I said I was going to stay out of it. That I was done with the whole ACFW kerfuffle thing.
But I lied.
Yes, I left a bunch of comments on various blogs and Facebook posts. I figure if I'm going to put my opinion out there on all those other places, I might as well summarize it here.
First, the inciting event here was the conference attendee who dressed up like a character from a Christian spec-fic book. I don't want to dwell on this, because that is the problem I'm having with the ACFW and their attitude--they keep turning back to him and screaming "security issue!"
Yes, I get that a black hoodie and mask was not appropriate attire, and in light of the theater massacre in Colorado, would definitely flag securities attention. But he WAS checked out, and proven not a threat either on his own merits or by the ACFW leadership vouching for him (I have heard it both ways). But either way, security was satisfied and the guy was asked to change because his outfit was not dressy. Crisis over. And anyone on the spec-fic side who can't be at least understanding of the security concern, at least when the guy was first sighted, needs to rethink their stance. Not to mention, this poor guy has got to feel awful at this point!
Side note--one respected ACFW member attended in a t-shirt and was not asked to change.
So, now security is happy, but the ACFW is still not. Two other guys were asked to remove simple hand coverings. One being a snug-fitting pair of werewolf gloves and the other being a homemade cyborg arm. Both guys were in full compliance with the "Sunday best to formal" rule as they wore suits and ties.
This would NOT be an issue at all folks, had ACFW not allowed costumes in years past--even encouraging them if they were "historical" in nature. You will find women in full-on Victorian garb and hoop skirts. They are dressing in a way that is representative of their writing, and some of the speculative fiction writers have taken their cue from those other authors and decided to join in the fun.
One gentleman dresses as Jean-Luc Picard each year. No, he wasn't asked to leave, but after I made a comment on the ACFW calling their actions a reflection of a double-standard, a member emailed me and told me he was creeped out by the man dressed as Picard and thought security should have flagged him as well.
The conference director also emailed me and said she had "received the 100+ emails from those who were in attendance and quite frankly, were offended and taken aback by certain people's attire that truly was inappropriate. Had this been a costume party or "come as your character" ball, there might not have been such the heightened security. But it was listed as a semi-formal to formal event."
So, she pulled that card, saying herself that this is NOT a costume ball and the attendees are NOT supposed to be coming dressed as characters. This, to me, is back-pedaling. All of a sudden, costumes aren't in the rule books, but it's been a tradition for years. The problem is that a group of people are following ACFW's lead in a way they don't approve of, so not they are pretending that these historical costumes are normal formal wear.
And let me say right now, that YES, any costumes going into the gala should fall under the "semi-formal to formal" category. But the dividing line in the ACFW's mind seems to be real people of real history formal. Not futuristic military formal or alternate world medieval formal. Or, yes, werewolf and cyborg formal.
But the ACFW director's email also said, "I didn't notice anyone trying to go to an agent or editor appointment dressed up....according to the emails I've received from many agents and editors, that would have hurt someone's professional reputation in the industry." My response to that was, "And you're right--it would probably hurt someone's credentials if they showed up at an editor meeting in costume, but they didn't. This shows that we DO have a sense of what is appropriate." (And if she saw no offenders in that area, why bring it up?)
So, some still say the line should be drawn. No "monster" costumes, or even accessories. That those things go too far. There is a part of me that began to doubt my stance because of those statements. Maybe a set of monster hands somehow negates the dressiness of a Sunday best suit and tie.
But what has recharged me is the accusation that "we are setting ourselves apart." We're fostering the idea that we are oddballs who can't be taken seriously.
Wait. Hold the dang phone.
First, could I not say the same thing about the women in petticoats and bustles?
Second, this was NOT an attempt to segregate ourselves or showcase our weirdness and inability to fit in. It was actually, as I see it, an attempt to join into an established tradition and find common ground with authors we don't share much in common with genre-wise.
Third, it wasn't done to disparage the historical costumers. The spec-fic crowd saw the historical romance crowd dressing up and thought, "Wow, how cool! Me too!"
But the speculative community's attempts to meld into the CBA and ACFW seem to always be met with resistance and eyed with distrust. We are not understood.
Ya'll know I've blogged about this before. My take is to leave the CBA writers alone and definitely not try to change them or force them to accept us. I've defended the ACFW writers multiple times to my own fellow spec-fic authors. I think this whole genre war is STUPID.
But, to me, this incident is representative of the ACFW's refusal to share the same courtesy.
I'm tiring of the false acceptance. I am an active member of the ACFW Yahoo loop. Guess how many speculative fiction authors post on that loop? Pretty much NONE. We have our own "speculative" loop as well. Guess how much activity that's gotten? Again, pretty much none. The ACFW speculative Facebook page? Same thing.
Most Christian speculative writers don't bother with the ACFW because they know they don't fit and aren't wanted. Some say we're being paranoid, crying "conspiracy." And at heart, I do understand how a lot of speculative writers may misinterpret signals because they are used to and are expecting to be made an outcast. But that's only a certain subset. Many of the Christian spec-fic authors are highly social and professional, fitting in with people in every other aspect of their lives, yet STILL feel discriminated against by the ACFW.
Don't get me wrong, either. Not all ACFW members are prejudiced against spec-fic writers. I got several supportive emails from members, one in particular a historical writer, who said they see the double-standard and don't agree with it. I have made some great friends through this group.
But the bulk of the group doesn't understand or accept us. And the editors don't know what to do with our work. We try to show them. We try in many ways to say, "These are our readers." The ones in Spock ears. The ones, who at a book signing, are going to walk right past the women in petticoats and go to the table with the author wearing chain mail.
One suggestion has been made to have a separate costume party or costume night at the conference and make the gala itself a no-costume zone. Part of me thinks that idea is awesome and a great compromise. Part of me thinks the first zombie or orc that shows up to the party will kick off this whole controversy all over again.
And that's the heart of my issues with this situation. That we will always be made to feel we have to present a false front. I'm NOT talking about professionalism--I'm talking about within the confines of acceptable places to let loose. But when we try to say, okay, fine, we'll go set up our party over there and get out of everyone's way, then we're pouters. It's no-win situation.