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Quick Notes Before I Travel

Today’s a travel day, the next two days are a tight-turnaround client gig, so posting may be brief or absent. Do try to muddle on.

I missed most of a story as it was blowing up, but I’m pretty well caught up today; here are some base facts to get started from:

First, Zainab Akhtar is one of the best writers in comics, period. She runs a site that’s like this on in that it’s an individual effort, and unlike it in that she gets well-deserved Eisner nominations. Also, I’ve never had to step back from public commentary because the combination of being a woman, brown, and Muslim made comics writing an invitation to abuse. Also, I do not have a Patreon that you should definitely support. She is smart, incisive, and sees things from perspectives that would never occur to me. She’s on my list of people I need to meet to thank in person for her work.

Second, the Lakes International Comics Art Festival is about to happen in the Lakes District of the UK. We at Fleen mentioned it in reference to a partnership with TCAF, but that was the extent of my real awareness of the show, until late last week.

Akhtar made an observation on Twitter about the guest lineup at Lakes — it’s overwhelmingly white (about 85%, by my count). Not news, she noted that fact years ago. The Lakes Twitter account responded by blocking, then unblocking Akhtar, and somewhere in there somebody with access to the account unleashed a pretty vile attack on her which appears to have been deleted, but screenshots are forever¹.

What the person(s) in charge of the Lakes Twitter account don’t seem to understand is that when you represent an organization, criticisms are not personal; responding as an organization requires finesse and care and actually listening to criticisms and answering them calmly. Responding with attacks doesn’t win you points, and will almost certainly damage your brand. And if you continue to treat an institutional critique like a personal attack (it wasn’t) and act like you’re still fourteen years old, you create a reputational damage that can kill your event.

This morning, John Allison announced that he is withdrawing from participating in LICAF (as of this writing, he is still listed on the guest page); I don’t imagine they’ll be able to get him back in the future. It’s a principled stand, and one that will likely cost Allison economically (and possibly the esteem of terrible people, but I don’t think he cares about that part too much; this is just one reason why he’s a great person). I’m expecting to see more guests pull out between now and Friday, which is going to keep the story going and may kill the Festival as long as it remains under its current leadership.

Please note that a fair number of the confirmed guests are international, and regardless of how they feel about management’s behavior they may be contractually obliged to attend. Likewise, I don’t have any criticism for people who choose to attend LICAF this year (having made plans and arranged their lives and purchased passes), but I will be very interested to see how many of both groups are willing to return next year.

And the pushback isn’t limited to guests; at least one exhibitor has emailed the show to say that she’s withdrawing, and this is just as impportant. Lydia Wysocki paid for the privilege of tabling, and may or may not get her fee back. She’s offering to help the LICAF showrunners improve their ways, and I sincerely they (or, more likely, whoever comes in to try to salvage things next year) takes her up on it². We are way past the time when somebody says Hey, here is something that’s happened that you aren’t noticing and reacting dismissively can be accepted. Time for LICAF to grow up.

Spam of the day:

Book Your River Cruise Vacation

Well, they aren’t sending me a pitch that’s specifically calling me a senior citizen, so that’s something.

¹ I was particularly puzzled by the claims that Akhtar has some kind of grudge against the show from 2014. Her 2014 writeup was largely positive, but she noted the overwhelmingly pale nature of the show and concluded it wasn’t for her. If that’s what the LICAF tweeter regards as a grudge, they are in desperate need of a fainting couch.

² In the meantime, follow her links and get familiar with her work.

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