The World Fantasy That Was

Written by Natalie Luhrs

I'm a lifelong geek with a passion for books and social justice. Fuck around and find out.

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November 10, 2015

SJW/Sad Pup Rumble

SJW/Sad Pup Rumble

Well. That was a convention, yep.

I had a decent time, but I won’t be going back to World Fantasy until 2018 at the earliest–in part because of budget & location considerations, but mainly because of the ongoing and persistent issues regarding accessibility and codes of conduct.

Mari Ness has more about the accessibility issue and I agree with her completely: there was no reason for this to happen yet again.

And of course, it is about more than just ramps to stages (or panel rooms without stages, this isn’t SDCC, for fuck’s sake): it’s about every aspect of the convention. I saw a suggestion on Twitter earlier today (I can’t remember who it was, I’m sorry) that con staff ask someone who uses a wheelchair to walk through the facility with them well before the convention–perhaps during the bidding process for something as prominent as a World Fantasy–so they can raise awareness about potential barriers or issues.

As Elsa S. Henry points out:

But let’s even go a little further – by only seeing ADA accessibility as necessary to not get sued, you’re gatekeeping.

You’re saying that the experiences, and the participation of disabled gamers, storytellers and participants in an industry don’t matter.

Creating spaces where I, and many other creators can’t be is an effective way to make sure that we won’t be heard. Our words don’t matter because we can’t even get in the door.

There’s absolutely no reason why there can’t be an accessibility coordinator and staff (and corresponding budget). Except that, historically, there hasn’t been. Perhaps that needs to change. In my experience, when many con-runners talk about best practices, what they mean is the way it’s always been done–and the way they’re most comfortable doing it.

Mary Robinette Kowal also has a great post on this subject–with a lot of really good comments with links to other people’s experiences with accessibility.

And as for the harassment policy? Completely non-existent at the convention.  Wasn’t in the program book, wasn’t posted anywhere, and I still have no idea who was on the con com (never got a response to my emails). No names were in the program book and I didn’t see any special denotation on badges or ribbons on badge holders indicating con com versus volunteers or whatever.  Of course, I didn’t really go to programming–because the initial program draft was nonsense and the final wasn’t a whole lot better (although it did lose the “miscegenation”–which apparently appeared later during the awards ceremony).

It just seemed–like so much else with this convention–half-assed, at best.

WFC Program

Interestingly, they didn’t sell out–people were able to buy memberships at the door, which is unheard of for a World Fantasy. I wonder if they made the tens of thousands of dollars in profit that previous conventions made or if they merely broke even.

Also a thing is the announcement that the Lovecraft bust will be discontinued after this year as the World Fantasy Award. This has been a long time coming–the first I remember hearing about it was this essay by Nnedi Okorafor all the way back in 2011. Other people have been talking about it since, but I remember that Okorafor was one of the first to really raise the issue of what it meant for this award–a World Fantasy Award–to be the face of a xenophobic racist.

Not everyone has handled this announcement with grace.  Most notably among that group is Stephen Jones, co-chair of the 2013 World Fantasy held in Brightonwhich was smugly proud of its lack of a code of conduct and which was also inaccessible–huh, imagine that (for the Facebook non-enabled, right click & open in new tab or window).

However, in addition to all the excellent company I enjoyed at World Fantasy this year (so many friends, so little time!), I also partook of these two delights:

Cocktail Fountain at Tremontaine party

Cocktail Fountain at the Tremontaine party

And despite the promise of the sidewalk chalk. this did not happen:

west side story 1

(I do acknowledge that some folks didn’t think the sidewalk chalk announcements of a rumble were very funny, but I did because I find the word “rumble” inherently silly and conjures up choreographed dance routines for me.)

ETA: And we have an epic flounce from S.T. Joshi on the matter of the award:

S.T. Joshi Flounce

S.T. Joshi Flounce

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