Record-Setting Number of Votes for 2016 Hugo Nominations

MidAmeriCon II reports over 4,000 nominating ballots were received for the 2016 Hugo Awards, nearly doubling the previous record of 2,122 ballots set last year by Sasquan, the 73rd Worldcon held in Spokane, WA.

This is the eighth consecutive year the record has been broken. Prior to Sasquan, Loncon 3 (2014) received 1,923 ballots; LoneStarCon 3 (2013) 1,343; Chicon 7 (2012) 1,101; Renovation (2011) 1,006; Aussiecon 4 (2010) 864; Anticipation (2009) 799 — each a new high-water mark at the time.

MidAmeriCon II reports there were 12,715 eligible nominators, also a record. These consisted of the members of Sasquan, and all the members of MidAmeriCon II and Worldcon 75 who had joined by January 31.

The finalists for the 2016 Hugo Awards, John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and the 1941 Retro Hugo Awards will be announced on Tuesday, April 26 via MidAmeriCon II’s social media.

The finalists will be released category by category, beginning at Noon CDT (1 p.m. EDT, 10 a.m. PDT, 6 p.m. London, 7 p.m. Western Europe), through the convention’s Facebook page (www.facebook.com/MidAmeriCon2/) and Twitter feed @MidAmeriCon2

The announcement will begin with the 1941 Retro Hugo Awards then continue with the 2016 Hugo Awards and Campbell Award.

The full list of finalists will be made available on the MidAmeriCon II website directly after the completion of the live announcement, and will also be distributed as a press release to all MidAmeriCon II press contacts.

The full press release follows the jump.

Continue reading

Pixel Scroll 3/2/16 A Scanner Barkly

(1) LE GUIN DOCUMENTARY FUNDED. Arwen Curry e-mailed word to supporters of the Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin documentary Kickstarter that they reached $200,000 in pledges today.

Now that we have raised our entire budget, our NEH grant will be released. That means we’ll be able to stop fundraising and start production right away….

That also means everyone will get Ursula’s list of What to Read in 2016! I can’t wait to see what’s on there.

With 48 hours left in the campaign, pledges are still trickling in. Rest assured, we’ll use every dime toward making the film more worthy of its subject. As we move forward over these next months, I’ll keep you posted on our progress.

(2) THE EAR DOCTOR. Big Finish will bring back David Tennant and Catherine Tate as the Tenth Doctor and his companion Donna Nobel in three forthcoming audio dramas reports Radio Times.

More details in “Everything we know about the new David Tennant and Catherine Tate Doctor Who Adventures”.

And there’s an audio excerpt at “Keep calm – but we’ve got the exclusive first clip of David Tennant and Catherine Tate’s return to Doctor Who”.

According to the Big Finish website, the stories will see the Tenth Doctor and Donna Noble travel to a spaceport, discover a deadly weapon called the Time Reaver and find deadly iPads at the London Technology museum. In other words, some classic action from for the returning characters.

(3) INGENIOUS FELAPTON. Camestros Felapton asks: Can you identify the titles of these 2015 novels from a combination of emojis? (Repeated here for the benefit of anyone who didn’t see it in last night’s comments.) Note — there may be a problem with this transcription — it shows up okay in the draft, but the preview is all question marks. We’ll see….

1. 🐘 🌙
2. ⌚ 🐙
3. 🍎 🍏 🍎 🍏 🍎 🍏 🍎
4. 🌱 🌞 🍂 ❄ ❓
5. ⬆ √

(4) YOU WILL BELIEVE A BOOK CAN FLY. Rob Boffard thinks launching a book is a literal act. He celebrated his new book by sending a recording of himself doing a reading into suborbit — “Sci-Fi Novel ‘Zero-G’ Soars to Edge of Space”

A new sci-fi novel launched on a truly fitting mission last month, as documented in a new video: Rob Boffard’s “Zero-G” cruised to the upper stratosphere for a very unusual author reading at the edge of space.

The book ascended via weather balloon on Jan. 18 from the town of Ross on Wye in southern England. Once the rig got high up in the sky, an audio recording of Boffard reading the prologue and the first chapter began to play loudly. Boffard’s crew documented the process in an extended video, as well as through tweets as it all happened.

 

(5) ROWLING’S SECRET PAN PLAN. Emily Asher-Perrin makes her case for believing “Dumbledore’s Origin Story is the Predecessor to Peter Pan” at Tor.com.

When J.K. Rowling was writing The Tragic Tale of Albus Dumbledore and Gellert Grindelwald, do you think she realized that she was actually writing a very scary version of Peter Pan? I had a minor brain explosion last week while rereading The Deathly Hallows, and the more I think about it, the more adamant I become…

…wanna go down a weird rabbit hole with me?

Sure, it’s not an exact parallel, but there are plenty of uncanny similarities that remind me of Peter Pan when I think of Albus Dumbledore’s youth. Before I go trying to explain my train of thought, let me first give you my cast of characters—

  • Grindelwald: Peter Pan
  • Albus: Wendy Darling
  • Aberforth: John Darling
  • Ariana: Michael Darling

Here’s the piece of Rowling’s text that put me in mind of Pan in the first place:

…and there on the window ledge sat perched, like a giant bird, a young man with golden hair. In the split second that the lantern’s light illuminated him, Harry saw the delight upon his handsome face, then the intruder shot a Stunning Spell from his wand and jumped neatly backward out of the window with a crow of laughter.

(6) GROSS INCOME. “Ask the Tax Czarina: Bartering ” at the SFWA Blog tries to dispel magical thinking about a common source of noncash income.

To sum up, here are some real world examples. My client provides editing and mentoring services for writers. I prepare and sign her tax return, which includes her writing business. I will have bartered tax return preparation income and a deduction for her editing services. My client has bartered editing income and a deduction for her tax return being prepared. While tax return preparation usually goes on Schedule A as an itemized deduction, it may be deducted directly against a business, if that’s the reason my client has her tax return prepared and signed by a paid preparer. The transaction offsets for both of us, it’s a wash. Assuming the amount is under $600, neither of us issues the other a Form 1099-MISC….

In summary, barter transactions are reportable. Transactions that wash are less of an issue than transactions that don’t. The above examples demonstrate that bartering might or might not result in net taxable income for either or both parties. Sometimes it’s clear how the transaction should be treated and sometimes it’s not.

(7) SPACE TO THINK. Tor.com has 10 of Kyle Cassidy’s photos of sf authors’ writing spaces. The lens used to shoot Samuel Delany’s work area makes it look like the International Space Station. Most of the others look like the comfortable living rooms of affluent people – no shots of people with laptops on borrowed tables at Starbucks – with the exception of Joe Haldeman who is writing in the dark by the light of a lantern.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 2, 1933 — The movie King Kong premiered in New York.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • Born March 2, 1949  — Gates McFadden. Cheryl Gates McFadden is an American actress and choreographer. She is best known for playing Dr. Beverly Crusher in the Star Trek: The Next Generation television series and in the four subsequent films.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born March 2, 1904 — “Dr. Seuss,” Theodor Geisel.

(11) A SERIES OF WORLDCONS REMEMBERED. Kevin Henney writes down his vivid impressions of Worldcons of decades gone by for asemantic.

Two years later, again with Josh, I visited Worldcon ’86 in Atlanta. For a teenager from North London, even cocooned within the convention hotels, this visit to the American South was an eye-opener…. the view from the front seat revealed a shifting cultural landscape you didn’t see on TV. Sidewalks were invisibly colour coded, black one side, white the other. Worldcon’s name that year, ConFederation, also shows how far we’ve come — you’d have to be a sad puppy to think that name was appropriate now.

I was there for the full five days. There were five of us saving money and shift-sleeping in a room for two, but I used that room for little more than storage and showering. I did the first three days on three hours sleep, giving myself the luxury of seven hours over the final two — a sleeping pattern I could get away with only as an adolescent (or, a few years later, as a new parent). Worldcon was big even back then. It was non-stop sessions, parties, caffeine, bumping into American gods like Frederick Pohl, faux phaser fights in hallways between Klingons and Starfleet (pick a side, go on pick a side…), talking to people you didn’t know, making friends that you did actually keep in touch with for a couple of years, even without cyberspace assistance of email and social media.

And some of whom I would meet again at Conspiracy in Brighton at the same Metropole hotel I’d visited in 1984. Tom and I were there for the weekend…

This Worldcon was smaller and less grand than the one in Atlanta, with a 1980s British seaside-town twist. But it still dwarfed 1984 Eastercon. There were writers I’d seen at SeaCon and in Atlanta, there were guests of honour (including Jim Burns), there were up-and-coming writers (a certain Iain Banks, with and without the M, comes to mind), there was Hawkwind (Tom’s kind of thing, but thanks I’ll pass), there were parties (in the hotel and on the beach) and more.

And then I took a break from cons and fandom. Quite a long break. A fairy-tale sleep whose spell was broken in part by Josh (yup, same one, after all these years) and BristolCon. And in good time for Loncon, Worldcon 2014….

(12) OF ALL THE NERVES. Soft tissues like this are rarely preserved — “Exquisitely detailed 520 million-year-old fossil shows individual nerves” in the Washington Post.

Chengjiangocaris kunmingensis wasn’t exactly a beautiful animal: The crustacean-like Cambrian creature had a long, segmented body and an unholy number of legs that it used to scuttle across the ocean floor. But scientists are oohing and ahhing over the ugly arthropod anyway, and for good reason. The nervous system of one 520 million-year-old specimen shows some of the best and most well-preserved nerves ever seen in an animal of that era.

According to a study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the fossil may be the oldest and most detailed example of a central nervous system yet identified, with even individual nerves — rarely preserved soft tissue — visible enough to study.

(13) CORMAN SUES CITCO. A 1996 Worldcon GoH, “Roger Corman Lawsuit Blames Citco for Losing $60 Million of Family’s Money”.

The famed filmmaker says he wasn’t told that his money was being managed by troubled hedge fund manager Buddy Fletcher.

Roger Corman and his wife Julie Corman, together responsible for hundreds of films and the mentoring of some of Hollywood’s biggest directors and actors, have filed a lawsuit that says they put money in an investment fund managed by George Soros before the money was moved and they ended up losing up to $60 million.

According to the complaint filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on Monday, the administrator of the Soros fund was the Citco Group. The Cormans’ primary contact there was Ermanno Unternaehrer.

In 1996, Unternaehrer convinced the Cormans to put money in a fund managed by Citco, instead of with Soros, alleges the complaint. The Cormans say they were told that “the Citco fund was a safe, secure place to invest their moneys, and that Citco would administer and manage the fund to ensure continued high performance.”

For the next six years, things seemed fine. In 2002, Unternaehrer is said to have recommended that a vehicle named “Pasig, Ltd” be set up in the British Virgin Islands for tax reasons. Corman says he initially was a director of the newly incorporated company, but a few months later, upon advice, Corman says he resigned, becoming only a signatory on the account. By 2008, the lawsuit says that there was $73 million under Citco’s “complete control” and management fell to Alphonse “Buddy” Fletcher.

(14) NOT ON YOUR AM DIAL. “Repeating fast radio bursts recorded for the first time” at Science News.

Fast radio bursts from deep space have never been seen to repeat — until now.

Ten blasts of radio waves recorded last May and June all come from the same direction, researchers report online March 2 in Nature. So did a signal detected in 2012, say Laura Spitler, an astrophysicist at the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, and colleagues. All 11 signals were detected at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico.

Fast radio bursts, or FRBs, last a few milliseconds and, except for one, all appear to originate in other galaxies (SN: 8/9/14, p. 22). For the repeater, each of the signals encountered the same amount of intergalactic plasma, meaning they traveled the same distance. That shared feature makes an ironclad case for a common source, says Duncan Lorimer, an astrophysicist at West Virginia University in Morgantown and co-discoverer of the first FRB, reported in 2007. The question now is what fraction of sources repeat, he says. There may be multiple classes of FRBs, with some recurring and some not, each triggered by something different.

(15) THE GUY WHO DIDN’T MAKE MILLIONS. “Russ Heath’s Comic About Being Ripped Off By Roy Lichtenstein Will Give You A New Appreciation For The Hero Initiative” at Comics Alliance.

If you’re not familiar with the Hero Initiative, they’re one of our favorite organizations here at ComicsAlliance — a nonprofit set up to create a “financial safety net” for comic book creators in need, helping with medical bills and living expenses. It’s one thing to know that they’re doing good things in the world, but Heath’s comic, showing both the help provided during his surgery and the simple pleasure of a bottle of wine, really shows just how much good they’re doing.

(16) THE BEAST WITH THREE BACKS. J.K. Rowling has the story:

J.K. Rowling just confirmed that Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the Harry Potter prequel currently in production with Warner Bros., won’t just be one movie. It will be THREE.

She made the announcement on Twitter, in response to a tweet from a fan who’d heard that the stage play, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, would also be a movie. It won’t. But that’s okay, because now we’ve got three prequels to look forward to

(17) SPACE AGE LEFTOVERS. Abandoned In Place: Preserving America’s Space History by Roland Miller, published on March 1, collects images of the now-discarded facilities that helped America reach outer space.

Stenciled on many of the deactivated facilities at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, the evocative phrase “abandoned in place” indicates the structures that have been deserted. Some structures, too solid for any known method of demolition, stand empty and unused in the wake of the early period of US space exploration. Now Roland Miller’s color photographs document the NASA, Air Force, and Army facilities across the nation that once played a crucial role in the space race.

Rapidly succumbing to the elements and demolition, most of the blockhouses, launch towers, tunnels, test stands, and control rooms featured in Abandoned in Place are located at secure military or NASA facilities with little or no public access. Some have been repurposed, but over half of the facilities photographed no longer exist. The haunting images collected here impart artistic insight while preserving an important period in history.

(18) A UK MARKET. Unsung Stories is an  independent publisher of “intelligent genre fiction – science fiction, fantasy, horror and importantly those works that blur the boundaries between genres.”

They have recently launched a new digital line of short works and novellas, Unsung Signals.

Unsung Signals features mid-length fiction, stories too long for magazines or journals but too short for traditional book-length publication. We believe stories should be as long as they need to be. We’re giving the writers the freedom to write the way they want without the need to pad or trim unnecessarily, to give a home to work that would otherwise be left unpublished, or altered to fit a format.

Here are a few details about their market for short stories —

How long is short?

We will consider stories up to 3000 words (preferred length is under 2000 words though).

Payment and Rights:

We pay £25 per story.  For this we get first electronic rights exclusive for three months, with non-exclusive archival rights. We’ll pay within 30 days of publication via PayPal.

(19) FINDING DORY TRAILER. Disney-Pixar has dropped the first full Finding Dory trailer.

The long-awaited sequel to the beloved 2003 hit Finding Nemo puts the focus this time on the forgetful fish Dory, voiced again by Ellen DeGeneres. Taking place six months after the original underwater adventure, the sequel sends Dory on a quest to find her long-lost family, with the help of Marlin (voiced again by Albert Brooks), Crush (voiced by returning director Andrew Stanton) and several other returning ocean creatures

 

[Thanks to JJ, and John King Tarpinian, Gregory N. Hullender, Gary Budden, and James H. Burns for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Will R.]

Did Sad Puppies Save Worldcon?

A comment by Daniel on Vox Day’s blog put this amusing spin on yesterday’s story about the 2014 Worldcon financial report:

Semi-on topic: thanks to record memberships, LonCon finished with a cash surplus of…

…about £1,000.

Without Larry and Vox last year, they would have been deep in the red.

There you have it: all the people who joined to stuff the ballot box for Larry Correia’s “Sad Puppies” slate kept the Worldcon afloat.

Now I know how that English schoolboy felt in Hope and Glory when he discovered his school had been bombed by the Luftwaffe — “Thank you Adolf!”

Loncon 3 Estimates Razor-Thin Surplus

An initial report shows the 2014 Worldcon with a very small surplus – around £1,000.

The financial review came during a Loncon 3 post-mortem held at Smofcon 32 in December with co-chair Steve Cooper, division heads Helen Montgomery and Eemeli Aro, deputy division head Theresa (TR) Renner, and adviser Vincent Docherty. They distributed a handout at the session that summarized total income at £939,393.77 and expenses at £938,475.33, leaving an estimated surplus of £918.44 (a little less than US$1500).

Vince Docherty says of the initial estimate –

In regard to the figures we provided, note that we made those available with a strong health warning, as they are interim at best, and in the case of the financial figures, still subject to receiving final income or expenses and some items where we suspect a review will result in a cost reduction. These will ideally be resolved in time for the official finance report for Loncon 3 which will be presented at next year’s WSFS Business Meeting.

Kevin Standlee had this to say about the narrow margin:

While the convention was certainly successful, it’s frightening to read the financial figures that currently show a projected surplus of less than £1,000 on a gross of more than £900,000. Basically, Loncon 3 needed every one of those members to hold a once-in-a-generation Worldcon in an incredibly expensive city, and we shouldn’t expect a quick return.

Vince Docherty commented for File 770

I think that Kevin’s point has some general merit: London is very expensive and we knew we needed additional income as compared to Glasgow, though we also knew we would get more members by being in London, as Eastercons there have shown, with their much increased attendance. In fact we had many more members than originally expected, and were able to adjust the budget accordingly, over time. US (and Canadian) Worldcons typically generate about $1m of income and have costs of about three-quarters of that, which means they can afford reimbursements (typically ~$100k), Pass-along-funds and still leave a generous surplus for other things (which sometimes doesn’t get disbursed for many years!) and therefore can have a lighter-touch approach to budgeting.

  • The Loncon 3 committee are still working on the numbers, but to help illustrate the discussion at SMOFcon we provided an informal snapshot of member and financial data for the SMOFcon discussion, which showed it was the largest Worldcon to date in terms of overall registrations (and one of the largest in warm bodies) and the largest in terms of budget in money-of-the-day;
  • We expect L3 will at least have broken-even and might have a small amount of surplus, though it will take some time to finalise the details;
  • This is normal for Worldcons outside North America, given the much higher facilities costs, and is consistent with the last two Glasgow Worldcons, which had final surpluses (before pass-along-funds, as a % of income) of about 3% and 7% respectively (*);
  • The final financial figures also represent the result of a careful approach to budgeting and release of resources over time, which should not be understood as meaning we always expected to only have a safety margin of less than 1% – in fact a contingency of much more than that was always built into the budget and approval to proceed with committing to new things was only done once we were confident we could do so. As mentioned above, we hope the final balance will be more than the snaphshot report shows, once the various outstanding items are closed.

(*)
Financial report by 1995 Worldcon;
Financial report by 2005 Worldcon

Loncon 3, economically, was a much larger project than the previous two UK Worldcons, both held in Glasgow (1995 and 2005).

That included some changes for the better: Loncon 3’s membership income was almost twice that of the 2005 Worldcon. The 2014 bid forwarded £77,830.20 of surplus funds to the con, compared with only £13,605 in 2005. And Loncon 3 received £50,396.75 in pass-along funds from recent Worldcons compared to £41,614 received by the 2005 con.

But Loncon 3 did not have the government help available to the Glasgow Worldcon in 2005, a £88,500 subvention grant provided by the Glasgow City Council to support large events.

That surely would have been welcome, considering the much higher facilities costs in London — Loncon 3’s facilities division estimates it spent £342,172 (about US$534,000). That is both a good deal more than the 2005 Glasgow Worldcon’s facilities expense –  £263,474 – and vastly more than the budget of the San Antonio (2013) Worldcon’s Facilities Division — $82,000.

Other data: Loncon 3 also shared its refined membership and attendance statistics at Smofcon:

The total warm body count (including dealers with passes) was 7,310. The total number of individuals who joined in any capacity was 11,125.

The no-show rate for all attending types was approximately 11.3% (Attending 12.2%, Other 5 Day 18.0% and Day Admissions & Hall Passes 6.4%).

Attending Worldcon in a Robot Body: Brad Templeton Tells All

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

Officer Sue Smith Interrogates Brad Templeton, attending Loncon 3 via telepresence. Photo by Francis Hamit.

Brad Templeton and Kathryn Myronuk attended Loncon 3 using a mobile telepresence bot called a “Beam.” Physically, they were in Idaho the whole weekend. (Francis Hamit photographed them for his Loncon 3 report.)

Brad has just written a detailed account of the experience:

It was particularly rewarding to be the first to use a device like the Beam at a convention like this. Science Fiction readers were of course largely fascinated by it and a thousand photos were posed for and many tweets were sent out. Almost everybody was extremely friendly. Too friendly perhaps, as it became very difficult to travel with purpose, as every few feet people wanted to stop me and chat. People were super helpful because of the novelty. Others who have done this have noted that they go to events and have no trouble getting famous and important people to talk to them, people who would not normally do so if you were there in the flesh. If you want to meet people this is a good way to do it.

Many were super helpful. Not just opening doors and pushing elevator buttons, but being my hands when I went into a charity casino, or setting a place for me to watch the awards ceremony. (Because the Beam is 5′ tall it must go where it will not block other people’s view.) They were not just willing to help but eager, in order to enjoy the novelty.

The operations manager for the convention even asked me to do a volunteer ops shift, answering people’s questions, which I did, and got “Staff” status in exchange. With a bit of preparation, such as a link to the staff radio network and databases, there is no reason one could not do staff work piloting such a robot. Indeed, Suitable Tech believes many jobs can be done entirely remotely, and even staffs their experimental retail store with nothing but remote workers — there are no flesh humans in the store at all.

Kathryn Myronuk has written her own notes and observations on Making Light, such as —

* Fandom will be developing norms on how remotely-presenced people attend cons, and I can see serious talks coming up. We weren’t allowed into the video room or to JRRM’s reading. We were Ramez Naam’s guest for the Hugo Loser’s party, but we were only allowed in after the room voted on it [would a group of SF writers vote “no” to let a robot in?]

* As B notes, he bought a membership, our local London friend who brought the Beam was there for free as our mobility helper, and I was often on the Beam too. If we’d been asked to buy a second membership we would have, but it wasn’t asked. Were we two people attending? What will attendance mean? Will people”just” using it for convenience or budget be considered differently from people using one by necessity?

[Thanks to Bill Higgins for the story.]

Get Those Old People Off My (Artificial) Grass

Fans on The Lawn in Loncon 3's Fan Village. (You know, some of them don’t look that old to me.)

Fans on The Lawn in Loncon 3’s Fan Village. (You know, some of them don’t look that old to me.)

The Daily Dot thought all the geezers were a drag on Loncon 3.

“Worldcon is like a family reunion,” said longtime convention-goer and fanzine writer Curt Phillips, at a panel about the history of Worldcon. After a few days, I could only agree. It was indeed like being at a family reunion, in that it felt like you were spending your time with elderly relatives. You might want to talk to them and listen to their stories, but you’ll have to tolerate some offensive and outdated opinions along the way.

Daily Dot greatly preferred the Nine Worlds con held the weekend before Worldcon but did not play fair, inserting a complaint about the San Diego Comic Con that was totally inapplicable to Loncon 3 —

Nine Worlds also made sure their code of conduct was displayed clearly on their website, which is more than you can say for SDCC.

Seriously, that’s the last thing in the world you could fault about Loncon 3.

I also think it wouldn’t be a bad thing if the Daily Dot modeled the greater acceptance of diversity they claim to want.

For many, the Worldcon experience was just not worth it if your comments were constantly at risk of being shouted down old men. Either some drastic changes will have to be made, or those younger fans won’t come back at all.

When writing about the generation gap at Worldcon 2013, author Madeline Ashby phrased this rather more brutally: “It’s okay, because someday they’ll all be dead.”

I see Ashby’s curse repeated all the time but I don’t take it to heart. Anyone who lives long enough will be getting the same treatment from the generation that follows. I don’t actually wish it on the Daily Dot’s writers, however, nobody has ever been able to stop it from happening, either.

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.