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The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) expelled award-winning author Mercedes Lackey from a conference over her use of a “racial slur”, even though the black author she later referred to said that he didn’t consider the term attack.
Lackey reportedly called Samuel R. “Chip” Delany, 80, a famous author and literary critic (winner of multiple SFWA Nebula awards), “colorful” while praising his work on the “Romancing Sci-Fi & Fantasy” panel at the SFWA Nebula conference on Saturday, May 21.
The SWFA board issued a statement on Sunday announcing that it had removed Lackey, 71, from the conference, disabled access to panel footage to ‘avoid further harm’ and contacted others panelists to determine how they would prefer to proceed.
“We learned yesterday that while participating in the ‘Romancing Sci-Fi & Fantasy’ panel, Mercedes Lackey used a racial slur,” the board wrote in a statement. “First, we apologize to our attendees and other panelists who were subjected to this insult.”
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“Second, we are immediately removing Mercedes Lackey from the conference and any additional panels for which she was scheduled, in accordance with the SFWA’s moderation policy,” the board added. “The use of racist slurs violates the instruction to ‘Respect all cultures and communities. Do not make derogatory or offensive statements, even in jest. This applies to everyone in an SFWA space, at all levels of their career.
Lackey responded with an apology on Tuesday.
In a Tumblr post titled “I wish to apologise,” Lackey explained the background to his remark.
“On a panel at Nebulae 2022, I was fortunate enough to celebrate authors who wrote gay-positive characters long before me,” she wrote. “Chip Delany is obviously a major player in this game.”
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“Because there are two Samuel Delany’s — there’s one from Texas — I wanted to make sure people would find the right one,” she explained. “So in my excitement I got caught up in a mental/verbal stumble between ‘black’ and ‘people of color’, and as far as I can remember what came out stuttering was something like ‘ spcolored’.”
In a candid moment, Lackey wrote: “I am not an extraordinary speaker. I stutter, freeze and err. I’m sorry I missed a modern term in drawing attention to an amazing black designer” (emphasis in original).
“I wanted to make sure Delany got all the credit he deserves, and maybe new readers would be inspired to read his work,” the author added.
She also shared a Facebook comment from Delany himself, who explained that he took no offense at the word.
“‘Ladies of color’ is what my aunts Bessie and Sadie called themselves, and I preferred ‘black,'” the author wrote. He noted that Dr WEB Du Bois had “no problem” with specific terms “since scientifically there is no race, terms are all social constructs”.
“I wish institutions would drop the spoken language of their elders,” Delany wrote. “At 8 years my junior and from a city I love very much, Mercedes Lackey has my permission to talk about me any way she wants. ‘Nobody of color’ is just awkward (so I wouldn’t use it not myself); my paternal grandfather was born a slave, and there were white [mongrels] and the Native Americans scattered everywhere; ‘colored’ has no negative connotation among black or white speakers in my family and never had.”
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Last year, the SFWA named Lackey the 38th Damon Knight Grand Master “for his contributions to science fiction and fantasy literature.”
Lackey also seems an unlikely candidate for this kind of “cancellation.”
Lackey has wholeheartedly endorsed the LGBT cause, including transgender identity. “Above all: trans women are women and trans men are men,” she wrote on Twitter last November. “It’s something I believe fiercely and will always support.” She admitted to “making awkward statements that caused pain or distress” and pledged to “do everything in my power to grow and learn”.
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The SFWA did not respond to Fox News’ request for comment before press time.