Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Archon Does Itself a Disservice by Disinviting Tim Bolgeo

by Stephanie Osborn

The Elements of Modern Storytelling series will resume next week. Meanwhile, there's something else I wanted to touch on.

See, there's been another little "kerfuffle," I guess. 

Only this one hit close to home. I watched, helpless, as a dear friend's name and reputation were dragged through the mud.

I've known Tim Bolgeo for some years now. He is often called "Uncle Timmy" in Southern SF fandom, and for a reason: he's just an absolute sweetheart that everybody knows, and everybody loves. He's a diehard SF fan, has started more conventions around the Southeastern US than I can name. He's a gruff teddy bear of a man that I hug every time I see. He is a very special friend, an advisor in my writing career, and has helped me, an older handicapped female (with Cherokee as well as Celtic antecedents) get established as an author.

Yet this same man has been called racist, misogynist, and worse, and then the invitation for him to be the Fan Guest of Honor at Archon in St. Louis was revoked, and his name and image erased from their website as if it had never been.

For more details, and the general reaction among the writing community, Jason Cordova has probably summarized it best on his blog here. (Jason is a friend and colleague also. We've been on a few panels together at conventions.)

Uncle Timmy is not some redneck unlearned hillbilly. He is a nuclear engineer who made a successful career at the Tennessee Valley Authority, working on nuclear reactors, only recently retired. He is a thinking man. He puts out a newsletter of information, jokes, and other such that he and his readers (I'm one) run across, and he discusses them, and he invites and prints discussion by his readers on that information. Sometimes this involves putting a distasteful story into the newsletter so that he can point out a fallacy. Somehow some anonymous person took a couple of these and twisted them around to make it look like Uncle Timmy believed that tripe AND AGREED WITH IT.

Nothing could be farther from the truth -- I've had any number of conversations with Timmy, and he is fair-minded, "color blind," and I have never, EVER, heard the word "bigot" used in the same sentence with his name until today. And yes, I said today. Insofar as I have been able to determine, from the original protest to the revocation of the invitation took less than 24 hrs. To say that I am dismayed and dumbfounded is a massive understatement. To say that I am disappointed in Archon's convention committee is putting it mildly.

This, combined with similar events of the last year, would indicate to me that science fiction fandom seems to be tearing itself apart. To see Uncle Timmy thus smeared demonstrates to me that there is some bizarre kind of ideological zombie apocalypse occurring. 

AND, given the fact that the same person who did this diabolical twisting has threatened to provide the same "scrutiny" to every guest in future, means that MY future may lie in staying home and writing, and not bothering with going to cons to visit my fans anymore. I really don't have the time or the energy to waste on vain attempts to disassemble some outre strawman effigy of myself that some "fans" (oh how I use that word loosely here) seem intent upon creating of all public figures, just before burning them on a pyre. Don't get me wrong; I like interacting with my fans. But if some little subset of the attendees is more interested in trying to tear down people they don't even know, and if their voices are heard more than the people who know better? Yes, it may well come to that. I already know that I have no interest in attending this Archon. I have no intention of subjecting myself to such abuse and hate.
Reputation is what other people know about you. Honor is what you know about yourself.
~~Lois McMaster Bujold, "A Civil Campaign", 1999

Don't worry, Uncle Timmy. They may have slung mud and worse at your reputation, but those of us who know you know that your honor is firmly intact.

~Stephanie Osborn