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Content warning for racist advertisements, used as examples.

Oh, Darrel Schweitzer, no.

Remember a couple of weeks ago when Sarah Pinsker pointed out a number of problems with WFC’s proposed programming track? I blogged about it here, and a number of other people weighed in as well. Some of the many complaints included:

  • “Spicy Oriental Zeppelin Stories” as a title for a panel about “unlikely aerial fantastic fiction.”
  • “Little to no acknowledgement of any recent writing in the genre,” per Foz Meadows.
  • Schweitzer’s choice to ignore the feedback he received before the program was published.
  • A panel about “perversely alluring freaks.”
  • The heavy emphasis on dead white men, to the exclusion of so many others.

Well, Schweitzer and a few of his friends have stepped up to set the record straight. It started when Chet Williamson posted on Facebook that “Spicy Oriental Zeppelin Stories,” as a phrase, “is not a racist creation by Darrell Schweitzer.” Despite Google not finding any reference to this phrase, except from Schweitzer himself, Williamson found a painting by Jerome Rozen that used the title in question.

Fair enough. Williamson is correct that this proves Schweitzer did not invent the phrase. Williamson also points out that this supports Schweitzer’s claim of the phrase being “an old in-joke among pulp fans.”

While it’s nice to know Schweitzer didn’t pull that title out of his ass, Williamson’s post misses the bigger problem. This is the World Fantasy Convention, not the Old Pulp Fans Convention. The fact that this may have been an in-joke among a small subset of fandom does not make it an appropriate title at a convention supposedly trying to be about a celebration of worldwide fantasy. Especially since nothing in the panel description justified or indicated any reason for that specific title.

“But there really were ‘Oriental Stories’ and ‘Spicy Zeppelin’ pulp magazines back in the 50s! Why do you want to censor history?”

Nobody, anywhere, is saying we should erase history or pretend these magazines didn’t exist. Just like nobody’s saying we should pretend other forms of racism never happened. But just because ads like these used to be commonplace…

9a3820c2285a630694fe0a75251a3e67 9b793ff993df2109bc7f59dd4ec15260 c56487f96c3959251eb9b2ecda4eef22

…doesn’t mean we should post them on the convention walls!

Likewise, just because “Spicy Oriental Zeppelin Stories” was the kind of thing tossed about in the 50s by some fans doesn’t mean we should use it as a panel title in 2016. Especially when said panel, instead of being a discussion about the racism and exoticizing of the past, instead seems to be a celebration of it.

Surprising nobody, Darrell has dismissed people’s anger as “the howls by a few PC ignorami,” complete with supportive comments by mostly white people explaining why everyone else is wrong to be offended. (Note: that Facebook link may not work for everyone.)

So basically, after it was pointed out that Schweitzer’s programming was heavily dominated by old/dead white authors and mostly excluded women, PoC, and works written in the past 30 years, as well as including casual racism and ablism, the defense here is that that one panel title — the title the convention has already changed — was actually okay because it’s a joke from 30 or 40 years ago?

Commenters filled in the rest of the BINGO card with references to the “perpetually outraged,” insistence that Darrell is “one of the good guys” and totally not racist, and pointing to some people of Asian descent who were completely fine with the word “oriental” because they didn’t say anything to some white dude about it.

Here’s Darrell’s full comment I referenced a few paragraphs ago:

“I want to add that despite the howls by a few PC ignorami, the World Fantasy Convention isn’t like that, and is still worth attending. There are a lot of smart and friendly people there. If you encounter the outrage junkies, just ignore them. I hope you will attend. I am chair of programming and confident I have something good in store for you.”

At last, something upon which we can agree. Not in his characterization of the “PC ignorami,” but in his recognition that no, the WFC really isn’t like that. It’s not about trying to be inclusive. It’s not in touch with the amazing fantasy authors working today, or the incredible new works those authors are producing. It’s not interested in authors of color or authors who aren’t men. Darrell Schweitzer’s WFC has no desire to be more welcoming.

If you, like Schweitzer, are interested in clinging desperately to the past, ignoring the present and the future, and pretending Lovecraft is the pinnacle of fantasy literature, then Schweitzer probably does have something good in store for you.

Maybe Darrell Schweitzer is a good guy. I don’t know him. All I have to go by are his choices and his words. His choices in putting this program together suggest he’s got his own narrow interests — which isn’t a problem — but that he’s not willing to try to look beyond them to create a program worthy of the World Fantasy Convention. And his words suggest he doesn’t give a shit about who he hurts and who he excludes.

The fantasy genre is better than this. I hope that one day, the World Fantasy Convention will be better as well.



Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.


( 21 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 13th, 2016 11:22 pm (UTC)
Sigh. I was kind of sad about not going. I'm over it now. (I went last year for the first time, and the issues were much the same.)
Aug. 14th, 2016 01:50 am (UTC)
. . . okay, I have gone past "I am annoyed by WFC but will go and try to do my part to improve it" to "maybe I'll just consider my membership a sunk cost and stay home."

Because at this point, I'm not sure I want to touch any part of a program created by Schweitzer even if you gave me a ten-foot-pole to do it with.

Edited to add: in fact, I just drafted an email to the con-com, notifying them not only of my decision not to use my membership, but the reasons for it. I haven't sent it yet; I'm going to sit on it until tomorrow and see if I've changed my mind then. But the gun is loaded and cocked, so to speak.

Edited at 2016-08-14 02:12 am (UTC)
Aug. 14th, 2016 01:58 pm (UTC)
Communicating with the con-com and programming might be helpful. DS responded to me on Facebook. Apparently he believes "this outburst of excessive political correctness is alienating more people than anything else. I have had people tell me they are canceling their plans because they are afraid the World Fantasy Convention is being run by self-righteous, ignorant PC types."

While I'm sure it's true that some people have told him that, the nature of the internet means I suppose he could be genuinely unaware of how many people he's alienated.

Or else he's aware and just dismissing them as the perpetual PC outrage police or something.
Aug. 14th, 2016 06:16 pm (UTC)
Knowing the way our brains work, I would believe he's had maybe one or two friends lament the way the "PC police" have taken over, and he's subconsciously inflated that into "more people are being driven away by the yells of the outrage junkies than are being driven away by the things those people are yelling about."

The only way I know of to counteract that is to provide solid proof to the contrary, not just to him, but to the people who are in a position to mandate change.
Aug. 14th, 2016 06:20 pm (UTC)
And the internet can be a magnifying echo chamber for any of us.
Aug. 14th, 2016 08:34 pm (UTC)
Email is sent, withdrawing from the convention. Whether it will do any good -- who knows.
Aug. 14th, 2016 09:31 pm (UTC)
Its not that he just being politically incorrect its that his program reflects his personal strengths and interests.

Other than the generic hours are there many panels reflective of the Guests of Honour?

To me for any con the programming should reflect the guests of honour and also be crowd-sourced to reflect the interests and strengths of the attendees.
Aug. 14th, 2016 03:28 am (UTC)
I have wanted to go to WFC in the past. That desire is now past. And possibly buried in a trash can somewhere.
Aug. 14th, 2016 04:27 am (UTC)
I do know Darrell, have for many years, and he is... well, he's a straight white man of a particular age and interests, who has never given any indication that he's aware of or interested in anything post early 1970's, in terms of fiction (or music). Useful when you're playing lit trivia and he's on your team, but not so much the rest of the time. I have no idea whose non-brilliant idea it was to hand the programming over to him.

WFC has so much programming/discussion potential, when it's put into competent and willing hands. I hate seeing it sunk every few years by this kind of bullshit.

(disclaimer: I was already not planning on attending, for various reasons. This just made me thankful the decision had been made already).

Edited at 2016-08-14 04:29 am (UTC)
Aug. 14th, 2016 01:53 pm (UTC)
(If they had put him in charge of the RETRO track, we could have had something brilliant to run alongside the "shit that's actually relevant today" track. Alas, this year's WFC seems to have forgotten that step)
Aug. 14th, 2016 11:01 am (UTC)
What a shambles.

I wonder if some of this is about the self-selection paradigm of social media - it's possible to end up only talking to people who you agree with, and thereby end up thinking everybody agrees with you. This isn't an excuse (since the program is inexcusable), merely an observation.
Aug. 14th, 2016 01:44 pm (UTC)
I'm sure that's part of it. He's informed me that what he's seeing is people alienated by all this "political correctness," as opposed to anyone seriously alienated by his programming choices and such.
Aug. 14th, 2016 12:52 pm (UTC)
If by "a good guy" you mean someone who doesn't torture puppies or drive drunk, he may well be a good guy. But "doesn't belong in prison" is a low bar for "good."

A good person doesn't dismiss everyone he disagrees with as "ignorami" for pointing out how much he/his programming for the World Fantasy Convention is deliberately ignoring. If he wants to have, or do programming for, a pulpcon, he should go do that; a good guy wouldn't be funding it with members money from people who joined expecting something quite different.
Aug. 14th, 2016 02:09 pm (UTC)
I think for a number of people, "good guy" means someone who isn't *consciously* and *actively* trying to hurt and alienate other people.

Which...is also a pretty low bar.
Aug. 14th, 2016 04:06 pm (UTC)
I'll even go so far as to say it's a bar he has nonetheless failed to clear. When people tell him "that thing you did is hurting me" and his response is to dismiss them as whiners, he a) is consciously aware of the objections and b) has actively chosen to continue doing That Thing despite knowing it hurts and alienates people, and possibly to double down.

This is not a framing that's popular with the X Is a Good Guy Brigade whenever something like this happens, but...
Aug. 14th, 2016 09:57 pm (UTC)
The bar is even lower. A "good guy" is somebody who's never been rude to *me*. Thus, a woman can say "Fred sexually harassed me" and be assured that "Fred's a good guy." As long as Fred stays polite to and in front of his in-group, Fred's innate goodness cannot be tarnished.
Aug. 14th, 2016 01:43 pm (UTC)
It really shows a lack of preparation and a narrow knowledge of the field.

Aug. 14th, 2016 03:38 pm (UTC)
Yeah. If someone put me in charge of the WFC... well, I'd be reaching out to others because I know my tastes don't represent all of fantasy.

As suricattus said upthread, this would be far less of a mess if Schweitzer was in charge of designing a 'retro' or 'pulp' track, and other people were doing things like more modern works, or discussion of work outside the US and UK, or so on.

Edited at 2016-08-14 03:39 pm (UTC)
Aug. 14th, 2016 04:03 pm (UTC)
Well, at least he's clear that he doesn't want the PC ignorami to attend. That ought to make it easier for anyone who has any interest whatsoever in not harming marginalized groups to stay home. (Not to mention members of those groups themselves, who comprise a much larger percentage of fandom than he wants to admit.)
Aug. 14th, 2016 11:15 pm (UTC)
It sounds like he really enjoyed WFC circa 1980, and wants to recreate that experience.
Aug. 15th, 2016 02:27 pm (UTC)
Yeah, so, it goes without saying that we kind of want the "World" in World Fantasy Con, right?

I hate to think we have to start a con called The World Fantasy Con Which Actually Includes the Whole World.

( 21 comments — Leave a comment )


Jim C. Hines


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