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Sci-Fi Fantasy writers convention boots author for 'racial slur'; target says he was not offended

FOX News logo FOX News 5/27/2022 Tyler O'Neil
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The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) booted award-winning author Mercedes Lackey from a conference over her use of a "racial slur," even though the Black author to whom she had been referring later said he did not consider the term offensive.

Lackey had allegedly referred to Samuel R. "Chip" Delany, 80, a celebrated author and literary critic (winner of multiple SFWA Nebula awards), as "colored" while praising his work in the "Romancing Sci-Fi & Fantasy" panel at the SFWA Nebula Conference on Saturday, May 21. 

The SWFA Board of Directors released a statement Sunday announcing that they had removed Lackey, 71, from the conference, had disabled access to the footage of the panel to "avoid any additional harm being caused," and had reached out to other 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 the other panelists who were subjected to that slur."

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"Second, we are immediately removing Mercedes Lackey from the conference and the additional panels she was scheduled for, in accordance with SFWA’s Moderation Policy," the board added. "The use of a racial slur violates the instruction to ‘Respect all cultures and communities. Do not make derogatory or offensive statements even as a joke.’ That applies to everyone in a SFWA space, at all levels of their career."

Lackey responded with an apology Tuesday.

In a Tumblr post entitled, "I wish to Apologize," Lackey explained the context of her remark.

"On a panel at the 2022 Nebulas, I had the chance to celebrate authors who wrote positive gay characters long before me," she wrote. "Chip Delany is obviously a major player in that game."

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"Because there are two Samuel Delanys–there’s one from Texas–I wanted to make sure people got hold of the right one," she explained. "So, in my excitement, I got caught in a mental/verbal stumble between ‘black’ and ‘person of color,’ and as best I can remember, what came stuttering out was something like ‘spcolored.’"

In a moment of candor, Lackey wrote, "I’m not an amazing speaker. I stammer, I freeze up, & I get things wrong. I am sorry that I bungled a modern term while bringing attention to an amazing black creator" (emphasis original).

"I wanted to make sure Delany got all the proper credit that he is more than due, 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.

"'Colored ladies,' was what my aunts Bessie and Sadie referred to themselves as, and I favored ‘black’," the author wrote. He noted that Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois had "no problem" with specific terms "since scientifically there is no such thing as race, the terms are all social constructs."

"I would like to see institutions leave their hands off the spoken language of their elders," Delany wrote. "At 8 years my junior, and a native of a city I am very fond of, Mercedes Lackey has my permission to speak of me in any way she chooses. ‘Person of color’ is just awkward (so I wouldn't use it myself); my paternal grandfather was born a slave, and there were white [mongrels] and Native Americans scattered throughout; ‘colored’ has no negative connotations among any speakers black or white in my family and never had."

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Last year, SFWA named Lackey the 38th Damon Knight Grand Master "for her contributions to the literature of science fiction and fantasy." 

Lackey also seems an unlikely candidate for this kind of "cancellation."

Lackey has endorsed the LGBT cause wholeheartedly, include transgender identity. "Before all else: trans women are women, and trans men are men," she wrote on Twitter last November. "This is something I fiercely believe, and will always support." She acknowledged having "made awkward statements that have caused pain or distress," and pledged to "do everything in my power to grow and learn."

The SFWA did not respond to Fox News' request for comment by press time.

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