I’ve been trying to post a comment on Diane Graham’s blog, and it isn’t going so well. So I’m posting it here as well. The issue in question was the fact that several cosplayers attired in genre-appropriate wear were denied admittance to the formal banquet event that concludes the ACFW (Association of Christian Fiction Writers) Conference. This issue was especially glaring because the only cosplayers turned away were speculative fiction writers in spec fic costumes. Romance and Historical novelists were allowed to wear their bonnets and petticoats without incident.
Aside from the basic Othering (shaming or ridiculing a person for belonging to a perceived outgroup), I’m mega-annoyed by the given excuse. The “official story” was that one of the three people turned away was wearing camo pants and a face mask and was therefore maybe a terrorist about to gun down a roomful of pudgy ladies with perms and glasses. It’s America 2012 in microcosm–make it okay to discriminate against people by using Fear. “We can totally turn you away from this $85 banquet / keep you in jail forever without a warrant because…terrorism.”
So here’s what I have been trying to say at Diane’s:
I’m late to this party, and I’m wearing pajamas. I also don’t write Christian fiction, so this is a peanut gallery opinion.
It’s time, maybe, for Spec Fic authors to form their own sub guild within ACFW or their own stand apart guild. Because what you have here is a culture clash. Fear and security are the excuse, but what is really happening IS exactly what Diane is calling out. This is an Othering, plain and simple. ACFW has long catered to a narrow publishing field, expanding only reluctantly when the publishers broadened their frontlists. Spec Fic writers, whether they’re stepchildren, bastards out of Carolina, or cool cousins with the new iPhone are NOT part of ACFW in the way that chubby housewives (*I am a chubby housewife…) who want to be Catherine Jannette Marshall Oke are. They just aren’t.
That’s why they need an OFFICIAL subgroup with a rep sitting on the ACFW governing board. This event is just an example. A Spec Fic rep would be able to point out that cosplay _is_ a sort of formal attire for some people and that in many cases Cosplay uniforms, gowns and accessories cost a great deal more than current culture clothing. In fact, I was just going to lurk until I saw the response from the ACFW official (I believe it was hers) going on and on about how the dress code exists to flatter honorees in the various categories. “Put on a nice dress for Beverly Lewis, gang!” That response was so tone deaf. Spec Fic writers would feel quite honoured and welcomed by seeing Cosplay attire. If there were a Spec Fic rep, the ACFW would know that.
I am not sure why I care so much…other than the fact that I don’t like seeing anyone othered, especially by a group they PAY to belong to.