Early this morning a new World Fantasy Convention 2016 program was posted on their Facebook page. The new program is credited to both Darrell Schweitzer and Ellen Datlow. Only a month ago Schweitzer and WFC were roundly criticized for the original program, with Sarah Pinsker, Jim Hines and many many others pointing out flaws including a panel on “Spicy Oriental Zeppelin Stories," more mentions of H.P. Lovecraft "in the program than all women or works by women COMBINED," almost no mentions of any fantasy stories from the last two decades, no international fantasy, no mention of any authors of color, and many other issues.
The original World Fantasy program didn't focus on world fantasy as much as a regressive dream of what world fantasy has never been.
So is the new program better? In general it appears to be, although I'm still picking through the details. Among the changes:
- The panel “Spicy Oriental Zeppelin Stories” has been replaced with "A Golden Age of Contemporary Asian Fantasy," which will explore "the growing body of work by writers from Asia and the diaspora, who interrogate, reinterpret, and develop the literary traditions of their countries and cultures of origin (among other literary traditions and cultures, including the 'West') in a globalized context."
- Instead of 10 panels about Lovecraft, there are now only 2, one of which is titled "On Beyond Lovecraft" and covers HPL's complicated legacy by bringing in Victor LaValle’s The Ballad of Black Tom and Caitlin Kiernan’s “Black Helicopters.”
- More panels on recent fantasy authors, including a memorial to Terry Pratchett, who died last year.
- Many more works by women covered in the panels.
- A panel on "LGBT Characters in Modern Fantasy," focusing on recent developments in the genre.
- A panel on fantasy and horror in translation.
- A panel on ladies with swords, focusing on the lore, legend, and image of the female swashbuckler.
Err, that last panel I'm taking a wait and see attitude with because what it covers will depend on who is on the panel (meaning I hope the panel is more than a love fest discussing chainmail bikinis). And to a large extent all of these programming changes will depend on who WFC picks to be on the panels and who moderates.
I wish WFC had started totally from scratch with this year's program, which they obviously didn't do. But overall these changes are positive. It appears some of these changes were taken from Guerilla WFC, which put forward a truly innovative WFC program, which is a good sign. I'm also sure Ellen Datlow had a positive effect on the changes, as did everyone in the genre who justifiably ripped apart the previous program.
Update: The new program is now on the official WFC 2016 website. Go there to see the schedule.