Over the weekend, WisCon held its 42nd annual conference, They are a conference known for causing trouble for individuals and generating group hate outrage, with several past incidents, including the targeted doxing of an author who disagreed with them politically, as well as the target and destruction of an editor’s career because he made an off color joke at a party. This time, they targeted one of their own: a woman, Lisa Freitag who was invited to speak at the con (and has spoken there and been a part of the community for 20 years according to one eye witness).
This woman’s crime? She was on a panel called “Killable Bodies” of which the description of the topic is here:
In SFF with an action element there’s a desire for cool giant battle scenes, heroes who spin, twirl, slice off heads, and general melee violence. This is an old background trope: the killable mook, guard, or minion whose life can be taken in a cool or funny way is familiar from traditional action films. But many SFF stories take this trope further with a killable race or non-sentient army: the Orcs in Lord of the Rings, the Chitauri in Avengers, and the many robot armies that we see represented solely so that heroes can create cool violent carnage without having to answer difficult moral questions. What happens when SFF comes to rely on this trope? If we’re going to have violent action in SFF, is this better than the alternative? Is it ever not just super racist?
The woman in question appears to have pointed out that in modern traditional fiction, the only “acceptable” villains are confederates and Nazis. If one of those two or allegorical versions are not used, this crowd freaks out and cries racist, making it nearly impossible to have any other villain archetype. But in the discussion of them as killable bodies, it also appears that she pointed out these groups beyond any other are used as cardboard cartoon cutout mustache twirling concepts, and almost never presented as actual human beings with feelings.
In this political climate, this was enough to send WisCon into outright panic. It’s an innocuous topic about villains in fiction, and yet the irresistible desire to make it into CURRENT YEAR POLITICS happened. And it triggered the snowflakes. WIsxcon’s statement:
During the Killable Bodies In SFF panel at WisCon this morning (Sunday), a panelist engaged in Nazi and Confederate apologia and also appeared to posit that disabled or injured people sometimes “have to be sacrificed.”
They continued this behavior even after the audience and other panel members expressed the harm this was causing them.
WisCon rejects these ideas. They are in conflict with our Code of Conduct. The panelist in question will be banned and asked to immediately leave convention spaces.
The relevant passage from the Code of Conduct is here:
Harassment includes: Verbal or written comments or displayed images that harmfully reinforce structures of oppression (related to gender, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, age, religion, geographic origin, or class); deliberate intimidation; stalking; body policing (including gender policing in all bathrooms); unwelcome photography or recording; sustained disruption of talks or other events; inappropriate physical contact; and unwelcome sexual attention.
Please read the full Code of Conduct here.
If you or anyone you know are in need of any support following this experience, please contact us. We will be working to find folks who can provide emotional support to you.
ETA: This particular individual has been banned for WisCon 42. The decision as to whether this ban will be extended in the future will be determined by our Anti Abuse Team post-con. Should you have information to contribute, you are welcome to email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Banned for discussing a topic on topic in a panel because the suggestion that authors should recognize FICTIONAL Nazi or confederate trope-types, and work a little harder on their villains to give them motivations, feelings, etc. like any other human character if they want their work to be good.
One of the other panelists chimed in on their blog:
Lisa repeatedly made statements that expressed a desire to sympathize with both individual Nazis (in this context we would be talking about, I believe, Third Reich-era Nazis), and later also individual Confederate soldiers. That this happened once was confusing, surprising, and alarming. That this happened multiple times as the panel went on was flabbergasting, frightening, and finally just damaging.
A lot of people have checked in on me since the panel, making sure I was doing okay, and I appreciate all of you so much.
“Are you okay?” because someone presented that villains should be thought of as individuals in the making of good fiction? That’s not confusing, nor surprising, at least the topic isn’t. But the confusing and surprising part is that aspiring writers and professionals flipped out and are worried whether someone’s “okay” because ideas were discussed. If an author can’t handle that simple exercise, they need to be committed rather than trying to make sure other authors’ ideas are shunned. The whole concept of this is so ridiculous and so on the side of censorship that it’s bizarre.
Another blogger who attended the panel admitted there was nothing even remotely strange about what she was saying:
- The discussion was focused on Nazis in Third Reich.
- X did not express support for Nazi or Confederate ideology.
If it was on topic, and the panelist didn’t advocate for any ideology, what is the concern about?
We live in an age where we have actual fascists in control of science fiction fandom and especially the convention scene. Remember, fascism is defined as: “characterized by dictatorial power, forcible suppression of opposition and control of industry and commerce”.
People like WisCon don’t even want “triggering” identities mentioned as HUMAN, even though both Confederates and Nazis were by all accounts, humans. The soldiers had families, they did have feelings, and when writing fiction allegorizing or about these groups, it’s good to remember that if you want good fiction. There’s nothing controversial about that statement in the least, and the fact that WisCon targeted and actively attempted to destroy a woman over talking about that is far more troubling — it’s a sign of what’s going on in these times with censorship of authors. If ideas can’t be presented realistically, then why are we in this game? Why even write if you can’t think for yourself as an individual and must go with the group panic at all times?
Will Shetterly, a self-professed communist writer, was not impressed:
No one’s ever made a clear distinction between fiction and literature, but a traditional one is that literature deals with nuance: in a literary work, there may be good guys and bad guys, but they exist on a spectrum and their motivations come from complex histories. A pulp fiction writer doesn’t need subtlety or a knowledge of history or sympathy for people who come from different circumstances: Nazis and Confederates are bad people who may be killed without a second thought as the plot demands. There’s no need to ask why fascism is popular in times of economic desperation or to note that many Confederates were conscripts or deserters. In pulp fiction, Crusader logic applies: kill them all and let God sort them out.
Ah, well. Whether WisCon was ever truly a literary convention is debatable. That it is not one now is not.
Scathing comments and well deserved. If WisCon is going to teach a whole generation of aspiring writers to not care about their villains and not bother to work out their loves, fears, motivations, passions, then we’re going to see some of the worst writing ever come out of Traditional Publishing. Since those publishers nod their heads and agree with WisCon, we can expect this to happen. At least there’s those of us on the indie side who are willing to write without fear and without censorship. And we will stand with Lisa Freitag and her very rational, intelligent ideas that good writers recognize villains as people.
Patreon was banning ideas, so I switched over to Freestartr. I’m delivering short fiction that isn’t censored, is very fun, and with real, in depth characters. Check it out and sign up, especially if you’re a blog reader who supports my reporting and commentary, It’s the only way I monetize and I need your help to keep expanding this community. There’ll be a new Von Monocle story out this month. You won’t want to miss it.