The Comics Hugo

Yes, that’s what the cognoscenti call the Best Graphic Story Hugo – “The Comics Hugo.”

I didn’t know this before I paged through The Drink Tank #336 where the cognoscenti have to lot to say about the Hugo-worthy work of 2012.

Chris Garcia notes Paul Cornell’s strong recommendation for Fables but says it will not be a choice for him: “Now, looking at this coming year, well, Fables is nowhere near my ballot. Dial H (one of my all-time favorite comics concepts written by China Miéville) Saucer Country (by Paul Cornell), Silk Spectre, Dr. Manhattan, and perhaps most importantly of all, Justice League.”

Chris also reports that Paul Cornell is so disappointed with the track record of the Best Graphic Story Hugo category that he’s now referring to it as a “fan Hugo.” I guess that’s supposed to be an insult, otherwise you’d think it would help his purpose since everyone knows no one can win a fan Hugo but a pro. In fact, Paul took one home in Best Fancast just last year.

James Bacon speaks about Grandville Bete Noir by Bryan Talbot and suggests that “Straight away I would have to say that SAGA (by Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples) is a definite. Any SF fan who has not read this, is missing out, not only for the ideas, but the terrific dialogue and humour. It is a wonderful mix of Fantasy in a space setting and is terrifically personal, in a very skilled way.”

He also recommends, Manhattan Projects by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Pitarra, Peter Panzerfaust by Kurtis J Wiebe, art by Tyler Jenkins, “an alternate history, messing with the famous children’s literary characters, with Hauptmann Hook on the Horizon” and Marvel’s Hawkeye which “may be a marvel mainstream comic, but the aesthetic look and the excellent dialogue makes it a winner, the humour and sense of absurdity, pitched in a realistic way, make it delightful.” He also mentions Storm Dogs, which has only had two issues published in 2012, by Doug Braithwaite and David Hine.

Meanwhile Joe Gordon on the Forbidden Planet International Blog also recommends Grandville Bete Noir, Saga, Manhattan Projects as well as The New Deadwardians by Dan Abnett and Ian Culbard, Judge Dredd: Day of Chaos/Trifecta by Wagner et al (2000 AD), Prophet by Brandon Graham, Simon Roy et al and Batwoman by JH Williams III, Haden Blackman, adding a few other choices, but definitely confirming interest in some titles.

Journey Planet Tempts Fate

If there were any triskaidekaphobes on the editorial staff of Journey Planet would they have dared fill issue #13 [PDF file] with arguments about sexual politics?

Guest editors Emma King and Helen Montgomery rounded up nearly three dozen fans to discuss gender parity on convention panels, a topical controversy ever since Paul Cornell announced his personal plan to do something about it, and the 2013 Eastercon made it a policy.   

A few writers uphold the 50/50 side of the argument against all comers, and a good thing they’re able to do it because most of the contributors oppose a fixed male-female ratio of panelists.

As Carol Connolly frames the question:

After all, this is the 21st Century! It’s not as if anyone is deliberately keeping women away. Surely as long as the con has a generally welcoming environment towards women, they’ll just turn up on panels. Like mushrooms in a field (translation for city folk: “like Starbucks franchises”).

Except that hasn’t happened, has it? Although women make up over 50% of the population, that fact is not mirrored in panel demographics.

That fundamental disparity is always on my mind as a program organizer, even if I am not a 50/50 advocate.

Opponents of 50/50 make forensic arguments about whether panels should mirror the population when the community of pro writers does not, and logistical arguments about the difficulty of aiming for 50/50 amid all the variables of assembling a convention program. Several women even argue that 50/50 would not advance feminist principles. For example, Emma Jane Davies feels 50/50 might be an impediment to dealing with the genuine issue:

Panel parity effectively makes a genuine problem invisible to fandom and the rest of the world. Are we so ashamed by the paucity of female SFF writers that we must deny the disparity, even to ourselves? Would the truth not act as a better motivation to those who wish to correct the real problem?

Certainly the zine will be must reading for conrunners because so many of their colleagues are in it and it’s a great way to see some of the other players’ cards.

(Full disclosure: I wrote for #13, too. Was that good luck for the editors, or bad?)

Drink Tank 300

Chris Garcia’s and James Bacon’s The Drink Tank #300 [PDF file] celebrates another century mark in an epic way; 320 contributions from a bodacious number of writers and artists fill 272 pages, which translates to 11 megabytes of faanish goodness for those of you who read Drink Tank electronically. (“Is there any other kind?” barks Col. Jessup.)

Chris and James get 18 pages just from listing the contributors. The quick and the dead alike have been enlisted for this issue – Hieronymous Bosch one of the latter. All the rest, with the exception of Harlan Ellison (shh! it’s a secret! at least from Harlan) have enthusiastically and willingly joined this great zine’s post-Hugo victory party.

Many took inspiration from the issue’s several themes: wrestling, Los Angeles, and “Your Worst Idea Ever.” There are also articles by people who seem to have thought there was a theme “But wait, I’m important too!” And of course you are.

The number 300 is a theme itself and Julian West’s sublime “300” is a grunt’s-eye view of glory at Thermopylae, limned in gallows humor.

Contributions come in every form, genre and style — a haiku by Kevin Roche, computer code (“The Garcialyzer”) from Liz Batty, a micro fotonovela with art by Rick Bretschneider, an extremely cool travelogue by Eleanor Farrell, Liam Sharp’s interesting short-short “It Was Like Sorrow”, several reviews, and an interview with Michael Whelan conducted by Sarah Lorraine Goodman.

Some of my other favorites include seductively-titled bits of ingenuity like Bill Higgins’ “The Shmoos of the Tevatron,” which is actually nonfiction, and Dann Lopez’ brilliant, masterful, and don’t let me forget to say hilarious Wizard of Oz parody “Ozzie’s Broom.”

Jason Schacht even lost 150 pounds for the occasion. Well anyway, he really did lose 150 pounds – and it’s all documented here.

Check it out! It’s for reading experiences like this the long Thanksgiving weekend was made.

He’s Baaack!

Steve Green writes: “Still 48 hours away from Thanksgiving, but the turkey’s arrived: Fortnightly Fix # 24.” [PDF]

Following Steve’s account of Novacon in this issue is another genius suggestion for celebrating the month:

My latest idea: NaNoWino. We all commit to drinking at least one bottle of wine every day next November, then see if we can still write afterwards.

I like that plan much better.

SF/SF #121

A zine always worth reading, Science Fiction/San Francisco #121 [PDF file] delivers two fine Worldcon reports by España Sheriff and John Coxon. Their contagious enthusiasm brings the reader right into the moment to share all the fun they had. Added kudos for John — not many TAFF winners turn in the first installment of their trip report so quickly.

SF/SF is also known for great photos and my favorite in this issue was James Shields’ dramatic, colorful shot of four TAFF delegates – Ulrika O’Brien, James Bacon, John Coxon and Randy Byers.

Earl Kemp to Retire Zine “eI”

Earl Kemp recently published eI57 with the collected “Letters from Jail” by Ted White. Twenty-five years Ted ago was arrested for dealing drugs out of his home in Falls Church and served a term in jail. He wrote a compelling series of 21 letters to his friends about these experiences. Since his friends were also fanzine editors the letters soon saw print, however, their Eighties zines now are rarities.

Kemp, who published his own prison letters in eI10 (2003) in “I’ve Got Some Friends Inside,” had the vision to do the same with Ted’s letters, collecting them in a single issue, handsomely illustrated by Dan Steffan.

Kemp announced in the same issue that he will shut down his prolific fanhistory zine at the end of this year. Two more regular issues will appear, then Kemp’s last one, eI60, will contain an Index to the entire run. eI will definitely be missed.

E-Ditto 8

Eric Mayer begins one of his delightful essays in E-Ditto #8 [PDF file]:

Clark Ashton Smith had a way with words, mostly words I have never heard of.

Not only is the exploration of Smith’s rich fictional vocabulary well worth reading, I found it incredibly satisyfing that Smith’s purple prose would be discussed in an e-zine that graphically imitates Eric’s old dittoed fanzine, where the text is literally purple.

The Drink Tank’s Bicentennial Issue

The double-century issue of The Drink Tank (#200), its fourth annish, is more than historic — it’s a hoot-and-a-half. Chris Garcia and a whole slate of interesting fans have packed it with laughs.

When Chris invited Cheryl Morgan to contribute, the word annish seems to have been garbled in transmission. But who could have done a better job than Cheryl of envisioning traditional Amish fanac?

A fanzine produced by science fictional Amish, therefore, would be composed on an Apple Mac, or a Dell running Windows XP (which, incidentally, is still on sale in the future because Microsoft still haven’t got the bugs out of Vista, or whatever they are calling the latest release).

Cheryl shows that being a fine writer can take you far. Beth Zuckerman proves that fine writing combined with advance preparation goes even farther toward ensuring your convention experiences will yield great fanzine material. No conreport of mine can ever hope to achieve anything like her account of Arisia 2009:

I did have to seek out a t-shirt vendor, because while my 51-lb suitcase was fully equipped with rocketship pajamas, the ostentatiously unnecessary coin bra, an entire No. 6 costume with eyebrow makeup, a veritable mountain of lingerie, and a generous supply of little rubber things, somehow I entirely failed to bring anything to wear during the day before the parties started.

Pro wrestling is one of Chris Garcia’s passions. In this issue, his friend Bobby Toland has a lot to say about professional wrestler Kurt Angle’s need to learn humility, and how those lessons might be imparted. One of the hallmarks of good fanwriting is its ability to make fascinating a subject that ordinarily would be of little interest, which is my default response to pro wrestling. Toland held my attention from start to finish.

I also admired the trivia quiz “Fantastic Fours” by Frank Wu and Brianna Spacekat Wu. I answered more than half of them wrong, but everyone reading this review should be able to name the foursome composed of Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello, and Michelangelo.

Christian McGuire spends most of his time as one of the leading conrunners of the age, but thanks to Chris Garcia he hasn’t been completely lost to the world of fanwriting. Plenty of people will want to read all about McGuire’s adventures at Further Confusion 2009 once I mention that one of the lines in the report is: “A prurient Pink Panther holding up the tail of the Tiger before him offered Andy the choice to play jump rope with the tail. All I can say is that Andy can Double-Dutch with me any day.”

Leigh Ann Hildebrand is yet another friend of Chris’s with a great sense of humor. This is not even the funniest line in her list of “Five Things I’m No Longer Allowed To Do in the Fanzine Lounge”:

4. Not allowed to offer impromptu origami classes using materials at hand, even with the justification that it’s a form of performance art expressing my thoughtful critique of the phrase “core fandom.”

Every issue of The Drink Tank is highlighted by a combination of original art and assorted graphics liberated from the internet. An example of the latter, my favorite in issue #200, is the wry parody of RIAA’s anti-piracy ads showing a woman in a pre-WWI hairdo manipulating two Edison phonographs under the caption “Home Cylinder Duplication Is Killing the Music Industry.”

It doesn’t seem that long ago Chris was gushing poetically about what it might be like to produce his hundredth ish, at the time something only a select few active faneds like Arnie Katz, Knarley Welch and Mike Glyer could claim. Within five seconds after mentioning this in File 770, I immediately heard from myriads of offended fans who’d been left off the list, the most impressive being Mark and Evelyn Leeper who wondered what was the big deal, since their MT Void has published fifteen “one-hundredth” issues.

But the point is that it’s my turn to live vicariously through Chris’s experience. At the rate I’m producing issues there’s a good chance I will have to wait until 2028 or so to have a 200th issue experience of my very own. Great work Chris!

2009 FAAn Awards Voting Begins

Corflu ZedJust about two months from now someone will come to the podium at Corflu Zed and announce the winners of the Fanzine Activity Achievement (FAAn) Awards. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, first you’ll need to do your part. Vote!

The 2009 FAAn Awards Ballot is now on the Corflu Zed page at eFanzines.com.

Voting deadlines: Votes sent by postal mail must be postmarked February 26, 2009. Votes sent via e-mail are due by Midnight, March 5, 2009.

There will be no on-site voting during Corflu. Submission of an actual ballot is not required to cast a vote by e-mail, just the list of preferences. See the instructions on the ballot form for further details.

The winners will be revealed at the Corflu Zed banquet on March 15.

None have said it better than Arnie Katz: “The Fan achievement Awards are probably the best way to distribute deserved egoboo among the fans who have done so much to make our Fandom so enjoyable.”

If you’re curious about last year’s top voter-getters, after the jump I have the list Arnie enclosed with his e-mail distribution of the ballot.

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This Just In: I Enjoyed Loscon

Sometimes it takes reading a good conreport to convince a fan that he had a terrific time at the con after all. Chris Garcia’s Loscon report in SF/SF 78 has done that for me. Thank goodness I held my opinion til Chris worked his magic on this experience of ours:

I walked over to my second panel of the day, What Makes a Good Fanzine, and there were two total audience members: Robert Kennedy and another fellow whose name I forget. It was very much like the Fanzine panel we’d had earlier, and we had the exact same panel again: me, Hertz, Glyer and Milt. It’s something that got to me again. I’ve been to well-attended Fanzine panels, but none of the ones at LocCon got much attention. It happens.

The participants enjoyed themselves, which justifies running the program item, right? Just like that Roman chef who toned down the bill of fare one night when there were no guests and was criticized, “Don’t you realize? Tonight, Lucullus dines alone!”

LosCon fanzine panels always draw an audience of two. When they used to be scheduled on Sunday morning at 10 a.m., Marty Cantor and I would blame the timeslot, when everyone was still asleep after a night of partying. The explanation when the panel is placed in prime time on Saturday afternoon, as it was this year, is well, ah… I’ll have to get back to you about that.

The SF/SF staff has loaded the rest of issue 78 with equally compelling reading, not the least of it this note about SMOFcon:

Kevin [Standlee] reviewed SMOFcon in Columbus, Ohio as having about 100 attendees and a lack of new programming and that next year’s SMOFcon will be in Austin, TX.