There have been some truly terrible stories emerging over the past few weeks about some male behaviour at various conventions in the genre. For anyone -especially women – reading them who doesn’t go to cons, or is considering going to cons, they must think, God, all these men are awful. I’m never attending anything like that. And that would be a shame, because there are some wonderful gents working in the field. Maybe it’s time to share a story or two about them, and big up the brilliant boys a little?
Personally, I can easily think of a few occasions when gents have come to my rescue at cons. At world Fantasy one year I was in a room party talking the the master of splatterpunk John Skipp. We sat down on the bed, and as I did so (this could only happen to me), the strap of my summer dress broke. I was not wearing a bra. Skipp’s eyes did not even glance downwards as my right boob made an appearance but as I grabbed the strap and held it up, he quietly said, ‘wait there,’ vanished for a second, and then came back with two (very cool) badges and repaired my clothes. No fuss, not mention of it to anyone else, and he’s never mentioned it since.
Second, I give you Graham Joyce. I have two tales of his valour. First, in San Jose, when my room became a crowded party room, and someone spilt a whole bottle of red wine on my cream carpet, and then scarpered. I’d tried to clean it up but there was still a massive stain. Over dinner Graham could see I was quiet and said, ‘you’re worrying about that carpet, aren’t you?’ I nodded. He then spent about 3 hours on his hands and knees scrubbing it with me, and tracked down an industrial carpet cleaner at 1am and cleaned it with that so I didn’t get charged.
Another time in San Diego, when a man went mental at me during the awards ceremony for smoking my e-cig (the awards stopped as he screamed at me in a room of 500 people) Graham got up and very firmly told him to ‘sit the fuck down’ (Got to be heard in his gravelly Coventry accent for full effect) and then spent 15 minutes after the dinner explaining to him why he owed me an apology. Props to Pete Atkins and Myke Cole on that one too.
There are others too – the men who keep an eye out for when you’ve been cornered and are feeling uncomfortable. I remember being at a con in the states – can’t remember which – and a ‘fan’ would not leave me alone. One huge american, who I never got the name of, came over and ‘said, ‘hey man, why don’t we go and track down some more beer? They’ve nearly run out.’ When the weirdo refused and got shitty because ‘I want to talk to Sarah!’ two more men came over and joined the first, and eventually they shuffled him away while I was guarded by Paul Kane and Marie. The next day, he was evicted from the con for unsavoury behaviour towards several women.
I guess my point is that the stories that have emerged are appalling and these men need to be dealt with. But most of the men who go to cons are just lovely and hate the idea of women feeling uncomfortable or sexually threatened. I know that however drunk or ridiculous I get, there will always be someone to walk me back to my hotel (even if they have to do paper, rock, scissors to see who gets the unlucky straw – yes I’m looking at you lot, Kernick, Wignall, Wood and Cleave;-)), and I never get to my hotel room door and think, ‘Oh now this is going to get awkward.’ Because they are gents. And friends. And lovely people.
Let’s not let the few tarnish the many. Got a good story of a gent at a con? Leave it in the comments.
Let’s big up the boys.