Smofcon 37 Posts Worldcon, Westercon and Smofcon Bidder Questionnaires

Smofcon 37, the convention for conrunners, taking place December 6-8 in Albuquerque, NM, asked Worldcon, and Smofcon bidders, and seated Worldcon and Westercon committees to answer a questionnaire. The responses have been posted at Smofcon’s website under Fannish Inquisition.

There will also be a Q&A session at the con on December 7 – publishing these questionnaires in advance helps keep that time from being taken up with basic information. If you want to submit a question, see the information at the end of this post.

The following FAQs have been received from Bids and seated conventions:

SMOFCon Bids

Seated Worldcons

Seated NASFiC

Worldcon Bids

Seated Westercons

Seven Worldcon committees and bidders (all except Nice in 2023) cosigned a statement (which many inserted at the beginning of their questionnaires) criticizing the Smofcon 37 committee for the short response deadline, the dramatic increase in number of questions asked from last year’s form, and use of Google Docs to communicate, which cannot be accessed in China. Smofcon 37’s chair Ron Oakes responded with a lengthy justification of what happened, while the FAQ coordinator apologized.

SMOFCon 37 Response

Submitting Questions to the Fannish Inquisition: Here are the committee’s instructions:

This event is our traditional time for bids for future SMOFCon, Worldcons and NASFiCs.  Our usual highlight event, and will mostly be run as it has been in the recent past with written questions through our able moderators.  Those wishing to submit questions in advance may do so by sending email to fi_questions@smofcon37-abq.org, up to 6:30pm MST December 7, 2019 to ensure that we receive it prior to the convention.

[Update 12/07/2019: After this post was drafted last night, several more questionnaires were added to the website. The new links have been added here.]

World Fantasy Convention 2021 in Montreal

World Fantasy Convention 2021, to be held in Montreal, Canada, has named its Guests of Honor: Author GoH: Nisi Shawl; Artist GoH: John Picacio; Editor GoH: André-François Ruaud; and Special Guests: Owl Goingback, and Yves Meynard, The Toastmaster is Christine Taylor-Butler.

The con, chaired by Diane Lacey, will be held November 4–7, 2021 at the Hotel Montreal Bonaventure.

The convention theme will be “Fantasy, Imagination, and the Dreams of Youth.”

Attending memberships are currently $150 USD/$200 Cdn. Rates will be going up December 1st to $200 in US dollars and $270 in Canadian dollars.

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions #46

2019 Windycon Fan Guest of Honor Speech: An Apocryphal Story, 43 Things I Learned Being In Fandom and Mean Comments From File 770 Readers

By Chris M. Barkley: Good Morning. I’m Chris Barkley.

A word of warning: At one point during this speech, I will be making a partisan political reference that may offend some of you. The rest of you can laugh. Don’t worry, you’ll know it when you hear it. Viewer discretion is advised…

I am very honored to be Windycon’s Fan Guest of Honor this year. Ever since I was asked to be Windycon’s Fan Guest of Honor nearly a year and a half ago, I felt like I was asking to host Saturday Night Live. Because when you think about it, conventions are very much like live television. There’s a lot of spontaneous action and unpredictable stuff going on, sometimes all at once. Well, ok, here the sketches are also longer and it would help if they were better written.

And as a “reward” I am obligated to regale you with some musings and philosophical insights I have gained in my many years in fandom.

I also note that in some circles, I have what is quaintly known as a “bad reputation”. Well, I can tell you that Joan Jett was speaking directly to me when she sang:

(singing BADLY)  

And I don’t give a damn ’bout my bad reputation

Oh no (No no no no no no)

Not me (Me me me me me me)

I was born in August of 1956. Dwight David Eisenhower was the President of the United States. Some weasel from California was the Vice-President. (And NO, this isn’t the political comment you’re waiting for. Patience.)

My mother became an elementary school teacher who specializes in reading. My father was a mechanical engineer for General Electric’s jet engine division. So, it stands to reason that their oldest son is an avid fan of science fiction (and under certain conditions, fantasy).

Comic books were one thin dime apiece. Penny candy actually cost a penny. There were only three broadcast television networks. Rock and Roll, the bastard child of rhythm and blues and jazz was poised to take over the world.

And, aside from the racism, marginalization of minorities, lynchings, rampant, sexism, homophobia, the Cold War, governmental malfeasance and the imminent threat of nuclear war, it was a great time to be alive in the most prosperous nation on the planet.

Not that I’m complaining.

Much.

Chris Barkley

From my perspective as a 63-year-old African American, with forty-three years and five months plus in fandom, I have seen a lot, done a lot and survived all of the cultural and political forces that were lined up against me since my mother, the late Alice Barkley and my father, the late Erbil Augustus Barkley, gave birth to me on a sweltering August summer evening at Jewish Hospital. (PS: I’d like to take a moment to thank them for the free circumcision. A very cool gesture for that era.)

Nineteen years and ten months after my birth, my best friend, Michaele Jordan (no, not THAT Michael Jordan, Michaele Jordan the fantasy novelist my other official, big sister) and I discovered fandom on the back page of the July 1976 issue of Analog, which ran, for the only time in its history, an announcement of a science fiction convention just a few miles away from where we resided. It was held at a run of the mill hotel called the Quality Inn in Norwood, Ohio. The convention was called Midwestcon 27.

“We should go to this convention,” I recall saying to her, most emphatically.

“Are you kidding?”, she replied. “It’s probably just for professional writers. They would just throw us out.”

“Well,” I said, “you can sit at home if you want, I’m going to go there and find out.”

And so we went. It changed the course of our lives forever. Going to Midwestcon 27 introduced us to an entirely new world of people, opportunities and social interactions that resonate to this very day.

The end. Thanks for coming, you’ve been a great audience, Chicago…

NO! WAIT! Just kidding!

Among conventions, Windycon hold a very special place in my heart; I’ve been attending a semi-regular basis since the early 1980’s. I have also attended the four worldcons that Chicago has hosted since I got into fandom and happily served on the staff of three of them.

My slight digression is an Apocryphal Story about Chicago that happened at Chicon 2000, which was held in downtown Chicago.

BUT, in order to do that, I need to digress further and tell you another story about the late Harlan Ellison.

(Oh, so you knew him, too?)

I first met Harlan in 1978 at Kubla Khan 5 in Nashville, Tennessee. Like countless other people, I found him to be a brilliant writer of fiction and essays, a dynamic personality and above nearly all of his other talents, an amazing and brilliant raconteur.

One story he shared with the audience at that convention was been burned into my synapses forever was an incident he had experienced at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. Harlan had just finished doing his ‘business” in a washroom when he noticed out of the corner of his eye that a middle-aged patron was leaving without washing his hands.

Now THIS greatly offended Harlan since, if anything, he was a real stickler for health and cleanliness.

“Hey! You”, he said in his loud, nasally, faux-Brooklyn accent. “You forgot to wash your hands!”

The man in question turned and said something incredibly rude about Harlan’s parentage and proceeded to walk out into the terminal.

Enraged at this person’s intransigence, Harlan burst out of the restroom and trailed behind the man screaming at the top of his lungs, “UNCLEAN, UNCLEAN! DON’T TOUCH HIM! HE DIDN’T WASH HIS HANDS!”

And he did this. All the way to this person’s departure gate.

Now, I told you that story to tell you this one: For Chicon 2000, I was promoted from my regular duties in the Worldcon Press Office to serve on Chairman Tom Veal’s staff AND as the Fairmont Hotel liaison. It was a very important position, which I shared with my ex-wife, in that both the Masquerade and the Hugo Award Ceremony were being held there.

One afternoon, I was finishing my “business” in the restroom, when I noticed out of the corner of my eye, a middle-aged fan was leaving without washing his hands.

My mind immediately flashed back to Harlan’s story. My first thought was, I am NOT Harlan Ellison. And then my second thought was, “What would Harlan do?”

So, within a few seconds, I screwed up my moral courage and, in my even tempered, faux-midwestern black accent, I spoke up and said, “Excuse me, but you forgot to wash your hands.”

The fan whirled around and shouted, “YOU’RE NOT MY DAD!”

Needless to say, I was taken aback. But fortunately, my skills as a radio talk show host and a standup comedian kicked into high:

“You see this?” I pointed to the bright blue COMMITTEE ribbon hanging on my convention badge and stated with absolute authority:

“While you’re here at this convention, this ribbon says I AM YOUR DAD!!”

The fan sighed, turned and washed his hands.


I’ve learned a LOT of things in my time in fandom. I would now like to pass along some of the more profound life revelations that have occurred to me over time, one for each year that I have been in fandom:

  1. Smiling and being polite costs you nothing and may gain you new friends.
  2. Reading is the best gateway to other worlds and other points of view.
  3. I am convinced all fascists and Nazi sympathizers were once involved in Home Owner Associations. It’s the only possible explanation for their actions.
  4. Cultural appropriation is like porn, I KNOW it when I see it.
  5. You must challenge the past in order the forge the future.
  6. When you are making policy or changes in your life only three factors matter; Is it true, is it necessary and most importantly, is it vital?
  7. Try and learn at least one other language in your lifetime. For example, Welsh, Irish, Scottish or Australian.
  8. Never forget that taxes pay for civilization. And that those who don’t pay their fair share are welchers and cheats.
  9.  Buy a copy of the Constitution of the United States. In this day and age you never know when you may have to invoke it, especially to people who haven’t read it.
  10.  Public radio has saved my life and sanity for decades. And it can do the same for you!
  11. BUT, if you love your NPR station and donate your car to help out, would that be considered autoeroticsm? Asking for a friend…
  12.  Occasionally, you may be asked to take a stand and make your voice heard. And yes, you will be afraid to do it. But the alternative, of silence and token assent, is much, much worse.
  13.  Congratulations, you’re working on a convention. Here’s a big piece of advice for you con-runners. To preserve our sanity at Chicon 2000, my friend Bridget came up with a simple working mantra we repeated every morning: There will be a convention. There will be rooms at the convention. Some will be right. Some will be wrong. And then IT WILL BE OVER!
  14. Nothing keeps you more grounded and humble than owning a pet. Pro Owner Tip: If you own a cat (or vice versa), consider emptying an entire bag of cat food into their litter box. That way, you just skip the middle process altogether and get on with your day.
  15. By the way, cat dandruff is a first world problem.
  16.  Never, ever, annoy writers. Especially the good ones. Not only will they say nastily adroit things at you, you may become a victim of embarrassing situation, imprisoned or murdered in a book, play or screenplay with the name of said person so barely disguised, EVERYONE will KNOW it’s YOU!
  17. Speaking of writing, NEVER give in to censorship, either in your works or in the defense of others. Free speech does not mean being free from consequences. But either everyone has the opportunity to express themselves or no one does.
  18.  Unless you are the author or editor, DON’T WRITE, HIGHLIGHT, ANNOTATE OR SCRIBBLE YOUR NAMES IN BOOKS! Well, at least in the books that I want to buy. It’s so damn annoying!
  19. When you write, write for yourself. You should welcome criticism of your writing. But do not make the fatal mistake of pandering to appeal the masses. If you can satisfy your own standards of what you like to read, others will see it as well.
  20.  Also, KEEP WRITING. You’ll get better at it.
  21.  Also: READ! As much as possible; fantasy and sf for sure but try to be as diverse as possible. Don’t confine yourself to literary bubbles and for god’s sake, don’t denigrate anyone else who reads, even if they’re reading something you don’t like. If they read and comprehend and understand what they are reading, there’s a chance, a hope really, that they can understand what is truthful from what is fantasy or propaganda.
  22. You have never known true fear until you see a full-grown Great Dane take a baby chick in its mouth and start running around the yard like a seven-year-old on a playground with their mouth full of Halloween candy. And unfortunately for you, are are trying to catch a three-year-old Great Dane who can run twice as fast as any NFL or Premier League defender. (PS: Yes, I eventually caught the dog and safely freed the chick. But she has yet to lay a single egg. I don’t blame her.)
  23.  Do you know where your water come from? Do you know where the wastewater goes?    Find out. And then pledge yourself to not wasting a drop of it again in your lifetime.
  24.  Music is my friend. Music is my life. No matter what you listen to, enjoy it and let it massage your brain and imagination. And if you actually make music, I envy you because that is one of the greatest gifts of all.
  25. Whether you’re at a convention or not (especially not) if you see something is amiss, if a person is being bullied or harassed, do something or say something. Render assistance in any way you can. Is anyone here familiar with the lyrics to the alternative rock anthem “How Soon Is Now” by The Smiths? One part of the main chorus has always touched by heart every time I hear it:

         I am human and I need to be loved

         Just like everybody else does

               Because that should be the core of our values in fandom and in life.

  1. Fan writing is much cheaper than therapy.
  2.  Han Solo’s Rules for Life: Get In. Sit Down. Buckle Up. Hang On.
  3.  Chris Barkley’s Rules for Hitchhikers: See the Han Solo Rules for Life.
  4.  Leading into: If you don’t use your car’s turn signals, YOU GET WHAT YOU DESERVE!
  5.  I think everyone should take a CPR and Emergency Aid course whether it’s offered by the Red Cross or any other agency in your community. I was once employed to be a caretaker for a disadvantaged person and I took an exhaustive, seven-hour course covering nearly everything and anything that might happen to you. Let me tell you something, it was a real eye opener to find out how many things could go wrong with the human body on a daily basis with the introduction of an infection, virus or pathogen. At this very moment in Los Angeles, the partner of a friend of mine named Genny is fighting off an extremely debilitating disease called Guillain-Barré Syndrome, which struck her suddenly and without warning. The treatment is long and extensive but there is no cure. You should do it because the life you save may very well be a family member, a friend or your own.
  6.  If you want to be loved, start by loving yourself first.
  7.  This past Monday was Veteran’s Day. I would be remiss if I did not remind everyone that at this moment, there are thousands of men, women, members of the LGBTQ, transgendered, non-binary communities and otherwise, are out here serving in our armed forces. And sooner or later, they too, will be veterans. It has been estimated that more than 20 percent of the service personnel who served in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. And thousands of others are suffering from debilitating injuries while serving. And don’t forget that there are still living veterans of World War Two, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Lebanon deployment, Desert Storm and Shield and the invasion and occupation of Iraq. As they protected us, we need to do everything we can to help them. Find out what your local, state and federal representatives are doing for veterans. If you find out they aren’t, then vote their asses out of office and vote for candidate who will.
  8. Failure is part of life. Don’t be afraid to fail. Success is fine but unless you fail, you don’t learn anything and you never progress as a person. And more importantly, you mustn’t be afraid to fail. In a book that was just published last week, You Are AWESOME, How To Navigate Change, Wrestle With Failure and Live an Intentional Life, author Neil Pasricha points out that one of the main things that hold people back from their full potential is the inability to tell the difference between truth and the narrative lies we keep telling ourselves such as, “ I’ll never learn this”, ”I’m going to be stuck in this job forever” and the always deadly, “Other people are better off than I am”. Your life does not have to be a runaway, non-stop train of doom and gloom. I know because I’ve been there myself and I got off that merry-go-round, with the help of my good friends and beloved partner. You can do it, too. My advice is to stop, take a deep, metaphorical breath and try and find out what you are capable of doing or achieving. Then go for it. If you can do that, you have just taken your first steps to self-discovery.
  9. Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood should be mandatory viewing. For the current ‘president of the United States. As part of his sentencing conditions. If he objects, the ONLY alternative should be Paw Patrol. (CHASE! MARSHALL! SKYE! ZUMA! TRACKER! ROCKY! RUBBLE!) Just Sayin’. Period. Full Stop.
  10. Be woke, aware and informed. Try and understand why people come to different conclusions than you. As actor-philosopher Edward James Olmos once said, “There is only ONE race; the human race.”
  11.  On the other hand, don’t take yourself TOO seriously. Don’t be a drag in the consuite.
  12.  If someone likes something you loath, don’t rain on their parade. Let them enjoy it. Don’t post that comment on Facebook or Instagram. Just walk away. Knowing that you haven’t ruined someone’s day.
  13.  I attended a lecture in 1995 at the University of Kentucky in which Stephen King imparted some very pertinent advice to young people: “If an adult tells you NOT to read something, make it your business to go out, find it, read it for yourselves and make up your own mind about it. Don’t ever depend on some ‘well meaning’’ adult with an agenda to tell you what to read, make up your mind for you or dictate how you should lead your life.” Best. Advice. EVER!
  14. Always try to meet your heroes. It’s better to find out that they are just as human and fallible as you are. And maybe even more so if they truly believe they belong on the pedestal people have placed them on.
  15. Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. once wrote in his novel Mother Night: “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.” He also said, “There is love enough in this world for everybody, if people will just look.”
  16. Three more things: I know that we’re all here to have a good time and celebrate with our friends and guests of honor. But remember, as bad as things are here in America, our problems don’t begin and end with our country. Hong Kong. Brexit. Bolivia. Chile. The immigration crisis in Central America and Africa. South Sudan. Spain and Catalonia. The Philippines. Myanmar. Iran, Iraq and Syria. Hell, in comparison to those places we are living in paradise. When you leave here this weekend, don’t forget that.
  17. Whenever possible, Be Kind. And always carry a towel.
  18.  And finally, let me leave you with these wise words, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead.

    Thank You.   

And lastly, I want to dedicate this speech to the memory of the late Frank Johnson, a fellow member of the Cincinnati Fantasy Group who died earlier this year. His very last convention was last year’s Windycon. I’d like to think he would have enjoyed this speech.

Thank you for attending and listening to me ramble or a while. Be good to each other and have a great convention.

Frank Johnson

Trip to Lisboa

An international team of fans are looking at Lisboa (Lisbon), Portugal as a venue for Smofcon 2021. This weekend saw Vincent Docherty and James Bacon enjoying a tremendous amount of local fannish Portuguese hospitality.

By James Bacon: Pedro Alves Martins and Margarida Simões of comic shop Legendary Books were hosting two events. Legendary Books is in the Alvalade neighbourhood, which was busy with shoppers and diners on the nicely warm November evening. The shop had a wide selection of comics and collections, but interestingly also had a varied amount of local art, and some very nice signed US comics. All very affordable.

Legendary Comics

The first event was the launch of an art show of illustration and comic art by Ana Varela. Ana, a professional illustrator, turned her attention to comics in 2018, when she was invited to appear in the third issue of Apocryphus. Apocryphus is an independent comic anthology published by Mighell Publishing, now in its fourth volume. (https://www.facebook.com/pg/apocryphusproject/)

That same year, Ana was promptly awarded an Honorable Mention for the comic “The Mountain” by the Amadora BD comics competition. This delightful eight-page colour comic was on sale at the event, and is also online translated into English.

Ana’s Art on display at Legendary Books

The art on display was stunning. Ana has a lightly-hatched, busy – yet clean and beautiful – ink style that captures actions and feelings in a very stylish way and is pleasing to the eye. Ana’s coloured work was very clean and vibrant, adjusted I felt skillfully to the media in use, presenting a vibrant and pleasing way of storytelling that is gentle on the eye. I picked up a number of her comics, including “Door”, which has no words, proving that I could read Portuguese comics. This is a comic artist who is developing technique and style and on a journey, which was really nice to observe in the pleasant surroundings of Legendary.

Next up was a presentation by Carlos Silva of The Tales of the King in Yellow by Robert W. Chambers, translated to Portuguese for the first time, with artist João Pinto on hand to discuss the illustrations in this edition. João’s artwork from the book was also on display, and he spoke eloquently to the crowd, as they all applauded!

João signing books and prints

I opted not to rely on my Google translate to capture the elegant words, given previous interesting experiences with machine translations!

João is the author of two comic book series published as webcomics, “I am the Apocalypse” and “Sweet Days”. https://aap1621.wixsite.com/joaobopinto

I was grateful for the ease in which English is used in Lisboa generally, but especially here. It is truly a second language, and although I did offer to compromise and speak in Irish, this was not as universally welcome as I had hoped. “Obrigado” got me very far, and “obrigada” got the laughs, so it was friendly and fun.

Carlos is a machine, and indeed, it was quickly becoming apparent that those active in the community are driven and determined, and working to a very high standard. Carlos, as well as being an editor and publisher, has written novels and short stories. His novel Angels won the 2015 Divergência Award. He set up the imprint Imaginauta, dedicated to promoting and publishing speculative fiction books that fit science fiction, fantasy, terror, weird, magical realism and more. Since 2017, through Imaginauta, he organizes the Contact Literary Festival each Easter, which is held in a library and has a varied programme including a room for Harry Potter fans.

Rita serves as fans overspill into the street with Margarida from Legendary

As we enjoyed the art on display, looked at comics, and contemplated Blacksad and Corto Malteses, Rita from Dois Dedos de Conserva, a boutique wine and food shop across the road, brought wine for all those present to enjoy. Fans, professionals and friends alike moved casually between both venues. There was late night comic shop browsing with fine drinks in hand and lovely plates of charcuterie available as nibbles. Margarida was busy showing art from a small press collection they produced, entitled Legendary Horror Stories, edited by Pedro and Margarida from the Legendary Books store — local Jorge Coelho illustrated the cover of the said book — but we were all quite taken by the stunning artwork of Rita Alfaiate in the story “NÓS” written by Nuno Duarte.

Let’s cross over for some more Wine! (L-R) James, Carlos, Vincent Rógerio and Margarida in Doie Dedos de Conserva

The discussion turned to convention running with Rogério Ribeiro and Miguel Jorge, who run Fórum Fantástico, which has now been a successful event for fifteen years. Miguel is also editor, artist and publisher of Apocryphus, the aforementioned comic anthology, which is stunning. I have to admit, I am often wary that a comic anthology with a brilliant cover disintegrates for me with art that is not to the same level, but Apocryphus was another matter altogether. Issue 3, “Femme Power”, and Issue 4, “Sci-Fi”, are generously sized graphic collections and were impressive.

Janes, Miguel, Rógerio and Carlos

Rogério speaks with a sparkle of future conventions, the idea of a Eurocon in Lisboa, and with such enthusiasm and warmth for a Smofcon in Lisboa. Technology, including Skype, Google Documents and the like, while brilliant at linking up fans, does not seem to be as enjoyable as a group around a table, glasses holding down maps, guides and government venue publications to hand, reviewing and discussing potential venues for a Smofcon, reflecting on site visits, and facilities and locations, and how easy and cheap a taxi can be.

All are fully on board with the Smofcon bid of course, their encouragement, advice and enthusiasm a vital part to any success that a travelling convention would need, and excited by the opportunities and prospects that it offers. Also exciting was the lifting of the cloak of ignorance which in-person discussions can illustrate so well, and did so and we all shared and learned about the busy local scene.

Lisboa is a fabulous city, but it presents unique challenges that the government recognise and want to go out of their way to help with. Of note is that for the traveller, Portugal is very cheap and affordable, the airport is a city airport, taxis are quick and plentiful. However, earnings for locals are not the same as Northern Europe, and tailoring matters to all communities generated ideas and thoughtfulness. What scope there is at a convention for conrunners to be introduced to local Science Fiction activities needs exploring, and there are many ideas that would complement an extensive Smofcon programme. Could the Smofcon be a launching point for larger endeavours? We all hoped it could be.

Missing the evening’s events was Cristina Alves, who manages the Portuguese Portal. The Portal has proven a gift, allowing international fans to connect and engage with fans and activities that are happening in Portugal, and is purposely designed and maintained to share activities in Portugal with the English-speaking world. The Portal is one of those fan endeavours that opens up the community in a welcoming way. https://theportugueseportal.com/

Some fascinating things came up that I was totally ignorant of. For instance, Festival Vapor is a Steampunk festival every September in the National Train Museum, in Entroncamento, about an hour north from Lisboa. While I readily admit the clamouring for Red Jackets and Imperialistic Britishness in denial of history has steadfastly eroded my interest in the subgenre, this excited me and when I saw images of talks in train sheds, next to Royal Carriages and fans on model railways, I admit I was intrigued.

As the talk continued and ranged across a host of subjects, and people departed with farewells, we ended up at around 10pm, in what was described as a ‘Local Joint’ where beers were €1.70 and a huge platter of food, with monstrous steaks, and what I would describe as very Irish Chipper chips or varieties of rice, was less than ten euro. Rammed with locals, there was incredible friendliness and a very relaxed atmosphere. The venue closed, and we continued to drink, and be welcomed until Saturday passed into Sunday.

A fabulous evening, great fun.

Further details on the bid will be announced in December at the Smofcon in America, and shared online at www.smofconeurope.com. Information can be sought from info@smofconeurope.com

Classics of SF at Loscon 46

By John Hertz:  We’ll take up two Classics of Science Fiction at Loscon XLVI, one discussion each.  Come to either or both.  You’ll be welcome to join in.

Our working definition is “A classic is a work that survives its own time.  After the currents which might have sustained it have changed, it remains, and is seen to be worthwhile for itself.”  If you have a better definition, bring it.

Each of our two is famous in a different way.  Each may be more interesting now than when first published.  Have you read them?  Have you re-read them?

Isaac Asimov, Second Foundation (1953)

Thousands of years in the future humanity has merged into a galactic empire.  One man, Hari Seldon, foresees its collapse.  He establishes a Foundation to preserve knowledge and advance technology so the dark age afterward will be shorter. He hints at a Second Foundation behind.

The almost-secret Seldon Plan succeeds for centuries.  Another man, a powerful mutant known only as the Mule, gains interstellar power and grows impatient.  To re-unite the worlds himself he searches for the Second Foundation.  He can read and control emotion. Who could hide from him?

The Mule has a human lifespan and no heir.  The Foundation itself then becomes distrustful.  The Second Foundation, if it exists, begins to seem dangerous, and anyway needless.  The Foundation’s superior science should be able to find and eliminate it.  A fourteen-year-old girl proves to be the heart of the story.

C.S. Lewis, Perelandra (1943)

We get few authors like this one, who took a triple first (highest honors in three subjects) at Oxford, taught there three decades, then accepted a chair at Cambridge and taught there another decade until his death.  He was a friend of Tolkien’s.

He opens the novel as the narrator.  The first thing he does is leave a railway station and start a three-mile walk: we’re in another world.  It’s 1940s England; so there are blackout curtains, and language (and thought) not quite like the 1940s in the United States.  Far stranger things lie ahead.

The protagonist, a man named Ransom, goes to Venus, given as a world possible at the time of writing, and described poetically.  Indeed this is a highly poetic book.  His journey is not only of sight and sound, but of mind.  He lands in a world-shaking argument.  His opponent is extraordinary.  Watch the author’s characterization.

The argument becomes a fight.  Its climax leads to another climax – which leads to another. There is a passage which has been called hymnlike.  Nor is that the end.

Is the moment near the end of the last chapter – only seven hundred words – comparable to Olaf Stapledon’s Star Maker (1937)?

A Netherlander has posted a glossary of allusions and quotations here.

World Fantasy Convention 2019 Program Schedule Now Online

World Fantasy Convention 2019 has released its program online at https://wfc2019.org/schedule/.

World Fantasy Con 2019 will be held in LA at the Marriott Los Angeles Airport Hotel from Thursday, October 31 through Sunday, November 3.

WFC 2019’s guests of honor are author Margo Lanagan, editor Beth Meacham, artist and illustrator Reiko Murakami, author Sheree Renée Thomas, and author Tad Williams, with Robert Silverberg as Toastmaster.

The convention’s function spaces will be open these hours:

  • Convention Registration: Wednesday 4:00pm-8:00pm; Thursday/Friday/Saturday 9:00am-8:00pm; Sunday 9:00am-1:00pm.
  • Dealers Room: Thursday 12:00pm-6:00pm; Friday/Saturday 9:00am-6:00pm; Sunday 9:00am-2:00pm.
  • Art Show: Thursday 3:00pm-6:00pm; Friday/Saturday 10:00am-6:00pm.  Also open Sunday 10:00am-1:00pm for sales and pick-ups.  See the Art Show page for artist check-in and check-out.
  • Hospitality Suite (16th Floor): Thursday 12:00pm-11:00pm; Friday/Saturday/Sunday 8:30am-11:00pm; Sunday 8:30am-2:00pm.

[Thanks to Michael Toman for the story.]

2019 CanSMOF Scholarships

CanSMOF Inc, has awarded two of the three scholarships they offered to assist people in attending Smofcon 37 in Albuquerque, NM. CanSMOF Inc is the organization that ran the 2009 Worldcon in Montreal.

The scholarship open to a non-North American resident was awarded to Bastien Vergoni of Nice, France.

Another scholarship, open to anyone involved in running conventions, regardless of their place of residence or citizenship, was awarded to Lisa Adler-Golden of College Park, MD.

The scholarship open to a Canadian citizen or resident was not awarded due to a lack of response.

Smofcon 37 will be held in Albuquerque, NM. December 6 through 8, 2019.

For information about Smofcon in general, click here.

2019 VCON Cancelled

The chair of VCON 43 has stepped down a month before the scheduled event and the host organization has decided to cancel the con both this year and next, with hopes of relaunching it in 2021.

VCON, the Vancouver-area’s longest-running convention, started in 1971.   

Chris Sturges, the interim chair, explained that his predecessor resigned for health reasons and followed with the announcement that VCON 43 is cancelled:

We’re very sorry to announce that due to a variety of reasons, the WCSFA board has decided that we no longer have sufficient resources to put on a convention that would be up to the standards of the organization. It was voted unanimously to cancel this year’s convention and work to rebuild the event for a 2021 launch (our 50th anniversary). I understand this must be a great disappointment for everyone who has worked so hard on this event, but it was clear there was no way for the event to continue.

…All current members will be contacted to determine whether they would like to have their membership refunded, held over to the next VCON, or donated to the fund to settle the hotel penalties.

Gunn Center Changes Name of Campbell Conference; New Name Will Be Chosen for Award

Chris McKitterick, Director of the Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction, announced on Facebook yesterday that their annual Campbell Conference has been renamed the Gunn Center Conference, and a new name will be forthcoming for the John W. Campbell Memorial Award.

Re: the recent debate in science fiction circles about John W. Campbell:

The Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction acknowledges and condemns the problematic words and actions of John W. Campbell.

We had already been discussing changing the name of the Campbell Conference to the Gunn Center Conference, which is in any case more accurate, as we’ve added other awards and events during to be presented there; recent events expedite that decision. We’ve already begun changing the name on our website and in promotional materials.
As for the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for best science-fiction novel of the year, the Center directors and Award jurors are currently discussing alternatives; when a decision is made, we will announce it.

The organization has already retroactively struck the Campbell references from this page of its website —

[Thanks to JJ and Ruth Lichtwardt for the story.]

Spikecon Spoonfuls

By John Hertz:  Spikecon combined Westercon LXXII (regional) and the 13th NASFiC (North America S-F Con, since 1976 held when the Worldcon is off-continent – this year’s Worldcon was in Dublin, Republic of Ireland), plus a 1632 Minicon (fans of Eric Flynt’s 1632 series) and Manticon 2019 (fans of David Weber’s Honor Harrington series, with its Royal Manticoran Navy, i.e. Space navy).  This was a first.

Chair, Kate Hatcher; attendance, about 800; in the Art Show, sales about $20,000 by about 60 artists.

The Westercon and NASFiC each had Guests of Honor.  The Utah Fandom Organization (yes, that spells –) brought two more; eight other sponsors brought nine more.

It all happened at Layton, Utah, 4-7 July 2019, fifty miles from where the Final Spike was driven completing the Transcontinental Railroad 150 years earlier.

Layton (population about 70,000) is twenty-five miles from Salt Lake City, where Westercon LXVII had been – the first in Utah.

We used the Davis County Conference Center and five hotels.

Studying available space I hadn’t seen anywhere to put a Fanzine Lounge.  Hatcher said “How about a fanzine party in the Hospitality Suite?”  With Hospitality Suite chief Dorothy Domitz’ agreement we settled – if that word may be used in fandom – on Friday night, 7-10 p.m.

Craig Glassner, who had hosted the Fanzine Lounge at the 76th Worldcon in 2018, was my co-host for the fanzine party.  We were both on-site by Wednesday and went shopping with Chris Olds the Party Maven.  I made a flier.

Also I was Chief Hall-Costume Judge.  Decades ago hall costume was settled for the costumes some people wear strolling the halls.  Marjii Ellers called them “daily wear from alternative worlds”.

Stage costumes are meant to be seen at a distance; hall costumes are meant to be met.  To acknowledge them a gang of judges prowls the con and, spotting a good one, awards a rosette on the spot.

The con had made disks with Spikecon – Hall Costume Award; while shopping I looked for lace, or like that, to go round them.  JoAnn Fabric & Crafts didn’t have spools enough in any appealing style, but on the way out I saw some red-white-and-blue-striped cake cups (for cupcakes, right?): it was the Independence Day weekend.  We got those.

Selina Phanara hadn’t anything ready to exhibit in the Art Show, but luckily I was able to borrow the Selina Phanara Sampler from fellow Phanara fans Elizabeth Klein-Lebbink & Jerome Scott, a vertically (“portrait”?) laid out banner with color reproductions and her name and E-mail address.  Art Show chief Bruce Miller proved to have space for it.

By Selina Phanara

Friday.  The first of three Classics of SF  discussions 

I led, on “Mimsy Were the Borogoves” (which just won the Retrospective Hugo for Best Novelette of 1943), was at 12:45 p.m.  Regency dancing had to be at 3:15 – another time and space problem.  The Chesley Awards (by the Ass’n of SF Artists) and Art Show Reception were at 7.  So after “Mimsy” I hustled back to my room, changed, sauntered to the Conference Center for dancing – can’t hustle in Regency clothes – then met my fellow Art Show judges to decide and turn in the Art Show Awards before the Reception, then back to my room for conventional garments, and hustled to the Hospitality Suite where Glassner had started the fanzine party.

But we trespass upon chronology.

About “Mimsy”.  A.J. Budrys, one of our best authors and critics both, taught “Always ask, Why are they telling us this?”  Why do Kuttner & Moore tell us Jane Paradine, the children’s mother, is very pretty?  Remember a woman is co-writing; K&M always said that everything they published, under any name (they used many; “Mimsy” appeared as by Lewis Padgett), was by the two of them together.

Discussion considered Sexism? – or Mere sexism? (whatever that may mean, about which there was also talk) – or Sexism unconsciously or otherwise adopted by a 1943 woman?

Beyond or beneath or beside this we human beings are drawn to beauty; think not only of an attractive man or woman, but also “I saw young Harry … gallantly armed, / Rise from the ground … and vault … with such ease into his seat / As if an angel dropped down from the clouds, / To witch the world with noble horsemanship” (Henry IV Part 1, Act 4 scene 1).

At different points in “Mimsy” K&M invite us to feel for the parents – for the children.

Note also the sneaky ironic foreshadowing of “The only people who can understand philosophy are mature adults or kids like Emma and Scotty.”

Does Rex Holloway, the psychologist, help or  hurt?  Does Paradine suggest paradigm; does Holloway suggest hollow way?

Is “Mimsy” tragic – in the classical sense, grievous and revealed to result from a fault of the recipient even if – or because – that fault had been thought insignificant?  Why?

Why does the story end with the telephone ringing?  Who did K&M tell us is calling?  Why?

Since Unthahorsten is “a good many million years in the future”, what happens to Emma and Scotty?

About Regency dancing.  Maybe you already knew my article in Mimosa, or maybe you followed the link to it above.  I hold Jane Austen one of the greatest authors in the world, and yes, that means I rank her with Aeschylus, and Shakespeare, and Lady Murasaki.  But she – since I’m talking to SF fans here – is, like them, a Martian writing for other Martians.  She doesn’t explain.  Georgette Heyer, writing two centuries later, like an SF author introduces us to the world she portrays.  So it’s she I recommend, to start with anyhow; luckily she’s a superb author herself.

I’ve said Cross-cultural contact is homework for SF.  Mike Ford said history is our secret ingredient.  Theodore Sturgeon said science fiction is knowledge fiction.  Not all knowledge is data.  Some of it is doing.  I learn a lot from this hobby that grew out of a hobby.

The Hospitality Suite was in the Garden Inn, attached to the Conference Center, not in the Homes2 Suites across a driveway, which had been planned as the Party Hotel.  As it turned out, the Hospitality Suite could stay open until 2 a.m.; the Homes2 shut down parties at midnight.  Could that have been discovered in advance, maybe even worked around?  For ways that are dark, and tricks that are vain, our hotel negotiations are peculiar.

Glassner and I had each brought a handful of fanzines, some recent, some from years past.  People looked and talked.  I’d also printed the opening page of Bill Burns’ efanzines.com.  That gratified some, and was news to others.  Obviousness is relative.  After our three hours we donated what remained of our food and drink, also two little tables I’d bought to spread fanzines on.

The Hospitality Suite may be the best part of an SF convention.  You’re welcome whether you’re a fan or a pro or both; whether or not you’re in with some in-crowd.  Conversations happen.  You meet people you didn’t know you wanted to meet.

Sometimes it’s called the Con Suite because the con itself hosts it, unlike say a SFWA Suite (SF Writers of America).

In the Homes2 lobby later, half past midnight or maybe one, I found a surprisingly large crowd, and a spread of refreshments along a center table.  Thus I learned parties were being shut down.  People had gravitated, and brought leftovers.  It was Lobbycon.

Here I heard Match Game SF had been fun, as usual.  Of course it had to happen.  Kevin Standlee, his wife Lisa Hayes, and their friend Kuma Bear, were Westercon’s Fan Guests of Honor.  For a dozen years they’ve been mounting this adaptation of the oft-revived television panel-game.  At the Worldcon they’d be nose-deep in the Business Meeting, and like that; Spikecon was the moment.  Until they started this, who knew Standlee had a game-show host in him?  Standlee, Hayes, and Kuma are fen of many talents.  Hayes does the tech.  I think Kuma is the producer.

Rocket Ship “Galileo” at the crack of dawn, i.e. 10:15 a.m.  I was not alone in wanting to celebrate the Glorious 20th; the U.S. Postal Service had issued a stamp.

Two decades before humankind actually did it, Heinlein wrote this speculation.  It’s the first of his “juveniles” – they have young-adult protagonists – books which some of us think his best: they’re gems.

“Galileo” is reasonable science for 1947.  Heinlein said he’d only compressed the time and the number of people.  Note that it isn’t a rocket ship built in a back yard.

Look how he manages the characterization – sparely but tellingly.  The books on the shelf in the clubhouse – Ross Jenkins’ parents (the one-word utterance “Albert.” in Chapter 4!) – “Going to put her down on manual?” and what follows.  Look how characterization also advances the plot – like setting up Art’s speaking German.

The very points we might hang fire on are things Heinlein needs for what I’ve called the C.S. Lewis One-Strange rule: an extraordinary person in ordinary circumstances, or an ordinary person in extraordinary circumstances.  Boys taking apart almost anything mechanical from alarm clocks to souped-up jalopies.  “Cigarette, Doctor?  Cigar?” These are verisimilitude at the time of writing.

Were you looking for the Heinlein Double Surprise – something strange happens, then something really strange happens?  There it is!

The Art Show tour I led was at 11:30.  I didn’t invent these tours, but I often arrange them, and usually lead one myself.  Why me?  When Kelly Freas first told a con to get me for one, I went to him.  He said, “You seem to be able to say what you see.”

I’ve never forgotten that.  When I’m arranging the tours it’s what I ask tour leaders to do.

I used to say “docent tours”.  Docent is the right word, but I found people didn’t know what it meant, and didn’t look it up, so it put them to sleep.

The Art Show was one of the strengths of Spikecon.

Here was Mark Roland, one of few who does etching; his “Persistence of Memory” won 1st Place Monochrome (if you follow the link, scroll down, 3rd image; you’ll see he says these are limited-edition fine art prints, hand-wiped and printed on rag paper in his studio).  

Here was Elizabeth Berrien, whose “Cloud Unicorn” in aluminum wire won Best 3-D; she has not exhibited with us for a while, being distracted with airports and hotel lobbies.  Her Website is worth a look. At a party, or a panel discussion, you’ll see her listening or contributing to the conversation, all the while twisting wire.  She must carry the whole in her mind, like Michelangelo saying “I just get a block of marble and chip away anything that doesn’t look like a Madonna and Child.”

Jessica Douglas’ “Ghost Leviathan”, worked up from the page into bas-relief with layers of color, and found objects, won 1st Place Color.  She has recently been at Orycons.

“Always” by Elizabeth Fellows won 2nd Place Monochrome.  Looking straight at it you saw vertical strands of dark yarn on a field of white.  Fellows didn’t, so the Art Show did, mount a sign Look at it sideways.  You then saw a face – which I think was Alan Rickman as Severus Snape from the Harry Potter movies – but wasn’t his word “Forever”?  Where are my notes?

I was particularly glad Bjo Trimble, her husband John, and their daughter Kat, were at the con; as it turned out they were sponsored by Ctein (pronounced “k-TINE”; yes, that’s his full name; while we’re at it, there should be a circumflex over the in Bjo, an Esperantism indicating pronunciation “bee-joe”).

John, Bjo, and Kat Trimble in the Art Show – Bjo’s panel at left, Kat’s at right.

In the photo you can see Bjo’s “Aslan” (from The Chronicles of Narnia), which won 3rd Place Monochrome, over her head. Kat’s “Mariposa” (which you can’t quite see in the photo) was a Judges’ Choice.

Ctein is one of few photographers in our Art Shows.  Photos are necessarily of things actually existent; what’s the SF element?  We get some neighbors, like astronomicals, or the spacecraft so far built; and indeed Ctein shoots them.  But his other pictures too have a quality of marvel.  The art of photography includes the mind of the artist.  Ctein being one of the judges, and also exhibiting, he insisted that nothing by a judge should get an award.

No picture-taking is our Art Show rule, but Jan Gephardt was allowed to shoot this panel of her own (you can just make out some of her paper sculptures at upper left).

Saturday night, the Masquerade.  Decades ago this was a dress-up party; it’s now a costume competition – with a stage, lights, and sound, if we can manage.  The Masquerade Director was Tanglwyst de Holloway; Master of Ceremonies, Orbit Brown; judges, Dragon Dronet, Theresa Halbert, Kitty Krell.

Entering as a Novice, and winning Best in Show – which is quite possible, I’ve been a judge at Worldcon Masquerades where we did that – was Hanna Swedin, “Snaptrap” (Re-Creation, from Five Nights at Freddy’s 3; Re-Creation entries are based on known images, Original entries are not; the Novice, Journeyman, and Master classes allow entrants to compete against others with their own level of experience if they wish, but anyone can “challenge up”, and experience isn’t everything).

Here’s Swedin with a stage helper so you can see the size of her entry, and here she is with the Snaptrap headpiece and her Best of Show rosette.

Sunday brought the Site-Selection results.  Columbus, Ohio, won unopposed for the 14th NASFiC in 2020 (the 78th Worldcon will be at Wellington, New Zealand, in 2020).  Tonopah, Nevada, beat Phoenix, Arizona, 82-51, for Westercon LXXIV in 2021 (Westercon LXXIII will be at Seattle, Washington, in 2020).  

This is a noteworthy outcome.  In contrast with Phoenix, Tonopah is an unincorporated town of population 2,600; no air, rail, intercity-bus service; it’s halfway between Reno and Las Vegas (each about 200 miles, 250 km, away).  Probably not even the best crystal-gazer would venture to say what lurks in the minds of fen, but “Why Tonopah?” from the bid committee to its parent organization, all explained again at Spikecon in conversation, bid parties, and the exercise we call the Fannish Inquisition, may be instructive.

A quarter to one p.m., October the First Is Too Late.  As always I asked who’d read it recently or had it fresh in mind, who even if having read it didn’t have it fresh in mind, who hadn’t read it, who hadn’t heard of it; most always there are some of each (hadn’t heard of it may prove to be but I hear these discussions are fun, which I’ll take).

By way of reminding people to look things up I pointed out that “bacon” for an Englishman is nearer to what United States people call “Canadian bacon” than to what U.S. people call “bacon”.  If this is what you’re living on while camping, it makes a difference.

What’s all the music for?  Is it mere window-dressing?  Well, it shows the mind of the narrator.  It sets up the exploration of art and technology, human and mechanical possibilities, with the future (though we must beware of that word with this book) keyboard instrument in Chapter 13.

And music, at least as we understand it, is about time, and time is the theme, the endoskeleton, of the book: one of the more brilliant observations I heard all weekend.

What about the framing story?  What about “someone, or something, was using the Sun as a giant signaling device”?  Does it tell us anything about the fourth-millennium people?  The narrative doesn’t take us to it again – or does it, in the last chapter, with “a higher level of perception than our own”?

Are we to be uncertain about the certain uncertainty of the people we meet at the end, like Sir Arthur Clarke’s “It is well to be skeptical [or as he spelled it, sceptical] even of skepticism”?

At Closing Ceremonies the joined Westercon and NASFiC had to disjoin.  When Kate Hatcher ended Spikecon, the Westercon gavel went to Sally Woehrle for Westercon LXXIII; but the NASFiC is an entity of the World Science Fiction Society, so the WSFS gavel went to a courier for the 77th Worldcon which would need it before the 14th NASFiC.

Luckily Standlee, Hayes, and Kuma were present, being Fan Guests of Honor for Westercon LXXII, and Linda Deneroff was present, being Fan Guest of Honor for the 13th NASFiC, all experienced in Business Meeting fandom, so we managed.

Afterward in the course of helping take down and clean up I found my roommate Kevin Rice carrying a box of leftover plastic train-whistles.  He’d made them by 3-dimensional printing, gosh: six inches long with two pipes, the top one marked “Spikecon 2019” and the bottom one “Layton, UT”.  They were in various colors.

I knew there would be a Dead Dog party (until the last dog is –), and separately a Dead Dog Filk, so that’s where I went with them.  More of the filkers being of the musical-instrument type, they took more.

And so home.