For Jonathan Ross and Family
I suspect you folks have never heard of me, and that's quite alright. My name's John Picacio and I watched from the sidelines this weekend as the Hugo Awards Emcee situation became a debacle on social media. I've already expressed publicly that I was very sorry to see the way it played out, even though I had nothing to do with it.
I'm writing this though because that's essentially not true.
Because I am a working professional within the sf/f publishing field and an artist who has been fortunate enough to win two Hugos, I am a part of the sf/f community by default, whether I chose to speak out or not, and I regret that I didn't on Saturday. Thus, just by professional association, I DO have something to do with this community when some of its very vocal professionals make emotionally-loaded and potentially hurtful statements that end up reflecting on our entire community.
Watching fellow professionals attack Mr. Ross on Twitter was disappointing, to say the least. They said that Mr. Ross' performance behaviors were justification for saying that he wasn't welcome because those behaviors made some of them feel uncomfortable.
Their comfort levels are their prerogative, as are mine. I have the right to not needlessly demonize or vilify a complete stranger, and assume the worst of that individual. I have the right to not be afraid to speak out and instead ask, "Is it really necessary to allow fear to rule the day and indict someone for behavior toward this event that hasn't even happened yet?"
I didn't say anything. I don't suspect it would have changed what happened. The people that were attacking you have bigger microphones than I do. More Twitter followers. More political leverage. Larger armies.
Whether it would have changed things or not -- I was wrong to not have said something at the time. Lesson learned.
That said -- there has been a lot of good work done by good people in this community to make 'safer' environments for fans and pros alike. I endorse and support this work, and will continue to do so.
However, I saw lines crossed this weekend, when personal insecurities seemed to spawn fear-driven and very personal attacks for actions and situations that had not even occurred, but were merely speculated. Those responses were far less than what you deserved, and far, far less than what I expect of my peers, and this field to which I belong.
There is a human cost, and Mrs. Goldman's tweets illustrate that quite painfully. I post these here not to remind your family of your hurt, but for others who might see this to know that we currently have a large compassion gap in our community -- and it has TWO sides, no matter which side you claim as your own.
There are humans on either side of that gap, and when we ignore the humanity of strangers, we are the lesser, and thus, far less than we must be.
This is a series of messages from Mrs. Goldman to Seanan Mcguire, dated about 12 hours ago:
"Reading all your yay!women! tweets this morning, while you rudely ignore a real, live 17 yr old girl....whom you hurt deeply with your words, is jaw-dropping. You falsely accuse her father of sizeism, she gathers the courage to speak to a bullying adult with 12.5k followers....and you IGNORED HER and casually blathered on about the Oscars. Wow. Just.. wow. But don't worry. Go on. Let's discuss Disney princesses. Don't worry about the three real women whose weekend you ruined. (Me and my daughters.) Women like you. Who worry about what to wear, and get called fat. And feel loved and protected by the man you slandered, and who were brought to tears not by imaginary words, but by YOUR self-involved, ill-considered poison. You owe my daughter a reply. Learn some manners and take responsibility for the effect of your words have on real humans."
I offer this to all -- to the Ross and Goldman family, and to you that are reading this -- we cannot let fear rule sf/f. It did this weekend, and people were hurt in the process. If we as sf/f professionals (artists, authors, editors, publishers, what-have-you) can't understand that there's a human cost to our tweets and public posts when we lash out against people, then we're not as good as we may think we are. I offer this to Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Charles Stross, Ellen Datlow, Seanan, Farah, and anyone else who was a part of this series of exchanges this weekend.
I'm sorry to all of you that I didn't speak up, and say what I should have. I think we're a lesser community for what occurred this weekend.
I feel badly for Farah for being put in a position to voice her concerns publicly, as she alleges she was refused the conduit to express her opinions within reasonable private processes, with due course. That said, the damage is done for Loncon3, for Mr. Ross, his family, for the individuals directly involved in the wordslinging, and for all of us as a part of this community.
My words will not change people's minds about what they want, or what they fear.
What I do hope is that this note will let Mr. Ross, Mrs. Goldman, and their family know that this sf/f community crossed lines that should never be crossed, and acted less than professionally in the reaction. Should you later choose to attend Loncon3 in a civilian capacity, I'll be happy to take some time for us to tour the Art Show together, and share a meal on my dime, at your convenience. Please don't feel obligated, but the offer is there for you, unconditionally. Let me know and I'll be there.
Beyond that, it's time to get back to work. If you ever need anything, I'm here for you. Come as you are -- any time, any place.
UPDATE: Thank you to Sunil Patel for sharing Seanan's reply on the matter. (Sunil's comment is the 2nd one from the top.)