Boskone 2021 Pre-Con Report

By Daniel Dern: Boskone 58 is coming soon — Friday, February 12 through Sunday, February 14, 2021. The Boskone 58 event site is located here on Grenadine. As I write this, there are about 190 program items/events and around 150 speakers listed.

The Guests of Honor (GoH’s) are:

  • GUEST OF HONOR: Joe Abercrombie
  • SPECIAL GUEST: Sheree Renée Thomas
  • OFFICIAL ARTIST: Julie Dillon
  • MUSICAL GUEST: Marc Gunn
  • HAL CLEMENT SCIENCE SPEAKERS: Mike Brotherton & Christian Ready
  • NESFA PRESS GUEST: Ursula Vernon

Listed participants include a mix of familiar and new names/faces — including, I’m sure, many who might otherwise have been able to schedule/travel (in happier times) in person, including (to name just a few) Jeanne Cavelos, John Chu, Neil Clarke, Guy Consolmagno, C. S. E. Cooney, Bruce Coville, Ellen Datlow, Aliette de Bodard, Vincent Di Fate, S.B. Divya, Vince Docherty, Cory Doctorow, Sarah Beth Durst, Scott Edelman, Bob Eggleton, Greer Gilman, Nicole Givens Kurtz, Max Gladstone, Andrea Hairston, Carlos Hernandez, James Patrick Kelly, Marcin “Alqua” Klak, Mur Lafferty, Tabitha Lord, Kwame Mbalia, Larry Niven, Garth Nix, Suzanne Palmer, Tamora Pierce, Julia Rios, Charles Stross, Michael Swanwick, Carrie Vaughn, Fran Wilde, Connie Willis, and Jane Yolen.

Because of some of the interesting ways NESFA is doing this year’s Boskone, I feel it’s worth providing this pre-con report, including reasons to register  before the last minute if you haven’t already — and why it might be worth it even if you don’t have much online time available during those days.

(Note, any “according to Boskone” or unattributed-in-text quotes are from the Boskone web site.)

AFFORDABLE! Like Arisia 2021 (see my File770 Arisia post-con report), this year’s Boskone is, unsurprisingly, virtual-only — and full-weekend membership is, similarly, a modest $25.00.

Information like the program participants list and the program is publicly viewable — useful for deciding whether you want to “go.”

Membership gives you access to “the entire event site and program, including panel recordings, the Con Suite (where parties will be held in Zoom breakout rooms), the internal messaging system for chatting, and our special embedded chat windows for program items, art show, dealers, and fan tables.”

Boskone also lets you not buy a membership but still make a $5 (or multiples of) supporting contribution. You don’t get any convention access, but, according to Boskone, “Your gift helps defray expenses such as converting to an online format, providing American Sign Language services, assistance with our New Voices Fund, memberships for those in need, and more.”

KAFFEEKLATCH SIGNUPS! Kaffeeklatsch signups went live at noon EST Wednesday February 5, and while there’s more “seats” than I’ve typically seen at live cons — twenty-two, versus ten-to-twelve — they’re beginning to fill up. (I’ve already registered, and signed up for the ones I want to be at/in.) [Click for larger image.]

RECORDED PROGRAMMING. Unlike Arisia2021, Boskone will be recording all sessions that are done in the Zoom format. According to Boskone this will include “all panels, solo presentations, and other items that are held as a webinar. The only exception to this rule is if a program participant has asked not to be recorded.)…and there will be approximately 90 items recorded, with videos becoming available by the end of each day.” Note, according to a Boskone committeeperson, kaffeeklatches will NOT be recorded.

Boskone intends to make videos available by the end of each day — and, importantly, “We are keeping the Boskone 58 event site up through the end of February 2021.”

Given that I’ve currently flagged nearly three dozen program items as potentially interesting — and only two of those aren’t conflicting with one or two other sessions (and none of those slots have more than one KaffeeKlatch that I’ve signed up for) — I could easily be belatedly Boskone-ing up for a fortnight post-Boskone! I do expect to winnow my selections down — but it’s nice to not have to choose which one to go to — or regret choices because it sounds like the room next door is having more fun, or because I learn I missed a great discussion elsewhere.

If there aren’t KaffeeKlatches you want to be at, you can wait until the last minute — and if you’re OK with watching the recorded sessions, that’s not necessarily late in the game. (The web site currently says that Memberships are “Available Until 14 Feb, 2021.”)  [ NOTE, the registration page — and this article — had originally said “Until 15 February, 2021” but that has been updated, hence also my article.]

SUNDRY NOTES. Unlike Arisia 2021, which used a mix of web, Zoom and Discord, Boskone 58 is being  billed as a “single sign on event.” (Arisia 2021, by contrast, used Discord for some of the chat.)

Boskone is using the Grenadine event platform — which they’ve been using for several years (as have several other cons I’ve gone to, including the Dublin 2019 WorldCon). (With one exception: game players will have to sign up for the Board Game Arena.)

Magic show! I’m looking forward to being in the audience for a change, for the “Starship Magic Show” a “50-minute SF themed magic show. Vulcan’s Greatest Magician, S’kai, is presented by Dr. Willie Yee.”

 Convinced yet?

I’m of course sad that Mark and Priscilla Olson don’t seem to be doing their “Trivia For Chocolate” evening game show (where I surprisingly often end up in the top half-dozen), but I can see how this would be tricky to run over Zoom — and even harder to throw the point-keeping chocolate Thin Mints at the correct-or-snarky answerers.)

Ditto, I’ll miss schmoozing with friends F2F. On the other hand, no worries about weather, transit failures, hotel snafus, restaurant lines, or coffee not near ready in the Con Suite before the mornings’ first panels.

(Plus, harder to get autographs.)

I’m looking for to being at Boskone 58 — some as it happens, the rest before the end of the month.

Arisia 2021: A Brief Dern’s- and Web’s-Eye View

By Daniel Dern: Taking place Friday, January 15 through Monday, January 18, Arisia 2021  was, unsurprisingly, virtual-only with, according to the con runners, about 1,500 registrations.

For comparison, according to my File 770 report on Arisia 2020:

“The first Arisia had just over 800 attendees; Arisia 2017 had over 4,500 registered attendees! According to the con’s Monday morning January 20 Clear Ethernet newsletter, Arisia 2020 is reporting 3,052 registered attendees.”

Arisia 2021’s Guests of Honor were Suzanne Palmer (Author GoH), Hannibal King (Artist GoH), and Kat Tanaka Okopnik (Fan GoH).

Currently — fingers and pseudopods crossed! — Arisia 2022, January 14-17, 2022, is planned to be IRL, back at the Westin Boston Waterfront hotel, with Guests of Honor Andrea Hairston (Author GoH), Reiko Murakami (Artist GoH), and Elsa Sjunneson (Fan GoH). Memberships are for sale here.

Over the past year, I — like, I presume, everybody else reading this — have “attended”/participated in my share of family, friend, social, and work-related virtual events, including, for me, over the previous week or so, press events for the Consumer Electronics Show that’s normally live (and crowded) in Las Vegas.

However, Arisia 2021 was my first virtual Con. And I was under the weather enough that other than fulfilling my own panel commitments — part of a Readings panel, plus, over in FastTrack, reading some of my Dern Grim Bedtime Tales, Few Of Which End Well, & Other Stories, plus an instructive attempt to do my magic show en Zoom — I didn’t do anywhere as much as I might otherwise. (Plus, alas, no hall costume pix.) 

That said, here’s some info, screen grabs (with permission from Arisia, where appropriate), and some other notes’n’thoughts. (Please feel encouraged to put links to your own reports/posts for Arisia 2021, or other thoughts, in this post’s COMMENTS.)

ARISIA ONLINE! Arisia 2021 was organized to take place “entirely online, primarily across Discord, Zoom, and a new Arisia Virtual Convention website, designed specifically for this convention with an eye to recreating what we all love most about an in-person convention experience.”

Activities included meetups (using Zoom and Discord), including use of Zoom break-out rooms.

Arisia 2021 also of course used the usual gamut of email and social media for communicating/schmoozing, including Arisia’s Clear Ether blog, Twitter (https://twitter.com/Arisia), Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/arisiainc/), and Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/arisiainc/). (My apologies if there are any I’ve missed.) (Balticon 54, back in May 2020, apparently used Second Life extensively. According to Balticon: “Balticon 54 will be hosting a social space inside Second Life for convention attendees. The convention space, Balticon Station, will be a virtual con suite where you can meet and hang out with other fans. We also plan to sponsor Second Life convention activities, events, and to provide links to sci-fi and fantasy themed locations throughout Second Life.”)

Arisia 2021 had over 100 panels, meetups, song-circles, and sing, hosted live on Zoom. According to Arisia, “This year’s panels are running 55 minutes, instead of 75 minutes, with 35 minutes between sessions. This gives program participants time to make sure all of the technical pieces are working for the next session, hopefully minimizing technical disruptions.”

THE HELP DESK WAS STRONG: Program participants were expected to connect to Zoom half an hour before the actual session, to confirm those pesky details like “are my video and audio working,” “are all the participants here,” and (where appropriate) also making sure we were Discorded in.

Support cued us up at start the session, hung around in the background just in case, and helped make sure panelists and audience knew where the virtual break-out rooms where. Having been on my share of multi-person, many-newbies Zooms by know, I could tell we were in good, experienced hands.

THE MASQUERADE: You can still watch Arisia 2021’s half-hour Virtual Masquerade video, and while you don’t get the part-of-an-audience dynamic, you get a much closer, fuller look at the costumes, some in motion, along with some close-ups of the work and some comments from the creators.

DEALERS ROOM AND ART SHOW: According to pre-con info from Arisia, “The Art Show https://online.arisia.org/artshow and the Dealer’s Room https://online.arisia.org/dealers will be available to the public for the first time in Arisia history! …This year, Art Show and Dealer sales will happen through the specific Artists’ and Dealers’ websites. Links will be provided on their pages.”

Dealer and Art Show participants were organized alphabetically with info-tiles — straightforward enough, but lacking the walk-through/visual-browse of a live room, of course. I wonder whether there are manageable (as in, easy to implement and cross-platform/device-usable) ways to do this, like, say, using Second Life.

Arisia 2021 also offererd Gaming, filking, workshops (including swordplay — see the picture), dancing, and meet-ups — if anyone reading this participated in any of those, I welcome your thoughts below in the comments.

EXPERIENCES AND LESSONS LEARNED FROM MY OWN SESSIONS. I was in one of the multi-person reading sessions, along with  Anne Nydam (nydamprints.com), who read from her The Extraordinary Book of Doors (which I enjoyed, and highly recommend — it also includes books, libraries and cats), and RR Angell reading from a rather somber cyber/military-SF story. (I read a few of my flash-length Dern Grim Bedtime Tales.)

The audience was, by default, muted. Particularly since I was looking at my text, I couldn’t keep an eye on the audience view, I found the lack of audio feedback disconcerting.

Doing magic tricks — especially for FastTrack kids — proved harder than I thought, between things (unwantedly) disappearing into my virtual background, trying to keep my cards, rabbits, hats, etc. in my camera view, and properly lit. On the other hand, we — about eight or nine kids — had fun also asking and answering questions, telling jokes, showing me (and the rest of the audience) tricks, keeping us all happily occupied for the near-hour, which, I’m pretty sure, more than met the hopes of many of the parents/adults.

The good news: no problems with weather, hotel reservations, or public transit. No need to board our dog. Everybody had an equally good “seat” for events.

The sad news: none of the opportunistic or planned schmoozing with friends.

Were there bid or other parties? I forgot to check.

See you — with the emphasis on “see!” — you next year, tentacles twirled.

Eurocon 2022 Site Picked

Luxembourg was confirmed as the site of Eurocon 2022 in October during this year’s virtual Eurocon (2020/Rijeka).

It will also be that year’s annual Luxcon, and will be held in the very South of the Grand Duchy — in Dudelange, right next to the French border.

Here is the art for the forthcoming 2021 Luxcon —

[Thanks to Dave Lally for the story.]

SMOFCon 37¼ Roundup

[Notes from Kevin Standlee, Marguerite Smith, Jannie Shea, and Vincent Docherty, and James Bacon.]

SMOFCon 37¼ went well. 

This year’s event SMOFcon 38 in Montreal moved to 2022 and with next year’s 2021 event, SMOFcon Europe in Lisboa. Both SMOFcon’s agreed to host a small one-day virtual event, with two panels and three question and answer sessions for future conventions and bids. 

The event was well attended with 288 memberships were taken through Grenadine and 312 unique individuals logged into Zoom. 

It is important to us, to learn and develop, so we have messaged members and asked them to do a survey. 

We will amalgamate the information from feedback and publish the information in about a month, on our our website https://sites.grenadine.co/sites/conzealand/en/smofcon-37-14/ in late January 2021.

We have uploaded the video recordings of all programme items to the SMOFCon 37¼ YouTube Channel here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCLum0yU7zV-UHPMI_OO7XLg

All the questionnaires submitted for seated Worldcon, Future Worldcon bids, Seated SMOFCons and future SMOFCon bids can be found linked to their programme listing or you can find them all here: https://sites.grenadine.co/sites/conzealand/en/smofcon-37-14/documents

They will remain online until August 2021. The known contacts and URLs for the various conventions and bids have been added into the programme descriptions for the individual Question Time Session. 

Members joined Zoom from 21 countries, with some uncertainty because the Zoom report does not indicate VPN usage. The list of countries participating, ranked in order of the number of individual logins from that country, is as follows:

  • United States of America    
  • United Kingdom    
  • Canada            
  • Israel                
  • France                
  • Poland                
  • New Zealand            
  • Ireland                
  • Australia            
  • Portugal            
  • Germany            
  • Hong Kong SAR        
  • Sweden            
  • Norway            
  • Belgium            
  • Finland            
  • Japan                
  • Croatia                
  • Netherlands            
  • Italy            
  • China            

For those of you  who enjoy it, here are some Grenadine/Zoom stats 

  • Zoom practice – 35 interested – 34 attended
  • Con Suite – 141 interested – 143 attended
  • Question Time for Future Worldcon bids – 147 interested – 139 attended
  • Question Time for Seated Discon III and Chicon 8 – 126 interested – 119 attended
  • Question Time for Seated Smofcons and Future Smofcon bids -98 interested – 91 attended
  • CoNZealand Chairs Chat – 92 interested – 89 attended
  • Pivot to Virtual Conventions and Best Practices – 120 interested – 113 attended

(“Interested” = those who added the item to their personal schedule in Grenadine. “Attended” = those who used the Zoom link in Grenadine.)

The Con Suite host, Terry Fong, estimates that at peak, there were 80+ members in various break out rooms. Enthusiastic discussions were had about virtual art shows, new Grenadine features, planning for Westercon 74, the Tel Aviv in 2027 bid, and much, much more.

Much thanks to all those who joined, paricpants and back room staff who helped make the event successful. We hope that you consider supporting future SMOFcons and hope to see you there. 

/s/ Kevin Standlee, Marguerite Smith, Jannie Shea, Vincent Docherty, James Bacon

SMOFCon 37-1/4 Update

SMOFCon 37¼ reports they are approaching 200 members. Fans are welcome to join up for this one-day virtual event about conrunning, and also encouraged to ask questions of the participating future Worldcon and SMOFcon bids. 

SMOFCon 37¼ will be on Saturday, December 5, 2020 from 08:00 to 23:59 Eastern Standard Time (UTC – 5; you can convert to your local time using online tools such as Timeanddate.com). 

Membership is free, but you must register in advance here. Most fans should select the regular registration option. The committee asks: Please do not select a Program Participant registration unless you are representing a Worldcon or SMOFCon bid or seated convention or have been invited to be a program participant.

The SMOFCon 37¼ program schedule is here.

The first three program items will be; Question Time for future Worldcon bids, then for the two seated Worldcons, and then for seated and finally  bids for future SMOFCons. 

The committee has sent questionnaires to all of the groups involved, and received many replies, and encourages fans to peruse and consider these FAQ’s. 

They also say:

We note the bidding calendar is busy! 

We welcome questions for the bids and if any member wishes to ask a question, we are collating them for the moderators, and have forms linked as follows. 

The form for each item is the link next to the words “Submit questions here” in the description of the program item. The deadline for submitting questions is Thursday, December 3, 2020. You must be a member of SMOFCon 37¼ to submit questions. The moderators of each item will select which questions to ask the bids/conventions.

Question Time for Worldcon bids will be taken in reverse chronological order, with bids for 2027 first, then 2026, and so on. Bids for later years will have less allocated time for presentations and questions, with the time increasing per year, ending with bids for 2023. The detailed schedule for each year is in the listing for the item, and includes planned time for internal breaks during the scheduled three-hour item.

The two other scheduled items are a session with CoNZealand chairs Kelly Buehler and Norman Cates discussing aspects of the change to virtual and experience that they had, and a panel looking at the pivot fandom has successfully made to virtual events.

In addition, the Virtual Con Suite has breakout rooms. If you are interested in holding a special-interest group discussion or a meeting in one of the breakout rooms, request a slot using the form linked from the front page of the web site: ReqConSuite  

Con Suite breakout sessions will not be listed as separate program items. They are listed in the program listing for the Con Suite.

If you have questions about registering for SMOFCon 37¼, the convention program, or other aspects of the event, write to info@smofcon38.ca

SMOFCon 37¼ is jointly organized by SMOFCon 38 (Montreal, Canada 2022) and SMOFCon 39 (Lisboa, Portugal 2021).

[Thanks to James Bacon for the press release.]

SMOFCon 37-1/4

The committees of SMOFCon 38 (Montreal 2022) and SMOFCon 39 (Lisboa 2021) have announced the launch of “SMOFCon 37 ¼,” the online-only mini-SMOFCon event on Saturday, December 5, 2020.  

This small virtual event replaces the postponed Smofcon 38. 

Smofcon is an annual convention for organizers of science fiction and fantasy conventions, where there is a chance to share ideas, discuss solutions, talk, learn and develop skills  on matters relating to their passion for running conventions. 

THE PROGRAMME OF SMOFCON 37 ¼. There will be online Question Time sessions for currently seated Worldcons and SMOFcons and bids for future Worldcons and SMOFcons, plus two sessions focusing on the shift to virtual conventions. 

  • Three Question Time sessions for Worldcon and SMOFcon committees to make presentations and answer questions:
    • The two seated SMOFcons and future SMOFcon bids 
  • An opportunity for the “CoNZealand Chairs Chat” 
  • A virtual panel on ‘Pivoting to a virtual convention and best practices’

As bids and seated cons complete the questionnaires, they will be placed on the site and linked to their relevant sessions. A simple question form for each Question Time session is linked in each programme description. The SMOFcon committee is offering bids and seated cons zoom practice sessions upon request.

CON SUITE. A Virtual Con Suite with breakout rooms for general discussions will also be available for the duration of SMOFCon 37 ¼. Groups may request time slots in breakout rooms. Request forms here.

OTHER INFORMATION. Full details of the event, including the schedule, free registration, participation information and contact details are now available online here.

They are using Grenadine and Zoom as their systems. Send queries to info@smofcon38.ca 

SMOFCon 37 ¼ committee Jannie Shea, Kevin Standlee, Vincent Docherty, Marguerite Smith and James Bacon say, “We hope that you join us,”

World Fantasy Con 2020 Report

By Cat Eldridge: I spent four days at the virtual World Fantasy Convention having a really enjoyable time. From my viewpoint, it worked damn near perfect, being homebound because of the multiple knee surgeries, so having lots of time to do digital experiences like this. And it was a spectacular experience! 

The Con experience was built around CrowdCompass, an app and website based portal that allowed them to have the participant access everything from one place from the readings to the art shows and the virtual book bag. All of the actual programming was hosted in Zoom and available from within the WFC based CrowdCompass app. 

(Side-note. The Con had a live tech desk during Con hours that handled any problems quite well. Not sure any of them slept, but I applaud them for their skilled work.) 

There were five hundred and fifty-seven attendees, says the Chair, from all over the world, an advantage she admitted of the virtual set-up. It was also more diverse than the usual Con had been, being younger and more representative of the global culture she thought because it was virtual than the usual WFC which has tended to be older and mostly white. 

I attended three to five events each day Thursday through Sunday. This meant I encountered a lot of authors that I’d never met before including Charlaine Harris, Madeleine Robins, Greg Bear, C.J. Cherryh, Sharon Shinn, Walter Jon Williams and Marie Brennan. 

Subjects covered were fascinating (alternate history, swordplay, noir fantasy, music in fantasy, and genre fiction in video to name but a few) but it really was the people here that made it. One and all, they appeared to be having a blast being part of this and expressed their delight repeatedly at being at the Con.

David Cherry art used as Souvenir Book cover.

A panel I found absolutely fascinating had C.J. Cherryh, L.E.Modesitt Jr., Anne Groell, Greg Bear, Joe Haldeman and one author I didn’t recognize, Dave Doering, on it. It was called “Fantasy or Not, That Doesn’t Work!” And dealt with the problems of keeping a story logically consistent. 

There were, of course, readings. I delightedly got to hear Joe Haldeman, Walter Jon Williams and S. M. Stirling along with Karen J. Fowler and Sharon Shinn read mostly from their latest work. I must stop and stress that the Zoom-based quality of these readings, like everything else, was excellent with nary a hitch. And, of course, it was fascinating to see the authors in their native habitats! I did ask Walter Jon Williams about the third Metropolitan novel and he said there’s a good chance that it will happen. Yea! 

Note: Recordings of the panel discussions will be only available through CrowdCompass to WFC members (only). 

The digital book bag worked perfectly adding dozens of works to my digital to be read (or at least sampled) list. The printed program guide arrived several days before the event and looks very nice though I’ve just skimmed it so far. 

The Award Ceremony was low key, a pleasant contrast from the Hugos, being hosted by Gordon Van Gelder and Ellen Datlow at her apartment. They simply announced the nominees, then the winner and when possible, had the winner say a few words. Very nice. It was budgeted in the program for two hours and came in I think under that. The recording of the award ceremony is publicly available.

Update 11/06/2020: Corrected statements about availability of recorded program items.

Virtual World Fantasy Con 2020 Updates Program; WFC Board Announces They Will Add Member to Review Future WFC Programs

World Fantasy Con 2020 unveiled substantial changes to its program overnight, made in consultation to address the criticisms leveled against the original version posted last week.

The process utilized to make these changes was described in a press release published today:


The WFC 2020 Committee, after much reflection and listening to the grave concerns BIPOC panelists and fans expressed about the program panel descriptions, has revised the descriptions and also reassessed its commitment to ensure panel members are representative of the increasingly diverse voices in fantasy and horror literature. “The WFC 2020 Committee humbly acknowledges that we could have done better and deeply regret the offense, unintended, but nevertheless hurtful, towards our BIPOC fans and panelists. We also acknowledge that long-term, systemic issues with discrimination in our industry and with World Fantasy Convention itself cannot be rectified in one convention; this will be an ongoing effort beyond WFC 2020,” said Ginny Smith, WFC 2020 chair.

The World Fantasy Convention Board of Directors said in a statement:

“The WFC Board is sensitive to the criticisms by members from marginalized communities within the fantasy and horror genres. We acknowledge the minimal representation of these diverse populations on the Board and are taking steps to rectify that lack of perspective. We have voted to add at least one ex officio member to our number to review future WFC programs. We are currently reaching out to proposed candidates to discuss and will release a statement when the new Board member(s) are chosen.”

To address the programming issues for this year’s convention, the WFC 2020 Committee has done the following:  

• WFC Chair Ginny Smith engaged the help of three well-respected members of the fantasy community, two people of color and a well-regarded writer and sensitivity advisor, to review the offensive and insensitive programming language. They have completed their review and the revised program descriptions have been published on the WFC 2020 website. Members will be notified by email.

• WFC 2020’s amazing and supportive BIPOC panelists helped the WFC 2020 Committee create more panels to represent the rich diversity of the fantasy genre. For example, one of the new panels is “Black Women in Horror.”

• WFC 2020 remains committed to offering sponsorships to people of color. The intent in offering these sponsorships is to make the convention accessible to those who might not otherwise be able to attend the convention and to ensure that the convention’s attendance reflects the diverse fandom and artistry in the fantasy and horror genres. The committee is grateful to the private donors who have so far made it possible for 50 people of color to attend the convention for free. People of color can still apply for these sponsored memberships. For more information and to apply, please visit the WFC website at https://www.wfc2020.org/people-of-color-sponsored-membership.

This will be the 46th World Fantasy Convention; the WFC 2020 acknowledges its responsibility to ensure the con remains viable and relevant and to begin addressing the convention’s history of exclusion. The WFC 2020 Committee remains committed to building and conducting a vibrant, diverse, and professional WFC that brings together industry professionals from many backgrounds. “Please accept our sincere apology for what has happened; we hope you’ll still consider attending the convention to help celebrate, explore, and build what may be the oldest, most diverse genre on our planet—fantasy,” said Smith.


The Virtual World Fantasy Convention 2020 will take place October 29–November 1. For more information and to register, visit www.wfc2020.org.

In addition to the press release, WFC 2020 Chair Ginny Smith has also made a personal statement, “A Letter From Chairperson Ginny Smith”, that says in part:

I am not defending the mistakes we’ve made; however, I want to clear up some misunderstandings about what happened. To put together the program, we first sent out a questionnaire to every person who expressed an interest in being a panelist. We asked them what topics they would like to discuss. Most of the panelists replied with broad topics, such as, “afrofuturism, trauma, diaspora,” etc. We did not ask them to describe the topics, only to name them. So, while each topic was suggested by a potential panelist, the descriptions were written mostly by the program committee—which, yes, is comprised entirely of white people.

If my understanding is correct, it is not the program topics that are in question. It is the descriptions that are insensitive and offensive.

I want to be completely transparent that in June/July I was advised that I needed to ensure our program committee had more diversity for the insights and perspectives this would provide. I didn’t ignore the advice. I tried to recruit people of color for the programming committee, but my recruitment attempts failed. I don’t blame those who I invited—putting on a convention is a lot of work with no pay and little recognition. Other con-running tasks demanded my focus, so I did not continue trying to recruit new members for the programming committee, though I certainly should have. I also didn’t give the attention to the program that I should have. This was a huge mistake, one that makes me wish for an H.G. Wells time machine so I could have a do-over. But that’s science fiction; reality demands I try to rectify the mistake now.

Also, Chris M. Barkley, one of the people who consulted on the program changes, has written a column about his participation, “Crisis Point: The 2020 World Fantasy Convention”, which includes examples of the feedback he gave and recommendations he made.

Another consultant, Christine Taylor-Butler, offered her perspective of the larger picture in a comment on File 770 yesterday:

Ginny has worked pretty hard on this and I know – having done this in the past – that you will give up a year or more of your life in planning. So to have to shift to a virtual conference on short notice, renegotiate hotel contracts you may not get reimbursed for (one organization I’m associated with lost thousands of dollars in cancelled contracts) is terrifying. Worse, that a handful of members use their own perspectives to create an environment that shifts the balance to their own views is worse. How is this different than what is going on in our political landscape. It’s not about compromise, it’s about destruction and “my way or the high way” mentality.

Cons are not populated by a single person. I am part of the BIPOC community and while there are many things to be angry about (215,000 people dead from a preventable virus for starts, millions out of work and can’t pay bills is another) – this isn’t one that rises to this level of vitriol. The descriptions and titles were easily fixed. The hurt and outrage and psychological damage from the methodology used to complain about the volunteers is not.

In planning a conference I’ve learned you can’t please everyone. I’m planning on going and I’m planning on bringing friends with me – virtually.

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions #54

Crisis Point: The 2020 World Fantasy Convention 

By Chris M. Barkley: On the few occasions that I was privileged to head up the World Science Fiction Convention’s Press Office, I gave my staff members a great deal of latitude in their duties. However, I had only one directive that was absolutely sacred; if they spotted a member, staffer or volunteer that was in need of assistance, they were to stop whatever they were doing and render assistance.   

In my 44-plus years of congoing, volunteering and activism, I have come to believe that fandom is family; we may not all be related on a familial basis and we all may not agree on certain points or get along with each other, but more often than not, we try to be available to each other and when the offer of help is made, it is be heartfelt and genuine. 

So I felt more than a bit of discomfort when I initially heard about the travails of the 2020 World Fantasy Convention. 

The controversy surrounding the Salt Lake City based bid started when the preliminary list of convention programming items were posted online, which is chronicled here. miyuki jane pinckard, an eminent writer and game designer offered her concerns in an open letter that was published on a Google Docs page.

The most immediate reactions to the posting were swift and harsh, charging that the programming staff was elitist, racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic and generally tone deaf.

Well known author and editor K. Tempest Bradford has an extensive history of difficulties and criticisms of WFC which she lays out here. Bradford, and others whom she offers evidentiary links to, are spot on about how previous World Fantasy Convention Board of Directors and convention committees have repeatedly failed to address a variety of issues. Mainly of accessibility for disabled members, sexual harassment and a lack of diversity in programming and staffing at conventions among MANY other things.

Ms. Bradford did not pull any punches in her commentary; condemning the Chair, Ginny Smith and WFC’s Board of Directors for not responding sooner to her email entreaties about systemic problems they continually seem to suffer from over a long period of time. In an addendum to her blog post, dated October 10th), Ms. Bradford wrote the following:

It has now been almost 10 years of this. At this point, if you are attending and/or participating in WFC 2020 you are participating in a system that is unsafe for BIPOC and other marginalized attendees and has been for a long time.

And yes, even if they “fix” the many program items with problematic content thanks to help from panelists, I still say: don’t go. Remember, we’ve done this dance before. More than once. And they were offered help and guidance on how not to have this happen. Don’t reward them by accepting last-minute changes that had to be spearheaded by folks who have probably already done too much emotional labor around this.

It should not be on BIPOC and other marginalized folks to clean up after white people who refuse to do right unless Twitter gets mad at them.

I asked folks on Twitter not to help them with programming for these reasons and then I said:

Hey there white, able-bodied, cishet ppl of SFF who constantly claim allyship with marginalized folk: Now’s the time to prove it.

WFC depends on you to come even if BIPOC don’t. Therefore: drop your membership or, at least, rescind participation on panels. Take a stand.

I stand by this ask. Even though I’m apparently being too “extreme“. This hella long post is my testament to why.

So, it appears to me that Ms. Bradford, and many others it seems, have come to the conclusion that the World Fantasy Convention no longer has any value and must be boycotted or ended completely. Doors are to be slammed closed, roads completely destroyed and bridges are to be set alight and burn brightly.

I am going to beg to differ.

But, before I do so, I am going to point out a few things.

I have only attended one and a quarter World Fantasy Conventions in my life. I went to the 1983 convention in Chicago, which featured Gene Wolfe and Manly Wade Wellman as the author guests, Rowwena Morrrill as the Artist GoH and Robert Bloch as the Toastmaster. It was a very relaxed and rather subdued convention in comparison to the six Worldcons I had previously attended. And hey, I got to meet and chat with Fritz Leiber! I had a good time.

As I became more involved with attending and working at Worldcons, I just couldn’t fit the WFC into my schedule, either economically or timewise. I did have the opportunity to go on a day trip to the 2010 Convention in Columbus and hang out in the public areas for a few hours and chat with a few friends, but that was about all. This is the extent of my involvement with the WFC.

Reader, this past Thursday evening, I received an email from Ginny Smith, asking for my help. I got around to reading it Friday morning. 

At this point in time, I was unaware of miyuki jane pinckard’s letter nor had read Ms. Bradford’s or anyone else’s comments on Twitter.

It wouldn’t have made any difference if I had. Ms. Smith, a person who I had never heard of or met before, asked for my help. 

And I, without hesitation said yes. Why?

First, because it is my nature to help. Maybe it’s a remnant of my Catholic grade school upbringing, my Boy Scout training or my unbreakable convention rule. My first instinct is to render assistance, if possible. 

Secondly, I live by the words of Dr. Martin Luther King,Jr., whose framed picture hangs prominently on my office wall and features the following quote, “The time is always right to do what is right.”  

I Immediately sought out and found the File 770 post, pinckard’s letter and Ms. Bradford’s comments. Frankly, none of what I found looked good for Ms. Smith or the convention. She explained to me in a follow up email that she was a complete novice at con-running and was in way over her head from the start. She also told me that she had made several apologies about the snafu and that others beside myself were helping out as well.

One of those people is Christine Taylor-Butler, an African-American author who is a graduate of MIT and Art & Design. She is the creator of the The Lost Tribes young adult series and an impressive number of other fiction and non-fiction books (80!) for children whose various subjects range from a biography of Michelle Obama, to the physical sciences, geography and United States History and Civics.

The other person declined to be identified. The reason she specifically stated was that she doesn’t want others to assume that she is available to perform a similar function for dozens of other conventions. Actually, what she was quoted saying, “I’m simply taking the principle of white people helping to clean up the messes white people have created.” So, respect.

Ms. Smith specifically asked me to review a number of the program items that people found objectionable and offer some insights on how they could be revised to be more inclusive and not offensive. 

I spent a majority of my day Saturday writing up critiques of the titles and descriptions of the panels. I also gave her a few pointed comments on how the Board could have been more helpful in her endeavors. Here are two of the examples:


  • Program Item 30: Norse and Germanic Fantasy: The Northern Thing

Original Description: “Beowulf to the Niebelungenlied, Norse and Germanic myth have been one of the major notes sounded by European and Anglophone fantasy and arguably the basis of sword and sorcery as we know it. We find such echoes from the works of William Morris, J.R.R. Tolkein, Paul Anderson From to more recent works like David Drake, Diana Paxson, George R.R. Martin, and Marvel Comics Thor. Let us explore this particular magic…“

Criticism: “The disparity present in compiling the cultural traditions of the entire rest of the world into one panel while devoting an entire panel on Norse and Germanic tales is telling. This is the most highly detailed panel, with specific authors mentioned, a courtesy that was not afforded the other panels. There is also no attempt to address the problematic side of Norse mythology and its co-option by white supremacists and fascists, including the Nazis. This should absolutely be part of any panel about being inspired by Norse mythology. And yet, the panel fails to actually name any Nordic writers and focuses entirely on Anglophone writers.”

Revised Suggestion: “From Beowulf to the Niebelungenlied, Norse and Germanic myth have been one of the major notes sounded by European and Anglophone fantasy and arguably the basis of sword and sorcery as we know it. Let us explore this particular magic.”

My Commentary: It seems to me (at least) that the critics of this description doth protest TOO MUCH. (Climbs onto soapbox). I may be Black, but even I am aware of the Norse and German influences generally in Westen culture. And YES, it is both intriguing, thrilling AND problematic. Do the critics think that the panelists are unaware of those problems or wouldn’t actually discuss them? Do the racist undertones really NEED to be described in the panel description? (Climbs off soapbox). So, what the objection is REALLY about is that this is yet another panel about the subject, which they are probably tired of seeing. Point taken. So, the panelists can either have a discussion about how those writers have influenced modern fantasy or they drill down on the older regional writers of the genre. The new description could be adapted to go either way, in my opinion. By the way, it’s Poul Anderson, not Paul Anderson. You’ll get a ton of side eye from eagle eyed fantasy fans for a mistake like that and deservedly so.


  • Program Item 54: Female Tropes and Archetypes

Original Description: “Women characters for years were mostly helpmates and love interests or the reward for an adventure well done. But changes in society have brought a welcome change to this restrictive way of viewing half the populace. How are today’s authors pushing past the old, tired tropes to bring a more real and interesting take on their female characters?”

Criticism: “Female Tropes and Archetypes” feels like a topic that was covered twenty years ago.

Revised Description: None, with this note: “Again, we’re not sure how to respond to this. Yes, it’s a topic that has been covered but continues to have an impact on the genre. So… we’re inclined to leave this one alone?”

My Commentary: OK, this is an easy fix; the problem here is that the panel is gender specific and not very inclusive to other people. So,my suggestion would be: remove “Women” from the title and description and call it Tropes and Archetypes in Fantasy (Modern or Otherwise): Fantasy  characters of all ages, genders and a spectrum of sexualities populate the landscape of Modern Fantasy. Gradual political and societal changes over the past few decades have brought a welcome change to the restrictive way of viewing others who had not previously been considered in the genre. How are today’s authors pushing past the old, tired tropes to bring a more real and interesting take on their fantasy characters?”


In total, I offered my suggestions for eight other programming items that were point of contention.

After the disastrous fiasco of the 2020 Hugo Awards Ceremony, it would have been very easy to heed Ms. Bradford and others, and just let the WFC crash and burn on the tarmac and left as a stark warning to other con-runners. 

I, for better or worse, am not one of those people. I believe that the Hugo Awards Ceremony could have been saved with some last minute intervention. I also believe the same can be said of this year’s World Fantasy Convention. 

Ginny Smith, her convention committee and, I hope, its Board of Directors, are working night and day to try to put on a convention that is worthy of attending (albeit virtually) and not fall victim to their earlier mistakes.  

If they were truly as racist and insensitive as their critics have claimed, they could have thrown up their hands and said, ‘This is OUR convention, WE run it as we see fit and YOU  can take it or leave it.” That’s not what I have experienced over the past several days.

Earlier today, the World Fantasy Convention Board of Directors released a statement to me, via an email from Ginny Smith:

“The WFC Board is sensitive to the criticisms by members from marginalized communities within the fantasy and horror genres. We acknowledge the minimal representation of these diverse populations on the Board and are taking steps to rectify that lack of perspective. We have voted to add at least one ex officio member to our number to review future WFC programs. We are currently reaching out to proposed candidates to discuss and will release a statement when the new Board member(s) are chosen.” 

– The World Fantasy Convention Board of Directors 

2020 marks the forty-sixth year for the World Fantasy Convention. In spite of its ongoing problems, I still believe that it still is a vital part of our fannish community and should not be canceled or abandoned. 

I HOPE that the calamitous events and harsh, but justifiable criticisms leveled this year’s edition can finally be the tipping point that finally puts this convention on the right path. This will also involve a lot of introspection AND changes by the Board of Directors, which, among other things, being more transparent about the bidding process, staffing, volunteer memberships, programming, the awards and most importantly, how they operate. 

Because it’s always the right time to open the doors of inquiry, build cultural roadways and reconstruct those emotional bridges.

Right here, right now and without delay!

Capclave, D.C.-Area Con, Celebrates 20 Years

Capclave: Where reading is
not extinct

The Washington Science Fiction Association (WSFA) will virtually host the 20th Capclave online from October 17-18. Memberships are $10.

This year’s Capclave will feature author and founding editor of FIYAH Magazine Troy L. Wiggins as Guest of Honor, and to celebrate the 20-year anniversary many past author Guests of Honor are returning including Connie Willis, Ken Liu, Nancy Kress, Carrie Vaughn, Catherynne M. Valente, Sarah Beth Durst, Alyssa Wong, and James Morrow.  

Taking advantage of the online nature of the convention this year, Capclave will feature an international line-up, including Aliette de Bodard in France; Australians Kaaron Warren, Lisa Fuller, Jason Nahrung, and Kirstyn McDermott; and from China, Regina Kanyu Wang, Samusara, A Que, Sara Chen, Emily Jin, and Guangzhao Lyao.

The convention will feature panels on writing, reviewing, and other topics. Program participants will read from their works and participate in kaffeeklatsches. There will also be virtual fan areas on the Capclave discord server.

A special membership rate of $55 for both this year and 2021. Register at the Capclave website.