Yesterday our friend slovobooks/Pádraig got an email from Octocon, the oldest Irish SF/F convention, disinviting him from the con. Banning him, more accurately, for “your behaviour at the convention some time ago and your online behaviour earlier this year.” The entirety of their letter can be found here at Pádraig’s blog, where he confesses to not having a clue what his bad behavior “some time ago” was.
Further discussion over on Cheryl Morgan’s blog (where a PR disaster is unfolding) seems to suggest that the spate of bad behavior was Pádraig trying to get the sound system fixed during a couple of panels where the movie playing in the panel room next door was piping in very loudly over the guest of honor’s speech and a subsequent panel. (Pádraig evidently yelled while trying to get this fixed. This would be because one couldn’t hear anything if it was spoken in a voice lower than a shout.)
I have to admit, all I can think of when this particular incident is brought up is jemck/Juliet McKenna’s increasing outrage, ending in her jolting to her feet mid-panel and storming toward the door in order to Deal With This Herself. Juliet is known among her teenage sons’ friends as “The Mum Not To Mess With”, and although my recollection is that the mess was actually sorted before she got to the door, God help them if she’d actually been turned loose: Pádraig’s sins, whatever they were, would have paled in comparison to the Wrath Of Juliet. (Further, Juliet made one of the committee members cry that weekend, so if she hadn’t removed herself voluntarily from the convention–which is a nice way of saying “one of Irish SF fandom’s most beloved and well-received guests has categorically refused to ever return to Octocon again”–I can hardly imagine what kind of “you’ve been banned” letter she would have gotten!)
I could go on about this a great deal, but for me the long and the short of it is that while Pádraig has certainly been vocally critical about Octocon in the past (with, I’m afraid, good reason), this decision on their part strikes me as a terrible, terrible mistake, in PR terms if nothing else. The wiser course of action would have been to put on a truly magnificent con that would have left Pádraig and others cheering the convention’s turn-around–and I absolutely believe that if they managed to do that, they would indeed be cheered, even by, perhaps especially by, their most vocal critics. Instead, as someone at Cheryl’s blog said, they have now ensured that hundreds, possibly thousands, of people who had never previously heard of Octocon are now aware of it in a, “Wow, they screwed up,” way.
And they have George R.R. Martin/grrm as their guest of honor next year. There has been some doubt for several years now whether there was going to be a con for Mr. Martin to be GoH *at*; this does not in any way alleviate that doubt.
Needless to say, we are facing the upcoming weekend with a curious sort of anticipation.
eta: Juliet has added some clarifying commentary about her own recollection of the 2007 mess. (Which, as she says, “shows how honest recollection of events by two pals can vary at even this comparatively short distance.”)(x-posted from the essential kit)