Bouchercon, the world mystery book convention, is five days away. I’ll be going again, and in doing so will be attempting to represent the L in LGBT writing to a broader audience. This will be the fifth or sixth Bouchercon I’ve attended, and I’m beyond excited that for the first time I am not relegated to a Sunday timeslot, and I’m actually sitting on a Thursday panel called If I Knew Then What I Know Now with John Connolloy, Brett Battles, Elaine Viets, and Martyn Waites…moderated by Marlyn Beebe. These folks are literary rockstars, and I’m humbled to be among them. You can check out here what Bouchercon is all about. Then, if you read the National Statement on Men of Mystery Panel, you’ll see that something has been brewing beneath the surface, and just this past week has blown up into something that’s taken on a life of its own.
Bouchercon is an event that prides itself on diversity and acceptance. This year, however, that objective has been called into question. To really understand this, you have to go back many years, to 1986. That was the year that Sara Paretsky stood in front of a room of women and talked about the “growing use of graphic sadism against women in mysteries.”
A letter from Phyllis Whitney to Mystery Writer’s of America followed, and called out the fact that women authors were not being nominated for awards and were being reviewed less often than males in crime fiction. The next year, a group of eight women crime writers converged on Sandra Scoppotone’s loft in New York City and out of this meeting, Sisters in Crime was created. Its mission: to promote the ongoing advancement, recognition and professional development of women crime writers. (If you’re not familiar with Sandra’s mysteries, she’s one of the mothers of crime fiction that included a lesbian main character. The Lauren Laurano mystery series is one of my favorites, and has stood the test of time. Check the first book in the series out here.)
With this history of fighting for equality in women’s crime writing, it came to many people, men as well as women, that this year at Bouchercon, a two-hour block had been set aside for something called the Men of Mystery. More than seventy male crime writers were invited to what became a Bouchercon-sanctioned event, but was organized by a woman who’s run the independent Men of Mystery Conference for many years. She’s also done a number of separate Festival of Women cons, too. While the Men of Mystery conference has been ongoing for the last fifteen years, it’s always been a separate entity (with apparently one exception) and run by a group of women who have been dedicated to the crime-writing community as a whole, at least to my understanding. The problem became the fact the BCon was funding this event, and not doing anything to balance it in any way. There was no Women of Mystery two-hour mini-conference, or anything else that might provide some parity.
As you might imagine, word spread far and fast. Here‘s Sara Paretsky’s initial reaction. Comments poured in, from those that agreed with the fact this event was inappropriate for the venue to the strident and heartfelt defense of it by, I believe, one of the organizers. From there a small group of concerned female authors banded together, and big things began happening. BCon split up the two hour block of Men of Mystery, and turned the second hour over to Bloody Murder: Women Kill at Mysteries. You can see a very little about it here, although I’m not sure if the links I’m adding will actually work. While I cannot yet go into the specifics of Bloody Murder, I can tell you that some incredible women have closed ranks, and now amazing things are about to go down. Feel free to follow me on FB here and I’ll post as I learn more and share the news.