Pulpfest Begins on July 31

Pulpfest starts today in Columbus, Ohio. The Columbus Dispatch‘s advance article delivers a solid historic perspective about pulp collecting that helps compensate for a pedestrian lead:

For many Americans, pulp refers to the small pieces of fruit found in orange juice.

For the several hundred fans and collectors converging this week in Columbus, though, the word takes on thrilling — and occasionally lurid — dimensions:

It indicates the genre of fiction that introduced characters such as Tarzan and Zorro.

Despite studious attention to the collecting angle, the Dispatch reporter missed the real story:

This is the first edition of the new pulp convention organized by fans who broke away from Pulpcon.

The Parkersburg, WV News and Sentinel scooped the big city paper by capturing that detail in its interview with Pulpfest’s Ed Hulse:

Event spokesman Ed Hulse said PulpFest is a spinoff of PulpCon in Dayton, Ohio, but the Columbus-based convention is as much about drawing in new fans as catering to longtime lovers of pulp.

“It is a hobby that has flown under the radar for many years,” Hulse said. “There were over a thousand pulp magazines published in this country between 1896 and the 1950s. Several fiction genres were born in the pages of pulp magazines.”

Incidentally, Pulpcon 38 still has a web page, but there is no information about a date or location on it. Its publicity site is static and its Registration and Information links are dormant.. Other sources list it happening August 14-16 in Dayton, OH.  

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the links.]

Ecstasy and Agony

An article in Antique Week begins ominously:

There is nothing like the smell, the look, the feel of pulp magazines from the early part of the 20th century. Although that wonderful smell is actually a bad thing since it means the acid in the paper is gradually destroying them.

The well-written piece about these old magazines is accessible through the main page here — click on the article, and click again to bypass a subscription offer and reach the full (free)story.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the story.]

Who’s Coming to Anticipation?

Anticipation lists the names of program participants in a new press release that follows the jump.

A prestigious addition is 2008 Nobel Laureate in Economics Professor Paul Krugman of the Economics and International Affairs at Princeton University and centenary professor at the London School of Economics:

He has credited Isaac Asimov’s “Foundation” novels with inspiring him to choose his field, and will be speaking about his experiences in a program item entitled “From SF Reader to Economist.” He will also have a conversation with Charles Stross, author of the Hugo nominated novel Saturn’s Children.

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The Future of the Best Fanzine Hugo

The proposal to eliminate the Best Semiprozine Hugo has gotten so much attention it’s been easy to overlook the major surgery that the Best Fanzine category will undergo if the final product of the “Making the Web Eligible” motion, the language shown in underline, is ratified at the 2009 Worldcon Business Meeting:

3.3.12: Best Fanzine. Any generally available non-professional publication devoted to science fiction, fantasy, or related subjects which by the close of the previous calendar year has published four (4) or more issues (or the equivalent in other media), at least one (1) of which appeared in the previous calendar year, and which does not qualify as a semiprozine.

Before you suspect me of being only a guy with a paper zine trying to deny the electronic future, let me say that I actually agree that internet publications – such as blogs and websites — need to be brought into the Hugo Awards.

The problem is introducing the “making the web eligible” changes without any attempt to define new criteria that will align commercially-motivated internet publications in another category.

I worry about fanzines and fannish websites/blogs being shut out of competition by a combination of trade publications and mass-media-promotion websites. If the voters in the Business Meeting intend a laissez-faire approach, I suppose the chips will fall where they may. But having made a point of preserving existing semipro critiera in the other major rule changes they may be open to a suggestion.

Look into the future. You’re at the 2010 Worldcon in Australia attending the Hugo ceremonies. Someone is announcing the five nominees for the Best Fanzine Hugo. But which of these three lists are they reading?

List A:

Banana Wings
The Drink Tank
File 770

List B:

Locus Online
SF Site
SF Signal

List C:

SF Universe

The rules are being changed to make paperzines share the glory, so List A, a rerun of this year’s slate of nominees, is unlikely.

List B is a realistic possibility. I’m impressed that eFanzines already dominates its category in the FAAn Awards. The others are just a few examples of online publications that have a lot of fan support.

Everything depends on what Worldcon members vote to put on the final ballot. One smof is fond of quoting the axiom Vox populi, vox dei. A Hugo Administrator would need nerves of iron to rule out List C if voters ranked these pro sites in the top five. So if this list isn’t anyone’s ideal, more concrete rules would help.

The change throws a great burden on the Hugo Administrator without providing much guidance. Controversy always stalks the awards to some extent, a prospect that deters most administrators from any action not required by a black letter rule. The probable outcome is that voters will be the ones deciding the categories where internet nominees belong. 

The 2008 Business Meeting minutes say very little about the scope of the change or how to administer it. When somebody questioned the Chair whether blogs would belong in Best Fanzine or Best Related Works (amended from “Best Related Book” by the same legislation), the Chair said that would be up to the Hugo administrator. But on what terms? The minutes are silent.

Voters have the semiprozine criteria for paid material and more-than-half-of-one’s-support to filter some things out of the fanzine category. Unfortunately, those aren’t good tools for the work.

Consider: Is Locus Online semipro? It repeats some material the magazine presumably paid for. Does it fulfill any of the other criteria? There’s advertising, but mainly at the top of the landing page – so, far less than 15% of the site’s overall space. There’s no way of determining if Locus Online provides more than one-half of anyone’s support (or any support at all) without them announcing it, but how likely is that when editor Mark Kelly has day job in aerospace? Very possibly Locus Online is not semipro as the Hugo rules define the term, even though one of its goals is to steer business to the magazine.

Next, consider Whatever. It’s popular with tens of thousands of readers. Most fanzines and fannish blogs have about one percent of that readership. Otherwise, they have in common a devotion to sf and fandom in their own way. Whatever carries no advertising and pays nobody to write, to my knowledge. Instead of drawing a distinction between Whatever and other publications I’m practically delivering a sound-alike for the “If you prick me, do I not bleed?” speech from “The Merchant of Venice.” Where should it compete?

A lot of the other high-traffic sites are easier to classify. Poke around and you eventually find a reference to the top editor having been hired away from a big-name pop culture magazine. Click on the “advertising” link and you’ll be taken to a corporate webpage declaring that millions of people read its spectrum of special-interest sites. But will this circumstantial evidence be enough to empower a Hugo Administrator to disqualify something as a fanzine?

What does the future hold? As you can see, a lot is riding on the work fans will do at this year’s Business Meeting.

P.S. One other thing bothers me about the soon-to-be-ratified rule change. Why haven’t the knowledgeable fans who proposed it given the category a new name in order to avoid the clumsy anachronism of calling virtually every form of two-dimensional fanac a fanzine, as the rule will effectively do?

Another Voice on Semiprozines

Warren Buff favors keeping the Best Semiprozine Hugo. While we differ about that, I admired a bit of research he presented on a list-serv to refute the idea that there has been a radically smaller assortment of nominees in that category than in some others. I quote it here, with his permission.   

Warren Buff: “Now, I initially voted for this amendment. I thought the case was solid that the same nominees were coming up year after year, and from 2003-2008, four of the five nominees are identical. One of those (Ansible) failed to make this year’s ballot, but even then, we can trace three of the five nominees back on every ballot since 1989 (Locus, Interzone, NYRSF). In the past ten years, it has featured only 12 nominees. This may sound like a small number until you count the nominees in Best Fanzine over the same period — a mere 13, and there’s an overlap of two between the two categories (and another of the fanzine nominees is SFFY). Best Fan Writer has only had 12 nominees in the past ten years. Best Professional Artist has only scored 15 nominees. Best Fan Artist has produced a mere 10. (I’ll leave off the Editor categories, though, since those were too recently split to provide comparable data.) So I don’t really consider the category to be that unhealthy. If we have a problem with the same folks getting nominated consistently for the Best Semiprozine Hugo, then I suspect there are a lot of categories in similar danger of going to the chopping block. I didn’t think I was going to change my mind on getting rid of Semiprozine, but this discussion has caused me to take another look at the raw data. We can probably think of some interesting ways to change the category to make it more exciting. Let’s explore those rather than kill it entirely.”

Here There Be Coincidences

Ray Bradbury and Mike Mallory at Comic Con 2009

Above, Mike Mallory and Ray Bradbury at Comic Con 2009. On Bradbury’s lap is a copy of James A. Owen’s novel Here There Be Dragons.

James A. Owen was an excellent author guest of honor at this year’s Mythcon. Among his works is a series of fantasy novels that kicks off with Here There Be Dragons. I knew he and his family were going to Comic Con next. And I was highly intrigued to notice in John King Tarpinian’s photo of Ray Bradbury posed beside Mike Mallory (above) that Bradbury is holding a copy of Owen’s novel.

Where did that come from? I wondered.

Now I know the answer. Owen has blogged the whole joyous explanation — including a line that must be music to every author’s ear:

“It’s a beautiful book!” Ray told me. “I want to buy it! Right now!”

Below, Ray Bradbury and James A. Owen at Comic Con 2009, in a photo from Owen’s LJ. (I smiled even more when I realized that was John King Tarpinian in the background, camera in hand.)

Bradbury and James Owen at Comic Con 2009