Sorry Tron Guy, You Were Wrong.
A full year after Tron Guy, Jay Maynard, made his graceful exit from the fantastic world of Penguicon, participants and collaborators came together to make this year’s con the greatest its ever been, and we managed to do it without him.
Maynard’s post is a bit incoherent, so allow me to sum up his points of contention:
- Doesn’t feel welcome, just “tolerated.”
- Leftist guests of honor
- Politically correct panels
- “Virtue signalling” in the form of consent culture
- Unisex bathrooms
- Virtue signalling via liquid nitrogen ice cream? (still confused on that one)
- Double standards in what is deemed “controversial” (He actually kind of makes a good point on this one)
- Con chair using 10 minutes of mic time during opening ceremonies to show respect to indigenous people.
- Zero-tolerance harassment policy is too strict
- Imbalance of politically right and politically left panels (Here he pivots from lamenting their existence, to being “overpowered” by them)
- Lack of safe space from “culture wars”
I’d like to break down each one of these points, because in my mind, I think each of these is an example of what makes Penguicon great.
First off, everyone is welcome at Penguicon, but no one is entitled to the red carpet. Open source puts us all on a level playing field. The more you contribute, the more you will get out of it. (Something he admits he is unable to do, due to time and distance constraints) This is an important point because nearly all of his arguments can be summed up into this one. He doesn’t feel super-important anymore, and his entire diatribe amounts to a cry-fest that he’s not receiving special treatment.
Relax, cosplay Jesus. We’re not here to lay down palm leaves in front of you and the ass you rode in on.
Equality makes Penguicon great.
As for the leftist guests of honor, there is no doubt that this is an intentional aspect of the con. There’s also no doubt that these GoHs are a crucial aspect of the con. The proof is in the numbers. The con has grown every year since this alleged shift in ideology. This year, the Westin-Southfield hotel sold out every room both nights for the first time in con history. We saw record attendance and unique badges, and an increase in the amount of activities available to con-goers to keep up with the new pace. Numbers-wise, this strategy is a huge success and has strengthened the community bond.
So while I actually empathize with him on this issue a little bit, given that there aren’t any major right-wing speakers or guests of honor, it stands to reason that inviting them would drive more people away than it would attract. In essence, he is asking the board to implement changes that would make the con less great, attract less people, and move backwards towards a less-inclusive, low-attendee event, with less activities.
I mean, sure, Penguicon could turn into a “Unite The Right” rally, or maybe become a GamerGate doxxing meetup, but this is not the direction that con-leaders would like to go, for obvious reasons, and while it’s a valid complaint, it’s vapid coming from people who show up with a badge and (maybe) a reservation every year and contribute very little to the programming.
Radical programming makes Penguicon great.
As for “politically correct” panels, I think that is a rather myopic view of the contributions that people like myself have made to the community. This year I led a panel on open source music coding, which included a brief history of how computers have been used to make music over time. Nothing controversial there. However, I also sat on a panel on polyamory, representing a unique view on the topic, which was billed as an event that was inclusive of people in any relationship paradigm, monogamous or non-monogamous.
I firmly believe that this is in the spirit of open source and the open exchange of ideas. Traditional relationships, sexual orientation, gender roles and values, are the intellectual property of the patriarchy. The rest of us are openly exchanging information and ideas with each other trying to figure out where we all fit in and feel comfortable. It makes perfect sense to include this kind of programming into the event, and it’s OK that it’s not for everyone.
Inclusivity makes Penguicon great.
The next point, virtue signalling “consent culture,” is one that I find very problematic. If consent is a controversial topic for you, I don’t want to attend the same con as you. Period. No one is ever harmed by communicating the need to establish consent. No one ever died from not taking a photo they don’t have permission to take. No one is ever harmed by asking someone for a hug. On the flip side of that, unwanted touch, non-permissive photos, and everything that has to do with consent culture are things that cause real harm to people when not properly negotiated.
Is this really the hill you want to die on, Tron Guy? Your answer to consent culture is literally just violence. Instead of people asking for a hug, you literally state in your article, and double down in your replies, that you want people to kick, punch, and slap other people when they receive unwanted touch. Instead of being proactive to prevent from engaging in unwanted physical contact, you want people to put on fisticuffs and duke it out. This is the most absurd take on consent that I’ve ever heard. And all because you want your own little safe space from having to be reminded not to touch people that don’t fucking want to be touched.
Consent culture makes Penguicon great.
The same goes for sharing a bathroom with people who aren’t penis-carrying cis men like you. Not sure why that bothers you so much, but if it does, go use the bathroom in your room.
The point which I actually do kind of agree with, which is the double standard on what is considered controversial, is something that can be easily resolved with a little bit of framing. Clearly, what Maynard considers to be controversial is much different from what the board considers controversial. I was not privy to these conversations, so I’m not actually sure what the board requested of his panel submissions, as opposed to what he’s saying, but the framing of this issue should be one about inclusivity, not controversy.
Most of the panels that Maynard labels as “politically correct” are merely panels that are inclusive of identities that have been long underrepresented in sci-fi culture. But no one is making anyone attend these panels. On the other hand, if a panel’s sole purpose is to denigrate a group of people, (especially a minority group) then it shouldn’t be allowed. As he mentioned, the “Geeks with guns” event was green-lighted, and I have no problem with that. It is an inclusive event for people who like to geek out about their hobby. I actually think he would be surprised to learn how many on the left are pro-gun. Karl Marx himself, a big fan.
People being decent to each other makes Penguicon great.
And are you really that triggered by the con chair using 10 minutes of the opening ceremony to show respect to indigenous people? Again, is this the hill you want to die on? (Ironically, a hill that is undoubtedly a former sacred burial ground of indigenous people)
Over and over again you kept asking us to provide you with a safe space that would protect you from hearing things you don’t want to hear, and you have the nerve to call us “politically correct” in the same breath.
Respecting indigenous people makes Penguicon great.
I find it very odd that Maynard used the incident at Worldcon as an example of harassment policy gone wrong. For those unfamiliar with the incident in question, it dealt with the aftermath of a queer person of color who was subjected to harassment, abuse, and racism as the guest of honor, and a concom that was unwilling to deal with the situation, which escalated the situation further. Most people that were criticized issued public apologies. The member services team received training for the next year’s event to prevent another incident, and the code of conduct was updated to reflect their zero-tolerance policies against harassment.
Again, I ask, who wants to die on this hill? Who really wants cons to allow people to be shitty to each other and stay silent? And that’s exactly what Maynard was asking of Penguicon staff.
Correction: I was informed that the incident I just referenced occurred at ConQuest, which is also in KC, not Worldcon. But if you look at what happened there, it’s easy to understand why I would be confused. The incident at Worldcon had nothing to do with the events’ harassment policy. The person in question was ejected for sabotaging a panel. So while I stand corrected, I’m now even more confused at what point Maynard was getting at when he mentioned this incident.
Zero-tolerance harassment policies make Penguicon great.
In the last part of his article, Maynard pivots away from the mere existence of leftist panels to lamenting the imbalance between left-wing and right-wing content in the programming. While this is something that I see as a valuable offering in the world of open-source, where everyone should be on a level playing field and systems of class should be dismantled, I have no issue with right-wing panelists presenting at the con. Maybe if the right knew how to organize in a non-hierarchical way, they would have more content, or maybe even their own open source con. The mere existence of left-wing programming does no harm to anyone, so I don’t understand why this was an issue.
Which brings me to his final point, which was a plea for a safe space from the “culture wars” at Penguicon. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Sorry, Tron bro, I burned my draft card in the culture wars years ago. I’m just here to have a good time, learn, grow, and make new friends. If that’s offensive to you, I can still live with myself.
The culture and community is what makes Penguicon great.
All of this nonsense aside, I just want to thank everyone who attended this year for being producers of the greatest con I’ve ever been to.
My panel on open source music coding was quite engaging, and it felt really great to be in a room full of people who understood both programming languages and musical composition. We geeked out with our beaks out and I hope to do it again, and expand on this subject every year.
I also had the AMAZING opportunity to deejay for the geeky burlesque show. It was the queerest, sexiest, geekiest performance I’ve ever been a part of, and in many ways a dream come true for me in my 12 years of spinning records. One of the compliments I received over-and-over again was the high production value of the event. And that, to me, is what open source is all about. People coming together to contribute our talents and share them with our peers.
I also had a great time at every single room party I attended, and found it difficult to choose between them when I cast my votes. I drank a butter beer for the first time and that was quite an experience!
As for Tron Guy, all I can say is that, just because the direction of the con has changed, doesn’t mean it’s exclusively “our” con now. You’re welcome back (as long as you can follow the rules) and I’ll even offer to bake the crow for you to eat. Because as much as I hate to see an internet sensation feel let down by the culture, I just can’t help but feel good about how absolutely wrong you were, and how great that is for the science-fiction-loving, open-source-embracing, radically-inclusive, self-governing community that I have had the privilege to become a part of.
I ❤ Penguicon!