I was pleasantly surprised yesterday when Bouchercon announced an official Harassment Policy and Code of Conduct through their Twitter account. Many fan conventions have been putting these in writing, because common courtesy and common sense aren't enough. You'd think they would be, but in organizations, people tend to protect people they know and see any complaints as an attack, so you need these things codified. You'd think that putting your hand on a fellow panelist's leg under the table would be something you know not to do, but some don't.
There's drink involved, it's a vacation of sorts, so professionalism can go out the window. You need a policy, and after many years, Bouchercon now has one. Go read it. It's nothing out of the ordinary if you've worked in an office in the past thirty years. You are expected to treat your fellow con-goers with respect. Nothing onerous. If you find yourself incapable of this when you imbibe, perhaps don't imbibe. Some bars have bouncers for this purpose.
Alexandra Sokoloff started a thread on Facebook for women to speak of the inexcusable behavior they've been subjected to at Bouchercons past, and it was an eye opener. It was always a place for friends, and I was not so much surprised as disappointed. But this happens whenever men think they can get away with it. Thankfully, this policy is one small step to show them that they can't.
If you agree that the policy is important, then on the Friday of Bouchercon at 2 p.m., show up to the General Meeting for the convention and vote to make the policy permanent.
I've heard a lot of complaints about Bouchercon, mostly by people who haven't attended, but some by those who have. It is not a monolithic entity run by a secret cabal. If you attend, show up to the general meeting, run for the board, if you want to make changes. Some, like Jay Stringer and others, have done so with success. When it is held in Toronto, it is not because a bunch of rich crime novelists decided to make it difficult for people who can't enter Canada. It's because Toronto crime writers and fans put together a proposal several years ago and it was approved. There's a process for "bidding" to host it in your city that doesn't involve money, it involves finding a hotel that has 60,000sqft of convention space and can handle 1500 guests for a week in September-November, and you learn by doing. By volunteering and attending.
Bouchercon is far from perfect, but it has always been a lot of fun for me. I'm privileged enough to be able to make it my vacation every year since 2010. The next step is increased diversity at Bouchercon. I'll be honest- I don't know if guests of honor are flown in. I do know that general panelists and moderators (I've done both) don't get comped registration, hotel, or travel. There are so many panels that this would cost the con a fortune, and the registration fee would have to double or triple, making it tougher for fans and writers to attend. Anthony nominees aren't comped either (and this isn't saying they should be! disclaimer: I've been nominated for editing Protectors 2: Heroes, and for my first Jay Desmarteaux novel, Bad Boy Boogie).
If writers you love can't attend, maybe it's time we take a look to SF fandom where GoFundMes to get writers to conventions are common. I remember there was one for a bookseller a few years ago, so it's not unheard of. Most writers and fans wait until the convention is held closer to home, and then drive there and sometimes share a hotel with friends. There's no shame in trying to crowdfund this. If your publisher pays for your trip, good for you! That's great and not so common anymore.
The thing about Bouchercon is if you compare costs with other conventions in and outside the fandom, it's a bargain. Thrillerfest is great, you meet a lot of people there, but it's business-based (few fans, mostly writers) and very expensive, if worth it. I'd love to attend LCC. It was in Hawaii a year or two ago. I've been to Hawaii when a friend had an empty apartment for us to crash in, I loved it. If I go again, I ain't chumming it up with my fellow crime writers, sorry. Some one and two-day cons cost as much or more than Bouchercon! There's one in my home state that I haven't attended because I can't justify the cost. Since we never talk money, I spent a month's salary last year to promote Bad Boy Boogie. I am thrilled that it was nominated for an Anthony and has sold well, but a few more years of that and I'll be declaring bankruptcy like a casino magnate. I don't regret it, I'm lucky to have a good day job. But if I had to choose one con, it will always be Bouchercon. (second? Murder & Mayhem in Milwaukee. And if I loved closer, it would be #1!) I don't always sell a bunch of books there, but I always meet readers and writers and come away better than I was before I went. I can't say that about some vacations. When I get that from what's considered a business trip, I can't say no.