I’ve gotten the chance to get to know a few Steampunk conventions and their organizers really well over the past three years. The recent allegations and safety concerns surrounding Steampunk World’s Fair have brought up feelings of pain and confusion for many, so I invited Al Fox and Eric Larson to say a few words about how they address these issues at their own events.
From Al Fox, Founder of the Pandora Society and head honcho at the International Steampunk Symposium in Cincinnati, Ohio:
Since the very first International Steampunk Symposium in 2012, the wellbeing, safety, and happiness of all present at the convention have been foundations upon which the event was built. For the first couple of years the show’s rules for safety and harassment were a hybrid taken from other conventions, but in year three of the show Symposium staff member Susan Fessler formed the Symposium Safety Committee to create a more effective process to address any potential harassment. With the help of licensed trauma counselors, and esteemed Steampunk scholars such as Diana Pho, the Committee forged a comprehensive anti-harassment policy, and a set of protocols for any violations of the policies.
The Committee is an independent body from the con chair and senior staff of the Symposium, but works very closely with them, and with the security team. All Symposium volunteers and staff from Room Monitors to the Con Chair are trained to understand the show’s policies and exactly whom to report to if an incident is reported to them, or witnessed by them. Volunteers are easy to identify from the orange sashes they wear during their shifts, and staff wear orange lanyards, or orange rosettes.
The Symposium works hard to ensure that its Safety Policies are not some hidden secret; an outline of the rules are printed on the back of all badges, but the full policy can be found in the program book, on posters throughout the venue, and on the website at http://steampunksymposium.com/safety/.
Frequently the Symposium shares the policies on social media to encourage attendees to get familiar with the guidelines. The show’s philosophy is that these rules belong to all attendees, and that it is a collective effort that makes the Symposium a safer event for all people to enjoy, and leave the weekend with great memories.
From Eric Larson, AKA Lord Bobbins, Founder of TeslaCon in Middleton, Wisconsin:
I have sat for the past few nights and days reading, trying to understand, to process and see what has gone wrong in our fandom but mostly asking myself why? Why must such things happen to Steampunk?
To people who have vested interest in our community and fandom as a whole. Staff, Vendors, performers and others who have or are associating with said events are all feeling this issue much closer than I am sure any would want. I have seen support, I have seen shaming, I have seen counter blame put back on the people telling the stories. In all the blame has been passed around and fertilized by many at this point and it comes down to a simple fact:
Huge Mistakes were made, people were hurt, and rectifications must be made.
I will applaud those who had the courage to come forward. It is not easy, and to anyone who has had to go through such a situation, my heart goes out to you. Dealing with issues of sexual assault and other types of allegations that require very clear understanding of the problem presented do not play out best online. Unfortunately, even though we’ve seen bravery, we’ve also seen the responses, including the sniping at the victims and those who try to protect said victims. The worst part is that I don’t think it’s over.
I have talked with no fewer than 12 dealers, 3 con chairs, and a host of fans over the past few days. I have written close to 50 people and have listened and taken council with another 10 people I trust deeply. There never seems to be a reason why things happen; just that they do and they are bad for everyone involved. When can a society just grow up and realize we have to get past this crap and start treating people equally, kindly, and fairly and not as sexual pawns on a game table for personal gratification? I have run conventions for over 20 years and my current convention of 9 years, a convention that I hope has been kind to people since it began. But learning of others who have been using Steampunk as a gateway to sinister purposes wears at me and depletes my excitement, and can make us ask, “Is it worth it?”
So, let’s all examine what we have and be thankful for the positive things Steampunk and its events can bring into our lives. We are blessed with talented writers, artists, musicians, and above all, Steampunk DIY people who thrive on the magic and beauty of our fandom. It’s for those who need to fit in and those who need to stand out, it’s for dreamers, thinkers, and those individuals who just want to see others’ dreams come true. It is for those who need support and ask for respect from their fellow fans. Let us also look at things objectively, and hopefully make ourselves better so future events and fans have the guidance we may have lacked before now.
Above all, let’s all try, really truly strive, to make this fandom good, honest, and safe for everyone in it by treating each other with respect, dignity, and especially friendship. We have such little time together as it is, let’s make the most of it and make our fandom the best it can be, ALWAYS!
*We at TeslaCon follow state law and practices when concerning sexual assault and any form of assault toward anyone at the convention. As of this writing, I am reviewing our policy again and updating so that all statements are made clear and are easily understood. TeslaCon takes a no tolerance attitude and will prosecute those who break the law at our convention.