Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Why I won't be at ToBeCONtinued

Here's the story of why I'm not going to be at ToBeCONtinued this weekend as Author Guest of Honor, and why I am livid at the convention's chair, Bob Palmer.

Palmer wouldn't let me buy my own plane tickets, and postponed buying them for me until -- well, until forever. The con starts in less than three days, and I am not coming. How did I find out that I wasn't coming? Why, when a friend -- a writer who lives in driving distance of where ToBeCONtinued is being held -- called me to say that the con had just offered my friend the chance to be Guest of Honor in my place. That's right: Bob Palmer didn't even bother to tell me that I'd been dumped before he started asking other people to take over as Guest of Honor.

As if that wasn't bad enough, he totally and completely lied to my friend -- and God knows who else -- about why I wasn't coming. The truth -- that he simply waited way too long to book my plane tickets, so that the price had risen to an astronomical figure -- is abundantly clear if you read the email exchanges between us here.

As you can see, I was a complete pro, and a gentlemen. When the tickets reached triple what they would have cost had Palmer let me book them when I offered to do so, I wrote to him and said:

"I feel a moral obligation to offer to not come to your convention.

"Had tickets been booked in a timely fashion, they would have cost the con about one third of the current amount. I have no desire to bankrupt ToBeContinued. I was flattered to be asked to be GoH, and would happily consider coming in that role next year (with tickets purchased well in advance), instead, if that makes better sense for the convention -- or simply never attending at all.

"I'm not looking to blame anyone for the delays or lapses in communication, and have no anger or animosity -- and I don't want you to feel pressured to spend money the con can't afford. If it's better for the con for me not to come, given the airfares available at this late date, simply say so, and that will be the end of the matter."

Instead of taking me up on that offer, and telling people honestly what had happened, here's what Bob Palmer said in an email to the writer he wanted to have replace me:

"Robert J. Sawyer was suppose to appear as our Author guest and had to cancel due to travel restrictions from Canada entering the US."

What the fuck? Travel restrictions? I'm a US citizen -- and Palmer knows that. I told him so in email on April 26 -- I even gave him my US passport number. I have a US Social Security card, too; I can travel to, live in, work freely in, and even move to the United States anytime I wish, without restrictions.

Even if I weren't a US citizen, I'd still be able to freely travel to the States as a Canadian citizen (I am a dual citizen), unless the US government had imposed "travel restrictions" on me "entering the US" -- which it only would have if I had a criminal record; Palmer's message to my friend implies that I have one. But I don't: I've never been arrested or charged with any crime; hell, I've never even had a parking ticket.

My author friend who was asked to replace me knows I'm a US citizen, and so called Palmer on this, saying: "Just out of curiosity, what travel restrictions are preventing Rob Sawyer from entering the US from Canada? He's a US citizen."

Did Palmer come clean, admitting that the only reason I wasn't going to be at ToBeCONtinued was because Palmer himself had failed to buy my plane tickets in a timely fashion? No. Instead he replied:

"Without getting into the long drawn out story it basicaly has to do with the airline we were using not so much customs. He very much wanted to bring his wife along and it could not happen. Thats the basic problem."

Again, what the fuck? As you can see in the email transcripts, I never once suggested or even hinted that ToBeCONtinued should pay for my wife to come, or ever made my attendance contingent on her being able to come. On April 20, I wrote to Palmer, saying I wanted to bring my wife along AT MY OWN EXPENSE:

"I know you've only offered to pay for my travel, but I'd like to bring my wife Carolyn Clink along at my own expense. Given that, it might be simplest if I booked my flight directly, and had you reimburse me for half the total (that is, for my part of the airfare)."

But Palmer wouldn't let me book the tickets. When the price had risen from Cdn$355 to Cdn$494 because of the delay imposed by Palmer, I told him I wouldn't be bringing my wife along, and said "I'm coming alone." There was no question about my attendance.

And as for the airline, I had merely said I had a preference for Air Canada, as I am a high-status member of their frequent-flyer program, but that I'd fly any airline at all if it was substantially cheaper, saying only "please don't bump me to another carrier just to save five or ten dollars."

My absence from ToBeCONtinued has NOTHING AT ALL to do with customs. My absence from ToBeCONtinued has NOTHING AT ALL to do with the airline the con was planning to use. My absence from ToBeCONtinued has NOTHING AT ALL to do with not being able to bring my wife along. And my absence from ToBeCONtinued has NOTHING AT ALL to do with "travel restrictions" on me entering the US. Every single one of those suggestions is a lie.

The sole and complete cause of my absence is Bob Palmer's failure to arrange for my travel to the con, despite many reminders by me over a period of weeks that he should do so.

Again, I apologize to any readers of mine who had hoped to see me at this convention.

-- Rob Sawyer


At May 10, 2006 8:07 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ouch! I could feel the heat rising from my screen as I read your post. I hope someone at the con brings this issue up publicly. This Bob Palmer fellow shouldn't be trusted to organize a five year old's birthday party!

The implication to your friend that you were somehow barred from entering the USA was the cherry on top of the shit sundae.

John F
Truro, NS

At May 10, 2006 8:32 AM , Anonymous Janet Miles said...

Actually, as I understand it, Homeland Security can put anyone on a no-fly list at any time for any reason. There have been verified reports of toddlers being refused permission to fly because their names were similar to names already on the list.

At May 10, 2006 8:43 AM , Anonymous don said...

Ooo, Rob's mad. And I would be too. Slightly livid actually.

Oh yes, it's entirely your fault for being on top of the arrangements and being concerned and offering solutions and being polite and professional. Dorks.

Wouldn't it be nice if your friend started his talks with, "RJS couldn't be here this weekend due to the poor planning and unprofessionalism of this con's administration . . ."

It looks like it's gonna rain all weekend out your way, so stay home and write a good book. Cheers.

At May 10, 2006 9:06 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Visited the ToBeCONtinued webpage. I see they wasted little time removng your bio, if it was ever there. Looks like the BSG star isn't coming either since his bio isn't up either. Just guessing, of course.


At May 10, 2006 9:25 AM , Anonymous Neil Belsky said...

Bob, I've known you for years.
Like and respect you (even though every book of yours that I do have is in a storage locker in Wisconsin).
Palmer is an idiot. Not only an idiot, but a complete and perfect idiot.
I remember when Rhinocon was jumped by Adastra years ago, you came to our defense and tried to get them to listen to reason (fat chance with that crew, bitch,bitch,bitch).
So, all things considered, I need to say how much I agree with your comments re Palmer. Heck your reaction was restrained compared to what I"d have said.

At May 10, 2006 10:01 AM , Blogger RobertJSawyer said...

Be that as it may, Janet Miles, I AM NOT ON ANY SUCH LIST, and Bob Palmer had no reason WHATSOEVER to think I had been in the past, was now, or would ever be in the future.

At May 10, 2006 10:02 AM , Blogger RobertJSawyer said...

Neil Belsky! Hey, dude, long time no see! Great to hear from you, my friend, and many thanks for the kind words!

At May 10, 2006 11:13 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, ya bent over backwards, you kept in touch, you offered numerous options. One would hope a Convention would be a bit better organized. I'm surprised you would have even considered going when they hadn't worked things out weeks ago.

Dave D,
Toronto, ON

At May 10, 2006 11:34 AM , Blogger RobertJSawyer said...

Bob Eggleton, who was to have been the Artist Guest of Honor at ToBeCONtinued, just called. Neither he nor his wife Marianne Plumridge will be attending the convention, either.

At May 10, 2006 12:29 PM , Blogger elsie said...

Looks like someone's owned up to the error - a confession has appeared at the bottom of one of the front pages (what a confusing website they have ...)

At May 10, 2006 3:11 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

They've now removed your picture from the site. It was in a row with other guests and the con's name in the top frame. Now there's just a forlorn little 'x'.

John F

At May 10, 2006 5:13 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...


Having met you at Norwescon this year, all I can say is that it is their loss.

Don Glover

At May 10, 2006 7:32 PM , Anonymous Dave Ifversen said...

Not only is Palmer an idiot, he is a flaming idiot. A couple of years ago, my wife and I won the ToBeCONtinued raffle for a cruise (to be paid for with Raddison points by ToBeCONtinued). Due to some "problems" the con had with their hotel bill (a long, sad story of possible misfeasance, and definate nonfeasance, as told to me by someone on the Concom), they never got the points. Needless to say, we never got our cruise. It will be a cold day in hell before either of us attends ToBeCONtinued again (or even helps them out again - for ToBeCONtinued just before the raffle drawing, I had loaned them about $10k worth of video gear when their equipment guy botched reserving it from the rental company. Not only did we not get the cruise that we won, but they didn't even say thank you for the loan of the equipment).

At May 10, 2006 10:36 PM , Anonymous Dave Robinson said...

What a load of crap.

However, given the nature of the industry, and especially fandom, it will come back and bite him.

Even if you were on one of those lists which would prevent flying, they cannot bar a US citizen from entering the country.

Try again Mr. Palmer. There's this really good thing you can use when making explanations: It's called the truth. One day I hope Mr. Palmer becomes acquainted with it.

At May 16, 2006 12:24 AM , Blogger Eva Whitley said...

My late husband (Jack L. Chalker) ran into this problem several times at several different conventions. You do a service by calling them on it. Otherwise, the GOH gets blamed.

At May 16, 2006 12:27 AM , Blogger RobertJSawyer said...

Wonderful to hear from you, Eva. I knew Jack a bit, and miss him. Ironically, I had more interaction with him over printers (we both used Lexmark Optra R+ printers, as I recall -- I still use mine) than over science fiction. A great man.

At May 16, 2006 5:55 AM , Anonymous Lisa Hertel said...

Rob, I feel terribly sorry that this has happened to you & Bob, even though I am in no way associated with this con. I hate to see my friends mistreated so; it's unconscionable. You are a fine and honorable man, as is Bob, and you both deserve better.

At May 16, 2006 9:29 AM , Blogger RobertJSawyer said...

Hi, Lisa. Many, many thanks! :)

And, yes, Bob Eggleton is a wonderful guy. As we were talking on the phone about all this, we were reflecting on the fact that he and I had grown up together in this industry. One of his first major covers was for one of my first major sales -- AMAZING STORIES, September 1988, which had the novella version of my "Golden Fleece" as the cover story. I'm looking at the original of that painting right now; I bought it from Bob and it hangs above my fireplace.

At May 16, 2006 6:13 PM , Anonymous --e said...

The perplexing part is why would Palmer make up this wacky story? I understand why he wouldn't want to suck up blame, but why the crazy lies?

Have people lost the ability to present blameless information? "What with one thing and another that are entirely not [Rob Sawyer]'s fault, he will not be attending."

That would have been the end of it. But now total strangers (ahem, me) are hearing it through the SF grapevine, which puts small-town barber shops to shame.


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