Rule 6

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Rule 6 refers to a series of events and communications that took place after Timecon 1990, a San Jose con.

One result of "Rule 6" were a series of Rule 6 Parties.

Some Context

Science fiction conventions could be the scene of wild behavior by fans, and some of this has been documented in various con reports and on Usenet.

Some of these incidents supposedly occurred at Baycon, including out-of-control alcohol use at parties, public fornication, and clothing with profanity written on it.

As a result, the management of The Red Lion Inn in San Jose, long-time site of Timecon as well as other science fiction conventions, decided to write up and distribute rules meant to keep fans from behavior they considered offensive, illegal, and/or dangerous. The hotel staff required a signed consent form from every convention-goer agreeing these rules.[1]

There were sixteen rules.

Some of the rules were harshly-phrased standard hotel behavior, such as #14: "Safety violations: Jumping or hopping from room balconies or any other serious safety violation will result in removal from hotel property and possible room eviction with NO REFUND.". Other rules were perceived as ridiculous attempts to force business-standard morals & behavior on a Fan crowd.

Rule #6, in particular, was widely mocked: "No physical contact other then holding hands, a quick hug or kiss will be tolerated. Any further actions will result in the subjects being asked to leave the property for the remaining time of the Con."

The Fannish Addendum

Fans being who they are created some additional rules, numbered #17-#30.

the fannish addendum
17. All pool animals must be leashed/muzzled or in carriers.
18. No throwing sex objects off balcony.
19. No obscene behavior with inflatable animals.
20. No levitation.
21. No more than 6 astral bodies in any room (except main lobby).
22. No new clothes allowed. All clothes must be _worn._ If shirt & shoes are thoroughly worn, pants are optional.
23. Any clothing (excluding optional pants) caught making pranfane gestures will be removed from its wearer and evicted. (Anyone able to define "pranfane" gets a cigar.)
24. Physical contact of any duration between humans and extraterrestrials is (of course) permitted, providing all parties are above the age of consent and are not in direct violation of the Prime Directive.
25. On second complaint regarding parties, perpetrators will be thrown to the Red Lions. (Assximing parties were able to continue party elsewhere after their room was evicted.)
26. Anyone attempting to sell the beds, television, or other furnishings from the guest rooms will be keelhauled. (Unless a suitable profit was made and funds shared with appropriate authorities!)
27. Jumping or hopping onto_ balconies from lower levels is strictly prohibited without Jumping or hopping license. (Jumping or hopping to conclusions is, of course, permitted.)
28. If outside police are needed to assist with (indoor) vandalism, our resident vandals will be sent to remedial vandalism classes at Hun & Visigoth Voc Ed Center.
29. Any persons whose minds are wandering in galaxies far, far away (except while sleeping in guest rooms) will have their fantasies rudely shattered by the Fannish Inquisition.
30. Didn't expect the Fannish Inquisition, did you??

Fan Comments

Well, the last Timecon is over; as usual, it was a disaster as a convention. The concom can't be accused of doing much ""wrong" exactly, but it was certainly one of the most boring sets of panels I've ever seen. However, there were major problems with the hotel.

Understand this, first of all: the Red Lion Inn next to San Jose Airport has been far better than average as a venue for SF conventions. The staff has been around a long time, and they're used to us; the facilities are a bit spread out for my taste but otherwise excellent; parking is easy; generally, just a pleasant place to be.

The background for what follows was this year's Baycon. I personally did not see any of this, nor hear about it until I went to Timecon; nevertheless, this is what I was told (my best compilation from several sources [this is not a complete list]):

(Late update [8/6/91]: None of my friends appear to have seen or heard anything about item 1 before Timecon)

1) There were three incidents of couples literally fucking in the halls. This means fornication in public, not just a bit of making out.
2) There was a beer keg party, explicitly against hotel rules, which got rather out of hand. (It's a lot easier to forgive a violation of rules if it doesn't harm anyone)
3) Someone was wearing a shirt (shorts?) that said "Fuck you" in large letters; this would not have been a problem had the con completely taken over the hotel, but it hadn't.
4) The CEO of "a large company" was staying there; his sensibilities offended, he left early and wrote a strong letter of complaint (I haven't seen it, but no doubt someone who has can describe what it said).

The result of this was that the following rules were published in public places, and handed out to many of the people who stayed in rooms there (this is an exact copy, including typos):

As you can see, the majority of these rules fall under the simple category of "safe and sane common sense". However, items 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 12 could be construed in ways that limit "normal" con activity. Moreover, the tone of the letter is rather offensive and insulting, made worse by the numerous syntactical and semantic errors in it. When I saw this, my initial reaction, based primarily on rule 6, was that it had to be a joke. However, it *was* on Red Lion letterhead, and I decided that it had to be checked out.

I went to see the General Manager, who told me (in no particular order):

A) that the hotel had indeed posted the previous letter.
B) the background I mentioned at the beginning of this post.
C) that he had been on vacation until just before Timecon, and had simply passed it on when it appeared in the huge pile on his desk.
D) that the Red Lion Inn had had a continuous relationship with SF conventions during his five years as manager that he was proud of.
E) that he was sorry that this whole situation was handled so poorly (he apologized profusely), and that there was going to be a letter in the afternoon update.
F) that he had had to evict already two rooms containing minors for consuming alcohol and drugs, jumping across balconies.

I suggested that, in addition, he also post the apology in various public places. This suggestion was not acted upon, but here is the letter that appeared in Timecon Update 4 (Saturday evening, approximately 8 hours after my conversation, *long* after complaints started registering):

By the time this came out, though, the damage had been done. Rule 6, in particular, was a prime target. This Timecon was one of the most physically affectionate cons I've ever been to. <grin> Many people wore buttons that said "SIX OFFENDER", I wore a pair that said "I BREAK RULE 6" and "PROMISCUOUS HUGGER", and one person wore one that said "666 — Menage a trois".

I heard that the posted rules were supposedly the standard house rules. I find this difficult to believe, except in a very general sense; no one can afford to look as silly as this letter made them look.

I'll just say that I personally believe that it was "just" a fuck-up in internal communication that caused this to be posted. I don't think the person who actually wrote this was a long-term employee of Red Lion San Jose ~ no one who knew anything about cons could have written that.

There was some additional additional anonymous commentary circulated through the con. This one is the "third page" of the rules:

[snipped, the fannish addendum]

Looking back, I see a couple of important points:

1) The concom for any particular con needs to find out (and possibly negotiate) the hotel rules and communicate them to the attendees. We fen need to expend some effort at self-policing ~ don't just let Flare handle things.
2) If you see something you don't like, react to it, but don't overreact. Most of the people at Timecon made a point of overtly breaking as many of the rules as they could, while still staying within the boundaries of good taste and common sense.

For those of you who attended Timecon and still feel somewhat outraged, I suggest you write a letter to the Red Lion management, and send a copy to Conventions of Time (whatever their address is).

I've deliberately avoided turning this into an emotional report, restricting myself mostly to the facts. I think it's more important to look to the future, and see what can be done to prevent similar incidents from occurring. [2]

My information is that the concom saw the Rules before they were posted, and had the opportunity to protest the way it was worded, at the very least. The fact that they did not indicates either a very poor understanding of the English language, or a responsibility equal to the hotel's.

I'm sorry, but your information is wrong. While there have been copies of that particular 'Rules' sheet out at past conventions, the concoms have never had any input into it or control over it. The hotel, until TimeCon, simply had them in at pile at Check-in. I remember seeing one several years ago and complaining about it at the time, but it's not a convention publication and there's little a concom can do.
The reason why they were handed to people as they checked in at TimeCon was because of an incident that happened at BayCon where a CEO of a major corporation was checked into the hotel that weekend and had a few problems with some of the less polite attendees. He wrote a letter to his friend, the CEO of Red Lions Inn, Inc (as CEO to CEO) and word came down from on High that Rules Will Be Enforced. Period. End of Sentence.
The management of the Red Lion, understanding the fannish community far better than the Corporate office, did what they could but there were people from Corporate about during TimeCon (the next convention up after the letter arrived) to 'check up on how they did'.
The ConCom tried as best they could to cope with both a Hotel memangement caught between a rock and a hard place, and the fans who were over-reacting with great enthusiasm. This has been discussed and hashed out since then. We've offered to co-write or re-write any future set of rules the Hotel thinks need to be distributed. At Silicon, for instance, the Hotel has allowed us to wrrite the rules in a fannish manner and include them with the Hotel description in the Program Book. This will likely be the norm until such time as someone pushes things too far and gets out of hand again, whereupon non-local management will again try to clamp down.
Back in the Midwest, most of the fans seem to understand that a con survives at a hotel only if they work with the concom to bend the rules a bit without pushing things to the point where we get the hotel and the concom in trouble. There seems to be far less awareness of this, or far less concern about it, here on the West Coast. The result is that sometimes thingds get beyond the ability of the concom to smooth over. If fans were a little more appreciative of others it would make the concom's job or running cons much easier and everyone would have a better time, in my humble opinion.
Yes, and they were poorly written (hell, they were poor English!), but things have calmed down a bit on all sides and ruffled feathers have been smoothed. Now if we can just get the fans to put it behind them, life would be a lot easier.
Judging by your need to reiterate "the facts", you definitely never read my original article on this subject. If, as you say, the Rules have been available in this exact form previously, then the concom certainly knew of their existence. Why was nothing ever done about the poor wording?
You seem to create an artificial distinction between fen and the concom. Are you a fan? Aren't you ashamed of a convention that had so many problems? Well, I think we as a fannish community ought to feel ashamed that we didn't restrain the more extreme members, but I also believe that we should not be punished for that aberrant behavior.
My "harping", as you put it, serves several purposes. It provides people with some amusement. It warns people of the dangers of complacency against the threat of the Real World. It provides a rallying point for iconoclasm. It reminds us that we *do* need to be a bit careful.
Besides which, it's simply a good excuse for over-doing what we'd normally do, anyway. :-)
...this particular issue I can speak closely to. It's based my 16 years of conrunning, for whatever that's worth.
Every hotel is full of jerk rules. Most of them have to do with liquor, but they're often all over the place. Those rules exist because given enough people and enough time, *somebody* will do something out of the realm of common sense and get the hotel into trouble. The hotels lawyers then get into the act, and write a rule that's broad enough to cover the situation. They could care less about politeness or fairness, they're just covering their asses.
It has been my near-universal experience that the hotel will tell you what their rules are and which ones they are willing to ignore. What they won't do is put that variance in writing. That's so they can defend themselves when sued or when the boss checks in and says "you told them they could swim nude?" They've been real straight with me about it and most MidWestern conchairs report the same experience. (I can't speak about Eastern, Western or Southern, but that'd because I don't know nearly as many of those folks.)
So imagine yourself in the sales managers office. You know about the stupid rule, and he says "Yeah, we know it's stupid but corporate/legal insists on it. Don't make it obvious and we won't worry about it." Your choices are (1) accept his word, (2) walk. That's it -- the guy's hands are tied. You may not like it, I may not like it, but that's live in the convention biz. You can live with the stupid wording, or you can go find another hotel. Be warned -- it's a long way to go.
Years ago (yeah, yeah, I'm so old :-)) SF cons had a rep among hotels for looking weird but being safe -- caused no damage, policed their own people, and didn't cause problems. Now we've got folks fucking in the lobbies and pitching dummies off inside balconies onto the tourists below. Underage kids are getting smashed and the local cops threaten to pull the hotel liquor licence. As bad as they need the business, hotels are a lot more leery and a lot less tolerant than they used to be.
Heck, Conclave used to schedule a nude swimming party. The hotel unofficially supported it to the extent of supplying paper to cover the pool windows (indoors in October in Michigan) and instructing the security guards it was a private party, badges only. The only thing they insisted on (besides covered windows) was a Red Cross certified lifeguard. I'd hate to think about how that'd go over today.[3]

The rules were a rough draft that should never have been distributed. I don't remember if this was an official statement of the hotel, but several members of the senior management either expressed or agreed with it. The good side was that they got through to the crowd that needed them. The bad side is they pissed off the rest of us. I'll pass on critiquing the concom's handling of the situation. I was just there throwing a reasonably well behaved room party for Silicon 91. You probably wouldn't be surprised to learn that the nearly constant topic of discussion was a certain set of rules... [4]


  1. ^ Timecon Follies, accessed May 7, 2011.
  2. ^ Timecon Follies
  3. ^ from a discussion at Silicon Parties (updated) (Nov 18, 1991)
  4. ^ Police And Conventions (August 1992)