Tag Archives: conventions

My MidAmeriCon II Schedule – it’s Worldcon Time!

I have been so caught up with the Aussie Snapshot that I forgot how close Worldcon is! *freaks out a little*

I am delighted to have been invited to be on a few panels, and I have no doubt I will have a blast when not doing programming.

If you are at the con, and want to catch up, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. And, I am always happy to be approached at a convention, in fact I am far too shy to approach people so that works way better for me!


Australian SF
Thursday 16:00 – 17:00, 2210 (Kansas City Convention Center)

Australian SF is largely Anglophone, and often considered part of the Anglo-American tradition. Yet, because of Australia’s physical isolation, the development of the book and literary trade here has been very different and Australian writing has a distinct flavour. It has also been heavily influenced by Aborigines, and there is a growing body of speculative fiction published and written by Aboriginal writers. We discuss the SF works coming from Australia.

Ms Clare McDonald-Sims, Mr David McDonald, Mr Jonathan Strahan, Miss Amanda Bridgeman

Writing Tie-Ins
Friday 19:00 – 20:00, 2208 (Kansas City Convention Center)

Tie-ins aren’t novelizations, and they’re not adaptations. So, what are they and what purpose do they serve? Moreover, what effect might they have on the source material? Panelists discuss tie-ins and how they affect the universe that they are set in.

David Boop, Jason Heller, Christopher Kastensmidt, Mr David McDonald

The Build-A-World Game Show
Friday 21:00 – 22:00, 2503A (Kansas City Convention Center)

The Build-a-World Game Show is a live action worldbuilding game designed and run by Monica Valentinelli. Two teams of panelists compete to build a fantastic world in under an hour for fun and prizes. The Build-a-World Game Show incorporates audience participation, takes place in three rounds, and results in a fan-voted winner!

Ms. Monica Valentinelli, Tex Thompson, Mr David McDonald, Martha Wells, Catherine Lundoff

Dialog in Game of Thrones: Great Storytelling through Ordinary Conversations
Saturday 16:00 – 17:00, 2207 (Kansas City Convention Center)

A single word can convey pages of subtext when it’s the right word. The Game of Thrones television series does an exceptional job of using dialog to convey character, mood, historical context, themes, narrative arcs, and more within some of the simplest (and yet most revealing) conversations. Panelsts discuss some of their favorite moments of dialog from the series and the impact that these exchanges have on the characters and viewers alike.

Charlaine Harris, Erin Underwood, Mr David McDonald, Toni L. P. Kelner

Continuum XII – Stranger than Fiction

If you’re in Melbourne this weekend, you should come and check out Continuum XII – Melbourne’s very own spec fic convention. From the website:

Continuum is an annual fan run speculative fiction and pop culture convention. From sci-fi to epic fantasy and everything in between, Continuum 12 will celebrate the theme “Stranger Than Fiction”. Continuum runs every year on the Queen’s Birthday long weekend. In 2016 the convention will be held between June 10-13.

Run by fans for fans, Continuum features a great line up of writers and creative artists in the heart of Australia’s most artistic city, Melbourne. The guests of honor at the next convention will be Queenie Chan and Kylie Chan.

Friday night is gold coin donation if you want to get a cheap taste, but be warned–it’s unlikely you can stop at one night!

I will be there all weekend, and I am on a number of panels (see below). Hope to see you there!

Friday, June 10
Continuum 101
Tesla, 7:30pm – 8pm
Tags: Panel

New to Continuum? Come chat to Continuum veterans about what to expect and how to get the most out of your convention

Batman vs. Superman
Tesla, 10pm – 11pm
Tags: Panel, Movies

Enjoyed by some, reviled by others, and with a Rotten Tomatoes score only 2% higher than Green Lantern, BvS has had a rather mixed reception. What happened? Is Batfleck a worthy successor and just how badass is Wonder Woman? Warning: SPOILERS (Duh)

Saturday, June 11
Books That Changed My Life
Granger, 10am – 11am
Tags: Panel

Join us for a discussion of works that had a profound effect on the panellists’ lives.

Religion vs. Science vs. Philosophy
Tesla, 2pm – 3pm

Most future works tend to avoid the issue, but can they co-exist? Does religion have a place in the far future and can different ideologies truly co-exist?

Sunday, June 12
Building a Dramatic Fight Scene
Curie, 5pm – 6pm

How do you write a great fight scene? What does it take to make it believable? Come hear some practical tips and watch your moves and techniques demonstrated by some experienced fighters

Monday, June 13
The Author is a Jerk!
Granger, 1pm – 2pm
Tags: Panel

How do the personal opinions and actions of an author affect the reception of their work and do we really care? Should an author’s personal and professional lives remain separate or should we boycott problematic authors?

My Boskone 53 Schedule (I’m shipping up to Boston)

I’ve never been to the United States in winter, but this year that will change when I head over mid-February. I’m also very excited to be attending Boskone 53, their programming looks amazing and a heap of my US friends will be there.

I am also fortunate enough to have been put on a number of panels and, as always, am blown away by the fact I will get to rub shoulders with some of my writing heroes.

If you’ll be attending, I’d love to see you at one of my panels–or in the bar. Don’t be a stranger. 🙂

_Game of Thrones_: Adaptation or Original Material

Friday 14:00 – 14:50, Griffin (Westin)

When the first season of Game of Thrones aired, the material was a clear adaptation of the novel. However, in the following seasons, characters and story lines have morphed. Now, some storylines from the TV series are outstripping the books. At what point (if any) does the HBO series set the pace? Do we now have two independent tales? Who rules? And, as we range into uncharted territory, what happens next?

Django Wexler (M), David McDonald, Sarah Smith,  Erin Underwood

Loose Ends and Contradictions in Doctor Who

Friday 18:00 – 18:50, Marina 4 (Westin)

*Spoilers, sweetie!* Doctor Who has become infamous for its loose ends and contradictions — most of which get explained away with a little timey-wimey flash and sparkle. Yet, we still love The Doctor. In fact, many of those seeming problems tend to open future storylines and plot points. Which do we most want to see resolved? Which seem too far gone to pull back? And will we see River again … or has that loose end been tied?

Susan Jane Bigelow (M), David McDonald, Lauren Roy

Fantastic Australia!

Saturday 10:00 – 10:50, Burroughs (Westin)

A guide to the wide, wonderful, and quite active world of Australian science fiction, fantasy, and horror.

Bob Kuhn (M), D L Carter, David McDonald, Garth Nix, James Minz

Appreciating the Historical in Speculative Fiction

Saturday 14:00 – 14:50, Marina 3 (Westin)

Stories set in historical times present a special set of challenges and benefits: from the wonders of worldbuilding to the disguising of infodumps to the artful overcoming of a reader’s knowledge about the way things actually are (or were). Why do we love it? What time periods and cultures are the most fun to recreate? What sets historical fiction apart from its speculative cousin? And do the stories of Tim Powers, Eric Flint, Connie Willis, Naomi Novik, or Cherie Priest qualify as hist fic?

Brendan DuBois (M), Walter H. Hunt, David McDonald, E. C. Ambrose, Walter Jon Williams

Nonfiction on Speculative Fiction

Saturday 17:00 – 17:50, Griffin (Westin)

We often forget about the nonfiction that is being published: literary criticism, reviews, analyses. Nonfiction helps to inform, sustain, and push the genre forward. The proliferation of nonfiction is often a sign of a very healthy literary field. So, how are we doing? What qualifies as nonfiction? Where do you go to find it or publish it?

David McDonald (M), Kate Baker, Daniel Hatch, Christopher Weuve

Requiem: They Played the Game of Thrones and Lost

Sunday 14:00 – 14:50, Harbor II (Westin)

Some were good and some were bad, but all of them are dead. They have ceased to be. Rung down the curtain. Joined the choir invisible. Stiffs. Ex-Westerosi. Let’s pause to pay homage to characters who met their untimely ends at the bloody hands of George R. R. Martin, and recall their glorious or dubious or just plain icky ends. And while we’re at it, let’s speculate about who’s the next to go. Because there’s no use hoping that anyone will make it out alive.

Laurie Mann (M) , David McDonald, Lauren Roy, Michael Sharrow

My 2015 in Review

Wow – another year is just about to say good bye! Where has it gone? It has been an action packed year for me, so maybe that’s why it seems to have flown past. It’s been pretty successful year, too, with lots of highlights, but before I get into that, let’s look at my goals from 2014 and get the unachieved goals out of the way! Then I can move on to the good stuff…

The big goals for 2015:

  • Get that elusive pro sale!
  • Finish the YA novel and get it off for submission.
  • Catch up with Doctor Who.
  • Get my solo novel done.
  • Start another conversational review series about a series of books that are very dear to my heart
  • Try and get involved in some sort of news/discussion podcast

Let’s see:

  • Nope. I came close with one sale at 5c a word, and an anthology that would have given me a pro sale being put on hold.
  • Nope, but as you will read in the achievements section I made some good progress with this one
  • Nope. Don’t even want to talk about that!
  • Nope, but again feel happy with what I did achieve in that area.
  • Started a conversational review series, but not that one!
  • Nope, but have found the idea and other person, so that’s a start

So, as you can see, I didn’t do so well with the goals. But, now that the self flagellation is out of the way, here’s what I did achieve in 2015!


Considering I only had one short story published in 2014, 2015 was a pretty good year on the writing front. I’ve given a comprehensive breakdown on my writing statistics here for those of you who love graphs and stuff, but the upshot was that I had:

  • Five short stories published
  • Managed to crack couer de lion, a market I have coveted for years
  • Sharing a ToC with David Morrell AND Margaret Atwood AND Chelsea Quinn Yarbro AND Tanith Lee (in what was sadly her last appearance) – all in the same amazing book!
  • A reprint
  • A story turned into a podcast at the most excellent StarShipSofa

While I didn’t meet my goal of having my own original solo novel published, the big news was that my first novel length work came out.


This has led to more tie-in work, and I am looking forward to being able to announce what I think will be my biggest news yet.

While the Secret Young Adult book isn’t finished yet, we made real progress, with the first ten chapters refined to the point we were happy to send them off to test readers. I got the first feedback email today and it is look good!

2016 is already shaping up to be an even bigger year, so stay tuned for more news as it comes.


2015 was a bit of a jetsetting year for me. I was lucky enough to get visit New Zealand for their Natcon, and discovered that NZ fandom is incredibly welcoming and friendly. I also met some wonderful authors, and made some new friends.

Having fun with some new writer friends!

Having fun with some new writer friends!

I had a great time at my home con of Continuum, getting to be on some great panels and generally just having fun.

This panel on Religion in Spec Fic was much more fun than I am making it look here!

This panel on Religion in Spec Fic was much more fun than I am making it look here!

I managed to make it back to the US this year for an incredible 4 week trip that took me from LA to New York, and plenty of places in between. While over there I went to Sasquan, the Worldcon in Spokane, Washington. As well as hanging out with the Brotherhood Without Banners, the greatest fan group in the Universe, I had the honour of accepting a Hugo for Galactic Suburbia. The Hugo Awards night will be indelibly etched in my memory, it was a truly wonderful night that was capped off with the Hugo Loser Party to end all parties!


And, last but not least, I went up to Canberra for Conflux, and as usual had a great time. There were many highlights, like a Paying for Our Passion panel, and experiencing the Cabinet of Oddities performance, where I had the privilege of hearing one of my stories set to music composed especially for it and played on flute.


The “Paying for Our Passion” panel

So, not a bad year for conventions!


I was lucky enough to be nominated for a couple of Ditmars this year, including another Atheling nod. I was a little sad that the Snapshot didn’t win, but given the quality of the category it was in I am not complaining–any of the winners would have been deserving!


While we didn’t finish the New Who stuff, we did get some reviews done, and I also started a new series of reviews with Tehani as we Squeed Over Supergirl!

By far the most successful series on my blog was Paying for Our Passion, and again I must thank all the writers and editors who were willing to make themselves so vulnerable with some excellent posts on the sacrifices we make to pursue or passions.


Galactic Chat had a quiet end to the year, but I did get the chance to interview some amazing people. If you haven’t already, you should check out the podcast. I also had my first ever podcast interview when I appeared on it myself.


So, looking back, it was a pretty good year! Despite my abject failure to meet last year’s, I am going to set some goals for 2016:

  • FINALLY catch up on Doctor Who
  • start the new podcast I have planned
  • get the full version of the YA book out to test readers, if not an agent
  • make that elusive pro sale

And that will do for now. 🙂

Thank you to everyone who has read this blog over the course of the year, and to those who have supported and encouraged me in so many ways. I couldn’t have achieved any of the things I have listed without you. Wishing you all a Happy New Year, and hoping that 2016 is your best yet!

My 2014 in Review

So, 2014 has come and gone. Wow. Time flies, huh?

Looking back, 2014 was a much better year than I realised. Even though I only had one story published, there were a number of significant milestones that are well worth celebrating.

But, first, let me get the negatives out of the way.

We lost some good people last year, and some people I care about had some tough times. That puts my problems into perspective, in the scheme of things I was very fortunate. So, I don’t really want to go into details as so many others have it so much worse, but during 2014 I struggled with some medical issues and, when added to my talent for taking too much on, I had a bit of a meltdown. The medical stuff is nothing life threatening, or anything for anyone to worry about, but enough to cause some issues. It’s not an excuse, but this did contribute to me messing up a couple of deadlines and letting some people down. You know who you are and, again, I apologise. It’s something I am very disappointed with myself in, and I hope that 2015 will be a much better year for that!

Looking back at the goals that I had set myself, I am disappointed to note that I still haven’t caught up on Doctor Who! Hopefully I can remedy that before Easter for reasons that will become clear later in this post.

I also haven’t made that first pro rate sale, though I do feel that I am getting closer and closer, and I might have another announcement to make soon..

But, on to the good things! There really were some wonderful moments, and I have a lot to be thankful for. And, it’s been great to feel like I am actually making some progress with my writing.

Unfortunately, I can’t share my biggest piece of news yet, but stay tuned as it will be announced around February.

Amongst the things I can talk about are:

  • After an eighteen year career in the field (pretty much straight out of Year 11), I left IT. I was seconded to our Editorial Department for 6 months in the position of Deputy Editor of one of our magazines (though I was essentially doing the Editor’s job). I can now announce that last  week I signed a contract extending my contract and naming me Editor. So, I guess I can say that I am a full time editor and writer now! There are not many people who get the chance to make a living from writing, so I feel incredibly blessed to have this opportunity– it really has changed my life. And, this has been so beneficial to my own writing, both in what I am learning from editing, and  because I am excited to be at work everyday instead being stressed and frustrated all the time. (which I know makes me very fortunate). I also think it has made me more productive, too, if there is a writing muscle, the more you use it the stronger it gets
  • From a fiction writing POV, one of the highlights of 2014 was being shortlisted for the WSFA Small Press Award. As I said at the time, seeing my name alongside all the past nominees and winners was a huge thrill and I was gobsmacked when I found out. I never expected to be nominated, let alone win, so I wasn’t that disappointed to lose–especially to a great story.
  • After two previous nominations, winning a William J. Atheling Jr Award for the New Who reviews. I have felt very privileged to get to work with Tehani and Tansy, and humbled to tie with Galactic Suburbia, one of my biggest influences. Hopefully I can catch up on the latest seasons soon!
  • The Ditmar for Galactic Chat. A huge amount of the credit for this needs to go to Sean Wright, our podcast overlord, and it was great to see him recognised for his hard work. It felt a bit weird winning an award for having the opportunity to get to talk to some of my writing heroes. Seems like a bit of a rort, really! lol
  • Which leads on to the interviews with Ken Liu and Kameron Hurley. Wow, talk about gushing fanboy moments. Just a hint: next year wills ee even more fanboying! I have a few more writing superstars lined up for you.
  • Being asked to return as part of the Aussie Snapshot team. This one was even bigger than the last one, and we managed to cover a huge cross section of the Aussie Spec Fic scene. If you haven’t read it yet, you are really missing out!
  • Even though I had a quiet year in publications, I managed to sell some stories and I have already have three new stories confirmed for 2015 (including a sale to Fablecroft and coeur de lion) as well as something a bit longer which I can’t talk about yet (and that is killing me).
  • The release of a bundle of my short stories from Clan Destine Press, including a brand new story that I am rather proud of, and am very glad to see find a home. It already has a great review!
  • Managing to make a good start on the collaborative young adult novel I am working on, It’s definitely starting to take shape now and has gotten to that point where it has developed some momentum, and the process that we decided to use seems to be working (big thanks to Amie Kaufman for her generosity with her time and advice. I am very excited about where it is heading, and you can expect to hear more about it in 2015
  • Helping my good friend, Laura Goodin, perform a radio play at Conflux. Hopefully there will be a version available for your listening pleasure soon
  • Beating “Hold Over Funds” to become the FFANZ delegate. I am really excited about heading over tot New Zealand in 2015, i am sure that it is going to be a blast. It looks like I need to be caught up on Doctor Who by then, though!
  • Amazing fun at Continuum X and Conflux 10

Aside from all these, there is something even more important to mention. I got to spend time with existing friends, made a number of new friends and, most of all, was continually reminded of what an amazing community we have in Australia. A number of my friends had some great moments of their own, and I was delighted to see their successes (and quite often got to help celebrate them, which is always fun).

The big goals for 2015:

  • Get that elusive pro sale!
  • Finish the YA novel and get it off for submission.
  • Catch up with Doctor Who.
  • Get my solo novel done.
  • Start another conversational review series about a series of books that are very dear to my heart
  • Try and get involved in some sort of news/discussion podcast

And, that’s probably enough for now!

Hopefully I will be at a few cons in 2015. I always try and get to Continuum, and I have brought my membership and booked my hotel for the Worldcon on in Spokane. And, of course, I will be in NZ for their Natcon.

I am looking forward to 2015, which I think might be my biggest yet, and I will be hoping for the same for you!

I’m going to New Zealand!

I am very excited to announce that I am going to Reconnaissance, the 36th New Zealand National Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Convention as the FFANZ Laureate! It will be held over Easter 2015.

Thank you to everyone who voted for me in the FFANZ race, and my commiserations to “Hold Over funds”–you were a worthy opponent! Also, a big shout out to Cat Sparks and Norman Cates for being my nominators. You’re awesome!

I can’t to meet all the New Zealand fans and I plan on making sure that I am the best delegate I can be. 🙂


Writing update with shiny sales and shiny trophies!

Yet again I have been very bad with keeping up to date on my blog. But, I do have lots of exciting stuff to talk about!

Firstly, I have started a new job! I am working for the same organisation, but I have been seconded to our Editorial Department and am now responsible for a fortnightly magazine. It’s been a steep learning curve, but I am loving it. So, I guess now I am a professional writer/editor. The last issue was the first I did completely alone and having survived that I think I am going to be all right – but it was a long fortnight. The downside is that I have been so consumed by learning the ropes that I have let some stuff slide and let some people down with other things. 🙁

I am also very excited to announce the sale of my story, “Her face like lightning”, to Fablecroft’s “Insert Title Here”. You can find out more details here.

I am currently working on two major projects that I hope to be able to announce in a month or so, but they are taking up most of my writing time. If they work out, they will be a big deal but until contracts are signed I will be keeping it quiet.

In June I went along to Continuum X and had an amazing time. I am a bit biased, being on the committee and all, but it seemed to be a smashing success. I spent a fair bit of time running around trying to help with organisational matters, but I also managed to catch up with heaps of friends, and make some new ones. My panels went reasonably well, and I even managed to organise a reprint of one of my stories. Well done to everyone who contributed to making it an awesome convention!

And, in a very surprising turn of events, we won both our categories in the Ditmars! I honestly didn’t expect it, given the other nominees, so it was a wonderful surprise. In the Atheling, New Who Reviews tied with Galactic Suburbia. As Galactic Suburbia was the first Aussie podcast I started listening to, and has had a huge influence on my perception of the genre, this was a huge honour. It’s been a great deal of fun working with Tansy and Tehani, so a big thank you to them for all their hard work and letting me be part of it (and a shout out to our guests over the years  – Lynne Thomas, Jo Anderton and Kathleen Jennings).

Then, in the Best Fan Publication, Galactic Chat won! Again, I have been fortunate to get to work with an incredible group of people, and Sean has worked extremely hard in his role as our fearless leader. We were very excited to see him win Best Fan Writer, as well – a very deserved result.

But, looking at the rest of the nominees in all the categories, it was an extremely strong list – and congratulations to all the winners, and nominees, for the wonderful work you are doing! You can see the full list here.

So, it has been an exciting few months! How is your year going?

Finally, all three of the New Who Review team together at a Con!

Finally, all three of the New Who Review team together at a Con!

A lovely work of art by Kathleen Jennings

A lovely work of art by Kathleen Jennings

Lunch on the last day - photo by Alan Baxter

Lunch on the last day – photo by Alan Baxter

with Alan Baxter and Alex Pierce - photo by Cat Sparks

with Alan Baxter and Alex Pierce – photo by Cat Sparks

My Continuum X Schedule

It’s hard to believe, but tomorrow Continuun X starts! I am on commitee (my excuse for being very absent here of late) so it feels like there has been a mad rush to get everything ready, but the time for preparation is over and the fun begins soon.

What is ContinuumX? From the website:

Continuum is an annual Melbourne speculative fiction and pop culture fan convention celebrating creativity across genre and media. From hard-edge science fiction to high-flown fantasy, comic books to film noir, high culture to sub-culture… we sink our teeth into it all! Continuum is run on a not-for-profit basis and all revenue goes towards venue and equipment hire, transport and accommodation for our guests, and other convention specific expenses. The Continuum Foundation supports Continuum conventions and we are grateful for their support.

Continuum 10 will take place on the Queen’s Birthday Weekend, June 6 — 9, 2014. Our guests of honour this year are Jim C. Hines and Ambelin Kwaymullina. Supporting them will be a wide range of other speakers and panellists in a fabulous line up of panels, presentations and special events.

Continuum 10 is also proud to be host convention for the 53rd Australian National Science Fiction Convention for 2014.

I may be biased, but I think we have an awesome program, with something for everyone. You can check it out here.

My schedule is below, but you will also find me at most of the book launches, running around doing errands…or in the bar. Come and say hello!

Friday, 6 June

Continuum 101
The Haunted House, 6pm – 6:30pm
Hespa, David McDonald, Fran la Fontaine
Everything you wanted to know about fan conventions and con-going – an ideal starting point for anyone relatively new to conventions. Learn the secrets from those who have been around long enough to know better.

Continuum 101 – Getting To Know You
The Haunted House, 6:30pm – 7pm
Hespa, David McDonald, Fran la Fontaine
A quick round of ice-breaker games to introduce you to your fellow newbies and your Continuum 101 hosts.

Spicks & Speckulations
The Haunted House/The Big Top/The Hall of Mirrors 8pm
George Ivanoff, Jim C. Hines, Narrelle Harris, Kirstyn McDermott, Ambelin Kwaymullina, Danny Oz, David McDonald
Inspired by the ABC music game show, our two teams of “experts” go head-to-head as their spec fic and music knowledge is tested to its (possibly quite limited) limits. Who will prevail? How silly will this get? We suspect quite silly.

Saturday, 7 June

Continuum 101
The Hall of Mirrors, 11am – 11:30am
Hespa, David McDonald, Fran la Fontaine
Everything you wanted to know about fan conventions and con-going – an ideal starting point for anyone relatively new to conventions. Learn the secrets from those who have been around long enough to know better.

Monday, 9 June

In Conversation: DUFF Delegate Juanita Coulson
The Hall of Mirrors, 11am – 11:30am
David McDonald, Juanita Coulson
Juanita Coulson joins us all the way from America to talk about being a writer, the changing face of American fandom since the 1950s, and filking.

Feedback Panel
The Haunted House 3pm
Julia Svaganovic,, Liz Barr, Amanda Elliott, David McDonald, PRK
The con’s nearly over! What did you like? What did you hate? This is your chance to chat directly with the CX and C11 committee and help make the next Continuum even better.

Fake Geek Pride
The Big Top 4pm
Jim C. Hines, Alex Matti, David McDonald, Kirsty Sculler
Many fans see fandom as a welcoming home to all, but sagas like the “fake geek girl” furore are starkly at odds with this rosy picture. Where does the idea of non-judgemental fandom come from and how much truth is in it really?

What can Men do about Sexual Harassment at Cons?

While it’s currently a topic getting a lot of traction on social media, harassment at conventions is hardly anything new. It’s one of those perennial subjects that comes up every so often, is discussed, but never goes away. However, this time around there seems to be a degree of openness and community engagement that goes beyond anything I have seen in my admittedly limited experience, and one can only hope that it translates into real change. Because, when I read the accounts of people’s experiences (for a good roundup that will just get you started, go here), all I can think is that the status quo is simply unacceptable. In a community that prides itself on being progressive and inclusive and generally pretty intelligent, how can these things still go on? How can the same language that was being used about women by Harlan Ellison in his introductions to stories in Dangerous Visions almost half a century ago still be cropping up in industry publications today? How can people use ignorance as an excuse when a hundred blogs or a thousand tweets lay out what is not okay every week?

Whenever this topic comes up I feel a lot of conflicting emotions. The first one is anger. I have a mother, a sister, a wife and I imagine some of these things happening to them and my blood boils. I have female friends in the community who this could easily happen to, or has happened to, and it makes me furious. But, to be honest, it also makes me very uncomfortable. I start asking myself all sorts of questions that, if I am honest here, I struggle with. I have to ask myself, what role do I play in this state of affairs? What should my response, as a man, be? I don’t feel qualified to talk about it, and I wonder whether I should just keep out of it. I don’t want to be one of those people who simply echo what all the cool people are talking about in attempt to look good. So, I sit here and stay quiet. But, then I realise that like in most things in life, when faced with something I don’t want to do, if I feel I should be doing something but am trying to find reasons not to then that’s a good sign that I should do it.

But, what can I do? I’m only one person, and fairly insignificant in the scheme of things – I am not a publisher, an editor or a big name author. It’s hard to believe I can effect major change in our community, or in the world. So, all I can do is control my own behaviour, and change how I act, or don’t act. But, what are the things I am doing, or trying to do? I’ve made a little list, but first, a disclaimer. I don’t claim to be in anyway an example of how men should be, or to live up to the things on the list or to be anyway trying to come from a position of authority on this. Like anyone, I fall short, am a hypocrite at times, and generally have no idea how to go about most things in life. I guess this post is not “What can men do?” but “what can I do?” This is simply stuff I find useful , maybe it will be food for thought or encourage someone else to make their own list.

1. Empathise

Often when something is outside our own experience, it is hard to understand how it can matter so much to someone. I’ve been to about six cons now, and at every single one I have experience behaviour, that if you sat down and described it, could be considered sexual harassment. It’s pretty easy for me to simply laugh it off, or even to be flattered by it, but I need to understand not everyone can do that, or should do that. I am 6’3” and I can’t remember the last time I felt worried for my physical safety. Sexual harassment is not constant background noise in my life, if it happens, it is an aberration. And, fortunately, my worth as human being is not judged by my appearance or my physical attributes. Thinking about what it would be like to have to worry about all those things, constantly, is a sobering experience.

2. Self Examination

It’s human nature to be able to see the mote in our neighbour’s eye while ignoring the beam in our own. We don’t want to believe that we might be part of the problem; it’s much easier to blame it on “other men”. What I try and do is be willing to take a look at my own behaviour. Every time this issue is raised, or I read a blog post that gets me thinking, that should be an opportunity for some self examination. Am I doing some of the things that people are talking about, or that I condemn in other people?

3. Being willing to be called on your behaviour

No matter how hard we try, we all make mistakes. I don’t think that is unforgivable, it’s how we deal with it. Last year, someone whose opinion I trust told me they felt I had crossed a line. I was mortified, I am still embarrassed to think about it. But, the truth is that I would much rather be told so I knew and could avoid doing the same thing again. If I had reacting with hostility, or dismissively, then that person would probably not feel comfortable talking to me about it the next time I stuffed up. If it is a choice between being a guy that people will tell to his face when he makes a mistake, or the guy that women talk about when handing out warnings, I know which one I would rather be.

4. Realise it is not about you

Sometimes when people talk about instances of sexual harassment, or tell you that something you did was wrong, it is hard to understand what the big deal was. You might think that was just flirting, or they are being over sensitive, or whatever. But, that is to miss the point. Everyone has their own triggers and boundaries, and crossing those is what makes it harassment. It’s not about what you think is acceptable, it is what they think that matters. Whether you think something is harmless or not, if you know it is going to upset someone and you still do it that makes you a bit of a dick. No one has a right to force their own standards of behaviour on someone else, and act like they are the one with the problem if they get upset. But, as I said, it is easier to blame someone else, than blame ourselves.

5. Erring on the side of caution

As I said in the point above, people have different ideas of what is okay. Like many other people in our community, I am not really good at the whole social interaction thing, or reading the signals and cues that people give. I often don’t know what the appropriate response or action is in a given situation so I can understand how some men are genuinely confused about what is okay (though I do think some men use that as an excuse). My solution is to err on the side of caution.

As an example, I am perfectly fine with being hugged. But, no matter how well I know someone, I try not to be the person who initiates a hug because for some people being touched is not cool. If they make that decision, though, that is fine. Obviously, once you know someone and they regularly hug that is different because you know what their boundaries are, but that initial call is up to them. That way, even if I am not sure how they would feel about it, I know I am not going to inadvertently cross a line.

I think this lends itself to lots of situations. Some people would be happy having you compliment their outfit, others would see that as sleazy. In some scenarios, offering to buy someone a drink is okay (even welcome – writers love to drink!), in others it would be threatening. If you aren’t sure how it will be taken – don’t do it.

I am lucky that I am married and therefore don’t need to worry about trying to flirt with people, but I would assume the same rules apply. If you aren’t sure whether someone is interested, I would see it as better to play it safe.

As I said, I suck at social cues but I still try and be observant. If I am having a conversation with someone and they keep looking at their watch or around for other people, that’s probably a good sign that I need to change the topic or move on. Again, I think it better to leave people wanting more of your company than insisting on hanging around even when you aren’t sure if they want you to.

6. Keep your eyes and ears open

Since I have become a little more aware of some of the bad things that happen at cons, I have tried to be a bit more observant about what is going on. I can be very oblivious to social undercurrents, but I try and keep an out for things that aren’t what they should be. It might be someone getting a bit loud or aggressive, or a bit too touchy, but if you spot a problem early enough you can often head off trouble before it happens. It might just mean keeping an eye on them, or making sure that they aren’t alone with anyone, or even just hinting they should settle down. But, if you don’t pay attention to what is going on around you then you can end up getting a nasty surprise.

7. Be willing to act

This is the one that I struggle with the most. I live in constant fear of committing some social faux pas and looking stupid, or interfering in something that is none of my business. The fact that I am relatively new on the scene doesn’t help, lots of people have known each other for years, or even decades, and often I have no idea of their history with one another, or the dynamics of their relationships. This means it is sometimes hard to work out whether people are messing around or not. But, the alternative to perhaps embarrassing myself if I get it wrong is turning a blind eye and allowing harassment. Inaction is a form of complicity, after all.

So, what I try and do is give some the option of an out from a conversation or situation and leave it up to them whether they take it. As an example, I was at a con and I saw what seemed to be a situation where a female friend was looking very uncomfortable and seemed to be cornered by a very enthusiastic male conversationalist. He was someone I am friends with, so I really didn’t know what to do, or whether I was imagining things. But, I didn’t think it would be right to abandon her and that it would be better to feel foolish than find out later I had stood by. So, I simply wandered over and, without interrupting, joined the conversation and gave her an out if needed. It really was much harder in my mind than in reality.

It might not even be direct intervention, it might just be that keeping an eye on someone or making sure you are present and in between them and your friends. Whatever it is, you need to be willing to put yourself outside your comfort zone if that’s what it takes.

There will be times when it will be hard, especially for someone like me who hates confrontation and wants to be liked. But, you can talk all you want about wanting to end harassment, but unless you are willing to act you are part of the problem.

8. Engage with the issues

What little influence I have I need to be using to try and change the community I am in. I was really proud to be part of the committee for Continuum 9 because that was a convention that was trying to bring about social change and that’s the sort of thing I want to be giving my time to. But, I can also do it in an unofficial capacity, I shouldn’t be clocking on and clocking off. I can try and influence the groups I am part of by making it clear that I don’t condone certain behaviours or language, and by acting in a certain way no matter who is watching.

9. Be a safe space

What I want is to be someone that people know will be there for them if they feel unsafe or threatened. It is not about “rescuing” helpless women, it’s about understanding I am operating from a position of privilege (big, white, male really helps) and using that privilege to help others. I have mainly talked about the treatment of women, but there are other groups who experience similar harassment and I want to do the same for them. To do that, I need to ensure that when people do express concerns I listen and don’t be dismissive, and that I make time for them, whether I am busy or partying or whatever. It also means sometimes being in conflict with others, and maybe losing friends.

10. Speaking out

Ultimately, harassment in our community will not end while people sit by and say or do nothing. As well as the women and other groups who are experiencing this, men like myself need to be standing up and speaking out against this behaviour. There is no middle ground, you are either against it or you are complicit in it. Whether that is through your actions or inactions is irrelevant.

I really didn’t want to write this post, and I am sure I have made a complete hash of it, but this is me saying that I have had enough of seeing my friends feel unsafe and unwelcome in our community. If they can’t find a home here, I don’t want to either.