My Resignation from Dragon Con

The below is my resignation as Director’s Second of Fantasy Literature at Dragon Con, as I sent it in. For some quick context:

  • The prior director had acted out of line and was due some form of censure, along the lines of public apology and a warning to chill.
  • Instead of a transparent process, she was fired without being allowed to defend herself, and before she was even informed that she was being fired, they were soliciting potential new directors.
  • The “greater crime” for which she was fired was that she was vocally expressing that she would not provide a platform for bigotry and hate in her programming.

So, without further adieu, and with the intent to allow this to be shared easily across social media platforms (I’d already shared it on Facebook), my letter of resignation to Dragon Con:

To: Director, Fantasy Literature
CC: Sr. Director, Fan Track Operations; Dragon Con Board of Directors
Thank you for the opportunity to stay on as Director’s Second for Fantasy Literature. After a long time mulling it over, I regret to inform you that I cannot, in good conscience, continue on in this position.

While I do not agree with all of Prior Director Charlotte Moore’s means and methods, and I do feel she stepped out of line in her interaction with [guest name redacted] in specific, I cannot countenance the actions that have been taken—actions taken both by means of punishing her and of the convention making a political statement in her firing and its choice for her replacement.

I can appreciate that the convention doesn’t want to become accused of being a political entity for both legal and social reasons. But there is a false equivalency and a tone deafness in the convention claiming that bigotry and harassment is “just politics.” It is the paradox of tolerance that those who try to uphold absolute tolerance invite the absolutely intolerant. A political difference is how to provide health care, entitlements, and the size and role of government. It is not debating the fundamental humanness of those who are not white, heteronormative men.

A “Safe Space” is also a paradox. It is a place where those accepting of differences, willing to admit that all people have a fundamental equality, are welcome. It is not, in truth, “safe” for everyone, because it should be absolutely unwelcoming of bigots. By their fundamental nature, bigots make others unsafe. Fantasy Literature has, in the five years I’ve worked for it, always been a Safe Space, and I thought this was not just because of the actions of the director and her volunteers, but because senior convention leadership saw the value in this as well.

However, in its actions, Dragon Con has made the declaration that hate and bigotry are acceptable behaviors, and that the deluge of snide micro-aggressions that people of color, the differently-abled, women, and the LGBT community will suffer is an acceptable price for convention leadership to pay so they don’t have an angry, vocal, and harassing minority emailing them.

The most egregious of these actions is the politically motivated choice of the new Fantasy Literature Director. Please do not take this to be sour grapes over my not being selected as the new director of Fantasy Literature. There are plenty of people I would have gladly served under as Second or even stepped back down to a regular volunteer for, such as Robert Raney, Angelina Adams, or any Director’s Second from another track with more experience than myself.

Instead, a person with only three years of volunteering experience—two of them a decade ago, and none of them in a leadership role—has been given the helm of one of Dragon Con’s three literature tracks. Bill Fawcett opined that “The literature tracks are sacred.” Then, in my mind, this is an action of desecration, evidenced by the multiple proposed panels, either from the new director or pushed down from convention leadership, featuring John Ringo, who is not even a current guest of the convention, nor who has made any indication of attending.

This, hot on the heels of Ringo harassing, attacking, and flinging slurs at both Charlotte Moore and Jaym Gates, another prior guest of the convention. He has also openly harassed another prior guest, a New York Times Bestselling fantasy author, saying “Writers like you aren’t worth the shit on my shoe” and then further accused her of ruining science-fiction and fantasy. He refers to his own sister as a “militant gay,” and asserts she does not deserve equal rights to heterosexuals, and that she should be happy with what scraps of humanity society presently allows her. And yet, the new Fantasy Literature track wants to honor this primarily science fiction author with featured slots on panels.

There is a narrative that conventions have always been welcoming and opening. That there was a “good old days” when apparently bigotry and hate didn’t have a platform on our panels about fantasy books. The truth is, it has always been there, but the victims have been held down by society at large to not speak up, to not defend themselves, to take the abuse and accept their lots as second-class citizens. These problems didn’t just magically appear. They have always been there. We are just now starting to accept that they exist and learning the hard lessons of how we must cut this cancer out of our lives.

I originally thought my best course would be to stay on, to continue to try and effect change from the inside of the system, to salvage what I could. But I have come to realize that is a fool’s errand. Dragon Con will go on with or without me, and there will be a Fantasy Literature track; I am but a tiny cog in the machine and replaceable. If I stay, I will be aiding and abetting the harassment and exclusion of those who thought Fantasy Literature was safe.

It is a fallacy of the privileged that we can change things from within, that we can “make the bad people better if we only try hard enough.” I thought that, by quitting, I’d be simply giving the bigots the platform unopposed, that I had to continue on to provide the “counter-point.”

But that is not what I would be doing. Those who already agree with me would continue to; those who already agree with the bigots would continue to; and all others—those on the fence, the confused, and the unaware—would see bigotry simply being given equal footing with tolerance. Perhaps, had I been selected as Director, I could have done good by not giving bigotry that platform, regardless of what the convention as a whole did. Even then, I would still be supporting a convention that does not value the safety of its most vulnerable attendees over the convenience of inaction and indecision.

It may appear that I gain nothing and lose much in this decision. The truth is, I gain the knowledge that I have made a statement. I am not a typical target of these horrible people, but I will not tolerate them, I will not apologize for them, and I will not engage them. They don’t deserve my effort.

Dragon Con prides itself on “running like a business.” I am sure that the mentality is you don’t care that a few offended attendees won’t come because of this decision; the numbers are still going up overall. On the whole, the masses don’t care.

But the thing is, the masses don’t care. Dragon Con could do the right thing, take a stand against bigotry and refuse to give it a platform, and you will only lose a minor handful of other bigots.

The masses don’t care. So it becomes such a puzzlement when the only action taken is to turn a blind eye and allow the tyranny of one minority over another so you don’t have to make a decision.

I have made my decision. I hope that you and others will come to see that it was correct one day.

Richard Fife
Formerly Director’s Second, Fantasy Literature, Dragon Con
6 Years a Volunteer
10 years a Dragon Con Attendee

3 responses to “My Resignation from Dragon Con”

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.