Sunk Costs and the 2016 WFC

Back in January, I sent the WFC2016 concom an email letting them know that I would not be attending unless they posted accessibility and harassment policies, as the membership and extended community had been asking them to do for months. They eventually (and very grudgingly) did put up some (painfully anemic) policies, and I decided to wait and see if their disregard for the concerns raised by the membership would continue.

Oops, they did it again.

I just sent another email:

Dear World Fantasy 2016 Organizers,

I’m afraid I will not be able to attend your conference this year. Given Darrel Schweitzer’s ongoing dismissal of (and disrespect for) membership concerns raised about the programming and recent reports that he will not be making any changes to address those concerns, I don’t feel that the World Fantasy 2016 Committee respects me as a member for anything more than the cash I put down for my membership.

I have attended the past several World Fantasies, and I always buy my membership for the next year at the previous year’s conference. Because of your strict no refund policy — which conveniently protects you from any direct protest on the part of the membership — I will be sucking this up as a sunk cost.

Mr. Schweitzer’s statements online have given me every reason to believe that your response to this will be a not-terribly-well-veiled ‘don’t let the door hit you on the way out.’ However, should the committee hold different opinions on the value of the membership and our concerns, I would urge you to take action to correct the issues that have been raised around programming by writers like Anne Leckie, Ken Liu, John Scalzi, Nora Jemisin, Sarah Pinsker, Marie Brennan, Jim Hines, Foz Meadows, etc. I can hold my hotel reservation until the week before the con without any penalty, and if changes are made then I would prefer to use my membership. I am, sadly, not terribly optimistic for this outcome.

Best regards,

Alyc Helms
Howling PC Ignoramus and Outrage Junkie


This isn’t an easy decision, but I’m a writer of pulp adventure fantasy. One of my main focuses in writing The Dragons of Heaven and The Conclave of Shadow is to take the kind of fun adventure tales I love and drag them into the 21st century where I can critique some of the things — like Asian fetishization, colonialism, white saviorism(is that an ism?), sexism, racism, etc. — that were most deeply problematic about the original pulps.

This is me taking the $150 I paid towards a professional opportunity I hoped would be fun, and treating it as a sunk cost. It is the only form of protest I feel is open to me, and I place a greater value on my need to be ethical around these sorts of issues than I do on attending this event.

So… I guess here’s hoping the WFC places some sort of value in its membership. As I said in my letter to them, I’m not optimistic.

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