Worldcon 76 chair Mike Roche recently admitted that the organization burned through thousands of dollars in combating Deus Vult creator Jon Del Arroz’s defamation lawsuit.
If you recall Del Arroz sued San Francisco Science Fiction Conventions Inc. aka Worldcon76 back in April 2018 for violating Civil Code Section 51 of the Unruh Civil Rights Act, violation of Civil Code Section 51.5, violation of Civil Code Section 51.7, violation of Civil Code Section 52.1, and defamation.
The novelist and comic book creator explained his lawsuit on YouTube, “If you guys aren’t aware of this situation, I’ve been targeted and harassed by SJWs in science fiction since I came on the scene in 2016. They found out who I voted for on my Facebook wall, and I just started getting threats ever since that point. It was really ugly.”
“I just got constant death threats, constant harassment; I couldn’t just be left alone to make my work. And this translated over to people I never would’ve thought doing this. I mean big names like John Scalzi, the head of SFWA at the time, Cat Rambo. They were all on this hate blog called File770 just attacking me over and over again,” he added.
Del Arroz further detailed, “And then Worldcon, I announced I was going to there and I sent them an email saying, ‘Hey, I’ve gotten a lot of harassment from people and I’ve gotten death threats and things like that. Do you have security, additional security measures, and things like that.’ And they never responded to me.”
“So, I was really scared… I had months debating do I go to this or not ’cause I’ve got little children. So, I’m like I can’t risk going to something like this and having somebody just try to stab me or something in this without some additional help or something,” he continued.
The author then relayed, “So I posted a blog saying, ‘Hey I’m going to be wearing a body cam in case somebody comes up to me and starts to harass me.’ And Worldcon banned me for it. They claimed I was intending on going and following people around with a camera or something. Nonsense. There are detailed records, again, of my fear about what was going to happen there and for good reason. These people have said nasty, nasty things to me,” he explained.
Del Arroz continued to detail Worldcon’s actions, “But they went a step further. When they went on their website they said that removing me, they didn’t specify the reason why, they said it was going to remove ‘racist, bullying elements from our con.’ And so, they called me a racist on their website.”
And if you guys know, I am a very proud Hispanic man. That’s very offensive especially when a bunch of white people are calling me this. It’s really a terrible thing,” he asserted.
“And so that really damaged my reputation in the industry. It damaged my ability to ever get published again in mainstream publishing, which I have been. It’s a real tragedy,” he said.
The Deus Vult author then added, “I was contacted by a wonderful attorney, Peter Bradley, who mentioned that this is defamation, the very literal sense of the word. And we brought it to court.”
The two parties would eventually settle out of court with San Francisco Science Fiction Conventions Inc. agreeing to pay Del Arroz a sum of $4,000 as well as posting a publicly apology to their website.
That public apology from Mike Roche states, “SFSFC acknowledges the importance of reputation, especially for a relatively new author, and regrets that its public statement about barring his attendance might have led people unfamiliar with Mr. Del Arroz and his work to infer that he is or was a racist. For that, SFSFC apologizes.”
Roche continued, “This attendance ban was specific to the Worldcon 76 events produced by SFSFC, and Mr. Del Arroz has the same opportunity as other members of the public to register for future SFSFC events.”
He then stated, “Worldcon 76 does not tolerate discrimination in any form — including through cosplay — based on but not limited to gender, race, ethnicity, religion, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, or physical/mental health conditions.”
“SFSFC firmly believes that healthy political discourse requires active, mutual, good faith participation by members of the community with differing opinions,” he concluded.
Now, Roche claims Worldcon 76 spent over $100,000 defending the lawsuit. Roche told File770, “Counsel has recommended we not go into deep money talk about the case, but I can say we spent well over $100K.”
He also told them, “Court costs are not normally recoverable in such a case. The amount for which we settled was less than half the cost of one day at trial. Note: by cost of one day at trial I’m referring to SFSFC’s costs, not JDAs. I don’t know what his lawyer’s rates were.”
Despite spending over $100,000 defending the lawsuit, Roche made it quite clear that he didn’t really learn anything from it telling File770, “As everyone has noted, the big lesson: If you are banning someone for CoC violations and must state so publicly, RESIST the urge to detail the violations.”
As to what Jon Del Arroz’s expenses were, his attorney Peter Bradley revealed, “I did not charge Mr. Del Arroz anything for my services. There was a contingency fee retainer agreement but I took the case with no expectation of being paid on this case since it was not likely that the defendant had any assets (other than its trademark.)”
“When we ascertained that defendant had not acquired insurance with the usual coverage for defamation, those expectations were confirmed,” he added.