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 email@example.com.
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.
Michael Lorrey says
So I work with a fellow who is one of the worlds foremost video game developers. he was telling me a story about one game his team developed which got banned in Europe UNTIL they made the bad guys blood green like they were aliens or zombies or something. Then they could have all the slasher mayhem the players wanted because IT WASN’T RED BLOOD. A later third party plugin allowed you to make the blood red again, which sent the nervous ninnies of non-violence in Europe into a triggering tizzy.
Jessi L. Roberts says
That’s a pretty horrible prejudice against people with green blood. I’m being triggered.
I dunno… Given the behavior of Vulcans in ST: Enterprise, a few less “pointy eared bastards” (to borrow from McCoy, IIRC) might not have been a terrible thing. 😛
Michael Z. Williamson says
And in Europe, you CAN’t use Nazis, even as the baddies.
Derek Balling says
I think there’s some greater nuance than that, as I’m happily playing Call of Duty WWII in Europe, and the bad guys are most definitely the Nazis. 🙂
Now — they don’t use the swastika imagery, they use the Iron Cross symbology instead, which is why I think there’s some subtle nuance there.
I mean – let’s be clear – it’s still bullshit.
It’s very important to notice that if something happened in Europe then you need to be more clear where exactly. Like the case of blood needed to be green, that only happened in Germany. Or the rather surreal censoring of nazies, that’s also Germany and maybe little France. But the rest of Europe? All fine.
Vaughn Treude says
I thought this must have been a historical panel but these were just progressives speaking hypothetically. This is way crazier than I thought.
R.K. Modena / Shadowdancer says
I find that each day that passes after Trump got elected, there are new levels of crazy that is displayed by the so-called progressives. Just last night, I discover that I, a Filipino, am now a ‘white supremacist’ by dint of being a stay at home mom… or ‘tradwife’, so sayeth the NYT.
Michael Lorrey says
Given how Filipinos in general have been treated by the United States, both historically and currently (for instance as you probably know, despite not requiring a visa to get into the US, Filipinos are regularly denied entry without one and are denied visas if they cannot prove they are tied to their community in PH), being upgraded to “honorary white” by the ignorant crybullies simply because PH is in Asia, could be seen as a step forward.
Jessi L. Roberts says
This is utterly insane. I’m one of the people who tends to side with the Confederates since the war was about so much more than slavery. (Obviously, these people know nothing about history.) NOTE that I in no way support slavery. Heck, even some of the Confederate leaders, like Stonewall Jackson, weren’t big supporters of slavery.
Even WWII wasn’t as black and white as it’s made out to be. Look at what happened to the Germans after the war. They had good reason to be fighting since they were protecting their homeland from outright invasion by a Communist regime.
I think I’ve already seen this idea that we don’t need to give the characters motivation happening in movies. In The Force Awakens, Finn’s arc seems flat, and I believe this is part of the reason why. No one ever asked why the First Order was doing what they did, so when Finn switched sides, there was little for him to overcome since all the First Order soldiers had no motivation. Unless you know the villains’ motivation and how they can be good people while they’re on the wrong side, it’s nearly impossible to do a proper arc where they switch sides.
So upset you need “emotional support” provided by the con itself? Here’s the emotional support you need: Crawl into your bed and under the covers in your mommie’s home, and cower there while she makes you mac&cheese lunches and let’s you wash it down with breast milk straight from the source, for the rest of your life.
fresh breast milk is too strong for them
Richard Paolinelli says
Thank God this Snowflake Generation was not the one called upon to defeat the Confederacy or the Nazis. African-Americans would still be in chains and we’d all be speaking German.
Jessi L. Roberts says
That’s quite unlikely. The Soviet Union was a bit much for Germany to handle in the winter, so I doubt they’d have ever invaded the US, at least not for decades, unless they met a few SJWs and decided “we must destroy this insanity before it spreads.”
I think slavery may have existed for longer if the South won, but it would’ve slowly died out like it did ind the rest of the world. I do wonder if racism would’ve been less of a problem if slavery had died slowly.
Now that I’ve commented on this blog, I’ll probably get banned from a con, but I guess if I get banned for something like this, I wouldn’t like the con anyway.
Richard Paolinelli says
Merely a bit of hyperbole on my part to describe the spineless generation that seeks “safe spaces” and just “can’t even” when faced with free thought and expression.
Jeanette Victoria says
I guess being a grow up is passe
Julie Frost says
I keep on saying it: Pretty soon it’s gonna be two people in a room, eyeing each other and sharpening their knives. Nothing that’s going on has changed my opinion.
I particularly note the concept that someone expressing an opinion or belief “causes harm” to someone hearing it.
What have we become?
Michael Z. Williamson says
WE are doing fine. THEY are becoming pathetic shitweasels.
Ironically enough, the belief that you can be harmed by someone else’s opinion sounds like a fairly harmful belief in itself…
‘a panelist … appeared to posit that disabled or injured people sometimes “have to be sacrificed.”’
Given the context, I assume she was referring to FICTIONAL characters, being sacrificed in service of the plot? Though yes, there could be survival or wartime situations in real life where the weak or injured sadly can’t be saved – because unfortunately life is not fair, and the world is not a safe space.
Getting back to fiction, personally I quite like the trope where the injured character has no hope of escaping, so heroically sacrifices themselves to save others (maybe it’s a little overused, but guaranteed to make me cry anyway…)
Wiscon has seemed to be ground zero for the crazies, but this is bad even for them. I need a list of the offended parties so I’ll know to avoid their writings in the future, because anyone who is triggered by the suggestion that you might want some nuance in your bad guys, or even that things might be a tad more complicated than a simplistic “all these are evil,” is not going to be capable of creating a decent story, much less world build.
Celia Hayes says
Indeed – let me know so that I can avoid them, now and in future.
Michael Z. Williamson says
The problem we face is they expect us to treat them as people, not as deranged, insane, helpless, worthless societal leeches. Sort of like Orcs but without the manners, intellect and charm.
Andrew Clayborne Jones says
So, yeh…this is why we didn’t get a better Solo.
We could have had a movie about an orphan with dreams of flight, who follows the shiny images of pilots into the Imperial Navy, excels in the job, runs afoul of his outside the box thinking, gets him and his buddy assigned to crap duty on a slave world, illusions shattered but he follows orders, until a breaking point, does “The Right Thing” but the buddy dies, he and the wookie he saves go on the run. We could have had a movie about “how does this happen?” or “who are all these imperials?” or “how could anyone do these things?”…but nah…let’s rob a train.
Or we can have a bunch of cookie cutter Imperials.
Life is too short to put up with these self-important SJW Snowflakes. Unless and until they quit harrassing anyone that doesn’t agree with them 100% on everything they can whistle for any Con registration money from yours’ truly. Because putting up with them in person might REALLY cause them to scurry for their “safe places” and seek angst counseling…or possibly find an EMT.
@Andrew: Solo should’ve been a lot better. I completely agree the movie’s mediocre. I believe that’s entirely due to the inexplicable decision to fire co-directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller, who would’ve brought something different to the table. They deliver films on budget and have a specific process everyone knows about and made the freaking LEGO MOVIE. A really bad decision, but not one driven by politics, as far as I can tell.