World Fantasy – Plus ça change

Another year, another day of social media full of outrage about something the World Fantasy Convention has done. How tiresomely predictable.

For those who are late to the party, Sarah Pinsker has a lot of inside track on what went on, having tried to save them from their stupidity. Mike Glyer has a round of of Twitter reactions. And Foz Meadows has a lengthy blog post. An earlier blow-up about this year’s convention is reported by Jason Sanford.

You may also want to refresh your memory of some of the previous drama, because this convention sure has history.

Foz concludes her piece as follows:

But we know all that. We’ve said it before. What else is there to say?

I have much sympathy. We’ve been here before. I don’t doubt that we’ll be here again. Some people, however, are bravely trying to do something about it.

Some people have been busy contacting the up-coming WFCs in San Antonio (2017) and Baltimore (2018). This has some promise. The San Antonio event is being run by the people who run Armadillocon which does at least have a harassment policy. I’m hearing some good things on Twitter about the Baltimore event. However, this is only a short term solution. The World Fantasy Board appoints a different group to run each year’s event. They can, and will, continue to give that job to people who produce the sort of convention that they want, rather than the sort of convention other people might want.

Over on Facebook, Tempest Bradford has suggested boycotting the convention. Again this has some merit. The problem is that, as a high profile professional networking event with a membership cap, WFC generally has no trouble attracting attendees. People, and especially aspiring young writers, feel that they need to be seen there. If going to WFC is important to people’s careers, and the only people who go are people who are comfortable at an event aimed primarily at straight cis white men, well I think you can see the problem.

Tempest suggests ghosting the convention (i.e. not buying a membership, but getting a hotel room and joining the bar conversations). She’s absolutely right that this is where all of the action happens. WFC programming has been crap for as long as I can remember, so most people don’t got to it. As a con-runner I’m always a bit nervous about ghosting because it can cause financial problems for the organizers, but if the event is sold out that’s a different matter.

Other people have been suggesting having an alternative convention, perhaps online. I’m certainly interested in that, but the networking really on happens at meatspace events. If you want networking and can get to US events, the Nebula weekend seems to have been going from strength to strength since people with an eye on the future took over SFWA. The Locus Awards weekend is also chock full of leading industry folks. Personally, of course, I would like something more international. Sadly this year’s Eurocon in Barcelona is sold out, otherwise I would suggest y’all come over here instead.

The only way we will get real change, I think, is if the people at the top of the field stop supporting WFC. The convention can only be good for your career if people you want to network with are going to be there. That means publishers, their editors, top writers and so on. We need those people to stand up and tell WFC that they will stop attending unless the event stops being an embarrassment to the industry.


5 thoughts on “World Fantasy – Plus ça change

  1. I’m with you that editors and publishers have to put a stop to it, but I have no qualms whatsoever ghosting this convention, and have done so in the past. The organisers are out of pocket? Poor mites. They might think about putting on a convention people might want to support, instead of having to attend gritting their teeth.

    1. Point taken, but having being involved in running a WFC I know how much pressure is put on the organizing group to run the sort of convention that the Board wants rather than what they want. That’s clearly not the case this year, indeed the current convention seems to be trying hard to be more conservative than the Board, but might be in other years.

      Also I’m reluctant to encourage ghosting as a general principle, because if people think it is OK for WFC they may think it is OK for all conventions.

  2. I would say that I’ll stop attending WFC but first I’d have to *start* attending.

    A lot of people like me can’t afford to attend WFC because it’s expensive and exclusive. Membership is capped and it’s pricey, so I feel it’s not cost-effective for me to go to a limited convention when I’d have a chance to see more people at the worldcon. There’s always someone to have a drink with in the bar.

    But maybe it would be a better solution if *more* people went to WFC, rather than stayed away—more people, and more different kinds of people. And not ghosting, but participating, getting right into the centre of things and making their voices heard and their presence felt. I think that’s a more positive way to bring about change.

    1. You’ve not been to WFC, Pat. I have been to several. I have even helped run one. I can tell you from bitter experience that trying to work with them does absolutely no good at all.

      Worldcon has some democratic traditions. You can get people to vote for the changes you want. With WFC the only people who have a say are the Board, and the only way to get on the Board is to chair a WFC.

      If you try to make your voice heard as an ordinary member you get made to feel very unwelcome. If you do ever manage to get to run the convention you have to put up with an enormous amount of Board interference on petty issues, you’ll have the Board undermining your efforts publicly before the event, and after it they will spread lies about what you did.

      The WFC that I was involved in running was 7 years ago. In the intervening time things have only got worse. They are so set in their ways that I don’t think they are likely to change even if their business model does collapse.

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