It’s a shame, what’s happening with World Fantasy Con.
I’ve never attended this con. I don’t know much about the organizers. I’m not familiar with the past offenses and imbroglios that others in the SF community have complained about.
But you can tell at a glance that the program for this year is skewed.
This kind of thing puts me in a weird spot. Problem is, I like all the old-white-male writing the program emphasizes. It’s what I grew up on (mostly). It’s what I know (mostly). It’s where I’m coming from.
Stiff-collared, stuffy types talking about European writers of the 1890s? That’s my kind of scene.
But that tradition, that strand, that sliver of literary history–it can only be appreciated when it’s put in its proper context: as one small group of voices in a big crowd.
When history’s white male writers are set up as imposing monoliths, it’s harder to appreciate them as the fallible, flawed artists they were.
When a genre’s past is celebrated at the expense of its present, a healthy interest in tradition petrifies into thoughtless archaism.
When white male artists are the only offering on the menu, that fosters resentment, hostility, and rejection.
And when a taste for certain authors becomes synonymous with narrow-mindedness, it’s hard to make a case for them that’s founded on old-fashioned readerly pleasures: curiosity, aesthetics, or plain escapism.
So, yeah, I like the old books. I think they have value. I can even enjoy Lovecraft, if the moon is out and the mood is right and a dark twisted branch is tapping at the windowpane.
I’d like for others to share that pleasure. But it can only be an invitation–never an imposition.
With a mix of perspectives, everyone benefits. And when all kinds of readers and all kinds of writers come together, literature benefits most of all.