SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Salt Lake City’s annual comic convention is dealing with a rift over its handling of a sexual misconduct allegation that’s caused several participants to back out of planned appearances.
In a blog post Tuesday, young adult fiction author Shannon Hale accused organizers of the annual FanX convention of being dismissive toward harassment complaints and concerns from women. The post came after convention co-founder Bryan Brandenburg apologized Monday for seeming “insensitive to people’s pain.”
He said staff will undergo training for sexual harassment and added that a new policy has been written outlining possible sanctions when a complaint is made.
“I need to improve on listening and making people feel validated,” Brandenburg said in a statement.
Hale said the apology wasn’t enough to restore her confidence in the organizers. At least six other participants have said they’re withdrawing from the convention.
Earlier this month, Hale raised concern over comments by co-founder Dan Farr that seemed to downplay a complaint against author Richard Paul Evans for hugging a fellow panelist at last year’s convention. The anonymous complaint cited by the Salt Lake Tribune said the contact was unwanted.
Farr, however, told the newspaper that Evans is “very huggy and demonstrative” and that “giving that warm reception to fans is very positive.”
Evans, who created the “Michael Vey” and “Christmas Box” series, has not been invited back to the convention. He did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday from The Associated Press.
Hale said she saw a confidential report about the incident done by convention officials that raised “a number of red flags for me and a lot of language that seemed to belittle the accuser and protect the harasser.” Hale said she raised her concerns with Brandenburg but said she was initially dismissed.
Organizers of the convention did not immediately reply to a phone message and emails seeking comments on the report or the details provided by Hale.
“Maybe it is best that you sit this one out and then wait to hear how it went,” Brandenburg said in an email to her, according to a screen grab Hale posted online Monday. “I know in my heart that we take this seriously and I don’t think you get it. I have four daughters and I’ve been sensitive to these issues for decades, long before it became trendy with #metoo.”
FanX responded by posting part of the exchange on Twitter without covering up Hale’s personal email address. Brandenburg has since said that was inadvertent.
“I do not want to have anything more to do with them,” Hale wrote Tuesday.
Authors Margaret Stohl, Brendan Reichs, Ilima Todd, Ally Condie and actresses Arryn Zech and Lindsay Jones have said on Twitter that they also won’t be attending the convention this year because of the handling of the harassment claim.
Hale has written more than a dozen books, including 2006 Newbery Honor “Princess Academy” and “Austenland,” which was turned into a movie starring Keri Russell in 2013.
FanX was previously known as Salt Lake Comic Con but changed its name this year after a trademark dispute with organizers of San Diego Comic-Con International. Organizers expect more than 100,000 attendees over three days in September.
Written by JULIAN HATTEM, Associated Press
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