World Fantasy Con 2020 Apology for Program Draft Seeks to Stem Participant Attrition

After seeing the complaints voiced about the draft program for World Fantasy Convention 2020 (“Virtual WFC 2020 Program Attracts Criticism”), the WFC 2020 committee directed an apology at several writers on Twitter.

We are sorry that our program caused hurt and concern, thank you to those that commented. We are working with our team and panelists to amend this and will be revising it as an ongoing process.

And they pulled the panel descriptions, explaining on the convention’s Program webpage:

We are excited about the awesome panel discussions scheduled for the 2020 Virtual World Fantasy Convention. We have some terrific conversations planned, and our panelists are amazing.

But some of our original descriptions failed to live up to our members’ expectations. We apologize for offending the very people we hope to include in this year’s convention. We hear you, and we appreciate your feedback. We’re working to revise the descriptions – with the help of some of those amazing panelists! – and will update them here as they’re finalized.

WFC2020 Chair Ginny Smith also responded to File 770’s post in a comment here, saying in part:

We have sponsored 46 people of color to participate in the convention at no cost (so far – more to come I hope), and have worked very hard to ensure that every panel is comprised of people from a variety of ethnic backgrounds, cultures, and perspectives. The panelist list hasn’t been published yet, but when it is I hope the list demonstrates our commitment to equity and diversity.

But some authors who were going to be on the program have already seen enough to make up their minds.  

David Levine wrote on Facebook and Twitter on October 8.

Very sorry to say this, but I’m going to have to withdraw from World Fantasy Convention 2020. Despite a lot of effort on many people’s part, the recent fiasco with panel descriptions demonstrates that the convention simply doesn’t understand how to operate in a diverse world without stepping on marginalized people. I hope that the World Fantasy Convention ? board recognizes that it has a serious, ongoing problem and takes strong action to change course in 2021 and beyond.

The Writing Excuses podcast hosted by authors Dan Wells, Brandon Sanderson, Mary Robinette Kowal, and author and web cartoonist Howard Tayler will not provide content for use by the virtual convention. (Note: Sanderson is one of WFC 2020’s Author Special Guests.)

Also, this tweet from K. Tempest Bradford was retweeted by Mary Robinette Kowal, a signal boost with extra impact because it was Kowal who led the effort to bail out the 2018 Worldcon program.

Jeff VanderMeer tweeted on October 7 that after being told what panel he was on, he was bowing out.

Yilin Wang dropped out October 6.

One writer who has not dropped out, Kate Heartfield, still has some misgivings:

There are three weeks to go before WFC 2020 begins. When the revised program descriptions and panel assignments come out, the decision of other program participants to stay or go will be revealed if they have not announced it before then.

Update: Kate Heartfield tweeted on October 9 that she has now withdrawn from WFC2020 program and membership.

Cat Rambo has also dropped out.