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WisCon 35 Withdraws Elizabeth Moon’s Guest of Honor Invitation

Saturday, October 23rd, 2010 | Posted by John ONeill

wisconSF3, the Society for the Furtherance & Study of Science Fiction and Fantasy, the parent organization of Wiscon, has withdrawn Elizabeth Moon’s Guest of Honor Invitation for WisCon 35.

This follows several weeks of intense controversy after Moon made some surprising (and to me, frankly dumb) comments about Muslims on her blog on Sept. 11:

I do not dispute that there are moderate, even liberal, Muslims, that many Muslims have all the virtues of civilized persons and are admirable in all those ways…  But Muslims fail to recognize how much forbearance they’ve had…. I feel that I personally (and many others) lean over backwards to put up with these things, to let Muslims believe stuff that unfits them for citizenship, on the grounds of their personal freedom.  It would be helpful to have them understand what they’re demanding of me and others – how much more they’re asking than giving.

As you’ve probably guessed, both events have generated the kind of blog outrage that glues you to your screen and makes you twenty minutes late for the marketing meeting. (Highlights at the World SF Blog and Wiscon News blog, among many others).

Black Gate attended its first WisCon this year and I was extremely impressed with the convention, although I think the “World’s Leading Feminist SF Convention” tag is a little misleading. WisCon seems to have evolved into something much broader, and still crucially important: a friendly and informed gathering not just for feminists, but for women, POC (people of color), and LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) fans and their friends to discuss science fiction and — more importantly, I think — amplify their voice sufficiently to make the rest of us aware of just how diverse and rich the field truly is.

After just one trip to WisCon I’m hardly an expert, but even I was keenly aware that a key part of that formula is “friendly and informed.” Folks on all sides of this debate are welcomed at WisCon — indeed, welcoming all sides of a debate is something the convention is exceptionally good at — but having their Guest of Honor make so many guests feel uncomfortable must have been very awkward for the convention organizers.  This had to be a tough and extremely painful decision, but ultimately I think they made the right one.

13 Comments »

  1. WisCon 2011’ll be a trip and a half, that’s for sure.

    Comment by C.S.E. Cooney - October 23, 2010 11:26 am

  2. […] Over Wisconsin: Science Fiction and Big Ideas This morning I read on the Black Gate blog that SF3, the parent organization of WisCon, has withdrawn their invitation to Elizabeth Moon to be […]

    Pingback by Moon Over Wisconsin: Science Fiction and Big Ideas « Serial Distractions - October 23, 2010 11:39 am

  3. Is it the policy of Black Gate to turn down writers who hold views that are not ‘politically correct’? I wonder if Heinlein and Tolkien would have even been given an opportunity in today’s environment because they rejected the orthodoxy of the Left.

    Comment by Tyr - October 23, 2010 1:36 pm

  4. Great question, Tyr.

    And no, absolutely not. As long as I’m the editor, Black Gate will welcome writers of all persuasions. We don’t ask writers what their views on politics or religion are, and we never will.

    But we have the luxury of not being a Convention Committee. And if we were, and our Guest of Honor said something like:

    “I do not dispute that there are moderate, even liberal, Black Gate readers, that many Black Gate readers have all the virtues of civilized persons…”

    well, I might question whether we had chosen the right GoH.

    I don’t think SF3 was particularly fair to Moon. She doesn’t deserve to be dis-invited like this. But SF3 had to choose between being fair to her, and being fair to convention attendees, who have come to expect a WisCon entirely free of this kind of hostile atmosphere.

    It was a terrible position to be in. I think SF3 made the decision they had to. It’s easy to criticize them for it, but ultimately I think the blame for this has to rest with Moon.

    Comment by John ONeill - October 23, 2010 1:49 pm

  5. A very good editorial policy.

    Comment by Tyr - October 23, 2010 2:22 pm

  6. I think the rescinding of the invite to be GoH was a mistake. But I can see why they did it. There was way too much talk from certain members of the blogo-sphere either whining about what Moon said, or voicing intentions to disrupt the con with silly antics. I doubt the con would have been a pleasant place for anyone.

    I think the con would have been better off taking the stance that discussion is one thing, intentional disruption is another.

    As it stands the uber-PC “Fail Fandom” (something I have discovered in the last few weeks) clique, which brooks no descent from their personal orthodoxy, won.

    I also think it really puts the lie to this statement: “WisCon encourages discussion and debate of ideas relating to feminism, gender, race and class.” They should tack on the phrase “only if we agree with those ideas, that is. (or if we are too afraid to stand up to a group of people thinking about disrupting the con)…”

    Plus the hypocrisy of the people about what Moon said is curious to me. I doubt many would have uttered a peep if she had directed her comments to a group “Fail Fandom” (et al) feel that “deserve” to be singled out for attack/ridicule (tea partiers, right wingers, christians, hetero men of european descent, for example).

    I am still trying to wrap my head around why many self described “feminists” are defending “Islam”…I would have thought that they would be all for calling out a culture and religion that treats women as little more than chattel.

    But really, about the only thing this whole thing has done is make me feel dirty from thinking about defending a lefty like Moon…

    TW- An anarchic-libertarian, atheist Arab.

    Comment by TW - October 23, 2010 5:05 pm

  7. TW,

    Thanks for the comments. I appreciate the insight on some of the comments from potential con distruptors. I haven’t seen any myself, but I’m not too surprised.

    And you’re not the first person to express frustration that SF3’s decision somehow means Moon’s critics have “won.” That angers a lot of folks, and I suppose I can’t blame them.

    But I don’t really see how looking at this decision that way is very productive. SF3’s decision doesn’t mean anyone has “won.” The only thing it means to me is that they take their promise to “encourage discussion and debate of ideas relating to feminism, gender, race and class” 100% seriously.

    Taking the hard decision to remove a GoH whose comments could help promote a hostile climate at the con towards certain attendees — regardless of the GoH’s impeccible feminist (and other) creditionals — tells me that SF3 is completely serious about that promise. I don’t see any ambiguity there at all.

    Also, I think you’re doing many WisCon attendees an injustice when you say:

    “I doubt many would have uttered a peep if she had directed her comments to a group “Fail Fandom” (et al) feel that “deserve” to be singled out.”

    I’ve seen the folks of WisCon 3 in action — take it from me, they’re VERY serious about speaking up against this kind of speech, regardless of who it’s directed at and where it comes from. The fact that they were willing to speak up against their own GoH should probably tell you something. :)

    John

    Comment by John ONeill - October 23, 2010 5:43 pm

  8. The Wiscon 3 Powers That Be are, plain and simple, fascist idiots, by any definition of the term. They are an insulated, holier than thou, We Define What Is Acceptable Thought and Speech, and All Others are the Enemy.

    Whether they have–as a private organization–the right to do this, is another question. But that they have disinvited Elizabeth Moon is the relevant question.

    I’ve said it before it several venues over the years, and I repeat it here again. The Uber-Left goes Way to far in their attempt at Thought and Speech control. Witness, for but one recent example, Juan Williams’ firing from NPR for his personal, emotional thoughts as expressed on FOX tv’s Bill O’Reilly program.

    This has little or nothing to do with Right or Left–politically–with the vast majority of the American population, but with the hardcore socialist attempt to force everyone to toe the line with Politically Correct speech–and therefore RightThjink. For heaven’s sake, people, this is Orwell’s 1984 right in our face.

    Wake up! :-)

    –Dave

    Comment by Dave Truesdale - October 24, 2010 1:37 am

  9. >>Taking the hard decision to remove a GoH whose comments could help promote a hostile climate at the con towards certain attendees — regardless of the GoH’s impeccible feminist (and other) creditionals — tells me that SF3 is completely serious about that promise. I don’t see any ambiguity there at all.<<

    The problem with that is that if you look hard enough you can find that anyone with any body of word has said something that some group somewhere finds to be distasteful. Heck my local con has invited someone who I disagree with politically to be GoH next year, someone I have discussed/argued politics/opinions with in the past on twitter, but I would never think to pressure the con to dis-invite her. (well mainly because even though I disagree with her, she seems to be a genuinely nice person, if a bit misguided 😉 )

    I disagree that they took the hard decision, if anything dis-inviting Moon was the easy one. The hard decision would have been to stand up to those internet bullies who cant stand to hear someone have a different opinion. Those who use the words “bigot” and “racist” as their first recourse to anyone that disagrees with them.

    Mr Oneill, I guess my idea comes down to this: How would you feel if “glen beckites” exercised a veto power over who a con could invite? Would you consider that to be holding to the standard of “encouraging discussion and debate”?

    Comment by TW - October 24, 2010 9:12 am

  10. Hey Dave!

    > This has little or nothing to do with Right or Left–politically…
    > but with the hardcore socialist attempt to force everyone to
    > toe the line with Politically Correct speech – and therefore RightThjink.
    > For heaven’s sake, people, this is Orwell’s 1984 right in our face.

    To tell the truth, me and the rest of the Uber-Left hardcore socialist Conclave were just about to jump in here, but we got distracted by Linsey Lohan going back into rehab. Seriously, that chick drives us nuts.

    Dave, I know you see this as yet more evidence of a leftist conspiracy, a vast socialist effort to curtail your speech, and the speech of people who think like you.

    But maybe, just maybe, this was nothing more than a convention committee faced with a very hard decision. A con committee who takes their responsibility to provide a true feminist atmosphere (and all that that implies) seriously.

    I know you’re not exactly in line with the aims of many feminists. But can you at least agree that having Moon remain as GoH would not be in line with what a true feminist convention is all about?

    Comment by John ONeill - October 24, 2010 12:11 pm

  11. TW,

    > Mr Oneill, I guess my idea comes down to this:
    > How would you feel if “glen beckites” exercised
    > a veto power over who a con could invite? Would
    > you consider that to be holding to the standard of
    > “encouraging discussion and debate”?

    Man, damn good question.

    You have a valid point here. Put like that, I probably wouldn’t, no.

    But I think you have to put it in context. If the convention in question was “ConservaCon 5, The Convention of Conservative Thought in Science Fiction,” and the guest involved had said something extremely insensitive or insulting about some con attendees — especially attendees who were already marginalized, and the con felt very protective of — then I think I’d feel a little differently.

    I might still disagree with their decision, and roll my eyes. But attack them in public for doing something 100% in line with their stated principles?

    No. I hope I’d be a lot better than that.

    Comment by John ONeill - October 24, 2010 12:25 pm

  12. Just wanted to say that I appreciated the article, especially the background on the convention. Not being a big con-goer, I didn’t know about the aim of this particular con, which I do think has an impact in this case. I know more now than I did before I read the article; thanks!

    Comment by Matthew David Surridge - October 24, 2010 9:35 pm

  13. […] was objecting to my use of the phrase “knee-jerk” to describe a decision that he claimed had been taken after consulting everyone involved.  While the original discussion […]

    Pingback by On Words, as they Relate to Worldview | Classically Educated - February 19, 2014 3:55 pm


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