August 8, 2011
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Conventional Behavior

Horror and steampunk writer Carrie Cuinn enjoyed Readercon. So did I. But she found some of her fellow attendees were not quite up to the mark, and wrote them a vehement Dear Jackass letter. It concludes:

So, Dear Jackass, I can only hope you didn’t realize your behavior was rude, selfish, insensitive, racist, or sexist. I’ll be at Readercon 23, and I think it’s best for everyone if we don’t see you there.

It wasn’t immediately clear to me whether her complaints all related to the same person – the singular “jackass” seems to suggest it does, but I’m fairly sure that several different people were involved here. Moreover, the transgressions she describes are quite different, and I think it’s worth taking a moment to reflect on them, if only to remind ourselves what not to do.

Note: Cuinn uses the term “jackass” in its casual sense. In the technology community, a jackass is a specific character – someone who makes a controversial prediction in order to get attention or to attract coverage in the press. For example, “World Of Warcraft leads to political violence,” or “The iPhone 5 will be a catastrophic failure.”

Touching briefly on each of the social crimes Cuinn observed, we have:

So, we have six indictments, but perhaps only two real crimes, and I don’t think banishment (the punishment for high crimes) is absolutely necessary. The major violations seem to involve a dispute with the program chair, who in any case has the authority to enforce the appropriate sanction should that be desirable.

I observe in passing that people are seldom taught how to attend conferences. Conference-going is a skill, requiring thought and judgment.