Sexual Harassment At Sci-Fi Fantasy Cons, And Within Publishers – Survey Results

Jess Nevins is well known to comic book industry people for his annotations of comic books, notably the League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen. He is also the author of the World Fantasy Award-nominated Encyclopedia of Fantastic Victoriana and other works on Victoriana and pulp fiction. And a short time ago, he put up a survey to ask if people had suffered harassment at science-fiction and fantasy conventions. The results may surprise, depress or be exactly what you might expect, depending. But, yes, a large proportion of respondents had indeed experienced such activity.

Moreover, as Jess pointed out, a number involved familiar names. None were named but he did list a series of acts of harassment, often because of their position within the industry.

the award winner who likes to use his fame as a lever with which to lure under-age women to his hotel room for sex; the best-selling author who likes to lure young women and under-age women to his hotel room for BDSM sessions–when confronted about this behavior, he claims that since there's no penetration, it doesn't count as statutory rape; the award winner who imitates Isaac Asimov's serial groping behavior; the award winner who uses his fame to pressure young women to sleep with him; the anthology editors who demand sex from female authors in exchange for being published in the anthologies; the small press owners who demand sex from female authors in exchange for being published by the press; the editor who targets children.

In some cases the harassers are known within the industry and to their colleagues to be harassers, but no action is taken against them. One book editor harassed his authors; complaints to the editor's superior were not forwarded on to the publisher's Human Resources department, and nothing was done to prevent the editor from continuing to harass his authors.

In some cases the harassers use their position to punish those who decline their advances. One book editor pressured a copyeditor for sex, and then retaliated by blackballing them when told "no."

The tales seem eerily familiar and reflect a number of similar cases within the comic book industry over the years, a number reported on Bleeding Cool. Given the crossover, it is likely that a number of them also work in the comics industry as well. Nevins concludes,

Men in particular are reluctant to stop other men from bad behavior. This needs to end. Men must be more proactive in preventing harassment from taking place and stopping harassment when it occurs.

It's not like this is a new message.

The signs go up, conventions are better at tackling complaints than they may have been in the past, and a number of individuals have been publicly shamed for their actions.

But it is still happening. An informal survey from San Diego Comic-Con in 2014, still shocking, suggests that in 2017, things have not got better. Indeed, they may have gotten worse.

Nevin's survey can be found here, if anyone else would like to take part.

About Rich Johnston

Head writer and founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world. Living in London, father of two. Political cartoonist.

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