Outrage Greets 2016 World Fantasy Con Program

Darrell Schweitzer released the program for the 2016 World Fantasy Convention and promptly came under a hail of criticism from writers.

Much of it was directed at a program title found to be offensive – “Spicy Oriental Zeppelin Stories.” During the afternoon the item was renamed “Outrageous Aviation Stories, Flying Pulp Oddities.”

Other Twitter users complained that women are underrepresented in the overall count of writers mentioned by name in panel topics, as are fantasy works written less than 20 years ago.

Sarah Pinsker discussed her concerns in a series of tweets, now collected on Storify.

Here are some of the highlights of the conversation.

SARAH PINSKER

KEN LIU

https://twitter.com/kyliu99/status/760221655532732417

CARL ENGLE-LAIRD

LIZ BOURKE

HEATHER CLITHEROE

JAYM GATES

GREG VAN EEKHOUT

JOHN SCALZI

DAVE PROBERT

ANN LECKIE

DAVID MACK

DONGWON SONG

WESLEY CHU

KAMERON HURLEY

ANDREA PHILLIPS

And in the meantime Justin Landon has been tweeting suggested revisions to make the problematic items workable – or snarkier, depending on how they struck him….

JUSTIN LANDON

404 thoughts on “Outrage Greets 2016 World Fantasy Con Program

  1. I think also the bad writing and the racism and the archaic 19th century style (almost a pastiche of that style) also sort of helped his reputation in a weird way. Writers who liked his ideas and the whole messed-up ambience of his writing would be more inclined to try and rework those ideas into more accessible stories, rather than regard Lovecraft’s own writing as the perfect examples of Lovercraftianess.

    Lovecraft’s imitators are often much better than Lovecraft. Which is unusual I think.

  2. @Camestros
    Thanks. I tried to read. I found my mind kept wandering as I was reading. I’m sure it was revolutionary at the time. Although possibly PoC and/or women were writing things like it previously or at the same time but their writing has been lost/forgotten. *doesn’t trust white men’s history/memory* 😉

  3. I think you can probably learn all you need to about Lovecraft’s work from Wikipedia or (no, don’t do it!) TV Tropes. If “all you need to learn” is how to recognize his Mythos elements in later writers’ work, that is. You won’t have to pore over all the leaden overwrought prose and racism/sexism. The stuff inspired by him, pastiches thereof, etc. are better-written, less-offensive, and/or scarier/funnier. Stross, Gaiman, Moon, have all done good work of that sort, along with the swell novel “Lovecraft Country”.

    How’s about rice flour wrappers for the edible Spicy Zeppelins?

  4. How’s about rice flour wrappers for the edible Spicy Zeppelins?

    Samosas. Samosas all. the. way.

  5. I’ve been enjoying the series at tor.com getting girl cooties all over Lovecraft. I’m sure that would’ve been an eldritch horror for him, but he’s dead now.

    Or so we assume.

  6. I like Lovecraft, Tolkien and Adams, but…

    *steps on to the naughty step*

    …Star Trek. I really can’t get this Star Trek cult. Or Dr. Who. Ok for having a fondness, but the sheer amount of merchandise, news, series and so on.

    I would have preferred Cthulhu Trek where everyone goes insane and dies horribly.

  7. I’m on the naughty step because I don’t much like Guillermo del Toro’s work (Pan’s Labyrinth gets a pass based on the imagery, though just barely, and I hated Crimson Peak.)

  8. [With too little time before I leave for Worldcon, I apologize that I don’t have time to read the full thread.]

    Those who have been so quick to pillory Darrell Schweitzer — a true scholar of the field — for alleged racism, need to learn that Google, wonderful as it is, is not omniscient, and shouldn’t be treated as definitive proof of anything. There are still large swathes of reality that will never be indexed online.

    Evidently, Darrell’s self-righteous accusers know nothing of the history of the pulps — which _were_ sometimes racist as well as misogynistic — or the history of pulp fandom, which has long recognized, mocked, and satirized those unpleasant facts.

    Contrary to claims that are being made, Darrell was not the inventor of Spicy Oriental Zeppelin Tales and it was, in fact, an existing satirical joke in pulp fandom. The proof can be seen here where you’ll find a 30- or 40-year old painting that was commissioned by Richard Clear and rendered by Jerome Rozen. (My thanks to Anthony Tollin and Chet Williamson for this information.)

    Political correctness can be a valuable corrective tool to acknowledge past abuses and spare the feelings of the oppressed. Carried to an extreme, as it was in this case, it becomes a form of abuse itself. Those who so eagerly rush to misuse it as a weapon should consider how they thereby delegitimize it and empower demagogues like Trump to use it as a club with which he can batter progressivism as a whole.

  9. Moshe Feder: Much as I respect your skills as an editor, I suggest that you actually take the time to read the comments before chiming in. Because you’ve not done yourself or Mr. Schweitzer any favors by doing so from an ill-informed point-of-view. 😐

  10. @Moshe Feder
    Thanks for the image. It doesn’t change the fact that the term hasn’t been in common usage in a long, long, time, if it ever truly was. A single image doesn’t prove it was a common in-joke among many fans, just some fans. It certainly doesn’t prove it’s an acceptable term today for a panel.

  11. Moshe Feder: When you call others self-righteous, have you considered that you might be projecting?

    Also, do you mean that is mutually exclusive to critisize the programming of WFC and to have knowledge of the pulps? Why?

    Using Trump as a baseball bat to best people into silence is not the greatest idea.

  12. Oh, and I do not think sayin “Spicy Oriental Zeppelins” makes anyone a racist. I do thin it was illadvised to use. I do think it was a bad idea to not listen to others when they mentioned the problem. I do thin the ableist part was much worse and bloody well not ok.

    If it had only been oriental zeppelins, people would have just shaken their heads. But there were more problems than that.

  13. Those who have been so quick to pillory Darrell Schweitzer — a true scholar of the field — for alleged racism, need to learn that Google, wonderful as it is, is not omniscient, and shouldn’t be treated as definitive proof of anything.

    I’m trying to figure out how you came to the conclusion that “true scholar of the field” and “made a title of a panel that is racist” are mutually exclusive. Or how you came to the conclusion that a long-standing fan in-joke should be immune from criticism. Or that a single panel of commissioned art proves that something was somehow widespread when most fans seem to have used the in-joke without the added offensive bit for decades now.

    It boils down to this: It doesn’t matter if it actually is an “in-joke”, or how well-versed in the pulps Schweitzer is, the title was problematic. He was warned that it was problematic. He waved off the warnings with a dismissive hand, and has gotten exactly the reaction he was warned he would get. Long-standing usage doesn’t make something not problematic. If it did, then we would still be saying someone “Jewed” one out of money by engaging hard-bargaining or even cheating.

  14. @Moshe Feder:

    It’s too bad you skipped the prior comments, because you missed this from Cassy B:

    I think it’s important to acknowledge the history of the field, however problematic that history may be in parts. I also think it’s important not to ignore the entrenched racism, sexism, etc. of that history. We not only can discuss this, I think we MUST discuss this. But putting blatant racism on a panel title as if one is endorsing that racism is a major error. If the title had been “Spicy Oriental Zepellins: A Discussion of Racism in the Pulps” — you know, I’d have been fine with that.

    I don’t think Darrell Schweitzer is racist, but he appears to be tone-deaf and unwilling to listen to criticism. Some of these panel titles hit the Failure State of Clever in a big way, alienated a lot of people, and made them feel unwelcome. It would behoove him, and you, to think about why that is instead of complaining about political correctness being taken to the extreme.

  15. Notice every time we start moving this thread in a positive direction a new SWM who can’t be bothered to read all the comments stops by sending us negative and back over ground we’ve already traveled? It’s like the thread is cursed.

    ETA: added text for clarity

  16. @Tasha Turner – Notice every time we start moving this thread in a positive direction a new SWM who can’t be bothered to read all the comments stops by sending us negative and back over ground we’ve already traveled? It’s like the thread is cursed.

    Why, yes, I have noticed it. Also, that the phrase political correctness is used as if it’s supposed to work like a mute button instead of a signal that the user can’t be bothered with politeness to those who don’t look like him.

    It’s a good thing we have the Naughty Step. 😉

  17. Great issues of our time. Is it Oriental Chicken Salad or Chinese Chicken Salad? Enquiring chicken salads want to know.

  18. I noticed that the last two have used Donald Trump as a bludgeon to attempt to get us to shut up.

    *climbs back atop the Naughty Step*

    I don’t care for Star Trek TOS, and much preferred The Animated Series.

  19. I’m reminded of something that I let pass awhile ago.

    If someone asked me if I wanted to go to an “Oriental” restaurant, I would honestly be perplexed. What kind of restaurant? Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai? Those are the ones I can think of in my immediate area. Does Indian count as Oriental? Moroccan? Help me out here.

    (I live with someone who has anaphylaxis to peanuts. Thai is Right Out. Usually Chinese too. Japanese is generally safe, unless they’re a place that also serves other types of cuisine. I was so sad when one of my favourite ramen shops changed their menu and added peanuts to a dish. Always read the menu every time, kids!)

  20. I’m not young and I’ve never heard of Oriental Chicken Salad, so maybe it’s only a question in places without a lot of diversity?

    @Dawn Incognito, one of my nephews recently spent the night at the ER, because a restaurant he’d been going to for years started adding peanuts to something he’d been eating for years without problems.

    Naughty Step: I think Arthur C. Clarke is deadly dull and Rendezvous With Rama is one of the worst books I’ve ever read .

  21. @Milt Stevens
    I’m honestly not sure if I’ve heard of Oriental Chicken Salad. I would wonder if it was Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Korean, Indian, Morrocan, etc. What’s it made of? Do people take offense? I don’t know. Is it a long time common food served in X kind of restaurants? When did you last have it and where Milt? Are you just looking for another reason to be offended by the hypothetical PC police?

    —–
    Peanut allergies have to be one of the worst food allergies as airborne and “shared equipment” can trigger deadly attacks.

    —-
    Naughty step: I don’t get grimdark epic fantasy and its claim of violence and abuse making it more like reality

  22. I’m really tired of hearing about Lovecraft too, he doesn’t need his profile raised anymore when there are so many new, old or dead authors that really need a boost (like hearing way too much about The Beatles) but I rate him very highly. I have issues with his prose but at best he can describe with a great beauty and atmosphere which I don’t think is common at all. Nick Mamatas defended his prose on his livejournal quite well but I cant find it.

    I haven’t read any of the recent Lovecraft inspired writing (there are over 150 tribute/mythos anthologies, which must be a record) but most of the things people consider improvements are things I think Lovecraft wisely avoided.

    As well as being arguably the nucleus of the Weird Tales circle and cultivating the next generations of horror, Supernatural Horror In Literature is the most important essay ever written on horror fiction, it probably saved a lot of stuff from obscurity.

    The influence in visual art is pretty big too, Giger is an obvious example. A lot of metal music based on his work too. He pops up in all sorts of unexpected places, like Borges and some of the French surrealists liking him.
    Thomas Ligotti (one of the few living Penguin Classics authors) ascended in Lovecraft fandom.

    Most of the Cthulhu merchandise, jokes and memes (geek humour is seldom funny) can burn in hell.

  23. What the hell is an oriental chicken salad!? I’m truly puzzled. If you think it is a japanese one and you get a thai salad, you’re in for a surprise.

  24. Tasha Turner on August 14, 2016 at 12:03 pm said: @Milt Stevens
    I’m honestly not sure if I’ve heard of Oriental Chicken Salad. I would wonder if it was Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Korean, Indian, Morrocan, etc. What’s it made of? Do people take offense? I don’t know. Is it a long time common food served in X kind of restaurants? When did you last have it and where Milt? Are you just looking for another reason to be offended by the hypothetical PC police?

    I had oriental chicken salad at my local Korean Jewish deli about a week ago. Would you expect Koreans to call one of their salads Chinese.

    Are you still talking trash?

  25. I’d expect Koreans to call their salads Korean. Korean Chicken Salad. Why would Koreans call it Chinese Chicken Salad? Your making no sense again.

    A Korean Jewish deli sounds confused. I know fusion cuisine is a thing now. Is the place run by Koreans? Jews? Korean Jews/Jewish Koreans? Neither? Curious minds want to know.

    Me talk trash? I think it’s your turn to take the trash out. It’s a mans job after all. I know you like being manly. 😉

  26. @Milt Stevens:

    I just came and turned on my computer to give a good-faith reply to your little gotcha.

    I did a Google for “Oriental Chicken Salad” to try and suss out what recipes there were. I see there’s an Applebee’s menu item with that name. The description reads: Crisp Oriental greens topped with chunks of crunchy Chicken Fingers, toasted almonds and crispy rice noodles tossed in a light Oriental vinaigrette. Which is, as expected, so vague as to be functionally useless.

    So I found a copycat recipe at http://www.topsecretrecipes.com/Applebees-Oriental-Chicken-Salad-Copycat-Recipe.html which gave me some actual ingredients. In this case, Napa cabbage and chow mein noodles. Which means it is a Chinese-style chicken salad. Which is very different from, say, a Korean-style spicy chicken salad with Gochujang, or a Thai-style satay chicken salad, or a Japanese-style chicken salad with ramen noodles and a sesame ginger dressing.

    Then I read your reply to Tasha and confirmed you were just being an asshole. Thanks a bunch for wasting my time.

  27. @Dawn Incognito
    The recipe you found and the alternatives you name sound like great summer salads. Your time wasn’t totally wasted I’ve got Shabbos lunch ideas. Thanks 😀

  28. Tasha, I made those last three up based on a couple of the other recipe blurbs on the first page of Google results. I spotted a couple with ramen noodles and one with peanut sauce. I don’t know if there are any salads with Gochujang, but that’s the ingredient that pops into my head when I think Korean food. I have to make a special Toronto trip if I want to buy a brand without MSG 🙁

    Welp, now I’m hungry.

  29. PEE ESS:

    I have the same issue with “Mediterranean food”. Do you know how many countries there are around the Mediterranean? Do you mean Greek? Italian? Lebanese? Egyptian? French? Turkish? Be more specific, people!

    And now for dinner 😉

  30. I’m quite fond of the thai salads myself, but they are spicy as hell. Caught me unaware the first time and gave me quite a shock.

  31. Ah, Fandom. Tone deaf panel titles aren’t particularly welcoming, to be sure, but neither is the apparent justification that it’s all based on an obscure fannish in-joke dating back to before some of us were even born.

  32. Sunset Magazine, blessings on their name, did the research.

    Historians point an uncertain finger to California for the first public appearance of Chinese chicken salad. Chef Lee of the New Moon Restaurant, which opened in Los Angeles in 1950, claims to have brought the recipe from Hong Kong. And in San Francisco in the early 1960s, Cecilia Chiang served Chinese chicken salad at the Mandarin. Sunset’s first recipe for it, published in 1970, came from Ming’s of Palo Alto.

    So “Chinese Chicken Salad” is yet another recipe created by Chinese chefs for an American audience.

    On a less pleasant note, whenever I see “PC” or “SJA”, I take it as shorthand for “I want to be rude without people telling me so.” Good luck with that.

  33. I see “Oriental food” or “Mediterranean food” and I think of Vimto, the fruit-flavoured fizzy drink. Not any specific fruit, you understand. Just fruit in general, sort of thing.

    @Cheryl S.: I think Clarke has his moments… but when I first read Rendezvous with Rama, I was a) twelve and b) in hospital with a badly broken arm and thus on serious painkillers… and, even in that less-than-critically-astute condition, I noticed it had a lot of lecturing and no characterization worth speaking of.

  34. @Madame Hardy
    Thanks for dropping by/delurking to provide us with background on Chinese Chicken Salad. Not surprised it was invented for us Americans. We do need lots of catering to. 😉

  35. @Dawn Incognito
    There is a small chain of restaurants here in Auckland that serve dishes from around the Mediterranean. Each dish is properly described however, with actual names of the ingredients – they just come from Turkey, Greece, Morocco, Jordan etc. I note that they do have with Mediterranean Fish Salad (with Israeli couscous, walnut, apricot and tomato), which I’m inclined to give them a pass on.

  36. @ErrolC:

    Actually, there’s a small chain I quite enjoy that serves “Mediterranean cuisine”. They specify what country most of the dishes come from, and their entree section is subdivided by country. You can have souvlaki, shawarma, kafta, falafel, tzatziki, shashlik, yummy yummy yum. Also the best damn garlic sauce.

    Those places get a pass; it’s just a wee pet peeve when someone says “Mediterranean” when they really mean “Greek”.

    @Cheryl S.

    That is really scary! I’m glad your nephew is okay; I assume he had his EpiPen? I was once the one to spot an allergy alert at a Smoke’s Poutinerie, taped several feet behind the counter printed on an 8.5″ x 11″ sheet of paper. The samosas in the new samosa poutine had a peanut warning. The samosas that were going in the fryer. Hooooooly shit. Bad Smoke’s! No (nut safe) cookie!

  37. Oooh. Food history. One of my favorite things. Thank you!

    @ Steve Wright, and yet it won all the awards, including a Nebula and the Hugo. Whenever anyone talks about unworthy Hugo winners, that’s where my brain goes. 😉

    @Dawn Incognito, good catch! My nephew always carries an epipen and is fine. His mother, a few months later, is just starting to calm down.

    Also, when I say I like Mediterranean food, I mean I like pretty much all the food from all the countries that touch on the Mediterranean Sea. Except sardines. I can’t get past the eyes on sardines.

  38. My place on the Fandom Naughty Step is for C.J. Cherryh. A number of people I respect adore her writing, but there is something about her prose on the sentence level that just repels me. Reading it is like slogging through mud.

  39. @Dawn Incognito

    There is a tiny salad/wrap chain (Sprout) in the Twin Cities that does indeed have a gochujang dressing available. They also have kimchi, and deep fried jalapenos.

  40. So “Chinese Chicken Salad” is yet another recipe created by Chinese chefs for an American audience.

    The reference said it was made in Hong Kong before it came to America — perhaps it was created for the people who lived there?

    But Sunset’s research may be suspect.

    It was being served here (scroll down) in Brooklyn in 1935.

  41. Bill: The reference said it was made in Hong Kong before it came to America — perhaps it was created for the people who lived there?

    The main point still being that it is Chinese Chicken Salad, not Oriental Chicken Salad.

  42. I was addressing something that was not a main point — going off on a tangent, as it were.

    But if what Madame Hardy seems to be implying is correct — that “Chinese Chicken Salad” is really a dish of American origins that plays into American stereotypes of Chinese cooking, rather than being an authentically Chinese (which China? Cantonese? Szechuan? One of the many other regional Chinese cuisines?) dish — I don’t see how calling it “Chinese Chicken Salad” is hugely better than calling it “Oriental Chicken Salad.” “Chinese” is being used to stereotypically and inaccurately denote something as exotic and “other”. It would be a difference in degree, not in kind.

  43. Chinese food in Sweden is swedish chinese food. The first restaurant serving the food – adjusted for swedish tastes – set the template for all to follow. That is why you always cand find a plate called “four little courses”, created so everyone could get a taste of everything new and exciting.

    I remember the first time I ordered chinese in UK, how different it tasted.

  44. Korean Jewish Deli is probably Ruth’s Kitchen in Brookline MA. Korean convert owner who keeps kosher.

  45. What a lovely link, Bill. It wouldn’t surprise me that Sunset would overemphasize the California link. On the other hand, it’s possible that the “Chinese chicken salad” of 1935 is a different beast than the one served at California restaurants in the 1950s. I’ve seen a lot of early-20th-century recipes that proudly call themselves “Japanese”, “Chinese”, or “Polynesian” because they contain soy sauce or almonds.

    I can’t see how “Chinese chicken salad” per se can be an offensive use of the word “Chinese” given that (A) “Chinese” is not in itself a pejorative and (B) it’s a pertinent name for the dish, having been first served at Chinese restaurants. It’s the combination that matters. If somebody of Chinese ethnicity/nationality/affiliation corrects me, I apologize and will stop using the term.

  46. @Jon Baker
    Ruth’s Kitchen in Brookline closed late 2007. I was only able to eat there a few times after my conversion. If Bill ate there he’s been time traveling which would be cool but unlikely.

  47. I’ve eaten the Applebee’s Oriental Chicken salad. I really like it. It’s more Chinese-inspired, or Chinese-diaspora-inspired than it is from any other Asian country, but if I were to rename it, I’d probably want to try and find a name based on the ingredients rather than any theoretical origin source (Breaded chicken salad with crispy noodles, eg)

    But other restaurants seem to disagree. When I’ve seen imitation versions of the recipe at other restaurants, they’re usually called “Asian Chicken Salad”…

    (I am continually amazed how often people come into a thread to make their grand winning point without reading back at all, convinced that they don’t need to read – or even skim – a 300+ comment thread just in case it’s been made and refuted, oh, 5 times. Nope, their point is unique and nobody ever thought of it before and as soon as they type it, everyone will go “OH! You’re right! I never saw that!”

    Hint. If it includes words like “political correctness”, or “carried to an extreme”, it has NEVER YET BEEN A UNIQUE POINT, much less a convincing one.)

  48. Lenora Rose: Hint. If it includes words like “political correctness”, or “carried to an extreme”, it has NEVER YET BEEN A UNIQUE POINT, much less a convincing one.

    I have nothing to add to that; I just wanted to see it re-posted, in all its glory. 😀

  49. The supermarket I go to has “Asian chicken salad” – lettuce, cabbage, shredded carrots, and chicken, with peanut and fried noodle garnishes (in bags) and a dressing with cracked red pepper in it. It’s somewhere between Thai and Chinese, so “Asian” is a better description.

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