Readercon: The Verdict

[This is an update to the events of this post.]


Readercon has always had a zero-tolerance harassment policy.

Harassment of any kind – including physical assault, battery, deliberate intimidation, stalking, or unwelcome physical attentions – will not be tolerated at Readercon and will result in permanent suspension of membership.

As always, Readercon reserves the right to strip membership at its discretion.

In 2008, a friend of mine was harassed at Readercon by a man who stared at her fixedly, repeatedly, crowded her in narrow hallways, and followed her throughout the con space. I made a formal complaint to the con committee. An hour later, he was ejected from the con and banned for life.

This year, I was harassed repeatedly by a man. Despite several unmistakable shutdowns that I thought each time had ended the problem, the harassment continued through Sunday, at which point I wrote up a report and sent it to the convention as a formal complaint.

Earlier today I was contacted by a Readercon representative, who let me know that by decision of the Board, my harasser has been suspended from Readercon.

For two years.

I was not given the reasoning behind the decision; the board’s deliberations, I was told, were confidential.

I was assured the board had taken everything into account — my report, my eyewitnesses, others who had come forward with information they declined to detail. They asked me if I felt they had taken my complaint seriously. They hoped to see me at next year’s Readercon.

I was polite on the phone, pleasant to the caller (who had called me before, to keep me updated and ask for situational witnesses, and who had been professional and kind, and who told me they were taking things very seriously, and who had, in 2008, been unspeakably helpful).

Then I hung up and realized, from the pit in my stomach, that I really had felt they were taking my complaint seriously – right up until the verdict.

I am, to say the least, disappointed. I am surprised that the results of reporting my harassment have been more troubling, in some ways, than the harassment itself. (While being harassed, I never doubted my reactions, or the validity of my perceptions, or that the con’s response would be the same exemplary response from 2008. Now, I’m left wondering what magical formula I could have followed in order for Readercon to uphold its zero-tolerance policy; I have been told I’ll never know.)

Readercon really is a lovely convention. I told the caller I’d love to go back next year.

And I would. I’m just not sure I can.

I will be perfectly safe if I do, I’m fairly certain. I have friends at that convention, and (one of the best outcomes of this experience for me), I know that sometimes you only need to meet someone once for them to take a stand if something goes wrong.

But if I go back, I will go back knowing that some reports of harassment are more valid than others, and that if someone gets harassed there, they should be sure they are receiving the kind that falls under the con’s sexual harassment policy. (You will need to brush up; I was told they are rewriting it for next year, for undisclosed reasons.)

In 2008, my friend opted not to go public (which is an utterly valid decision — the first responsibility of someone who has been the target of harassment is to their own safety and peace of mind. She has, since, decided to identify herself, and talk more about the reasoning behind the various decisions with which a target of harassment can be faced). However, she gave me permission to go public and to name her harasser.

I received four comments from people who had also been targets of his harassing behavior that weekend, and other comments indicating he had been performing the same behavior at other conventions. My harasser this year was named elsewhere, and since then I have been made aware, via private correspondence, I am not the only person he has harassed.

The convention will not be making any public announcement or statement about the suspension.

Rene Walling will not be returning to Readercon for two years.

I am not sure when, or if, I will.

ETA: After this post, Readercon released an official statement which you can read here.

Recent Work

My award-eligible work in 2014

2014 Recommended Reading List includes:
The Girls at the Kingfisher Club (novel)
Dream Houses (novella)
"The Insects of Love" (novelette)
"Aberration" in short story.

Sleepy Hollow Season 2 recaps: "Spellcaster"

TV recaps: Babylon, "Hackney Wick"

Genevieve on Tumblr

  • photo from Tumblr


    History’s first forensic murder investigation, China, 1235 AD

    In 1247 AD during the Song Dynasty of China, a book called Collected Cases of Injustice Rectified also known as The Washing Away of Wrongs was first published by Song Ci, a Chinese coroner and detective.  Essentially the book was a guide for early coroners, detailing how to determine cause of death based on forensic science.  Divided into 53 chapters and five volumes, the work details the case studies and personal observations of Song Ci. Incredibly advanced for its time, the book covers topics such as anatomy, the decay of corpses, details the wounds made by different weapons, appearance of corpses from various causes of death, and postmortem examination methods.

    Among the case studies of The Washing Away of Wrongs is an anecdote now considered to be the first case of forensic entomology in history.  In 1235 AD a man was found stabbed, slashed, and hacked to death in a small village. The local magistrate inspected the victims wounds, then tested various types of blades on animal corpses, which allowed him to determine that the weapon used was a common farming sickle.   According to Song Ci, a brilliant plan was created by the magistrate to determine who was the murderer,

    The local magistrate began the investigation by calling all the local peasants who could be suspects into the village square. Each was to carry their hand sickles to the town square with them. Once assembled, the magistrate ordered the ten-or-so suspects to place their hand sickles on the ground in front of them and then step back a few yards. The afternoon sun was warm and as the villagers, suspects, and magistrates waited, bright shiny metallic green flies began to buzz around them in the village square. The shiny metallic colored flies then began to focus in on one of the hand sickles lying on the ground. Within just a few minutes many had landed on the hand sickle and were crawling over it with interest. None of the other hand sickles had attracted any of these pretty flies. The owner of the tool became very nervous, and it was only a few more moments before all those in the village knew who the murderer was. With head hung in shame and pleading for mercy, the magistrate led the murderer away. The witnesses of the murder were the brightly metallic colored flies known as the blow flies which had been attracted to the remaining bits of soft tissue, blood, bone and hair which had stuck to the hand sickle after the murder was committed. The knowledge of the village magistrate as to a specific insect group’s behavior regarding their attraction to dead human tissue was the key to solving this violent act and justice was served in China.

    Today The Washing Away of Wrongs has been translated into several different languages, with modern forensic scientists adding their own anecdotes and studies.  It has been esteemed by generations of public service officials and is often required reading in criminology today.


2015 Appearances

Often updated. Please check back!

March: ICFA (Orlando, FL)