World Fantasy Con 2016 Programming has been announced.
On the bright side, after some internet backlash, it looks like they’ve renamed the “Spicy Oriental Zeppelin Stories” panel. So, um, yay for that? But that particular panel name was a symptom of a bigger problem.
I first found out about this from Sarah Pinsker’s series of Tweets. Some of the problems she points out include:
- A panel about “perversely alluring” freaks. (Panel description has since been slightly tweaked.)
- “More mentions of Lovecraft in the program than all women or works by women COMBINED.”
- Heavy programming emphasis on white men, particularly old/dead white men, to the exclusion of others.
I don’t know what was going on in the mind of Darrell Schweitzer and anyone else involved in putting this program together. But I can’t help thinking about the announcement late last year that the World Fantasy Award trophy would no longer feature the bust of H. P. Lovecraft.
And now we have five different panels that focus either directly or indirectly on Lovecraft.
It’s possible this is a coincidence. I believe Schweitzer is a strong Lovecraft fan, so his focus might just be indicative of his own narrow interests. But whether it was deliberate or not, it feels like backlash. A slap in the face of those who talked about how hurtful the Lovecraft trophy was, and all the reasons they wanted to see the award become more inclusive and welcoming to a broader range of fantasy and creators.
Wouldn’t it be great to see the World Fantasy Convention become equally welcoming instead of what feels like petulant doubling down?
It’s not something that just happens all by itself. If WFC wants to become more relevant, there needs to be conscious and deliberate effort to change direction. To look not just at fantasy from decades ago, but the brilliant, creative, exciting work being produced today.
I love the idea of a World Fantasy Convention. I’m utterly bored by another Whitedude Fantasy Convention.
Schweitzer allegedly said “there was no quota system or affirmative action in place” when asked about his programming choices. I get what he’s trying to say, but he’s wrong. Schweitzer’s own quota system is pretty obvious. It might not have been a conscious or deliberate quota, but the programming certainly meets its 90% works by men quota, and its 96% works by white people quota, and so on.
Gods, I’m so tired of the defensive “quota” bullshit. Nobody’s asking for quotas. But it would be nice if people would at least try to recognize their own biases. Sometimes that means yes, you need to actually step back and count. Count the number of women you’ve included in your programming, the number of people of color, and so on. Not because you’re supposed to include an arbitrary number of people from any given category, but to recognize whether your own unconscious choices are narrower than you realized.
While you’re at it, maybe reach out to ask others to look over your proposed program, and maybe help you catch whether what you think is a “harmless in-joke” is going to piss off and hurt a lot of people, making it very clear you don’t really want them as part of your convention.
It just seems better and easier to do that kind of work beforehand, you know?