Source Materials About the 1989 Hugo Controversy

Noreascon 3 was one of the best Worldcons ever, and the reasons for saying so are in my convention report (reprinted here in five parts a few years ago, opening with Worldcon Wayback Machine: Noreascon Three (1989) Day One). However, the convention still lay months in the future when a controversy brewed up about the committee’s very public and divisive handling of an instance of Hugo bloc voting and a couple of dozen suspicious nominating ballots, all benefitting a specific author couple.

This topic has come up in comments here within the past two days and I thought I would point out there is a great deal of source material available to anyone who really wants to know what happened.

The tip of the iceberg is visible in The Long List of Hugo Awards for 1989 which shows that The Guardsman by P. J. Beese and Todd Cameron Hamilton [Pageant, 1988] was withdrawn as a Best Novel nominee, Todd Cameron Hamilton withdrew as a Best Professional Artist nominee, while authors P. J. Beese and Todd Cameron Hamilton finished sixth for the Campbell Award. No notes explain the withdrawals.

That there were problems became general knowledge for the first time with the release of Noreascon 3’s Hugo nominee announcement in April 1989, containing the committee’s original statement about the status of Hamilton and Beese’s nominations. I’ve been unable to find a copy of the announcement online, so all I can offer on that score is the news account of it in File 770 #79, below.

What the committee initially assumed and how that influenced their interaction with the authors and their public communications was covered again, along with much new material, in Noreascon 3’s second, voluminous press release in June. The text is online here —

We may not be privy to the Noreascon 3 committee’s internal discussions, but in the second press release they amply explained and justified from their perspective the decisions that they made.

While they were frank about the information they did consider and how they made their decisions, in File 770 I criticized them for deliberately choosing to avoid gathering other useful information that would have influenced those decisions and spared Hamiton and Beese an unjustified public shaming. Copies of the relevant issues have been scanned and put online at Fanac.org is the past year or so, making that writeup easy to find as well.

Now, at least the way it’s working on my computer, the text is small enough to make it hard to read. If you’ll click on the image, it will bring up what at first looks like the same image. Hover your cursor — which now appears as a magnifying glass — over it and click and the page will open to full-size.

The scans from those issues follow the jump. I’ve also included links to the copies at Fanac.org in case the presentation there works better for you.

And in comments I will add one last bit of cryptic information.

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Pixel Scroll 5/28/16 The Boy Who Cried Woof

(1) WISCON GOHS. Justine Larbalestier, Sofia Samatar, and Nalo Hopkinson.

(2) AMERICAN SNARKER. John Z. Upjohn is at WisCon, too.

(3) FIVE-OH. Meanwhile, Peter S. Beagle was signing at Balticon 50.

(4) WHAT IT IS. George R.R. Martin made something clear during his Balticon 50 appearance.

(5) 1980 HUGOS. Nicholas Whyte has located a copy of the 1980 Hugo Awards voting statistics. He discusses the competition in a post for From the Heart of Europe.

The earliest Hugos for which I have been able to find full voting numbers are the 1980 Hugo awards given at Noreascon Two.  The details were release in December 1980, some months after the convention was over, and are available in a seven-page PDF here (the last two pages of the scan are in the wrong order).

563 nomination votes were received, which was a record at the time but was exceeded four times in the rest of the 1980s.  (See George Flynn’s records.)  Nominations seem to have then dipped again until the recent rise.

The 1788 votes for the final ballot were also a record at the time, and a record which as far as I can tell stood for over thirty years until 2100 voted for the 2011 Hugos at Renovation.

(Incidentally I find it fascinating that participation in Site Selection was well ahead of the Hugos for most of the 1980s and 1990s, peaking at 2509 in 1992, a tight-fought campaign between the eventual 1995 Intersection in Glasgow and a rival bid from Atlanta.)

The closest result in 1980 was for the Gandalf Grand Master Award for life achievement in fantasy writing, won by Ray Bradbury by a single vote,mailed in late from England, ahead of Anne McCaffrey, 747 to 746….

The next closest result was the Hugo for Best Novel, which went to Arthur C. Clarke’s The Fountains of Paradiseby 19 votes, 671 to 652 for John Varley’s Titan.  I have to feel that the Hugo voters got it right (even if Jo Walton disagrees – see also excellent comments); it’s a long time since I read Titan but I feel it was really a book of its time, whereas the Clarke is a satisfying capstone to a crucially important career in the genre. The Fountains of Paradise won the Nebula as well that year, but was only third in the Locus poll behind Titan (which won) and Frederik Pohl’s Jem.  It was also nominated for the 1979 BSFA Award but lost to J.G. Ballard’s The Unlimited Dream Company.

(6) ANIMATED ROD SERLING INTERVIEW. Blank on Blank, the PBS video series that creates animated videos from old audio-only interviews with celebrities, writers, and pop culture icons, has given the treatment to a recording of Rod Serling taking questions from Australian radio personality Binny Lum in 1963.

Well, it’s a very beautiful day, and it’s made infinitely more pleasant for me by the fact that I am going to talk to Rod Serling. So many of you have enjoyed his television shows. The Twilight Zone I think is the one that everybody talks about. I’ve just confessed to Rod that I haven’t seen it.

Believe me, Binny, some of my best friends are quite unaware of this program back in the States, including relatives, I might add….

(7) ROLLING A 770 CHARACTER. Kind words from Tim Atkinson who launches his series of Hugo nominee review posts with a look at File 770.

It helps that – occasional op ed articles aside – the blog not only links back to the original stories but quotes liberally from the sources themselves. Glyer and other contributors usually confine themselves to introducing each item rather than responding to it, although occasionally a little mild frustration can be detected.

In short – if File 770’s had an DnD alignment, it would be Lawful Neutral, or at least trying to live up to it. Which is really what you need from a news service.

The File 770 community, on the other hand, existing in a ecosystem of comments on individual blog posts, is all about opinions plural. Whether it’s taking a position on the stories of the day, swapping book or recipe recommendations or engaging in an epic comic riff about what to say to the Balrog in Moria (archived here), the threads are always insightful. Occasionally a little hot-tempered, but by comparison to Twitter (say) they’re a paragon of civility. 🙂

(8) NOT ENOUGH SPACE. Ashley Pollard steps up at Galactic Journey with “[May 27, 1961] Red Star, Blue Star (May 1961 UK Fandom Report)”

….To summarize Great Britain’s role in space, we lag far behind both United States and the Soviet Union, our government having cancelled Blue Streak early last year, which was a medium-range ballistic missile that would’ve made a good basis for a British rocket.  It was being tested at the Woomera Rocket Range in Australia (named, aptly, after an Aboriginal spear throwing aid).  Woomera has plenty of room to fire rockets into space, unlike the Home Counties or anywhere else for that matter on the British Isles…..

However, that still leaves us with Dan Dare, Pilot of the Future, which I haven’t mentioned before.  He is the eponymous hero of the Eagle comic’s lead strip.  Dan Dare is the lead test pilot of the “Interplanet Space Fleet”, whose adventures in space are still delighting its readers after ten years of weekly installments.  The series was created by Frank Hampson who consulted Arthur C. Clarke on the comic strips’ science.  While lots of spaceships have been lost, favourites like Dan Dare’s own Anastasia fly around the Solar system rescuing those in need of help, and defeating the various nefarious plans of enemies like the Mekon: large headed green alien overlords from Venus (and I expect you thought I would say Mars – still green though).

(9) BUT MORE SPACE THAN BEFORE. They finally succeeded in inflating the new room at the ISS.

NASA on Saturday successfully expanded and pressurized an add-on room at the International Space Station two days after aborting the first attempt when it ran into problems.

The flexible habitat, known as the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM), slowly extended 67 inches (170 centimeters) soon after 4 pm (2000 GMT) following more than seven hours during which astronaut Jeff Williams released short blasts of air into the pod’s walls from the orbiting lab using a manual valve.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born May 28, 1908 — Ian Fleming, creator of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, which I borrowed from the library while in junior high, assuming from the title it naturally would be another spy adventure like his James Bond.

(11) THE FUNNY PAGES. Will R. recommends this Hobotopia cartoon for a laugh.

And John King Tarpinian appreciates the references in today’s Brevity.

(12) STAY ON THE ISLAND. It’s the place to be, next time you’re in New York — “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ lair listed on AirBNB”.

An AirBNB listing is offering fans of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles the opportunity to spend a night in the reptilian crime fighters’ secret lair.

The listing posted by the group’s very own Leonardo allows up to six guests to rent the Turtles’ three bedroom lair in Manhattan for just $10 a night.

“This high-tech dojo is fully loaded…a glow in the dark basketball court, a retro arcade, more video games with a pretty sweet tv wall…anything for hanging ninja-style,” the listing states.

While guests will get the opportunity to take full advantage of the lair and possibly even grab a bite of pizza, the Turtles themselves will not be present on the property due to their commitment to protecting the city.

(13) COMING TO VIMEO. A Neil Gaiman documentary will soon be posted online. The trailer says it can be pre-ordered for $12.99.

The documentary Neil Gaiman: Dream Dangerously will be exclusively shown on Vimeo, starting on July 8th. The film chronicles Gaiman’s childhood in Portsmouth UK to his initial success in writing The Sandman comic series to his more recent work with novels such as Coraline and The Graveyard Bookwhere he became the first author to win both the Newbery and the Carnegie medals for the same work. His novel The Ocean at the End of the Lane was voted Book of the Year in the British National Book Awards.

 

(14) ANCIENT BOMB. Entertainment Weekly tells us “Mel Brooks was ‘ready to jump off a roof’ over sci-fi fiasco Solarbabies”.

How Did This Get Made? …recruited SlashFilm writer Blake Harris to speak with the makers — or, perhaps, “perpetrators” would be a better word — of the films featured in the podcast.

Harris can now claim to have struck bona fide gold with an interview in which comedy legend Mel Brooks talks about his backing of 1986’s Solarbabies, a sci-fi movie starring Jason Patric, Jami Gertz, and Lukas Haas. Don’t remember the film? Doesn’t matter. The always entertaining Blazing Saddles director, who exec-produced the movie through his Brooksfilms production company, remembers it like it was yesterday. In particular, Brooks has excellent recall of how the budget ballooned from a modest $5 million to a jaw-dropping $23 million…

(15) IT’S ABOUT TIME. Southern California Public Radio’s “Off-Ramp” segment delivers “DIY Film Fest: 6 time-travel flicks you’ll go back to (sorry) time after time” by Tim Cogshell, of CinemaInMind.

Off-Ramp has been after me asking me to do another DIY film festival, and I’ve been asked to talk sci-fi flicks with the sci-fi nerds over at the DigiGods podcast.  They have a great audience and I know they are going to want to talk time-travel movies. Sci-fi nerds always want to talk time travel movies. So let’s kill two birds with one stone.

1. “Looper” (2012)

Let’s start with a modern film that’s fast becoming a cult classic. The nerds love Director Rian Johnson’s 2012 time-travel thriller “Looper,” and so do I.  It stars Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon Levitt as the same guy from different moments in time. What I like most about Looper is that it’s a love story wrapped in a thriller hidden in a time-travel movie.  And that it’s Johnson’s own original script. He worked it all out beat-by-beat in his head and “Looper” is tight as a drum.

(16) FANCY MEETING YOU HERE. Washington State Republican Party Chairman Susan Hutchison’s Unity Speech includes video clips of various pundits – including a brief excerpt from a YouTube conversation between Vox Day and Stefan Molyneux. Their snippet appears at the 2:00:10 mark.

As Cally observed, “He’s one of the few people in the video who’s actually got his name displayed; most are either anonymous people or, I suppose, people who you’re supposed to recognize on sight.”

(17) HARD SELL. Originally for those who GET HARD, this shirt is now HARD TO GET. Teespring lists the “Legends of Science Fiction” t-shirt as sold out two days ago. If you click the “I still want one” button they’ll take your e-mail address.

Tingle t shirt

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, David K.M. Klaus, Andrew Porter, and Will R., for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]