Tuesday, July 29, 2014

the little Wiscon mystery of Jim Frenkel, Lauren Jankowski, and a book: how tales grow

At WisCon in 2013, something happened involving Jim Frenkel, Lauren Jankowski, and a book. I haven't found an account by an eyewitness or a participant. Michi Trota said at Debunking the Fairy Tale of WisCon, Feminism and Safe Spaces | Geek Melange:
he told her that she was “not a real writer” because she’s self-published, and then tossed her book at her because this occurred at her author’s table
After this year's WisCon, Jankowski tweeted:
Jankowski used similar language at Writing From the Fringe, WisCon's Harassment Decision: "The man who tossed a book at me at my first ever con, berated me for five minutes straight, and just generally treated me like a non-human will eventually be allowed to return."

But at Debunking the Fairy Tale of WisCon, Feminism and Safe Spaces | Geek Melange, tossing a book became "threw a book at her head". Which was also the characterization of the incident in the comments at What Happened After I Reported: Elise Matthesen, WisCon, and Harassment | Whatever: "threw a book at her."

The two descriptions suggest very different stories. In the kindest version of the first one, an editor at a professional publishing house advises against self-publishing and casually tosses a trade paperback back to the author. In the harshest version of the second, a madman throws a big hardcover book at a writer's head like Ignatz throwing a brick at Krazy Kat. I heard the "threw a book at her head" version, which inspired the googling.

I haven't a clue what the truth is, and without more information, no one else does either. Jankowski is undoubtedly characterizing the story exactly as she understands it, but her bio says she "holds a B.A. in Women and Genders Studies from Beloit College" and that will influence her interpretation. Only one thing is sure: Perspective is everything.

Because too many people assume that only two positions are possible on any issue, I'll add this: Frenkel may be innocent of throwing books at peoples' heads and still be guilty of sexually harassing them.