Paul Roberts Dies

By David Doering: Our community also lost another hard-working fan last weekend. Paul Roberts, a stalwart in the SF community in Utah and able assistant at our Westercon bid table at Renovation, died tragically in a car crash near Elko, Nevada early Sunday morning. He was on his way back to Utah when he struck a car making an illegal turn on I-80 and died instantly.

Paul was a good friend going back more than 25 years. He will be missed.

Mark Plummer on Hugo History

At Renovation I attended “How Did We get to Where We Are? A Brief History of the Hugos” with Vincent Docherty, Janice Gelb, Rich Lynch and Mark Plummer, who each contributed interesting stories and exotic trivia.

The fascinating research Mark Plummer shared from 1953 Worldcon progress reports with the committee’s explanation of its newly-invented award is further discussed in his column for the August 1 Strange Horizons, “Rockets in Reno.”

For example, I had never before heard that the 1953 committee encouraged participation by announcing in-progress voting results. Mark says in his column:

Progress report 4 was issued on 1 August 1953 and contain[ed] an update on the voting…. We can see, then, that about four weeks out The Demolished Man was leading over The Long Loud Silence for novel; “old-timer Forrest J Ackerman and new-timer Harlan Ellison” were splitting the votes for Fan Personality….

While remarkable in its own right – such a practice would set off a riot in the blogosphere nowadays – Mark’s information could have been used to immediately settle an old argument if anyone had been aware of it at the time: the question of whether Forry Ackerman’s first Hugo had really been voted by members or was merely the equivalent of today’s committee awards? (See “Ackerman’s Hugo” and “Listing to the Other Side” from 2009.) Since Ackerman and Ellison were “splitting votes for Fan Personality” clearly there’s no room for doubt that the award was put to a vote.

If you have an interest in this slice of fanhistory Mark’s column is well worth your time.

Hugo Linkage

Thanks to Strange Horizons for posting a robust collection of links to commentary about the 2011 Hugo Award winners.

Some of it is harsh enough to make you feel like not winning isn’t such a bad thing. (Did Abigail Nussbaum blog about the winners in 2008? I’m afraid to look.)

Reading all the linked posts at one time hammered home the polar extremes of affection and disdain inspired by Connie Willis’ novel Blackout/All Clear. While Abigail Nussbaum asked “is this the very worst best novel decision ever made by the Hugo voters?”, Jamie Todd Rubin affirmed it as “one of the best novels I’ve ever read, regardless of genre.”

It makes sense that anybody who feels passionately about the outcome would write about it. What prompted some others who didn’t really care to pass their palsied hands over the keyboard? There are several links to shallow analysis from jaded gnostics offering the ignoble reasons they conceive to be the true explanation for each victory – unwilling to believe that anything ever wins just because people think it’s good.

Kat Howard addressed this better than anyone:

But if you hated the results, if you feel they are a travesty, or a joke, or nothing but a popularity contest, or whatever has made you so grumpy that you do nothing but complain for paragraph after paragraph (yes, I’ve seen this. No, I’m not linking to it. The sad thing is, examples aren’t hard to find)…

No day is an appropriate day to try and cast tarnish on the shiny rocketship trophies.

Bidding Opens on Weist Collection

Heritage Auctions has opened bidding on items from the late Jerry Weist’s collection of sf & fantasy art and books. The auction catalog is available online.

Some of the best things going on the block are (1) a copy of the October 1912 issue of All-Story, where Tarzan made his first appearance; (2) the original art for Wally Wood’s 8-page 3-D story “Spawn of Venus” from EC 3-D #3 (1954); (3) the original art from Frank R. Paul’s cover for Science Wonder Stories (September 1929); and (4) the multi-volume Fantasy Press edition of E.E. Smith’s Lensman series.

Another legendary item is the complete five-issue set of Jerome Siegel and Joseph Shuster’s Science Fiction. The Advance Guard of Future Civilization (1932-1933):

Staple-bound or string-bound in illustrated paper wrappers. Issue number three contains the legendary Siegel & Shuster story, “The Reign of the Superman,” with Shuster’s first drawing of Superman, published five years before the Cleveland duo unveiled their more famous incarnation of the name in Action Comics #1.

The auction house predicts this rarity might fetch as much as $10,000.

(The mention of two styles of binding on these 1930s zines made me think of the Great Staple War, though Siegel and Shuster admittedly had nothing to do with it.)

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for the story.]

Inside the 2011 Hugo Voting Statistics

Hugo Awards Administrator Vincent Docherty has posted his report of the 2011 voting statistics [PDF file] at the Hugo Awards site. There are tables showing the progress of the automatic runoffs in each category, and lists of runners-up from the nominating phase that reveal for the first time who else nearly made the final ballot. Here are some things that caught my eye.

Hugo Bleeps: A Hugo winner must get a majority of the votes. If, at the end of the first round, the nominee with the most first place votes hasn’t topped 50% there is a runoff. The lowest ranking nominee’s votes are redistributed to the people’s second choice (or next highest choice still in the runoff). The process repeats until someone or something gets a majority. The runoff in the Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form category illustrates how this works.

Rachel Bloom’s music video F*** Me, Ray Bradbury led after the first round with 366 first place votes. Fans of Doctor Who had scattered their votes among three nominated episodes but they generally ranked every Doctor Who entry ahead of Bloom’s song, so although Bloom led through the early elimination rounds she was destined to lose.

Collectively, No Award and the first two Doctor Who episodes to be eliminated received 535 first place votes. When they were redistributed in subsequent rounds FMRB picked up only 45 of these votes, while Doctor Who:The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang gathered in 296 and moved into first place.

Still, none of the three nominees left in the runoff had achieved a majority. The Lost Thing was eliminated next: its votes broke 152 for Doctor Who and 106 for FMRB, sealing a win for the Doctor.

(By the way, can anybody explain why, when clips from the Best Dramatic Presentation nominees were shown during the Hugo Ceremony, FMRB was cut off right before Rachel Bloom sang the title phrase? The unexpurgated title was all over the video screen and freely used by the presenter. It seemed strange that anyone was so demure about editing the clip.)

The Closest Races: The tightest races this year were in the two artist categories.

Brad Foster won the Best Fan Artist Hugo by a single vote over Randall Munroe. Foster trailed far behind Munroe in every round until Maurine Starkey was eliminated. When her votes were redistributed they broke 99 for Foster and 42 for Munroe, a wave of support that was just enough to put Foster over the top.

The Best Professional Artist category was not as dramatic but it was close, with Shaun Tan edging Daniel Dos Santos by 14 votes.

Can’t Explain It: When File 770 got eliminated from the runoff in the Best Fanzine category, 36 of its votes went to StarShip Sofa, 96 to The Drink Tank. I was croggled to discover anyone who’d vote for File 770 would rank StarShip Sofa ahead of Chris Garcia’s fanzine. Another stereotype bites the dust.

No Award: Voters cast 870 ballots in the Best Fanzine category but 110 had No Award in first place. That was just about the weakest showing overall. No Award votes by category:

Best Novel 37, Novella 57, Novelette 57, Short Story 86, Related Work 46, Graphic Story 70, BDP Long 55, BDP Short 85,  Best Editor Short 67, Best Editor Long 91, Best Professional Artist 37, Best Semiprozine 56, Best Fanzine 110, Best Fanwriter 133, Best Fanartist 134

Altogether, five Hugo nominees received fewer first place votes than No Award — 2 in Best Editor Long Form, 1 in Best Fanzine, 1 in Best Fan Writer and 1 in Best Fan Artist.

The Missing Short Story: The report of nominating votes revealed the unlucky author of the fifth Best Short Story nominee which was ruled out of competition by the 5% rule: “Elegy for a Young Elk” by Hannu Rajaniemi (4.85%).

Dramatic Anticlimaxes: I was interested to see that Metropolis (2010 restoration) got as many as 18 nominating votes, regardless that it fell far short of the final ballot.

On the other hand, no one will be surprised to learn that besides the 3 Doctor Who episodes which made the final ballot in Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form, another 4 episodes were among the next 6 works getting the most nominating votes.

More Bang for the Buck: There were 7 nominees for Best Professional Editor, Long Form instead of the usual 5 this year, and everyone knew the extra ones had to be the product of a tie for fifth place.

Now we know the rest of the story. David G. Hartwell and Patrick Nielsen Hayden declined nomination in the Best Professional Editor, Long Form category after receiving sufficient votes to qualify. Their gracious gesture ended up lifting not two but three other editors onto the final ballot — a trio originally tied for 7th place.

Fanzines Without Pages: How did non-magazine contenders for the Best Fanzine Hugo fare? Podcasts receiving significant nominating votes besides StarShip Sofa were Jonathan Strahan’s Notes from Coode Street blog and podcast (6th, just 1 vote shy of reaching the final ballot) and Galactic Suburbia (10th). Website SF Signal ranked 11th.

Just Missed: Dave Langford’s Ansible and Cheryl Morgan’s Salon Futura were the two semiprozines receiving the most nominating votes, apart from the five finalists.

In the Best Fan Artist category, Spring Schoenhuth came within one vote of making the final ballot (which would have tied her with Randall Munroe). She is a popular Bay Area jewelry maker, designer of the Campbell Pin and has written for The Drink Tank.

Post-Worldcon Medical Updates

Three fans who came to the Worldcon are beset by medical problems.

jan howard finder reached Reno but never made it to the convention, as health issues forced him to check into a local hospital. Alyson Abramowitz spread the word at the convention. Fans signed a card for him, and several took time to visit him. finder wrote online that he had surgery on Monday, posting afterwards on Facebook, “A little bit dopier than normal. Order to rest for several hours…”

William J. Patterson, author of the Hugo-nominated Heinlein biography, returned to LA on Monday and posted that he would probably be admitted to Cedars Sinai Hospital. Dr. Robert James explained that Bill had been feeling progressively sicker over the weekend — feverish, exhausted and nauseous.

And former Worldcon chair Michael Walsh reports he had another bout with a kidney stone on Sunday and was taken to an ER in Reno: 

Sunday at 5:30 a.m. or so I gave up dealing with 5 hours of kidney stone pain. Called the hotel emergency line, ended up on a gurney off to Renown Hospital ER. Assorted tests etc. etc., drugs etc. Cat scan revealed a quarter inch stone.

Tuesday off to Baltimore and then to collapse again.

Jimmy Sangster Dies

Veteran screenwriter/director Jimmy Sangster died August 18, aged 83. His screenplays included Hammer’s classic relaunches, Curse of Frankenstein and Horror of Dracula. Although he moved into directing, it was under pressure from the studio bosses and he was never happy with the results.

[Thanks to Steve Green for the story.]

Bill Trojan Passes Away

I was astonished and saddened to read SF Site’s announcement that Bill Trojan died Monday, August 21 in his hotel room at Renovation. 

Just a couple of days earlier Bill had been at the Worldcon business meeting supporting Rich Lynch’s zine Hugo amendments — after he first told us his own strong personal preference was to trim the Hugos and leave only the traditional fanzine category, with none for semiprozines or fancasts. I’d admired his undaunted frankness, for he knew most present felt differently.

Update 08/23/2011: Removed references to Adventure House in response to corrections provided in comments.

Ray Bradbury Turns 91

Ray Bradbury celebrated his 91st birthday on August 22. He was especially pleased with one of his gifts — Phoenix Pictures announced it will film a version of his novel Dandelion Wine, Mike Medavoy directing. Ray told the Hollywood Reporter:

“This is the best birthday gift I could ask for. Today, I have been reborn! ‘Dandelion Wine’ is my most deeply personal work and brings back memories of sheer joy as well as terror,” Bradbury said.

“This is the story of me as a young boy and the magic of an unforgettable summer, which still holds a mystical power over me,” the author said.

Alice Hoffman, author of Practical Magic and The Red Garden, gave him a birthday tribute in the LA Times op-ed section:

Bradbury tells the story of how, as a boy in 1932, he went to a country fair where a carnival entertainer named Mr. Electrico touched him on the nose with an electrified sword, made his hair stand on end and shouted “Live forever!”

He has certainly achieved eternal life through his books, which are destined to live on. But it’s beginning to seem as if he took the “live forever” command literally as well. On Monday Ray Bradbury turns 91, and his birthday is the perfect day to reflect on all he has given us.

And Terence McVicker saluted Ray’s birthday by distributing a card he’d had printed containing the author’s life philosophy:

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for the story.]

2011 Hugo Award Winners

Here, let me be the last person on the internet to report that Renovation, the 2011 World Science Fiction Convention, announced the 2011 Hugo Award winners on August 20.

Blackout/All Clear by Connie Willis (Ballantine Spectra)

The Lifecycle of Software Objects by Ted Chiang (Subterranean)


“The Emperor of Mars” by Allen M. Steele (Asimov’s, June 2010)

“For Want of a Nail” by Mary Robinette Kowal (Asimov’s, September 2010)

Chicks Dig Time Lords: A Celebration of Doctor Who by the Women Who Love It, edited by Lynne M. Thomas and Tara O’Shea (Mad Norwegian)

Girl Genius, Volume 10: Agatha Heterodyne and the Guardian Muse, written by Phil and Kaja Foglio; art by Phil Foglio; colors by
Cheyenne Wright (Airship Entertainment)

Inception, written and directed by Christopher Nolan (Warner)

Doctor Who: “The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang,” written by Steven Moffat; directed by Toby Haynes (BBC Wales)


Sheila Williams


Lou Anders

Shaun Tan

Clarkesworld, edited by Neil Clarke, Cheryl Morgan, Sean Wallace; podcast directed by Kate Baker

The Drink Tank, edited by Christopher J Garcia and James Bacon

Claire Brialey


Brad W. Foster


Award for the best new professional science fiction or fantasy writer of 2009 or 2010, sponsored by Dell Magazines (not a Hugo Award).

Lev Grossman