Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions #62

DECLASSIFIED! Seven Secret and Untold Stories From the Worldcon Press Office

By Chris M. Barkley:

Chris M. Barkley. Photo by Juli Marr

For many, many years, I have wanted to write a manual specifically to pass along my knowledge, feeling and opinions about working in and operating the Worldcon Press office.

For most people who attend any convention, they only see a fraction of what is going on behind the scenes, much like the tip of an iceberg. If those who complain about the things they see going wrong had any idea of the complex goings on that happens behind the scenes, it would certainly turn more than a few of their hairs white from shock.

And believe me, I’ve earned my share over the years but fortunately, I shave every other day so I’m not reminded of how I earned them.

From the 1983 Worldcon in Baltimore (ConStellation) to Kansas City in 2016 (MidAmericon II), I worked in the Press/Media Relation offices for the World Science Fiction convention a total of nineteen times; fourteen as a staff member, five as the head of the office — three of those times I was asked on a last minute, emergency basis.

After MidAmericon II in 2016, I loudly announced (and not for the first time, mind you) that I was permanently retiring from the position.

I might as well have been shouting into the winds of Arrakis because I seriously considered taking the Press Office position this year at DisCon III at the request of a senior concom member.

After discussions with the members of my MidAmericon II (whom, I might add, was the BEST team of con-workers I had ever assembled), I quickly found that none of them could attend the convention during the alternate date in December.

I declined the offer and felt some considerable remorse, since it would leave the convention without anyone to handle media relations. Conversely, seeing that there was still an enormous amount of time until the start of the convention, I realized that this would be an excellent opportunity to impart and pass along a considerable amount of my knowledge and wisdom and still help the convention. (In addition, I also offered my services as a consultant to whomever took the Press Office position.)

So, for the past five months I have been hard at work, remembering, compiling, writing and editing a concise manual that could be utilized for practically any convention, regardless of the genre or fan base.

In doing so, I also chronicled several incidents, humorous anecdotes and near apocalyptic stories that happened along the way. I have NEVER shared many of these stories publicly before due to the privacy issues and the delicate nature of some of these encounters. But, I feel as though enough time has passed that discussing them now will not cause too much embarrassment or shock to anyone in particular. Even so, in some cases, I have omitted the names of the participants for the sake of privacy.

The entire Press Relations manual, sans some of these stories, will be made available by Our Gracious Host on a separate link at the end of the column, and at the conrunner.net website in the very near future.

1) The One Where I Nearly Caused An INTERNATIONAL INCIDENT With the Soviet Union (ConStellation,1983)

ConStellation Hat. Photo by Craig Glassner/Pinterest/Hat of the Day

My career in the Press Office began at the 1983 Worldcon in Baltimore, ConStellation. YES, the very last Worldcon to hold a full dinner banquet with the Hugo Awards Ceremony. Here’s the late Steve Stiles take on the dinner: Beautiful Steamers at Fanac.org.

And somewhere, I STILL have my crab mallet from that evening. But, I digress…

It was my fifth Worldcon and I was bored. Up until then, I had been content with going to panels, shopping in hucksters room, perusing the Art Show and partying with my friends. The only other time I had volunteered at a Worldcon was a brief stint working a shift for a friend at the IguanaCon II Art Show in 1978.

So, midway through the first day of the convention, I made my way to the ConStellation Gopher Hole, filled out the appropriate paperwork and presented it to a woman at the desk.

I was rather perplexed when she asked where I would like to be stationed because I hadn’t really given it any thought. Then, she wisely asked what sort of background I had. I replied that I had been an English major in college, a reporter and film reviewer for my college newspaper and, until recently, had been a sf radio talk show host at a public access station.

“Well,” she said, “I’m going to send you down to the Press Office. They could use some help there.”

So, I reported to the Press Office, which was nearby. I have no recollection of who was in charge. But I do remember that one of my first assignments as a staff member was to escort several reporters to a special reception taking place later that day.

The future Academy Award winning film (and future Hugo nominee as well) The Right Stuff was premiering later that year. Fan writer Evelyn C. Leeper’s convention report noted:

Chuck Yeager (who flew the X-1) and Gordon Cooper (one of the original Mercury astronauts) were there to help Warner Brothers promote the film The Right Stuff (about the early space program), and they were both very interesting. (By the way, I recommend the book The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe.) There were also several other noted scientists and even a congressman to talk about the space program, etc.

I decided to hang out for a few minutes to watch the spectacle unfold before going back to the office. I was just about to leave when I noticed a tall, thin gentleman speaking with a distinctive accent I thought might have been Russian.

When I inquired who the man was, I was told by one of the hosts that he was one an envoy from the Russian Embassy who had driven up from D.C. to take in the convention for the day. He was standing about six feet away, laughing with another participant about something.

Laughing.

For a moment, my blood ran a little cold. Then I began to get angry.

Just two days before, Korean Air Lines Flight 007, a 747 aircraft headed to Seoul, South Korea with 246 passengers and a flight crew of 23, had been shot out of the sky by a Soviet interceptor. The crew committed a navigational error which resulted in the plane drifting too far off course to an area inside a restricted Soviet airspace, resulting in the destruction of the plane. There were no survivors. Among the dead was Lawrence P. McDonald, a conservative member of the US House of Representatives from Georgia.

At the time, very little information was available on exactly how and why this had happened. With the denials,suspicions, recriminations and military mobilizations occurring on an hourly basis between the Soviet and NATO forces, it was one of the most tense moments of the Cold War.

So, there I was, in the same room with a citizen of the Soviet Union.

Three feet away from me was a metal folding chair.

It would be a simple thing to grasp it in my hands, smoothly fold it together and smash it into the diplomat’s head.

So easy.

And if I did what I was thinking, I would probably have served a lengthy prison sentence and brought infamy and shame to my family, my newborn daughter, Laura, my friends and fandom.

So I turned my back to the Soviet diplomat and left the room.

In my heart of hearts, I hope someone expressed their displeasure with that fellow’s government and what happened just off the northern coast of Japan.

But that day, I knew it could not be me.

2) The One Where I Found Out Who Won The Hugo Awards For the First Time (LACon II,1984)

L.A.con II Hugo Award, (Photo from the Nippon 2007 Awards Design page)

I was VERY uneasy the very first time when I found out who was going to win the Hugo Awards in advance of the Ceremony. Usually, the Hugo Awards Ceremony Staff handles both the Hugo Awards results, nomination and voting statistics and the short press release that comes with them.

Needless to say, when I was working for the L.A.con II Press office in 1984, seeing the results of the Hugo Awards was not on my bingo card.

The convention was held at the incredibly impressive venue; the Anaheim Hilton and Convention Center, which were located right across street from Disneyland. My second tour of duty in the Press Office coincided with the largest attendance ever recorded at a Worldcon up until then, with almost 6400 members pre-registered in advance. With a strong marketing campaign by the convention committee, another 2000+ fans were walk ups.

Among the highlights (and by far biggest draw) was the first official showing of all three Star Wars films in an all-night marathon. (I was there and stayed awake through the middle of Empire Strikes Back and woke up in the middle of Return of the Jedi. I also remember staggering back to my hotel room as the sun peeked over the horizon to catch a few hours of sleep before I reported back at the Press Office.)

The biggest brouhaha I had to deal with came a few hours before; someone came in and said that a commercial LA radio station had announced that the Trilogy showing that evening was FREE to the public! I quickly got on the phone with the station and DEMANDED that whomever made that announcement should rescind immediately before the convention was overrun with people.

To this day I don’t know whether they did it or not. I do know that the showing was not mobbed, so there’s that.

Fast forward to the Hugo Awards Ceremony; that afternoon, manila envelopes the voting and nomination results were delivered to the Press Office. They were to be embargoed and kept in the office until after the Ceremony, when they would be distributed to the fannish and other news media outlets.

My boss, Fred Harris, looked in the envelope and noticed that the packet was missing a one-sheet press release with a summation of the winners. I remember that there were only three people on the team; Fred, myself and a woman I will call Linda for reasons of privacy (and I because I can’t remember her actual name).

Because Fred had to go to the auditorium and see to the seating of the press, Linda and I were charged with typing up a brief summation of the winners, xeroxing multiple copies and stuffing the envelopes.

Linda and I locked the door behind Fred and got to work. We looked, incredulously, at the winners in all of the categories and wrote up the summary in short order. Linda then went out, made the copies and returned to the office in short order.

When Linda and I finished, we sat down and just sat down and stared at each other. Beyond the Hugo Award administrators, we were the only people on the planet who knew who was going to win a Hugo that night. We were full of nervous energy and literally nowhere to go. Although Fred didn’t explicitly say so, we both felt as though we were going to be in the office until the end of the Ceremony.

After a while, I suggested we open the door for a little while so we wouldn’t feel so confined and Linda agreed.

The Press Office was located on one of the main hallways to the auditorium where the Hugo Ceremony. When I opened the door, there was a steady stream of people headed in that direction.

And then, something very improbable happened. As I was watching the crowd streaming by, I saw a very familiar face.

During the course of the convention, I made a lot of new friends, including one Glen David Brin, electrical engineer, astronomer and one of the emerging acclaimed authors of hard science fiction. His second novel in the Uplift series, Startide Rising, had already won the Nebula and Locus Awards for Best Novel and was heavily favored to win the Hugo as well.

Check that; it was GOING TO WIN THE HUGO AWARD that evening.

Once he saw Linda and I standing in the doorway, he made a beeline straight to us. Linda had never met him before and once he got close enough to read his con badge, her eyes got a bit wider and she looked as though she was going to go into shock.

“Hey Chris, good to see you! I’m on my way in right now. Are you guys coming too?”

I quickly explained that we had to watch the Press Office and that we might catch up with him later.

“That’s fantastic! Boy, I can’t tell you how excited I am about tonight. Wish me luck, huh?”

Both Linda and I sagely nodded and wished him well. With that, David Brin fairly bounded down the hall to his destiny.

When he was out of sight, both Linda and I looked at each other, went into the office and locked the door. We laughed hysterically for a minute just to throw off our nervousness. We stayed there until Fred came knocking on the door later.

So, your office may be asked to take custody of copies of the results before the Hugo Ceremony, to be embargoed and distributed to the press afterwards. Needless to say, it is vital that you, as the head of the Press Office, take full responsibility to keep the results safely under wraps.

They should be held strictly on a need-to-know basis: and you, personally, don’t need to know. As someone who has been privy to those results (on several RARE occasions) I cannot tell you how nerve-racking it is to walk around with that knowledge rattling around your noggin.

If you are offered the opportunity to know in advance, my advice to you is to try and avoid that situation or turn it down altogether.

DON’T DO IT! Enough Said…

3) The One Where I Took Over the Worldcon Press Office on Six Days Notice AND The Infamous Neil Gaiman and Rebecca Eckler Incidents (Torcon 3, 2003)

Another important thing to remember is that you cannot do this job alone. If you are lucky, as I have been over the many years, to have a number of trusted associates working closely with you at your convention, your chances of succeeding are quite good.

In 2003, the Toronto Worldcon (Torcon 3) faced a big crisis; it turned out that the person they had appointed to run their Press Relations office had done absolutely nothing regarding press contacts or registration in advance of the convention. Once I found out about the situation, I and my wife at the time, Naomi, volunteered to take over. I had headed up the Press Office previously at LoneStarCon II in 1997 on very short notice and I had a pretty good idea of how to set up an office in a hurry.

I immediately started calling and emailing all of the local media outlets to let them know that there would be a Press Office to help them with any of their inquiries. I also put a call out for volunteers on the Torcon 3 website and asked a few people in fandom I knew who could handle the job.

By the time we arrived in Toronto, I had done as much preparation as I could and hoped for the best.

One of the best examples of having the right person at exactly the right time came on the very first morning of the convention.

Anne Pinzow was a walk-on to the Press Office. She was (and still is, to the best of my knowledge) a writer and editor for a local New England newspaper and volunteered to help out at the convention as a change of pace. Needless to say, her skills and experience were put to the test almost immediately…

On the morning of the second day of Torcon III, our morning staff meeting was rocked by a headline in the Arts Section of the Toronto Star. Hugo Award Winning Fan Writer and Fan Editor Cheryl Morgan (who also served on the Press Room staff) chronicled what happened next and published her account in her fanzine, Emerald City (http://www.emcit.com/emcit097.shtml#Wheels):

The first major embarrassment that we suffered was on Thursday morning when an article appeared in The Star, a local newspaper, announcing that Neil Gaiman had won a Hugo for “Coraline”. This sounded terribly like a leak from the convention, but although we often give out the results under an embargo just before the ceremony, there was no way that the paper could have gotten word of the results that early. So we phoned them.

Here I must give credit to my colleague, Anne Pinzow, who handled the call, firstly for her patience in working through The Star’s automated call handling system, and secondly for the magnificent way in which she laid the law down. A Hugo, she explained, can make or break an author’s career. Winning it can be worth millions of dollars. And by suggesting that the results were known beforehand The Star was casting doubt on the validity and integrity of the voting process, and therefore on the awards themselves. It was a wonderful performance.

As it turned out, however, the editor in question was already duly contrite. Murray Whyte, the journalist who had interviewed Neil and written the piece in question had already phoned up and complained bitterly about his article being butchered. It turned out that what had happened was that an enthusiastic sub-editor had not understood the difference between being nominated and winning, and had “sexed-up” the article to make it sound better. There were red faces all round at The Star. They printed an apology on page 2 on Friday, and on Sunday they devoted half of page 2 to a report of the Hugos.

So, an utter disaster was averted, but just barely. And thankfully, Neil Gaiman, being a prince among writers, was a good sport about the imbroglio and did not hold up the scurrilous headline above his head as Harry Truman had infamously done back in 1948 (“DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN”) after winning the Hugo award for Coraline.

On the day of the Hugo Awards Ceremonies, I received a phone call from a reporter named Rebecca Eckler, a “lifestyle” writer from the National Post. She wanted a press pass plus one to attend the Hugo Awards. When I asked for the name of the other person she replied “Gollum” (which should have set off an alarm bell right then and there).

I told her that I would be in the press office with the badges and gave her instructions on how to find me. I had decided to skip going to the Hugo Awards and stay in the office to distribute the results of the Hugo Awards (with the stipulation that they were to be embargoed until the end of the ceremony) via individual email to newspapers and other media outlets. I released the staff to attend without any instructions other than seeing that any journalists were properly seated in a designated area.

In hindsight, those were not the best decisions. Here’s why:

Rebecca Eckler never showed up at the Press Office as she had promised. She and her companion turned up at the Hugo Awards pre-ceremony reception unannounced and were refused entry. Ms. Eckler, who was well along in her pregnancy at the time, decided to make a fuss at the entrance of reception, citing that she was a journalist and entitled to be admitted. None of my staff were there to ameliorate the situation or to alert me to Ms. Eckler’s presence.

When it came time for the nominees and their guests to be escorted into the hall at the beginning of the Hugo Ceremony, Ms. Eckler and her companion joined the line and were seated with the nominees! According to reports I heard afterwards (and her account that was eventually published in the National Post the next day), she eventually became bored and the two of them left before the end of the ceremonies.

The bottom line is that I, or someone on my staff, should have been present at the reception and at the Hugo Awards ceremony to mitigate what happened. While there was a high likelihood that a negative story about Torcon III could have been prevented, some prompt action could have stopped her disruptive behavior.

As a reminder of what happened, I kept Ms. Eckler’s press pass after all this time, pictured below:

Torcon 3 press badge. Photo by Chris M. Barkley.

There are several things that you, as the head of the press relations for your convention, should remember:

  • You are responsible for what happens on your watch, whether it’s your fault or not.
  • Someone with authority must be present at ALL of the important public events and functions of the convention.

4) The One Where I Won a Kentucky Derby Bet, ROYALLY PISSED OFF J. K. Rowling, Her Publisher and Solicitors, But Lived To Tell About It. Barely. (Interaction, 2005)

J. K. Rowling. Photo by TheLeakyCauldron.org

When I was attending Noreascon IV in Boston, I was asked by Vincent Docherty, one of the organizers of Interaction (the 63rd Worldcon) whether I would be interested in helping run the Interaction Press Office. Vincent, and apparently others on the convention committee, were very impressed with how I handled the office at Torcon III.

(Also, although my memory may be a bit fuzzy on the details; back in 1995, I had heard secondhand that that year’s Scottish Worldcon, Intersection, had no Press Office. And foolishly (if it’s true), had not allowed any reporters to cover the convention at all. Naturally, at the time, I assumed that they did not want a repeat of that situation. I tried to find any mention of this online but I was unable to confirm whether this actually happened or not. In any event, I am quite sure that someone reading this will either acknowledge as a fact or take great pleasure in correcting me at length that this is some sort of fever dream fairy tale. And so it goes.)

In any event, I accepted the position of being a deputy to a very nice fellow named David Stewart. Little did he know what sort of trouble I was going to cause for him…

One of the first things I did after accepting was to send in my paperwork for my first passport ever, which was issued out of the State Department’s New Orleans processing facility. (It holds a special place in my heart because I received it before Hurricane Katrina devastated the area in late August of that year. It has since expired but I still carry it with me as an alternate photo ID.)

But here’s how the 2005 Kentucky Derby factored into what happened:

That spring, I started making plans in earnest to make the trip to Scotland, which would have been my very first trip outside of North America. I was working a steady job back then but I wasn’t able to save up enough for airfare and expenses. But as March melded into April, I was still far short of what I needed to go.

When the first of May rolled around, I had a crazy idea; I could get enough cash for the trip by achieving a big win at the Kentucky Derby. It was a family affair; my then wife, my daughter, Laura and I ambled over the Lebanon Raceway just east of where we were living to enjoy the day.

About a half an hour before the race, we started making our selections. Naomi and Laura made several relatively small bets on the three of the favorites, Alex Afleet, Wilko and Bellamy Road. I had allocated fifty dollars for myself and spread out most of it on other horses. When I was down to my last ten dollars, my gaze fell upon a 50-1 shot, a horse named Giacamo. (And, unbeknownst to me at the time, had finished fourth in the Santa Anita Derby in his previous start.) I sighed, went with my gut and placed the bet. 

You can imagine dead reader, my utter astonishment when Giacamo, in 18th place after three-quarters of a mile, made a jaw dropping move to make up ground while moving six wide around the backstretch turn. He then turned up the jets, closed on and muscled past the leaders and WON by half a length!

I was speechless! I now had at least enough for my airfare and all I had to worry about was saving up for food, transport and lodging. Things were finally looking up. What could possibly go wrong now?

Until, that is, things went terribly wrong.

About a week or so before the Derby, I was feeling a little perturbed towards J. K. Rowling. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was due to be published in July of that year. At that point in time, Ms. Rowling, who won a 2001 Hugo Award for Best Novel for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, had NEVER publicly acknowledged winning it. I couldn’t even find it even mentioned on any US copy of the paperback edition.

So, being the volatile, hotheaded type fan that I was back then, I was determined to do something about it.

Since this was before the advent of Twitter and Facebook, I wrote an actual, physical letter to Ms. Rowling, lamenting the fact that there was no mention of the Hugo Award on The Goblet of Fire. I also pointed out that the World Science Fiction Convention was being held in Glasgow, just a stone throw away (relatively speaking) from Edinburgh and it would be awfully nice if she were to send the convention some sort of greeting.

Somewhere, there is a copy of that letter sitting in the files of Scholastic Books.

And at Bloomsbury’s headquarters in the United Kingdom.

And her solicitors in London.

And her literary agent in London.

Because I wanted to be SURE that my letter would make it past her gatekeepers, mind you.

Well, kids, my message got through all right. And the gatekeepers were not pleased.

NOT.ONE. BIT.

So a week or so after my triumph at Lebanon Raceway, I received several anxious emails from David Stewart and members of the convention committee, demanding an explanation of my actions.

You see, dear reader, I sent those letters signed with my name along with my official designation as the Deputy Head of the Intersection Press Office, a HUGE faux pas that tied my perceived diatribe with the convention itself!

Needless to say the letter made everyone angry (especially the solicitors, I was told) that some cheeky Yank was telling them what they ought to do.

Once I gauged the gravity of what was going on, I felt I had no choice whatsoever but to offer my resignation from the Press Office. My would-be boss David had a different and slightly sardonic reaction. He still wanted me to work in the office. Because, as I remember him writing in an email, “You mean he doesn’t have to work but I still have to deal with this? That’s not very fair, is it?” (I am sorry to report that David Stewart and I never had a chance to meet in person; he died after a short illness in 2006. I definitely owed him a pint or two. Ad Astra, David…)

Alas, things also unraveled at home as well; I was laid off from my job, my wife moved out to go the graduate school at the University of Dayton and the five hundred dollars was quickly consumed by bills. So I had to stay home that summer, much to my chagrin.

During all of this turmoil, I never heard (either directly or indirectly) about any reaction from Ms. Rowling herself. And yes, In hindsight, I think everyone would have been better off if I had just signed my name but I doubt that it would have had the same impact if I had not.

Because two things happened in the wake of this international incident; in July, J.K. Rowling did issue a brief statement welcoming the World Science Fiction convention to Glasgow and the next year, the designation “Hugo Award Winning Novel” started appearing on the paperback edition of The Goblet of Fire.

So, for what it’s worth, I am quite satisfied with that…

5) The One With Michael Chabon (Denvention 3, 2008)

Michael Chabon, circa 2008. Photo via Getty Images for Esquire

In 2008, I was back in the Captain’s chair of the Press Office and I was hoping for a nice, quiet convention with very few annoyances or controversies.

And for a majority of the Denvention, my wish was granted.

On the day before the Hugo Awards Ceremony, I received a call from a producer from National Public Radio’s Weekend All Things Considered (whose name is lost to history). He wanted to know if I could arrange an interview with the winner of the Best Novel category with their then current host, Andrea Seabrook.

Checking the programming schedule, I told the producer that four of the five nominees for Best Novel, John Scalzi (The Last Colony), Ian MacDonald (Brasyl), Charles Stross (Halting State) and Robert J. Sawyer (Rollback) were there. The ONLY author who was absent was Michael Chabon, whose World War II alternate history epic, The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, was a heavy favorite to win. (Historical note: by the time of Denvention 3, it had already won the Nebula Award, the Locus Award, the Sidewise Award and the California Book Award Gold Medal AND had been shortlisted for the Edgar (from the Mystery Writers of America) and the British Science Fiction Association award. 

I told the producer that I would contact all of the nominees, including Michael Chabon, and have them contact NPR directly after the Hugo Awards Ceremony.

Consulting the sprocket program, I spent some time out of the office Friday afternoon tracking down Scalzi, Sawyer and MacDonald and they all readily agreed to be on the air if (or when) they won.

Charlie Stross was the only one I couldn’t find that day. I looked up any contact information I could scrounge up on Chabon’s whereabouts online but I came up empty. I left several messages with HarperCollins in New York and sent an email to his agent and hoped someone would get the message by the next day.

I was feeling quite chuffed that NPR, a network that I had been an ardent fanboy of since 1973 was taking some serious interest in the Worldcon. I told any friend or acquaintance who wandered by the office that I was setting up this fabulous interview with NPR that day.

That evening, I was at a bid party, minding my own business and enjoying myself when a very good friend (who shall remain nameless for reasons that will become very obvious) came in, spotted me, grabbed me by the arm and literally dragged me into a nearby vacant bathroom and closed and locked the door.

When I asked them what that was all about, they explained in a very excited tone that they had heard about the impending NPR interview and wanted to help. And before I could ask what sort of help, they blurted out that Michael Chabon was going to win Best Novel!

Now at that point in time I was a little crestfallen because I fervently try NOT to know who will win any of the Hugo Awards in advance but it seems as though every time I have tried to evade knowing, I’m cursed to find out. (I am truly grateful that they didn’t spill the beans about the rest of the rest of the categories, though.)

I thanked my “confidential source” and we returned to the party before anyone ( I had hoped) noticed that the two of us were conferring in a locked bathroom. 

So now, even though I knew who was going to win Best Novel, I still had to contact Charlie Stross and Michael Chabon, just in case any of the nominees caught up with each other and compared notes at some later date.

I finally caught up with Mr. Stross Saturday morning and imparted NPR’s request, feeling very badly about playing my part in this elaborate charade. That afternoon I finally heard back from Michael Chabon’s publicist, who informed me that he and his family were vacationing in Maine that weekend. I gave him the NPR producer’s contact information and told him to expect an announcement on who won later that evening.

After the ceremony, I sent the publicist an email with an official list of the Hugo Award results and hoped for the best.

I needn’t have worried so much. And the Sunday Weekend Edition featured the following interview with Michael Chabon: “Science Fiction Writing’s ‘Pulitzers’ Handed Out”

Here is the most pertinent slice of this interview:

SEABROOK: Can I ask you, what do you think of other work that’s going on in science fiction right now? Do you read science fiction?

Mr. CHABON: Yes I do. I still read science fiction, and I see all kinds of diversity. I think – I find a very intense ongoing kind of intellectual and aesthetic debate in the world of science fiction. The people who are reading it and the people who are writing it seem to me to be engaged in an ongoing conversation about the fiction that they love on a level that I think is enviable, that would be a credit to the world of mainstream fiction.

6) The One About George R.R. Martin (Chicon 7, 2012)

George R.R. Martin circa 2012, Photo by Nick Briggs/HBO

Chicon 7 was decidedly challenging for Juli and I on many fronts. For one, the Press Office was nowhere near the Information Desk or Registration; it was located near one of the main auditorium stages and a cluster of meeting rooms being used for panels. I had requested a meeting room for office space but was really disappointed when I found out that the “office” was actually a coat check booth. Fortunately, there was a small furnished room adjacent to the booth that was more than adequate to serve as the main interview room.

My partner Juli and I arrived without anyone else set to staff the office so we were trusting that we were going to attract some good volunteers out of the Gopher Hole. We were rewarded twice over when local Chicago fans Belma Torres and Dan Berger reported for duty. They were fantastic in the office and handled themselves very well during the convention. (Belma eventually moved to Australia a few years ago and subsequently got married there, Dan, his wife Terry and his two sons Alec and Ryan remain good friends with us to this day.)

We made do with the coat room as a base of operations and the Information Desk sent us a steady stream of registered and walk up journalists to cover Chicon 7.

Our one big hiccup occurred on the first day when several people from Logistics came by with several hand carts and requested that we surrender all the furniture in our interview room so it could be used on stage for several bits that had been planned for Opening Ceremonies.

Since the stage was not very far away from the office, I readily agreed. But I made them swear on a stack of fanzines that they would return the large couch and the three easy chairs as soon as the event was over because we needed it for several big interviews, among them a sit down with George R.R. Martin that was scheduled for the next day.

As the day progressed and Opening Ceremonies started, I began to feel a little uneasy about the arrangement. At one point I strolled over to the hall where it was under way and saw people lounging and having a good time with the audience. That was the last time I would see our furniture for the next 20 hours.

Because two hours after the Opening Ceremonies, our furniture had not been returned to us. I sent Dan Berger out to the Logistics to find out what happened. He returned a short while later and reported that no one in Logistics had any idea of what he was talking about.

Livid, I went to Logistics and demanded, in an usually loud voice, that we REALLY needed to find our goddamn furniture, immediately! The poor woman manning the desk promised to look into it and I fumed all the way back to the Press Room.

By the end of the day, the furniture had not been returned.

When we opened the office the next morning, there was STILL no furniture.

That’s when I decided we were going full vigilante on this situation.

Leaving Dan in charge of the office, Juli, I and another volunteer went to Logistics, borrowed several handcarts and started canvassing the convention hall rooms and hallways to find our furniture. We didn’t have to search long.

After checking the hallways and the Exhibits display, Juli spotted our couch in the Fan Lounge. Very quickly afterwards, we found the other lounge chairs nearby. We quickly loaded everything up and trucked it all back to the Press Office, just an hour before the start of George R.R. Martin’s interview.

The moral of the story is quite clear; if you loan out ANYTHING at a Worldcon, get it in writing and keep close track of it until it’s returned.

By the way, the Press Office staff returned the hand carts promptly to Logistics, because that’s how we roll…

7) The One With The VERY SAD Puppy (Sasquan, 2015)

Brad Foster’s Sasquan logo.

Sasquan was a very strange, tense and ultimately uplifting affair from start to finish.

The original co-Chair of the convention, Bobbie DuFault, died suddenly on the morning of September 14, 2013. Sally Woehrle, the other co-chair, took over in her stead. In hindsight, it was a portent of the terrible events that followed in the wake of this terrible news…

An arch conservative author, Lou Antonelli, made a scurrilous and false police report to the Spokane Police Department, claiming that Author Guest of Honor and Hugo Award Ceremony co-host David Gerrold was “insane and a public danger and needs to be watched when the convention is going on”.

On August 11th, 2015, the following message was posted on the Sasquan Facebook Page:

“The Executive Committee of Sasquan, the 73rd World Science Fiction Convention, would like to address the matter of actions taken by Mr. Lou Antonelli with regards to one of our Guests of Honor, Mr. David Gerrold. On August 1st, Mr. Antonelli participated in a podcast in which he stated that he had written a letter to the Spokane Police Department, in which he stated to them that Mr. Gerrold was “insane and a public danger and needs to be watched when the convention is going on”.

Normally, online communications between members is not something in Sasquan’s purview to referee.  However, Mr. Antonelli’s letter, which requested police action against Mr. Gerrold during the time of the convention, is within our purview. As such, we found that there was a strong possibility this act was a violation of our posted harassment policy[1], particularly if the letter had, in fact, been sent.’

Well, a long story shortened…

‘However, after the recommendation was made, Mr. Gerrold, as the aggrieved party, specifically requested that the Executive Committee set aside this recommendation on the grounds that Mr. Antonelli did apologize, is sending a retraction to the Spokane Police Department and because, as a Hugo Nominee, he deserves to attend the ceremony.

The Executive Committee has chosen to accept Mr. Gerrold’s request, and considers the matter closed as of this time. Ms. Bourget has spoken and corresponded with the Spokane Police Department, and they also consider the matter closed. We would like to thank Ms. Bourget for the calm professionalism she lent to the proceedings, and Mr. Antonelli and Mr. Gerrold for coming to a settlement that benefits not just them, but the Worldcon and its members.”

There were lots of right wing, racist and sexist authors who had themselves slated onto the nomination ballot and a majority of fans who regularly vote on and or attend the Worldcon were in no mood for such shenanigans. In response to the Puppies chicanery, an incredible number of people joined the convention; an astounding 5,748 fans bought Supporting memberships (ostensibly to outvote the Puppy coalition), bringing the total number to a whopping 10,350 total members.

But now, small, brief, editorial aside:

(RANT/ON)

Here’s the thing, as far as I’m concerned; the Sad/Angry/Rabid Puppy affair accomplished nothing for the usurpers who wanted to disrupt and/or destroy the Hugo Awards. Looking back over the past eight years it is quite evident that they utterly failed in style, substance and in an overall way, had very little significant societal impact. There has always been some generational tension between fans, editors, writers and artists in fandom. But in the days before social media, it played out more like a slow motion riot with the participants trading shots through frequently published fanzines or in person at conventions (with and without fisticuffs in some cases).

These reactionaries wanted to stop something that has always been inevitable in literature, change. When these elements of the so-called conservative end of sf fandom thought that their brand of warping spaceships, alien wars and far flung empires were being ignored by the Hugo Awards electorate, they decided to cheat by nominating slates with their own nominees. But by doing so, they just mobilized and galvanized what was already happening, that women, people of color, indigeonous peoples from all of the world and the LGBTAQ community and other marginalized folks were becoming the emerging voices of this generation. The Puppies were driven by the fear of being replaced or, even worse, erased from our collective history. Their fears were expressed in some very unflattering ways; racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia and a decided lack of empathy for people who pushed back against their narrative.

Those of us who were actively opposing them, were portrayed as being out of control radicals, unpatriotic, socialists and traitors. It became so turbulent that even the mere mention or promotion of a disenfranchised person was labeled as racist by them. And while they promoted themselves with a great amount of hubris as the tree and roots of modern sf fandom and literature, in fact they are just merely a branch of a much larger tree. To this day, they remain so dogmatic about their own importance, their false sense of privilege and so devoted to their own myopic point of view that they still don’t realize that they have done themselves and fandom as a whole, a great disservice by acting like an unruly mob without any sense decency or of cognitive dissonance. And yes, they did manage to make a big fuss and draw some attention to themselves but in the long run, their actions will be judged by history to be abhorrent.

If anyone wants to read a fairly comprehensive history of what went down may do so here: The Puppy Kerfuffle Timeline at Camestros Felapton.

(RANT/OFF)

And, if that weren’t enough, a series of forest fires completely surrounded the city, enshrouding the entire region in a haze of smoke and ash and casting the convention into something akin to a hellish, eco-disaster film.

Juli and I were called in to head up the Press Office in emergency mode (again) because the convention’s original choice had to drop out for personal reasons. Although this time, unlike many of the other times, we had a full six weeks notice to get the office up and operational.

In addition to all of this, I got personally involved. I stepped up and volunteered to be a Hugo Award acceptor for Analog author Rajnar Vajra whose slyly aware John W. Campbell-ish pastiche, “The Triple Sun: A Golden Age Tale” (published in Analog, 07/08-2014), had been slated onto the Hugo ballot by both the Sad and Rabid Puppy groups..

I made Mr. Vajar’s acquaintance in April 2015, right after the nominations were announced. He had posted on sf/horror writer Adam-Troy Castro’s Facebook page, vehemently condemning both camps and I quoted him (with his permission) in a File 770 column. I also offhandedly offered to pick up his Hugo and deliver his acceptance speech, too.

You can imagine how flabbergasted I was when Mr. Vajra emailed me in July asking if I would do exactly that. In a File 770 post soon after, I wrote:

Several months ago, after the nominations came out, I made the acquaintance of Rajnar Vajra, author of the Hugo nominated novelette, The Triple Sun: A Golden Age Story. Although nominated on the Sad/Rabid Puppy slate, he has vehemently disassociated himself from them. When other nominees dropped out of the Hugo Awards race, he bravely stayed in, because he believed in his story and vacating the nomination slot may have given the ballot yet another puppy candidate.  

I half jokingly told Rajnar that I would be happy to accept the Hugo Award on his behalf if it became necessary. He laughed it off at the time but a month ago, he found out that he could not attend. I was slightly aghast when he emailed me but I accepted because I knew what he had in mind.

I believe that Rajnar’s only loyalty is to his craft and to his readers. In his absence, he chose a person of color to represent him at the Hugo Ceremony as a pointed reminder of fandom’s diversity. Mr. Vajra has emailed his eloquent acceptance speech and if needed, I will proudly deliver it verbatim.

When Juli and I arrived at the Press Office, we were ably assisted by a well known Seattle fan, Margaret Organ-Kean, who agreed to serve as the Deputy Press Officer. I cannot begin to tell you how gracious and helpful she was in the office, especially during my prolonged absences because of my obligations to attend the Business Meeting and the Hugo Award Ceremonies.

On that Saturday afternoon, a very peculiar thing happened.

I was standing near the entrance of the Press Office when a middle aged man entered the office. He was white, middle-aged and looked as though he might need some help.

“Hello, how can I help you?”, I said in a pleasant voice.

He just stared at me.

I waited. He kept staring.

After about 20 seconds, I gave up, went back to my desk and sat down to keep an eye on him.

My partner Juli, who is white, witnessed this and decided to make a run at him while I watched warily from a distance.

He immediately perked up and said that he was looking for a reporter to give an interview. When Juli inquired why, he said that he was a John W. Campbell Award nominee for Best New Writer. (I am not identifying the writer because I don’t want to give this person any more publicity than he deserves. His fifteen minutes in the limelight has expired.)

Since this fellow was definitely NOT Wesley Chu, it verified my gut feeling that this guy was part of the Puppy delegation.

In overhearing some of his remarks to Juli, it was fairly evident that while he knew the Campbell Award was somewhat prestigious, he had no fucking idea who he was, his place his in the history of sf literature or, most importantly, what he stood for politically or on social issues.

The most amusing part of the conversation happened when Juli asked him about “The Tiara”.

His eyes blinked with confusion. “Tiara? What about a Tiara? I don’t know anything about that.”

“Well,” Juli said with some enthusiasm, “if you win, you get to wear the Ceremonial Tiara that comes with the Campbell Award.”

(For those of you who may have forgotten, The Ceremonial JWC Tiara was created in 2005 by the late sf writer Jay Lake and author Elizabeth Bear and, until recently, was handed down from winner to winner. Among the distinguished alumni who have proudly worn it have been DisCon III Chair Mary Robinette Kowal, Caribbean-American fantasy author David Anthony Durham and one John Scalzi, a frequent target and perceived arch-enemy of the Puppy crowd.)

“Uh, are you kidding?”

“Oh no,it’s a real thing. And you have to wear it if you win.”

I swear, his face actually blanched when he heard that he might actually be required to wear such an item on his precious, masculine head.

“No, no, no, I can’t do THAT!” he insisted. Juli turned her head slightly and could see the look of approval on my face. I winked.

But, no matter what his own political views, I had no objection to helping him. Our role in the Press Office is to provide journalists the opportunity to talk to and write about what was happening at Sasquan and that included any Puppy who wanted to talk to the media.

He left soon afterwards after Juli took his name and cell phone number and had promised to call if any reporter wanted to talk to him. Eventually, we arranged for him to talk to someone. I think it was Wired magazine, but I could be misremembering exactly who did. In any event, it’s lost to the mists of history as far as I’m concerned.

At the Hugo Awards Ceremony, the Puppies slate of nominees went unrewarded (including, unfortunately, Mr. Vajra, who finished third behind No Award). The only tangential thing they could claim as a victory was the Best Dramatic Presentation-Long Form win for Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, which was a HUGE consensus winner among all of the voters.

There was some good news that evening; for the first time ever, translated fiction won Hugos: The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu (translated by Ken Liu) in the novel category and the novelette “The Day The World Turned Upside Down” by Thomas Olde Heuvelt (translated by Lia Belt). Marvel Comics’s first volume of Ms. Marvel (written by G. Willow Wilson, illustrated by Adrian Alphona and Jake Wyatt), the feminist minded sf thriller Orphan Black (“By Means Which Have Never Been Tried” by Graeme Manson and John Fawcett) and the aforementioned Wesley Chu won the Campbell Award (which was recently re-christened the Astounding Award for Best New Writer).

The Hugo Award results were delivered to the office AFTER the Ceremony for distribution to the press at my expressed request.

The cherry on top of all of these proceedings came at Closing Ceremonies, where I was presented with a Hero of Sasquan medal for taking over the Press Office on short notice.

When I accepted before a standing room only crowd, I told them that I was not the only person in the Press Office; I was only as good as the team of people I was working with. I profusely thanked them for all of their hard work and dedication.

Then I praised the person I called the TRUE MVP of the Press Office, my partner Juli. I held up a black stainless steel ring she had given me for my birthday. The interior of the ring has an inscription that is a quote from Amy Pond (a Doctor Who companion) to her husband, Rory; “I Love Your Stupid Face”.

I told the crowd what the inscription said and they laughed and cheered. And then I shouted, “I LOVE YOU, JULI MARR!!!!!” and the crowd went crazy!

When I returned to my seat, I asked Juli whether or not she had gotten any pictures of my speech.

“I’m sorry’, she said, “I was too stunned to take any.” I smiled and gave her a kiss.

Mission Accomplished.

I STILL LOVE YOU JULI MARR!!!!!

Sasquan medal and ring. Photo by Chris M. Barkley.

Download Chris Barkley’s Fantasy & Science Fiction Media Relations – Press Room Guide here:

John Harris DisCon III Artist Guest of Honor’s Artwork Will Be Exhibited at Event

John Harris

John Harris, who was added as DisCon III’s Artist GoH in May 2020, will not be attending the convention in person due to its change in date from August to December. His artwork will be on display at the convention.

Alison Eldred, Artists’ Agent for Harris, shared the following statement.

John was delighted when he was asked to be the professional artist Guest of Honour at DisCon III, this year’s Worldcon in Washington DC. All credit to the organisers who have now restaged this for December this year – and this will be on their programme cover.

It’s unfortunate that he isn’t able to be there in person, but we have many plans to send work, to illustrate the programme, and to introduce his paintings, sketches and short films to people who don’t already know them.

“While we are sad that John Harris will be unable to join us in Washington, DC in person, we are beyond excited to have his extraordinary talent showcased on the cover of our program,” said Mary Robinette Kowal, Chair of DisCon III. “The way John makes pastels dance is just a delight. There’s such depth and nuance in his relationship with light and form.”

“All Worldcon Art shows are a one-time unique gallery, and while disappointed that John cannot join us in person, we are thrilled to display his art for all the fans to see,” said Randall Shepherd, Exhibits Division Head of DisCon III.

For more than 40 years, John Harris has created book covers for many of the most iconic authors in SF, such as Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Frederik Pohl, and Orson Scott Card. His work is collected internationally, and a piece commissioned by NASA hangs in the Kennedy Space Center and is part of the Smithsonian Collection. In 2015, he won the Chesley Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement.

He was also nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Professional Artist in 2014. 

Three films about him have recently been completed and can be viewed online. The latest book about his work, Beyond the Horizon, is currently in its second edition.

DisCon III will be held at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, DC, on December 15-19, 2021.

[Based on a press release.]

Looking Ahead to 2023 Site Selection

Three groups are bidding to host the 2023 con — Chengdu, China, Memphis, USA, and Winnipeg, Canada – and DisCon III’s Newsletter Issue 2 distributed in early September noted the Advance Supporting Membership rate will be announced no later than when the Site Selection Ballot is released to the public. File 770 inquired when that will happen.

Site Selection Administrator Tim Szczesuil says, “The Tech Division is developing the online payment system for the Site Selection Voting Fee. We hope to have it available shortly. As soon as the payment process is complete we’ll release the Site Selection ballot.”

Best SF/F Games of 2021? Insert Disc Here

By N: With the DisCon III Business Meeting being held in December, that means we won’t know until then the latest status of the proposed Best Video Game category that was referred to the Hugo Awards Study Committee. Just in case it’s repeated as a special category by next year’s Worldcon, considering the time investment some games demand, I’ve set up a spreadsheet (styled after Lady Business’ Spreadsheet of Doom) as a way for nominators to catalogue and keep track of their favorite eligible games of the year, so there’s little rushing through last year’s games in 2022. From AAA to indie, anything goes as long as it’s SF/F.

I’ve christened this ship by adding some acclaimed games that came out in 2021, from the big blockbuster releases…

…to the hotly anticipated games that met expectations…


…to indie games that gained fans through their creativity and innovation.

Edits are open to any and everyone. Feel free to add what I missed!

Here’s the link: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1AQ4DtTa5EWEAGoz028qVGDtXdhMQcMZtkkLUOFZIvDQ/edit?usp=sharing

Raks Geek to Headline DisCon III Closing Ceremonies

Raks Geek cast. Photo credit Braden Nesin

Raks Geek will headline the closing ceremonies of  DisCon III in Washington, DC., on the evening of December 19, 2021.

Raks Geek is the premiere bellydance, flow arts, and fire company by geeks for geeks. They are committed to blending a high degree of artistic and technical mastery with fun, creativity, and their favorite themes from nerd culture. 

The dancers and fire-spinners have performed everywhere from Germany to Argentina and dance for hundreds of people every week. The members of Raks Geek are lifelong geeks who bring a love and expertise in science fiction, video games, technology, research science, and comics. 

Raks Geek was featured on UK Channel 4 TV’s “50 Funniest Moments of the Year” and listed as a Timeout Chicago Critics’ Pick. They are based in Chicago, Illinois, but have made waves nationally and internationally on MSN, WGN-TV, The Daily Mail, WCIU, and the Chicago Tribune.

“I have loved science fiction ever since being handed Isaac Asimov books in elementary school,” said Dawn Xiana Moon, founder/director of Raks Geek. “Each of our performers is stunning on their own: They’ve won Hugo Awards, they’ve toured Europe, they’ve appeared on international TV.” (Troupe member Michi Trota has won multiple Hugo Awards.)

“The first time I saw Raks Geek, I fell in love with their work. Dawn’s work as an entertainer and director brings such a high level of artistry to our closing ceremonies,” said Mary Robinette Kowal, Chair of DisCon III.

Raks Geek: Dawn Xiana Moon. Photo credit Bartek Karas

DisCon III is the third World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon) held in Washington DC, USA. Worldcon is the annual gathering of science fiction and fantasy fans, writers, artists, musicians, and other creators from across the globe. DisCon III will be held at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, DC, on December 15-19, 2021.

Worldcon originally focused on and still has a strong emphasis on science fiction and fantasy literature but has grown to include genre television, movies, animation, games, and other popular media as well. It has truly become the world’s fair of science fiction and fantasy fandom. No other event brings together fans and creators, regardless of genre or medium, under one big tent with the intimacy of Worldcon.

DisCon III is sponsored by the Baltimore-Washington Area Worldcon Association, Inc. (BWAWA, Inc.), a 501(c)3 non-profit organization based in Maryland.

[Based on a press release.]

DisCon III Names Two Vice Chairs

DisCon III has announced Marguerite Smith and Lauren Raye Snow will join the 2021 Worldcon team as Vice Chairs.  

Lauren Raye Snow is a designer, illustrator, and arts activist from South Texas. During the course of her career, she has served as Creative Director for multiple nonprofits and mission-driven campaigns. Snow’s professional website is Raye Draws. She was a Mexicanx Intiative selectee and attended WorldCon 76 in San Jose (August 2018). She wrote the statement presented by the group (quoted below). She also attended Dublin 2019. She is currently Art Director for the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). She will be the first Latinx to serve as a Worldcon Vice Chair.

Marguerite Smith returns to DisCon III in a different capacity after having departed in June as WSFS Deputy Division Head when Nicholas Whyte and the entire Hugo Administration Team resigned

Smith, who volunteered at her first Worldcon, Interaction (Glasgow, 2005) is now part of the Glasgow in 2024 Worldcon bid, hoping to bring the city its third Worldcon. She was on the Valley Forge in 2017 NASfiC bid committee, worked on the Worldcon’s YA Award Study Committee, and received a CanSMOF scholarship to attend SMOFcon 36 (2018). She joined the Dublin 2019 Worldcon team in 2016 as a volunteer, was soon advanced to Deputy Division head and then onto Division Head for Promotions. She served as WSFS Deputy Division Head for ConZealand in 2020. At this year’s Eastercon, Smith was a participant on the “Managing the Crisis” panel about how to manage con-related crises in an age of instantaneous, fast-moving social media.

“We are fortunate to have Marguerite and Lauren as Vice Chairs. Marguerite will be responsible for the mechanical aspects of the convention, such as logistics and back of house operations, and Lauren will focus on the aesthetics and everything in the front of house,” said Mary Robinette Kowal, Chair of DisCon III. “They each bring a unique set of talents and skills that will help make DisCon III a success.”

DisCon III will be held at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, DC, on December 15-19, 2021.

[Includes information from a press release.]

DisCon III Membership Statistics

DisCon III, the 2021 Worldcon, has shared its membership figures, current as of August 27.

ATTENDING 2439
SUPPORTING 1932
VIRTUAL 278
TOTAL 4649

The following table shows membership totals by country.

COUNTRYATTENDINGSUPPORTINGVIRTUALTOTAL
Argentina11
Australia6751293
Austria55
Belgium156
Brazil2327
Canada4914121211
Chile1010
China18211
Croatia22
Denmark2215
Finland938552
France19322
Georgia11
Germany849562
Hong Kong22
Hungary22
India11
Indonesia11
Iraq11
Ireland1732554
Israel10515
Italy2820
Japan6131029
Latvia11
Luxembourg123
Malaysia11
Mexico112
Netherlands216119
New Zealand222529
Norway35210
Other549
Pakistan11
Poland33
Portugal11
Qatar11
Romania11
Russia33
Serbia11
Singapore11
South Africa22
Spain1517
Sweden922334
Switzerland26210
Thailand11
Turkey11
Ukraine3115
United Arab Emirates11
United Kingdom4118733261
USA223612381643638

USA memberships are listed by state in a second table following the jump.

Membership purchase information is available here.

Continue reading

Best Series Hugo:
Eligible Series from 2021

Junior SJW Credential Napping on SFF Books (c) Can Stock Photo / underworld

By JJ: It’s that time of year again! Even though the number of books published this year – and thus the number of eligible series – is down due to the pandemic, there are still plenty of great series for you to consider… and probably more opportunity than usual for you to get caught up on them.

To assist Hugo nominators, listed below are the series believed to be eligible as of this writing for the 2022 Best Series Hugo next year *†.

Each series name is followed by the main author name(s) and the 2021-published work(s).

Feel free to add missing series and the name of the 2021-eligible work in the comments, and I will get them included in the main post when I’ve verified their eligibility.

Note that previous Hugo Administrators ruled that nominations for a series and one of its subseries will not be combined. Therefore, when nominating a subseries work, think carefully under which series name it should be nominated. If the subseries does not yet meet the 3-volume, 240,000 word count threshold, then the main series name should be nominated. If the subseries does meet that threshold, then the subseries name should probably be nominated. This will ensure that another subseries in the same universe, or the main series itself, would still be eligible next year if this subseries is a finalist this year.

(*) ineligible series are preceded by an asterisk

Read more…

DisCon III Team Announces Covid-19 Policy for December Convention

The 2021 Worldcon committee has notified members that under DisCon III’s COVID Policy they will require proof of completed vaccination, and that masks must be worn at the con. They also have posted a FAQ with more information.

The committee distributed the following release to members and the press:


Worldcon is more than just a convention: it is a community. As such, we all have a duty to protect each other and to protect our friends, families, and peers.This has been true from the very first Worldcon in 1939, and it remains true today.

At DisCon III, we aim to continue this tradition of providing a welcoming, supportive, and safe environment for all members of the science fiction and fantasy community. We have a responsibility to provide and maintain a safe convention experience for everyone from members and volunteers to staff and hotel employees and even to the community at large. We can’t protect from every danger, but we can do our best to protect from infectious conditions that are lessened by effective vaccination programs. 

Our COVID-19 policy is intended to comply with all applicable laws. It is based upon guidance provided by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and created in consultation with epidemiologists who are familiar with conventions and fandom.  We will continue to follow developments, revise the policy as necessary, and communicate any updates or changes with members. Find our COVID-19 FAQ here.

“The health and safety of the Worldcon community is our first concern. We all are yearning to reconnect with each other, to be able to see each other, and gather together because of our passion for the world of science fiction. We need to do it in a way that protects all of us,” said Mary Robinette Kowal, DisCon III Chair. “The Covid-19 policy was created with input from our community and health experts.”

“I was relieved to hear about this policy, since while it would be nice for my kids to be able to attend, it’s far more important to me that I don’t bring anything home with me to my unvaccinated kids,” said Malka Older, one of the M.C.s for the Hugo Award Ceremony.

The following is the current official DisCon III Policy related to preventing the spread of COVID-19: 

1. Mandatory: Proof of Completed Vaccination

To attend any aspect of DisCon III in person, members and guests of DisCon III must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by December 1st with a course of vaccination approved for human use as a COVID vaccine in the country in which the vaccine was received, including authorization for emergency use. Each such person must present proof of vaccination, and attendees over the age of 18 must show a photo identification matching the name shown on the proof of vaccination. There are no exceptions.

2. Mandatory: Masks must be worn.

COVID-19 vaccines are an important tool to help stop the pandemic, but they don’t mean we can stop taking all precautionary measures. Properly worn masks covering nose and mouth are required for all convention members and guests in all convention spaces, except when actively eating or drinking. Failure to comply is a Code of Conduct violation and may be subject to disciplinary action. Clear masks will be provided to facilitate accessibility to panelists, event participants, and certain staff and volunteers in key positions. 

3. Recommended: DC Covid-19 Tracker App 

To help make people aware if a COVID-19 exposure is discovered at the convention, members and guests are encouraged to download and install the DC Covid Tracker app.

4. Refund Policy

Members who cannot or choose not to get vaccinated may request that their current attending membership be converted to a supporting or virtual membership, consistent with the convention’s existing refund policies.

As of this writing, children under 12 are not currently eligible for vaccination. We recognize that children aged 5-11 may become eligible for vaccination prior to the convention, and so we are allowing a full refund for children under 12. Further, we are extending the refund cut-off to December 1 for those children and their families to allow them time to delay their decision in hope that expanded eligibility will permit them to attend. However, due to all of the uncertainties, we are making the difficult decision that DisCon III will not offer on-site childcare. 

We understand some individuals may still have questions about the COVID-19 vaccine. We recommend visiting the CDC’s page Myths and Facts About COVID-19 Vaccines for more information.

Please visit our FAQ if you have any questions about this policy (or contact us at COVID@discon3.org if you have questions not answered by the FAQ).

The DisCon III community wishes that this policy was not necessary, but the safety of our members and volunteers, and the safety of our hotel staff, is our responsibility.  Thank you for understanding why we have felt compelled to make these difficult decisions, and thank you for joining with us to do your part to keep our community and those around us safe.


Mary Robinette Kowal Is New DisCon III Chair

The new DisCon III chair is Mary Robinette Kowal. The announcement came the day after Kowal completed her term as President of SFWA, which ended June 30.

DisCon III started out with two co-chairs, however, Colette Fozard resigned in January and Bill Lawhorn resigned in June. The challenges they had already confronted included the bankruptcy and closure of the hotel they planned to use as their main facility, moving the convention’s dates to December so that it could be an in-person event, removing GoH Toni Weisskopf, and the resignations of two teams of Hugo administrators. Lawhorn’s resignation came as the convention faced a backlash about its policies toward Hugo finalists, discussed below, which he signed off, and are believed to have been behind the departure of the latest Hugo team, although they did not say so explicitly in their announcement.

Kowal has a unique track record of assisting Worldcons through crises, having memorably stepped in to assist changing the 2018 Worldcon program, and to facilitate discussion between 2021 Hugo finalists and the committee over DisCon III’s policies.

The 2018 Worldcon’s program troubles involved such issues as the respect for people’s chosen pronouns (and related concerns about LGBTQAI+ and POC participation); whether new writers were being accepted onto programming (with skepticism fueled by the realization that several newer writers who were Hugo nominees were not on the program); and dissatisfaction with responses by the Worldcon 76 program division. And these questions had led several well-known writers and editors to announce they were dropping off the program to make slots available for those they felt were being shortchanged. Kowal made sure multiple voices were heard, while diplomatically acknowledging “WorldCon is a huge, complicated beast. We know about the mistakes, but there’s also a ton of stuff they’ve done right. I don’t want to throw things out that are working.”

Then, this June, when the Worldcon sent finalists a message about the limit on invitations for the Hugo finalist reception and near-the-stage seating for the ceremony (see item #6 here), without previous discussion or canvassing to learn the amount of demand for them, some finalists discussed what measures they might take in response. Kowal facilitated a June 23 Zoom meeting between several Hugo finalists and representatives of DisCon III that allowed time for the committee to organize a number of changes, including rescinding the limits in the previous message.

As an author, Mary Robinette Kowal is well-known for The Glamourist Histories series, Ghost Talkers, and the Lady Astronaut series. She is part of the award-winning Writing Excuses podcast and has received the Astounding Award for Best New Writer, four Hugo awards, the Nebula and Locus awards. Her Lady Astronaut Universe is a 2021 finalist for the Best Series Hugo, and The Relentless Moon, a book in the series, is a finalist for Best Novel. New WSFS Division Head Linda Deneroff reports she has created the Hugo subcommittee provided in section 3.13 of the WSFS Constitution which makes it possible for others on a Worldcon committee to remain eligible for the award. Therefore, double-Hugo-finalist Kowal’s taking on the role of chair will not create any conflict of interest.

The committee produced an official press release but has not yet sent a copy to File 770. Readers may want to seek it out to see if it has any additional information.