Christian Fiction’s Dirty, Red-headed Stepchildren

As many of my friends know, I took a trip to Dallas this weekend for the 2012 ACFW Conference. I did NOT go to the full conference. I was only able to go to the gala with my husband. We came a few hours early and visited with many cool friends. Quinton was bored at first. That is, until he started to see the way-cool awesomeness of my friends. I mean, look at that picture of spec-fic writers. Have you ever seen so many in one place and at one time? There were actually a few more but I don’t think they got the memo for all the freaks to meet on the stairs. That right there was better than the $85 a plate dinner and I really wish I could have been there for the entire thing. Maybe next year in Indy.

Anyhoo, I had a blast and was able to hug the necks of so many online friends. Of course, I’m holding Grace Bridges hostage at my house right now. That is another level of cool. How many people get to kidnap their publishers and force feed them Long John Silvers. Okay, force is not the right word since Grace kept grabbing for another piece and I thought about fighting her for the last fish. My hostess skills overruled my gluttony and Grace got the fish.

Now that I have told you a little about my experiences of fun, let me get to the point of this blog post. Because, even though I am usually smiling, there are certain things that really piss me off. I will not mention names because I do not know who wants what said. I will simply give my understanding of what happened and my opinion. Remember, this is 2nd and 3rd hand knowledge and should be taken as such. Even with that said, the problem is there and needs to be addressed by someone brave enough or stupid enough to do so.

Speculative fiction IS the Christian writing industry’s dirty, red-headed stepchild. I have suspected it for a long time but this weekend convinced me and it really does sadden my little book-nerd heart. In case anyone doesn’t know what speculative fiction is, it is all the weird and cool science fiction and fantasy. Think quantum physics, angels, demons, aliens, flux-capacitors, dragons, steam punk, Borg, wookie…the list is epic. It is what me and many of my friends write and we all write it with a Christian world view. To say we are strange would be an understatement and many do not understand how we can glorify God with our stories. I’m sorry for their misunderstanding, but I know we can.

Back to what has convinced me that some in the industry would rather cram us spec-fic writers in a closet under the stairs and feed us crackers without a glass of water…praying we will give up and go away. Certain people each year dress in character at the conference. It is always a highlight for me. It doesn’t matter if it is period dress, Amish, medieval, or what ever, it is just cool to see a few people brave enough to put on a costume and represent their genre. It makes everyone smile…usually. Until you start messing with preconceived notions of what is and is not acceptable.

For our part, Grace and I wore Star Trek uniforms. We found a new friend named Gary Wade that showed up dressed like Picard…which is way cool. We joined our table without incident. A few others were not so fortunate. They were denied entry into the banquet they paid to attend. The reason given? Something about ACFW not wanting their banquet to turn into a Star Trek convention.

Oopsie! I didn’t get the memo about everyone can dress up in bonnets but the nasty spec-fic freaks must stay normal.

If you are wondering, yes, I am pissed. Situations like this make me embarrassed to write for the Christian market. But then I remind myself that I am not writing for some snooty person that feels threatened by my weirdness or a small group that thinks by standing next to a person wearing a costume will make them spontaneously combust with embers from the pits of hell. I write for God and any reader that seeks Him in all things…especially the fun stuff.

To those mean people that spurned my friends and denied them access to the banquet they paid to attend, you should be ashamed of yourselves. What you did was akin to turning away a person from the doors of a church because he has a tattoo. You do NOT get to say who God loves. You do NOT get to say how God’s message will meet the masses. If YOU do not like spec-fic, don’t read it and don’t buy it. There is a market for it. Maybe if you stopped running off the talent with your hypocritical judgement and general rudeness, we’d get a piece of that. But we are NOT going away and we ARE strange.

Peace, love and God’s will.


121 thoughts on “Christian Fiction’s Dirty, Red-headed Stepchildren

  1. You make one heckuva redshirt, Diane. 🙂 Yes, this is sad. Not surprising, but sad. I didn’t know there was any cosplay at all going on at ACFW conferences, but I agree–if they’re going to allow the bonnets, the Starfleet tunics are fair game.

    I expect they’ll be as slow as the Amish to accept change. It wasn’t so very long ago they were the American Christian Romance Writers.

    • I kept asking where in the rules it said we couldn’t dress in costumes. But then they would ave to not allow the bonnets. Instead they cut us at the door. Not nearly as messy.

      • Whoa back, Di. The “bonnets” are not costumes. Those folks are Closed Brethren denomination, and they’re not in costume, that’s their religious attire.

        I don’t think it’s necessary to construe this as persecution of SF’ers. The dress code is something that’s posted in the conference information, there’s Q&A and FAQ about it on the guild loops, and it is a semi-formal affair. It’s an awards gala for a variety of genres, so it makes sense that the dress code is what it is.

        I think it can reflect very poorly on the SF red-headed stepchildren, if we really want to categorize them that way (and I’m not sure that’s the best way to highlight the writers’ skills and contributions) if we try to impose one genre’s particular fan culture on a broader group of authors.

        It’s uber-cool that John has such a diehard fan, and you and Grace looked great. 🙂 But, charity in all things.

      • I’m not talking about the head covers, Thinky-Doo. I was talking about the several ladies dressed in super-cool period costumes. I ave no issue with them. I think they are great, along with any other. I think there is talk about looking into doing an actual costume contest at future conferences and I really think that is an excellent idea. It is a great compromise for all involved and keeps us from having division. I just don’t like any of us thinking we are better than any other. I respect all writers of Christian fiction and know each puts in a lot of time and hard work.

      • Well, if it makes you feel any better, there was cheesecake at lunch on one of the days. 🙂

        I wasn’t there, and I didn’t glimpse the period costumes on my way out–it was more important to get my Di hugs. 🙂 I see what you’re saying. E Stephen B from SpecFaith asked what I thought, and I suspect it’s that Victorian dress comes closer to meeting the semi-formal requirement.

  2. What? Seriously? The ACFW should be made to answer for that. Totally reprehensible if it is true. You don’t allow one group to dress in costume but not the other when both groups are orderly and respectful and fully clothed. What about Chip? Are they going to tell Chip he cant wear his dress kilt? Or would they turn Jeff away if he came dressed as a knight like he did last year? Obviously not.
    I’m hopping mad too Dianne. Madder than I’ve been about anything in a long while. We should both write a well argued and strongly worded letter. It won’t likely do any good, but it needs to be done. How DARE something like that happen!

    And I will be angry too if there response is ‘well, no more costumes at all then’. We are WRITERS. We are all quirky and strange regardless of genre. It’s who we are. We’re not the Academy Awards nor even the Hugos or the Pulitzers an never, ever, EVER will be not matter how hard anyone wishes otherwise. Let us have fun being he folk God fashioned us to be and for God’s sake lets honor PEOPLE above some stupid idea of what a fancy shmancy dinner ought to look like .

  3. Ooooh! Thank you for the picture Diane! Doesn’t Gary rock as Captain Picard. I always want to go, “Peeee Kard,” when I see him. You know in my best snooty ferengi imitation. Wait, they let Gary and you in didn’t they?

  4. Okay, I was there when it happened and it wasn’t entirely the ACFW’s fault. Apparently some people (who, they didn’t say) were freaked out by one of the speculative fiction costumes and called hotel security. Security then got after the conference folks and that’s why they were asked to leave. At least, that’s what we were told.

    Randy Ingermanson knows what happened and I’m sure the ACFW will discuss this situation. I don’t think it’s entirely about spec fic, but then, I was taught to look at everything in the best light possible.

    • Thank you for sharing that, John. My eyebrow is raised and my lips are clamped shut with sheer will. I’m glad you can see the brighter side of this.

      • We were all pretty upset when it happened, but we all calmed down by the end of the night and while we’re not okay with it, what can we do? It’s their party. We may not like the dress code, but it’s theirs to set.

      • Ah, but it’s *your* party too–and Diane’s, and every other card-carrying ACFW member’s. It sounds like there wasn’t an explicit dress code for the event and this was perhaps more of a public-relations over-reaction than anything. I suppose it depends on who was doing the “freaking-out,” and why they were disturbed.

      • That is a fact. Makes me like that thing Becky Minor and Morgan Busse have been chatting with Jeff Gerke about more and more by the minute. 🙂

    • Maaaaaaybe. But I’m sure all the hotel said was: ‘We have some concerned guests. Please remove the sword/item of concern’. The ACFW is the one who made the decision to deny entrance. You can’t tell me this hotel has NEVER hosted anyone going to a convention in town where costumes were involved. And you can’t tell me no one at the conference would have offered to let the individual keep the questionable item in their hotel room until after the gala. I’d love it if the ACFW would have already addressed this in very specific detail, but I saw no mention of this on the loop (I checked before I ranted).

    • Apparently some people (who, they didn’t say) were freaked out by one of the speculative fiction costumes and called hotel security. Security then got after the conference folks and that’s why they were asked to leave. At least, that’s what we were told.


  5. It is a semi-formal event, so you must wear your dress Star Fleet dress uniforms 😉 These comments make me wonder if a weapon was a problem, this was on airport property, right?
    Is there a separate Speculative Fiction group within ACFW btw? I’m ACFW, but I’ve lost touch quite a bit this past year, being Urban Fantasy myself.

  6. Interesting post, Diane. Thanks for sharing. Being one of those “step-children”(though not having attended the conference), I’m tempted to say a few words, but I’ll simply leave on this note:

    “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a PECULIAR people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” 1 Peter 2:9 (KJV)

    Stay “peculiar”.

    As iron sharpens iron…

  7. Wow! It seems that a lot of people lose sight of the fact that we are all God’s children, and He loves all of us. The hurtful treatment of ANY of His children is sure to upset Big Daddy.


    I’ll be happy to answer this as I just left a meeting with the managers of the hotel regarding this issue.

    I’m not sure what anyone has said, but here are the facts of what transpired regarding certain costume-wearing individuals and the gala…

    The ACFW awards gala is listed as an upscale event….dress code described on the website as “Sunday best to formal.” This is how it is coded for the hotels, which is why the hotel staff dresses up, there are formal table presentations, etc., all to honor the award recipients for their personal accomplishments and achievements.

    The Hyatt hotel is ON airport property, which means, this is one of the most secure areas in the state of Texas. Because of security properties, hotel security is linked to airport security. Many might not realize that airport property has their own police, security, and emergency units.

    Prior to the beginning of the gala, when people were filling the room and milling about, I was alerted by hotel staff of a security issue and was escorted out of the ballroom, where I was met with 3 security officers. One individual attempting to enter the gala was dressed in camo pants, black shirt, and black head mask and was carrying an unidentified object. As this individual was detected by property security entering what is flagged as an upscale event, he was detained. I met with the person and told him he was not allowed into the room dressed as he was and that security had picked him as a risk. Security also flagged a couple of other individuals entering who were detected to be a possible risk as our gala is not flagged or coded as a costume party. I addressed each of those individuals and told them they could not wear the offending parts of the costume into the room per security request. THEY WERE NOT DENIED ADMITTANCE TO THE GALA, only informed that their attire was unacceptable and that it must be changed for admittance. I saw two of them and ensured they had a table, but was informed that they left, stating they wouldn’t be back. However, later, they did, in fact, return to the ballroom.

    Please understand, we strive very hard to bring prestige and honor to these awards recipients who rightly deserve acknowledgement and acclaim, and our awards gala is the highlight of this. We partner with sponsors (this year, Thomas Nelson was our gala sponsor partner) in order to make the night truly special for the finalists and winners of all the awards in honor of their hard work and accomplishments.

    I hope this explains the situation, although I don’t believe the organization had any “egg on our face” but were, in fact, acting in accordance to governing regulations in the interest of everyone’s safety, and just overall common sense.

    If anyone should require further explanation, please feel free to reply to me directly. I will be traveling most of the day, so it will be tomorrow that I can reply.

    Robin Miller
    ACFW Conference Director

    • So, dress code in place and reasonable security response in the context of the venue, current events, and the attire of the individual in question. Hmm. Was that even one of our crowd? I suppose bonnets qualify as “Sunday best,” depending on where you worship.

      I still like the idea of the Spec Fic community poking the bear a little on this issue. Maybe Victorian Steampunk attire next time? 🙂

      • All they had to do was ask the person to take the mask off. Would it have been too much of a task for someone to say, “Oh, he is one of our authors, you know how quirky we can be”? Instead, at least one someone had to give in to their dark side and tried making others feel less than what they are.

    • Thank you for replying, Robin. I understand the security issue with the individual wearing the mask, it is the others that are the issue, I think. The issue with them is a bit vague, whereas your explanation concerning the masked member was in detail.
      As you say, “they were not denied admittance to the gala, only informed that their attire was unnacceptable and that it must be changed for admittance”, who did the determining that one costume was okay and another not?

      • That is actually a copy and paste from the official response but your questions are valid. Don’t think Robin Miller frequents my blog. LOL

      • It sounds like the other two folks in question might have been carrying a weapon look-alike? Not for sure, but she worded it as they were asked to remove the offending piece of the costume. Not sure though if they were tagged for that or just for ‘looking fishy’ by security. I suspect the Star Trek outfits weren’t enough to catch security’s eye.

    • Classy response, Robin, and I agree with John. For the record, I’m not a Spec. Fiction writer, but I think Spec. Fiction people can be fun and absolutely offer great thought and writing perspectives. Jeff Gerke’s class last year is one of the best I’ve attended, something I’ve heard from a huge variety of non spec. people. Personally, I find costumes engaging when representing stories. I loved Brandy’s turn of the century dress, Randy’s top hat, the clockwork hat, and Ben’s snazzy suit with the cyborg arm. It is a dressy occasion. These are dressy with a twist. I like that. My opinion–I’d love to see dressy representations of your books. Camo isn’t dressy. If you didn’t write Star Trek, it’s more clever and creative to wear a costume repping what you do write. It may lead to a better response. Something to think about. Of course this is just my opinion, and I’m fairly new to ACFW, having joined only last year. I love the feeling of camaraderie at ACFW. Embrace the oddness. God has a wonderful place for it, but don’t make it about anger, about a chip on the shoulder, about us and them. Don’t alienate, or you’ll make eclectic readers and eclectic writers have to choose. I choose love. I hope after you cool down, you will too.

      • Kathleen,
        I’m going to borrow your quote: “Embrace the oddness.” Personally I find Amish Fiction “oddness” and Spec mainstream. But I’ve even made a pact with Janalyn Voigt to read an Amish Fiction novel so we can see what that oddness is about.
        I hope ACFW will publish an appropriate dress code for the banquet based on this experience. Security might be a little more lax in places like Indianapolis–I hope!

      • I choose to love also. I really just want everyone to get along, but that is not to say I’m okay with the double standard shown. Many have voiced interest in having a costume event on another night of the conference. That means NO costumes the night of the gala. That is a great compromise and no one is left feeling shunned.

      • Great quote Kathleen: “Embrace the oddness.” Personally I find Amish Fiction “Oddness” since I grew up with spec fiction. But in an effort to embrace that oddness Janalyn Voigt, another spec writer and ACFW member, and I have made a pact to read an Amish Fiction novel. We’ll see how that goes.
        I do hope that ACFW will publish some guidelines for the banquet for next year so there are no surprises and everyone can have a good time. You would think that security in Indianapolis would be a little less stringent.
        It was a great event and I like seeing people in appropriate costumes.

  9. I might be in the minority here, but I’m grateful for security. They were doing their job. Several of my friends saw the masked guy (I didn’t), and they were freaked out, and when they described him to me, i was freaked out. It was not appropriate because no one could tell who this person was. His identity was completely concealed by the costume. If spec folks want to cosplay, whatever, fine. But this particular attire felt threatening. Sorry, it’s the society we live in. If somebody will shoot up a movie theater, why not a writer’s conference.

    • I can understand you and your friends’ fear, Amanda. But if you knew it was one of us and he was NOT a threat, would that have been okay? Because really, then your fear would be gone. Plus, God tells us how many times to fear not?

      • Sure, later on the guy removed the mask and it was no big deal. But people have to understand the mindset of security personnel and appreciate what they’re paid to do. Nobody working security for that type of event would be worth his pay if he ignored someone dressed that way.

  10. I’m so sorry that some attendees were made to feel less than. That’s no way for brothers and sisters to behave towards one another. I’m praying now, that our mutual defeated enemy not be able to inflict any more hurt. How like him and those that fell with him, to take something meant to be a time of celebration and use it to inflict pain.

    I can’t fault security though, for acting as they did.

    For those of you who attended, and are spec-authors, now might be a good time (using this as a spring board) to address the fact you would like the dress code to be changed so that people who wish to dress differently, can dress differently.

    If there is any good in this shameful thing, it might be that it could be used to wedge the door open a little wider for more variety in the ACFW

    • Bravo! another excellent solution to bring us closer. And that is the reason I posted this blog this morning. If this was allowed to fester, no good would come of it.

      • What a wonderful idea! It could be hashed out so that costumes are fine, as long as it is possible to see the identity of the attendee?

  11. I suppose ACFW could consider the best of both worlds…sure, come in your costume if you like, but it needs to be able to be construed as Sunday Best to Formal attire for the genre or time period. Talk about the potential to have to split hairs, though. Does that mean there will have to be a committee or some kind of approval to go through if you want to come in costume, so you don’t either get picked up by security or stopped at the event door for the equivalent of lacking a jacket and tie? I fully support ACFW’s right to set the tone of their event. The costuming issue makes that a very tricky area.

    • I LOVE Becky’s idea of “Sunday Best to Formal attire for the genre or time period.” That is perfect.

      I can see it being an issue if the costume completely covers someone’s face, so they are unidentifiable. So take off the mask. Show your ID to security. And if security wants to check out fake weapons to make sure they are truly fake, fine. But there should have been something said AT the gala.

      The fact is, lots of hotels host conventions that include costumes. Why would this be so different? Just because it’s on airport property? Were costumes allowed around the hotel but not at the gala itself? And what I’m not totally getting is this–Were there other costumes that were accepted at the gala?

      • I may be repeating info you already know but I spoke with one of the other men asked to ‘remove their offending piece’ today and I can confirm it was simply a piece of prosthetic (non-gruesome) and not a weapon or otherwise frightening piece of anything. He was dressed to the nines and looked dashing in modern formal attire. Assuming he was telling me correctly he said he was told ‘you could have a bomb or anything in there’. It was ridiculous. If that is the historical fiction folk could have a bomb in their bustle.

    • I’ve been road-tripping and am late to the party, so I wasn’t going to comment, but this got me to smile: If that is the historical fiction folk could have a bomb in their bustle.

      Dennis, I’ve already read several Amish stories. Care to try to keep up? :o)

  12. I answered on the fb page directly but I’m pasting it here as this is where most of the conversation lies:

    Keep the costumes coming. Here’s what can be done in the future to avoid this scenario from repeating itself:

    1. The ACFW knows that some of its members come in costume/period attire to the gala. They are responsible to let the hotel security know this information in advance. They dropped the ball.

    2.Have everyone wear their name badges at least until they are seated at the gala. Yes this means the one-time guests will need one too, but big deal. Comic-con requires name badges at all times and they have all sorts of insane costumes.

    Basically if security can tell someone appears to be with the group because they have the credentials they can approach them as such instead of as a security breech. This way we can better differentiate between poor public clothing choices (the guy in the camo and mask) and the dashing men who were dressed completely appropriately but spunked it up the details with their style.

    Really all this incident has done is illustrate (again) how little the ACFW as an organization does (or pays attention to) my interest as a spec-fi individual. And remember we P-A-Y for the ACFW’s services. This is not a charity. What we need is each other, not the ACFW. I’m fairly convinced that we’re our own self sustained sub-group anyway, we just don’t realize it. I mean who do we converse with online? Each other. Who do we all hang with during conferences? Each other. Who do we pitch to? The same three folk every year. And the one teacher I come to learn from wasn’t even teaching this year. It’s not that I’m so mad I’m walking out the door, its just coming down to common sense and what I’m paying for. I’m not starting a rebellion, just thinking.
    3 minutes ago

  13. First, I am not a member of ACFW Conference staff in any way, but:

    1) I’ve worked in Chicago law enforcement for 7+ years. Translation, I’ve seen and had to deal with everything humanly imaginable

    2) I write spec (my fantasy is under consideration at major publishing houses right now), read spec, understand the culture of spec and celebrate all facets of it. (yes, I own and wear a Star Trek uniform too!)

    Now, speaking from both of those worlds I hope to shed some light on what happened at the gala.

    When the person in camo came down the stairs with their face masked my stomach dropped and I kid you not, my hand went to where a gun would have been if I was wearing a holster. I actually grabbed my crit partner’s arm and said, “he shouldn’t be allowed to have his face covered.”

    I know, don’t be crazy, right?

    But here’s the thing…my mind did try to tell me that it was 99% sure that underneath was a person who was a fellow spec lover and was having some fun. Someone who, no doubt, was acting out the character of their book for a clever promo move.

    But the law enforcement side of me…. The side that gets a terrorist update alert EVERY DAY when I’m at work. The side that’s mind flashes instantly to the fact that only months ago there was a mass shooting in Colorado by a subject dressed in riot gear, then less then a month later there was a mass shooting in a church (read religious event, not unlike ACFW) …could not be okay with a one percent possibility that the person was something else. Yeah, that part wanted to tackle and cuff the guy.

    That went through my head and I KNEW the culture of this event. I’ve been to the gala before. Seen people dressed up. Know that spec writers love to come in costume. But the federal security officers (yes, federal, we were on airport property…I guess people forgot that) don’t know that. So to them someone dressed like that, or dressed any way that could cover a weapon or bomb, is an instant threat. Even if ACFW had informed them about the costumes, the person STILL would have drawn security’s attention and been flagged.

    Honestly, people shouldn’t be upset that they were asked to change before being allowed inside and they have no right to be disgusted or disappointed with ACFW staff who acted in accordance with federal officials. No. They should be thanking God that there weren’t arrested and questioned by federal agents.

    I also have it from the director herself that they were NOT denied admittance, but asked to change. If they didn’t get to go to their $85 meal then it was their own stubborn hearts and wounded egos that prevented it. Not ACFW staff.

    Moreover, I know that there are ACFW members who know people who were shot in the Colorado movie mass shooting – to which I wonder, how is dressing in such a manner approriate if one is a sensitive Christian and doesn’t want to hurt others? How did it make those people feel?

    Guess no one considered their feelings in their quest to “have fun.”

    • Hi, Jess. My name is Diane. Glad you stopped by my blog. I do understand security and actually have not a single bit of problem with hotel security making sure our guys were with us. That is their job after all. But I am going to have to correct you on the issue of hotel security being federal. I just got off the phone with security at Hyatt Regency DFW and they confirmed what I suspected. Their security is separate from airport security and they are NOT federal in any way. Now, if they had an issue they deemed a threat, they would check it out and call for backup if needed from airport security. It was my understanding that was not the case on Saturday night.

      There is a solution for this issue. We either allow costumes from every genre or none at all. Or, like some have suggested, we have a costume event another night of the convention.

      The men that were stopped were told they could have bombs. What has not been said is that one guy was wearing a Borg hand and the other was wearing werewolf hands. Not really a threat and I cannot see why they were asked to remove their costumes. A “bomb” could just as easily be crammed into petticoats and there were several of those. Did anyone complain about that? You simply shouldn’t allow some costumes and not others. That is where the problem comes from.

      What this really is about for me is that the call that sent these guys away feeling like red-headed stepchildren didn’t have to happen. Once they were identified as part of our group, they should have been allowed to go in. The guy wearing the mask should have been asked to remove it out of respect for those that might have been afraid.

      Maybe there was some overreaction? I bet we can make this okay by finding solutions so this won’t happen again and no one feels like the red-headed stepchild.

      • Respectfully, I’d have to say, no. Their own common sense and consideration for others would have saved the problem.

        ACFW clearly outlines the gala attire restrictions on the website: Formal to Sunday best. So someone in period costume with a huge hat and hoop dress – well, that’s Sunday best. But if you wear wolf hands or a face mask to church, please send me the address because I’d love to visit at worship one day.

        Also, clearly from your response, you don’t have a background in security or law enforcement. And that’s fine. But I just had to shake my head.

        I don’t like calling us the red-headed stepchild. We’re not.

        CBA has gone leeps and bounds in accepting us and our genre in the last few years and talk like this is what sets us back. We are not excluded and feeling that way is a choice.

        In fact, we’re the cool cousin at the family party with the latest IPhone. We’re the cutting edge. They respect us. If you believe differently, maybe make some author friends outside of just the spec cirlce (my roommates were historical writers and a dramcom writer – lovely women and completely accepting).

      • Ha! I would like to go to that church also. *snort* I don’t like being the the red-headed stepchild either. Everyone can clearly see my hair is dark brown. And you are right about the ACFW saying Sunday best to formal at the site, but then we get into splitting hairs. If they allow costumes for one, they need to allow them for all. I dressed as a Star Trek officer along with my publisher. We didn’t think it was a big deal considering a few people dress up each year. And honestly, the costumes would have been Sunday best on the Enterprise. See how that works? That is why it must be an all or none rule. Otherwise you have spec-fic writers feeling the way I describe. And if we are really loving and understanding, we will see that.

      • Jess, please do not assume so much. Diane’s husband was a marine, and she comes from a family of military and law enforcement. The gentleman with werewolf hands was wearing a suit, as was the gentleman with the borg hand. I’d like to see those women wear the bustles to church and sit in a pew for a few hours.

    • For what its worth the gentleman with the were wolf hands was wearing a suit and tie as was the gentleman with the borg/steampunk hand. They were dressed completely within the guidelines of the dress code, and even looked normal save for the prosthetic hands. Someone (I don’t know who… possibly just someone trying to justify the ACFW reaction) told the gentleman with the wolf hands that he could ‘have a bomb in there’ (apparently between the plastic hands and his flesh?). That is a horribly flawed excuse.
      At any rate there are pictures on fb of both the werewolf-hadn-guy and the steampunk-arm-guy if you can find them. I know who they are but I’d rather not share their names just in case they’d rather I didn’t but both are editors representing spec-fi interests for a publishing house/ezine… and yes, the camo guy was not using any common sense.

  14. Just reviewed my last post and I did come off as rude. I apologize for that. It was not my intent at all.

    The comment about security was because there had been an earlier comment that said security should have made sure the people were ACFW members then let them in as is. But they still have to have had them change. Many times, the bad things in this world are done by those who are a part of whatever organization that the tragedy occurs at. Fort Hood was this way. So are almost all of the school shootings. That’s all I meant. That checking ID isn’t enough. Very sorry if it came off wrong.

    I’m in agreement that there should either be a no costume at all rule (including historical/Amish) or that they should give better guidelines (i.e., spell out what is okay and not okay – they could do a whole blog post with photos. That could be fun.) I’m hoping that the question on the loop, as well as this discussion, makes them consider this in planning for next year. I am also a huge fan of costume night next year! Does anyone remember if we get a survey to fill out about conference? Because if so, we should all write this on there.

    Again, apologizes for any misunderstandings. I love ACFW and the support that authors can find there and wanted to offer other options then that ACFW doesn’t like it’s spec writers.

  15. Well, I was so excited to be with my Trekker buddies, I was totally oblivious to this whole kerfuffle until now. I like the way Becky put it — Sunday best for the genre (and actually, the Civil War-era gal with the hoop skirt was a little on the everyday side for that period). But looking at the photos of Failstate from Ralene Burke’s Facebook page, I have to say I’d have a hard time calling that “Sunday best” in any storyworld. We’re talking camo pants and a hoodie, people.

    Still, although I did a double-take when I saw him coming down the stairs, I realized he was in character, and thought no more of it.

    I think imladrisnine nailed it by saying the responsibility is on ACFW to notify hotel security that there will be costumes. I wouldn’t want them to ban masks, because if I write a historical novel set in 18th-century Venice I might want want to wear one of those crazy bird-beak masks with the feathers, along with my hoop skirt.

    I can understand security wanting to question and have a closer look at someone in a mask, but as long as you’re in Sunday best and have a ticket, that should be the end of it.

    But the guys with the hands? Sorry, there’s no excuse for giving them a hard time.

  16. I’m late to this party, and I’m wearing pajamas. I also don’t write Christian fiction, so this is a peanut gallery opinion.

    It’s time, maybe, for Spec Fic authors to form their own sub guild within ACFW or their own stand apart guild. Because what you have here is a culture clash. Fear and security are the excuse, but what is really happening IS exactly what Diane is calling out. This is an Othering, plain and simple. ACFW has long catered to a narrow publishing field, expanding only reluctantly when the publishers broadened their frontlists. Spec Fic writers, whether they’re stepchildren, bastards out of Carolina, or cool cousins with the new iPhone are NOT part of ACFW in the way that chubby housewives (*I am a chubby housewife…) who want to be Catherine Jannette Marshall Oke are. They just aren’t.

    That’s why they need an OFFICIAL subgroup with a rep sitting on the ACFW governing board. This event is just an example. A Spec Fic rep would be able to point out that cosplay _is_ a sort of formal attire for some people and that in many cases Cosplay uniforms, gowns and accessories cost a great deal more than current culture clothing. In fact, I was just going to lurk until I saw the response from the ACFW official (I believe it was hers) going on and on about how the dress code exists to flatter honorees in the various categories. “Put on a nice dress for Beverly Lewis, gang!” That response was so tone deaf. Spec Fic writers would feel quite honoured and welcomed by seeing Cosplay attire. If there were a Spec Fic rep, the ACFW would know that.

    I am not sure why I care so much…other than the fact that I don’t like seeing anyone othered, especially by a group they PAY to belong to.

    • Like Grace pointed out, there is the Lost Genre Guild and there are many of us that are talking about starting a conference for Christian Spec Fic writers. And there is Randy Ingermanson and he does champion for Cosplay and weirdos, make no mistake. But it is sometimes too shocking for others to swallow. I get that, but it still makes my heart heavy.

  17. Pingback: No Trekkers At This Banquet! « Just Another Pretty Farce

  18. Wow, guys. Really? Is this the unity that Jesus prayed for us to have in John 17:20-23? As Christians, how are we taught to address a wrong? By committing another? We are commanded to love one another as we love ourselves. Just because we weren’t treated the way we wanted to be doesn’t mean that we have a right to complain. Look at the hearts of the people involved and your heart also. Is pride rearing its ugly head here? What would Jesus have us to do? Where is forgiveness?

    Father God, Thank You for giving us our talents and abilities that we strive to use for Your glory. Help us to remember to keep the focus on You and not on ourselves. You are the vine and we are the branches; help us to abide in You so that we can be fruitful. You know the hearts of this group, God — that they want to write Spec fiction, fantasy, sci-fi, to put Your truth in print as a means of evangelism for You. You are supernatural, God, and we want the world to see it. We want Your truth to shine in a place where it currently does not. Please don’t let the enemy divide us through our pride. In Jesus’ Name I pray, amen.

    • Hi, Lisa. I am Diane. Welcome to my blog.
      I do have the right to complain. There is righteous anger and I really get tired of people thinking that because I am a Christian, I am a door mat. When I see wrong, and there is wrong here, everything inside of me twists. When I see people I love and are sisters and brothers in Christ hurt by thoughtlessness of other sisters and brothers, I wear a heavy heart. It is our job to speak up so no festering and brooding occur. Festering and brooding is where the devil loves to play.
      I haven’t seen anyone ask forgiveness yet. What I have seen is avoidance and blame. Intentional or not, a lot of people were hurt by what happened and there is a problem. I’d like to see resolution and a solution.

      • Diane:

        Thank you for welcoming me to your blog. I feel I owe you an apology. Probably I should not have posted. God has really been pressing on my heart that as Christians we should be unified, not divided. I should have prayed before I wrote, especially being new to ACFW. My heart was in the right place, but I should have prayed about posting before I did. Please forgive me.

        You have a great following on your blog.

    • As Christians we are taught to address a wrong exactly in the way that many have here. By going to the offending party and if they don’t do something about it, bringing it before the Body.

      If you are wronged you have absolutely every right to complain. We are all children of the Most High. Our souls are bought with very precious coin. To wrong us is to wrong the King.

      IT IS LOVING TO CORRECT ANOTHER WHO HAS HARMED YOU. What isn’t loving and Biblical would be if Diane were to key the offenders’ cars or send them pies baked with poo. This? This saying “hey, we are too the adopted children of God and you have done us a grievous hurt” is part of loving someone. Do we want them to keep hurting others, to keep acting in ways that bring shame upon our Father? No. So we explain the problem. Which is what Diane has done.

      The Church has a long history of “complaining” when we see someone treated badly. Slavery, the Holocaust, female circumcision, sex trafficking. If we didn’t “Complain” the Evil One would be a wolf among the sheep devouring at will.
      So before you self-righteously start quipping prayer to a woman who has a real and valid concern about the way she was treated by another member of the Flock I would hope you’d consider that Biblical Action REQUIRES CONFRONTATION…ACCORDING TO JESUS.

      • Amen, Amen. Well said, Katherine.

        Lisa, the disunity originated with those who made our brothers feel unwelcome not because of something they said or did but because of what they were wearing.

        **They were shunned because of their clothing.**

        The applicable scripture here is James 2:1-4

        I’ve been thinking about this a lot today, mainly because I called out Failstate for being outside the dress code. But y’know what? Caleb Jennings Breakey, who won a Genesis award, was wearing a T-shirt. Now mind you, I’m in Florida; we see people wearing T-shirts in worship all the time. If that’s his Sunday best, I’m OK with that. And I have to admit that Failstate was no more outside the dress code than Caleb, although I can understand the mask may have been scary to people not in on it.

        I also thought about our bikers. Twice a year, in March for Bike Week and in October for Biketoberfest, Central Florida hosts more than half a million visiting bikers. Go ahead, conjure up all the images “biker” inspires. We get all of them and more besides.

        Once in a while, bikers attending these events will come worship with our congregation. They are from out of town, they don’t know anyone, but they come to worship. We welcome them, with their sleeveless shirts, chains on their belts, torn jeans and all. No one would dream of telling them they’re unwelcome because of what they’re wearing. They may get asked where they’re from, what kind of motorcycle they own, or what symbolism is behind their tattoos, but they’re never asked to change their clothes.

        On the one hand, I understand Robin and the other ACFW organizers want a dignified event. On the other hand, I also know this:

        **Jesus didn’t shun anyone.**

      • I want to reach through my computer screen and give you a big hug, Lioness. Ever graceful and articulate. I am blessed to call you sister and friend.

      • Katherine ~ Probably I should just not have said anything. My prayer wasn’t meant as self-righteous — although I can totally see why you would think so — it was heart-felt. I hate to see Satan sew seeds of discontent. I felt moved to pray, so I did. Next time, I will do so in private.

        And you’re correct, as Christians we are called to confront those believers who wrong us. The thing is, the people that were wronged aren’t the ones posting. Ben Erlichman, below, admits to being disappointed but understands ACFW’s positing and wants to work from within to rectify the situation. He is showing grace and forgiveness.

        Diane herself admits that her information was 2nd and 3rd hand. The Bible also says to first confront privately. I believe in discussion for the greater good. There is obviously a lot of discussion on this blog! I just hope it promotes unity and healing instead of dissension and destruction.

        I’m sorry I’ve offended you, Katherine. I don’t know you but I would like to. Please accept my apologies and consider that my heart is attempting to promote unity.

  19. Alright. Now you get to hear it FIRSTHAND.

    I am the person who wore the robot arm to the Gala, and my roommate Andrew wore the werewolf hands. Let me clear the air for everyone.

    Robin Miller works her butt off for ACFW, its members, and its conference attendees. She is, by nature of her job, an extension of ACFW’s governing body. When she ran up to me (almost literally) at the Gala and told me I had to remove my arm, I was astounded, but I quickly did as she asked because I respect her and the work that she does for ACFW and for all of us.

    That said, security or otherwise, my robot arm made it through airport security both on the way to Dallas and on the way home (in my checked bags, of course). Randy Ingermanson, who we’ve already mentioned is on the board, looked at pics of my attire and said “I would have had no problem with that.” Frankly, last year I went as an action hero, complete with a Nerf gun (painted dark colors), a foam sword, sunglasses, a leather jacket, and black denim. I probably looked a bit like a terrorist, but I think the blaze orange bandolier I had on detracted from the image. Needless to say, I got pics with multiple editors and even a board member or two as well as a previous ACFW President (who held my Nerf gun and posed for the photo).

    This year was a mess. It was handled efficiently by Robin because the task fell on her to handle. She puts out fires at conferences while she’s there. That’s why everything seems to run so smoothly. I was not thrilled about being asked to remove my robot arm, but I did it because I respect Robin and the institution of ACFW. All this talk about breaking off and doing our own thing is great, but I really enjoy ACFW and the people there and would rather work to inspire change from within rather than take my ball and go play somewhere else. To be honest, if someone starts a Spec thing, I’ll go to that too, but I’m still going to ACFW because it’s more reputable than anything we would just start in our back yard.

    I’m disappointed that I couldn’t wear my arm. I am certain it had to do with security and proximity to the airport, and, unfortunately, I’m certain it had to do with Failstate (the guy in the mask) showing up. He’s also a friend of mine but I won’t name him for his sake. To be forthright, we DID all get our food, and we DID come back to the Gala, with two exceptions. Sadly, I had lost my appetite by then. The two exceptions got the same meal brought up to them (by me) so they could have some food. We got to eat.

    All in all, the awards ceremony seemed to drag on as it does every year, but I suppose that when you’re up for an award (as I was in 2010) you don’t mind it so much. With regard to the overall costume issue, Randy is aware of everything and is chatting with people. ACFW wants to elevate the Carol Awards to a level of reputability within publshing so it’s something people will really want to pursue, and to some extent that may mean no costumes. But if that’s the rule, then no costumes period.

    Also, the “Sunday best” terminology doesn’t work. In the future, where people have robotic limbs (I imagine), I was more than Sunday best, as only one of my arms was prosthetic (plastic painted to look like metal with awesome hoses and wires and blinking lights). Frankly, my church is so awesome that I could wear my arm on Sunday morning and have people LOVE it. Then again, I’m the youth pastor and they’re used to my antics, but still.

    Anyway, feel free to contact me with any concerns or comments. Check me out on Facebook. I’m looking forward to additional controversy in the future, as it often helps sell books. 😉


    P.S. Very nice of you all to refer to me and Andrew as “gentlemen.” It’s true, at least, in his case.

  20. I should also note that you can see pics of both me and Andrew via my Facebook. You can make your determination on the robot/werewolf appendages on your own.

  21. As for being the “dirty red-headed stepchildren” of Christian Fiction, I say “hell yeah!” (Sorry if that word offends you).

    But you know what? I’m writing for the “dirty red-headed stepchildren” of this world. A lot of times they don’t want to read bonnet fiction, or regency, or romance, or cozy mysteries. They want some blood and guts, some robots, sword-fighting, explosions, gunfights, violence, and other not-so-friendly stuff. They can either get it from us Spec writers, or they can get it from the world’s Spec writers.

    I’m willing (eager?) to suffer for my message and for my readers. I want them to experience Christ as I have, so that’s why I include redemption in my books/stories. I want them to put down my writing and be better off than before they started reading.

    As for ACFW? I give it ten years and I bet Spec will be in the majority. We’ve already grown by huge leaps and bounds even since I showed up in 2009. We’ve got the numbers…we just need to show up to the conference going forward, so don’t quit on ACFW! Come back in force! (Not violence, but PRESENCE). 🙂

  22. Wow, how did I miss all this? I was at the conference, and at the banquet, and wearing a medieval gown (I write both sci-fi and fantasy) and I never knew a thing about it until I saw Ben’s post on Facebook. I’m speechless.

  23. I read this article and started on the comments and stopped shortly after the “Official” explanation was given about the person with the mask and military outfit and when John Otte later said it was someone dressed up for one of his characters. As I wasn’t there, I am getting all of this totally third or fourth hand here. I had to stop reading at that point once I realized just how many more comments awaited me. So if this has already been covered by someone else, excuse me for my repetition.

    On the first glance, I could definitely see how this could be offensive to the genre we all like, and I can definitely understand Diane’s angst with people that do not understand the more “strange” of us.

    What needs to be remembered is that this particular dinner was a formal wear. I bet there were a few tuxedos in the room as well as evening gowns. This type of dinner is not uncommon for events such as this. I attend Dragon*Con every year and they have an awards banquet on Saturday evening which requires formal wear. This kind of issue isn’t one to come up too often there because most people attending that dinner understand that this is when the created costumes come off and the monkey suits go on.

    This isn’t a matter of whether or not “Christian Spec Fic” should be accepted. Indeed, if you insist on turning what is otherwise an accepted industry standard of awards banquets meaning that people dress up in formal wear into a costume party, then you won’t gain any supporters for the genre we represent.

    I’d recommend saving the costumes for the rest of the event and if you go to the awards banquet in the future that you dress as is expected of such a dinner. That’s not the area to try to “rock the boat” on.

    As far as anyone else dressed in “buggy and bonnet” costumes, I think someone said something about a particular denomination dressing that way. Again, I wasn’t at the event, but in the past I’ve seen people dressed that way because of their denomination, and it was more than just a headpiece on top, it was full dress. Even the guys looked like Quakers. So chances are, the other people in full dress weren’t in a period costume either.

    But, If people actually ARE dressing up in “buggy and bonnet” costumes, and if the ACFW actually IS allowing costumes for that period into the awards banquet, then THEY are the ones that have opened the door for costumes, and they should be more considerate of those in our genre which wish to express their creative selves too.

    But that’s just my opinion, of course, I could be wrong.

    • That is just it, David, ACFW DOES allow period dress and has for each year I have been watching the awards. Several people wore costumes this year and many years before. There is no other time to wear a costume.

      • Oh? The only time to wear a costume at ACFW is during the awards ceremony? Fascinating. In that case, perhaps next year I should show up dressed in a bonnet and see if they let me in. 😉

      • Right. The issue is…they started it. The ACFW opened the doors to costumes by allowing “period” dress. Great. So what they are wearing was “Sunday best” 200 years ago. Does that mean anything is permissible so long as it’s formal attire from a period in history? Shall we allow formal togas because that’s what was worn by real people in a real historical period?

        And of course we’re not talking about people who dress a certain way *now* because of denomination–that is totally different. We’re talking about dressing up in outfits that no one wears anymore. Calling it “Sunday best” is a misnomer. If someone walked into church TODAY in full Victorian garb it would be seen as strange–it would be seen as a *costume*.

        The issue is that they are saying certain costumes are okay–because they like those costumes, because they better represent what they see ACFW as–but other costumes are weird and different, and make people uncomfortable because they don’t understand.

        Anyway, the spec-fic costume-wearers were dressed up because the historical costumes were allowed first. You can’t call foul when you set the standard one way and then someone does the same thing but with a twist you don’t like.

        The problem is that it’s all being brushed under the rug of “security.” The ONE costume caused an alarming reaction, and the comments keep being redirected back to that. But that’s not what has everyone upset–it’s the double-standard of the dress code. It’s saying a pair of gloves or one arm piece is *more* costume than a head-to-toe “historical period” outfit because the outfit is “pretty.”

    • But, If people actually ARE dressing up in “buggy and bonnet” costumes, and if the ACFW actually IS allowing costumes for that period into the awards banquet, then THEY are the ones that have opened the door for costumes, and they should be more considerate of those in our genre which wish to express their creative selves too.

      But “buggys and bonnets” are GODLY(TM) wear, harking back to the days when American Was A REAL Christian(TM) Nation.

  24. That was Ben’s problem. He should have worn a prairie dress with his robotic arm. 😉

    I was also there. Knowing the book Failstate and seeing the character come to life was very cool. However, I could see how it would make people nervous with Aurora being only a couple of months old.

    I sat with a book publicist at the gala who gave a recent talk (I don’t think it was for the ACFW) and told Christian booksellers they were missing out by not having more speculative fiction. There are voices there pushing for it.

    • Ha! Hi, Jason. I am Diane. Welcome to my blog. You made me laugh out loud. Prairie dress indeed. I have watched the Christian Speculative audience increase a whole lot the last few years. We need to keep the wonderful talent we have. No reason to let the ABA have them.

  25. I don’t have time to read all the comments at the moment, but I will and I’m interested in hearing the different perspectives.

    The pictures are great, by the way. I love the group shot and the trekkie costumes! I’m not the costume type. Boring I guess. 🙂

  26. I thought your group of Star Trek costumes were great. Didn’t get to meet you there unfortunately.

    I know John Otte had his socks knocked off with his buddy dressing as John’s character. Since I’m reading the book to my boys, they were excited to see Failstate come to life. It was unfortunate to have stirred up stuff.

  27. All these comments were great! My husband caught me laughing and I told him that I was glad that I wasn’t the only “weirdo” in ACFW. I didn’t make it to the conference, but reading all these comments makes me feel like one of the gang anyway. I write sci-fi and have felt like the lone “stranger” in my local ACFW chapter for a long time. I so look forward to the time when spec fic stands in the majority. And I’m still laughing!

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