Utah author Richard Paul Evans among guests not invited back to FanX, as convention faces pressure to write anti-harassment policy

Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune Richard Paul Evans speaks during the annual ceremony for grieving parents at the Christmas Box Angel, at the Salt Lake City Cemetery, Saturday, December 6, 2014

Several celebrity guests, including Utah author Richard Paul Evans, won’t be invited back to FanX Salt Lake Comic Convention in September, as event organizers deal with accusations of sexual harassment at past conventions.

FanX officials sent an email Tuesday to members of an authors’ group, telling them the convention is updating its harassment polices and has decided “to not invite back at this time several guests,” The Salt Lake Tribune has learned. The writers have posted an online petition demanding a firm policy against harassment.

FanX co-founders Dan Farr and Bryan Brandenburg posted a modified version of the email on a private Facebook group for the event’s regular panelists. Once they have received input from panelists, the organizers said, they plan to post an updated harassment policy publicly. FanX has acknowledged its policy focuses on attendees, and not celebrities and panelists.

The Facebook message does not mention that anyone would not be invited back for panels, book signings or other convention events.

“Generally, there are some people who are not coming back, whether it was a mutual decision or whether we’ve decided not to have them back,” Farr said Tuesday. “We don’t maintain a blacklist, or anything like that.”

When asked if FanX is investigating accusations of harassment, Farr replied, “We’re always reviewing information as it comes in.”

The email sent to the authors said FanX is creating a committee to “further investigate any allegations,” and said it has been looking into “specific issues” since its last show.

Though FanX will not discuss specific cases, Farr said one person who has agreed to stay away this fall is Evans, known for such sentimental tales as “The Christmas Box” and the science-fiction “Michael Vey” series. Evans has been accused of inappropriate behavior after a panel at last September’s Salt Lake Comic Con (now called FanX). A woman complained to FanX officials, but has not made her name public.

( Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune ) Richard Paul Evans speaks during the annual ceremony for grieving parents at the Christmas Box Angel, at the Salt Lake City Cemetery in 2014.

Evans did not reply to a request for comment emailed to his assistant.

A group of Utah-based young-adult authors, called Rock Canyon Writers, posted its “Conference Harassment Pledge” online Tuesday. The pledge, drafted by the group’s anti-harassment committee, urges writers “NOT to attend conferences where there is no policy in place or where stated policies have not been followed through on.”

The authors’ petition doesn’t mention FanX by name, but urges any event to adopt clear policies against harassment. The writers’ group also recommends that events set up a process to deal with complaints quickly and confidentially, and set up a no-tolerance policy that would bar serial harassers from events for life.

Enforcement is a requirement for any event’s policy, said Layton author Mette Ivie Harrison, who administrates the Rock Canyon group online. “I see this as a problem of harassers trying to minimize what they’ve done, and revictimize their victims by making it appear they’re blowing it out of proportion,” said Harrison, who writes Mormon-themed mysteries and young-adult fantasy novels.

In its Facebook post to panelists, FanX said it will update its FAQs and its volunteer manual on harassment issues, add new training procedures for staff and volunteers, and establish a system for lodging complaints that includes anonymous reporting. Organizers have hired an attorney, and are consulting with conventions with other cities.

FanX is set for Sept. 4-6 in the Salt Palace Convention Center in downtown Salt Lake City. It’s one of the biggest events of its kind in the country, drawing upwards of 100,000 fans to celebrate, meet and cosplay as their favorite pop-culture icons.