World Fantasy Programming

Programming invitations for this year’s World Fantasy have been going out, and this has resulted in a certain amount of venting on Twitter.

A couple of days ago author Tom Pollock enquired about panel parity, and was told that WFC does not do that. Wanting panel parity was apparently sufficient to disqualify Pollock from programming, though it wasn’t clear whether this was a punishment being imposed on him or simply that the con wouldn’t be running any panels with more than one woman on them.

Further information came to light today when Kameron Hurley was offered this program item:

The Next Generation: Broads with Swords. Once upon a time the heroic fantasy genre was—with a few notable exceptions such as C.L. Moore and Leigh Brackett—the sole domain of male writers like Robert E. Howard, John Jakes and Michael Moorcock. Those days are long gone, and it seems that more & more women writers are having their heroines suit up in chain-mail and wield a broadsword. Who are these new writers embracing a once male-dominated field & how are their books any different from their literary predecessors?

So that explains everything. All of the girl cooties will be safely contained in a panel especially for girlies, whose panel description neatly erases the existence of many of the women writers who will be at the convention.

I note that the 2004 WFC had a theme of “Women in Fantasy”. Nine years later that has all been forgotten.

Meanwhile I also got a programming invitation. I was rather surprised by this. What did they think I was qualified to talk about? This:

The Next Generation We’re All Bloggers Now. Being a columnist or a critic used to be a skill, combining knowledge and the ability to write with insightful observations. These days it seems that everybody has an opinion and evolving technology has given us numerous platforms through which to make our views known. Have we degraded the true art of criticism to a point where it has lost all value?

It did not escape my notice that I was being asked to be on a panel that starts from the assumption that the thing I first became famous for has been a disaster for the field. It rather reminded me of the days when conventions would ask me to be on “Online fanzines, threat or menace?” panels.

I shall be asking John Clute for some input before the panel. Given that this morning we were having a conversation about how being published online can free you from the tyranny of word limits (and if you are laughing, just look at how little space most printed reviews get) I suspect he won’t be any happier with the panel’s assumptions than I am.

I may also write an online review of the convention. It is a long time since Torcon 3 and I’m worried that I might be out of practice of using my skill, skill and expertise to provide insightful observations on the subject of con-running.

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12 Responses to World Fantasy Programming

  1. Just to be clear, “invitation” here means getting your preliminary schedule after you’ve already volunteered or been invited and filled out a panelist survey, right? Not that this is WFC’s first contact with potential panelists?

    • Cheryl says:

      Of course it is first contact. This is World Fantasy we are talking about, not some pathetic, fan-run convention with delusions of democracy.

      The way it works is that convention members may or may not be offered a single panel, based on their reputation in the field. Panel places are assigned by the WFC programming team. If you are so discourteous as to question your assignment or, shock horror, decline it, your place will be given to someone else with a proper sense of the honor being done to them by the offer.

      I was, I have to say, totally gobsmacked to be given a panel place at all. Most WFCs that I have attended have not deemed me worthy of that honor.

      • So if they only know you as someone who’s just made their first professional sale, and not, say, that you’ve spent 20 years in another field and are one of the world’s leading experts, or that you have a fascinating hobby… wow, that just seems like a huge way to miss opportunities.

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  3. What’s striking about that second panel precis isn’t just that it’s offensive; it’s that it’s needlessly offensive. This is a subject on which it’s possible to have an entirely worthwhile conversation, complete with interesting disagreements, without the kind of “threat or menace” presupposition that’s baked into that paragraph.

    I find myself increasingly impatient with this kind of pointless tendentiousness in panel descriptions. “Some say $STUPIDTHING but others claim $OTHERSTUPIDTHING. Fight!” It’s not clever. It doesn’t lead to conversations in which we discover new and interesting things we didn’t know before. On the other hand, it’s a great way to define the limits of acceptable discourse.

  4. As I said on Suw’s blog, I want to point out I don’t think Tom was being punished, I think they were saying that his stance was going to preclude him from being seen on a panel and therefore being seen as a leader in the genre. Which I still think is shitty behaviour, so I’m still calling them out on it. But I don’t think they were barking ‘no! bad dog!’ at him, just ‘well, joke’s on you mate as you’ll never get heard with that equalitist attitude’.

    Does that make sense? It reflects Kameron’s experience with the whole ‘well, you may want equality but it means you won’t get your voice heard as it’s take it or leave it’. And that’s not really a listening approach or a fair choice. It’s still discrimination but it’s not punishment.

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  6. Looks like I missed a lot of discussions. I also received an invitation for the panel you’re on Cheryl. I have many thoughts on this subject, but I doubt they are the same as those expressed in the panel description.

    • Cheryl says:

      Oh, excellent. We should talk. I’m sure we can find some interesting things to say, once I have finished shredding the panel description and feeding it’s author to my pack of pet Tasmanian Devils.

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