Well, Jay stirred up a hornet’s nest of buzz with his Closing Ceremonies comments and Medium post and such, didn’t he? Alas, the reaction was utterly predictable. It was NOT “What? It can be taken that way?” or “Hang on, do we have a problem here?” but more of “You are evil and are a $VULGARITY for daring to dissent with the $RIGHTFUL_WAY_OF_HISTORY!!!11eleventy!1!” I was there when HedgeMage and the con chair for next year had their encounter. I respect HedgeMage and will readily admit she is smarter than I am. Not just a little smarter, but “could win an argument with me with one lobe tied behind her back” smarter. And yet… I fear she is wrong that Penguicon can be saved. Oh, Penguicon as an event will continue for some time. But as a truly thought-diverse, welcoming, thing that doesn’t demand (if only implicitly) adherence to a certain groupthink? “It’s dead, Jim.” I hope I am wrong. Really. I wish HedgeMage and ESR and others sharing such optimism all the best of luck. But I will not be surprised if “straight and level flight” is mistook as a good thing, when the flight path is directly into a mountain: Controlled Flight Into Terrain: *CRASH* My suspicion is this is like how a marriage after the first (which ended in divorce) is described: A triumph of hope over experience.
Even before that meeting, I had all but given up on the convention. It had been less and less fun for the last several years. That’s a trend. One year being off is no big deal. Nor are two, really. Flukes happen. Coincidences happen. But trends? Trends are telling. This is/was a trend. That encounter revealed that there really is a bubble. The utter surprise or shock of discovering that the supposedly well-intentioned policies could be, and were being, interpreted as silencing and rejecting some peoples views was telling. I fear the bubble is not a thin-shelled, easily pierced thing, but a much harder barrier than it might seem. Jay did tell this year’s chair that he’d give it one more chance. I did not, and had it been just me, I’d have stayed home. It wasn’t, so I didn’t. I might as well have.
It’s also telling that I laughed more the first time I returned to work, than I did at Penguicon this year. Yeah, the thing I figured I was escaping was more more entertaining. Considering my work (I shall spare you the details. You’re welcome.), this simply should not happen. Then a while later, the 1940’s tunes on XM were more smile-inducing. Alright, I like 1940’s swing/big band music… but really? A drive with construction signs and background music out-happied a convention? Ouch!
And then the backlash. Oh my. Predictable, yet still shocking. It all boiled down to “We’re right. We’re good. You’re evil. There is NO problem.” Riiiiight. If I had any doubts before, that utterly erased them. These are precisely the sort of toxic people with which I prefer not to associate. Such closed-minded negativity. It wasn’t “Hey, you might have tripped over a symptom, but the diagnosis is wrong.” or “Really? We might have some odd problem?” It wasn’t even “Are you nuts? This is what this means, and.. how can you see THAT in it?!” Nope. It wasn’t even that. It was name-calling and claims of positions I know damned well are untrue. I figure I have a pretty good idea of the beliefs and state, etc. of the person I’ve lived with for a good many years. Hearing strangers – and even some alleged friends – claim things I know full well, from direct experience, to be untrue, well it convinces me alright, it does. It convinces me I’ve made a terrible mistake and had been getting close to people who, to be charitable, lack even a minimal amount of clue.
Yep, I read the recent Statement. It says all the right things. But somehow I am reminded of the buzzard’s promise in the tune Straighten Up and Fly Right. I fully expect everyone involved in writing the Statement really, truly believes it. It is not a calculated lie, I’ll give them that. That does not mean it is actually true, however.(“This time for sure!”) I have my doubts as to the genuine reality of the claims.
I hope Penguicon does flourish and continue – it’s fun for at least some, and I will not deny them that. I also wish HedgeMage and ESR the best of luck, but I shan’t be holding my breath. I fully expect that in a few years I’ll look on Pengiucon about the same way the Sad Puppies now look at WorldCon: something that might have mattered a little bit once upon a time, but no longer. A something that determinedly bludgeoned its way to irrelevance.
It will take a miracle (and I do not mean that wonderful horse in the Mel Brooks’ film) to get me to go back now. I see the flight path. I see the mountain range. I do NOT see a reason to stay aboard for the crash when I can safely bail out. I will not say that I will never go back, but I can’t see as current circumstance are going. Jay might be convinced. He is more outspoken than I am; He is also more forgiving. There is a non-trivial hysteresis about my fecal roster: It takes a lot to get on it, but it takes a hell of a lot more to get back off of it. Not that anyone but me cares. The convention started without me, it can go on (or end – no, I am not predicting that as such. Becoming irrelevant is not the same as ending.) without me.
The question for me is not how to “Make Penguicon Great Again.” It seems determined to ever closer circle the drain as far as I can see. I doubt one can “Restore the Glory that was Rome.” as it were. The question is, what do I do with me vacation time I used to use for Penguicon? Were it still a possibility, I’d go to Rocket City FurMeet (damn, I miss RCFM) but that folded a while ago due to hotel issues, mainly. Now? Nothing is certain. Well, other than I won’t be wasting time looking for a good time near Detroit. Should some folks decide upon an alternate event, with genuine inclusiveness, rather than the mockery of it falsely claiming the name, appear I’ll do what I can to support it.
Am I dreaming? Perhaps. But as said in one version of Twain’s Mysterious Stranger, “Dream other dreams. Better ones.” I hope to do just that. It is past time for better.