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06 October 2009 @ 01:36 pm
Octocon 2009: Pádraigfail  

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)
Current Mood: curiousinterested
wednesday childewedschilde on October 6th, 2009 01:43 pm (UTC)
okay... now being part irish..... and having a ton of irish relatives.. some of whom actually live near you... and well, my lovely conjoined escapee twin tamm... i can't imagine how that kind of behaviour from Pádraig would come under ANY heading of inappropriate.

i mean i think you're asking for a shitload of trouble gathering up irish writers into one area to begin with but really, that's nothing.

of course the irish part of me is probably the least volatile of my cultural inclinations so maybe i'm just skewed... :::grins::: but really, unless there is blood, broken bones and perhaps a call or five to the garde, that's really nothing but helpful on his part.

and critiques aside, because those should be looked at with a reassessing eye towards the event. :::sighs:::
The Bellinghmanbellinghman on October 6th, 2009 01:48 pm (UTC)
I'm not entirely sure whether to be sad to be missing an Octocon weekend for the first time in a decade and a half, or relieved.

Oh, we'll go for sad. We'd have loved to see you lot again.
All Over The Mapjemck on October 6th, 2009 01:54 pm (UTC)
Actually, I think I got as far as failing utterly to convince anyone in the video room that the problem was the sound feed coming through the entire PA system, rather than just me complaining about sound filtering through the connecting partition wall – despite my best efforts. IIRC correctly, Padraig’s intervention followed that.

As to my dealings with a certain committee member, I am sorry that’s been mentioned. Yes, I did upset said committee member – by taking said individual to one side, entirely privately behind a closed door, and calmly yet firmly setting out the many organisational failings of that entire weekend*, of which the PA snafu was by no means the worst. I have not gone public with any of that, and shall not do so now.

If any of the current committee wish to contact me privately to discuss that in a civilised fashion, I will be happy to respond.

At the time, I did this not in any sense to vent spleen but because I felt if that was the state of play in 2007, and if they were planning on having a worthy event for GRRM as GoH in 2010, the learning curve was going to be damn near vertical and they needed all the advice – unwelcome or otherwise – that they could get.

Since then my position has been until I get reports of two successive, successful Octocons from trusted pals, I won’t be spending the time and not-inconsiderable money to travel from the UK to the con.

That was and remains something I very much regret, given I have many friends among Irish fandom and had some splendid trips to previous Octocons.

*not something I did lightly, not something I've ever felt the need to do at any other convention, and something I fervently hope never to do again.
Kari Sperringla_marquise_de_ on October 6th, 2009 02:42 pm (UTC)
Oh, I wish I'd had you at my side when we had those sorts of issues with the 2008 Eastercon. They have still not been resolved satisfactorily, which is why I will not be working Green Room for 2010.
(no subject) - gaspode on October 14th, 2009 10:04 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - mizkit on October 6th, 2009 03:07 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - jemck on October 6th, 2009 03:38 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - mizkit on October 6th, 2009 06:20 pm (UTC) (Expand)
irishkateirishkate on October 6th, 2009 02:26 pm (UTC)
I am completely gutted by all this- I put off a trip to the US for my brother's birthday to be here for Octocon and to see the friends from fandom. Now the weekend is going to be a sour and unhappy occasion and many people I had really been looking forward to seeing won't be there.
The Bellinghmanbellinghman on October 6th, 2009 02:47 pm (UTC)
I'm sorry - we'd have loved to see you too. In our case, it's mostly financial: we've just done a Canadian Worldcon, and are doing the Australian one, and are having to be a bit careful with money.

So we had to say that this year, doing two Irish cons wasn't practical. Given the choice, we're doing PCon (and even so, we're using Ryanair for that).
(no subject) - irishkate on October 6th, 2009 04:04 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - irishkate on October 6th, 2009 05:04 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - bellinghman on October 6th, 2009 07:04 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Kari Sperringla_marquise_de_ on October 6th, 2009 02:30 pm (UTC)
It's a great shame that this has blown up. I was one of the founders of the Octocon series and this is sad. No convention is hassle free, of course, but ideally feuds shouldn't happen. I am hoping this will calm down over time. (There was a similar problem with one of the early Octocons: it blew over.)
The Bellinghmanbellinghman on October 6th, 2009 02:44 pm (UTC)
I hope you're right, I really do hope so. The first dozen we went to were enjoyable, and we have made a number of friends over the years both there and, more recently, at PCon. But for us, they've traded on that past reputation for a few years too many, and we won't be there this year. (Nothing to do with them having banned one of our friends - we were already not going.)
(no subject) - la_marquise_de_ on October 6th, 2009 02:49 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - bellinghman on October 6th, 2009 02:59 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Janne: DrHorrible careful about blogjanne on October 6th, 2009 02:38 pm (UTC)
Ah, fandom... be sure to pack the asbestos underwear. Must admit to a good laugh at the "we will not enter into any online discussion" line. Are these people entirely new to the internet or something, to think that saying so would make it so?
All Over The Mapjemck on October 6th, 2009 02:44 pm (UTC)

And what was Padraig supposed to do? Not tell any of the various people expecting to see him there, until his phone was jammed with calls and texts on the Friday and Saturday?

While the con committee were finding themselves besieged with people asking WTF? (With concommitant disruption to the whole event)

And here was me hoping reports of 2009 would be so good I'd be reconsidering my stance (as above) with a view to coming to see GRRM next year.

*is sad*
(no subject) - madmiss on October 6th, 2009 03:55 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - bellinghman on October 6th, 2009 04:02 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - madmiss on October 7th, 2009 11:34 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - jemck on October 6th, 2009 04:06 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(Deleted comment)
Lady Doomlithera on October 6th, 2009 04:05 pm (UTC)

That's a fantastic level of meltdown happening.
martianmooncrabmartianmooncrab on October 6th, 2009 05:40 pm (UTC)
they certainly lower the standards for being banned... for trying to fix a problem rather than causing one, which leads me to think that they have their priorities all wrong here.

And no alcohol was involved either... sigh..
omegaromegar on October 6th, 2009 06:24 pm (UTC)
I have to admit a reluctance to comment on this issue. For many reasons, mainly because i don't want to make things worse.

However, while i believe the actions of the committee were wrong, i am still going to go to the Con.

There are too many people i only see twice a year (at Octocon and P-Con) to not attend.

To describe what has happened since monday using any form of polite words is impossible. I will simply say that i hope to never again have to think so hard about attending a Con again.

I hope to see you then.
The Bellinghmanbellinghman on October 6th, 2009 10:09 pm (UTC)
Do enjoy, and I hope that the con improves over last year.
Randomnessr_ness on October 6th, 2009 06:25 pm (UTC)
Oh my.

Best of luck this weekend.
hegemony hedgehogagrimony on October 7th, 2009 03:25 am (UTC)
It seems to me that a lot of this mess could have been avoided had anyone involved with sending the banning letter in the first place taken a moment or two to read the letter aloud to check for simple logic errors or language flow.

Perhaps then there would've been time to reflect that banning someone with a letter that implies there will in no way, shape, or form be any further communication regarding the issue might not be the best public relations decision for a convention that, to all appearances, seems to need a spot of organizational work.

Of course, I feel comfortable in making these overly wordy observations from my location on the other side of the ocean where I am too poor, cheap, and lazy to attend even the convention that happens in my own state! :)