May 222022

Mercedes Lackey is a grand dame of Fantasy fiction. She’s published over 140 novels, and might be one of the most prolific professional SF/F authors of all time. She’s of an older generation of writers as well. Born in 1950, she’s over 70 years old at the time of this publishing.

SFWA is the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America. They are the trade organization that represents authors interests in the publishing industry. They host an annual conference, and at that conference also give out one of the most prestigous annual SF/F writing awards. They have also succumed to woke capture, several years back.

Yesterday, at the annual SFWA conference, Lackey was on a virtual panel. The panel was “Romancing Sci-Fi & Fantasy.” Lackey praised Samuel R. Delany, a revered grandmaster of SF/F. She refered to him as “colored.” The panel continued without incident.

Afterwards, SFWA removed the panel from the internet. They censured Lackey, kicked her out of the conference, and removed her from all the other panels she was scheduled for. They are having further discussions as to what to do next, including possibly re-running the full panel without Lackey.

Lackey obviously meant no harm. She is older, and likely was confused by the changing lingo, and mixed up the “colored” of her youth with the “of color” that is the standard now.

This confusion is intentional. Woke is the new cool. The whole point of rapidly changing language is to make sure that the old and out-of-touch can’t keep up. That’s how you can tell who’s cool. It would certainly be a travisty if Lackey was still cool.

But it’s spiteful and ugly to expel and shame someone for not being cool. Especially when that someone is a revered elder of your tribe. SFWA has done a disgusting thing here, and they likely won’t acknowledge it for several years (if ever).

Lackey will probably be asked to grovel and beg forgiveness, and won’t be readmitted into the cool kids club even if she does so. Meanwhile, the grieving and shaking cool kids continue to claim that Lackey’s misstep is “illustrative of the power differentials at play in SFF,” bemoaning how powerful Lackey is, and how oppressed they are. Despite the fact that they had one of the most powerful SF/F organizations in the country excommunicate a famous author in a matter of hours for a trivial mistake.

At least I can take solace in the fact that cancel culture isn’t real.

I’m moving to SubStack! Eventually this blog will no longer be updated, so switch on over.

  16 Responses to “Mercedes Lackey Cancelled”

  1. I’m not sure this is about being cool.

    I’m from a former communist country and this is used to happen regularly with the communist ideology and whoever didn’t keep up.

    It’s a mark of totalitarian regimes or ideologies.

    The ideology changes slowly at first, more rapidly the more it is in power (here cultural and institutional power). There is a fear and a race not to be left behind, to remember correctly who and what was erased from history, who and what is now “evil” or “good”.

    They are their own periodically as well.

    I believe something similar happens in religions too, where there are fanatics – the quest for “purity” and “heretics”.

    In a normal, not extremist, culture/institution/group of people, she would have been told why and how the term changed and to consider using the new term.

    In this culture, as they can’t ask for her literal head: “off with her head!l they do what they can…

  2. *ate their own…

  3. Forgot to add, the communist ideology got progressively more and more out of sync with reality, the more unhinged it got.

  4. And the point for the communists was also to remove those who didn’t keep up. It was a show and display of purity, had the advantage to remove the “old dinosaurs” for whom you maybe had a dislike, you could have maybe pushed in their place “someone more worthy” and you also got to feel righteous and increase your own power and the fear in your enemies.

    This had the effect of making everyone afraid of what they said and to whom and also to up the ante, and faint outrage at everything that could possibly be made up.

    They had to be not only good comrades but also anti capitalists and actively hunting for any perceived slight or capitalist word etc. Even other communists ideology wouldn’t do, you had to keep up with the local “flavour” in your country.

    The parallels are too many to give it justice in a comment.

  5. Crazy gets crazier! I’m all for equality and justice, but can hardly keep up with new pronouns.

  6. I call bullshit. In the 1980’s my parents, who are now in their 80’s, explained to my grandparents why colored was inappropriate. That was nearly 49 years ago!!! Keeping up?! Seriously. Perhaps we need to talk about why slavery is bad. I mean it’s only been illegal in the US for such a short time, right?

    Normalizing slurs is a hallmark of totalitarian regimes not changing language. Cool kids, huh?
    How about just say Delaney was an amazing author. Who cares about the qualifiers? Babel 17 changed the way I thought about language. Note the full stop at the end of that sentence and the lack of need to talk about race or anything else. It’s a writers conference. Ideas matter. Words matter.

    No need to be woke. Just be awake.

    • Obviously you aren’t aware of the current preferred term. It’s “of color.” Be careful, you wouldn’t want to slip up.

  7. The pejorative is an insult regardless of the age or celebrity of the user. She, as an educated woman and author, SHOULD have been fully aware of this.
    After having removed her, I think this should be the end of the issue, though. Now all know that word isn’t any more acceptable than the n-word.

    • That’s a silly lie and you know it. There’s a reason no one worries about saying the full name of the NAACP in public, but almost everyone would balk at doing so for NWA.

  8. the story starts with this tweet:

    this is a power play on the part of one panelists, Jen Brown. she could have mentioned the distinction she perceives between “colored” / “of color” to Mercedes Lackey afterwards and had a conversation about it. instead she took it as an opportunity to flex her status in a woke hierarchy. it’s entirely toxic.

    if Jen Brown genuinely succumbed to “grief & frustration” at the utterance of “colored” instead of “of color”, she has person issues which have to be solved privately, not by imposing an Orwellian newspeak on everyone else.

  9. I’m so happy living in Eastern Europe. People of all colors are welcome here. But be aware of this word-based rasist bullshit game! We really hate this newspeak terms (George Orwell is greeting you), still have in our minds memories for the soviet era and don’t want them to return. In the US, you are obviously going there where we already have been. Feeling sorry for you.

  10. I wasn’t there. But if I’d been running the conference I would have pointed the faux pas out to her and explained it to her and If it really were that important to that many, given her a chance to publicly correct it. Saying nothing and then kicking her out of the conference doesn’t sound right.

    If that’s how they handled it then shame on them.

    On the other hand, if they did give her an opportunity to amend this faux pas and she refused then shame on her.

  11. I’m just read Larry Dixon’s response and his description of how this affected Mercedes Lackey.

    I also read Jen browns post and the moderators reply apologizing for not correcting this on the spot. So I’m going to go with my first response earlier. Shame on you at the conference for not dealing with it in the moment. I understand Jen Brown is young and her reticence to engage in any kind of conflict with her senior. But I also know that Mercedes lackey is also a senior citizen and she’s probably devastated by this negative publicity. As Larry Dixon commented, she spent a career describing inclusivity and incorporating characters of various genders and races into her books. Maybe not Ursula Le Guin level of inclusivity but definitely in that ilk and ahead of her time for when she was writing.

    At the same time reflecting on some of these comments about communism and other canceled culture nonsense from the snowflakes that call other people snowflakes. That’s a little ridiculous. The term is known to be offensive. It should have been called out immediately. And it should have been handled more professionally. From what I can tell, it was not professional all around.

    When she gets her feet under her and catches her breath, I’m hopeful that Mercedes Lackey will make some public response. She deserves to be heard.

  12. She is a very nasty & prejudiced excuse for a human being & deserves to be cancelled. People like this should not be given any public platform to feed their over sized ego by bringing other people down.

    • Do you actually know her?

      I do. She is blunt, honest, direct, and has a very sensitive Bull-S++t meter, but she has never been as nasty to anyone as you have just been to her, Greta. I don’t recognise her in your description.

      Sometimes, when people are tired and perhaps not feeling well, the wrong words come out. It’s not an excuse, it just happens. Something that took a fraction of a second is being given precedence over decades of inclusive writing, trailblazing stories written back when no one dared write a story with a hero like Vanyel…and that’s ridiculous. You cannot judge a person by one word they say.

      Right now, there is only one person here who is behaving in a nasty and prejudiced manner, IMO… but, since I don’t know you… I’ll give you benefit of the doubt. Try it sometime.

  13. Given that “NAACP” stands for “National Association for the Advancement of Colored People”, I don’t understand why there was any issue at all – except that someone wanted her 15-minutes of fame.

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