A bizarre situation has manifested itself this week: Pádraig Ó Méalóid, regular and valued contributor to this blog and someone who’s well known by fans, readers, writers and artists in the SF&F and comics communities for supporting and promoting good books, has been told by the organisers of this year’s Octocon convention that he is barred from the event. Its a very odd situation – an individual being barred from a convention in the UK or Ireland is something we don’t hear about usually; to say its an infrequent occurrence would be an understatement. For it to happen to a person who is so well known on the scene (and a former convention organiser himself) it seems even odder. And making it more puzzling is the fact the organisers have not explained exactly what their reasoning is and stated they will not engage in discussing the matter. From the letter:
“Due to your behaviour at the convention some time ago and your online behaviour earlier this year we have come to the unfortunate decision to ban you from this convention. We believe that your attitude towards us has been far to aggressive both online and in the past at the convention.
This matter is not open for discussion and we will not enter into any online discussion regarding this nor will we discuss this with any other persons. This decision is final.”
Presumably the organisers feel they had sufficient grounds for such unprecedented action but its perplexing as to why they don’t make them clear and why they make a point of refusing to discuss the matter. From reading between the lines it seems they find Padraig something of a handful, don’t like his criticism and clearly are somewhat intimidated by him. I’ve known Pádraig for many years and I’m trying my best here to be impartial, which obviously isn’t easy given he’s not only a contributor here but a good friend of mine. I know he can be passionate and quite forthright in giving his opinions, but we’re all entitled to hold and express opinions and to discuss them surely? Perhaps Padraig has done things they have seen as wrongs, but not to state them leaves everyone none the wiser and opinion left to probably stream only one way.
However, that said, dealing strictly with the manner they have handled this is another matter. Given the amount of people – fans and writers and artists – who know and respect Pádraig it also seems like a very badly-conceived strategy on the behalf of the organisers; surely they must have anticipated that this news would travel around the SF and comics grapevine (as indeed it has, very quickly) and set people talking. It doesn’t seem unreasonable that someone in that situation would discuss it and ask why it was happening and it shows poor judgement on the organiser’s behalf that they did not consider this and the possible negative publicity it might cause for Octocon – surely this could have been sorted out in an adult discussion, quietly and privately instead of taking this course which was, given the connected nature of fandom, bound to generate ripples.
Regardless of the rights and wrongs of their reasons for the banning (which we can’t really comment on since they haven’t been made clear) the manner in which this has been carried out does not appear to have been thought out well and may damage the con’s reputation, which is sad, especially since cons rely on a number of folks who give up their free time to organise events for others to enjoy. It all seems badly handled and the lack of explanation or discussion is bound to rankle with many as simply an unfair way of dealing with matters. That said we hope those who do attend have a good time and this matter doesn’t sour their enjoyment as it would have mine were I attending.