Pixel Scroll 4/8/19 File The Scroll Ashore, Pixellujah

(1) MOST READ NOMINEES. Nicholas Whyte blogs the numbers of people who report owning copies of the Hugo nominees in various categories to see if it helps predict who will win: “Hugo finalists – Goodreads/LibraryThing statistics”.

Once again I’m running the statistical ruler over the finalists for the Hugos – this year, more than ever. This has not often been a useful guide to which books will win; however I think it does show the extent to which they ave penetrated popular consciousness, at least to within an order of magnitude.

(2) TAKEN ABACK. Best Fan Artist Hugo nominee Ariela Housman (Geek Calligraphy) apparently is getting some official pushback about which of her items are qualifying work, as explained in “Hugo Eligibility Revisited”.

When we published our eligibility post in December, we included the above two works, plus “Lady Astronaut Nouveau” based on The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal. The former two were created earlier in 2018 and shown in art shows at Confluence and ICON. We finished “Lady Astronaut Nouveau” late enough in the year that we didn’t have any more art shows booked in which we could show it. We put it all over the interwebs, though.

This is what the Hugo Awards Website gives as the criteria for the Best Fan Artist category (bolding ours):

The final category is also for people. Again note that the work by which artists should be judged is not limited to material published in fanzines. Material for semiprozines or material on public displays (such as in convention art shows) is also eligible. Fan artists can have work published in professional publications as well. You should not consider such professionally-published works when judging this award.

The internet is about as public as it gets, right? It was even included in Mary Robinette’s Pinterest Gallery for Lady Astronaut Fan Art.

Apparently the Hugo Committee disagrees. Per the email I received from the committee member who contacted me prior to the announcement of the ballot:

The first two pieces clearly qualify, so that is fine. I’m afraid that the rules exclude pieces that have only been displayed online.

This, dear reader, is ridiculous.

Hopefully, Hugo Administrator Nicholas Whyte will reconcile all this for us, especially since some of us are under the impression fan artists’ online work was included in the 2017 Hugo Voter Packet.  

(3) THUS ENDETH THE SERIES. Comic Book Resources warns fans that “AMC’s Preacher Is Ending With Season 4”.

Co-creator Seth Rogen announced the news in a video teaser posted to his Twitter page. The simple, yet stylized video prominently displays the Preacher title card, followed by an explosion and the declaration, “The end is now.” Then, the title card returns to confirm that the show’s fourth season will mark the end of the series. The teaser also reveals that Preacher Season 4 will debut on Aug. 4.

(4) LUCKY NUMBER. Next week’s Titan Comics releases include another adventure with the thirteenth Doctor Who. No, it’s not a Prisoner mashup.

DOCTOR WHO: THIRTEENTH DOCTOR #6 –  The Thirteenth Doctor’s continue after the season finale, as Eisner nominee Jody Houser brings a fresh new Doctor Who story to fans old and new.

(5) TREK THRU FANHISTORY. The Dana Gould Hour podcast interviews John and Bjo Trimble:

John and Bjo Trimble. For those of you who don’t know John & Bjo, I’m very excited you get to hear their story for the first time. In the late 1960s, they were fans of a little TV show called Star Trek, and when it was announced, during Star Trek’s second season, that the show would not be returning for a third, they sprang into action. John and Bjo knew that TV shows don’t go into syndication unless they have three seasons – that gives you enough episodes strip the show. In other words, you need enough episodes to run five nights a without repeating episodes too quickly. You needed volume. And two seasons was not enough.

In those pre-internet days, John and Bjo started the letter writing campaign that saved Star Trek. Thanks to John and Bjo Trimble, Star Trek had three seasons, which allowed it to be syndicated, which allowed it to catch on, find its audience and become the juggernaut that it is today.

(6) MORE OREO MUTATIONS. Food & Wine’s spies say “Purple Creme Oreos Will Celebrate the Moon Landing, Apparently”.

 The weekend is two days long, so of course, we have photos of three new Oreo varieties for you.

(7) LEARNING A LOT. Cat Rambo posted highlights from Catherine Lundoff’s online class, “So You Want To Put Together An Anthology”. For more information about Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers Classes, see the website at academy.catrambo.com

(8) POP YOU CAN HEAR IN SPACE. Star Trek Nitpickers didn’t find it hard to choose ten, for obvious reasons:

Top 10 funniest uses of pop music in The Orville. There were only 11, so I threw in a runner up. Also–lots of song factoids. This video serves as a loose recap for season one as well. I hope you’ll check out other songs by these great musicians!

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 8, 1887 Hope Mirrlees. She is best known for the 1926 Lud-in-the-Mist, a fantasy novel apparently beloved by many. (I’m not one of them.) In 1970 an American reprint was published without the author’s permission, as part of the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series. (Died 1978.)
  • Born April 8, 1939 Trina Schart Hyman. An illustrator of children’s books. She illustrated over 150 books, including fairy tales and Arthurian legends. She won the 1985 Caldecott Medal for U.S. picture book illustration, recognizing Saint George and the Dragon, retold by Margaret Hodges. Among the genre works she’s illustrated are Lloyd Alexander’s The Fortune-Tellers, Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court and J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan. (Died 2004.)
  • Born April 8, 1942 Douglas Trumbull, 77. Let’s call him a film genius and leave it at that. He contributed to, or was fully responsible for, the special photographic effects of Close Encounters of the Third Kind2001: A Space Odyssey, Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Blade Runner, and directed the movies Silent Running and Brainstorm. And Trumbull was executive producer for Starlost
  • Born April 8, 1943 James Herbert. Writer whose work erased the boundaries between horror and sf and the supernatural in a manner that made for mighty fine popcorn reading. None of his work from his first two books, The Rats and The Fog, to his latter work such as Nobody True would be considered Hugo worthy in my opinion (you may of course disagree) but he’s always entertaining. I will note that in 2010 Herbert was greatly honored by receiving the World Horror Convention Grand Master Award which was presented to him by Stephen King. (Died 2013.)
  • Born April 8, 1966 Robin Wright, 53. Buttercup! Need I say more? I think not. She next pops in in Robin William’s Toys as Gwen Tyler and I see she was in M. Night Shyamalan’s Unbreakable as Audrey Dunn. The animated Neil Gaiman Beowulf has her voicing Queen Wealtheow.  Blade Runner 2049 is next for her where she has the role of Lieutenant Joshi. The DC Universe is where we finish off with her playing General Antiope in three films, to wit Justice League, Wonder Woman and Wonder Woman 1984. 
  • Born April 8, 1967 Cecilia Tan, 52. Editor, writer and founder of Circlet Press, which she says is the first press devoted primarily to erotic science fiction and fantasy. It has published well over a hundred digital book to date with such titles as Telepaths Don’t Need Safewords and Other Stories from the Erotic Edge of SF/Fantasy. (Wouldn’t Bester be surprised to learn that. I digress), Sex in the System: Stories of Erotic Futures, Technological Stimulation, and the Sensual Life of Machines and Genderflex: Sexy Stories on the Edge and In-Between. She was two series, Magic University and The Prince’s Boy
  • Born April 8, 1968 Patricia Arquette, 51. She made her genre debut as Kristen Parker in A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors. That and the horror film Nightwatch in which she was Katherine are, I think, her only genre gigs other than a Tales from the Crypt episode called “Four-Sided Triangle” episode in which she was Mary Jo.
  • Born April 8, 1974 Nnedi Okorafor, 45. Who Fears Death won the 2011 World Fantasy Award for Best Novel.  Lagoon which is an Afrofututurist novel was followed by her amazing Binti trilogy. Binti which led it off that trilogy won both the 2016 Nebula Award and 2016 Hugo Award for best novella. Several of her works are being adapted for video, both in Africa and in North America. 
  • Born April 8, 1980 Katee Sackhoff, 39. Being noted here for playing Lieutenant Kara “Starbuck” Thrace on the rebooted Battlestar Galactica though I must confess I’ve only seen in her role as Deputy Sheriff Victoria “Vic” Moretti on Longmire. She also played Amunet Black, a recurring character who showed up on the fourth season of The Flash. To my pleasant surprise, I see her on Star Wars: The Clone Wars In a recurring role of voicing Bo-Katan Kryze. 
  • Born April 8, 1981 Taylor Kitsch, 38. The lead in John Carter, a film I’ll be damn if I can figure out how anything can have such great digital effects and such truly bad acting. No mind you he went on next to be Lt. Alex Hopper In Battleship, a film based on, yes, the board game. Earlier in his career is did play Gambit (Remy Etienne LeBeau) in X-Men Origins: Wolverine which, errr, wasn’t received well either. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Frazz is all about coffee science.

(11) JANSSON LEGACY. The Guardian’s Lisa Allardice profiles the Moomins, subject of a new TV adaptation, in “‘It is a religion’: how the world went mad for Moomins”.

It is striking how much fear shadows the novels: for all the sunshine and picnics, menace lurks behind every bush: like a skater on ice, Jansson is always aware of the murky darkness just inches below. Of her success Jansson wrote: “Daydreams, monsters and all the horrible symbols of the subconscious that stimulate me … I wonder if the nursery and the chamber of horrors are as far apart as people think.” As Huckerby observes, the novels “go to some very dark places” and they have tried to reflect this in their adaptation. “It is being billed as prime time drama for all the family,” Ostler says. “It’s not a kids’ show.”

(12) YOU’RE THE TOP! To mix a metaphor, John Scalzi scaled Amazon’s Mt. Everest yesterday.

He also wrote a Twitter thread explaining that this good thing could not be improved by knocking other writers. Thread starts here.

(13) WELCOME OUR ROBOT UNDERLORDS. NPR announces “The Robots Are Here: At George Mason University, They Deliver Food To Students”.

George Mason University looks like any other big college campus with its tall buildings, student housing, and manicured green lawns – except for the robots.

…”We were amazed by the volume of orders that we had when we turned the service on,” Starship Technologies executive Ryan Tuohy says. “But what’s really touching is how the students on the campus have embraced the robots.”

(14) TURN OUT THE LIGHTS. A study shows “Big Cities, Bright Lights And Up To 1 Billion Bird Collisions”NPR has the story.

Up to 1 billion birds die from building collisions each year in the United States, and according to a new study, bright lights in big cities are making the problem worse.

The study, published this month in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, examined two-decades of satellite data and weather radar technology to determine which cities are the most dangerous for birds. The study focused on light pollution levels, because wherever birds can become attracted to and disoriented by lights, the more likely they are to crash into buildings.

The study found that the most fatal bird strikes are happening in Chicago. Houston and Dallas are the next cities to top the list as the most lethal. One of the study’s authors, Kyle Horton, a postdoctoral fellow at Cornell University, called the cities a “hotspot of migratory action,” adding, “they are sitting in this primary central corridor that most birds are moving through spring and fall.”

(15) RUBBER WEAPONS CHECK. Somebody thinks Voyager’s photon torpedo account was overdrawn. Because they counted. (A 2011 post.)

(16) VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE FOOD CHAIN. In comments, Darren Garrison figured out what the contents of Ursula Vernon’s next Hugo acceptance speech will be: “Unsettling Video Shows What Happens to a Dead Alligator at the Bottom of the Sea” at Gizmodo.

The enthusiasm of these scavengers is totally understandable. Deep-sea bottom feeders are immensely dependent upon “food falls,” in which deceased aquatic animals from above settle on the ocean floor. This typically involves whales, dolphins, sea lions, and large fish like tuna, sharks, and rays, but it can also involve stuff from the land, such as plant material, wood, and, as the new video shows, alligators dropped by scientists.

(17) ALL ABOARD! The Points Guy tells you how to catch a ride on this celebrity train: “Calling All Muggles: The Real Hogwarts Express Train Is Back in Action”.

Accio tickets to the Scottish Highlands!

After a seasonal break, the Jacobite steam train (a.k.a. the train used as a stand-in for the actual Hogwarts Express in the Harry Potter films) is back in business, People reports. And no, you won’t have to pass through Platform 9 3/4 to get there. 

The Jacobite steam train has been in operation for over 100 years. Known originally for its scenic views of the Scottish Highlands, the old rail line only got attached the Harry Potter-verse after it was featured as the Hogwarts Express in “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” and every other Potter film going forward.

(18) TOOTLE, PLUNK AND BOOM. In “Game of Thrones Turned Its Composer Into a Rock Star” in The Atlantic, Spencer Kornhaber profiles Ramin Djawadi, composer of the music for Game of Thrones.

The arsenal of instruments Ramin Djawadi has used to score Game of Thrones includes mournful strings, mighty horns, and the Armenian double-reed woodwind known as a duduk.  During the series’ first five seasons, however, he left one common weapon untouched:  the piano.  Early on, the showrunners, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, decided that the ivories were too delicate for the show;s brutal realms, where even weddings tend to involve some stabbing.  They also banned the flute, for fear that Thrones would sound like a Renaissance fair.

(19) LIVE FROM NEW YORK. Kit Harington Saturday Night Live monologue is full of Game of Thrones jokes, and the sketch “Graphics Department” makes D and D jokes.

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Daniel Dern, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, Mike Kennedy, Darren Garrison, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rob Thornton.]

Hugo Awards Study Committee Report Online

The final Hugo Awards Study Committee Report is now online at the Worldcon 76 WSFS Business Meeting page along with the draft agenda for this year’s Business Meeting.

Committee chair Vincent Docherty says:

The committee got going much later than planned (entirely due to my own lack of time due to other commitments) but once we got started there was very energetic participation by the 20+ committee members. The report summarises the discussion and makes a number of recommendations, including four specific proposals which are on this year’s Business Meeting agenda (three updates to categories and continuation of the committee), as well as a number of topics for further discussion next year, assuming the committee is continued.

The committee welcomes feedback from interested fans. We’re aware of some online reaction to the specific proposals already, which might result in adjustments to the proposals when we get to the Business Meeting.

My thanks to the committee members for their work this year.

Direct link to the report: “2018 Report of the Hugo Awards Study Committee”

An excerpt from the overview of their recommendations —

…Understanding that the overall operation of the categories works well, the Committee found several places for improvement:

The Committee found that the present definitions in the Fan Artist/Professional Artist category were potentially problematic. The Fan Artist category was initially designed in 1967, seeking to honor those offering their artistic talents to the broader community of fandom for little or no compensation. Such contributions were often in the form of illustrations for fanzines and convention programs. In the last fifty years, however, the form that fandom has taken has changed, and the result is that the definition of Fan Artist was found to be outdated. This was given an extensive examination. The Committee also acknowledges that some further examination of the other fan/professional categories may be in order, and has proposed to carry forward at least one further change in this area.

The Committee found the term “Graphic Story” problematic. Just as “comic book” has come to be taken as including work not literally comic, “graphic story” has come to be taken as excluding work appearing in comic books or comic strips. The Committee proposes re-titling to “Best Graphic Story or Comic.”

The Committee feels that altering “Best Fancast” into a “Best Podcast” category and removing the restriction on eligible productions receiving money is desirable. Many podcasts generate income from either limited advertisements, tip jars, or other small streams of income. While these are often not sufficient to support someone making a living, the income can still be substantial. As also discussed in the context of the Fan/Professional Artist categories, the use of fixed income thresholds was also found to be problematic.

In addition to the Artist categories, the Committee gave some consideration to cases of category overlap and/or gaps in categories in general, and would propose to continue examining this both in the context of current and proposed awards. This arose, in particular, in discussions surrounding the future of Best Novel and the proposed Best Translated category.

The Committee also briefly considered several other questions, including how well the Hugo Awards have handled the digital/print divide and differences between how terms are used in an “industry” context in non-industry discourse (e.g. by Worldcon attendees/WSFS members who are giving the awards) and in the Hugo Award definitions themselves. Consideration of various such questions fed into the discussions on specific proposals.

The second question, ‘How well do the categories honor what we wish to honor?’, generated more questions for examination. Given the interaction of this question and the question of how many Hugo Awards should be awarded, most of these questions have been recommended for passage forward for further consideration in the next year. In particular:

A Best Translated category was proposed relatively late in the Committee’s deliberations. As a result, the Committee did not have the time to study this potential award in sufficient depth alongside the rest of its workload, and there were multiple ideas as to what form this category should take (e.g. whether it should be limited to novels, cover all written works) and, if recommended, whether the award in question should be a Hugo or a non-Hugo award given by Worldcons. In particular, the Committee proposes to examine whether such an award is presently feasible.

A potential reorganization of the Best Dramatic Presentation categories was considered, and has been proposed to be passed forward should the committee be continued. Multiple alternatives, including a possible addition of one (or more) categories and redefining the Long/Short division into a TV/Movie division, would be given consideration if the committee is reauthorized.

A readjustment of the Best Semiprozine and Best Editor categories has been proposed and will be considered if the Committee is reauthorized. In particular, the Committee feels that the nature of the internet may have reduced the advantage that professional magazines have over non-professional productions, and that allowing professional publications to compete in a “Best Magazine” category would allow them to once again be honored. The Committee also noted various complications with the Best Editor categories; several proposals, including a possible realignment into “Best Anthology” and “Best Imprint,” will be evaluated if we are authorized to do so….

The report advances three proposed changes, and recommends further study of four more:

Part II: Specific Proposals

(1) Proposed continuation of the Hugo Study Committee

(2) Proposed Changes to the Fancast Hugo Category (with slight changes to the Semiprozine and Fanzine categories to maintain consistency)

(3) Proposed Changes to the Professional Artist and Fan Artist Hugo Categories

(4) Proposed Changes to the Best Graphic Story Hugo Category

(5) Proposal Recommended for Further Study: Addition of a Best Translated Work Hugo Category

(6) Proposal Recommended for Further Study: Replacement of Semiprozine and Best Editor Hugo Categories with Professional Magazine, Anthology/Collection, and Publisher/Imprint

(7) Proposal Recommended for Further Study: Potential Alterations to Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo Categories

(8) Proposal Recommended for Further Study: Best Art Book and Alterations to Best Related Work

(9) Proposal Not Recommended for Further Consideration: Best Novel Split

[Thanks to Vincent Docherty for the story.]

Another Fan Artist Disqualified from Hugo Ballot

Mansik Yang is the second Best Fan Artist Hugo finalist this year to tell the Worldcon 75 award administrators he did not publish any non-commercial work in 2016. As a result the artist has been removed from the ballot and replaced by Elizabeth Leggett.

Worldcon 75, in a statement on Facebook, commented: “We appreciate his bringing the matter to our attention, and regret that we were not able to clarify the situation sooner.”

Paper Hugo ballots, which were about to be dispatched, are now being reprinted and the online Hugo ballot is being updated. Voters who have already expressed preference votes for Mansik Yang will be individually informed of the change to the final ballot.

This change is in addition to the replacement of Alex Garner by Steve Stiles, announced last month. Both Yang and Garner were names on Vox Day’s Rabid Puppy slate. (The Measuring the Rabid Puppies Effect on the 2017 Hugo Ballot post has been updated accordingly.)

The revised final ballot for Best Fan Artist is therefore Ninni Aalto, Elizabeth Leggett, Vesa Lehtimäki, Likhain (M. Sereno), Spring Schoenhuth, and Steve Stiles.

The Recent History of the Hugo Artist Awards

Editor’s Note: Reblogged from Hugo Eligible Art 2015 at the suggestion of the author.

By Doctor Science: Until recently, nominations for both the Best Pro and Best Fan Artist Hugos were done by the “round up the usual suspects!” method. Artists generally first appeared on the ballots after a few years of being nominated but not making the cut, and then they tended to stay there for a l-o-o-o-n-g time. Winners frequently repeated.

This pattern has been broken recently, in different ways for the two categories.

Best Professional Artist

Julie Dillon won the 2014 Pro Artist Hugo on a ballot with a number of Usual Suspects. In 2015, though Dillon again was on the ballot, all the other names were new. All the new names were from the slating campaigns by the Sad and Rabid Puppies; the artists are all friends of the slate creators.

Dillon won by a landslide, getting 63% of all first-place votes. None of the others finished above “No Award”. (Detailed results are in this PDF.) The artists who would have gotten on the ballot absent the slate were John Picacio, Galen Dara, Stephan Martinière, and Chris McGrath – all Usual Suspects who’ve been nominated before.

Best Fan Artist

Fan Artist was a Usual Suspects category until 2013. That year, Galen Dara barely made it onto the ballot for her first time, with 5th place in nominations. She won handily, with 27% of the first-place votes, 40% more than the runner-up.

In 2014, Sarah Webb got on the ballot for the first time, in third place. She won with 55% of the first-place votes.

Last year, Elizabeth Leggett got onto the ballot for the first time, in 5th place. She won with 41% of the first-place votes.

In other words, the Usual Suspects system has substantially broken down for Best Fan Artist. That’s 3 years in a row where an artist has essentially come out of nowhere to dominate the voting – where by “nowhere” I mean the Internet. All of them are technically skilled and at least semi-pro (Webb is still an art student): they are fans, but they aren’t amateurs.

I have a Cunning Plan

The main reason I have for starting this blog [Hugo Eligible Art 2015 ] is to make it easier for Hugo nominators to survey eligible artists for both Pro and Fan Artist, to break the Usual Suspects habit for both categories. I also think we maybe ought to discuss whether the categories as they’re currently defined are really what we want.

Snapshots 150
The Sesquicentennial

aka “How Well I Remember the Days Before Puppies Were All the Rage” – James H. Burns

If you’re very new to File 770 this may be the first time you’ve seen Snapshots, the zine-within-a-zine.

In honor of the 150th edition, here are 35 developments of interest to fans.

(1) Even Kimball Kinnison’s swearing “By Klono’s brazen balls!” may be a leetle too strong in these refined times. What kind of cursing remains fashionable? Matthew Bowman tells all in “Frakking Goram Smegger! (Swearing in Fiction)”  at Novel Ninja.

While swearing serves an important function in real life, at least for the person doing the swearing, it doesn’t have the same effect on other people. It winds up being a great stress relief for the speaker, but over time there’s a diminishing return in terms of effectiveness, leading to people using it more and more to get the same effect. To the people around the speaker, though, all they get is the “more and more.”

The use of swearing in fiction has the same problem. There are really only two uses, and the audience only experiences the second use: shock value. Shock too much, and there’s no value to it. On the face of it, you might want to avoid swearing.

Well, no. Not entirely.

(2) With the Anagrammer I can turn my own name into a colorful curse. Like, “Ye Chiller Mag!” Or, “Rimly Geek!”

GRRM Plush COMP

(3) I’ve completely failed to find any website that has one for sale, but you have to agree the concept is amusing —  Talking George R.R. Martin Doll Adds Some Evil Santa Whimsy To Your Life:

Spotted at New York Toy Fair 2015: This talking George R.R. Martin doll from Factory Entertainment, which the Game of Thrones creator himself recorded dialogue for. One of the ten things he says is “When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die.” One of the things he doesn’t say, I assume, is “f*ck you.”

There’s not the slightest doubt if there was a Harlan Ellison doll it would.

(4) On May the Fourth many ballparks honor the little movie franchise that’s been around for four decades. At Fenway Park, Darth Vader showed up and inexplicably agreed to do an interview.

Darth Vader

(5) More than a baker’s dozen, here are 14 pieces of advice from things your convention staff. Many of them are a lot more blunt than this —

Sleep

And not in our video/panel rooms. Find a bed or the floor of someone’s hotel room. At least a few hours. Please? Conventions are exhausting enough without trying to operate without sleep.

And it seems as time goes by fewer of the embedded anime gifs work for me – here’s hoping you have better luck.

(6) As soon as products reach market using the right software, you will be able to use the “Live long and prosper” emoji.

live long and prosper emojiAs spotted by Quartz, a ‘Live Long and Prosper’ hand symbol emoji has been found in the test versions of both Apple’s OS X and iOS Mac and iPhone/iPad software, which should be released sometime later this year. Apple has yet to confirm that all the new emojis in its beta software will be in the upcoming official releases. Among them are the much-awaited multi-ethnic smileys and figures.

With Apple’s new emoji picker, you should be able to send the Live Long and Prosper salute in different skin shades once it hits devices. You can visit Emojipedia.org to see what all the versions look like.

The Vulcan Salute was introduced to the Unicode system last June, and like any other symbol available in the universal emoji consortium, it’s now just waiting for software-makers to build it into their operating systems and keyboards, which Apple certainly looks to be doing.

(7) A month after the death of Leonard Nimoy, his son Adam Nimoy announced plans for a documentary about his father titled For the Love of Spock.

The project is aimed at celebrating the 50th anniversary of “Star Trek,” which aired for the first time on Sept. 8, 1966. Zachary Quinto, who portrayed the Spock character in last two “Star Trek” films, will narrate the documentary.

(8) It’s not that I’m breathlessly awaiting Sharknado 3, I just think we’re all thrilled to take a break from science fiction’s relentless parade of kerfuffles. So as a public service I am informing you that David Hasselhoff has been cast in the film despite a bum knee.

Needless to say, The Hoff has been quite busy, and in the midst of his crazy schedule Hasselhoff says he had to get “some knee work done.”

The injury even affected his role in “Sharkando 3,” the third installment in the hit Syfy franchise, co-starring Ian Ziering and Tara Reid. In the upcoming TV movie — called Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!” — Hasselhoff plays Gilbert Sheperd, the dad of Ziering’s character, Fin Shepard. You can expect to see a lot of Hasselhoff in the film; it’s not just a cameo, he says.

“I hobbled through them [my scenes],” said Hasselhoff. “You’ll see me hobbling through ‘Sharknado 3’ because I said, ‘My character now has a limp!’ I wrote it in — that I jumped on a grenade during Vietnam and saved the entire platoon except for one person. I thought that was a funny line to put in and they allowed me to put it in.”

(9) Have you heard the true tale of the 50 Foot Woman and the FDA? The Washington Post recently told it as a graphic story, “Allison Hayes, the actress who got the FDA’s attention – too late”. Text and graphics by Art Hondros.

(10) Mr. Steed, we’re needed.

Trotify makes your bike sound like a galloping horse

The folks at Original Content London are hot to trot, thanks to their latest invention, the Trotify. For about $32 USD, the flat-packed laser-cut wooden contraption fits on the front brake mount of your bike and with a little assembly, a coconut, and a sense of humor, can create the sound of a trotting horse as you pedal. Able to amuse or confuse those with very poor eyesight, the Trotify is a great gift for those cycling nuts who have every accessory on the market or for those who are a little too short on cash to become real equestrians.

Warning – you can’t actually buy this from the vendor linked in the article, even though they have been trying to market the concept since 2012.

(11) The science fiction radio series X Minus One is still attracting new admirers.

Though I seldom long for my native culture when abroad, when the need for a hit of Americana does arise (and I say this currently writing from Seoul, South Korea), I fill my iPod with old time radio. Many shows from America’s “Golden Age” of wireless broadcasting can fill this need, but one could do much worse than Dimension X, the early-1950s science-fiction program we featured earlier this month, or its late-1950s successor X Minus One, whose episodes you can also find at the Internet Archive. Both showcase American culture at its mid-20th-century finest: forward-looking, temperamentally bold, technologically adept, and saturated with earnestness but for the occasional surprisingly knowing irony or bleak edge of darkness. That last comes courtesy of these shows’ writing talent, a group which includes such canonical names as Philip K. Dick, Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, and Robert Heinlein.

(12) Neil Clarke celebrated passing 50,000 submissions to his magazines by running a list of the top ten most common short story names. That got so much attention he dropped all the story titles ever received into Wordle and posted he resulting graphic.

(13) Here’s how Jason. S. Ridler, Ph.D. overcame the trauma of an unsatisfactory book writing career:

There’s an old trick in psychology. If you’ve experienced trauma, do something new that has no relation to the context of said trauma. You generate new memories for your brain to chew on. Improv fit that pistol, and was life-saving. In writing, I abandoned the dead god of novels and moved to comic book scripts. I love comics, but had never attempted them because . . . if you think making money with novels is tough, it’s Shangri La compared to becoming a “professional” comic book writer. But I didn’t care about money, or a career. I had now stabilized my income to a degree where I felt comfortable easing off the gears of work and spending some time writing. I learned comic script format for fun. I found artists to work with, which was fun. And I failed all over the place as I learned the art, the business, and the challenge of working with artists. Some of this sucked bunnies, but I didn’t care. So long as I learned and got better, I enjoyed the challenge.

(14) Beware offering advice. Jim C. Hines offers breakdown of the topic in “The Advice Checklist”.

Are you more concerned with helping or with fixing the person so they’ll stop making you uncomfortable?

Hint: People talk about their problems for a range of reasons. To vent, to process their own feelings, to connect with others and know they’re not alone… If you genuinely want to help, great—but in many cases, giving advice isn’t the way to do that.

(15) Thanks to YouTube, people don’t have to be old enough to have seen commercials like “Cheerios, the ‘Terribly Adult Cereal’ w/Stan Freberg” – they can click and experience that bit of pop culture history immediately.

(16) Wired reports someone has adapted a drone to leave his tag in a highly visible place.

In the early hours of Wednesday morning, the age of robotic graffiti was born. KATSU, a well-known graffiti artist and vandal, used a hacked Phantom drone to paint a giant red scribble across Kendall Jenner’s face on one of New York City’s largest and most viewed billboards. By all accounts, it is the first time that a drone has been deployed for a major act of public vandalism.

(17) Pat Cadigan was scheduled to speak about cancer – instead, she has to fight it.

It took me a long time to be taken seriously as a writer, and to be seen as the writer I was trying to be––i.e., a hard science-fiction writer. A few years ago, Greg Benford turned to me in the course of a conversation and said, “Pat, you’re a hard science fiction writer…” I can’t remember the rest of the question, just Greg calling me a hard science fiction writer. I figure Greg would know the difference. So I got bonafides.

That’s what cyberpunk always was to me––hard science fiction, taken out of a wish-fulfilment setting where everything would be all right if we could just develop the right technology, and re-imagined in the real world, where things could go wrong and people could get hurt.

And so it goes. I should have been at USC talking about what was, what is, and maybe what’s coming, but things went wrong and I got cancer.

Actually, now that I’ve written it out, it’s kinda funny. I can see why our plans make God laugh. She’s got a wicked sense of humour. But then, I do, too.

(18) This story is more than a little strange, coming from a part of the world that is notoriously unreceptive to even mild religious mockery. Turkish students have petitioned for a “Jedi temple” on campus.

More than 6,000 students at a Turkish university have signed a petition calling for a Jedi Temple on campus “to bring balance to the Force.”

The Change.org petition, which had more than 6,000 signatures Thursday, was created by students at Dokuz Eylul University amid controversy stemming from an announcement last month from Istanbul Technical University rector Mehmet Karaca that his school would be getting a “landmark mosque” after a petition calling for a mosque on campus received nearly 200,000 signatures.

The ITU announcement also led students at that school to start a petition to found a Buddhist temple on campus, a request with more than 20,000 signatures.

(19) A photo of C.S. Lewis with his Officer Cadet Battalion in 1917 has been discovered among items donated by an alum.

Every college archive has a mass of material awaiting sorting and cataloguing, much donated by former college members, and Keble is no exception. Leonard Rice-Oxley went up to Keble to study history in 1911, and became the college’s tutor in English in 1921. After graduating from Keble in 1915, Rice-Oxley had served as 2nd Lieutenant in the London Irish Rifles, before being promoted to Lieutenant, and posted to serve on the staff of No. 4 Officer Cadet Battalion in 1917. During this time, Rice-Oxley produced a booklet Oxford in arms: with an account of Keble College, intended for the use of officer cadets stationed at Keble. A copy of this booklet was contained in the material given to the college archives by Rice-Oxley, along with an album of photographs.

Not long after her arrival at Keble, the new Archivist & Records Manager (Eleanor Fleetham) was asked by the College Librarian (Yvonne Murphy) to organize an exhibition of material from the Archives to commemorate Keble’s contribution to the First World War. One of the items on display was Rice-Oxley’s photo album, which contained a  photograph of “E” Company, No. 4 Officer Cadet Battalion, taken by an unknown photographer in the summer of 1917. A college undergraduate – Sebastian Bates (2014, Law) – noticed the photograph, and suggested that one of the people in the photograph was none other than C. S. Lewis.

(20) Michael Swanwick covered Samuel R. Delany’s retirement party, celebrating the end of his career at Temple University, in an aptly named post — Goodbye, Mr. Chip.

(21) It warms my heart to realize my antique File 770 webpage from the old Compuserve Ourworld days is still in the internet archives.

(22) And Teddy Harvia’s online exhibit of Best Fan Artist Hugo nominees has never gone away!

(23) Artist Richard Powers is remembered by The Daily Beast.

The Ballantines believed in science fiction as a literature of ideas, not gadget porn for ham-radio buffs, so when they opened their doors in 1952 they thought of Powers. His modernist sensibility, steeped in things seen at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, set him apart from the pulp-magazine style—astronauts rippling their pectorals at bug-eyed aliens while space babes cowered in fear—that had dominated the genre for decades. “One of the things that appealed to me about science fiction,” he says, in The Art of Richard Powers, “is that it was possible to do Surrealist paintings that had validity … in their own right, and not necessarily functioning as the cover of a book.”

(24) Doctor Who’s son is Alfred the butler?

The actor who plays Alfred in the TV series Gotham is Sean Pertwee. His father is Jon Pertwee and he played the third Doctor Who:

And Mr. Pertwee – Sean, that is – certainly lived a life suitable to the son of a Time Lord. Mr. Pertwee recalled long stretches spent on Euro-billionaires and party-animals playground Ibiza, a “mad island…this weird eclectic bunch of people that ran away and lived in this sort of hedonistic paradise.” Many people know the name Elmyr de Hory as the master art forger of the 1960’s, and subject of the Orson Welles film F for Fake — Mr. Pertwee called him godfather. He experienced a youth surrounded by, in his words, “draft dodgers, murderers…actors.”

Pertwee stars as Alfred Pennyworth, a tough-as-nails ex-marine from east London who loyally serves the Wayne family. In the wake of their tragic deaths, he is fiercely protective of the young Bruce Wayne — the boy who will eventually become Batman

Sean is set to appear as a lead role, Alfred Pennyworth the unflappable butler, in the new Warner Bros. series of Gotham, which follows the story behind Commissioner James Gordon’s rise to prominence in Gotham City in the years before Batman’s arrival.

(25) If Disney had done cruise ships in the 1950s would they have added a Ben-Hur theme where kids could row like hell and ram a Roman warship? We’ll never know, but pretty soon young voyagers on the company’s passenger liners will get to head into hyperspace with the Millennium Falcon.

disney-cruise-millennium-falcon-625x351The Disney Dream will head into dry dock in October and emerge with two new interactive youth areas, one inspired by the interior of the Millennium Falcon from Star Wars, and the other based on the popular Disney Infinity video game.

As you can see from the concept art above, the Millennium Falcon is a pretty good recreation of Han Solo’s ship. Kids will be able to sit in the cockpit, participate in Star Wars-themed crafts and activities, watch episodes of Disney XD’s animated Star Wars Rebels on large screens, or play video games.

The Disney Dream is also bringing on board the popular Jedi Training Academy, in which young Padawans learn from a Jedi Master how to use a lightsaber, and then face Darth Vader in a final test.

(25) Jill Pantozzi on The Mary Sue draws attention to J.K. Rowling’s new tradition of apologizing for killing off her characters. Before it was Florean Fortescue. Now —

(26) A croggling thought – buying Watchmen with no pictures. But it makes sense for one audience.

Watchmen is a classic comic book written by Alan Moore and drawn by Dave Gibbons, published in 1986. It’s set in an alternate history where the existence of superheroes changed American politics, culture and everyday life. I’ve described it panel-by-panel for blind and low-vision readers, including the supplementary material at the end of each chapter.

(27) What is that image? A golden octupus? Chtulhu? Nope, that is a $20,000 vintage pen with a golden snake wrapped around it.

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(28) “The Woman Who Was a Man Who Was a Woman: Alice Sheldon and James Tiptree Jr.” is a fine proifile by Thomas Parker on Black Gate.

To Alice’s professed surprise, Campbell bought one of the stories, “Birth of a Salesman.” A new science fiction writer was born, one who would, in the space of just a few years, make a tremendous impact on the genre (as two Hugos, three Nebulas, and a World Fantasy Award attest, to say nothing of the James Tiptree Jr. Award, which is given to works which expand or explore our understandings of gender).

Alice Sheldon never looked back. She also never let anyone know that James Tiptree Jr. wasn’t a man; all of her many contacts and correspondents in the SF field assumed that the courtly “Tip” who had had such a wide-ranging life and wrote such witty letters was an all-American male. (Who wouldn’t take phone calls or meet anyone — including his agent — in person and would never show up to accept any awards. What began as a joke became, without Alice’s really planning it, an elaborate deception worthy of… well, of the CIA, and a banana peel that countless readers and critics would embarrassingly slip on.)

(29) Ferrett Steinmetz pays impressive tribute to his audience in “Thank You For Being So Goddamned Brave”.

One of the reasons I have any audience at all is that I blog about my insane burblings of social anxiety, and how hard it is for me to go to conventions.  I’d say about one out of every five people who’ve come to see me read from Flex and sign books has that hesitant smile when they approach me, and I know that the only reason they crept out into such a whirlwind social situation is because I’ve lent them strength at some point by sharing my own tearful fears, and that they and I are intertwined with the same terrors.

They’re braver than I am.

I couldn’t come out to see me.

(30) Author Jon Scieszka interviews Norton Juster, author of The Phantom Tollbooth, about writing the classic children’s novel with longtime friend Jules Feiffer after a screening of the documentary The Phantom Tollbooth: Beyond Expectations.

(31) Writing to Robert E. Howard during the Depression, H. P. Lovecraft said he never spent more than $3 a week on food. What were H. P. Lovecraft’s economical favorites? The list includes —

Beans

“Incidentally—not many doors away, on the other side of Willoughby St., I found a restaurant which specialises in home-baked beans. It was closed on Sunday, but I shall try it some time soon. Beans, fifteen cents, with pork, twenty cents. With Frankfort sausages, twenty-five cents. Yes—here is a place which will repay investigation!” (to Mrs. F.C. Clark, 20 May 1925)

“…in New England we are very fond of baked yellow-eye beans…” (to J. Vernon Shea, 10 November 1931)

(31) Among other things, Neil Gaiman has authored a Chipotle cup.

Why are you participating in the Cultivating Thought series?

My work with the United Nations High Commission on Refugees really opened my eyes to the fragility of the world. I thought it might be a good thing to open other eyes.

Tell us about your two-minute read.

I wrote about the Syrian refugee camps in Jordan; the state of people who have left everything, and gone through hell to escape an intolerable situation. What they went through, what they survived.

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(32) Ray Bradbury, one of the greatest sci-fi writers in history, talks with Merv about the movie “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”, Steven Spielberg, his mission as a writer, the future of mankind, and ends by reading from his poem “If Only We Had Taller Been” from his collection “When Elephants Last in the Dooryard Bloomed.”

(33) For those who can’t get enough of Benedict Cumberbatch, news services have released video of his reading of a poem by Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy at the memorial service for Richard III.

(34) The Telegraph has selected the 10 Best Fan Tributes to Terry Pratchett. On the list is —

6) Pub sign
Uncle Tom’s Cabin, one of Pratchett’s former watering holes in Wincanton, Somerset, was decorated with recently decorated with a tribute in the form of a Discworldified pub sign.

This pub sign, amended to feature the noted Ankh-Morpork pub, The Mended Drum, was commissioned before Pratchett’s death, and hung as a memorial shortly afterwards.

It was painted by illustrator Richard Kingston, who, along with Pratchett, was a regular patron of Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

Wincanton is already slightly unusual in that it was twinned in 2002 with a fictional Discworld city, Ankh Morpork.

In 2009, the developer George Wimpey named two streets in its new housing development after Ankh-Morpork’s, including Peach Pie Street and Treacle Mine Road.

(35) And finally, this rare reveal of how they do things in Tinseltown.

[Thanks for these links goes out to John King Tarpinian, James H. Burns, David Gerrold, David Klaus, Martin Morse Wooster and Andrew Porter.]

Hugo Statistics Dress Sad Puppies in Black Armbands

First The Good News: Julie Dillon is the first woman to win the Best Pro Artist Hugo in 45 years. [*] And as I write, you can see a fine example of her work on the masthead of A Dribble of Ink, winner of the 2014 Best Fanzine Hugo.

Yes, Aidan Moher has finally won the Hugo he has coveted for so long. What we began with a certain amount of mutual irritation has evolved into a gentler, almost Fred Allen/Jack Benny-style feud (see for example here and here) – so congratulations, and better Aidan should win than a stranger!

Far more startling was to see Sarah Webb win Best Fan Artist on the first ballot while every other nominee registered fewer first place votes than No Award. For all the discussion in social media of the best way to tactically vote No Award, it’s a surprise to find that having the most impact in a category with no connection to the politics that fueled it.

And Now, The Rest of the Story: Meanwhile at Monster Hunter Nation HQ, it’s time to lie back and stop thinking of England. No matter what people hoped or feared would happen as the Hugo Awards were announced, only one of the 7 shortlisted nominees endorsed by Larry Correia finished ahead of another nominee in their category – basically, they ran last.

Corriea had asked his readers to nominate his novel Warbound plus a slate of 11 other recommendations. Warbound and 6 other beneficiaries of the “Sad Puppy” campaign made it. The most successful among them was Toni Weisskopf, who actually received the most first-place votes in the Best Editor – Long Form category, though she finished fourth in the runoff.

Correia took the high road in his Hugo Aftermath Post

First off, some people are upset and saying there was fraud. I understand your disappointment but I truly don’t think so. In all of my dealings with LonCon they’ve been totally professional and honest. On things like Toni’s, yes, that is confusing as hell, but that is how the Australian system works. One of the original goals of Sad Puppies was to test the Hugo nomination process just because there had been allegations of “lost” noms in prior, and as a retired auditor, I’m a sucker for statistical analyses. SP1 gathered data, and SP2 gave me comparisons. I saw zero indication of fraud. I’ve only been awake for an hour, so I’ve only skimmed the new numbers, but they appear to have shaken out about where expected. So don’t get mad at LonCon, they did their job (and as I can attest, getting accused of fraud without evidence is annoying as hell.)

He followed by explaining yet again why he thought his “Sad Puppies” campaign was justified and how the voting results prove his point – because it’s not as if he was going to suddenly smack his forehead and exclaim, “Wait, I was wrong!”

In the general exchange of social nukes set off by “Sad Puppies” it was a surprise (though by no means a disappointment) that No Award failed to take a single Hugo category.

Furthermore, the nominees receiving the most first place votes in a category tended to win wire-to-wire.

Suspense mounted in the Best Novel category leading up to the vote because no one could predict the impact of Larry Correia’s voting bloc or the strength of support for the Wheel of Time series, while Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice, despite winning the Nebula, seemed handicapped by the publisher’s refusal to put the complete book in the Hugo Voter Packet.

The suspense was unwarranted, as it turns out. Ancillary Justice began with a comfortable lead, getting 1,335 first place votes. The Wheel of Time series had the next largest number of first place votes, 658. However, Wheel of Time finished in fourth place in runoff voting.

There were only a couple of really tight races.

Lightspeed Magazine won the Best Semiprozine Hugo by 16 votes. Two UK-based publications, Strange Horizons and Interzone, hung with Lightspeed Magazine for the first four passes, however, the home-field advantage did not hold true. When Interzone was eliminated almost one-third of its votes dropped out (having listed neither of the survivors in next place) and the remaining votes were divided almost equally between Interzone and Hugo-winner Lightspeed.

Only in a few cases did the eventual winner ever trail. In Best Novella, “Six-Gun Snow White” had a 14 vote edge on “Equoid” after four rounds, but lost by 83.

In Best Dramatic – Long Form, “The Rains of Castamere” was only 11 votes ahead of “The Day of the Doctor” after the fifth pass, but picked up a majority of the votes left after Orphan Black was eliminated, and won by a comfortable margin.

In Best Pro Editor – Long Form, Ginjer Buchanan trailed Toni Weisskopf by 7 votes after the third pass, but ended up winning by over 200 votes.

The “Who are you mad at?” index shows more voters listed the following nominees behind No Award than any others (except for Toni Weisskopf, who is included for comparison, and Wheel of Time which was controversial for a different reason.) (Not ranked in order).

Sad Puppies Finalists Runoff votes No Award
Warbound 1161 1052
The Chaplain’s Legacy 999 602
The Butcher of Khardov 1222 687
The Exchange Officers 1146 736
Opera Vita Aeterna 855 1232
Toni Weisskopf 568 186
Elitist Book Reviews 510 334
Wheel of Time 1306 672

But if the “Sad Puppies” say they had it tough, just show them the “take no prisoners” mentality at work in the fan categories. Many finalists got fewer first place votes than No Award — the fate of 4 out of 5 nominees for Best Fan Artist, 4 out of 7 nominees for Best Fancast, 3 out of 5 nominees for Best Fan Writer, and 1 out of 5 nominees for Best Fanzine.

Turning to the nominating statistics, Vox Day compiled this list of the number of nominating votes that put each of the “Sad Puppies” on the ballot, and scoffed at the supposed “bloc vote” —

Larry Correia 184 (Best Novel)
Toni Weisskopf 169 (Best Professional Editor – Short Form)
Brad Torgersen: 111 (Best Novella)
Dan Wells 106 (Best Novella)
Brad Torgersen 92 (Best Novelette)
Vox Day 69 (Best Novelette)
Sarah Hoyt 38 (failed to make final ballot for Best Short Story)

Just the same, the bloc vote for Vox Day’s Opera Vita Aeterna kept Ken Liu’s “The Litigation Master and the Monkey King” off the ballot.

Paging through the rest of the nominating statistics I observed that Neil Gaiman, by declining a nomination for The Ocean at the End of the Lane, allowed Mira Grant’s Parasite on the ballot – it finished third.

Ender’s Game came within six votes of being shortlisted for Best Dramatic Presentation – Long Form. With another couple of nominating votes, two more Doctor Who episodes could have been finalists in Short Form (which would have thrilled my friends who run Gallifrey, I’m sure.)

On a personal level I found it rather surrealistic to see that in the Best Fanzine category the next five top vote-getters after the finalists were essentially the zines that would have been on the final ballot just a couple years ago – Banana Wings, The Drink Tank, Argentus, SF Signal and File 770. Time marches on.

Update 08/19/2014: As Arnie Fenner points out in his comment below, Diane Dillon, along with husband Leo, won the Hugo for Best Artist in 1969 and deserves the “first-ever” designation, though Julie Dillon’s win is still a breakthrough since she is the first woman to win the Best Artist Pro Hugo in 45 years.

Give ‘em the axe!

That’s what Milt Stevens will be asking voters to do at the 2013 Worldcon Business Meeting – delete the Best Fanzine, Best Fan Writer, and Best Fan Artist Hugo categories from the WSFS Constitution.

Stevens shared the text of his motion with readers of the Smofs listserv and justified it by saying these categories are “susceptible to manipulation” because they get fewer voters and are chronically influenced by people campaigning for themselves. He also expressed frustration with fans’ irreconcilable differences over the definition of a fanzine —

Efforts at compromise have failed. One group says that fanzines are words on paper only, and nothing else can be allowed. Another group thinks fanzines and fan writing are anything the voters can imagine and will tolerate no limitations whatsoever. There is wide dissatisfaction with these three awards, and it doesn’t seem likely to go away.

When Milt and I discussed his idea a few months ago, I argued that the implicit message in his motion was not that fanzine fans refuse to let the awards be abused, but that we quit, we’re abdicating our influence over the future of this subset of the Hugos. And other fans, semipros and bloggers who already feel entitled to control the awards will just tell us don’t let the door bang our butts on the way out.

(Yet I’m intrigued how much Milt has in common with Aidan Moher, who makes some of the same criticisms about the Hugo electorate. Of course, Moher wants to give all the fan Hugos to bloggers, so never the twain shall meet…)

I disagree with the proposal to repeal the fan Hugos because I feel our best interests involve keeping fanzines in the mix for these awards. There are still large numbers of fanzines being published and there’s no reason to legislate the irrelevance of this healthy brand of fanac.

It’s also too bad that the debate over the motion will inevitably make fanzine fans look more like jackasses than we already do, having just spent the last two years getting our alleged political allies to help us reconstitute the Best Fanzine category as we supposedly wanted it to look. Something they were happy to do because they had no intention of asking Hugo Administrators to enforce the result the movers, including Rich Lynch, said the rules change was actually supposed to have.

Like it or not, for fanzine fans the Hugos resemble the joke version of the Laws of Thermodynamics — you can’t win, you can’t break even, and you can’t get out of the game. So, since we can’t get out, we should not be abandoning the influence we still have left.

Update 08/01/2013: Corrected which set of natural laws the joke refers to, per comment.

Personal Thoughts About the Fan Hugos

I promised I’d return to Aidan Moher’s questions about the fan Hugo nominees:

But don’t even get me started on the Best Fanzine and Best Fan Writer awards. Maybe I’m exposing my ignorance here, but beyond StarShip Sofa, I haven’t heard of a damn one, nor am I familiar with any of the writers. My beef, obviously, is the lack of presence of blogs, bloggers and online writers. Where’re the Nialls (Harrison and Alexander)? Where’s Abigail Nussbaum or Adam Whitehead? No nod for SF Signal? Really?

Really? Are we to assume from Moher’s tone that there’s a consensus about the best work in the field accepted by everyone except the actual Hugo voters?

There’s no consensus – there’s not even a plurality of opinion. Not among fandom at large and not among those dinosaurs the “traditional fanzine fans.”

Look how many different things were nominated in the fan categories this year – 119 fanzines, 225 fan writers. The leading fan writer (whoever that is) appeared only on 22% of the ballots. It was possible to reach the finals in Best Fanzine or Best Fan Artist with support of just 13% of the voters, and in Best Fan Writer with only 9%. Four-fifths of the voters might easily be asking if everyone else really neglected their favorites, but filling in the blank with names Moher never mentioned:

Votes Unique Nominees Range
Low % High %
Best Fanzine 340 119 43 0.13 69 0.20
Best Fan Writer 323 225 30 0.09 70 0.22
Best Fan Artist 176 97 23 0.13 46 0.26

I happen to agree that Moher’s examples are, indeed, excellent. The thing is — there’s a lot of quality work being done, many admired writers, and the voters in the fan categories are passionate about a wide variety of choices. They have such a diversity of interests that there’s no justification for Moher to take on so, as if his examples of the most award-worthy fan writers or fanzines are so superior they’re the only ones anyone should embrace.

The Not So Great Divide: Moher’s complaint about a “lack of presence of blogs, bloggers and online writers” among the nominees appeals to the idea there is divide between people who engage in online fanac and…  uh… come to think of it, who exactly is supposed to be on the other side of that divide?

Everybody uses the Web now. The Cool Kids and the Old Pharts haven’t been divided between pixels and paper for years. Did you notice there were only 14 paper ballots out of 1006 cast?

In hindsight, I believe the separation of various fan communities was not a technological divide but was a byproduct of people’s attempt to define fandom in a way that allowed them to believe they were keeping up with the part that mattered (therefore making it okay to ignore the rest.) Time is finite and interests vary with the individual, few fans have the desire or resources to participate in the full spectrum. That’s a social dynamic at work, not a byproduct of choices in communication technology.

There may be a divide of a different kind at work currently. Aren’t most of Moher’s examples distinguished by their passion for discussing sf & fantasy? Don’t most of the present fan Hugo finalists focus on fandom and social interests rather than discussions of genre literature? In the last culture war between faanish and sercon fans, the former were offended by all those darn book review zines hogging space on the Hugo ballot. I wonder if we haven’t cycled around to a version of this controversy again.

Despite our milieu being called “science fiction fandom” we often underestimate how much a quality discussion of science fiction or life inside the writing business appeals to fans. Would Fred Pohl have won a Best Fan Writer Hugo if every post was about the bheer can tower to the moon or something equally skiffy?

This pendulum swings back and forth as time passes and varies which interest dominates the Hugo ballot.

Legislated Change: When the “Making the Web Eligible” amendments to the Hugo rules took effect in 2010 many fans predicted they would yield a radically different slate of nominees – a prospect filling some with delight and others with dread. Those predictions came true. The winner of the 2010 Best Fanzine Hugo, StarShip Sofa, was a podcast. Three first-timers were up for the Best Fan Writer Hugo, two bloggers, those overnight sensations James Nicoll and Fred Pohl, plus letterhack Lloyd Penney.

Yet in 2011 voters returned some of the old standbys to the final ballot, so it’s not as if an asteroid struck the earth last year and wiped out the dinosaurs.

Why Does It Look This Way? Three factors seem to have moderated the change everyone predicted.

First, the growing participation in the Hugos — a record 1006 Worldcon members cast nominating ballots in 2011 — hasn’t impacted the fan categories. The average voter isn’t interested in fanac and leaves that part of the ballot blank.

Second, veteran fans with somewhat convergent ideas about fanzines still exert leverage on the Hugo nominating process, as I’ll explain.

Third, voters don’t know what “Making the Web Eligible” made eligible that wasn’t before. The amended rules failed to provide clear direction. This vagueness makes newcomers shy away from participating in the fan categories. People only vote when they’re somewhat confident about what they’re supposed to be voting for.

White Space: Hugo Administrator Vincent Docherty’s statistical summary shows that while practically every voter nominated something in the Best Novel category, with 83% participation, the typical ballot otherwise left many of categories completely blank.

2011 Hugos
Total Ballots = 1006 Votes Cast in Category Percentage of All Ballots
Best Novel 833 0.83
Best Novella 407 0.40
Best Novelette 382 0.38
Best Short Story 515 0.51
Best Related Work 375 0.37
Best Graphic Story 287 0.29
BDP, Long Form 510 0.51
BDP, Short Form 394 0.39
Best Editor, Short 425 0.42
Best Editor, Long 300 0.30
Best Pro Artist 406 0.40
Best Semiprozine 368 0.37
Best Fanzine 340 0.34
Best Fan Writer 323 0.32
Best Fan Artist 176 0.17

My interpretation of these statistics is that they show voters nominate in categories where they feel a higher level of confidence in their knowledge about what deserves an award — and skip the rest.

Something else I believe is true, though it can’t be proven with the voting stats, is this:

Most Hugo voters don’t read fanzines.

Most Hugo voters don’t read blogs by fans.

Because most Hugo voters don’t read fan writing, which is what your typical fanzine or fannish blog is filled with. It really makes no difference whether the fan writing is online or what format it’s in.

Most Hugo voters don’t know any names to write down in the fan categories, so most of them don’t nominate in the fan categories.

Ballots Better Than Bullets: That leaves those of us who think we do know something about the subject to thresh things out. And the numbers show in the Best Fanzine category that the people who are sure they know what a fanzine is and have an opinion about what the best ones are, simply by filling out their ballots completely, wield a surprising degree of influence over what makes the final ballot. This can be inferred from the voting statistics.

In every category a great many voters cast “bullet votes” — they write down just one or two selected friends or favorites. Here’s how we know that. Remember, a voter can nominate up to five items in each category. Now look at the Best Novel category:

2011 Hugos
Total Ballots = 1006

Total

Nominations

Average Nominations
Best Novel 833 2657 3.19
Best Novella 407 987 2.43
Best Novelette 382 1014 2.65
Best Short Story 515 1538 2.99
Best Related Work 375 729 1.94
Best Graphic Story 287 660 2.30
BDP, Long Form 510 1283 2.52
BDP, Short Form 394 1036 2.63
Best Editor, Short 425 1105 2.60
Best Editor, Long 300 629 2.10
Best Pro Artist 406 1058 2.61
Best Semiprozine 368 881 2.39
Best Fanzine 340 819 2.41
Best Fan Writer 323 912 2.82
Best Fan Artist 176 462 2.63

Docherty reports voters made 2657 total nominations. Therefore, 2657 divided by 833 ballots equals an average of 3.19 nominations per ballot.

Working through the rest of the ballot there’s surprising consistency — nearly every category averaged 2-3 nominations or less per ballot.

Some voters are filling in four or five slots on their ballots, so that overall low average can only be achieved if a large proportion of the other voters write in just a single nominee – casting bullet votes.

Without looking at the ballots, which isn’t allowed, no one can tell which nominees were helped by bullet voting, and that’s beside the point. My purpose is to show how prevalent bullet votes must be.

I believe we fannish voters continue to have a greater impact for the very reason that we do put something in all five spaces. If, after I fire one of my bullets for File 770, I follow it with another for Challenger (which is a terrific fanzine), give the third to The Drink Tank and so on – that collectively lifts a certain community of fanzines above the background noise. Even a small convergence of this kind influences the outcome.

Why Johnny Can’t Define “Issue”: A few months ago I was happy to get an e-mail from the Hugo Administrator telling me File 770 was nominated. The e-mail also asked me to verify that I was eligible in the category:

We’re delighted to inform you that File 770 has been nominated for a Hugo Award in the category of Best Fanzine. The Best Fanzine category is for any generally available non-professional publication devoted to science fiction, fantasy, or related subjects which by the close of 2010 has published four (4) or more issues (or the equivalent in other media), at least one (1) of which appeared in the previous calendar year, and which does not qualify as a semiprozine.

Can you confirm this requirement and do you accept the nomination in this category?

Easy for me to answer that affirmatively, I had a paper issue out last year. All the other finalists had distinct issues, too.

Were any of the prospective nominees blog creators, who read this paragraph and decided their work didn’t qualify and declined the nomination? I doubt it. Nobody on the verge of making the final ballot will think, “I’ve made 200 blog posts but I’m not sure if that’s the equivalent of four issues, so I’d better turn down this nomination.”

But I do suspect that Hugo voters are deterred from nominating things that don’t come in easily-definable issues. Maybe they should be. Last year John Scalzi, seconded by Cheryl Morgan, advanced the idea that their blogs were not fanzines or related works, setting an example to the effect that bloggers should be recognized only in the Best Fan Writer category.

No way of really deciding who’s right – the authors of “Making the Web Eligible” failed to say what “the equivalent in other media” is. And because fans shy away from voting in categories unless they’re confident in their knowledge, don’t you suppose the lack of an explicit definition chills participation?

Vincent Docherty, Hugo Administrator for 2010 and again in 2011, provided helpful guidance last year that made it clear the voters collectively would have the most say about what qualifies:

In summary, unless I feel very certain a work is technically ineligible, (which includes having only a trivial amount of new material), I will accept the will of the nominators. It is therefore up to the electorate to act as the jury on the facts and answer the question: ‘Is this work a fanzine (or semiprozine or Related Work) or not?

Of course the rules change was nicknamed “Making the Web Eligible” for a reason – the movers did not intend that only things looking like paper magazines would be allowed into contention as fanzines, otherwise they need not have changed the rules.

Last year the three online non-magazine publications receiving the most nominations for Best Fanzine, besides winner StarShip Sofa, were SF Signal (17), Australian Speculative Fiction in Focus (13), and The Way the Future Blogs (11). They may make it yet.

Conclusion: I hate to say it, but the infinite audience of the internet mostly avoids reading our fascinating verbiage, whether it appears on a hip happening blog or in a bilious old PDF file at eFanzines. Everybody wishes they drew like Scalzi at Whatever. Most are lucky to draw like Glyer at File 770. Enormous numbers of people online have an interest in sf – it’s mainstream now. How many are engaged in fannish activities like fan writing, con running, publishing, etc. How many are connected to the Worldcon community whose members vote on the Hugos?

We have fannish communities with varied interests and tastes and while it’s typical of the age to assume the other side is biased and corrupt, in fact it’s everyone’s privilege to like what they like. The prospects with the most support will make the final ballot, which is how the Hugos are designed to work.

(P.S. I note that SF Awards Watch has done its own exploration of the voting stats in “A New Hugo Award Podcast”. If this post was inspired by their work I’d happily admit it, but it’s not.)

Update 05/23/2011: Fixed one table — thanks to Mike K. Discovered I had copied another test calculation which isn’t discussed in this post. 

Vincent Docherty Discusses
Online Hugo Eligibility

Eligibility of online works
under the amended

Hugo Award rules
By Vincent Docherty

I am the WSFS Division Head for the 2010 Worldcon, Aussiecon 4, and Administrator for the Hugo Awards.

Mike Glyer recently asked for my opinion on how a couple of the newly-ratified WSFS rules changes will be administered. Specifically: ‘Will blogs and websites be eligible in the Best Fanzine and Best Semiprozine categories if they meet the general criteria of either category?

Hugo administrators usually refrain from commenting on general eligibility questions in advance, preferring to deal with actual nominations. There is a lot of interest in the Hugos among people with an interest in the rules and potential nominees, and feedback can be unforgiving of actual or perceived errors. However Mike did raise an interesting point in regard to the recent changes to the WSFS rules, which resulted from the work done by a sub-committee looking at the eligibility of web-based works: “This coming year poses different problems, however, and fans will want to know in advance whether it’s a waste of a nominating vote to write down blogs and websites in the Best Fanzine category.”

I’d like to make clear my approach to administering Hugo nominations. This is based on working with other Hugo Administrators and having been on the Hugo administration sub-committee in 2005. When looking at nominations:

  • 1. first follow the WSFS Constitution as it applies to the Hugos;
  • 2. where the rules aren’t sufficiently clear, be guided by the will of the voters;
  • 3. consider, but not be bound by, rulings by previous administrators;
  • 4. any mistakes I make are my own and not a precedent.

Let’s look at the relevant changes that actually occurred in the WSFS Constitution following the 2009 Business Meeting. Kevin Standlee, the BM chair, has updated the text which is now online at http://www.wsfs.org/bm/rules.html

The clauses which were modified, and relevant to the questions, are now:

3.3.5:  Best Related Work. Any work related to the field of science fiction, fantasy, or fandom, appearing for the first time during the previous calendar year or which has been substantially modified during the previous calendar year, and which is either non-fiction or, if fictional, is noteworthy primarily for aspects other than the fictional text, and which is not eligible in any other category.

3.3.12:  Best Semiprozine. Any generally available non-professional publication devoted to science fiction or fantasy which by the close of the previous calendar year has published four (4) or more issues (or the equivalent in other media), at least one (1) of which appeared in the previous calendar year, and which in the previous calendar year met at least two (2) of the following criteria:
(1) had an average press run of at least one thousand (1000) copies per issue,
(2) paid its contributors and/or staff in other than copies of the publication,
(3) provided at least half the income of any one person,
(4) had at least fifteen percent (15%) of its total space occupied by advertising,
(5) announced itself to be a semiprozine.

3.3.13:  Best Fanzine. Any generally available non-professional publication devoted to science fiction, fantasy, or related subjects which by the close of the previous calendar year has published four (4) or more issues (or the equivalent in other media), at least one (1) of which appeared in the previous calendar year, and which does not qualify as a semiprozine.

The substantive changes were: ‘Best Related Book’ becomes ‘Best Related Work’, and the addition of the phrase ‘(or the equivalent in other media)’ to the Semiprozine and Fanzine categories. These were proposed by the web eligibility sub-committee in 2008 and ratified this year.

When increasing numbers of genre works began appearing online, sometimes exclusively, two Worldcon committees exercised their discretion to add a “Best Website” Hugo category. These were popular categories, and the nominees can be seen here: http://www.thehugoawards.org/hugo-history/  However, in at least one case, the same work appeared in both Best Website and another category, and several nominees were in effect containers for fiction, non-fiction or fannish work eligible in other also categories. There was a concern that the same content could be eligible in multiple categories. This was a trigger for the eventual creation of the subcommittee tasked with looking at web eligibility.

Even before 2009, the rules already permitted fiction, dramatic presentations, and in the last few years, semiprozines and fanzines, to be nominated regardless of media platform. The recent change brought the Related Work category into line and provided some additional clarity to Semiprozine, Fanzine, (and Editor Short Form, which isn’t in the scope of this article). The important thing is the content, not the container or medium or means of delivery.

The answer to the general question about whether genre websites, including blogs, are eligible in principle is clearly yes, since the rules now explicitly permit works published in other media in several categories. The follow-up question is which websites and blogs are eligible in which categories, and are there easy to understand guidelines for nominators?

Under the revised rules, a web-only publication of an individual work, or series of issues of a work, would certainly be eligible as a Fanzine, Semiprozine or Related Work, depending on whether it satisfies the specific category rules. There are hard boundaries between Fanzine and Semiprozine: a work either meets two of the five tests, and is therefore a Semiprozine, or it doesn’t, and so is a Fanzine.  (For instance, a notable fanzine changed category in 2003, when its editor decided to declare it a Semiprozine., and it presumably satisfied at least one other condition for Semiprozine.).  If a work is eligible to be a Fanzine or Semiprozine, then it is not eligible to be a Best Related Work. 

Many genre websites, including blogs, are continuously updated with material, making them difficult to classify as individual works or ‘issues’. ‘Issues’ of a magazine or fanzine have two characteristics: they comprise discrete blocks of new material.  Reference, news, and SF club and convention websites comprise much-changing material. Other sites such as the various online fanzines and magazines are largely containers for individual works. Blogs and some other genre sites are somewhere in between – is each article/blog entry an individual work or issue in its own right or is it the whole that is the work? And how often does an update need to occur to trigger eligibility?

The eligibility criteria in Fanzine and Semiprozine include the condition: ‘which by the close of the previous calendar year has published four (4) or more issues (or the equivalent in other media), at least one (1) of which appeared in the previous calendar year‘. That’s an easy test for works, whether paper or online, which comprise clearly labeled, separate issues, but less easy for continuously updated websites such as blogs or clubs and cons. 

In regard to the requirements of discreteness, WSFS clearly wants electronic media to be included. Blogs are a vital part of the electronic fan writing scene just now. I suspect that ‘issue’ in this context is a proxy for ‘new content’.

I would accept that any content update in the previous calendar year would be sufficient for the last eligibility criterion, but how to assess ‘four or more issues’? One can imagine the extreme case of a blog with four short entries, by a popular genre figure, being eligible in the minds of some nominators, and arguably passing the ‘letter of the law’.

I asked Ben Yalow to provide some additional background information on the eligibility rules and with his permission I have reproduced some of his key comments. (In one place I generalized a reference to a regular recent nominee):

Historically, there was a two-part test for a paper publication to meet for deciding its eligibility.  The first criterion was whether it was a “this year” work or not — did an issue appear in the appropriate year?  And that test is common to all of the Hugo categories.  But for a web site, or something in some other medium that is continually modified (rather than having a quantized “issue”), the judgment has to be whether there is sufficient new material to trigger eligibility.  And, for that, I would expect the guidance would have to be to follow the will of the voters unless it’s so obviously wrong as to be absurd. For instance  if a blogger had only one post to a sizeable existing blog in a year, then it would probably be considered too minimal an amount to requalify it — but it should probably be something equally absurd to trigger that  administrator action.

The second part — the “four issues” test — should be interpreted based on the parliamentary history of what that was inserted into the Constitution to do.  Although we don’t have minutes for the Business Meeting where that was adopted (Seacon, in 1961), we do know the cause.  Specifically, “Who Killed Science Fiction?” (Earl Kemp’s one-shot) appeared on the ballot, and actually won — and the Business Meeting decided that one-shots shouldn’t be eligible in Fanzine (and it was carried across to Semiprozine when Fanzine got split).  So the “four issues” test — which is easy to administer for things that proclaim themselves as having quantized issues — needs an equivalent test, which is what the wording “(or the equivalent in other media)” tells the administrator to do.  So, for a blog/web site, the question is whether it’s a one-shot item (for example, a blog set up for people to post on at a specific Corflu should be considered a one-shot, and not eligible, even though it has lots of individual posts), or an ongoing item, which is the equivalent to the “four issues” test for continuous-posting media.

I think there is a lot of sense in that, which I would summarise as: a nominee must have substantial original content in the year in question, and that it be more than a flash in the pan, (the Hugo is designed not to be awarded to a one-shot wonder), and therefore had substantial material in prior years.

What guidance is available then, in terms of how much new material triggers eligibility? It is not my role to supplant WSFS and so I can’t give a definitive minimum count of words, and I also can’t declare that the concept of ‘issue’ is meaningless. Some guidance is needed to avoid a situation where a trivially small amount of work is considered sufficient. So I think a useful rule of thumb would be that new material, comparable to the amount of new material in an issue of a typical small fanzine, appeared in the last year, and that substantially more than that appeared overall.  Any blog, or news-site or other website which has new material each year, and which is popular enough to get enough legitimate nominations to get on the ballot, should be able to exceed this.

I hope these are perceived as reasonable suggestions, which will work in combination with the will of the nominators and a certain degree of judgment by the administrator. The Hugos don’t run in a vacuum and most nominators and voters are familiar with the rules and aren’t trying to game the system. 

In summary, unless I feel very certain a work is technically ineligible, (which includes having only a trivial amount of new material), I will accept the will of the nominators. It is therefore up to the electorate to act as the jury on the facts and answer the question: ‘Is this work a fanzine (or semiprozine or Related Work) or not?

I’ve found it useful to think through these questions, and I’m very grateful to Chris Barkley, Paul Dormer, Paul Ewins, Mike Glyer, John Lorentz, Mark Olson, Kevin Standlee, Ben Yalow and others, who took the time to offer opinions and background information. Some things are much clearer to me and others no doubt need further thought. New Hugo rules can take some time to settle down, and sometimes they need to be revised in order to provide more clarity. Some of the people I have talked to have also taken a line that we should be more prescriptive about what a Fanzine is, and that blog writers should only be eligible for Fan Writer. I leave that to those who can make a persuasive case at the WSFS Business Meeting.

I expect that the best guidance will be provided by the actual nominations from fans who genuinely want to celebrate and reward what they think has been best in the genre, which after all is really at the heart of both Worldcon and the Hugos. The members of WSFS are a very large jury, and it’s up to each person to make their own individual decision about whether a work is a fanzine (etc.) or not.

I welcome comments and suggestions.

Vincent Docherty.
wsfs@aussiecon4.org.au

Stiles Steps Aside

Now that the 2009 Hugo Award finalists are posted renowned fanartist Steve Stiles has publicly announced that he turned down a nomination in the Best Fan Artist category. Steve explains why:

I’m always glad to get the nomination, but this time around I want to pass in favor of another nominee, Taral Wayne. For years I’ve admired his excellent skills as a cartoonist, and for years I’ve watched him get passed over despite his obvious talents. I believe this will be eighth time Taral will have been nominated, and as a GoH at Anticipation this will be his very best chance at finally winning a well-deserved Hugo.

Since I suspect that we draw votes from the same fan base, I wouldn’t want to jeopardize his chances at getting this way overdue award.

There can be no more sincere endorsement than that, Steve.

Bob Eggleton was a GoH at Chicon 2000, and that year Michael Whelan won the Best Professional Artist Hugo. Eggleton theorized that fans feel being GoH is such an honor that they tend to look for somebody else to give the Hugo. I personally doubt it, and off the top of my head I remember Harlan Ellison winning a short story Hugo when he was GoH at IguanaCon 2 in 1978. But it’s late: investigating whether it’s happened more than once will have to be a project for another day.