WFC 2011 Creeper

I really need to think of a better title for the guy, but this one captures it pretty well. It’s taking me a long, long time to pull everything together on this incident, and I’m discussing specifics with a few people who have been in the business for a long time, and stories keep pouring in. The full event will be up later.

For now, there are a few things I think we really need to emphasize:

1.) Please do not go to this person’s blog, FB page or anywhere else to post comments about his behavior. The last thing we need is for him to have even the slightest grounds that we are harassing him.

2.) Don’t let this incident overshadow all the good things about the convention. WFC was amazing, and the chairs did take steps to resolve the issue and ensure the safety of the members.

3.) It was not only women who were affected, nor only women who responded. It isn’t men who are the problem, it isn’t white men who are the problem, it isn’t white, socially-awkward men who are the problem. Predators are the problem, and they come in every single shape, size and color.

4.) And, finally, silence is the enemy. If you’ve been attacked, harassed, made to feel uncomfortable, touched inappropriately, or threatened and don’t feel safe talking about it, please email me at jaym.gates at gmail (for reporting an incident that you don’t want made public) or pax (dot) valkyrie at gmail if you want it posted. For Pax Valkyrie, please include: name of con it happened at, link if you blogged about it or know someone else who did, the action you took, what action was taken by the concom or other authority figures, and a write-up of the incident itself. Please remember: we’re at the disadvantage here, and will be best served by being mature, dignified and thorough.

*EDIT* I finally have written up the entire thing!

“Some bitch got a bee in her bonnet”*

Before I start, let me make some disclaimers: I am not, nor have I ever been, officially involved with World Fantasy Convention. I don’t work with them, and I have no official capacity to speak for them. I got involved with this situation because I have experience dealing with similar issues, and with security and safety at large events.

Furthermore, I have no previous history with this person, only meeting him at the 2011 World Fantasy Convention. I have no vendetta, no grudge, and completely understand that he could very well be suffering from mental illness.

The point of this post is not to shame, antagonize or stir up trouble. If he wishes to engage in civil conversation, I am very willing to do that. If he attacks or harasses me, I will take steps to defend myself.

Equally, this post is not about the individual, but about the overall problem. As such, I will not name the creeper. If you are a publisher or convention organizer and wish to know his name in order to prevent future issues, please contact me at jaym.gates at gmail.


My part in this story started on Saturday morning. “Did you hear about the creeper?” In theory, it ended Saturday night, when a man was stripped of his membership and evicted from World Fantasy Convention.

In reality, that’s all just the start of it.

Other people, the direct recipients of 3 days of harassment, threats, abuse and fear, have written about it at length. I see no point in rehashing those incidents, and have merely excerpted them below.

Liz Argall’s post:

“A person I had met at a previous convention said hello to me, I said hello warmly in return and as we struck up conversation the person next to him (I assumed his friend) asked for a hug.
So I decided I shall give this guy a hug. I said something like, “Why not?” hugged the guy and then went back to chatting to his friend. The guy I hugged just sort of stood there for a while before wandering off.

Later I discovered the exact same guy had then followed an escalating path of abusive behavior and unreasonable demands. He also believes that he has magical powers and can spell people into following his commands.”

Stina Leicht’s experience:

“On Thursday night a man groped my breast during one of the parties. Of course, he was drunk, and he did it in such a way that it was difficult to tell whether or not it was done on purpose. (That’s how these assholes work.) I didn’t report it at the time.** These things happen. You just learn to avoid the man in question, which I did.”

The original post:

“Holly eventually had enough and told him to get the fuck out and that no one wanted him around. He tried the “I was just being nice ploy” again which, when it didn’t get any traction, quickly moved to aggressive and belligerent.

He stood and I think most of us thought he might try to hit Holly but instead he announced that he was a witch and was going to curse Holly and her entire family. Also, he was going to astral project into Holly’s dreams and turn them into nightmares.”

Brooke Bolander: (her site won’t let me in!)

“He wandered into the Nightshade party and decided to regale my boyfriend with tales of how he was TOTALLY a witch and could totally gives ‘bitches’ (all women were bitches, apparently) nightmares about spiders coming out of their nethers. Also how Lemmy from Motorhead taught him how to control strippers with his mind.”

Alisa Krasnostein for the Aussie party:

“And when told that he actually wasn’t charming or appealing and that in fact he was bothering us, he got more stubborn and more determined that he would only leave on his own terms. Eventually Jonathan got him to move to the other side of the patio but he did yell out at us 15 minutes later “I’m still he-re.” Like it was some principle of his freedom and had no idea that he was more than quashing our own right to stand in our own space and not be harassed or that we even had the right to choose who *we* wanted to talk to. He had become the victim in his own mind. But eventually, Chris and Jonathan escorted him off the premises. It was both a very beautiful moment and also deeply sad because he left because two big guys showed him the door and not because five women had asked him politely, and then more bluntly, to leave us alone.”

My personal experience:

Friday night, two of my friends were approached by this guy. One of them came to me, asking to have someone play interference. I had the briefest of interactions with him, but he declined to harass me. (He seemed to target women who were inclined to being too polite to tell him where to go, and I fail to have that issue right about now.) However, I frequently do this for my friends at conventions, so I thought nothing more about it. My bad.

Saturday afternoon, the first tweets and blog post about the creeper were brought to my attention. I tweeted about it, asking how wide-spread the problem was. At that point, I heard from Deb Kalin, who ran the Aussie party, as well as several other people. I called the con-com, asked them to deal with it before more issues cropped up.

They asked for a picture of him. He was sitting on the lawn, facing me, and I was unable to get a picture because he quickly saw me and started watching me warily. Not wanting to spook him, I literally sent a Googled picture to Val. I was assured that Ron Ontell was on the way with several ‘big guys’ he’d rounded up. Unfortunately, the guy in question bolted before they got there. I started seeing reports that he had been escorted from the convention, and erroneously RT’d the comments.

An hour later, I walked into the dealer room, where I saw him speaking with Rina Weisman and Brian Hades. At this time, he was apparently put on notice and told to be on his best behavior. He has had one story published by EDGE, so he was at the reading. For some reason, he decided to stay for the Inkpunks reading, and tried to stay after we shut down the suite for an hour to set up for later.

This was his biggest mistake. I had rented the suite for the entire day, meaning he was technically in my room. I had to leave for a while to take part in the Inkpunks party, but came back down around 10:30. Literally the minute I walked into the room, Jeremy Lassen came to me and said Stina Leicht had gone to get her friend. We went out onto the patio, where the women told me their stories. They were rightfully angry, and I decided it had gone far enough.

I called the front desk and asked that they send security to deal with a problem. When they got up there, I had to pull them aside and explain the issue. They removed him from the room while Val Ontell was called by Rina so that there would be an official presence.

When everyone got there, I was hoping that it would be clear that the issue had gotten out of hand and that we wouldn’t have to do any more arguing for our comfort. Instead, I had to bring out Jeremy and Brian Hades. We finally had enough information to convince them, and the member was stripped of his badge and escorted from the convention.

I spent the rest of the night finding people and assuring them that the issue was resolved.

Well, the rest of it except for the bit I spent literally crying on Cliff’s shoulder. I was exhausted before this started. I don’t like confrontation. I was opening myself up to repercussions from not only the member, but, based on the response to previous incidents, potentially from the community at large. He may not have harassed me directly, but he ruined my evening none the less.

So, there you have it.

It’s Halloween, it’s my birthday tomorrow, I just got back from an exhausting con, and I’ve spent 12 hours tracking down the incidents, planning how we can use this to improve the safety and comfort of the conventions, and talking to people about the proper response. My hands hurt, I spent my ‘down time’ Saturday night in dealing with this creep, and I sincerely just want to be done. I want to write it off, and not be responsible for it any more.

But this issue won’t be done. Ever. Every convention I’ve been to, I have either heard stories, or been directly subjected to harassment of some sort. I’m always on guard, always keeping an eye on the situation, always second-guessing the people around me.

In the past 3 days, I’d estimate that I’ve seen at least 100 people have spoken up about this issue. The number may be double that, in reality.
Right now, we have anger, frustration and fear building up. The report of a rape that was allowed to slide at Swancon should have been enough, but it wasn’t. (*EDIT* I’ve spoken to someone from Swancon, and this person is no longer allowed at Swancon. The rape also did not occur on-site. I am VERY happy to make this particular edit!!) Even here, with multiple reports of escalating harassment, it took 3 days and multiple assaults and complaints for action to be taken. This was someone who had no power, no influence, and so there were no repercussions to reporting him, but I’m sure we can all remember things like Harlan Ellison publicly groping Connie Willis.

I was, at one point, told that ‘we can’t handle this issue if people don’t report it’. But who do you report these incidents to? The police? The hotel security? The con-com? How do you get hold of them? Where are their numbers posted? What’s to ensure that you don’t suffer from repercussions? What if it was just ‘maybe accidental’? How do you track if something else, something ‘worse’ has happened? There are so many variables, so many loopholes.

In addition, it is all too easily attributed to alcohol. I kept hearing ‘oh, he was drunk’ as an excuse for why he acted this way. It is often the way to excuse bad actions.

THAT has to stop, now. Can’t hold your liquor? You’d better stop drinking. It is absolutely no excuse to make someone else’s life miserable.

“She was dressed/asking for it/drunk” isn’t any excuse, either. Nor is “she didn’t say no”. As I have often said: a woman should be able to sit, naked, in a room, and not be subjected even to off-color comments. It isn’t us. It’s the predators.

Where to, from here?

I’ve had quite a few people thank me for handling this mess. But I have experience. I’m a manager for a fetish performance company, where we’re all too aware of how quickly something can escalate. I have, though I often forget it, some measure of influence. I know people.

What about someone who is brand new to SF? How long until a minor is assaulted? How long until this blows up in our faces?

As we stand now, there’s no way to track incidents. No governing body to report incidents to, no place to collect reports and discover patterns. No one with the power to go to a publisher and officially solve a problem.

I have been sending emails, direct messages and tweets all day. As things stand now, I’m working on a Grievance Committee. I believe that we will be able to find support for this effort.

So, if you support the opportunity to change the business, to start rooting out the problem and creating a safe space for everyone, please get noisy. Talk to your friends. Encourage people to send stories of harassment or assault to Pax_Valkyrie. We’ll post them anonymously, or, if you don’t want them posted, we’ll compile them to get our data started. If you have time or expertise, please contact me for information on how to help. If you know someone who has legal, business or non-profit experience, or is active in the SF community and knows con organizers and publishers, please have them contact me, too.

Because if insisting on safety, dignity and peace for us, our friends, our friends’ children, and our colleagues means we’re bitches, I think it’s a pretty good sign that I’m right, and there are problems that need to be fixed.

*Title comes from a tweet sent to me by a friend who had quite a bit of interaction with this guy over the weekend:

JR Murdock
@jaymgates David was rather dismissive of the allegations. His comments at the airport. “Some b!tch got a bee in her bonnet” #wfc2011

52 thoughts on “WFC 2011 Creeper”

  • !!!!!! What?!?!?!
    I’m glad I didn’t know about this while I was there, but saddened that such a thing occurred at WFC.
    Like you mentioned, WFC was amazing, but to think that someone was doing the stalkery thing… *shudder

    No silence. I’m passing this along via twitter, etc.

  • Hi Jaym, well done on finally getting this dealt with. I have blogged about it myself ( and hopefully I’ll get some conversation from my con-runner friends about how such things can best be dealt with. It’s not always easy, and not necessarily the same at all conventions, but having procedures would help a lot.

    • Thank you, Cheryl! I’m going to be building a centralized Grievance committee over the next few months, so if any of the con organizers are interested in taking part, or even just being listed as willing to work with the committee, I would love to hear from them.

  • I think that a starting point is not to be coy with who this is. Worrying about hurting feelings is how things get to go that one step too far when someone gets seriously hurt. A lot of the specifics might be contested, but having membership revoked and getting evicted is public record.

    I think he made enough of a spectacle of himself that people should know who he is rather than have to worry if he has figured out how to hide himself in a crowd.

    • I’ve been mulling over this problem for three days. The deciding factor was when I weighed the peripherals: Do we want to dilute the extent of the problem by focusing it on one man? What happens if people get really angry and go to his wall and start accusing him, gossiping, shaming him? At that point, we open ourselves up for accusations of slander. All it takes is one person saying something not-quite-true, and we lose a lot of time, face and value.

      The other issue is that one of the reasons we don’t have a grievance committee already is that people are worried about one baseless accusation tarnishing the reputation of an innocent person. So I have to stand on a really, really thin line here between protecting con-goers and keeping doors open for future protections.

      I’ll keep weighing how best to go about alerting people who this guy is. I’m still tired and a little angry, and I don’t want to make a slingshot decision that comes back to haunt me.

      • thanks for all the work you’re doing around this and I appreciate the nuanced approach you’re taking. This guy is an extreme case and it could easily turn into a hatefest around one person that would render invisible the broader issues that are important to tackle (or worse yet, it’s ok to do no extreme harassment, you’re fine as long as you’re not blatantly abusive and declare you have magical powers). I think you’ve taken a very positive approach.

  • (Note: due to repeated requests from people associated with the person mentioned in this post, Naomi and I have elected to remove the full name of the person in question. However, since the incidents are well-known in UK fandom and a matter of public record, any further information on the incident can be readily found. ~ Jaym)

    Dear Jaym,

    Chaz Brenchley pointed me at this blog. I’m really sorry that you got stuck with dealing with this but what a fantastic thing you did.

    One of the worrying issues is that there’s nothing to stop a fan who has been banned from one convention registering for someone else’s convention and making the organisers and fellow guests life hell.

    A 9 year old girl has already been on the receiving end of threatening behaviour from a disturbed female fan called TDH . This isn’t the only incident that she’s been involved in -she has a very long history in and out of fandom. We got her banned from one other convention after a great deal of difficulty but a third refused to do anything about the incident.

    Uk organisers are mainly amateurs and part time and aren’t always clued up on say whether they can exclude a disruptive fan with a mental health issue and whether it anti-discrimination law overrides their duty of care to guests.

    In the UK there is a Scheme called pubwatch where local bars share information about troublemakers so that if you are banned from one pub, you are banned from all.

    • Naomi, I would like, very much, to have a description of this event, please, including the name of the girl’s parents, if you know it. Having their statement would be excellent.

      Unfortunately, there will be cons which will not work with us. At that point, we’ll have to take action of some sort. Having documentation will be key.

      • Unfortunately, the particular incident that Naomi refers to in her post happened in August 2007, so it is unlikely that, after this length of time, specific details about the child (or her parents) would be remembered.

  • Thank you for this.

    I run costume programming and the Masquerade at Windycon, which is coming up in 2 weeks. I or my second can be found in the costume lab for most of the con weekend.

    If you ever feel unsafe or harassed, you are welcome to come to us. We will take you seriously, and make sure that the information is communicated to the correct people – both convention and hotel.

      • I also do panels at quite a few conventions, and I’ve posted on my Facebook that while chances are I’m not the person who can address the issue, I can certainly help you find those who can. I know that at least in the Chicago area there is already an informal info-sharing agreement amongst the folks who work security at most of the local conventions.

        We like to think that as members of the fannish community we are “among friends”, and assume that we are in “safe space” when attending a con. In many cases that can be true, but not always. Like any family, fandom has it’s share of “funny uncles” and “Oh look Aunt Shirley’s drunk and grabbing ass again”. We tend to err on the side of acceptance for all, and that has allowed some pretty awful behavior to slide by over the years. Well, I’m proud of my fannish friends and I want other people to have the same kinds of positive experiences I have had, and if that includes standing up for someone who is dealing with a bad situation than that’s what I’ll do.

        I do admit that the idea of a “committee” makes me nervous. I’ve dealt with the fannish rumor mill for many years and have heard many accusations that turned out to be untrue – some about me in fact. So at this point all I and my staff can say is “If you feel harassed or unsafe, you can come to us and we will take you seriously”.

      • I received this message from the PTB @ Windycon:
        Wendy Z, thank you for posting this and being someone that others can count on….. as many have stated; many con goers think “we are among like minded friends” etc etc…. truth is (as someone pointed out) many of these people are still strangers…and there is a lot of drinking that goes on, and there are some people that don’t mix drinking & being social well. To EVERYONE – PLEASE REMEMBER to be responsible, know your own limits & respect the limits of others. Always remember that WindyCon has a 24hr Ops group, Con Security group, and any member with a staff badge is acceptable to pull aside & ask for help. NO one has the right to make you be apart of something you’re not completely comfortable with

  • You rock, Jaym! I’m glad you took the initiative on Saturday, and honored that you asked me to help out. It’s a really tough thing you did, and you did it well.

    As for the future, a grievance committee sounds like an excellent start to creating a safer environment at cons. Thank you so much for getting the ball rolling on that!

  • One thing that bothered me with this situation… there appear to have been delays in kicking him out because he had a reading. As though it was more important not to inconvenience him by making it so he couldn’t attend the reading, than it was to make the con safe and enjoyable for his victims.

    If someone behaves badly and they’re kicked out before an event they’re involved in, it’s tough cookies. That’s a consequence of behaving badly. Or at least, it should be a consequence of behaving badly, even if it didn’t happen here. It’s better to cancel an event, than run it and have it spoil people’s con experience (though in this case, I understand he was one author of many, so not being there wouldn’t have meant cancelling).

    • I don’t believe it was because he had a reading. There were, at one point, discussions about re-arranging the reading schedule and banning him. I have not been able to figure out all of the details, and hope that a meeting next week will help me clarify this. In the meantime, I don’t feel comfortable saying ‘this is why he was allowed to remain’. However, once I find out, I hope to be able to post this information openly.

  • I’m so sorry for the incredible hassle and rage and heinousness you just went through. But I’m very grateful you stepped up and especially that you wrote up this excellent description of the problem and what effects it has on communities and on the people in them. Thank you!

    • I’m still in the recovery stages of 3 years of escalating harassment and aggression being ignored at my former dayjob, so this situation hits pretty close to home. Thank you for the support!

  • “The report of a rape that was allowed to slide at Swancon”

    This report is not quite correct. I was chair of WASFF, Swancon’s oversight board at the time (and I still am).

    Our case was a little different to yours. Let me give a few details: Person A and person B were both members of that year’s Swancon. Shortly after the end of Swancon, not on the property where Swancon occurred that year, person A sexually assaulted person B.

    So for us, throwing person A out of the still-in-progress convention was not on the table.

    We took this very seriously, and discussed it extensively at the board level. One of our board members liaised with person B. (Person B elected not to appear at a board meeting to talk about it in person; as you know, sexual assault is extremely stressful even to talk about afterwards, and so this is entirely understandable.)

    Upon examining our constitution and regulations, it became evident that we did not explicitly have the power to strip someone of a membership, nor to deny them the right to buy a membership. So we gave ourselves such powers. (This itself was a difficult process, because of the emotionally charged nature of the situation we were dealing with at one remove. Several board members found this process psychologically damaging to them, and one decided not to stand for re-election partly because of this.) (You can see the details of those powers at , starting at “expulsion”. Boring, for procedure wonks only.)

    We made a public statement (at and other places) on the issue.

    Luckily, the creation of the rules and the statement we issued was enough to discourage person A from applying for membership in future years. If person A had applied for membership, we would have had to try to deny them, and in the course of natural justice that would have involved person A being given the right to speak in their own defence, and giving person B right of reply. This would have been even more stressful for both the board members and for person B, and so I am thankful that this did not happen.

    “silence is the enemy.”

    I agree wholeheartedly. If you are in a situation that makes you uncomfortable, please speak about it, either to someone official, or to a friend, or to a person who you think will help you. If you see someone else in a situation that you think is making them uncomfortable, please speak to them about it. Later is OK; immediately is better.

    Swancon now has a recurring panel/workshop/discussion called “Safe Spaces” which attempts to give people tools to deal with social situations like this (and to deal with challenging social situations more broadly); for people who are on the receiving end, people who might intercede, and for people who are on the transgressing end (with the objective of solving their own transgressive behaviour). I personally have found these workshops hugely empowering.

    Jaym: thank you for speaking up.

    • I apologize 100% for not researching this more thoroughly. The only thing I had heard was from the original reports, and I should have looked for more information before using it as an example. The post has been edited. I also appreciate the response being spelled out, and hope that it will help people be more comfortable with going to the concom to report things.

      • It’s ok about not doing much more research than the original posts – it did take a very long time for everything to finalise. (Like, years.) And no one hangs around for the end of stories like that!

        Thank you for updating your post and posting our message.

        And thank you for this whole post too. I loved WFC2011, and we do all need to talk about this sort of thing more. The safe spaces panel has come about as a way for us to try and innoculate our community against the silence around bad behaviours. We’re trying to empower people by offering ideas and ways of how to handle when you are transgressed against; what to do when you are the transgressor, how to assert your boundaries, who to go to when boundaries are transgressed beyond your ability to handle it, where to get even more help from and just workshopping difficult situations.

        It’s been an amazing panel to do, and I think our community has really been strengenthed for it. More people have the tools at their disposal to say “I’m not sure that is appropriate,” instead of remaining silent and uncomfortable, and if we can show that as a community respect is expected, then people who like to be social assholes don’t find as many victims and are eventually weeded out/don’t find our convention attractive. And I firmly believe that disrespect starts way before the assault comes.

  • Thank you so, so much for posting about this. I hate this stuff, and the more people speak up when this happens, the easier it is to make changes to stop it happening. I’m only one person on one concom, but your post is going to make it a lot easier for me to be mindful to do my small part. Thank you.

    • Definitely. I’m still mulling over the best way to communicate, but keep an eye on this site for more updates until I find someone more computer-literate to work with me on creating a central location.

    • I’m glad to see multiple people linking to this. However, I’ve also heard that it hasn’t seen much activity lately. Does anyone know whether or not it is active? I’d love to talk to them.

  • You said, “David was rather dismissive of the allegations. His comments at the airport. “Some b!tch got a bee in her bonnet””

    Which David would that be?

  • I was harassed… publicly mocked, with others joining in with the original mocker… at a convention in 1998. It’s kept me from going back to conventions since. I’m glad that you’re taking action on this, and forming such a committee. Good luck to you!

  • Thanks, Jaym, for taking point on this.

    Conventions have long been a place where people felt safe, and slight variations in behavior were tolerated. Recently I’ve noticed an undercurrent of tension — of problems that concoms are afraid to tackle, fearing legal backlash.

    The only solution is to come out of the shadows, to create a clearing house where reports can be taken and actions tabulated.

    I want to be as safe as possible at conventions, and I want everyone else to be safe, too. Sounds like that can’t happen without everyone passing the word along.

    We don’t know who might see our words and come forward to help. So I’ll go build my post now.

  • The SFWA statement on sexual harassment is public and now posted at the website. Here it is:

    SFWA Statement on Sexual Harassment
    Reports of sexual harassment by an individual against SFWA members (and others) at the 2011 World Fantasy Convention have come to the attention of SFWA’s Board of Directors. SFWA’s policy on matters of sexual harassment is this:

    “The SFWA administration, employees, members, and volunteers are responsible for assuring that all persons who participate in SFWA programs and activities do so in an atmosphere free of all forms of harassment, exploitation, or intimidation. Sexual harassment is unlawful and impedes the realization of SFWA’s mission to inform, support, promote, defend and advocate for our members. SFWA will respond promptly and effectively to reports of harassment and discrimination of any kind and will take appropriate action to prevent, to correct, and if necessary, to discipline behavior that violates this policy. This policy applies to any events or spaces sponsored by SFWA, including but not limited to the SFWA discussion Forums, the SFWA website, the Nebula Awards Weekend, and the SFWA suite.”

    The link is here:

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