Ignyte Awards Will Be
Presented at FIYAHCON

FIYAH Literary Magazine has announced the creation of the Ignyte Awards series.

The Awards seek to celebrate the vibrancy and diversity of the current and future landscapes of science fiction, fantasy, and horror by recognizing incredible feats in storytelling and outstanding efforts toward inclusivity of the genre.

Awards will be given in the following categories:

  • Best Novel – Adult
  • Best Novel – YA
  • Best in MG
  • Best Novella
  • Best Novelette
  • Best Short Story
  • Speculative Poetry
  • Critics Award
  • Best Fiction Podcast
  • Best Artist
  • Best Comics Team
  • Best Anthology/Collected Works
  • Best in Creative Nonfiction
  • The Ember Award for Unsung Contributions to Genre
  • Community Award for Outstanding Efforts in Service of Inclusion and Equitable Practice in Genre

Finalists will be picked by the FIYAHCON team and announced Monday, August 17. Voting on the awards will be open to the broader SFF community through September 11.

The winners will be announced during the inaugural FIYAHCON, being held October 17-18. FIYAHCON is a virtual convention centering the perspectives and celebrating the contributions of BIPOC in speculative fiction.

CoNZealand Fringe Schedule

CoNZealand Fringe organizers Claire Rousseau, Adri Joy, Alasdair Stuart and Marguerite Kenner, Cheryl Morgan and Cassie Hart have assembled “a series of complementary genre fiction programming at European-friendly times.”

In the tradition of Edinburgh Fringe and other international collateral events, CoNZealand Fringe has been created as a complementary programming series to the annual science fiction convention Worldcon. All our livestreams take place outside core CoNZealand programming hours and are not official CoNZealand programming items. CoNZealand Fringe is not endorsed by CoNZealand.

File 770 contacted the CoNZealand chairs about whether the Fringe had permission to use the convention’s name. David Gallaher, Vice-Chair, Business for CoNZealand replied, “They do not have our permission to use the CoNZealand name. And they don’t need our permission to do what they are doing.”

The following two completed items, and one in progress at this writing, are available on YouTube.

Virtual Congoing

[Editor’s note: This report tells how one fan navigated the new experience of attending a virtual Balticon. It was originally posted at España Sheriff’s Futuriana blog on May 29. Reprinted by permission.]

Virtual Congoing

By España Sheriff: Last weekend was a bank holiday in the UK and Memorial Day in the States. Once upon a time would have that meant Baycon, Fanime, Clockwork Alchemy, and more would all be running at the same time, and I’d be popping between at least two of them and hearing rumours and news from the rest. Obviously that ended once I moved to the UK, but the muscle memory is still there, and I still had the vicarious enjoyment from social media and the occasional text.

This year, all of the above have been postponed anyway. But a few cons elsewhere decided to move online, including Balticon. They aren’t the first events to go virtual, but they do seem to be among the first sff cons to deploy a true multi-platform attempt to replicate as much of the convention experience as possible. 

I’ve never been to Baltimore, but a couple of friends alerted me to the Virtual Balticon Facebook page and it looked interesting, especially with CoNZealand on the horizon. 

I went to the website  and found itwell laid out, with all the relevant information front and center, a good starting sign. So I made a nominal donation, enough that I didn’t feel like a total ghost but not so much I’d feel ripped off if it was all a bit of a fizzle. 

The basics; 

The big events like opening ceremonies and masquerade were on Twitch and Youtube, as was the Film Festival. The Zoom panels were recorded and I believe at least some broadcast too, the convention is working on getting the rest up once the captioning is tidied up. I had vague plans to stay up for the masquerade, which was at 1am my time, but decided against it. It turned out to be less than 15 minutes long so that was the right choice. I am glad they did one, but it seems like an area that might need some developing for the current conditions.

Panels, readings, and similar were on Zoom, with advance audience sign up. They had two separate text chats; Q&A and general chatter. I mainly signed up for literary ones and found them overall good. As with any con the quality of panelists and moderators was variable, but I learned later that both panelists and moderators had to do a run through in advance, to make sure they were comfortable with the basics and that their technology would stand up to the task. I wonder if this also helped everyone focus a bit as well and weed out the “I don’t know why I am on this panel/I forgot I was on this panel and did zero prep” tendencies. Technical issues were minimal, there were spirited after-panel discussions (more on which later). I was also amused to see the “wall of books” panelist trick replicated in the form of a Zoom background. 

The heart of any convention, the socialising, was mostly on Discord. This is where I spent the bulk of my time. The advantages being that it is primarily text-chat, so you can dip in and out and access it on all devices. The convention had set it up such that after joining their Discord server you were funnelled through some welcome channels that explained both Discord itself and the Balticon set up. The absolute first step was to read and agree to the Code of Conduct, with relevant links and contacts, and only then were you allowed onto the rest of the channels.

The next section let you select the areas of interest, so your list wasn’t cluttered with irrelevant stuff. So for example the gaming room did not exist for me, just like at a regular con! This section also included information specific to vendors, artists, and fan tables, plus a link to the info desk. 

Done with all that, you could see the full set up, divided into sections;

General Discord: Announcements, Discord Help, a Virtual Map the local discord server, of all the convention resources and platforms, plus useful things like timezones. The info desk was well staffed but I found this very useful to refer back to.

General Balticon 54 channels; consuite, bar, filking, info desk, volunteers, watch parties, and a couple of other areas of specific interest like a Second Life change; 

Below that the rest of the sections as chosen, so mine included the Dealers, Artist Alley, Fan Tables, and After Panel Discussions. 

The dealers and artists sections replicated the big room with individual booths experience by having a general chat for each section and then individual ones for each vendor/artist. This allowed for general socialising and announcements, while also letting booths post without getting lost to the scroll. It also meant you could pop by a booth and leave a question even if the vendor was away at the moment. 

The fan tables seemed to be one of the busiest sections, probably because they usually had someone staffing the room and eager to talk most of the day. Second to them were the after-panel discussions, they had one channel per track (gaming, literary, fan interest, etc) and therefore doubled as general chat rooms after the panel-specific conversations died down.

Finally, each text channel had a voice chat equivalent. The voice icons are easy to miss so this was a bit confusing at first, I wish Discord did colour coding or something, but it ended up being a really nice option, I had some nice chats in the Glasgow and Discon III rooms. These spaces were much quieter though, aside from technical constraints, text is asynchronous, so it’s obviously much easier to have a text channel open in case anyone wanders in. Paying attention to an empty voice channel is less fun. I wonder if this is a place it would be useful to deploy volunteers, just send out pairs of extroverts to bounce around having conversations until rooms were self-sustaining, then flit off to the next place. Hmmm.

Some of the fan tables held Zoom parties in the evenings too, I only found out on Sunday and of course timezones are tricky, but I managed a couple of hours in the Discon III one on Sunday at 8pm EST. It was nice and chill, but I get the impression that the prime ones were jumpin’.

Beyond all this there was filking, watch parties, gaming using Tabletop Simulator and Roll20, and Balticon Station in Second Life

It’s obviously not the same as the real thing, but it’s also actually pretty great. I wouldn’t have been attending a convention this weekend otherwise, so my perspective is skewed by that. But it’s made me very hopeful for what CoNZealand can achieve.


BALTICON 54 ARCHIVES. The convention website is here. Some of the online experiences were preserved. Many panels have been captioned and added to the BSFS YouTube channel.

reCONvene: NESFA Will Hold One-Day Online Convention 8/15

The New England Science Fiction Association (NESFA®) will host its first online convention, reCONvene, on Saturday, August 15, 2020 from 11:00 a.m.- 5:00 p.m. Eastern.

“Having speakers participate online removes many of the barriers of participation, opening up the possibilities of who’ve been able to invite,” says Convention Chair, Erin Underwood. “It also allows us to try new things you wouldn’t be able to do at an in-person convention, like tour an artist’s studio.”

The one-day convention will offer science talks, science fiction and fantasy panels, gaming, and author chats led by renowned authors, artists, fans, educators, and scientists. The full schedule is here.  Over 50 speakers will participate in the online program, including —

It is a volunteer-run event. Memberships are $10 and help to cover the basic costs of the event. Any additional funds received will go toward future program costs for reCONvene and Boskone such as American Sign Language services, the New Voices Program, and memberships for those in need. Membership registration is available at www.reconvenesff.com

NESFA, with nearly 400 members from all over the world, is one of the oldest science fiction clubs in the northeastern U.S., and is a registered Massachusetts non-profit literary organization. The club also hosts New England’s longest-running science fiction convention, Boskone, annually in February.

[Based on a press release.]

Dragon Con 2020 Goes Virtual

Dragon Con’s Literary Guest of Honor John Scalzi broke the news: “Dragon Con Going Virtual in 2020”.

As the 2020 Literary Guest of Honor for Dragon Con, I fully support this decision on the part of the convention. As much as I would have loved to see everyone in Atlanta this year, it’s just not feasible or practicable.

On the con’s website is a section of “Dragon Con Updates” which begins:

After many months of hand-wringing, sleepless nights, and more Zoom meetings than we can count, we have decided that Dragon Con 2020 event will not be held in person. Trust us, we are just as bummed as you are, but know we did not make this decision lightly. Above all else, we want to thank you, our fans, our partners, the ACVB, and the city of Atlanta for the support you have given us over these past few months.

Their Update Q&A includes this strangely defensive exchange between the committee and….themselves?

Finally! Took you long enough to cancel.

First off, rude. Secondly, not a question. We are so heartbroken that we cannot, in good faith, host a 2020 event. We truly did everything possible to remain positive and exhaust all options – some extremely creative in nature – understanding that a large part of our fan base and key partners truly needed an event to enjoy after the year we have all had.  Along the way, we have said that if we did not feel that we could host a Dragon Con quality convention that also kept our fans and community safe, we would make the hard and necessary decision that we announced today. We are looking forward to 2021 when we can all meet again in person.

Part of our intense work on exploring all options was out of respect for our partners, who are going through an unprecedented and painful time with many key people being displaced indefinitely.  These people are a major part of the Dragon Con family.  If you are local to Atlanta please go out and support our beloved hotels and businesses when it is safe to do so. After all, who doesn’t need a drink at their favorite bar or night away from home at this point?

This year’s convention, scheduled for September 3-7, was originally projected to attract some 90,000 people to downtown Atlanta.

What about the Dragon Awards? A post on the convention’s Media Relations website assures readers:

The Dragon Awards, a fan’s choice awards program to recognize the very best in science fiction and fantasy literature, comics, gaming, and filmed entertainment, will continue as planned.

Ballots are due to be released August 1. Fans can anticipate the awards ceremony will be part of the virtual convention.

Update 07/06/2020: Revised to include con’s Dragon Awards statement.

Columbus 2020 NASFiC Updates Cancellation Post

When the Columbus 2020 NASFiC cancelled its in-person event last month, some of the committee’s statements about the refund policy and publication plans triggered considerable criticism. There’s been a clarification posted at the NASFiC website.

Chair Lisa Garrison, Vice Chair Dale Mazzola, and Treasurer Kim Williams are minimizing any expectations about membership refunds:

Like so many conventions affected by Covid-19, NASFIC has been involved in some very challenging negotiations. Because Ohio is trying to open up its economy, we are likely to have some heavy cancellation fees imposed by our facilities. Therefore, we are unlikely to be able to offer any meaningful level of membership refunds.

There won’t be a printed Souvenir Book:

We originally felt that any small residual amount could be spent on a low-cost book celebrating our Guests or passed along to a future event to benefit fans in general. We were wrong. If we gave the impression that we were prioritizing the Souvenir book or pass-along funds over the needs of our members, even those in hardship, we’re sorry.

They apologized for some aspects of the original statement.

We were also wrong to make such an announcement on a likely outcome before the actual negotiations were finalized. We apologize for those misjudgments, as of now negotiations are still ongoing.

Their approach to refunds now is this:

If refunds can be offered, we will. We will also ask anyone who can waive a refund requests do so. We hope to give those most in [need] a more meaningful amount. As soon as we know the amount left over, we will post a refund process.

Although we will absolutely not produce a physical Souvenir / Program Book, we will look into an electronic publication instead.

We understand people will be disappointed by the news that we will probably not be able to make more substantial refunds. We are negotiating in good faith, with our other partners in town, to seek the best possible settlement. I wish I could be more optimistic, but I’m staying realistic and hoping for the best.

[Thanks to Rich Lynch for the story.]

World Fantasy Convention 2020 Goes Virtual

World Fantasy Convention 2020 has joined the ranks of virtual sff events. The convention had been planned for October 29–November 1 in Salt Lake City, but last week their hotel cancelled all in-person meetings for the rest of 2020, forcing them to move online.

The committee announced today:

The membership fee to participate in this year’s virtual World Fantasy Convention is $125. Plans have already begun to transition many of the traditional physical experiences you’ve come to expect from World Fantasy Convention. We’ll be ironing out the details in the coming months, but we hope to provide a variety of online offerings, including:

  • A full schedule of panel discussions by professionals in the fantasy genre
  • Readings by your favorite fantasy authors
  • Demonstrations by fantasy artists
  • Spotlight interviews with our honored guests: Stephen Gallagher, David Cherry, Anne Groell, CJ Cherryh, Cindy Pon, Stephen Graham Jones, Brandon Sanderson, and Tracy and Laura Hickman
  • The ability to interact in a small group setting with some of the authors, editors, agents, and artists who participate in the World Fantasy Convention program
  • Lots of time to chat with other World Fantasy Convention members online
  • An exhibit hall with links to our dealers
  • An art show, with the opportunity to purchase artwork directly from fantasy artists
  • A collector’s item souvenir book that includes high-quality artwork by our artist Guest of Honor David Cherry, fiction by our honored guest authors, appreciation articles, bios, World Fantasy Convention history, and more
  • The World Fantasy Award ceremony, which recognizes outstanding people, fiction, art, semi-professional and professional contributions in the fantasy and horror genre
  • We’re even working on ways to get autographs for your favorite fantasy books!

Information about how they’re handling reimbursements and cancellations is on their website.

WFC 2020 Chair Ginny Smith concluded:
 
We share the disappointment many of you feel as you read this announcement. We wanted to throw a party – a huge, fabulous, fun party! – with 900 friends who share our love for the literature and artwork of fantasy and horror. We’re going through a period of grieving as we watch our plans crumble. But we are in a unique position to do something inventive, innovative, and really, really fun in a virtual World Fantasy Convention. We hope you’ll join us!

[Based on a press release.]

Capricon 40: The 40th Anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back

Recorded and Archived by Chris M. Barkley: In October 2019, I was invited by Tammy Coxen to be a program participant at Capricon 40, an annual sf convention held in the Chicago area. The author Guest of Honor was Tobias Buckell and the 2020 theme was “The Tropics of Capricon” – exploring SF from Central and South America and other balmy climes, and the science of climate change. 

Among the most exciting items on the schedule was a panel on the 40th anniversary of The Empire Strikes back, considered by many to be the best of all the Star Wars films AND one of the finest movie sequels of all time.

I remember the memorable evening I saw a preview of Empire in a local Cincinnati, packed with fans, radio station ticket winners and local media. It was a rollicking, fun night as the audience was thrilled amazed…and then ultimately shocked by a story revelation that, so far in my opinion, no filmmaker has managed to match in the decades since.

The panel was held on Thursday, February 13 at 3:30 p.m., which was very early in the programming schedule. I and the other panelists, our moderator, Shaun Duke, and local fans Toni Bogolub and Megan Murray, were worried that the attendance would be sparse, at best.

AT-ATs advance, shooting laser bolts, toward the defending Alliance troops during the Battle of Hoth.

But, as it turned out, we all underestimated the interest in this panel and had well over fifty people in attendance.  

What has been documented here is the wild and undying love for Star Wars and our unbridled opinions about the best and worst of things about it.

I hope you enjoy our panel discussion: “40th Anniversary Empire Strikes Back.mp3”

(L) David Prowse (as Darth Vader; voice: James Earl Jones), (R) Mark Hamill (as Luke Skywalker)

Authorities Unexpectedly Greenlight Florida Con; Elsewhere Cancellations Mount

With at least 200 comic, sff and pop culture conventions having cancelled or postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak, Tampa NBC affiliate WFLA’s report today that “Tampa Bay Comic Con gets green light to go on in July” was an unexpected piece of news.

Tampa Bay Comic Con has received the green light to go on as planned in July, after months of uncertainty due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Tampa Bay Comic Con will be held from July 10-12.

In a post to their Facebook page on Tuesday, Tampa Bay Comic Con confirmed it has received confirmation from the Tampa Convention Center and Tampa Fire Marshal that TBCC 2020 will move forward with numerous health measures to keep everyone safe.

Those measures include:

  • Mandatory temperature screenings for all occupants prior to entering the convention center
  • Increased cleaning and disinfection procedures in high-traffic areas of the convention center
  • Hand santizing stations through the pre-function space and high traffic areas
  • Interior occupancy of the exhibit hall, ballrooms and meeting rooms will be strictly limited, with one-way entrances and one-way exits of all interior spaces

Nevertheless, the trend for now is strong in the other direction, as cancellation announcements continue to mount.

Major gaming convention Gen-Con cancelled on May 19. The event was to be held in Indianapolis, IN on July 30-August 12. Peter Adkison, the event’s co-owner and chairman of the board, began his statement —

This decision will not be surprising to many of you, but due to health and safety concerns related to COVID-19, we announced today that we are canceling Gen Con 2020 in Indianapolis and planning an online event in its place.

This will be the first time in the 50+ year history of Gen Con that we will miss the chance to see each other in person, and it hurts, but nothing is more important to us than the health and safety of our attendees and the communities they hail from….

Others that went public with a decision this week include events in Mississippi, South Carolina and Missouri.

“2020 Mississippi Comic Con canceled due to COVID-19” was announced May 18.

“Because of the uncertainty surrounding the current state order and the overall lack of certainty surrounding the safety of our patrons, guests, vendors, and staff for Mississippi Comic Con, we are forced to cancel our 2020 event. After speaking extensively with the management at the Trade Mart, and advisement from the Mississippi State Department of Health, we have rescheduled Mississippi Comic Con for June 26-27, 2021. We are in the process of trying to re-book some of this year’s guests for those dates but nothing is certain at this time,” said AVC Conventions co-owner Greg Hanks.

The announcement that South Carolina’s “Soda City Comic Con canceled due to COVID-19 pandemic” also was made May 18.

On Monday, officials announced the cancellation of this year’s Soda City Comic Con.

The popular event, which has been held since 2015, was set to take place at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center on August 22-23.

“Given the current environment and with a heavy heart, we have decided to cancel the 2020 Soda City Comic Con,” event officials wrote in a message posted on the Soda City Comic Con Facebook page. “We do not take this decision lightly, as many hours have been dedicated to planning the 2020 event.”

In Missouri, reports that a “St. Louis comic con event postponed” went public on May 15.

Wizard Entertainment Inc. has postponed its Wizard World St. Louis convention, originally set for June 5-7 at America’s Center. The event will now take place March 12-14, 2021.

Wizard World is a convention for fans of multiple genres, including science fiction and fantasy, comic books, movies and digital media. Fans who purchased general admission or VIP tickets for the original dates may use those same tickets for the rescheduled event, officials said.

The US/Canada Convention Status Sheet (Google docs) tracks almost 300 comic, sff and pop culture cons. Nearly 200 events on their list have already cancelled or postponed. All the events through June (with a single exception) have been shuttered. For the next three months beyond that, the number of events that have yet to be called off amount to 17 in July (vs. 13 cancelled), 15 in August (vs. 5 cancelled), and 18 in September (only 1 cancelled).

The lone September cancellation so far is Rose City Comic Con in Portland, OR, which decided a few days ago:

As a consequence of the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, Rose City Comic Con, originally scheduled to take place on September 11-13, 2020, will now be held at the Oregon Convention Center, Portland on September 10-12, 2021.   

Columbus 2020 NASFiC Cancelled

Lisa Garrison, Chair of the Columbus 2020 NASFiC, announced their con, too, has fallen victim to the coronavirus outbreak, but they intend to have a virtual event over the same weekend:

This is the statement I have been hoping we would not have to make, but it is with a heavy heart that I and the executive committee, in consultation with Hotel management and the local Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, announce that we have made the decision to  cancel the Columbus 2020 NASFiC.  Due to the uncertain health situation and the unreliable travel restrictions, it was decided by all that hosting the NASFiC at this time would be unwise.

We will not be offering any refunds but, that being said, we still plan on publishing a souvenir book for all attending and supporting members. 

We may have a virtual event  on the weekend of August 20 -23.  We’ll update everyone on that later once we have some plans. 

We were very much looking forward to hosting the North American Science Fiction Convention this fall with you and regret that it cannot happen.