Why I won't be returning to the Context SF convention

Note: See updates at bottom of page.

This is a difficult post to write. I love the Context SF convention in Columbus, Ohio. The convention is a small, literary-focused affair and the first genre con I ever attended. I've been an author guest at the convention for many years and have met and become friends with so many wonderful people because of Context. And the most recent convention, held in September, was the best ever, in no small part due to the efforts of programming director Steven Saus.

Which makes it all the more painful to say that I can't return unless Context seriously changes how it does business.

After the most recent convention I'd heard rumors of a harassment incident. I didn't witness this harassment and didn't know the people involved (File 770 has more details if you desire). But like many convention goers and attending authors I assumed the issue would be dealt with according to the convention's Code of Conduct.

Well, yes and no.

As Steven Saus makes clear in a post where he resigns as Context's programming director, while the harassment was eventually dealt with, this was done only after Saus and others pushed for Context to follow its own rules. The people who run the convention made excuse after excuse as to why they shouldn't follow their own rules, made disparaging comments about the entire situation, and basically wanted to sweep all this under the rug. Saus and others didn't let this happen, but the whole situation was so disgusting, and he lost such faith in the process, that he resigned.

As Saus says, "I do not have faith that the harassment policy will be enforced or that reports of harassment would be treated seriously at Context in the future."

And Saus isn't the only one to resign. Long-time Context supporter and volunteer Lucy Snyder announced on Facebook that she is resigning as writing workshops director. Context has had an amazing writing workshop schedule in recent years because of Snyder's hard work and I know how much she loves the convention, so this must have been a painful decision for her. I've also heard from others that they will no longer work for FANACO, Inc., the 501(c)3 organization behind Context.

Saus and Snyder have done the right thing and now others need to do the same. Like Saus I've also signed John Scalzi's harassment pledge. In addition, my personal ethics won't allow me to attend a convention where behavior like this is tolerated.

I hope Context will change. But since many of the people who pushed so hard for Context to do the right thing appear to be no longer association with the convention, I don't have faith that the convention can change at this point.

As Saus says in his post, "This should have been simple." Yes, it should have been very simple. And until Context proves that they can handle harassment issues, my response is very simple: I won't be attending your convention.

Update: On December 1st Steven Saus wrote that over the weekend the Context Board "met and dissolved itself. The convention is starting over, with last year's Con Chairs (who were not part of the resistance I experienced) starting over. .... This change resolves the concerns that led to my resignation."

Obviously this is a very positive development. We'll see how things play out but I'm greatly encouraged by this news.

Update 2: Ignore previous update. ConText is dead. Details here.