safety is at stake.

ETA 04/13: Tad Williams has pulled out of Odyssey Con.

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