Colbert on Obama on Game of Thrones

By Tom Galloway: Stephen Colbert’s opening on Wednesday night’s Late Show was devoted to mocking President Obama’s self-admitted inability to keep track of the names of all but one character in Game of Thrones, including Obama referring to Tyrion Lannister as “the dwarf.”

Or as Colbert phrased it, “President Obama’s…inability to keep track of conflicts between the bloodthirsty leaders in the unstable region of Westeros.”

Video of the whole episode here with the Obama stuff starting about 1:30 into the show.

The interview where Obama stated this was done by Bill Simmons back on October 5 due to Obama being GQ‘s Man of the Year.

What’s your guiltiest-pleasure TV show? Don’t say Game of Thrones, because that’s a good show.

I do love Game of Thrones.

Which character do you identify with?

My favorite character is probably…the dwarf, what’s his name?

Oh, yeah. Peter Dinklage’s character.

The problem with Game of Thrones, though, is that I don’t remember the names of any of the characters.

I don’t, either.

I remember the characters, so when I watch it, I know exactly what’s going on. But if you read a review of the show afterwards and they’re mentioning such and such, the only one I remember is Jon Snow, because I can pronounce Jon Snow.

Pixel Scroll 10/19 Asterix and the Missing Scroll

(1) The stars came out for White House Astronomy Night.

(2) New interview with Liu Cixin conducted by Yang Yang for China Daily.

When, in a telephone interview, China Daily reminds him of that comment, he replies: “It’s not a joke. Aliens may arrive at any time. When it happens, everything, social and economic reform, educational problems, international conflicts or poverty, will become much less important, compared with the alien crisis.”

Big countries such as China and international organizations such as the United Nations need to be ready for such an eventuality, he says.

“It does not necessarily involve a lot of money and human resources. But we should prepare, in the fields of politics, military, society and so on. The government should organize some people to do related research and preparations for the long term.”

Unfortunately, he says, “no country seems to have done this kind of thing”.

In the postscript for the English version of The Three-Body Problem, translated by Ken Liu, Liu Cixin says: “I’ve always felt that extraterrestrial intelligence will be the greatest source of uncertainty for humanity’s future. Other great shifts, such as and ecological disasters, have a certain progression and built-in adjustment periods, but contact between mankind and aliens can occur at any time. Perhaps in 10,000 years the starry sky that mankind gazes upon will remain empty and silent, but perhaps tomorrow we’ll wake up and find an alien spaceship the size of the Moon parked in orbit. … The appearance of this Other, or mere knowledge of its existence, will impact our civilization in unpredictable ways.”

(3) Bob Byrne’s “The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: Tying in the BBC Sherlock Special” at Black Gate has a lot of good information.

Back in July, what seems to be the most popular ‘The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes’ post appeared here at Black Gate. I looked at what I think went wrong with season three of the BBC’s Sherlock. I included the just-released ninety-second, ‘first look’ video for the upcoming Special, to be aired around Christmas. And I pointed out it seemed to be full of the “Look how clever we are” bits that I lamented in my post.

Now, just about everyone, including myself, loves that the Special is set in Victorian times; unlike the episodes in the first three seasons. Cumberbatch and Freeman would be given their first (and quite likely, only) opportunities to play Holmes and Watson in the Doyle mold. I view it as a chance for the show to get back on track and reclaim the multitude of fans it lost during season three.

(4) Brad Torgersen, in a comment on Kevin Trainor’s blog, now says:

I had multiple conduits for suggestions, and the comments section was just one conduit.

But he doesn’t identify what those sources for the majority of slated Sad Puppy 3 fiction were.

(5) Francis W. Porreto does not approve – “Really Quickies: From The Garbage Heap” at Bastion of Liberty.

If you’d like a gander at “how the other side emotes,” take a look at this post at this hard-to-describe site, particularly the comments that follow commenter “alauda’s” citation of this bit of dark foreboding. These past two days a fair amount of traffic has come here from there.

Note the complete lack of rational analysis. Note the immediate and unconditional willingness to condemn me, as if the scenario I wrote about were something I actually want to happen.

(6) Alyssa Rosenberg, while commenting on “The downside of cultural fragmentation” in the Washington Post, touches on a familiar topic —

Debates over what kinds of books, movies, television shows, comics and video games get awards are often a proxy way of debating what our cultural values ought to be. The alternative slates that attempted to wrest control of Hugo nominations were based on the idea that awards voters had over-prioritized identity politics over the quality of writing and plotting; GamerGate erroneously asserts that there’s a movement afoot to ban or stop the production of video games with certain themes or images. While I don’t agree with the premises of either of those two cultural movements, I do think left cultural criticism has sometimes asserted political litmus tests for art in recent years, and that elements of the right, spurred by the sometime success of this approach, have fallen into the same patterns (for a good example, see the suggestions that the action movie “Mad Max: Fury Road” was anti-male).

(7) After Steve Davidson of Amazing Stories picked apart the Trek-related fanhistory in Kevin Trainor’s post on Wombat Rampant, Dystopic followed with his own critique of what Davidson had to say about Trainor on Declination.

As my readers probably know already, I consider myself somewhere on the Puppy spectrum of the Science Fiction community. There’s quite a bit of difference between the Sad Puppies, who one might call the reformists, and the Rabid Puppies who are mostly of the opinion that Worldcon and the Hugos should be burnt to the ground and set on fire by their own Left-wing, Social Justice proponents.

Either way, though, both camps agree that the existing community is hopelessly corrupt, cliquish, and prone to a particular animus against Conservatives and Libertarians. This prejudice is such that their works are repeatedly voted down from awards, publishers like Tor Books are run by individuals openly hostile to alternate political affiliations, and backroom deals are made to secure nominations for authors based on political backgrounds and special interests.

Steve Davidson of Amazing Stories confirms this for us in a ridiculous post, so loaded up with Strawmen that he might as well be the Scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz. Let’s allow him to hang himself with his own rope, shall we?

(8) Workaholics actor Blake Anderson appears in the Halloween episode of The Simpsons:

“Well, you know, we kind of feel a little disrespected by Homer and we show up at his doorstep basically looking for revenge,” Anderson explains. “So it turns into a full onPanic Room situation, where he’s kind of stuck in the attic and looking for him. We’re out for blood for sure.”

In the vein of the Treehouse episodes, Anderson says this one is not necessarily “piss your pants” scary, but, he assures, “me and Nick Kroll definitely brought our creepy to the table for sure.”

 

(9) Is this a clue to the future of Game of Thrones?

(10) Today’s Birthday Boys

  • October 19, 1903 — Tor Johnson is born Karl Oscar Tore Johansson in Sweden. Especially known for his appearance in Plan 9 From Outer Space, although he had credits in all kinds of things, from the movie musical Carousel to Walter Cronkite’s You Are There nonfiction TV show.
  • October 19, 1945 — John Lithgow is born. Acted in Twilight Zone, Third Rock from the Sun, Buckaroo Banzai

(11) Today’s Birthday Book

Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 is 62 years old today. Phil Nichols explains:

Fahrenheit 451

FAHRENHEIT 451 was deposited for copyright at the Library of Congress on October 19, 1953. Both the first edition hardbound and mass market paperback carry this publication date, although the paperbacks actually reached the market a month earlier.

The McCarthy era’s climate of fear lingered beyond 1953, however; in spite of the book’s initial critical success, the first paperback printing took seven years to sell out.

(12) Diana Pavlac Glyer was very pleasantly surprised to find her forthcoming book Bandersnatch mentioned in a recent Publishers Weekly post, “Exploring C.S. Lewis’s Lasting Popularity – 52 Years After His Death”.

Coming in November, Bandersnatch: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the Creative Collaboration of the Inklings (Kent State University Press) by Diana Pavlac Glyer and James A. Owen shows readers how encouragement and criticism made all the difference in books written by the Inklings. A companion coloring book by Owen is expected next spring.

(13) Learn how to make your pumpkin look like a galaxy nebula.

front-view-galaxy-pumpkin

(14) Io9 says “The Glorious Poster For Star Wars The Force Awakens Has A Giant Planet Killer On It”. Almost needless to say, you can also see the full, high resolution poster there.

(15) This collection of “13 Creepy Bits of Bookish Trivia” at BookRiot lives up to its headline. Here’s one of the tamer entries.

  1. J.M. Barrie, author of Peter Pan, is rumored to have been quite the odd character. However, after his brother died in a skating accident, Barrie would routinely dress up in his dead brother’s clothing in order to ease his mother’s grief. The tragedy of his brother’s death would come to inspire the character of Peter Pan.

(16) Tonight was the Terry Gilliam talk at the Alex Theatre. Crusading photojournalist John King Tarpinian snapped a picture of the marquee.

Terry Gilliam on Alex marquee COMP ph by JKT

(17) Chuck Wendig in “About That Dumb Star Wars Boycott” begins…

Let’s imagine that you are, as you are now, a straight white dude. Except, your world features one significant twist — the SFF pop culture you consume is almost never about you. The faces of the characters do not look like yours. The creators of this media look nothing like you, either. Your experiences are not represented. Your voice? Not there. There exist in these universes no straight white dudes. Okay, maybe one or two. Some thrown in to appease. Sidekicks and bad guys and walk-on parts. Token chips flipped to the center of the table just to make you feel like you get to play, too. Oh, all around you in the real world, you are well-represented. Your family, your friends, the city you live in, the job you work — it’s straight white dude faces up and down the block. But on screen? In books? Inside comic panels and as video game characters? Almost none. Too few. Never the main characters.

It feels isolating, and you say so.

And as a response you’re told, “Hey, take what you get.” They say, can’t you have empathy for someone who doesn’t look like you? Something something humanist, something something equalist. And of course you can have that empathy because you have to, because this is all you know, because the only faces and words and experiences on-screen are someone else’s so, really, what else are you going to do?

Then one day, things start to change. A little, not a lot, but shit, it’s a start — you start to see yourself up there on the screen. Sometimes as a main character. Sometimes behind the words on the page, sometimes behind the camera. A video game avatar here, a protagonist there. And it’s like, WOO HOO, hot hurtling hell, someone is actually thinking about you once in a while. And the moment that happens, wham. A backlash. People online start saying, ugh, this is social justice, ugh, this is diversity forced down our throats, yuck, this is just bullshit pandering quota garbage SJW — and you’re like, whoa, what? Sweet crap, everyone else has been represented on screen since the advent of film. They’ve been on the page since some jerk invented the printing press. But the moment you show up — the moment you get more than a postage stamp-sized bit of acreage in this world that has always been yours but never really been yours, people start throwing a shit-fit. They act like you’re unbalancing everything. Like you just moved into the neighborhood and took a dump in everybody’s marigolds just because you exist visibly.

(18) Amy Sterling Casil recommends The Looking Planet.

During the construction of the universe, a young member of the Cosmos Corps of Engineers decides to break some fundamental laws in the name of self expression.

 

[Thanks to Will R., JJ, John King Tarpinian and Amy Sterling Casil for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

A Brief Arrest Record of Time

By Mark Dennehy: Holy hell – “9th Grader Arrested, Searched for Building a Clock” (on Hackaday.)

A 14-year-old in Dallas, Texas has been arrested for bringing a clock to his school. [Ahmed Mohamed] could be any one of us. He’s a tinkerer, pulling apart scrap appliances and building projects from the parts. He was a member of the his middle school robotics team. The clock was built from a standard four digit seven segment display and a circuit board. [Ahmed] built the circuit inside a Vaultz hard pencil case like this one. He then did what every other experimenter, inventor, hacker, or maker before him has done: He showed off his creation.

Unfortunately for [Ahmed] one of his teachers immediately leapt to the conclusion that this electronic project was a “hoax bomb” of some sort. The police were called, [Ahmed] was pulled out of class and arrested. He was then brought to a detention center where he and his possessions were searched. [Ahmed] is now serving a three-day suspension from school. His clock is considered evidence to be used in a possible criminal case against him.

The teenage geek with the ham radio license in me who built this sort of thing for fun and amusement and who went on to become an engineer and build more fun stuff is particularly miffed at that.

And so are a whole bunch of NASA types (he was arrested wearing a NASA shirt for cryin’ out loud):

Along with an admittedly sarcastic mars rover:

And a science fiction author you might have heard of:

And a mythbuster:

Not to mention the President:

The hashtag’s gone viral:

https://twitter.com/search?q=%23IStandWithAhmed&src=tyah

Pixel Scroll 9/4 The Scrolling Stones

(1) The Verge covers the University of Iowa’s progress digitizing the Hevelin fanzine collection – “10,000 zines and counting: a library’s quest to save the history of fandom”

The University of Iowa’s fanzine collection is going digital before it falls apart

In July, UI digital project librarian Laura Hampton officially began the long process of archiving the Hevelin Collection. The library is partnering with the fan-run Organization for Transformative Works to collect more zines for eventual digital archival, but Hampton is currently focused on material from the 1930s to 1950s, spanning the rise of zines and the Golden Age of science fiction. The vast majority of the images will stay offline, but an accompanying Tumblr has given outsiders a peek into the roughly 10,000 zines that Hevelin donated — and into the communities that helped create science fiction as we know it, from fandom clashes to fan fiction.

 

The SF Fan, May 1940

The SF Fan, May 1940

(2) Pop quiz at Clickhole “Obama Quote Or Description Of A Ray Bradbury Book Cover?” Unlike quizzes at File 770, not all the answers are Ray Bradbury.

(3) Time is running out to send your name to Mars. The last Day to register is September 8, 2015 (11:59 p.m. ET)

(4) Rachael Acks, on “FAQ: What is SFWA in charge of?***” , lists six things SFWA is in charge of and 35 it is not in charge of. How does she keep track?

(5) George R.R. Martin likes Kevin Standlee’s ideas for redoing some of the Hugo Award categories – “Hugo Reform”

I suspect that the chance of these changes being enacted are remote (every existing Hugo category has an entrenched constituency, so while adding categories is difficult, abolishing one is all but impossible) but nonetheless, I think these are eminently sensible changes and I would whole-heartedly support them. Let me tell you why.

For me, the most problematic Hugo categories are those that honor a person rather than a work. Look at Best Artist, for instant. I was just discussing that with my friend John Picacio this past weekend, as it’s a pet peeve of his. The award has been around for half a century, yet fewer than twenty people have ever won it. The same people win, year after year. Many voters have no idea what art they did the past year, if any; they just know, “oh, I like X’s art,” and they vote for him, again.

The Best Editor categories have shown every signs of working the same way. Originally the category WAS Best Magazine, which was easy to judge. Did ASTOUNDING or GALAXY have a better year? It was changed to Best Editor in the 70s, during the boom in original anthologies, sometimes called “book-a-zines”… and to allow book editors to compete. But few book editors were ever nominated, and none ever won, until the category was split in half. Problem is, and this complaint came up often during Puppygate and after, that most books do not credit their editors… and besides that, the reader has no real way to know what the editor did. Some novels are heavily edited, some much less. What is the criterion? The proof should be in the pudding. Which pudding tastes better. Reward the WORK, not the author or editor or artist. Go back to Best Magazine, and add Anthology/ Collection (both the Locus Awards and the World Fantasy Awards have such a category, and it works well). That more than covers the Short Form Editors.

(6) Daniel Lemire – “Revisiting Vernor Vinge’s ‘predictions’ for 2025”

Let me review some of his predictions:

  • In his novel, many people earn a small income through informal part-time work with affiliate networks, doing random work. Today you can earn a small income through Amazon’s Mechanical Turk and there are many Uber-like services whereas individuals can earn small sums by doing various services. So this prediction is almost certainly coming true….

(7) Avedon Carol on The Sideshow – “Never mind the forecast, ’cause the sky has lost control”

Christopher Priest leaps to the defense of Terry Pratchett. I remember years ago reading an article in Time Out from a woman who had been assigned to write about Pratchett and proceeded to state that she had not read any so she just asked her male friends if it was just boy’s stuff and they said that it was, thus proving they hadn’t read it, either. She rattled on for several more paragraphs but… seriously? That’s how a “professional journalist” covers an assignment? So now we have some nitwit over on the Guardian‘s blog pontificating on the lack of quality of Pratchett’s work which he says he hasn’t got time to waste actually reading it. I don’t know where these people come from.

(8) Jaythenerdkid on The Rainbow Hub –  “An Interview with Benjanun Sridaungkaew” (Original link no longer works. Google cache file available for the time being here.)

In a situation like this, leaving often seems like the best option. Certainly, Bee has cut back on her involvement with the SF/F community at large. But she’s determined to keep on doing what she loves and is passionate about.

“I plan to keep writing,” she says. “I don’t think of SF/F as a community any more so much as a subculture that shares an interest or hobby rather than a sense of community.

“A community that awards a trophy to a racist hit piece on me is not a community I’d want to belong to, but I like to think those people are not ‘all’ of the field and fortunately my experiences have lined up with that: there are sub-communities who aren’t part of that at all.”

(9) William Underhill in a comment on Mad Genius Club.

I also think the fact that File770’s posts are moderated and need to be approved, and posts here and on Mr. Torgersen’s blog are not, is thought-provoking.

Yes, it is.

(10) Add K. Tempest Bradford’s name to the list of those who have volunteered to host a short fiction rating site that would be handy for Hugo voters – “io9 Newsstand Has One Last Thing To Say About The Hugo Awards”

I have long felt that there’s a real need for spaces where people can get together and passionately discuss the short fiction they read. That having such a space would make it easier for readers to find more short stories they’ll like. A place where anyone can rate and review stories and also easily find write-ups by pro reviewers.

A Goodreads-type site for short fiction.

And before you ask: no, Goodreads itself wouldn’t be a great space for this. The company isn’t interested in adding individual short stories, and the few that are on there now are either shorts that were issued with ISBN numbers or put there by community librarians. We need a site and service that is committed to creating a database of short fiction, with the ability for signed-in users to rate and/or review that also pulls in links or review text from pro reviewers where they exist.

Having such a site could also make it easier for people to nominate for the Hugo Awards when that time comes around. As everybody knows, you don’t need to have read everything in order to nominate faithfully and well. You only have to nominate the best of what you’ve read. However, if you want to see what other folks have read and loved, you could just go to the list of short fiction published during the year, sort by highest rating, and read the top 10 or 15 or 20.

I would love to spearhead such a project. But: money. Anyone know a venture capitalist?

(11) Hey, I just came across this photo today.

If you open the picture in large format, you can see John Scalzi is wearing the yellow “File 770, That Wretched Hive of Scum & Villainy” button he pinned on his lanyard just before the panel began.

[Thanks to Paul Weimer, Mark, David Doering, and John King Tarpinian for some of these links. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jeff Warner.]

Best President in Case of Alien Attack?

Take a presidential election year, stir it together with the debut of National Geographic Channel’s Chasing UFOs series and — voilá! — you get a press release declaring that more people think Obama is better suited to handle an alien invasion than Romney.

I’m used to hearing that elections will be swung by the undecided. Now it seems the unidentified will play a role too.

Two-thirds (65%) of Americans prefer Barack Obama over fellow presidential candidate Mitt Romney when it comes to handling an alien invasion. Obama has a commanding lead no matter how you slice it – among women, men, the elderly and citizens aged 18 to 64.

Surprisingly, however, most Americans evidently don’t expect this hypothetical alien invasion to look like a scene out of War of the Worlds, Independence Day or Falling Skies:

According to a new U.S. extraterrestrial survey from National Geographic Channel (NGC), more than 80 million Americans are certain that UFOs exist. In fact, many believe in tangible proof that aliens have landed on Earth and think that government officials are involved in covering up paranormal activities. Moreover, most citizens would not mind a minor alien invasion, because they expect these space-age visitors to be friendly—like the lovable character depicted in Steven Spielberg’s popular film “E.T.”

So do these responses, taken together, mean that most people believe an alien invasion will be a social occasion calling for a terrific speech?

Romney shouldn’t feel too bad about being named by less than 35% of the 1,114 Americans who took NatGeo’s “Aliens Among Us” survey. That’s still a better number than some very well-known superheroes pulled —

Furthermore, if aliens attacked our planet, more than one in five (21%) would most likely call on the Hulk to deal with the havoc. Far fewer would most trust Batman (12%) or Spiderman (8%) to step in.

It makes sense to me that so many would choose the Hulk. Remember what the irascible Admiral King supposedly said when Roosevelt made him Commander-in-Chief of the Navy after Pearl Harbor — “When they get in trouble they send for the sons-of-bitches” — a quality Admiral King and Bruce Banner (the Hulk’s secret identity) have in common. As Banner says in The Avengers movie, “That’s my secret, Cap: I’m always angry.” And one of Admiral King’s daughters (perhaps the one Ensign Heinlein dated?) joked about her father, “He is the most even-tempered person in the United States Navy. He is always in a rage.”

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster for the story.]

Diplomacy, Spider-Man Style

President Obama, who collected Spider-Man comics as a child, paraphrased Stan Lee’s famous line from Spider-Man’s origin, “With great power comes great responsibility” during a February 14 photo-op with the Chinese Vice-President. Credit David Klaus for catching the reference.

A transcript of the Reuters video gives the full context:

U.S. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA, SAYING: “We have it emphasize because of China’s extraordinary development over the last two decades, that with expanding power and prosperity also comes increased responsibilities.”

Obama revealed his fascination with Spider-Man in 2008 campaign speeches. Marvel reciprocated with an issue of the comic where the President’s favorite  superhero keeps The Chameleon from spoiling the inauguration. There was even a fist-bump between Spidey and the new president.

Better Than Dope

“They’re taking this more seriously than they are petitions for legalization of medical cannabis with far more signatures,” says David Klaus. What the White House has chosen to answer instead are two petitions asking the U.S. government to admit that aliens have visited earth and to disclose any intentional withholding of government interaction with extraterrestrials.

But the answers aren’t what the petitioners were hoping to hear:

“The U.S. government has no evidence that any life exists outside our planet, or that an extraterrestrial presence has contacted or engaged any member of the human race,” Phil Larson from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy reported on the WhiteHouse.gov website. “In addition, there is no credible information to suggest that any evidence is being hidden from the public’s eye.”

An Obama administration initiative called “We the People” initially promised a White House response about any issue that received at least 5,000 online signatures within 30 days. The petition about alien visitors was signed by 5,387 people, and the one about disclosing government interaction with E.T.’s by 12,078 people.

This must have been a little bit more democracy than they were prepared to handle because the requirement now has been raised to 25,000 signatures.

[Thanks to David Klaus for the story.]

Nancy Pelosi Uses the Force

The Lincoln Medal was presented to George Lucas during the rededication of Ford’s Theater on February 11. DC’s leading movers and shakers were on hand, most notably President Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Afterward Pelosi enthused to the Washington Whispers blog at USNews.com:

“Oh yes, I’m a big fan of Star Wars,” she said. “My five children, my husband, and I have seen the Star Wars movies over 100 times—we just couldn’t get enough of it.” Pelosi gushed about the director, who won the Lincoln Medal at the star-studded event attended by everyone from the Obamas to actors James Earl Jones and Sidney Poitier and even former cabinet pick Tom Daschle. “Every time George Lucas comes to Capitol Hill, it’s so thrilling,” Pelosi said. “He’s my constituent, you see, and he’s my friend.”

If a person didn’t know what party Lucas supports, reading this story would make it easy to guess which one it isn’t:

At the time of our visit in 1986, no members of the press had been admitted. Our tour guide for the drive related that Ronald Reagan, then President of the United States requested a tour of Skywalker Ranch but was denied. Lucasfilm lost a court battle to have the U.S. government refrain from calling the Strategic Defense Initiative, “Star Wars.” I suspect this ruling didn’t help President Reagan’s chances for a visit…

And although Lucas actually isn’t Pelosi’s constituent — Nancy Pelosi is the representative of California’s 8th Congressional District, while Skywalker Ranch is in the 6th — what savvy Bay Area politician would let a few squiggly lines on a map keep her from basking in the limelight of a local Democratic celebrity?

Interestingly, neither Lucas, nor even President Obama, drew a bigger round of “oohs” than did the presentation of this inanimate object:

After violinist Joshua Bell performed early in the program, it was revealed to the crowd that the instrument he used during “My Lord, What a Morning” was last played at Ford’s on April 14, 1865 — the night of Lincoln’s assassination. The violin was part of the orchestra that night, Ford’s officials said, and was donated in 1991 by the family of its original owner to the National Park Service, which has jurisdiction over the historic theater.

And perhaps that’s as it should be.

[Via TheForce.Net and David Klaus]

The Power of Both

Two former Hillary Clinton staffers started Vote Both.com after the primaries, a site advocating a unity ticket of Clinton and Obama. Key backers of the “dream ticket” include Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell and Sen. Charles Schumer of New York.

I mention this because Westercon begins this week in Las Vegas, one of the rare conventions that changes sites each year as voted by the members, and I’m reminded that somebody once had the bright idea that “Both” would be the perfect solution for a pair of Westercon bids. Let me tell you how well “Both” worked for us. Then you may consider yourselves warned.

From File 770 #35, August 1982:

Even on the morning of its last day, [the 1982] Westercon had not exhausted its bag of tricks. Prelude: When Portland and Phoenix announced their 1984 Westercon bids, fans noted they were not bidding for the same days – one would have started before July 4, the other after. Certain pundits, who shall remain namelex*, conceived a campaign for BOTH. Let them both win. Let them both put on a Westercon. Let’s go to both. Witty, computer-typed flyers advocated, “If you are a Phoenix local or a Portland local, this is a great opportunity to get more con for your money: You can attend the portion nearest you if you’re on a budget; You can attend both cons for little more than if you were going to the con farther away; LA locals can check on their cats on their way to the other con.”

After a weekend of people running about asking each other whether they voted for “Both,” the bidders agreed to count the ballots after Site Selection closed 7 PM Sunday, and not release the results until the next morning’s Business Meeting. Randy Rau (Phoenix), Craig Miller, Ben Yalow, Pam Davis (Portland) and Bryce Walden (Portland) were the counters. After the counting session, Rau, who was also chair of the ’82 Westercon and therefore custodian of the ballots, walked from the room down the fire stairs to the con level (the most efficient way of getting around, given the elevators). By the time he got to the bottom, somebody came up to him with a rumor that a bid had won by one vote.

Seeing as one of the bids had, indeed, won by one vote, Rau was infuriated. Other Phoenix fans, figuring they had lost by one vote, mobbed the Business Meeting Monday morning demanding to exercise their right to vote at the Business Meeting (which seemed unclearly provided for in the bylaws). Now it was the second year in a row that a breakdown in the site selection process forced the Business Meeting to get involved in who won. (The Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society Board of Directors is the last-resort custodian of Westercon, who had actually been forced to take a role in the ’81 meeting. Since many members of the Board were also bidding for this little thing called the Worldcon, the last thing they wanted was to have to arbitrate this emotional mess.)

“Bullets, not ballots,” suggested Seth Breidbart. After extended private huddling between the bidders and parliamentarian Fred Patten, a decision finally came forth. Rather than risk having to let the meeting vote whether to reopen balloting (which it easily would have done, considering the pack of irate Phoenix fen), Randy Rau announced that the Phoenix bid withdrew. Portland was proclaimed winner. Chairman of the meeting, Bruce Dane, revealed 374 votes were cast; now being rushed to the shredder. There was much applause. Westercon rules actually mandated the release of the voting info, but everybody pretended to forget that in the interests of peace. What had really happened? Milt Stevens’ analysis of the situation led him to believe that the “Both” bid had won. If Portland had won by one vote, the matter could have been resolved by merely sticking to the agreement that balloting was closed the night before. If Phoenix had won by one vote then they wouldn’t have had to pack the Business Meeting. They wouldn’t have had to withdraw their bid to resolve the crisis. (“Both” ceased to exist when one bidder folded.) Nor would there have been such haste to destroy the ballots.

As she was preparing to leave the con, Genny Dazzo loudly announced that she was going back to New York and start a Phoenix in ’84 Worldcon bid, to repay the “Both” bidders for their hubris.

[* A reference to Lex Nakashima, the alleged mastermind.]

The Moral of the Story: “Both” seemed a clever idea to just enough Westercon voters to make the election three times as controversial as it otherwise would have been, and to leave the winner just about as unhappy as the loser. The saving grace in 2008 is that party delegates are much less likely to try and force “Both” on unwilling candidates.