Chi-Fi, a science fiction convention “celebrating geekdom,” was supposed to take place at the Westin Chicago River North hotel on March 27–30, 2014. Upwards of 2,000–3,000 fans were expected, as well as guests Jim Butcher (author, The Dresden Files); Tim Russ, Garrett Wang, and Manu Intirayma (Star Trek: Voyager); Loony Labs (creators of Fluxx); and Marc Gunn (Celtic musician and podcaster).
But that’s yesterday’s news.
Chi-Fi organizers released a statement declaring that the convention will be postponed until 2015 because a senior Westin staff member referred to the con’s staff, attendees, and guests as “freaks” and expressed disapproval of the con’s anti-harassment policy. (See Westin statement here)
What the what?
After all the hard work and effort on the part of many in the SF community of convincing con organizers to put into place anti-harassment policies, Chi-Fi started out having such a policy…and was penalized for it. As quoted in the DNAinfo Chicago article, Michi Trota of the Chicago Nerd Social Club said, “A lot of the conventions that have been around longer have had to retroactively develop a policy to meet demand, so the fact that Chi-Fi Con had one out of the gate was a very appealing thing for a lot of people.”
In the same article, James Dobbs, Chi-Fi Con Chairman, said, “My recollection is that she actually said that ‘costumed freaks are not in keeping with the reputation’ of the hotel. There are famous actors on that [guest] list. I was terrified that we’d have our talent show up and the hotel staff would treat them disrespectfully.”
Hence the cancelation.
Can’t win for losing?
I say #Winning!
I applaud the Chi-Fi organizers for putting integrity, respect, and dignity over an attitude of “let’s just get it done.” Helping to ensure the safety and welfare of con staff, attendees, and guests should be a central tenet of any con, because it’s the right thing to do. And a happy con-goer is a returning con-goer.
Harassing, stalking, or making offensive comments should be on everyone’s list of unacceptable behavior. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, and organizers of events have to borrow from kindergarten teacher ground rules: 1. Keep your hands to yourself. 2. If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.
I’m not a prognosticator, but I can bet that Chi-Fi 2015 will be well attended by appreciative fans not only of science fiction and fantasy, but also of the honesty and integrity demonstrated by the Chi-Fi 2014 organizers. It was a hard decision to make to cancel the con two months out, but it was the right one to make. Excellent job.
And all is not lost. Chi-Fi organizers have decided to host a one-night event on March 29, 2014, with some celebrity guests, concerts and parties. Follow them on their Facebook page to learn more details.