Negative Worldcon Bidding in the Internet Age

Fans searching for Beijing in 2016 Worldcon bid information are now likely to come across http://beijing2016.org/. This is the first example I’ve ever seen of a webpage dedicated to slamming a particular Worldcon bid.

Beijing2016’s header art features a smog-shrouded photo of the Forbidden City. Its lead article is an extract about the lack of internet freedom in China from the U.S. Department of State “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2013.”

Search engines are led to it by a notice in the lower right corner:

Beijing 2016 Worldcon Bid

Beijing will bid to host the 2016 Worldcon to be a vote in London this year. A Worldcon is a convention of the World Science Fiction Society.

The domain was created in February. A Whois search shows the domain registrant is an anonymizing service with an Australian post office box in Nobby Beach in Queensland.

I wondered if the use of a U.S. government report rather than Australian source material might be a clue to the site’s creator, though perhaps not. No one interested in criticizing China would start with Australia’s official brief on China, a highly conciliatory document.

I also wondered if this site’s reference to the Worldcon bid was a coincidence – whether there might be a string of Beijing-fill-in-the-year domains discouraging China’s convention business. I found other such domains, though not being used for that purpose. The others I researched are little-used and registered by different owners (not anonymizing services, so far as I could tell). It looks like Beijing2016 was specifically tailored to influence the Worldcon race.

Pop-Up Culture

John King Tarpinian tells me it’s not too early to start making my Father’s Day wish list and that my life will not be complete until someone gives me a Darth Vader Toaster. 

StarWarsToaster

Only $49.99 from Monsters in Motion.

Question: Which side of the toast do you butter? It’s an old sitcom joke that a dropped piece of toast always lands buttered-side-down. Where does it land when Darth is on the buttered side? Won’t the Force keep Darth’s face off the floor?

1964 Hugo Voting Stats Unearthed

Let us take you back to those thrilling days of yesteryear…when the Hugos were presented at Pacificon 2, the 1964 Worldcon. A memo containing that year’s Hugo voting statistics has been discovered by Tom Whitmore in the records of the late Alva Rogers.

Kevin Standlee has posted a copy [PDF file] on the official Hugo Award website.

Standlee notes that the 1964 awards were decided by a plurality of votersWay Station won Best Novel with just 24% of the vote. Later the rules were changed to require ranked voting and an elimination runoff, insuring winners would have the support of a majority.

No wonder voter support was splintered all to hell that year – look at the nominees in the Best Novel category, listed in order of finish.

  • Here Gather the Stars (alt: Way Station) by Clifford D. Simak
  • Glory Road by Robert A. Heinlein
  • Witch World by Andre Norton
  • Dune World by Frank Herbert
  • Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

The winner, Way Station, has long been one of my favorite sf novels.

Herbert’s Dune World, defeated in 1964, was the version serialized in Analog; a longer fix-up novel incorporating this material would win the author a Hugo in 1966 and go on to be recognized as a classic in the field.

Despite the plethora of good work, 7 people voted No Award! Good grief, what were they waiting for?

Takei’s Latest Endorsement

James H. Burns comments: “I know that George Takei has been involved with politics for over 40 years (heck, I wrote about it for Starlog magazine a few times, decades ago!), but it was still a surprise to find this in my mailbox this morning, courtesy of Democracy For America…”

Takei Honda endorsementIt’s an endorsement of Congressman Mike Honda’s re-election campaign and fundraising appeal from Star Trek’s George Takei that begins —

Our democracy is a people’s democracy, which makes it a double-edged sword — it can be as great as our people can be, but as fallible as them as well. That’s why I’m so glad that we have Congressman Mike Honda in Washington: he’s someone who always stands up for those who need it most, no matter how unpopular or politically risky the position is at the time.

Since his first day in office, Mike has been a passionate and outspoken ally for the LGBT community, fighting for the rights of our community long before the Democratic Party as a whole would take up our cause….

Burns wonders: “Ignoring ‘The Governator’ for the moment (and I wish I could dismiss the memory of Ah-nold’s disturbing ping-pong Super Bowl commercial!), is Takei the only science fiction-known actor trying to lend his name and thoughts to the national political arena?”

I know Joss Whedon, producer of many popular genre shows and movies, did a fundraising conference call for the Kerry campaign (Bay Area fan Alyson Abramowitz was the national chair).

I’ll bet File 770’s readers can think of even more examples.

Turning back to George Takei, I vividly remember his early forays into politics. He ran for a seat on the Los Angeles City Council in 1973 and narrowly lost. Soon after, Mayor Bradley appointed him to the board of the Southern California Rapid Transit District.

One of Takei’s first responsibilities as an SCRTD board member was to attend a meeting of transportation officials in San Francisco at the St. Francis Hotel. That was on a day in July when the hotel coincidentally was hosting the 1973 Westercon. I was there in the lobby when Takei walked in on his way to the meeting. I saw him glance up, comprehend he was in the midst of a convention, turn around and walk right back out the door. I didn’t even have time to point him out as the air closed in on the space he’d occupied a moment before.

Tolkien’s Beowulf Translation Hits Stores in May

packshotOn May 22 HarperCollins will publish Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary by J.R.R. Tolkien. The existence of the translation has been known for decades and Tolkien’s 1936 lecture “Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics” revolutionized the academic study of the Old English poem, but this will be the first time the public had had an opportunity to read Tolkien’s version of the classic.

The new book is edited by Christopher Tolkien, who comments:

The translation of Beowulf by J.R.R. Tolkien was an early work, very distinctive in its mode, completed in 1926: he returned to it later to make hasty corrections, but seems never to have considered its publication. This edition is twofold, for there exists an illuminating commentary on the text of the poem by the translator himself, in the written form of a series of lectures given at Oxford in the 1930s; and from these lectures a substantial selection has been made, to form also a commentary on the translation in this book.

From his creative attention to detail in these lectures there arises a sense of the immediacy and clarity of his vision. It is as if he entered into the imagined past: standing beside Beowulf and his men shaking out their mail-shirts as they beached their ship on the coast of Denmark, listening to the rising anger of Beowulf at the taunting of Unferth, or looking up in amazement at Grendel’s terrible hand set under the roof of Heorot.

But the commentary in this book includes also much from those lectures in which, while always anchored in the text, he expressed his wider perceptions. He looks closely at the dragon that would slay Beowulf “snuffling in baffled rage and injured greed when he discovers the theft of the cup”; but he rebuts the notion that this is “a mere treasure story”, “just another dragon tale”. He turns to the lines that tell of the burying of the golden things long ago, and observes that it is “the feeling for the treasure itself, this sad history” that raises it to another level. “The whole thing is sombre, tragic, sinister, curiously real. The ‘treasure’ is not just some lucky wealth that will enable the finder to have a good time, or marry the princess. It is laden with history, leading back into the dark heathen ages beyond the memory of song, but not beyond the reach of imagination.”

Sellic spell, a “marvellous tale”, is a story written by Tolkien suggesting what might have been the form and style of an Old English folk-tale of Beowulf, in which there was no association with the “historical legends” of the Northern kingdoms.

John Garth, author of Tolkien and the Great War, writing in The Guardian, notes that a decade ago scholar Michael Drout tried to get the poem published, but the plan fell through. Fortunately, the text at last has been prized from the vaults of the Bodleian.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster for the story.]

“State of Short Fiction” Video Posted

(L to R) Writer Erica Satifka; editor Jonathan Landen (Daily Science Fiction); moderator Sarah Pinsker; and editors Scott Andrews (Beneath Ceaseless Skies); Neil Clarke (Clarkesworld Magazine); Norm Sherman (Drabblecast); and Bill Campbell (Mothership: Tales from Afrofuturism).

(L to R) Writer Erica Satifka; editor Jonathan Landen (Daily Science Fiction); moderator Sarah Pinsker; and editors Scott Andrews (Beneath Ceaseless Skies); Neil Clarke (Clarkesworld Magazine); Norm Sherman (Drabblecast); and Bill Campbell (Mothership: Tales from Afrofuturism).

A video of “State of Short Fiction” roundtable hosted by the Baltimore Science Fiction Society on March 22 is now available on YouTube.

[Thanks to Alexander Harris for the story.]

Puppy Love

Everyone makes Hugo recommendations at this time of year and that’s rarely newsworthy. But after my January exchange with Larry Correia about his campaign to get his novel nominated I should report he has now extended it to a slate of endorsements.

Larry would hate to see fans who’ve decided to help “combat puppy sadness” — by joining Loncon 3 and nominating him for a Hugo — waste the opportunity by leaving the rest of their ballots blank.

Correia, in addition to his own novel, is recommending fiction by Sarah Hoyt, Dan Wells, Vox Day and Brad Torgerson. In the two Best Editor categories he endorses Toni Weisskopf and Bryan Thomas Schmidt. His only recommendation in the fan categories is for Best Fanzine, Steve Diamond’s Elitist Book Reviews.

How well have Correia’s endorsements fared in the past?  A couple of his 2012 picks made the final ballot but not his own work. In 2013 the puppies were really sad because almost everybody he pushed (including Elitist Book Reviews) made the ballot – but not his own novel which, again, had been the whole point of the exercise.

That would bring a tear even to this puppy’s eye — if I didn’t altogether loathe the idea of campaigning for Hugos.

Correia styles his appeal as a populist uprising, so I could have pleased everyone involved if I’d headlined this post “Barbarians at the Gates!” But everyone would think I meant it. Hopefully Correia read the works he’s picked and fans will, too, before they write them down. So long as you’ve read the work you’re nominating and think it’s one of the best of the year – well, that’s doing it right. The trouble with most campaigns, Correia’s included, is the way they neglect to encourage some of these steps.

Birthday Greetings for 3/26

Leonard Nimoy (Spock) at the Las Vegas Star Trek Convention 2011. Photo by Beth Madison.

Leonard Nimoy (Spock) at the Las Vegas Star Trek Convention 2011. Photo by Beth Madison.

Born March 26, 1931: Leonard Nimoy

Nimoy’s show business career launched in earnest in 1952 with roles in Francis Goes To West Point (as an uncredited football player), in Zombies of the Stratosphere, and as the title character in Kid Monk Baroni. Unfortunately, as he later told the New York Times, Kid Monk Baroni was the sort of film that “made unknowns out of celebrities.”

Over the next 14 years, before being cast as Spock, he had lots of TV roles — mostly westerns — but also a Twilight Zone (“Quality of Mercy”), two episodes of Outer Limits(“I, Robot” and “Production and Decay of Strange Particles”) and a bit part on The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for the story.]

NASA’s Kinzler Passes Away

Jack A. Kinzler, the man who saved Skylab and gave us golf on the moon, died March 4 at the age of 94.

For 16 years Kinzler was chief of the Technical Services Center at NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

When Skylab lost its heat shield after launch in 1973, he devised a shade tree to ward off the rays of the Sun that could be deployed without a hazardous spacewalk. His legendary prototype was made from a set of collapsible fishing rods — the finished parasol was built from telescoping aluminum tubes and silver-and-orange fabric of nylon, Mylar and aluminum. Kinzler received NASA’s Distinguished Service Medal for his work.

He oversaw the design of the American flags astronauts planted on several Moon missions and of the commemorative plaques attached to lunar landing vehicles which stayed on the Moon.

Kinzler’s department also made astronaut Alan Shepard’s golf club, used to tee off two balls on the lunar surface — attaching a 6-iron head to the handle of a lunar-sample scoop.

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock for the story.]