Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Between a rock and an icky place.

It's possible that I may be vending at Dragon Con this year. The key work is possible. Dragon Con is a big con, with a lot of competition for dealer space. This year they have moved to a new space, which gave me a chance to get in.  I'm excited at the chance and happily submitted my application. An event the size of Dragon Con can generate sales equal to the entire season of a small Ren Fair.

 So I was surprised to hear about a boycott that has been proposed by author Nancy Collins. She is upset that DragonCon is still associated with is co-creator Ed Kramer. Ed, it turns out has been arrested several times for possible child molestation. The first instance was in 2000 and most recently last week. Here is a long article, but it gives out a lot of information about the cases. Reading it is like watching a train wreck  You want to look away, but you're pulled back in. You wonder how this thing has gone on for so long. But its no mystery. Powerful and expensive lawyers were involved, health issues, lots of money, endless legal challenges and even claims of antisemitism.

Conventions were a source of great joy for me growing up. And in my adulthood they are partly how I make my living. But I still enjoy them. Except now I question how much. This is beyond the petty bickering and politics involved in the running of a con, this has gone waaay into a dark dark place.

Flashback time: It's 2000 and a group of friends and I go to Dragon Con for the first time. It's huge. We have a blast. There are all kinds of great tales told about that trip that have amused friends for years. In the course of the con, I actually meet Ed Kramer. It was in the semi-exclusive "Concierge Suite". He was a large man with an wild, unkempt beard stuffing his face with shrimp. I will be honest and say that he did not give off a particularly creepy vibe. Or at least, no more creepy than many of the people one meets at cons. Somehow Ed had heard of our performing group "The Magnificent Sloan Gypsies".  We chatted briefly and he discussed the possibility of bringing us to the Con to perform. A paying gig! Hallelujah!

 Not long after returning from the con word came through the grapevine about Kramer's arrest. Awesome. That year another convention director had contacted us, only to die rather suddenly before any kind of contract had been signed. Two well connected people had said we were great and wanted to hire us only for one of them to die and the other to be arrested as a child molester.

  That year Rossana and I started working Renaissance Festivals in earnest and it became almost impossible to attend Dragon Con. Other than being told how awesome a show it was by fellow dealers, I knew nothing of the con, or the fact that Ed Kramer was still part owner of the show.

  And so we come to today. A link leads me off to an article calling for the very people who are a big draw for the con to boycott the show.  Artists, writers, media guests. That link led to the much longer article detailing what had been happening over the past 13 years since last I saw Ed Kramer.  And that led to a strange conflict within me. I don't like child molesters or indeed people who do awful things to other people. I certainly don't want to help support one in any way.

  I like to bombastically declare that I am a Godless Capitalist. But the truth is that I have tried to never let my love of money overcome my personal beliefs in right and wrong. Ed Kramer is all kinds of wrong. So it would seem a pretty clear choice to pull out of this show and throw whatever weight I can into this boycott, right? But it is not that simple. Maybe for some it is. But as I pass 45 years on this Earth I have come to accept that some things aren't cut and dry.

  It is evident that Dragon Con and its owners are not willingly supporting Kramer. They have twice tried to buy him out and eventually stopped paying him (until Kramer sued). They are not secretly hoping he gets away with these crimes. I see no claims that anyone else involved with the Con helped him commit these crimes. For the past 13 years he has been personae non grata. Is it possible some of my dealer fee MAY eventually go to pay for Kramers layers. I suspect it is. But my money, indeed everybody's money goes to people and organizations that use money in ways we likely disapprove of.  When I paid my taxes under Bush some of my money went to pay for Black sites used to torture people. My money has gone to Blackwater, to corrupt cops and politicians. It  now pays for drones and bombs and bullets that have kill innocent people. This is an very unpleasant fact. But I'm not going to stop paying my taxes, even though a small amount of it funds things that are just wrong. I will not condemn my entire country for the actions of some of its citizens. The same applies to Dragon Con. You would be hard pressed to find ANY institution, club or organization that doesn't have some fucked up people belonging to it (or even co-founding it).

 So I'm going to work the show (if I get selected). Others will chose not to attend and I respect the hell out of their decision. But here is how it could play out.  If enough people bring pressure to bear the co-owners will again try to buy out Kramer. Kramer will demand a huge amount, Dragon Con will offer much less. The process will drag on, piling up massive legal expenses. Those expenses, in combination with falling attendance from a boycott and bad press could very well kill the show. Congratulation, you will have gotten your wish. Kramer will no longer get any money. Neither will anyone else.  While the Con itself doesn't have a large staff I guesstimate that between 200-300 people (dealers mostly) will loose a huge chunk of their livelihood.

Mission Accomplished.

  I don't have to do this show, but I still want to. I had to turn it over in my mind a while. I don't like to think of myself as a bad person or someone who actively support bad people. But from where I stand DragonCon  is in an unenviable position not of their making. If information comes out showing they somehow actively facilitated Kramer's crimes (other than paying him, which they were legally obliged to do) I may change my mind.

 Now I'm going to look at some pictures of goddamn bunnies. I have spent too much time analysing my own morals today.



10 comments:

Aurora /Catrina said...

The Society for Creative Anachronism is tainted with the same association with reported child molesters. In one case the members found and turned in said individual to the authorities. In another case a family got a restraining order against an SCA follower who forced a kiss on their thirteen year old daughter only to be shunned by their Barony when they asked to have it enforced during events. In still another case someone who presented himself as a authorized teacher gave lessons in his home of a disturbing kind. This time the SCA was sued and settled the claim with a million plus dollars. Currently there are complaints lodged with the board against a former king who is fond of asking well endowed females if he can photograph their breasts which he then posts on his web site. When it was pointed out to him by an other former king that many women and their menfolk felt this activity was sexually harassing and that an unforeseen posting of an overexposed underage chest could totally tank the group's credibility and funding action was taken. But, unfortunately, it was the cautionary king and his lady who were stripped of their awards and titles and level one banished. At least the other founders of the Con recognize and are trying to separate themselves from this offender. One day I may walk away from the SCA as well.

Jeff Hogg said...

Steve,

My compliments to you Sir. Your decision is well considered, though it is sad that there is a need for you to have even discussed the topic.

Recently a long time friend of mine and I had a discussion about pedophiles and fandom in general. While we laughed at our probable response as twenty somethings (club em like a harp seal, then skin em for good measure), we both agreed that the only thing you really can do as 'grown ups' is to effectively exile them. And yet it seems that far too often, those involved with fandom either dramatically over react, or semi-complicity under react to the ugly and unfortunate tragedy that is always in the wake of this particular form of 'broken'. Both responses are inappropriate.

I suspect the over reactor element is part of the growing outrage addicted segment of our culture. Is that outrage justified, likely yes. Having people in my life that have been used pedophiles, literally all of my life (and yes literally is being used in it's correct context), I deeply empathize with their rage and frustration. But is it useful or constructive. No. A better course would be for those that are outraged to work together to launch a letter writing campaign to encourage and support the remaining organizers in an effort to start a competing convention that drags the talent away from the bad guy and let him have a shell of a con that cannot succeed. Sadly wisdom and large groups tend to walk separate paths, so this is unlikely.

But the under reactors bother me much more. I can understand wanting protect the convention, fan club, or whatever it is, from bad publicity. But without some action that transmits the message for all in the social group to hear, that states clearly the message 'that is not us, that is not acceptable', the group runs the risk appearing complicit in a later and larger public relations problem. Worse still the groups sets a dynamic in place that allows these broken people to create the fantasy that they are accepted. That is the part that I find bothersome and loathsome.

It appears that DragonCon is doing what they can with what they have, and has even taken risks leading to court in order to push for more. Short of the clubs and knives of youth, what else can you ask for.

Nancy Collins said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nancy Collins said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nancy Collins said...

I saw your blog post, and, as the DragonCon Boycott's founder, I can sympathize with your distress and the position you find yourself in.

However, as to your claim DragonCon has not had any involvement with Kramer (outside of handing him bags of cash) over the last 13 years: Ed Kramer was made a guest of the convention in 2008 http://web.archive.org/web-cdx/20080824035819/http://dragoncon.org/dc_guests_list.php#K, and fund-raising events for his defense fund had been held there in the years before that. They didn't decide he had cooties until he sued them in 2009 for mo' money.

(Sorry for the reposts, but I hate these tiny comment windows.)

Anonymous said...

Actually you WOULD be contributing money to a child molester. There is no "may" about it. You and your vendor fees are going to a corporation that is legally required to give 34% of its income to a child molester.

None of the excuses about corporate laws in Georgia matter in the slightest.

If YOU go to DragonCOn as a vendor and YOU pay the fee for selling your wares and support DragonCon with your presence and your money then YOU are supporting a child molester.

All your words about how much you don't like it or about how there are OTHER businesses with creepy shareholders are simply you making excuses to justify your decision to support a child molester.

If you can live with the fact that YOUR money is going to help a child molester pervert the justice system and possibly rape more boys, by all means go ahead and become a vendor at DragonCon.

Just don't pretend that YOU have no choice or that YOU are innocent in the matter. And don't be shocked when YOU become branded as the kind of vendor who has no problem giving money to child molesters.

- Tim

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