Arisia Suffers Reverse in Contract Dispute with Aloft

Nicholas “phi” Shectman, President of Arisia, Inc., reports the group has suffered a major setback in litigation over the Boston convention’s cancellation of plans to use two strike-affected hotels for the 2019 event. An arbitrator has made a large award to one of the hotels, the Aloft (under Marriott management). Con organizers are questioning whether the event can survive a second decision of that magnitude.

Shectman’s statement explains the immediate situation:

Last month, Arisia participated in an arbitration hearing for the dispute with the Aloft Boston Seaport District hotel over our strike response and move to the Boston Park Plaza Hotel for 2019.

Yesterday (July 9th), Arisia received notification that arbitration in the Aloft case went against us. The arbitrator agreed with Marriott’s arguments and awarded them $44,000 plus fees. They have 20 days to state an exact schedule of fees they will ask for; we expect it to be in the range of $10,000 – $20,000. As a high end, a penalty of $65,000 is something that Arisia can absorb, but only just. We still expect to win the Westin Boston Waterfront arbitration due to differences in contract wording, and we expect Marriott believes they will win. A loss there would incur a similar cost.

Losing both cases would exceed Arisia’s financial resources. The Arisia Eboard is actively investigating what would happen next, and what we can and cannot do in various dissolution scenarios. We expect to know soon what these scenarios might cost us.  We are also still learning what our legal obligations would be for gracefully wrapping up operations in case we must dissolve, including expenditures like making grants, the 2020 convention, paying our storage costs, and so on. Bankruptcy proceedings themselves can take considerable time, and can involve additional legal costs.

Tomorrow morning (July 11th) is the hearing for the Westin arbitration. We are also in negotiations with the Marriott lawyers for a possible settlement.  We expect to have more news to share publicly on both of those topics in the coming weeks.

Pixel Scroll 6/26/19 Pixel Scroll Powers Activate!

(1) HILL HOUSE. Whatever DC Comics’ other problems may be, they’re pretty sure they can sell this: “DC Launching New Horror Line From Writer Joe Hill”.

Hill House Comics will consist of five miniseries and debut this October. Just days after announcing the closure of the DC Vertigo imprint, DC is signaling that it hasn’t moved away from creator-owned comic book material. The publisher has announced a new pop-up imprint, Hill House Comics, curated by horror writer Joe Hill.

The line of five original miniseries — each one targeted to readers 17 and older — will feature two titles written by the Fireman and Heart-Shaped Box author himself, with all five titles including a secondary strip, “Sea Dogs,” also written by Hill. Other titles will be written by The Girl With All The Gifts author Mike Carey, playwright and The Good Fight screenwriter Laura Marks, and critically acclaimed short story writer and essayist Carmen Maria Machado. Artists for the line include Sandman veteran Kelley Jones, as well as The Unwritten’s Peter Gross.

(2) CAFFEINE SEEKERS. Ursula Vernon has the most interesting conversations. Thread starts here.

(3) WESTERCON/NASFIC. The Spikecon program is live — https://spikecon.org/schedule/

(4) NET FANAC. In 2017, The Guardian tracked down these behind-the-scenes fan creators: “Watchers on the Wall: meet the rulers of the world’s biggest TV fan sites”. Whovian.net’s Dan Butler said:

I was 12 when Doctor Who was relaunched in 2005, and at school it was seen as nerdy. Because I had no one to talk to about it, I created a website to show my love. I wrote reviews of the episodes and used a website builder, then later I built a site from scratch.

What I loved about the show was the idea that you could be walking down the street and meet the Doctor, and your life could change forever. I liked the balance between domestic drama and science fiction – the first series was like watching a soap one scene, and Star Trek in the next. For me, Christopher Eccleston, who was my first Doctor, is the closest to how I think the part should be; if you walked past him, he wouldn’t stand out. Since then, the Doctors have been more flamboyant – more alien.

(5) WHERE PULP HISTORY WAS MADE. This was once the headquarters of Street & Smith’s pulp magazine empire, which after 1933 included Astounding: “The 1905 Street & Smith Building – 79-89 Seventh Avenue” at Daytonian in Manhattan

In 1928 the firm took made an innovative marketing move by hiring the Ruthrauff & Ryan Advertising Agency to produce a radio program to promote Detective Story Magazine.  Called “The Detective Story Hour,” it was introduced and narrated by a sinister voice known as “The Shadow.”  His tag line became familiar to radio listeners across the country:  “The Shadow knows…and you too shall know if you listen as Street & Smith’s Detective Story Magazine relates for you the story of…” whatever story was featured that week.

As it turned out, The Shadow’s character was so successful that it detracted from the Detective Story sales.  Street & Smith decided the best way to handle the problem was to introduce a new magazine featuring The Shadow.

(6) STAND ON ZANZIBAR. Extra Credit makes John Brunner sound absolutely prescient.

How do we cope with a crowded world we as humans were never evolutionarily designed for? Stand on Zanzibar was written in 1968 but it uncannily, accurately predicts many of our present day’s social tensions and stressors. However, it also has a certain optimism that makes it stand out among other dystopic fiction we’ve discussed.

(7) ARISIA CORRECTS GOH LIST.  Saladin Ahmed proved to be unavailable after Arisia 2020 prematurely announced him as a Guest of Honor. There was a tweet —

He had also been added to the Arisia 2020 website (still visible in the Google webcache at this time). When his name was taken down without an announcement, there was curiosity about the reason.

I asked Arisia President Nicholas “phi” Shectman, and he replied:

Saladin was invited and let us know that he was interested but had to check availability. We misunderstood and made an announcement (and put his name on our web site) prematurely. It turns out he’s unable to make it this year. We’ve apologized to him privately and are preparing a public retraction.

(8) OTHER ARISIA NEWS. Arisia Inc.’s discussion of how to improve its Incident Report process, and the determinations made about some of the IR’s (with no names cited) are minuted in the May issue and June issue of Mentor.

The June issue also gave an update about the litigation over Arisia’s cancellation of plans to use two strike-affected hotels (for the 2019 event):

Hearings for the Westin and Aloft disputes are still scheduled for July 11 and June 25 respectively. We have hired Deb Geisler as an expert witness to testify about how hard it is to change hotels at the last minute, in support of our assertion that the deadline we gave the Westin for the strike to be resolved was the actual latest we could wait before canceling with them. I still think there is an 80% chance that we will prevail and if we do we will still be in the Westin. I also still expect to know the answer in late July or early August.

…Deb is a professor at BU, teaches non-profit event management, has chaired Intercon, we mainly selected her because she has academic credentials

Deb Geisler also chaired Noreascon 4 (2004).

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 26, 1904 Peter Lorre.  I think his first foray into genre was in the Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea film as Comm. Lucius Emery though he was in Americanized version of Casino Royale which an early Fifties episode of the Climax! series as Le Chiffre. (James was called Jimmy. Shudder!) Other genre roles were in Tales of Terror as Montresor in “The Black Cat” story, The Raven as Dr. Adolphus Bedlo and The Comedy of Terrors as Felix Grille. (Died 1964.)
  • Born June 26, 1910 Elsie Wollheim. The wife of Donald A. Wollheim. She was one of the original Futurians of New York, and assisted them in their publishing efforts, and even published Highpoints, her own one-off fanzine. When he started DAW Books in 1972, she was the co-founder, and inherited the company when he died. Their daughter Elizabeth (Betsy) now runs the company along with co-publisher and Sheila E. Gilbert. (Died 1996.)
  • Born June 26, 1950 Tom DeFalco, 69. Comic book writer and editor, mainly known for his Marvel Comics and in particular for his work with the Spider-Man line. He designed the Spider-Girl character which was his last work at Marvel as he thought he was being typecast as just a Spider-Man line writer. He’s since been working at DC and Archie Comics.
  • Born June 26, 1969 Lev Grossman, 50. Author of most notable as the author of The Magicians Trilogy which is The Magicians, The Magician King and The Magician’s Land. Perennial best sellers at the local indie bookshops. Understand it was made into a series which is yet another series that I’ve not seen. Opinions on the latter, y’all? 
  • Born June 26, 1969 Austin Grossman, 50. Twin brother of Lev. And no, he’s not here just because he’s Lev’s twin brother. He’s the author of Soon I Will Be Invincible which is decidedly SF as well as You: A Novel (also called YOU) which was heavily influenced for better or worse by TRON and Crooked, a novel involving the supernatural and Nixon. He’s also a video games designed, some of which such as Clive Barker’s Undying and Tomb Raider: Legend are definitely genre. 
  • Born June 26, 1980 Jason Schwartzman, 49. He first shows up in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy as Gag Halfrunt,  Zaphod Beeblebrox’s personal brain care specialist. (Uncredited initially.) He  was Ritchie in Bewitched, and voiced Simon Lee in  Scott Pilgrim vs. the Animation. He co-wrote Isle of Dogs alongwith Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola, and Kunichi Nomura. I think his best work was voicing Ash Fox in Fantastic Mr. Fox. 
  • Born June 26, 1984 Aubrey Plaza, 34. April Ludgate on Parks and Recreation which at least one Filer has insisted is genre. She voiced Eska in recurring role on The Legend of Korra which is a sequel to Avatar: The Last Airbender. She was in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World as Julie Powers. Currently she’s Lenny Busker on Legion. 

(10) MCINTYRE MEMORY BOOK. Remembering Vonda, the memorial book of anecdotes and sentiments about the late Vonda McIntyre, is not only available for sale as trade paperback ($12.12), but can be downloaded as a free PDF.

TRADE PAPERBACK 
FREE PDF

Jane Hawkins had an idea: to collect all the lovely stories written around Vonda’s death, and to put them in one place for us all to enjoy. This book is that place.Stephanie A. Smith and Jeanne Gomoll joined forces to edit the book. Vonda’s community—her friends, colleagues, readers, and admirers—shared their fondest memories, stories, praise and love for the dear friend they had recently lost.

All proceeds from books sold through LuluDotCom will benefit Clarion West.

(11) DEAL TERMINATOR. Unfortunately, most of the article is behind Adweek’s paywall, but the photo is funny: “Arnold Schwarzenegger Kicks ‘Gas’ as a Used Car Salesman in This Parody for Electric Vehicles”.

It’s no surprise that a cheesy used-car salesman like Howard Kleiner, sporting a man-pony, a Hawaiian shirt and a porn ‘stache, would be into throwback gas guzzlers. For him, it’s V8 or nothing, and if you pick the wrong vehicle on his lot, he may hand you a snide bumper sticker that says, “Carpool lanes are for sissies.”

(12) HISTORY THAT IS EVEN MORE ALTERNATE THAN USUAL. Jered Pechacek is determined to explain to us “WHY you can’t LEGALLY MARRY CLAMS in the STATE OF MAINE.” Thread starts here. Even easier to follow at Threadreader.

Oh yes, let freedom ring.

(13) CONVERTIBLE FALCON. Not much gets by Comicbook.com“Funko’s Massive Star Wars Millennium Falcon with Han Solo Pop is Live”.

Today, out of nowhere, Funko launched a Deluxe Star Wars Millennium Falcon with Han Solo Pop figure today that must be among the largest that they have ever produced. It measures a whopping 5.5″ tall, is 10.5″ wide and 13.25″ long with a price tag to match – $64.99.

(14) THE MOUSE THAT ROARS. NPR tells you how it’s going to look from now on: “‘Endgame’ Nears All-Time Record, And The Age Of The Disney Mega-Blockbuster Is Upon Us”.

There’s been some question about whether Avengers: Endgame will knock global box-office champ Avatar out of first place in Hollywood’s record books.

…Now, you’d think the threat that Disney might swipe the crown away from Fox would prompt wails of anguish, but it’s hard for the folks at Fox to be too upset.

Because these days, Disney owns Fox.

Which means Disney doesn’t just own the Marvel Universe — and Star Wars, which it bought a few years ago — it now also owns Avatar. And that fact is about to change the way the rest of Hollywood is forced to do business.

…In its first week, Avengers: Endgame sold 88% of the movie tickets that were purchased in North America, leaving just 12 percent to be split by more than a hundred other movies that might as well not have been open. Go back to other mega-blockbusters, and you see the same thing. they take up all the oxygen. Avengers: Infinity War, The Last Jedi, The Force Awakens, Black Panther each took in about 80 percent of their opening weekends, crushing everything else at the multiplex. Small wonder that other studios have learned to steer clear of these all-consuming box office behemoths.

…Every studio opens something big in late December, which has resulted for years in a happy flotilla of blockbusters that play to different audience segments, lifting all boats.

But Disney recently made an announcement that’s going to change that. Now that the company controls all of the franchises in the 2-billion-dollar club (Marvel, Star Wars and Avatar), it doesn’t have to play chicken with other studios about opening dates — it can just claim them.

And it’s done that … for the next eight years.

(15) IN THE REAR VIEW MIRROR. “Spirited Away: Japanese anime trounces Toy Story 4 at China box office” — BBC has the numbers.

Japanese animation Spirited Away has dominated the Chinese box office over its opening weekend, making more than twice as much as Disney’s Toy Story 4.

The Studio Ghibli film grossed $27.7m (£21.8m), according to Maoyan, China’s largest movie ticketing app.

Spirited Away was officially released in 2001, but only now, 18 years later, has it been released in China.

However, many Chinese viewers grew up with the film, having watched DVDs or pirated downloads.

…China has a strict quota on the number of foreign films it shows.

One analyst told the BBC last year that political tensions between China and Japan in the past could be why some Japanese movies had not been aired in China until very recently.

(16) HOW TO FIND IT AGAIN. WIRED’s Gretchen McCullough praises Hugo-nominated Archive of Our Own in “Fans Are Better Than Tech at Organizing Information Online”.

…The Archive of Our Own has none of these problems. It uses a third tagging system, one that blends the best elements of both styles.

On AO3, users can put in whatever tags they want. (Autocomplete is there to help, but they don’t have to use it.) Then behind the scenes, human volunteers look up any new tags that no one else has used before and match them with any applicable existing tags, a process known as tag wrangling. Wrangling means that you don’t need to know whether the most popular tag for your new fanfic featuring Sherlock Holmes and John Watson is Johnlock or Sherwatson or John/Sherlock or Sherlock/John or Holmes/Watson or anything else. And you definitely don’t need to tag your fic with all of them just in case. Instead, you pick whichever one you like, the tag wranglers do their work behind the scenes, and readers looking for any of these synonyms will still be able to find you….

(17) SCOOPS AHOY. Delish says get ready to stand in line in Indiana, er, Burbank: “Baskin-Robbins Is Recreating The Scoops Ahoy Ice Cream Shop From ‘Stranger Things'”.

Deep into any Netflix binge of Stranger Things, it’s easy to get sucked into the misadventures of Eleven and co. and wonder what a day in the life of a character would be like. Baskin Robbins is making this marathon-fueled fever dream one step closer to a reality. The ice cream retailer announced on Wednesday that they’ll be recreating the Stranger Things Scoops Ahoy Ice Cream Shop.

Lick your ice cream cone like its 1985 at a Burbank, CA, installation in its Baskin-Robbins location. Designed to reflect the ice cream parlor located inside the food court of Starcourt Mall—which is frequented by Hawkins, IN locals—you can visit from Tuesday, July 2 to Sunday, July 14.

Not only does a press release boast replicas of nautical décor and staff uniforms (like you could forget Steve Harrington and Robin’s shifts scooping sundaes there), but also show-inspired treats. Previously announced Stranger Things flavors, which have been teased relentlessly on the company’s Instagram, will be ready for consumption and include:

Flavor of the Month, USS Butterscotch: Inspired by the Scoops Ahoy shop at the Starcourt Mall in Hawkins, IN, the July Flavor of the Month is a decadent butterscotch-flavored ice cream with butterscotch pieces and a toffee-flavored ribbon. Also available in pre-packed quarts.

(18) SPIDER-MAN THEME REVISITED. Mark Evanier pointed out this music video on News From Me.

We love a cappella singing on this site and Will Hamblet told me about this one. It’s the theme from the 1967 Spider-Man cartoon show as rendered by a vocal quartet called Midtown. The snazzy video was, they say, shot entirely on an iPhone using the iMessage comic filter.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Kathy Sullivan, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, JJ, Michael Toman, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]