Pixel Scroll 7/26/17 Fifth File At Scrollory Towers

(1) CAPTAIN’S LOG. Actor John Barrowman had his appendix out the other day.

(2) MARCH. After a Saturday panel about the March comics, fans followed the history-making co-author in a re-enactment: io9 has the story — “Rep. John Lewis Leads March for Civil Rights Through Comic-Con”.

Congressman John Lewis (D-Ga.) was at San Diego Comic-Con on Saturday discussing his award-winning graphic novel, March, which resulted in a real march for civil rights awareness.

After Lewis’ panel ended, he led a group of over 1,000 people through the San Diego Convention Center, with some shouting “No justice, no peace” as they marched past cosplayers and attendees. According to the Associated Press, Lewis made sure to stop and shake hands with people who recognized him as he passed.

(3) HELSINKI DINING TIPS. Worldcon 75 has posted its Restaurant Guide [PDF file].

Helsinki is currently undergoing a “fun dining” wave. It seems not a day goes by without a new street food restaurant being opened on one corner or another, from Mexican burrito shops to a boom of high-quality burger joints. At the same time, many Helsinki restaurateurs are opening casual fine dining restaurants, where the food is top-notch but the atmosphere is laid-back. Helsinki also has many restaurants with long histories and traditions…

(4) 2017 NASFiC REPORT. Evelyn Leeper’s NorthAmeriCon ’17 / NASFIC 2017 con report is online at Fanac.org.

This is a convention report for NorthAmeriCon ’17 (NASFIC 2017, and henceforth referred to as just NASFIC), held in San Juan, Puerto Rico, July 6-9, 2017, with a little bit of sightseeing thrown in (because a separate report would not be worthwhile).

It is with some trepidation I start this report. We had never attended a NASFIC before. For a long time we always went to Worldcon, and for the recent years where we skipped the overseas Worldcon, the NASFIC seemed like a misguided attempt to be a substitute. But a NASFIC in Puerto Rico was very appealing for a couple of reasons: I am half Puerto Rican, and we could take a tour of the Arecibo Telescope. And of course, I figured it was a chance to connect with authors and old friends and all that….

(5) THE GOOD, THE WEIRD, AND THE SCROLLY: Over at Featured Futures, Jason comments on the month in webzine fiction with a list of links to remarkable tales — “Summation of Online Fiction: July 2017”.

Aside from a two-part novella from Beneath Ceaseless Skies (which was just a flash away from counting as a novel), July was a relatively light month in the webzine world. The number of noteworthy stories is also light, but Clarkesworld continued its resurgence with a July issue that was probably even better overall than the June (though each had a standout story), Ellen Datlow picked another for Tor.com, and some other zines also contributed particularly good work.

(6) HITTING THE TARGET. Having seen some make the wrong choice, Sarah A. Hoyt advises indie authors to find “The Right Slot” – to be sure they’re marketing their work in its proper genre. In her latest column for Mad Genius Club she takes a cut at defining several genres, beginning with fantasy.

The SUBJECT determines genre.  A non exhaustive list of genres and subgenres and subjects (this is off the top of my head and I’ll miss some.  If you guys want an exhaustive list it will take a long time.)

Fantasy – Anything that is technically impossible in our reality, by our physical rules, including but not limited to supernatural beings, all the creatures of Tolkien, etc.  Often draws on the myths and legends of mankind.

Has subgenres: High Fantasy – Tolkien-like.  Also often known as heroic fantasy.

Alternate history – usually where magic works, but still related to our world.

Urban fantasy, which might of might not be a subgenre of alternate history.  It’s not just “fantasy in a city.”  Although both F. Paul Wilson’s Repairman Jack and Larry Correia’s monster hunters are technically urban fantasy, as is my Shifter series, it would be more honest to call it “contemporary fantasy.”

Urban fantasy has a structure added to the theme and location, and that often involves a young woman with powers, a love interest on the dark side, etc.  Think Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Paranormal Romance – Like Urban Fantasy but way more in the romance and sex side.  In fact, it’s more a subgenre of romance, really.

(7) SF WORTH WAITING FOR. T.W. O’Brien declares “The Future Library Is a Vote of Confidence Humanity Will Make It to 2114” at B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog.

The work of Scottish artist Katie Paterson is nothing as mundane as oil on canvas or carved marble. Her works includes  Timepieces—nine clocks showing the time on the planets of our solar system, plus the Earth’s moon (Pluto still loses out); Fossil Necklace—170 beads carved from fossils, each representing a major event in the 3 billion year history of life on Earth; and Campo del Cielo, Field of Sky—a 4.5 billion year old meteorite, melted then recast into a replica of its original form, and finally returned to space by the European Space Agency.

In May 2014, Paterson planted 1000 Norwegian spruce trees in a forest north of Oslo, Norway. The plan is to harvest them in 2114 for paper to print a limited edition anthology of books. Each year, starting in 2014, an author was to be invited to write a book for Paterson’s project, Future Library; he or she will have one year to complete the work, which then won’t be read  until well after the turn of the next century. 

The completed manuscripts will be kept in a specially designed room on the fifth floor of the New Deichmanske Library in Oslo. The authors’ names and the book titles will be on display, but the manuscripts themselves will be unread until the anthology is published in 2114.

(8) THE ELVISH SPECTRUM.

Key: First row vertical: Hugo Weaving, Lee Pace, Cate Blanchett from The Hobbit as Elrond, Thranduil, and Galadriel. Second row vertical: Marvel: Red Skull (Captain America: The First Avenger), Ronan the Accuser (Guardians of the Galaxy), Hela (Thor: Ragnarok)

(9) JORDIN KARE. Paul Gilster mourns the astrophysicist and filker in two excellent posts at Centauri Dreams, “Remembering Jordin Kare (1956-2017)”, and “SailBeam: A Conversation with Jordin Kare”.

Looking around on the Net for background information about Jordin Kare, who died last week at age 60 (see yesterday’s post), I realized how little is available on his SailBeam concept, described yesterday. SailBeam accelerates myriads of micro-sails and turns them into a plasma when they reach a departing starship, giving it the propulsion to reach one-tenth of lightspeed. Think of it as a cross between the ‘pellet propulsion’ ideas of Cliff Singer and the MagOrion concept explored by Dana Andrews.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born July 26, 1894 – Aldous Huxley
  • Born July 26, 1928 – Stanley Kubrick

(11) A LIST TOP DC MOVIES. Io9 gives you “All 28 DC Animated Original Movies, Ranked”. Why isn’t the new Wonder Woman movie #1? Because, like the title says, this is a list of their animated movies. Cancel the heart attacks…

This list contains the 28 DC Animated Original movies released so far, ranked from worst to best on the quality of their story, characters, and adaptation of the source material….

(12) STEAL LIKE AN ARTIST. Wil Wheaton heartily endorses

Steal Like an Artist, by Austin Kleon, is essential reading for all artists.

It’s a quick read that you can finish in one sitting, but the ideas and advice it contains will stay with you long after you’ve put it down. Some of Austin’s suggestions will validate what you’re already doing, some will challenge you to fundamentally change a creative practice, others will inspire you to grab a notebook and get to work immediately.

Because it’s such a small and accessible book, you’ll want to go back to it from time to time. Just like Stephen King’s On Writing, as you change and grow as an artist, it reveals new ideas and inspirations to you that you may have missed on a previous read.

This is a fantastic addition to your library, and a wonderful gift for any creative person in your life.

(13) WIELD THE POWER. I can’t possibly resist reading an item headlined “Wow, the Iron Throne Makes an Excellent Phone Charger!” – at Tor.com.

YouTube crafters Natural Nerd have a new video up showing viewers how to make their own custom Iron Throne phone charger. It’s marvelously simple, and could make for a good starter project if you’re interested in exploring nerd crafts. Basically, make a throne out of blocks of wood, glue on a ton of cocktail swords, coat in metallic paint, and thread in the charger cord, and you’re there!

(14) SUPERMAN WITH A ‘STACHE. Henry Cavill’s upper lip is a story: “Justice League’s telling reshoots involve Joss Whedon, more banter, absolutely no mustaches”.

Superman can do anything, it seems, but have a mustache. Or to be more accurate, it’s Henry Cavill’s mustache that’s reportedly causing some problems for Warner Bros.’ upcoming Justice League movie, which is due to be released on November 17 but is nonetheless currently undergoing extensive reshoots (which are generally filmed to fix or replace scenes that aren’t working). After initial filming on Justice League was complete, it seems that Cavill reasonably assumed he was done playing the smooth-jawed Man of Steel for a minute and grew out his facial hair for a part in the next Mission: Impossible movie. According to a new Variety report, however, Justice League is being retooled so much — with an assist from The Avengers’ Joss Whedon, no less, now that director Zack Snyder has stepped away from the project to cope with his daughter’s recent death — that Warner Bros. has agreed to just digitally remove Cavill’s mustache from any reshot Justice League scenes rather than lose any more time.

But Jon Bogdanove thinks it would make a great addition.

(15) MARVEL VALUE STAMPS. The publisher is bringing them back:

Who saved them? Who clipped them? Who collected them? This fall, the Marvel Universe returns to an untapped corner of its expansive history for MARVEL LEGACY with the return of the Marvel Value Stamps. Just as Marvel Legacy is bridging the past and the future of Marvel’s iconic universe, this nostalgia-based program is designed to excite new readers. Comic fans may remember these fondly, while new fans and the uninitiated will be able to enjoy them without destroying their prized possessions!

Inspired by the classic 1970’s program where different stamps could be clipped from the letters page of Marvel books, fans will be able to collect stamps featuring all their favorite Marvel characters. These stamps will be on inserts within the regular cover editions for all first issue Marvel Legacy titles, beginning with titles debuting in October. And a proper homage to these collectible stamps wouldn’t be complete without a collectible stamp album – to be revealed!

(16) THE OLDS. At Galactic Journey, Victoria Silverwolf leads into her review of the latest (August 1962) issue of Fantastic with a survey of the news — “[July 26, 1962] The Long and Short of It (August 1962 Fantastic)”.

…AT&T launched Telstar, the first commercial communications satellite (which we’ll be covering in the next article!)

The world of literature suffered a major loss with the death of Nobel Prize winning author William Faulkner.

In Los Angeles, young artist Andy Warhol exhibited a work consisting of thirty-two paintings of cans of Campbell’s Soup….

(17) GAZE INTO THE FUTURE. And don’t forget to sign up for Galactic Journey Tele-Conference #2, happening Saturday, July 29, where they’ll present their predictions for the 1962 Hugo Science Fiction Awards.

(18) THE PLAY’S THE THING. A local community theater in Urbana, IL is staging Jordan Harrison’s 2014 play Marjorie Prime, recently produced as a movie. It runs July 27-August 12. An interview with the director is here. Get tickets here.

Marjorie Prime, written by Jordan Harrison and directed for the Station by Mathew Green, is a near-future play where technology has gone just a little farther than today. In the show, Tess is caring for her elderly mother, and Tess’ husband Jon advocates for the use of an artificial intelligence companion called a “Prime”. Primes are designed to help a particular person, in this case Marjorie, record and retain their memories, often taking the form of someone close to the subject.

(19) LIFE UNPLUGGED. Gareth D. Jones discusses “The Real Town Murders by Adam Roberts (book review)” at SF Crowsnest.

….One of the consequences of Alma’s divorce from the on-line Real Town is that she can no longer check references and definitions and she quickly realises that everyone’s speech is littered with literary and historical references. This makes an interesting game for the reader, too, attempting to parse and divine all of the little jokes and quotes that Adam Roberts has thrown in along the way. To add to the interest, characters who spend much of their time on-line find real-life speech difficult so that several conversations consist of stammering and stuttering and the breaking of words into individual syllables replaced with homophonous single-syllable words. It’s quite fun to follow the convoluted and sometimes rambling speech.

The basic plot of the book follows Alma’s investigations into the miraculously-appearing dead body, with a secondary investigation into a mysteriously skinny man…..

(20) A BOY CALLED PERCY. At Black Gate, Derek Kunsken tells when he learned the true theme of a famous YA series: “Crappy Parents All Around: A Look At Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson Series”

…Eventually, I recommended it to a friend for his kids, who were complaining about their road-tripping. When my friend got back, he thanked me for the rec and said “It’s all about shitty parents.”

For some reason, I hadn’t clued into this as the theme. Perhaps I’d taken it as straight-on adventure. Maybe I hadn’t considered how lucky I am to have the parents and extended family I did. Then it occurred to me what a giant strategic advantage it was to Riordan to have linked crappy parents to the Greek myths.

Percy is of course pretty miffed at times about having Poseidon essentially be a dead-beat dad whom he doesn’t meet until he’s twelve and who really doesn’t meaningfully interact with him even after that. He has a crappy step-dad to boot, but he’s not the only one with parental issues….

(21) IN VINO. Martin Morse Wooster has sent File 770 lots of beer label stories. Now he tries to even the score by reporting that Australian wine lovers can enjoy Some Young Punks‘ vintage “Monsters Monsters Attack!”

A full 750ml of Monster Mayhem bottled up for far too long breaks and takes over the unsuspecting city. Trixie and Tessa’s middle names are danger and adventure but is the maelstrom released by the raging beast too fierce to be calmed by their charms? Will they arrive in time or will a deadly rage be realised.

Variety / Vintage     2015 Clare Valley Riesling

Vineyards     We sourced fruit from two sites in the Clare Valley; Mocundunda and Milburn. All the fruit was whole bunch pressed before fermentation in a mixture of stainless and neutral oak by a mixture of cultured and indigenous yeast. Post ferment the wine is merely stabbed and filtered prior to bottling.

(22) ONCE TOO OFTEN. Adam-Troy Castro files a grievance: “’What if I Told You’ There Was Another Way to Impart Exposition?”

Thing that I am getting awfully sick of, in dramatic presentations of sf/fantasy works.

Honestly, if I ever see this again, it will be too soon.

The exposition-sentence that begins with, “What if I told you–”

Usually followed by something that sounds batshit insane to the person who’s been living a normal life until that moment.

I first became aware of this with Laurence Fishburne in THE MATRIX, but it has become the go-to form, and I just saw it with the trailer for the new TV series, THE INHUMANS. I think but cannot be sure that it was in DOCTOR STRANGE too. But it’s certainly all over the place….

(23) YOU COULD ALWAYS TRY THE AUTOGRAPH LINE. Here are the places George R.R. Martin will not be signing at Worldcon 75:

For those of you who want books signed, please, bring them to one of my two listed autograph sessions. I will NOT be signing before or after panels, at parties, during lunch or breakfast or dinner, at the urinal, in the elevator, on the street, in the hall. ONLY at the autograph table. If the lines are as long as they usually are, I’ll only be signing one book per person.

You can also find his programming schedule at the link.

(24) LAUGH WARS. Martin Morse Wooster says Star Wars Supercuts:  Parodies of The Trench Run is “a really funny four-minute mashup from IMDB of lots of parodies of the Death Star Trench Run. I particularly liked the Family Guy bit where Red Leader is followed by Redd Foxx, Red Buttons, and Big Red chewing gum…”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Jason, Evelyn Leeper, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Jim Meadows, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Nigel.]

Evelyn Leeper’s Too-Hip Blog

When fanwriter Evelyn Leeper broke her hip on March 20, her husband Mark decided the best way for them to keep all their friends updated was to start a blog.

Mark wrote the first post from the emergency room of Bayshore Hospital.

Evelyn fell off the bottom step of the attic steps in our garage, hit her head, and it looks like she broke her hip. Right now I am waiting for her to return from the x-rays.

Evelyn began adding to the blog while she was still in the hospital. Now she’s back home but the recovery process has been painful, as she describes in her May 14 entry:

Leg pains (including knee pains and hip pains) come and go. I suspect the knee pains may be if I sit on a low couch, or drive some distance, with my leg bent for long periods of time. There is less pain from twisting around, though, so it seems things are improving. I can actually sleep on my side, somewhat curled up (which had been my favorite position for sleeping before all this).

Here’s wishing Evelyn a rapid and complete recovery with freedom from pain.

Conrunners React to Cornell Initiative

Paul Cornell and Si Spurrier have called for a 50/50 male/female balance on all convention programs.

I am terribly prone to complacency, therefore, regardless of my initial skeptical reaction to the implied criticism, I think anybody who puts himself out there trying to raise the bar for con runners is doing me a service just by making me think about why I do things the way I do.

Although I don’t believe in being ruled by a canned number, I do believe in getting more women on programming. I was willing to ask — how well am I really doing? (See “Program Participation as Civil Disobedience”.)

Next, I wanted to know how other convention program organizers feel about Cornell’s initiative. Will it make any difference? Should it? How practical is it? I reached out to a dozen experienced conrunners (plus fandom’s best-known program reporter) with these questions:

  • What is your approach is to gender parity on panel programs?
  • Do you think Cornell’s initiative will change or has already changed your approach?
  • Do you have any comments on Paul Cornell’s and Si Spurrier’s actions?

Responses came back from Emily Coombs, Janice Gelb, Evelyn Leeper, Jim Mann, Craig Miller, Priscilla Olson, Arlene Satin and two fans preferring to remain unnamed. Most of their comments were so deeply thoughtful I decided to run them in full. That makes for a long post, of course, so I have placed their views after the jump.

Continue reading

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!

The Hugo and Gender Controversy, A Year Later

When people discovered only one work of fiction by a woman was on the 2007 Hugo ballot lightning rent the blogosphere. Writers seeing this as a denial of women’s contribution to sf voiced surprise, disappointment and anger. Some of them decided to work for change, creating websites with information about works by women published in 2007, in hopes of making them more competitive for awards. Then came the backlash from bloggers defending the makeup of the Hugo ballot, or arguing that it wasn’t symptomatic of any problem that needed to be solved. The debate made sf fandom’s corner of the web crackle with electicity.

The 2008 Hugo ballot came out in March: it listed four works of fiction by women. A few people immediately predicted that last year’s controversy would repeat itself. Patrick Shepherd, who in 2007 essentially argued that sf is more nearly gender-blind than it once was, sighed:

Once again, there are no women represented in [the Best Novel] category, although there are several in the other categories. There will probably be some more flack about this, which I believe is really irrelevant…. Of far more importance is just what the quality level is of those that are nominated.

And John Scalzi, author of a 2008 Best Novel nominee, said he expected to see criticism “that none of the authors of the books nominated are women.”

Yet the blogosphere remained tranquil.

In fact, K. Tempest Bradford, Non-Fiction Editor for Dark Fantasy, who also started the SF Bookswap and often blogs about power and privilege issues that affect the sf field, said in her opinion piece titled “And the Phallic Symbol Goes To…” —

Denvention posted this year’s Hugo nominees a few days ago, and much rejoicing was heard across the land. I’m happy to see that there wasn’t a repeat of last year’s ovary-free fiction categories, though there are still fewer women than I’d like. Just means I’ll have to work harder for next year!

Bradford seemed to feel that the increase in women nominees, from one to four, represented a satisfying reward for the work she and others had invested in putting out the word about fiction by women.

What accounts for the change since last year?

Some of the explanations I thought of included:

  1. The calm has less to do with the issue and more to do with how the blogosphere works – something that ignites a brushfire of comment can use up the topic, even in the case of an issue people care about.

  2. The number of women nominees isn’t, in itself, a significant issue, it was just an opportunity to draw attention to women’s or feminists’ concerns. People will move on to a fresh issue.

  3. The number of nominees matters, and moving the needle from one to four is satisfying progress. Or,

  4. The quality of the works nominated is the main thing, and some people have in hindsight decided last year’s controversy took away from that focus, but they still hope more women get nominated.

I asked Adrienne Martini, Evelyn Leeper and Nancy Kress, all women who are very familiar with the sf field and these issues, why the heated discussion did not resume where it left off.

I began with Adrienne Martini because her column for Bookslut was the most interesting and pungent thing I read about last year’s controversy. Actually, I was incensed when I first read it. As I realized later, that was the first clue that I would feel compelled to give the question serious thought. (After all, I was also incensed when Harlan Ellison used the 1978 Worldcon to agitate for the Equal Rights Amendment, but I ended as a convert to the idea.) I sent her an e-mail outlining these ideas and asking for comment.

Adrienne Martini responded:

Pungent — I like that. For me the whole episode itself was rather pungent. FWIW – my initial Bookslut post was borne out of anger, not necessarily because of the Hugo noms that year. Until the list of nominees made it startlingly apparent that nothing had changed, it did feel like women in the SF/F field had gained some momentum. Not just the old reliables — the women that men point to to say “look, we have some” — but doors for all female writers in the field felt more open. Then it slammed shut, rather abruptly.

In hindsight, I would have said that differently than I did and wouldn’t have taken it out on Eifelheim. But I don’t regret the anger, which did seem to touch off a number of discussions, most of which were worth having.

I’m not certain there is just one explanation for why it’s so quiet this year. I do lean toward the first two. Plus, I don’t think that year-to-year comparisons shake out useful data. What will be interesting is to see what happens in 2009, 2010 and 2011.

Evelyn Leeper knows sf, is well versed in the history of the Worldcon and its Hugo Awards, and has been up for the award herself a dozen times in the Best Fan Writer category. Evelyn said this about my four suggestions:

The calm has less to do with the issue and more to do with the way the blogosphere works – something ignites a brushfire of comment that uses up the topic, even in the case of an issue people care about.

Could be, although if Usenet is any indication, there is never a topic so dead that a brushfire can’t be lit in it.

The number of women nominees isn’t, in itself, a significant issue, it was just an opportunity to draw attention to women’s or feminists’ concerns. People will move on to a fresh issue.

This definitely seems the case to me.

The number of nominees matters, and moving the needle from one to four is satisfying progress

Not really. That is, I don’t think the number matters that much. One needs to look at what percentage of SF writers (not the population at large) are female, etc. That is, if only 10% of the writers are female, then you can’t complain that they aren’t 50% of the nominees.

And 20 authors out of the entire set of authors is such a small figure that it is not statistically significant.

For 1992, 12 of the 23 fiction nominees were by women. Does anyone ever talk about that? Did we reach some sort of high point then?

The quality of the works nominated is the main thing, and some people have in hindsight decided last year’s controversy took away from that focus, but they still hope to see more women get nominated.

If I had to choose one answer, it would be this one (though frankly, the gender, or race, or religion of the nominees is pretty low on my list of concerns for the Hugos).

When Rowling won the Hugo, no one seemed to be thrilled a woman had won. There was more concern that a fantasy had won.

The people who are complaining — can they list works by women that better than what made the ballot? I have found that if you have a panel on “The Top Ten [X],” people will criticize the list and say, “Well, what about such-and-such.” To which the answer is, “Okay, but which work will you take off the list to make room for it?” It’s not enough to say, “There were lots of good works by women,” one needs to be able to point to works better than what is on the list, and indicate what should be removed.

Now, of course, the nominations are all subjective, so this should be easy, but while people will occasionally list things to be added, no one ever seems to do the other half.

And people don’t seem to complain that not enough “people of color” are nominated. Why the focus on gender?

Nancy Kress’ 1993 speech on “Women in American Science Fiction,” a horizon-expanding exploration of the sf genre’s history, brought me a lot closer to understanding the grievances behind last year’s Hugo and gender controversy, as I wrote in File770 #150, pages 15-17. Here’s what she answered:

Nancy Kress: I don’t know why there aren’t more women on the Hugo ballot this year. If you read my 1993 speech, you saw that women SFWA members win awards (Hugos and Nebulas combined) in roughly the same numbers as their membership. Here are the updated figures, from the 2007 SFWA Directory:

Male names: 58%
Female Names: 35%
Other: 7% (These people are unknown to me personally and are using initials, have unisex names like “Pat” or “Terry,” or have non-English names which I don’t know the usual gender for).

From 1977-2007:

Female Hugo winners: 35
Male Hugo winners: 93

Female Nebula winners: 57
Male Nebula winners: 70

So women are under-represented for Hugos and over-represented for Nebulas. Why? I have absolutely no idea.

While Kress doesn’t claim to know the answer, her statistics do help answer one of Evelyn Leeper’s queries about the proportion of male and female pro writers. (Kress also posted these figures on her blog. Mike Flynn added some comments that also are worth reading.)

In the final analysis, why wasn’t there a replay of last year’s Hugo controversy?

Reason Number One: No mana. Larry Niven’s story “The Magic Goes Away” postulates that magic works until the local supply of mana is exhausted. The Hugos were thoroughly worked over last year. Bloggers like to be read, and repeating the exact same arguments that were made a year ago is not the way to get an audience.

Reason Number Two: If a person literally was only concerned about getting more women nominated for the Hugo, he or she may have been satisfied by the progress represented by there being four fiction nominees by women instead of one.

For others whose complaints about the Hugos were linked to the larger inquiry about whether women have equal access to succeed as sf/fantasy writers, the Hugo Awards are just one set of data among many that can be mined for statistics to support a feminist critique.

As people are aware, the validity of statistics depends on the size of the sample. For example, prozine editors have bought and published hundreds of stories over the past 15 years. Something is shown by comparing the percentage of stories by men and women these editors have selected over that timespan, as Feminist SF – the Blog recently did.

But I really feel that Sheila Williams [editor of Asimov’s] should get more notice (perhaps even accolades) for doing exactly what all of us who are annoyed by gender imbalance have asked other editors to do. (And let me point out again: we have not asked them to publish stories JUST because they were written by women, or to not publish stories JUST because they were written by men.)

(Tip of the hat to  SF Signal.)

Another post on the Feminist SF blog using proportional representation as the hook, 17.948%: Best of Best New SF, challenged Gardner Dozois’ The Best of the Best New SF on grounds that only 7 of its 39 stories were by women.

When someone uses a statistic to level criticism at very small sample, like the Hugo ballot or Dozois’ selection of top stories from the last 20 years, I think it’s fair to expect them to anticpiate Evelyn’s question, “Okay, but which work will you take off the list to make room for it?” Or the question I’m most interested in, “What work do you want to add?”

The bare number 17.948% doesn’t carry the argument. Would anyone read a murder mystery that only dealt in the probability of there being a victim? I want to know whose story was unjustly left out. Tell me about the good stuff I am missing. There are a lot of good stories published every year, and when I add the critics’ lists to the Hugo ballot or Gardner Dozois’ list, it gets easier to find them all.

Update 5/12/2008: Fine-tuned the lead-in to K. Tempest Bradford’s quote.