Pixel Scroll 4/6/17 Dr. Pixuel Johnson’s Right About Scrollson Johnson Being Right!

(1) WERE THEY UNDER ATTACK? Chuck Wendig launches “The Great Ewok Defense of 2017”. Make sure you never find yourself standing between Chuck’s Ewoks and a stormtrooper…

(2) DRAGONS FROM OUT OF TOWN. Aliette de Bodard tells about “My Favourite Dragons and How I Designed Mine” at The Book Smugglers.

It will probably not be a surprise that I love dragons — a lot of fantasy and SF readers also do! There’s something intrinsically fascinating, for me, about flying, graceful reptiles with magical powers.

You’ll notice I don’t say “reptiles that breathe fire”, and the main reason for that is that the first dragons I encountered weren’t the Western ones that needed to be killed by the likes of Saint George, but the r?ng, the Vietnamese dragons, who tend to live underwater, have deers’ antlers and a long serpentine body but generally no wings, and who are generally benevolent entities who dispense rain (or catastrophic floods if angered).

(3) REACHING FOR THE SHELF. Nicholas Whyte created a quick introduction to the Hugo Awards, which he administers for Worldcon 75.

(4) A SINGULAR SENSATION. I wasn’t able to help Jason Kehe when he asked me about Chuck Tingle – you know as much as I do — while Vox Day said on his blog he simply refused to answer questions from the media. But Tingle himself was happy to offer a quote for WIRED.com’s article “The Hidden, Wildly NSFW Scandal of the Hugo Nominations”.

Hiscock’s nomination is the work of the Rabid Puppies, a community of reactionary sci-fi/fantasy writers and fans who in 2015 sought to derail the Hugos’ big-tent evolution by stuffing the notoriously gameable ballot box with what they saw as criminally overlooked white male nominees. After the Rabid Puppies found huge success—they placed more than 50 recommendations—predecessors the Sad Puppies smuggled in a 2016 Best Short Story nominee they hoped would really tank the proceedings: Space Raptor Butt Invasion, an erotic gay sci-fi tale self-published by an unknown named Chuck Tingle.

Incredibly, though, the plan backfired. Tingle turned out to be a ridiculously lovable, possibly insane ally—or at least a very shrewd performance artist—who used his new platform to speak out against exclusion and bigotry in all their forms. In the intervening year-plus, he’s emerged as something of a cult icon, pumping out ebook after skewering ebook of wildly NSFW prose. His latest, Pounded In The Butt By My Second Hugo Award Nomination, refers to the recognition he got this year, on his own, in the Best Fan Writer category.

Here’s what the man of the hour had to say:

Chuck Tingle: hello buckaroo name of JASON thank you for writing and thank you for congrats on this way! i believe this author is put on the nominees by THE BAD DOGS BLUES as a way to prank the hugos like when they thought author name of chuck was some goof they could push around (no way buddy not this buckaroo). so it seems to be same idea as last year dont know much about it. thing is you cant just nominate some reverse twin of chuck there is only one chuck on this timeline and he is nominated as BEST FAN WRITER all by his own! this is a good way i am so proud! so long story short i hope this new author is not a reverse twin of the void but who knows i have not seen the end of this timeline branch yet.

(5) TOUGHEST CHALLENGE. At the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog , Ross Johnson contends “The Best Series Hugo Is the Hardest Decision on the Ballot”.

A Best Series award makes perfect sense: when a book is part of a larger story, no matter how mind-blowing, it can be tough to judge it on its own merits—so why not take a look at series as a whole? After all, we all know SFF loves its trilogies (and its 10- to 14-book epic sagas). This is a great way to recognize a body of work, especially when the nth book of an excellent series generally has little chance of being nominated (let alone winning), but is still worthy of recognition. No one was quite sure how the nominations would shake out (could the entire Star Wars Extended Universe be considered as a singular series?), but there’s no arguing that the books on this inaugural ballot don’t seem to be entirely in the spirit of the award. There’s a wide-range of serious talent on the list, venerable classics alongside burgeoning favorites, all displaying the kind of character- and worldbuilding that can only be accomplished across multiple books.

(6) GOING TO THE WORLDCON. The Shimmer Program announced that the winners of the Worldcon 75 Attending Funding for Chinese fans offered by Storycom are Yang Sumin and Zhang Jialin (Colin). Each will get RMB 10,000 for use in attending and staffing the con. They are expected to gain experience in the Worldcon organizational work and help with future Chinese bids.

Jukka Halme, Chair of Worldcon 75 and Xia Jia, Chinese science fiction writer, selected the winners from five finalists.

There are photos and introductions to the two winners at the link.

(7) ISLAND NEWS Download Progress Report #1 for NorthAmeriCon’17, to be held in San Juan, PR from July 6-9. Lots of areas where they’re looking for staff and volunteers.

(8) FIRST CLUB. Joshua Sky sold this article to Mayim Bialik of Big Bang Theory for her site, Grok Nation. It’s about the origins of science fiction fandom: “The Scienceers: Where Science Fiction Clubs Began”.

All my life I’ve been a fan of science fiction, but I never knew much about the history of the field, nor did the majority of die-hard fans that I encountered. How could we – who could instantly recall every detail from our favorite comic books and every line of dialogue from Star Wars or Back to the Future – love something so much and know so little about its origins?

Last year, I found the answer when I was given a handful of wonderful out-of-print books chronicling the rich history of science fiction and fandom, including The Way the Future Was by Frederik Pohl, The Futurians by Damon Knight and The Immortal Storm by Sam Moskowitz. In their pages, I learned about the fascinating beginnings of fandom, which was mired in political warfare between overzealous teenagers, where clubs would form and disintegrate overnight. What I found most interesting, was an account of the first science fiction club ever established, called The Scienceers. It was founded in New York, on December 11th, 1929. Nearly 90 years ago. The first president of the club was a young African-American man named Warren Fitzgerald, and the first club meetings were held in his home….

File 770 took a look at that topic in 2014 from a different angle — “Early Science Fiction Clubs: Your Mileage May Vary” and “The Planet: One Last Landing” – and The Scienceers won the verdict of “first club” then, too.

(9) ALLIANCE FINALISTS. Realm Makers has announced the shortlist for the 2017 Alliance Award, the site’s new Readers Choice award for speculative fiction novel by a Christian author.

 

A Branch of Silver, A Branch of Gold Anne Elisabeth Stengl
A Time To Rise Nadine Brandes
‘sccelerant Ronie Kendig
Bellanok Ralene  Burke
Black Tiger Sara Baysinger
Darkened Hope J. L. Mbewe
Defy Tricia Mingerink
Domino Kia Heavey
King’s Folly Jill Williamson
New Name A.C. Williams
Rebirth Amy Brock McNew
Saint Death Mike Duran
Samara’s Peril Jaye L. Knight
Scarlet Moon S.D. Grimm
Siren’s Song Mary Weber
Songkeeper Gillian Bronte Adams
Star Realms: Rescue Run Jon Del Arroz
Tainted Morgan Busse
The Shattered Vigil Patrick W. Carr
Unblemished Sara Ella

(10) HEALTH SETBACK. Eric Flint told about his latest medical problems in a public Facebook post.

Well, there’s been a glitch in my serene and inexorable progress toward eradicating my cancer. I developed an abscess at the site where the pancreas drain came out of my abdomen from the splenectomy. (Nasty damn thing! Painful as hell, too.) So I had to go back into the hospital for five days while the doctors drained it and pumped me full of antibiotics. I’m now on a home IV antibiotic regimen.

In the meantime, my oncologists suspended the chemotherapy regimen until the 20th. Chemo depresses the immune system so you really don’t want to pile it on top of an active infection. (That’s probably why I developed the abscess in the first place, in fact.) I’d just finished the third cycle, so what’s essentially happening is that we’re suspending one cycle and will resume the fourth cycle right when the fifth one would have originally started…

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • April 6, 1968 — Stanley’s Kubrick’s science-fiction classic 2001: A Space Odyssey makes its debut in movie theaters.

Trivial Trivia:  In Kubrick’s next movie, Clockwork Orange, there is a scene in the record store where the LP for 2001 is displayed.

(12) RICKLES OBIT. Famous comedian Don Rickles (1926-2017) passed away today at the age of 90. His genre work included The Twilight Zone, “Mr. Dingle, the Strong” (1961), X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes, both The Addams Family and The Munsters, The Wild, Wild, West, I Dream of Jeannie, and Tales from the Crypt. Late in life he voiced Mr. Potato Head in the Toy Story film series.

(13) DO YOU HAVE THESE? James Davis Nicoll is back with “Twenty Core Epic Fantasies Every True SF Fan Should Have On Their Shelves”

As with the two previous core lists, here are twenty epic fantasies chosen entirely on the basis of merit and significance to the field. No implication is intended that these are the only twenty books you should consider.

I agree that was wise to say, since he omits the first three authors whose names I’d expect to see on such a list. On the other hand, if not for Nicoll’s list I would have remained unaware that Kara Dalkey (someone I knew at LASFS 40 years ago) has written a well-regarded fantasy.

(14) WHITEWASHING. Steven Barnes shares “Ten Thoughts on Whitewashing”. Here are the first five.

The whitewashing controversy is pretty simple at its core:

  1. if a character’s race is changed toward yours, you will tend to be sanguine with it. If it is changed away from yours, you will tend to object. If you have control of the property, you will choose changes toward you, on average.
  2. To this end, if you are group X, you will put X’s into makeup to resemble Y’s so you can control the image systems and keep the money circulating in your own communities. When that stops working, you’ll change the back-stories. It all achieves the same result, and other X’s will support any change you make.
  3. The changers will not be honest about the fact that they simply preferred the change. They will blame the audience, the lack of actors, the material, another country. Anything but themselves.
  4. The audience prefers it too, but also will not take responsibility. It is the creators, the material, other people. Never them.
  5. As this is what is really going on, and everybody does it, you can remove this entire issue from the table and ask instead: what kind of world do we want? I can answer this for myself: I want a world where art reflects the world as it is. Not “politically correct” but “demographically correct” which, we can see, translates into “economically correct.” But #1 continues to dominate far too often, corrupting the creative process (thank God!) and creating under-performing movies and television and outright bombs.

(15) TOR LOVE. The xkcd cartoon “Security Advice” became the most-clicked link from File 770 yesterday after Darren Garrison commented, “Well, it looks like Randal Monroe is part of the Tor cabal.” Read it and you’ll understand why.

(16) ALL ABOARD. Jump on Matt Lambros’  “Los Angeles Lost Theatre Tour”.

On Saturday July 1, I’ll be co-leading tours through seven of Los Angeles’s Lost Theatres as part of the Afterglow event at the Theatre Historical Society of America’s 2017 Conclave.

Starting at 10AM, we’ll be going to The Variety Arts, the Leimert/Vision, the Rialto, the Raymond, the Uptown and the Westlake. Photography is allowed, and I’ll be conducting short demonstrations and answering any questions you may have about architectural photography.

(17) BATGIRL. “Hope Larson discusses and signs Batgirl Vol. 1: Beyond Burnside (Rebirth)” at Vroman’s in Pasadena on April 12.

Spinning out of DC UNIVERSE: REBIRTH comes the newest adventures of Batgirl in BATGIRL VOL. 1: BEYOND BURNSIDENew York Times best-selling creators Hope Larson (A Wrinkle in Time) takes one of Gotham’s greatest heroes on a whirlwind world tour in BATGIRL VOL. 1: BEYOND BURNSIDE. Barbara Gordon’s heart belongs to Burnside, the ultra-hip Gotham City neighborhood. But some threats are bigger than Burnside. And when those threats come calling, Batgirl will answer!  When Babs plans a trip to train with the greatest fighters in the Far East, she has no idea her vigilante life will follow her. Lethal warriors are out to take her down, each bearing the mysterious mark of “The Student.” And where there are Students, there must also be…a Teacher. As part of the epic Rebirth launch, Batgirl Vol. 1: Beyond Burnside is a perfect jumping-on point to start reading about Batgirl and her action-packed, crime-fighting adventures!  (DC Comics)

(18) BESTER TV EPISODE. “Mr. Lucifer,” story and teleplay by Alfred Bester, can be seen on YouTube. Broadcast in glorious b&w in four parts on ALCOA Premiere Theater, starring Fred Astaire and Elizabeth Montgomery, on November 1, 1962.

In addition to “Mr. Lucifer,” Astaire played several other characters. Music by a much younger John “Johnny” Williams.

Links to parts 2-4 listed on upper right side of page.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Darrah Chavey, Darren Garrison, Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day m.c. simon milligan.]

Pixel Scroll 6/2/16 Scroll Songs of an Old Pixel

(1) WHO NEXT. From The Guardian, “Doctor Who showrunner says there was going to be a black Doctor”.

The starring role in BBC1’s Doctor Who was offered to a black actor but it “didn’t work out” according to the series showrunner, Steven Moffat.

Moffat said it would be “amazing” to have two non-white leads after Pearl Mackie, whose father is from the West Indies, was cast as the Doctor’s companion earlier this year.

He said the producers took a conscious decision to cast a non-white actor as the companion “because we need to do better on that. We just have to”.

Moffat said the show had tried to go one further by casting the first non-white Doctor, but the choice later fell through….

Moffat said Doctor Who had “no excuse” not to feature a diverse cast of black, Asian and minority ethnic actors. “Sometimes the nature of a particular show – historical dramas, for instance – makes diversity more of a challenge, but Doctor Who has absolutely nowhere to hide on this,” he said.

“Young people watching have to know that they have a place in the future. That really matters. You have to care profoundly what children’s shows in particular say about where you’re going to be.

“And we’ve kind of got to tell a lie: we’ll go back into history and there will be black people where, historically, there wouldn’t have been, and we won’t dwell on that. We’ll say, ‘To hell with it, this is the imaginary, better version of the world. By believing in it, we’ll summon it forth.’

“And, outside of the fiction, it’s about anyone feeling that they can be involved in this industry as an actor, a director, a writer … It’s hugely important, and it’s not good when we fail on that. We must do better.”

(2) ‘MASS EFFECT. Mark-kitteh is excited that “Quatermass will return to television in a new series on BBC America”.

Quatermass is returning to television – over a decade since the character last visited the small-screen.

Created by legendary writer Nigel Kneale, Professor Bernard Quatermass is a genius scientist who battles alien forces.

First appearing in the BBC’s 1953 serial The Quatermass Experiment, the character has gone on to feature in numerous TV and film projects.

Now, BBC America is revisiting the character for a new series written by The League of Gentlemen‘s Jeremy Dyson, reports Variety.

(3) TEA AND JOCULARITY. Rachel Swirsky did an interview with Ann Leckie, or rather a “Silly Interview with Anncillary Leckie, Yes I said That, I’ll Be Here All Night”. Includes photos of Leckie’s bead jewelry.

RS: I’ve been reading your Raadchai stories for eleven years now (Yeah, eleven years. Let that sink in.) and I know the gloves and tea were in them by the time I started reading. Were they part of the initial germ of the Raadch, or if not, how did they evolve?

They weren’t part of the initial germ, but they got into the mix pretty soon after that. And I’m not sure where they came from or why they stuck–it just kind of worked for me somehow.

Which is how a lot of things are when I’m writing. Sometimes I’ll see someone say, like, “Oh, and this detail here, this is obviously Leckie doing this profound intentional thematic thing” and I’m like, no, actually, it was shiny, or else it made the story work the way I wanted it to, but I am  not going to speak up and spoil the impression that I was actually doing this very sophisticated thing!

(4) SILLY SYMPHONIES. The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra features LACO @ the Movies, an evening of Disney Silly Symphonies on Saturday, June 4 @ 7 pm The Orpheum Theatre.

Experience movie magic! Conducted by six-time Emmy® Award-winning conductor and composer Mark Watters, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra performs the score live for an evening of Disney Silly Symphonies. These classic shorts, Walt Disney’s earliest experiments in animation, set timeless fables and fantastical scenes against a backdrop of lively classical music. With LACO providing the accompaniment live in the theatre, it’s an evening that’s sure to exhilarate your senses!

There’s no better setting for this night of classic cartoons than The Orpheum Theatre, one of LA’s most opulent and lovingly restored movie palaces in the historic downtown Broadway District. Bring the whole family and enjoy the show.

projecting on the silver screen a curated selection of landmark animated shorts including the first commercial short produced in Technicolor and five Academy Award winners!

  • The Skeleton Dance (1929)
  • Flowers and Trees (1932)
  • Three Little Pigs (1933)
  • The Old Mill (1937)
  • The Ugly Duckling (1939)
  • The Country Cousin (1936)
  • Music Land (1935)

(5) A SPAGHETTI EASTERN. Aaron Pound reports on Balticon 50 in The Tale of the Good, the Bad, and the Shoe-Cop.

The Good: There was a lot that went right at Balticon 50. This was a unique event, as Balticon invited all of its previous guests of honor back to celebrate the fiftieth time this convention had been held. As a result, the lineup of guests was quite impressive for a relatively small regional convention, and a similar event is probably not going to happen outside of a Worldcon for at least a few years….

The Bad: Balticon 50 had a lot of issues. Some were beyond the control of the convention staff. The following problems, however, are pretty much squarely on them.

One glaring problem was that programming was a mess, and apparently so from the beginning of the convention. Balticon provided both a large convention book containing a schedule and a pocket guide that also had a schedule. The first problem was that these schedules were incompatible with one another, each listing events at different times – they diverged by a half an hour, which unsurprisingly served to make it difficult to figure out when an event was supposed to take place. The second problem was that many program participants had schedules that were, as Mur Lafferty described it, “temporally impossible”, with many participants double-booked for two events at one time, or booked with back-to-back events separated by several hotel floors…..

And the Shoe-Cop story? I musn’t lift all of Aaron’s material. Go read the post.

(6) LAW WEST OF THE AMAZON. “Amazon sues sellers for buying fake reviews”: TechCrunch has the story.

As part of its effort to combat fake reviews on its platform, Amazon sued three of its sellers today for using sock puppet accounts to post fake reviews about their products. Amazon has been aggressively pursuing reviewers it does not consider genuine over the last year, often using lawsuits to discourage the buying and selling of reviews, but this is the first time it has sued the sellers themselves.

Today’s suits are against sellers who Amazon claims used fake accounts to leave positive reviews on their own products. The fake reviews spanned from 30 to 45 percent of the sellers’ total reviews. The defendants are Michael Abbara of California, Kurt Bauer of Pennsylvania, and a Chinese company called CCBetter Direct.

(7) BYRON PREISS BACK IN THE NEWS. The late publisher’s clues have yet to be fully deciphered, as Vice explains in “The 35-Year Long Hunt to Find a Fantasy Author’s Hidden Treasure”.

There is a treasure buried somewhere in Milwaukee. Not just in Milwaukee, but in nine other North American locations, including (possibly) New York, San Francisco, and Montreal. And it’s not so much “treasure” as hunks of ceramic encased in Plexiglas. But one man’s trash is another man’s marketing strategy.

The treasures were hidden in 1981 by publisher Byron Preiss, as part of his plan to promote his new book, The Secret. Preiss’s fantasy paperback (which predated the identically titled self-help book by a quarter of a century) included a series of puzzles in the form of cryptic verses with matching images. If solved, they’d lead readers to a real-life ceramic bin, or “casque,” containing a key to a safe-deposit box, which held a gem worth roughly $1,000….

The next puzzle wasn’t solved until 2004, when an attorney named Brian Zinn tracked down a casque in Cleveland from a verse that mentioned Socrates, Pindar, and Apelles (all three names are etched into a pylon at the Cleveland Cultural Gardens). After four hours of digging holes, he found the casque buried next to a wall marking the perimeter of the gardens.

To date, the Cleveland casque is the last known resolved puzzle. “Byron Preiss, according to family and friends, figured all of them would be found upon publication. I don’t think he realized how difficult the poems were,” said James Renner, an author and filmmaker who’s working on a documentary about the book.

Preiss died in a 2005 car crash at age 52, and never disclosed the locations of the remaining casques. His publishing house went bankrupt and was acquired by a rival press. Many people viewed the sale as the last chance to redeem the gems, suggesting now, there may only be empty bins.

But 35 years later, people are still searching….

As for the gems, which were believed to be confiscated in bankruptcy proceeding after Preiss’s death, Preiss’s widow Sandi Mendelson told VICE they’re safely in her possession and will be available to the first people to recover the remaining casques.

“If somebody would find something, yes,” said Mendelson. “I haven’t done anything with them, so they’re still around.”

(8) FAN WRITER. Kate Paulk resumes her study – “Hugo Awards – The Nominee Highlights – Best Fan Writer”.  She frankly concludes, “At least one of the nominees probably should be there…”

(9) HEMSTREET’S WAVE. Ray McKenzie reviews The God Wave at Fantasy Literature.

Like The Martian before it, it is the science in The God Wave that makes for such an engrossing and convincing tale. The story feels utterly believable and meticulously researched, whilst not being overbearing; the novel will please hard- and soft-sci-fi fans alike. Hemstreet uses plenty of familiar tropes throughout, and you’ll recognise scenes reminiscent of Alien and Star Trek.

(10) VICTORIAN GAZING DRAGON. Hampus Eckerman said, “Seeing the nice posable dragon in the last pixel scroll reminded me of this dragon illusion.”

Hollow Face Illusion Dragon

Ever seen those illusions where there is a face that seems to turn toward you? I’ve seen it in theme parks and museums like the Exploratorium, and the Disneyland Haunted House thing. But, now you can make your own. All you need is a printer and some scissors!

 

(11) SEEING REALITY. Kameron Hurley asks “Is Living Worth It?”.

Being that close to death all the time changes the way you think about life. It’s why I feel such an affinity for other people who’ve been through it, or who are going through it. My spouse is a cancer survivor. He had just finished the last of his radiation a few months before we met. We understood life in a way that only people who’ve stared at death really do.  You appreciate the little things a lot more. You constantly feel like you’re running on borrowed time.

Most of all, you get how precious life is, and you do your damnedest to hold onto it.

In reading this post from Steven Spohn over at Wendig’s site, I was reminded of this again. I may have all the appearances of being able-bodied, but when people talk about tossing out people for being defective, I can tell you that somewhere on there, no matter how far down, I am on that list. I know that because before I got sick, I put people like me on that list. I believed in “survival of the fittest.” What I didn’t realize is that “fittest” is a lie. The “fittest” don’t survive. There are some truly ridiculous animals out there (pandas??? Narwhales??). Those who survive are the most adapted to their particular niche. That is all. They are not stronger or smarter or cooler or better built or more logical.

(12) THE DARK SIDE. Smash Dragons  interviews horror writer Hank Schwaeble.

What is it about horror and dark fiction that appeals to you the most? 

The peek behind the curtain.  Not necessarily a peek at something real, but a peek at the sort of things that we might wonder about that we don’t understand.  Few of us believe there really are goblins in the shadows, but what if there were?   That’s the nature of shadows—you don’t really know what’s in there.  What we do know, however, is that there is a dark side to life, to human nature.  Horrors and atrocities are real, so exploring them in fictional ways allows us to deal with them intellectually and philosophically.  I don’t believe it’s just morbid curiosity, either.  Our brains are wired to sense things about the world, about our environment.  We are driven to explore, to discover, to learn.  We enjoy so many creature comforts, so many sources of entertainment, so many colors and sights and recreations, I think many of us are drawn to seek out the opposite as a way of reminding ourselves of how good things can be.  It’s like listening to the blues.  People don’t play Muddy Waters to be depressed, they listen to him to be reminded of struggles, of adversity, of our common humanity.  People like me, I believe, like dark fiction because a part of ourselves like to swim in deep waters, to be reminded that we can be afraid, intrigued, mystified.  When we lift ourselves from the pages, the world seems a much brighter place.

(13) SPEND MORE MONEY. Disney and Lucasfilm are getting their prop makers into the retail business.

Propshop, in collaboration with Lucasfilm, is now making official prop replicas of its work from The Force Awakens available to collectors in a new line called Star Wars Collectibles: Ultimate Studio Edition. Wave one is a treasure trove of memorable gear from the film: FN-2187 (i.e., Finn) Stormtrooper Helmet (with blood streaks!), Kylo Ren Helmet, Poe Dameron X-wing Helmet, Darth Vader Helmet (Melted), Rey Staff, Chewbacca Bowcaster, Kylo Ren Lightsaber Hilt, and Rey Lightsaber Hilt. Propshop is making them the same exact way it made the original props: 3D prints of the final output made for the film, all hand-painted by the original prop makers.

For example, the melted Darth Vader helmet (a limited edition of 500) goes for $3,750.

(14) IS LONGER BETTER? There will be an R-rated extended edition of Batman v. Superman available for digital purchase on June 28 and on disc July 19 says CinemaBlend.

Although Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was especially intense for a PG-13 movie, the “Ultimate Edition” is including extended or brand new action scenes that are more comfortable nestled in rated-R territory. So if you liked the original version’s fights, get ready for even more bombastic throw-downs. Along with these sequences, this cut is also including 30 minutes worth of scenes cut from the theatrical release, taking the runtime to over three hours. This includes one (or several) featuring Hunger Games star Jena Malone. Several months ago, it was rumored that she was playing Barbara Gordon, a.k.a. Batgirl/Oracle. However, in this trailer, she’s seen with blonde hair and looks like she’s working at the Daily Planet with Lois Lane. Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean she’s still not Barbara. Maybe this version dyed her hair and took a job at the Planet to separate herself from the Bat-Family. Still, this is peculiar.

 

(15) HOWDY STRANGER. The Space Between Us comes to theaters August 19.

In this interplanetary adventure, a space shuttle embarks on the first mission to colonize Mars, only to discover after takeoff that one of the astronauts is pregnant. Shortly after landing, she dies from complications while giving birth to the first human born on the red planet – never revealing who the father is. Thus begins the extraordinary life of Gardner Elliot – an inquisitive, highly intelligent boy who reaches the age of 16 having only met 14 people in his very unconventional upbringing.

While searching for clues about his father, and the home planet he’s never known, Gardner begins an online friendship with a street smart girl in Colorado named Tulsa. When he finally gets a chance to go to Earth, he’s eager to experience all of the wonders he could only read about on Mars – from the most simple to the extraordinary. But once his explorations begin, scientists discover that Gardner’s organs can’t withstand Earth’s atmosphere.

Eager to find his father, Gardner escapes the team of scientists and joins with Tulsa on a race against time to unravel the mysteries of how he came to be, and where he belongs in the universe.

 

[Thanks to Hampus Eckerman, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael J. Walsh, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Doctor Science.]

Benjanun Sriduangkaew Update

The literary comeback of Benjanun Sriduangkaew continues in the April issue of Clarkesworld with “The Petals Abide”:

In the womb-tank coded with thought and memory, Twoseret learned three things: that her life will be full of peace, that she will never die, and that she will know precisely one tragedy. These facts are absolute, untarnished by chance and impregnable to intervention.

After that, petals started blooming in her mouth.

The issue’s appearance virtually coincided with the announcement of the Hugo shortlist, including Laura Mixon’s nomination for Best Fanwriter which she was voted on the strength of her article about Sriduangkaew, A Report on Damage Done by One Individual Under Several Names.

Sriduangkaew tweeted several negative comments about Mixon’s nomination. One example:

https://twitter.com/talkinghive/status/584668957686104064

Sriduangkaew also seemed to be commenting on a subject close to home in these contributions to a popular meme the other day —

https://twitter.com/talkinghive/status/586612005823348736

The Invisible Fanwriter Hugo

The Hugo nominating deadline is March 31. And I was wondering if, on Easter weekend when the Best Fan Writer nominees are announced, there will be the usual cuckoo in the robin’s nest – an established pro novelist?

Over the past few years the category has been won by pro writers John Scalzi, Frederik Pohl, Jim C. Hines, and Tansy Rayner Roberts, with actual fans Cheryl Morgan and Claire Brialey breaking through, too.

Every time I approach this subject lots of you write to say, “Oh no, Mike, you’re crazy — pros can be fans too!”

This is such a very important ideological axiom – to fans. Those eager to win the argument that “pros can be fans too!” never seem to recognize that it isn’t fans who are stopping this from happening, rather, that they are trying to force a kind of egalitarianism on writers that never really takes, however interested or polite the writers may be while the award is on the table.

Because once everyone’s done marching around waving their hands as confetti falls from the rafters and the brass band blows like mad and the world has once again been made safe for fannish egalitarianism, nobody pays attention to the implicit message we get back from the pros that people were so hot to give a fan Hugo —

People who are building careers as writers do not want to identify their brands with anything that hints of the amateur.

And the Fan Writer Hugo that was a big deal for six months gets swept under the rug.

You look at their bios and here’s what you find.

The “Brief biography of John Scalzi” on Whatever has this to say about his awards:

Bibliography: It’s here. New York Times best seller in fiction. Awards won include the Hugo, the Locus, the Seiun and Kurd Lasswitz. Works translated into 20 languages.

Where is it?

The late Frederik Pohl had two online bios, one at his official website and the other on his blog, and neither acknowledges the Best Fan Writer Hugo. The pro site speaks generally of winning the Hugo “six times; he was the only person ever to have won the Hugo both as writer and as editor….” The blog says of his awards: “He has received six Hugos, three Nebulas and forty or fifty other awards, some of which he has given himself.”

Six Hugos. Did you know Pohl, in fact, won seven Hugos? The seventh was his Best Fan Writer Hugo.

Now at the time he was nominated Pohl was gracious about it, clearly understood the honor he was being paid, said “I couldn’t be more pleased,” and was unquestionably qualified to compete in the category. I still thought his response was pretty much along the lines of “if you insist” – rather like Robert Silverberg’s attitude toward winning the 1950 Retro Hugo for Best Fan Writer.

Silverberg also doesn’t list his Retro Hugo on his official page, but that comes as no surprise if you remember what he wrote to File 770 the time I left him off a list —

I take umbrage at your omitting Me from your list of winners of the Best Fan Writer Hugo who have also sold pro fiction. May I remind you that I was the (totally undeserved) winner of the 1950 Retro-Hugo in that category, beating out such people as [Walt] Willis and [Bob] Tucker? Of course I would not have won the award if I hadn’t had a few stories published professionally along the way.  But I did get the Hugo.

That’s the thing. A Best Fan Writer Hugo added nothing to the career Pohl already had, and made Silverberg feel fans must be completely clueless about what he truly values.

Then, last year’s winner, Tansy Rayner Roberts, has a lengthy bio on her website that mentions three awards won by her fiction but is silent about her Best Fan Writer Hugo. The site’s landing page does call out her involvement in “the Hugo-nominated Galactic Suburbia podcast.” Not said is that the nomination is in the Best Fancast category.

Surprisingly, Jim C. Hines bucks the trend. His bio says right in front of God and everybody

Jim is an active blogger about topics ranging from sexism and harassment to zombie-themed Christmas carols, and won the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer in 2012.

Respect to you, Jim.

Invisible little men are one of science fiction’s motifs. Invisible Best Fan Writers we can do without. Let’s do something revolutionary in 2014 – vote the award to a fan.

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.

Silver: Fan Writer Hugo
Number Crunching

By Steven H Silver:  Because I don’t really want to work today, I was just looking over the Fan Writer Hugos and offer the following:

Only five individuals have won the fan writer Hugo on their first nomination, and one of those, of course, was in the first year it was offered:

Alexei Panshin (1 win /1 nominations)
Ted White (1/1)
Bob Tucker (1/1)
Bob Shaw (2/2)
Frederik Pohl (1/1)

Four people have declined a Best Fan Writer nomination: Alexei Panshin, which is why his win/nomination ratio is 1/1, Harlan Ellison, Ted White, and Mike Glyer.

24 of the 61 people nominated have only had one nomination (this includes James Bacon, who is currently a nominee).

14 people have dropped off the ballot and returned in subsequent years, 15 if you count Glyer’s declined nomination.

13 people have won the award, including 6 multiple winners (Warner, Geis, Wood, Shaw, Langford, Glyer)

12 people have had their first nomination in the 2000s

2 women have won the award (Wood, Morgan)

The longest streak of nominations and the longest winning streak both belong to Dave Langford (19 wins in a row, 31 nominations, 21 wins, total)

Most nominations without a win in the category is 12, a tie between Arthur Hlavaty and Evelyn C. Leeper.

The last time there were five different winners in five subsequent years was from 1970-1974 (Tucker, Geis, Warner, Carr, Wood) there has never been a longer streak of different winners.  This year, no matter which nominee wins, will tie that period.

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

A Fan Writer Footnote

John Scalzi’s name was missing from the slate of nominees for the 2009 Best Fan Writer Hugo, an outcome he invested sincere effort to achieve, actively drawing his readers’ attention to the work of other fans during the nominating phase. Still, I’d thought it would be impossible for him to shed all the momentum produced by winning the Hugo in 2008 and falling just one vote shy of a victory in 2007.

So I posed the question, had he received a nomination and declined it? Scalzi graciously answered:

No. I was simply not nominated this year. I did spend a fair amount of time during the nomination window encouraging people not to nominate me and to instead nominate other folks who were new and/or had not previously won the category, so I can’t say that I was surprised not to be nominated. I can say that had I been nominated, I would have declined the nomination (although had I declined, I would not have commented until after the the awards ceremony).