Some Members are More Equal than Others

Written by Natalie Luhrs

I'm a lifelong geek with a passion for books and social justice.

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August 11, 2015


The Executive Committee of Sasquan, the 73rd World Science Fiction Convention, would like to address the matter of actions taken by Mr. Lou Antonelli with regards to one of our Guests of Honor, Mr. David Gerrold.

The statement continues on from there–the Executive Committee decided to turn the matter over to the Operations Head, Robbie Bourget, who did determine that Lou Antonelli did, in fact, violate Sasquan’s Code of Conduct. This conclusion was “inescapable”, according to the official statement.

And yet. Lou Antonelli has not been banned from Sasquan, even though that was the original decision of Operations.

Why not? Because Lou Antonelli apologized to David Gerrold and the apology was accepted and because Gerrold asked Sasquan not to ban him.

…and this is where I kind of lose it because Sasquan has publicly stated that Lou Antonelli violated their Code of Conduct to the point where they believed  a ban was in order but they’re letting him come anyhow on a single member’s say-so. Gerrold may be a Guest of Honor, but that doesn’t give him the right to have this sort of power; Sasquan can take his request under advisement, but they are responsible to the entire convention membership and that should be their primary concern. (Laura Resnick lays this out a lot better than I can in the comments at File 770.)

One of Gerrold’s quoted reasons is that Antonelli “deserves” to be able to attend the Hugo Awards because he’s a nominee.

The message I’m getting from Sasquan is that if you apologize enough, if you can convince the person you’ve harassed into accepting your apology, and if you’ve been nominated for an award, Codes of Conduct don’t apply to you. Especially if you’ve promised to be on your very best behavior and not do it again.  Because it’s not like you don’t have a track record of wildly overreacting to perceived slights and then behaving abusively.

We’ve all heard some variation of this over the last few years as more and more people have spoken up about the harassment and abuse they’ve endured at science fiction conventions.  Someone with an inflated sense of his own importance deliberately steps over the line, is called to account, and then they manage to not face consequences for their actions. At least not initially. In the cases of Readercon and Wiscon, there were eventually consequences for René Walling and Jim Frenkel. But it took a lot of work–mostly work by women and non-binary people–to make those consequences happen.

Sasquan, instead of making their convention safe for every member has, instead, made it safer for just one: Lou Antonelli.

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  1. --E

    And the way they’re trying to offset responsibilty to David Gerrold and Carrie Cuinn is despicable.

    If they’re going to make an arbitrary and bullshit decision, they should at least have the decency to own it.

    • Natalie Luhrs

      Amen. I don’t think they ever intended to ban him and Gerrold gave them the perfect reason not to.

  2. Laura Resnick

    Another problematic aspect of this that it establishes the premise that there aren’t consequences for harassment; there are only consequences for harassing someone who isn’t considerate enough to insist that you should be exempt from consequences.

    So now the victim isn’t criticized ONLY for reporting the incident, she also gets to be criticized for not insisting the harasser not be banned.

    Policy and procedures are written guidelines that say, when (a) and (b) happen, we do (c) and (d), unless there is (e), in which case we procede to section (f) of this set of guidelines.

    P&P is not a matter of saying to the victim of harassment: “Well, what do you want us to do?”

    I appreciate that the Puppy mess has inflicted months of controversy, extra work, and complicated situations on the Sasquan committee through no fault of their own, and I think the committee has handled it with dignity and conscientiousness. And I appreciate that this Antonelli-Gerrold incident is complicated. But I really disagree with the decision.

  3. Cat

    Not to mention that Antonelli is only a nominee because whoever chose the Puppy slate used him to Make A Statement.

    I get why David Gerrold and Sasquan feel like they have to pretend he’s the same as any other nominee, but I don’t have to help anyone pretend Antonelli earned it on his own merits.

    The major reason why this matters is that the Pups hate Harassment Policies. Putting a harasser on their slate for being a harasser is precisely the sort of Statement they would like to Make. They would think it was funny.

    And there is plenty of time for them to prompt such a person to write something–anything, it’s not like it has to be good; that’s what the slate is for, after all–and post it to the web so it counts as published, before Dec 31.

    I get that this is a very difficult situation that Antonelli put the Sasquan organizers in. But I have a bad feeling about this…

  4. Jude

    How many times do we have to watch this SAME thing play out? I had hopes that Wiscon would immediately do the right thing with Frenkel, since GOSH READERCON HAD JUST DONE THE SAME THING, but then, no, Wiscon had to jump through exactly the same damn script. I don’t know Sasquan from Scicon, but they’re doing the same damn thing right now. Pretty much identical script. Should we write “A Guide for Conventions on Dealing with Harassment Reports, or How to Stop Stupidly Kowtowing to Your Apologists Who Think He’s Just a Basically Good Guy and Putting Your Entire Membership in Danger”? Would anyone READ it?

  5. Kyr

    And here I was regretting not being able to go when Sasquan was so close to where I live. Well, between the slates and this, I’m now grateful I didn’t get to attend. This is a horrible decision and I don’t see how anyone can trust a convention that backs down on this sort of thing.

    Honestly, people who ill-treat others know very well how to apologize just as much as needed – some of them, anyway. And as my kids learned very young, and apology by itself fixes nothing.

  6. Selki

    I keep thinking about the Head of Operations whose recommendation to ban him got over-ruled. And whether the Exec committee got any training re harassment, e.g., on serial harassers/apologists, before over-ruling her recommendation.

    • Natalie Luhrs

      Selki, I wouldn’t feel too sorry for her. Robbie Bourget has been all over the relevant thread on the JOF group on Facebook defending the course of action. I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s the one who thought of it. You may find it interesting to look up who co-chaired the last Montreal Worldcon with her (it’s on Wikipedia).

    • Natalie Luhrs

      Wow. I’d seen it at the time it was posted but had forgotten about it. Thanks for the reminder.

  7. Selki

    Ah, thanks. Hadn’t known about her defending it or that she was Montreal Worldcon co-chair with that person.


  1. Pixel Scroll 8/11 Award not for whom the puppies troll | File 770 - […] In a separate post, “Some Members are More Equal than Others”, Luhrs makes her case against Sasquan’s decision not…
  2. on sasquan’s decision and statement | Crime and the Blog of Evil - […] eta4: Pretty Terrible is Pretty Clear about how she feels about it. […]


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