OPEN LETTER TO THE BIZARRO FICTION COMMUNITY

Dear BizarroCon attendees and the entire bizarro fiction community,

This post is a follow-up to my facebook post of 1/24/19 addressing your recent feedback regarding BizarroCon 11 and elsewhere. I want to thank everyone for sharing their thoughts and experiences both publicly and privately. I am dedicated to making BizarroCon, Eraserhead Press, and our online communities safe and comfortable for all. To that end, I’m announcing the following changes, in response to your concerns:

  • Effective immediately, I will step down as coordinator of the current Bizarro Writers Association, and encourage the formation of a new BWA to be run by writers.
  • Effective immediately, Jeff Burk has stepped down as Head Editor of Deadite Press and is no longer employed by Eraserhead Press.
  • Effective immediately, Chandler Morrison’s DEAD INSIDE has been removed from Deadite Press’s 2019 publication schedule, and the book contract has been canceled with all rights reverting to the author.
  • Effective February 28, 2019, G Arthur Brown’s KITTEN and GOD’S MEAN OLDER BROTHER will no longer be published by Eraserhead Press. The titles will be removed from distribution and all rights will revert to the author.

Going forward, I will also institute the following changes.

  • The creation of a BizarroCon Safety & Inclusion Committee.
  • Myself, the committee members, and the staff of Eraserhead Press will enroll in diversity, inclusion, equity, and crisis management training.
  • Revisions to the format of the Ultimate Bizarro Showdown.
  • The creation of new positions on the BizarroCon Planning Committee, and clarification for the roles and responsibilities of each position including the Book Nook Coordinator, Guest Liaison, Fundraising Director, Workshop Coordinator, Program Booklet Editor, Clean-up Crew, and other volunteer positions.
  • Creation of a Social Media Policy for Eraserhead Press which will outline best practices and standards for online conduct of our editors and authors.

On a personal note, I need to deeply apologize for things that have gone on in our community.

First, to the people who witnessed or heard about The Ultimate Bizarro Showdown performance at BizarroCon 11 and were hurt by it, and in particular to those of you who experienced PTSD responses, I’m so sorry. This should have never happened. The Showdown event is intended to be a fun, interactive, entertaining time and I deeply regret that didn’t happen this year.

To Lisa, Jennifer, Liv, Sauda, and Sam, thank you for your direct and insightful commentary about the performance. You helped me understand the seriousness of this offense. Autumn, thank you for your insights and useful feedback, as well. I’m so sorry to you all. I hope the changes we are making will make things better for all of us.

To Tiffany, I want to clarify I had no intention of maintaining a working relationship with the person who harassed you. I barred him from the convention and have had no contact with him. The reason I advised we not burn bridges with him was because I was trying to avoid creating a hostile competitor. I appreciate you calling me out over this. It revealed to me the conflict of interest in being a book publisher and also being in charge of determining appropriate action related to harassment. That responsibility will now reside with the Safety and Inclusion Committee. Also, I want to thank you for speaking out and being the person who urged us to create and implement the Anti-Harassment Policy at our events. Thank you for standing up against the misogyny and predatory behavior happening within our community. Your strength inspires me to be a better advocate for women. I have the utmost respect for you and I believe in what you are doing both as a writer and as an editor. You are one of my favorite people and I am sorry I hurt you.

To Constance, I wish I would have acted more swiftly and decisively when the time came to defend you. You and Rios helped me understand more things about how predatory behavior works online and what expectations there are for a person in my position. I am sorry for what you went through. Based on my conversations with the two of you, my tolerance for bad behavior from aggressors is diminished and my radar for creepers is more finely tuned.

To anyone (especially Raye, Nikki, and Jaime) who has complaints about the online conduct of any of the authors I publish, I sincerely apologize. I didn’t hold authors accountable for what they said on social media. I thought my only role was to hold authors accountable for the words I printed in their books. But I have reconsidered my position on this. As a publisher, I provide a platform to the voices I think deserve to be heard. I understand now social media is a part of that voice. It is ethically responsible to consider the behavior online and offline of the authors with whom I choose to share my platform.  And my expectations for respectful and responsible behavior online will be addressed through the Social Media Policy I am creating for Eraserhead Press.

To Gina, thank you for being there from the start. You were the first female author of bizarro fiction. Remember the early days when it was just us and one or two other women amongst all the men? You have always been an advocate for more diversity in the scene and have inspired so many of the writers who have emerged since the early 2000s. We still have work to do but I want to thank you for everything you have done to help us continue to improve.

To Laura, Mary, Querus, Lori, Erin, Sophia, Shailah, Jaclyn, Christine, Emma, Kelli, Liznel, Maria, Katy, Courtney, Reba, Liz, Molly, Amber, Tamara, Violet, Kirsten, Mona, Larissa, Heather, Leza, Christina, Cecily,  Helen, Hope, Melanie (all 3 of you), Erika, Zoe, Devora, Spike, Sonya, Melinda, Carrie, Andy, Kara, Amanda, Rebecca, Shanna,  Whitney, Sarah, Jessica, Jes, Deb, Teresa, Eliza, Alicia, Madeleine, Betty, Farah, Michelle, Melissa, Melinda, Misty, Amy, Monica, Anya, Lena, Tracy, Becca, Michele, Chrissy, Rachel, Gwen and all the other women who have come to BizarroCon or have been a part of the bizarro fiction community over the years. Thank you for showing up. The only way we will change this is for more women to get involved.

To any non-female identifying people who have felt harassed. I see you and I hear you. This issue is not limited to women. We are all in this together.

To allies, thank you. Thank you for your support and for calling out bad behavior. And I apologize to anyone who felt their voice was shut down. Thank you for loving bizarro fiction enough to speak out and help us become better.

I vow to do better. We have an exciting future ahead of us. I hope that in the middle of this we can all remember what we are fighting for. Our passion and creativity will sustain us but for our success to continue to grow, we have to keep growing as well.

I welcome the continued community feedback. If you have individual concerns, please share them with me via email at bizarrocon@gmail.com or publisher@eraserheadpress.com. This will ensure I see them promptly and respond in kind.

With love,
Rose O’Keefe
Publisher, Eraserhead Press
Director, BizarroCon