Richard Paul Evans/FanX Sexual Harassment Timeline
(NOTE: This was originally published on my other blog, RobisonCollective.com.on May 30, 2018. As I am decomissioning that site, I wanted to preserve this.)
Today, a prominent author made a statement about his attendance at FanX (formerly known as Salt Lake Comic Con), in light of the harassment and mishandling complaints surrounding the event. I was surprised to see commenters--people who are actively involved in Utah fandom communities--who claim to know nothing about the situation. It struck me that unless you watch Utah local news, or read Utah local newspapers, or follow a select group of authors on Twitter, you may be completely unaware of everything that's happened.
So here is my best attempt to put everything into a timeline. I'll warn you upfront: I am not a journalist, and I am not a neutral party in this fight. I have been involved in this since this winter, when two harassment victims confided their stories in me. I have taken a very active part in trying to make FanX safe for all attendees, guests, and participants.
I urge anyone who has corrections to this timeline to contact me and I'll update as needed.
January 5th, 2018: I was first made aware of sexual harassment complaints against Richard Paul Evans, a very prominent author of both adult and young adult novels. The complaint was that he forcibly kissed a woman at FanX, telling her that "she was so pretty" he just couldn't resist. I was told that, at that time, Richard Paul Evans would not be allowed at FanX events.
February 7th, 2018: Anne Ursu, a young adult novelist, published the results of an anonymous survey of people in the young adult (YA) publishing industry, regarding sexual harassment. The results were disturbing, but anonymous. But, it started a conversation into the topic.
February 9th, 2018: Another prominent YA author confided in me that she had been sexually harassed by Richard Paul Evans.
February 14th, 2018: School Library Journal updated an article on sexual harassment in the ranks of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. In a flood of comments, mostly anonymous, many allegations were made against many YA authors, particularly Jay Asher, Sherman Alexie, and James Dashner. This caused these three men to lose their agents, publishers, and some book and media deals. Two anonymous complaints were made at this time about Richard Paul Evans, though he apparently received no professional backlash at the time.
May 6th, 2018: The Salt Lake Tribune published a story addressing the issue of Richard Paul Evans at FanX. The article drew instant ire from many for (1) dismissing the serious nature of the issue (the article framed the question as "In the age of #metoo is it appropriate to hug in the workplace?"), (2) Richard Paul Evans seemed to get a pass, and (3) Dan Farr called into question whether Richard Paul Evans would indeed be banned from the event in 2018.
May 7th, 2018: I learned details of the original victim's bungled harassment complaint. She made the complaint in October, but it was not investigated until January. Dan Farr and Bryan Brandenburg, co-founders of FanX and both personal friends of Richard Paul Evans, did not follow the con's set procedures, but tried to resolve the problem through back channels, including trying multiple times, on the phone, to get her to recant her statement. She would not. Also, when the harassment report was finally filed, her identity was made public for a time.
May 7th, 2018: Blake Casselman, Director of Programming for FanX, sent me an email, which I published on my Facebook page. In it, he said "Richard Paul Evans is NOT welcome at FanX as long as I am the Director of Programming. He will not participate on panels. He will not have scheduled book signings at the show. He will not be given access to the Green Room. And he will not be provided with a booth or table space on the vendor floor. Dan Farr has agreed to these measures out of concern for those authors who RPE harassed. I stand anyone who RPE has harassed in any way, has touched inappropriately, or has made feel vulnerable due to his actions toward others."
May 8th, 2018: Blake was asked to retract his statement, and instead released a new one which removed all reference to Richard Paul Evans and Dan Farr and said, instead, "We have made a decision to not invite back at this time several guests whose names have come up in the last few days until we have completed our investigation."
May 8th, 2018: The Rock Canyon Writers association released a pledge outlining harassment policy requirements for attending conferences and conventions. (I was a member of a three-person harassment committee who penned the pledge.) The pledge included such requirements as conventions not allowing back serial harassers until after "lengthy rehabilitation and restitution" and notifying attendees if a previous harasser is being allowed back.
May 8th, 2018: The Salt Lake Tribune published a story after pursuing more feedback from the FanX panelist community, including many authors. While the article was better received, it still received criticism for the positive light it put on Richard Paul Evans (such as using photos of him standing at a tribute cemetery statue as part of his charity). However, the article did suggest that Richard Paul Evans was banned from FanX.
May 9th, 2018: FanX, on its Twitter account (in a now-deleted tweet) claimed that it was unaware of any harassment claims made against Richard Paul Evans. It is assumed this was by Bryan Brandenburg, who was a frequent user of the Twitter account. In later statements he defended this by parsing terms between the difference between "sexual harassment" and "sexual assault" (though forcible kissing on the face/mouth can definitely be termed assault).
May 13th, 2018: Fox13 News had a twenty minute interview with Richard Paul Evans wherein he was never asked a single hard question (the journalist's first question was "how did we get to that point where a simple hug between adults becomes something questionable?") Richard Paul Evans talked about how he hugs everyone, and kisses women on the cheek because he used to live in Italy. He claimed that women in Utah were a little skittish about that, but never makes an apology. He also talked about his men-only for-profit fraternity he started, The Tribe of Kyngs.
May 15th, 2018: Because so few people understood the complaints against Evans, I compiled a list of all harassment offenses I could find, and invited women to share additional, confidential thoughts. That was published on my Facebook, and made public.
May 17th, 2018: FanX released a new draft of a harassment policy. They did not address any of the complaints against Dan Farr or Richard Paul Evans (or Bryan Brandenburg's use of social media to defend).
May 21st, 2018: After Bryan Brandenburg repeatedly called out Shannon Hale in email, regarding the new harassment policy, she responded. It exploded. He treated her curtly and condescendingly, and eventually he doxxed her. She describes (with screenshots) the entire days-long interaction on her Tumblr. The events were further described in the Salt Lake Tribune.
May 21st, 2018: Shadow Mountain, a publisher and bookstore, joined the boycott from FanX. (The majority of high profile book signings at FanX take place at the Shadow Mountain bookstore, and at least three of the harassment complaints about Richard Paul Evans had come from events at those signings.)
May 22nd, 2018: In a truly bizarre move, Richard Paul Evans took to the local media to discuss the plight of white men, which he compared to that of Jews in Nazi Germany, and he said that the only true racism these days is against white men. He confesses to all the pertinent facts of the harassment claim, including that he kissed the woman on the face/mouth, told her she was pretty and that it wouldn't hurt sales, all "to make her feel good." He never apologized or acknowledged that he had done anything wrong.
May 22nd, 2018: Bryan Brandenburg's wife appeared on Richard Paul Evans Facebook page making an impassioned plea in his defense. The post and photo have since been taken down.
May 22nd, 2018: Bryan Brandenburg made a public apology to Shannon Hale, which has since been removed from FanX's Facebook page.
May 23rd, 2018: In a private web chat with a secret group of panelists (the usual Facebook panelist group, of which I was a member, was deleted and replaced), Bryan Brandenburg charged after Shannon Hale again, making personal attacks and defending his behavior. This was screenshot by one of the secret members, and the images released to the public. In it, among other things, he claims that he has to stand by Richard Paul Evans because there were no witnesses and it would be defamation.
May 23rd, 2018: Author Brendan Reichs, an attorney and festival organizer, took that argument apart.
May 23rd, 2018: I first read the FanX harassment report for the Richard Paul Evans claim. It was made available to the public, in another breach of privacy. It shows the investigators to be defensive and manipulative, continuing the claim that the #metoo movement is just "trendy", and saying that Richard Paul Evans isn't invited back, "but neither is Elijah Wood or Dick Van Dyke, because they've already been here." By their own admission, they didn't investigate the claim for three months, or look for any witnesses.
May 23rd, 2018: Four authors (including Shannon Hale and I), who had all been critical of FanX's actions, were asked by Dan Farr to serve on a volunteer committee to oversee harassment claims in the future, despite the fact that (1) we are not experts, and (2) FanX is not a non-profit organization. We all turned down the offer.
May 24th, 2018: Bryan Brandenburg announced he was taking a "leave of absence." He did not clarify what that meant, and Dan Farr stated that he hoped Brandenburg would be back for FanX in September.
May 25th, 2018: Dan Farr issued an apology to Shannon Hale and others. (But not the victim.)
May 25th, 2018: A group of six authors (me, Shannon Hale, Dean Hale, Ally Condie, Emily R. King, and Bree Despain) submitted an open letter asking for four concessions from FanX. To date, the letter has gathered [211 signatures, June 3rd]. FanX has not responded to any of the requests.
May 31st, 2018: Dan Farr sent an email (through back channels, because, why?) to the authors of the open letter, stating, in part: "We have been working and continue to work toward implementing the appropriate changes in our company policy and procedure, and will make a public statement in regards to the letter when we feel the steps have been taken to properly address them."
June 4th, 2018: FanX tweeted that they were going to be closing the office early to receive sensitivity training from "Rachel Burt (PHR, SHRM-CP), HR Consultant at NFP." Burt's LinkedIn page shows that she is nothing like what we asked for in the Open Letter. In fact, Burt has very limited HR experience, and no evidence of harassment specialties. (It is unclear from the profile whether she is even a full-time HR employee, or rather an account manager at an insurance company.)
June 13th, 2018: Bryan Brandenburg posted a note on the FanX blog, which appears to address the Open Letter. In it he apologizes to the victim of the original mishandled case, he commits to handling harassment cases quickly in the future, and he acknowledges that words are only as good as the actions that follows them. He does not address item #2 of the letter, about hiring a staffer to write and implement harassment policies. The letter writers have inquired about item #2, but have not yet heard a response.
July 3rd, 2018: FanX announces that the Utah Attorney General's Office will be manning the harassment hotline during the convention.
July 17th, 2018: FanX announces their ten-person Community Council on Harassment and Safety, which will, they say, "review issues of education and policy leading up to the FanX 2018 conference, September 6-8; ensure the recently updated Universal Zero Tolerance Harassment Policy is as strong and effective as possible; and establish guidelines and processes for investigating and responding to reports of harassment or bullying at FanX events."
July 23rd, 2018: Bryan Brandenburg returns to work after his hiatus.