Today’s Birthday Boy 8/20

H.P. Lovecraft, 1890

The Wikipedia says Lovecraft “achieved posthumous fame,” a fitting outcome to the career of a master of eldritch horror.

Yet fame is fleeting, and right now the trend is to handle the author with tongs. Charles Stross just won a Hugo for “Equoid,” a novella where Lovecraft’s fantasies are treated as sourced in extraterrestrial reality, but Lovecraft himself is a figure handicapped by naive Victorian sexual weirdness.

Then, over at Tor.com, Leah Schnelbach is celebrating Lovecraft’s birthday by attempting to do to him on purpose what she did to Marion Zimmer Bradley by accident – topple the writer from the literary pantheon.

So what does it say when one of the most prestigious awards you can win as a writer within that community honors a man with a complicated relationship to race and gender? It’s a reminder that many of the writers whom we revere as the founders of speculative fiction held beliefs that are damaging, and frankly repellent.

Schnelbach ends her essay by calling on readers to click a link to Daniel José Older’s petition to redesign the World Fantasy Award by replacing Lovecraft with an image of Octavia Butler.

Final Notes on Loncon 3

Officer Sue Smith Interrogates Brad Templeton, attending Loncon 3 via telepresence.

Officer Sue Smith Interrogates Brad Templeton, attending Loncon 3 via telepresence.

By Francis Hamit: Loncon 3 ran so well that it begs a record of small things that worked and should be added to the list of “best practices”. I speak as one who has attended 111 conventions, including 10 WorldCons and NASFICs. Full disclosure: I have never been involved in “con-running” and am not a SMOF.

First of all, security here was left to the professionals who work at ExCel. The UK has a very strong security consciousness and culture. There are CCTV cameras everywhere in London, and security officers in black suits and ties are ubiquitous. Rather than oppressive, their presence is reassuring in a city with a recent tragic history of terrorist attacks. In the USA, this function detailed to fan volunteers, whose quality ranges from poor and indifferent to jack-booted thugs. I spent twenty-one years in the security industry, and have an appreciation for the fine details of the art.

An innovation here was the provision of “Listeners”. These were people that attendees could go to with their concerns and complaints, or if they just needed someone to talk to. It was emphasized that first-time attendees should be especially aware of this service. I don’t know how much this was actually used, but I suspect that many molehills were prevented from becoming mountains because this service was there.

The Press Room was run by professionals for professionals, and, as a result, was able to not only handle Mundane reporters from mainstream media, but turn their presence to advantage and avoid the usual “look at all the funny people” journalism.

The Fan Village, and the prohibition of parties in hotel rooms, were also a unique feature that should be emulated. No elevators, er, lifts, were broken at this convention, and everyone got enough sleep (maybe).

The long lines at every turn were a detriment, because they soaked up time that could have been spent enjoying the convention. This was probably unavoidable and unplanned because of the last-minute surge in registrations, and the size of the convention, which was record-breaking. Perhaps additional volunteers could have been requested from the lines, of people who had experience with cons in other places, to help out an hour or so to speed things along.

Part of the programming was provided in German, because of the number of German fans attending. This made it a truly “World” con. Whether or not it could be emulated in the USA is an open question.

The huge expanses of concrete and distances between events and functions seem inevitable, but given the “graying of fandom” factor, more attention needs to be paid to disabled access. There were a number of incidents where people on mobis ran into each other and were injured.

Finally, as I sat in the concourse one day, that fandom in general needs to go on a diet and find a good chiropractor. We are woefully out of shape, and I am no exception.

Respectfully submitted.

Loncon 3 and the Graphic Novel, Guest Of Honour Bryan Talbot

Bryan Talbot signing at Loncon 3.

Bryan Talbot signing at Loncon 3.

By Francis Hamit: At the Press Briefing before LonCon3 officially started, the Artist GoH, graphic novelist Bryan Talbot, said that being selected made him feel as if his art had finally moved beyond being considered mere “comic books” to being “literature”. He is quite well known in the UK, and the subject of a recent documentary The Graphic Novel Man: The Comics of Bryan Talbot. This hour-long presentation was shown on the fourth day of the convention and it seemed to me that not only had his art evolved into a form of literature, but a way to put cinema on paper. His subsequent lecture the same afternoon demonstrating the wide range of techniques and graphic devices confirmed this. He laid out the various ways to format a page so that the reader’s eye is easily led through the images and text that comprise the narrative.

About the creative process, Talbot said, “When I get an idea, the first thing I do is write it down. Then I create a ‘bible’ for the graphic novel in a loose-leaf notebook so that I can move between the sections and make notes. Research is next, as I reference images and create ‘mind maps’ as a useful way of working through complete scenes and getting the order of scenes.

“Structure is very important. I chart the scene progression so that you can see the whole story, scene-by-scene, and the number of pages needed to tell the story. I create layers from the photo references as a basis for the individual panels, and add details. I make rough sketches that pre-planned of papaer are a mixture of words and pictures, so that the story changes at the right instants. Each moment is a moment in time. I choose which instants is needed to break the scene.

“The script is next, it is a page number and panel number description, which the editor approves; I then polish and improve the dialogue. A complex scene requires a description of when things are taking place as well as where.

“The layout can be on a grid or freestyle. Freestyle melds panels into a collage of images. Grid panels provide a ‘proscenium arch’ that you can look through, proportionate to the page. The Golden Mean (2 to 3) is used in American comics. Freestyle layouts let you have lots of open space.

“The placement of text and speech balloons is critical. It is vitally important that the reader not read them in the wrong order. Double-page layouts must form a whole. The pages have to work together and be harmonious. The palette is important, as a historical reference. We give each scene a different ambient color, and use composition lines to lead the reader’s eye from one panel to the next.”

I found this presentation extremely interesting because I’m not really up on comic books or graphic novels. Since I am in the middle of collaborating on a motion picture, I see the parallels between this and cinema. Part of our process is what is called ‘storyboarding’, where shots are planned in advance on paper. Graphic novels intrigue me because they are the dominant form in many other countries with huge audiences, such as India, China, and Japan.

Bryan Talbot has a PDF of his lecture on his website and it is something that even text-bound dinosaurs like myself would do well to read.

Loncon 3: A Stroll Through the Dealers’ Zone

The ExCel is big and friendly, if you don't mind walking.

The ExCel is big and friendly, if you don’t mind walking.

By Francis Hamit: One of the notable aspects of the Dealers’ Zone at Loncon 3 was the number of “small press” publishers who took advantage of Loncon 3 to display and sell their books. Two big British publishers were also present, as well as a couple of University presses. Also, displaying their wares or cause were some British nonprofit organizations.

www.hic-drdgones.co.uk

www.hic-drdgones.co.uk

“Small press” is a term that avoids the curse of “self publishing”: generally condemned for its poor editing and execution. (The truth is that while some eager writers in their rush to get to market have failed to live up to the standards of traditional publishing, the majority of those at Loncon 3 avoided this self-defeating behaviour, and had product indistinguishable from the mainstream. Everyone uses short-run print-on-demand technology now.) Since Leigh and I have our own publishing company, we are sympathetic to small press entrepreneurs, and had we any science fiction titles, might have also had a table. Here are some photos taken on the last day. We are happy to report that everyone not only covered their costs but seemed to be happily in profit.

Ticonderoga Publications' Liz Grzyb and Russell B. Farr

Ticonderoga Publications’ Liz Grzyb and Russell B. Farr

One young, pretty, and very smart scientist in the Fan Village said to me scornfully that 90% of self-publishing is crap, to which I replied with Theodore Sturgeon’s famous line, “My dear, 90% of everything is crap.” The high sales reported by small-press dealers indicates that this deplorable attitude is finally going away.

Closing Ceremonies End Loncon 3 on a High Note

The line for the Closing Ceremonies

The line for Closing Ceremonies.

By Francis Hamit: On the last day the organizers of Loncon 3 ended their four-year adventure with some well-deserved, self-congratulatory pats on the back. (Yes, it’s a cliché, what the hell, sue me.) The original pitch film that won London the bid was shown again, without the sound (not sure that there was any, since I hadn’t seen it before) but this may be not only the largest Worldcon ever, but one that ran so smoothly, and without noticeable glitches, that subsequent events will be hard put to meet, much less exceed, the standards set by this ConCom.

The co-chairs bid adieu.

The co-chairs bid adieu.

The Guests of Honour were once again presented, and Brian Aldiss, who was present at LonCon 1 and is one of the great authors of our genre, was serenaded with a rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday” by the entire audience. The GoHs were all presented with engraved crystal awards as a remembrance. The event was then Closed, and the organizers of the 2015 Worldcon in Spokane, Washington, USA, named after a mythological beast, were brought out to urge everyone to attend their event, Sasquan.

Brian Aldiss is serenaded with "Happy Birthday."

Brian Aldiss is serenaded with “Happy Birthday.”

Hugo Statistics Dress Sad Puppies in Black Armbands

First The Good News: Julie Dillon is the first woman to win the Best Pro Artist Hugo in 45 years. [*] And as I write, you can see a fine example of her work on the masthead of A Dribble of Ink, winner of the 2014 Best Fanzine Hugo.

Yes, Aidan Moher has finally won the Hugo he has coveted for so long. What we began with a certain amount of mutual irritation has evolved into a gentler, almost Fred Allen/Jack Benny-style feud (see for example here and here) – so congratulations, and better Aidan should win than a stranger!

Far more startling was to see Sarah Webb win Best Fan Artist on the first ballot while every other nominee registered fewer first place votes than No Award. For all the discussion in social media of the best way to tactically vote No Award, it’s a surprise to find that having the most impact in a category with no connection to the politics that fueled it.

And Now, The Rest of the Story: Meanwhile at Monster Hunter Nation HQ, it’s time to lie back and stop thinking of England. No matter what people hoped or feared would happen as the Hugo Awards were announced, only one of the 7 shortlisted nominees endorsed by Larry Correia finished ahead of another nominee in their category – basically, they ran last.

Corriea had asked his readers to nominate his novel Warbound plus a slate of 11 other recommendations. Warbound and 6 other beneficiaries of the “Sad Puppy” campaign made it. The most successful among them was Toni Weisskopf, who actually received the most first-place votes in the Best Editor – Long Form category, though she finished fourth in the runoff.

Correia took the high road in his Hugo Aftermath Post

First off, some people are upset and saying there was fraud. I understand your disappointment but I truly don’t think so. In all of my dealings with LonCon they’ve been totally professional and honest. On things like Toni’s, yes, that is confusing as hell, but that is how the Australian system works. One of the original goals of Sad Puppies was to test the Hugo nomination process just because there had been allegations of “lost” noms in prior, and as a retired auditor, I’m a sucker for statistical analyses. SP1 gathered data, and SP2 gave me comparisons. I saw zero indication of fraud. I’ve only been awake for an hour, so I’ve only skimmed the new numbers, but they appear to have shaken out about where expected. So don’t get mad at LonCon, they did their job (and as I can attest, getting accused of fraud without evidence is annoying as hell.)

He followed by explaining yet again why he thought his “Sad Puppies” campaign was justified and how the voting results prove his point – because it’s not as if he was going to suddenly smack his forehead and exclaim, “Wait, I was wrong!”

In the general exchange of social nukes set off by “Sad Puppies” it was a surprise (though by no means a disappointment) that No Award failed to take a single Hugo category.

Furthermore, the nominees receiving the most first place votes in a category tended to win wire-to-wire.

Suspense mounted in the Best Novel category leading up to the vote because no one could predict the impact of Larry Correia’s voting bloc or the strength of support for the Wheel of Time series, while Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice, despite winning the Nebula, seemed handicapped by the publisher’s refusal to put the complete book in the Hugo Voter Packet.

The suspense was unwarranted, as it turns out. Ancillary Justice began with a comfortable lead, getting 1,335 first place votes. The Wheel of Time series had the next largest number of first place votes, 658. However, Wheel of Time finished in fourth place in runoff voting.

There were only a couple of really tight races.

Lightspeed Magazine won the Best Semiprozine Hugo by 16 votes. Two UK-based publications, Strange Horizons and Interzone, hung with Lightspeed Magazine for the first four passes, however, the home-field advantage did not hold true. When Interzone was eliminated almost one-third of its votes dropped out (having listed neither of the survivors in next place) and the remaining votes were divided almost equally between Interzone and Hugo-winner Lightspeed.

Only in a few cases did the eventual winner ever trail. In Best Novella, “Six-Gun Snow White” had a 14 vote edge on “Equoid” after four rounds, but lost by 83.

In Best Dramatic – Long Form, “The Rains of Castamere” was only 11 votes ahead of “The Day of the Doctor” after the fifth pass, but picked up a majority of the votes left after Orphan Black was eliminated, and won by a comfortable margin.

In Best Pro Editor – Long Form, Ginjer Buchanan trailed Toni Weisskopf by 7 votes after the third pass, but ended up winning by over 200 votes.

The “Who are you mad at?” index shows more voters listed the following nominees behind No Award than any others (except for Toni Weisskopf, who is included for comparison, and Wheel of Time which was controversial for a different reason.) (Not ranked in order).

Sad Puppies Finalists Runoff votes No Award
Warbound 1161 1052
The Chaplain’s Legacy 999 602
The Butcher of Khardov 1222 687
The Exchange Officers 1146 736
Opera Vita Aeterna 855 1232
Toni Weisskopf 568 186
Elitist Book Reviews 510 334
Wheel of Time 1306 672

But if the “Sad Puppies” say they had it tough, just show them the “take no prisoners” mentality at work in the fan categories. Many finalists got fewer first place votes than No Award — the fate of 4 out of 5 nominees for Best Fan Artist, 4 out of 7 nominees for Best Fancast, 3 out of 5 nominees for Best Fan Writer, and 1 out of 5 nominees for Best Fanzine.

Turning to the nominating statistics, Vox Day compiled this list of the number of nominating votes that put each of the “Sad Puppies” on the ballot, and scoffed at the supposed “bloc vote” –

Larry Correia 184 (Best Novel)
Toni Weisskopf 169 (Best Professional Editor – Short Form)
Brad Torgersen: 111 (Best Novella)
Dan Wells 106 (Best Novella)
Brad Torgersen 92 (Best Novelette)
Vox Day 69 (Best Novelette)
Sarah Hoyt 38 (failed to make final ballot for Best Short Story)

Just the same, the bloc vote for Vox Day’s Opera Vita Aeterna kept Ken Liu’s “The Litigation Master and the Monkey King” off the ballot.

Paging through the rest of the nominating statistics I observed that Neil Gaiman, by declining a nomination for The Ocean at the End of the Lane, allowed Mira Grant’s Parasite on the ballot – it finished third.

Ender’s Game came within six votes of being shortlisted for Best Dramatic Presentation – Long Form. With another couple of nominating votes, two more Doctor Who episodes could have been finalists in Short Form (which would have thrilled my friends who run Gallifrey, I’m sure.)

On a personal level I found it rather surrealistic to see that in the Best Fanzine category the next five top vote-getters after the finalists were essentially the zines that would have been on the final ballot just a couple years ago – Banana Wings, The Drink Tank, Argentus, SF Signal and File 770. Time marches on.

Update 08/19/2014: As Arnie Fenner points out in his comment below, Diane Dillon, along with husband Leo, won the Hugo for Best Artist in 1969 and deserves the “first-ever” designation, though Julie Dillon’s win is still a breakthrough since she is the first woman to win the Best Artist Pro Hugo in 45 years.

Bari Greenberg Passes Away

Bari and Cat Greenberg

Bari and Cat Greenberg

Bari Greenberg died August 17 reports SF Site News. Greenberg co-founded the St. Louis filk band, The Unusual Suspects, along with his wife and songwriting partner, Cat Greenberg, Cat’s daughter Valerie Ritchie, and their friend Mark Ewbank.

He worked professionally as an engineer and also was co-owner of Mountain Cat Media LLC, a recording and design studio.

The Unusual Suspects produced a CD, Accidental Filk Band, in 2012. Bari and Cat released a duet CD, Romancing the Filk, in 2013.

Greenberg also had been looking forward to making his debut as a fiction author in Sword & Sorceress 29.

The SFWA blog ran an In Memoriam post that noted his wife Cat Greenberg is the SFWA Bulletin advertising director.

A video of Bari with The Unusual Suspects is linked below – he starts singing at :19.

Susan Kahn Passed Away in June

Susan Kahn in April 2014

Susan Kahn in April 2014.

Susan Kahn, who often ran registration at Lunacon with her husband, Richard Ferree, and the organized the Den at numerous Philcons, died June 9 after a year-long struggle with pancreatic cancer. She was 54.

Kahn practiced pediatrics for over 25 years. She also was president of the Sinai Free Synagogue, where her funeral service was held on June 11.

[Source: PSFS News.]

A Few Comments on Loncon 3

Overview of the Fan Village at Loncon 3.

Overview of the Fan Village at Loncon 3.

By Leigh Strother-Vien: I’m thrilled that younger fans are having a good fandom to come into. But we older fans *sigh* need softer floors, smaller venues, or reallyreally fast medical breakthroughs — everything aches. Aside from that, LonCon 3 has been a friendly place to be. I’ve enjoyed chatting with random people: in queues, and sitting in food courts, standing next to dealers’ tables, waiting for a lift, etc.

The Art Show was, unsurprisingly, Very High Quality, and I’m glad to say that the artists are asking for prices that reflect more accurately their worth, i.e., I couldn’t afford what I Really Liked (at least, not yet).

The Dealer’s Area was diverse with lots of booksellers as well as the usual Neat Stuff.

But, mostly what struck me was the general feeling of Good Will. And, I believe, the exceptions were mostly due to aches and pains (and jet lag). Which are inevitable with a large con, apparently.

Good Con. Kudos to the ConCom and their volunteers.

Paris in 2023 Launches After All

The Paris in 2023 bid was officially launched at the WSFS Site Selection
business meeting on Sunday, August 17 reports Jonathan Lewis-Jones.

He also sent a correction to his earlier message: Jonathan and Sharon Lewis-Jones, while no longer on the bid committee, now are acting as Paris in 2023′s UK Agents.