Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions #64

Chris M. Barkley

The Diary of A (Slightly Unhinged) Hugo Award Nominee

By Chris M. Barkley:

March 18, 2022

At 6:09 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time my email inbox received a message. At that moment, I was listening to National Public Radio’s daily flagship news broadcast, All Things Considered. My partner, Juli, was taking that evening to watch our nearly nine-month-old grandson, Bowie.

(Yes, that’s his REAL, LEGAL name. His mommy insisted.)

And YES, he’s named after THAT royal, musical personage. So mommy gets style points for good taste. But, I digress…)

After dinner, I went upstairs to our office and began to do some additional research for a future edition of the Chicon 8 Progress Report.

After grinding away for an hour or so, I decided to get off the writing treadmill for a while, flop on the bed and check Facebook posts on my phone. After noodling away for a few minutes, I switched over to my email for a cursory look.

At 8:38 p.m., my eye caught an unusual title in the inbox:

Hugo Awards – CONFIDENTIAL – Fan Writer – Barkley

I’ll tell you what, dear reader, when I saw that title, it felt as though time had somehow slowed down to a crawl in anticipation of my heart jumping into hyperspace…

I clicked on the email and read the first line:

Dear Chris,

I am delighted to inform you that you have reached the list of Finalists for the 2022 Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer, to be presented by the 80th World Science Fiction Convention (Chicon 8).

My heart jumped into hyperspace. For several moments, I couldn’t breathe or move. I stared at my phone, gobsmacked. Then, I forced myself to read the next sentence:

Please keep this nomination strictly confidential until the public announcement of the full ballot in April.

And I thought, “HOLY SHIT, I’ve just been nominated for a Hugo Award and I can’t tell anyone until, when? EASTER maybe?

But, OF COURSE, I immediately began plotting who I would tell. There was no doubt I would absolutely tell one person FIRST, that would be Juli. I DID tell our cat, Nova, who was trying to fit in a nap on the bed before her nightly petition for a late night snack. She was not duly impressed by the news.

I considered driving over to interrupt her evening with Bowie but ultimately decided it would be better to wait until Juli got home.

ALL of this was all shocking to me because this was coming only two days after the nomination window had closed. I would have thought it might have taken longer to compile all the votes. So, YAY technology?

After calming down, somewhat, I put the phone down and went back to my laptop to stare at a larger print version of email. I then printed out two copies; one for posterity and the other for show.

In the meantime, I sent a Facebook direct message to my Esteemed Editor and our gracious host Mike Glyer.

By the time Juli came home at 11:00 p.m., I had already placed the email I printed out in an envelope and put it under her pillow. When she finally climbed into bed, I told her I had a surprise for her and pointed to her pillow.

I was not disappointed as I saw her face blossom into a look of shock, then jubilation. “I am so proud and happy for you,” she gushed and she hugged me.

Mr. Glyer responded to my text just before midnight, writing:

“Great news! Congratulations, so well deserved!”

This, from a person who has won a fistful of Hugo Awards for his works as an writer and an editor over the decades, I was incredibly gratified for the opportunity to write for File 770.

I don’t know when or how I fell asleep that evening…

[Chris Barkley’s diary continues after the jump.]

DAY TWO – March 19, 2022

We both slept in late that morning. VERY LATE!

When we finally agreed to rouse ourselves, we decided to celebrate with breakfast at the Bistro of my old employer, Joseph Beth Booksellers and then go shopping for spring clothing at Carter’s for Bowie and my sixteen-month-old granddaughter, Navia.

After that, we mutually decided that the next people we would tell would be my oldest friends in sf fandom, Michaele and Roger, who live close by in the same neighborhood.

Juli and I have seldom seen them since the beginning of the pandemic and I couldn’t recall the last time we all had dinner together. When we arrived at their doorstep early in the afternoon unannounced (because it’s never a surprise if you know it’s coming), they were slightly shocked, but happy to see us. Roger was watching a film on Turner Classic Movies and Michaele was just about to take a nap on the couch.

When we were seated, Michaele asked what brought us over that day.

I gravely informed her that I had an impending health issue and to sell the prank even harder, I told them that it could be fatal, if untreated. At first, they were both confused and thought it was about Juli. No, I insisted, it’s me. (And I credit Juli for not bursting out laughing when I was telling them all of this.)

“Oh no”, Michaele said. “What is it?”

“Maybe,” I said dramatically, removing the envelope with the email from my jacket pocket and handing it to her, “you should read the diagnosis for yourself.”

As Michaele read it, I saw her face morph from shock, surprise and ultimately to a wide smile.

“Yes,” I said, “I’m sorry but I may have a case of being totally insufferable from now on.”

And with that she leaped from her chair and gave me a tremendous hug as Roger demanded to know what the hell just happened.

“Congratulations! I am so, so HAPPY FOR YOU!”

I handed Roger the email and he smiled and chuckled.

“I am kind of jealous and mad because you got nominated first, but I forgive you,” Michaele said.

Michaele Jordan and I entered fandom when we attended Midwestcon 27 in the summer of 1976. Over the years, if I were betting on it, I would have said that she had an upper hand in being nominated before me; for many years she was a regularly published columnist and reviewer for several websites and had published several shorts stories and a fantasy novel, Mirror Maze, in 2011.

After that we spent a little time discussing other members of the Cincinnati Fantasy Group who had been nominated or won awards, the biggest of whom was the late Mike Resnick, who was nominated for the Hugo Award an astonishing 37 (!) times and won five, and for the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association’s Nebula Award another eleven nominations and one win.

About a year ago, I asked Michaele, an accomplished seamstress, to help restore my late grandmother’s hand-sewn quilt with some material I had purchased at a yard sale in Michigan. While we were there, she showed me how that was progressing; she had restored some of the original panels my grandmother had created and was in the process of marrying them to the bolt of new fabric. I was very pleased with her progress and told her I looked forward to using it on a regular basis before I handed it off to my daughter Laura and my granddaughter Navia as an heirloom.

Michaele also asked for Our Gracious Host’s contact information to submit some of her works for publication on File 770.com. I did so and encouraged her to and wished her the best of luck.

Uppermost on my mind now was when I was going to manage to break the news to Laura. That should be a priority, because if I didn’t she’d never forgive me.

DAY THREE –  March 20, 2022

AH, the First Day of Spring.

Today, I went back to the March 18th Pixel Scroll (“When A Pixel’s Not Engaged In Its Enscrollment”) and bookmarked Cora Buhlert’s blogspot, “An Open Letter to the 2022 Hugo Finalists, Whoever They May Be.” I happened to be reading that particular item just after I read my Hugo Finalist email and I think it’s going to come in handy in the weeks ahead.

I spent the afternoon penning an update to my Chicon 8 article, which I promised to finish by mid-April.

The highlight of the day was a Twitter message, dated March 14, from my good friend, sf author Jonathan Brazee: “Just wanted to say I nominated you for Best Fan Writer today.  Good luck!”

I replied: “Hey, I just caught up with your Twitter message! THANK YOU! Let’s HOPE your vote pays off…”

HEH!

DAY FOUR – March 21, 2022

Bowie’s mommy had a job interview so I am on babysitting duty this afternoon. When he gets fussy and it’s time for a nap, I usually take him out for a walk. And since it was a nice day and nearly 60 degrees outside, off we went.

I have a secret weapon, just to insure he naps: National Public Radio. I put my smartphone in my pocket with the speaker facing upwards and the volume on full. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) was on the air, criticizing the treatment and attacks on Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson by certain doltish senators on the other side of the aisle. And within five minutes, Bowie was asleep.

NPR; when you absolutely, positively NEED to get your child to nap…

Michael Giacchino’s magnificent soundtrack to The Batman arrived in the mail today and I also received a letter from John Hertz congratulating me on my taste in comic strips (which was the mammoth Krazy Kat collection I received as a Christmas present at Discon III). I wrote him the following letter in return:

Dear John, 

Thank You for those few, kind words about my taste in comic strips! To tell you the truth, I haven’t even unwrapped that humongous collection just yet. At the moment, it is sitting on my desk behind my laptop, intensely staring at me, DARING me to open it and spend the next forty hours or so devouring its contents.

I’ve been a fan of Krazy Kat since the mid-1960’s, when I first started collecting comic books (much to my parent’s dismay) and eventually progressing into the rich history of comic strips as well.

As a result of my slightly early Christmas present at Discon III, I gave myself permission to splurge and purchase the nine volume paperback set of the Eclipse Books/Turtle Island Krazy Kat Sunday pages (1916-1924) that were first published between 1988 and 1992.

SOME DAY, I hope to obtain all of the Sunday strips in hardcover and the daily strips as well. Pardon me while I check my lottery tickets…

Best Wishes,

Chris B.

Also, I did notice that the deadline for filling out the Programming Survey was yesterday, NOT March 24th, as I thought it was. I jumped on my laptop, apologized profusely and filled out the questionnaire as quickly as I could. My bad!

DAY FIVE – March 22, 2022

Day Two of Spring was another cold, dreary day. And so it goes, slowly.

I took some time to do a little research on previous nominees in the Best Fan Writer category, which was established in 1967. I discovered:

That there have been only two other persons of color ever nominated in this category, Chris Garcia and Mark Oshiro. Barring anyone else being nominated with me, I will be the third, and the first African-American.

Yikes.

I can only wonder how people, in this politically divisive atmosphere, are people going to react? Oh sure, my friends will be totally happy but there will be others who will say that I was nominated JUST because I’m black or that I am taking the place of some other (re; white) fan writer who is more worthy.

I reminded myself that it was 2022, NOT 1922.

And I’ve made up my mind that my mindset will be that I AM a worthy nominee as chosen by the members of the World Science Fiction Society. Furthermore, I will ignore the naysayers and stay away from the mean tweets, irate comments that will eventually be directed at me. I earned this honor and no one handed it to me.

DAY SIX – March 20, 2022

1:51 am: I wake up with a terrible case of acid reflux. Pro Tip: NEVER go to bed after watching ANY sort of congressional testimony, especially for Supreme Court nominees. No Bueno, my friends…

NPR reported this morning that the Best Pizza in America is made in…Detroit Michigan. Huh.Well, ok then.

I violated one of Cora Buhlert’s Hugo Nominee Prime Directives today; my friend and Nigerian sf writer and editor Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki and I exchanged Facebook messages:

Hiiii

Oghenechovwe: Did the Hugo award reach out to you? They should, right about this time after voting?

 I sent: Well, we will all know in two weeks.

Oghenechovwe: They reached out to you didn’t they?

Oghenechovwe: Spill

 Oghenechovwe: Or how do you know it’s two weeks?

I Sent: Yeah! Well, don’t tell anyone BUT I”M ON THE FINAL BALLOT!!!!!

Oghenechovwe: Awesome!

Oghenechovwe: My vote wasn’t wasted.

He then revealed that he was on the Ballot as well: nominated in the Best Novelette category with “O2 Arena” and in the Best Editor -Short Form category as well. So, there was much happiness this morning.

Today was also the anniversary of me and my partner, Juli; THIRTEEN YEARS STRONG and still going! Take that, Energizer Bunny…

DAY SEVEN – March 24, 2022 

Today it was reported that the police in Oxford in the UK raided a residence and arrested the occupant for bicycle theft and receiving stolen goods. This would not be such a noteworthy occurrence, except that the alleged thief had several THOUSAND bikes piled up in his garden and the heap was SO BIG it could be seen from orbit on Google Earth!

Baseball’s Spring Training (the Better Late Than Never version) is in full swing after a nearly disastrous 99 day (!!!) lock-out by the team owners.

And while I am glad there will be some semblance of a regular 162 game season, I am dismayed that the National League has finally given up the ghost and consented to using the Designated Hitter rule. As a traditionalist of the game, I have always opposed it on the grounds that pitchers should be full time partners in the playing of the game, and that includes stepping into the batter’s box and taking their lumps in the batter’s box just like everyone else.

I lament that Baseball will be using a DH in both leagues from now on. I may get used to it but I will never like or support it.

This evening, Juli and I watched the latest episode of Picard (which was an intriguing advance of the time-travel storyline involving the ever scheming Q, skillfully played by John DeLancie) and the highly anticipated pilot episode of the Halo. Having never played or known anything about the video game it was based on, I thought it was well written and directed. Juli said it wasn’t something that she would continue watching on a regular basis.

Once again proving that not everything is for everyone.

DAY EIGHT – March 25, 2022

We woke up to the news that Russian troops in Ukraine were firing on unarmed civilians, including small children, in neighborhoods on the outskirts of Kyiv. It would be the understatement of the century to state that Putin and Russia have MUCH to answer for these “alleged” war crimes. And I strongly suspect that there’s nothing “alleged” about them.

It was a red letter morning for My friend Michaele; her first File 770 article appeared today (titled “Squid Game and Beyond”); a column reviewing some of the genre oriented Korean tv dramas, which run the gamut from romantic fantasy to time-traveling adventures. I was very happy seeing her being published again.

DAY NINE – March 26, 2022

I spent most of the afternoon listening to Chris Carter’s British Invasion show on SiriusXM. Although he features some contemporary UK rock bands, I mainly listen for the bands and artists of my youth in the sixties and seventies: the Kinks, Cream, Pink Floyd, the Yardbirds, the Byrds, Dusty Springfield, Manfred Mann, Herman’s Hermits, Gerry and the Pacemakers, The Zombies, Small Faces and some guys who were oddly named (checks notes), The Beatles.

Their music is highly nostalgic to me because it takes me right back to those carefree, crazy, lazy, hazy days of summers in Ohio. You know, when the greatest concerns as a kid were riding our bikes, penny candy, swimming at the public pools and listening to rock and soul music on our cheap, plastic transistor radios from Japan, blissfully unaware (mostly), for a while, of the racial and social changes that were sweeping over the world.

Good times, bad times…

Today, perhaps out of nervousness over the impending announcement of the nomination, I also wrote my first draft of my Acceptance Speech. which clocked in at around 400 words.

Because you can never think TOO FAR ahead, right?

I also thought it might be time to clue in Our Gracious Host that I was writing a diary about “The Hugo Award Nomination Experience”:

ME:

Just so you know, I am working on a diary of the days leading up to the announcement of the Hugo Award Finalists for publication on that day.

Also: Out of an abundance of caution (and ego), I also wrote the first draft of my acceptance speech. Spoiler Alert: YOU ARE mentioned…

My Esteemed Editor replied:

“Out of an abundance of caution (and ego)” — LOL! I like that.

DAY TEN – March 27, 2022

Taylor Hawking, drummer for the Foo Fighters, DEAD at the age of 50, while on tour in Columbia. DAMN!

I called my daughter Laura and her husband Charlie this morning, and we arranged to come over to their abode later in the day.

Little Navia looked actually happy to see us. Due to the pandemic, her parents were reluctant to go out with her in public very often. But both Juli and I have been coming by more often and we were glad to see that she had become more accustomed to our presence.

Charlie was napping (as parents with toddlers everywhere do) so I broke the news that I was a Hugo Finalist by gently pointing out that I may have a potential family heirloom for Navia.

She rolled her eyes because (if readers of this column will recall) I have already gifted Navia with a storage box full of stuff for Navia’s tenth birthday.

Sighing, Laura said, “OK, what is it this time?” And I handed her the envelope with the email.

Her eyes bulged a bit and her mouth dropped open in surprise. “Hey Daddy, congratulations!”, she exclaimed.

Laura knows about the Hugo awards because twenty-two years ago, she was one of the hostesses who presented the trophies to recipients at Chicon 2000. (Her mother and I were the convention hotel liaisons at the Fairmont Hotel, which hosted the Hugo Awards Ceremony that year.)

All in all, it was a fun visit and I was glad to break the news to her in person before the formal announcement.

Laura and Navia

And it’s OSCAR NIGHT and time once again for my favorite of all of awards season shows (I’m so sorry, BAFTA).

The (supposedly) “reformatted” Oscar show was premiering tonight. Eight technical and the so-called “minor categories” will be given beforehand and the winner’s edited speeches will be broadcast during the main show. They were hoping to bring the show in at around three hours or less, but I knew going in that it would be just as long as any other previous show, which, on average, runs about three and a half hours. (NOTE: The official time was 3 hours and 39 minutes.)

Now, I know many of you don’t want to hear about any suggestions from me on how I would run the annual Academy Awards program BUT, since you’re here already:

– Declare an Academy Awards Weekend! Divide the Ceremony into three televised (streaming or over the air) events over three days, running about two hours each. Saturday could host the Governor’s and Technical Achievement Awards, the next two evenings could have a rotating set of awards climaxing with Actor and Actress on Sunday and the In Memoriam tribute, Best Director and Best Picture on Sunday.

– I would also add three categories: Best Stunt Coordination, Best Ensemble Acting Cast (with Oscars for the casting director and the main members of the cast) AND a true Audience Award, for the most popular film as voted by the people who attend and support the film industry. (Don’t ask me about how that last Award could be adjudicated. Just don’t just hold open voting on Twitter, I BEG YOU!)

Yes indeed, it’s 8:00 DST and time for a graceful, dignified and lighthearted evening of…

What The HELL?

Readers, I want you to know that I had no idea what I was seeing at first. When Will Smith strode across the stage towards Chris Rock, screaming at the top of his lungs I had no idea what I was seeing. I thought Rock’s joke about Jada Pinkett Smith was in very poor taste (even though I did not know she was suffering from alopecia, a disease which causes hair loss all over a person’s body). I understood the reference to the 1997 Demi Moore film G.I. Jane, but making fun of her appearance seemed, at that moment, par for the course on any other Oscar Night.

Juli and I never heard the slap delivered to Rock’s face, nor Smith’s angry and profane tirade that followed once he returned to his seat because ABC’s Standards and Practices division had wisely, as it turned out) cut the audio feed to the American audience.

Rock, to his credit, composed himself and went on to present the Best Documentary Feature award to Questlove and his co-producers for Summer of Soul. By the time the commercial break came, Juli had found an uncensored foreign video feed on Twitter. Then she found out about Jada Pinkett Smith’s condition.

When I was young, bullies made fun of my glasses and general appearance from grade school through college. Knowing how that feels makes me feel as though Rock was out of line, whether he knew about her condition (he claims he did not) or not.

But Smith’s violent response, which he claims was in defense of his wife’s honor, was even more egregious, to the ceremony, the other nominees, the ceremony and most damningly to himself and his acting career.

In video replays, Smith was seen laughing at Rock’s joke UNTIL he looked over and saw his hurt expression on his wife’s face. Then, he got angry.

So, it seems to me that his reaction was more a byproduct of his wounded male pride than anything else. In his tearful acceptance speech for the Best Actor category, his toxic brand of masculinity and patriarchy was on full display as he claimed that “love makes you do crazy things” and he was proud that he “protected” Demi Singleton and Saniyya Sidney, the actresses who portrayed Serena and Venus Williams in King Richard.

So, Oscar Night 2022 will be memorable, but for all the wrong reasons. Sure; Dune swept most of the technical awards, and the awards given to Ariana Dubose, Troy Kotsur and to CODA for Best Picture winner were quite significant in their own right. But their achievements will always be overshadowed by an ill timed joke and the impulsive and violent response that followed.

DAY ELEVEN – March 28, 2022

I made the mistake of weighing myself this morning: 221.8 pounds and counting. Last fall, I got down to 206. What happened? Winter happened. I looked down and vowed to myself that I was going to get down to 190 lbs by Chicon 8 or DIE TRYING!

Metaphorically speaking, of course.

Today’s Facebook messages brought yet ANOTHER invitation to help with a new NASFiC bid, for Buffalo, New York in 2024. I accepted, of course, because it won’t be snowing there in July, August or early September.

Right? Well, I certainly HOPE so…

In the evening, I received a Facebook message from a moderator from a group I regularly post to, Pantsuit Nation X Supermajority. I had submitted a snarky meme I had posted more than a week ago on my page featuring Sonequa Martin-Green and Stacey Abrams, picturing Abram’s surprising cameo appearance as “The President of Earth” on the Season Four finale of Star Trek: Discovery. The moderator said that they all liked and wanted to post the meme but they usually did not do that without some sort of personal anecdote that placed the meme in some sort of context.

They invited me to re-submit with some commentary and I accepted. Two hour later, I did so, with the following text:

I had just turned ten years old in September 1966 when Star Trek first premiered on the NBC television network.

My parents, being practical people born in the midst of the Depression, merely rolled their eyes at all of this science fiction “stuff” I seemed to be obsessed with at that time. They thought that as I got older, I would put aside these childish things and ‘grow up”.

Oh, how wrong they were.

This is because as a child, I was seeing something they were clearly overlooking, the future.

Through my young and impressionable eyes, I saw clearly saw Gene Roddenberry’s hope for the future; the crew of the USS Enterprise, set more than two hundred years from then, consisting of aliens and humans, united in a mission, to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and civilizations and to boldly go where no one had gone before…

This statement, written by a white, middle aged veteran of World War Two, in the middle of the Cold War and the ongoing fiasco in Vietnam, clearly saw a need to offer some sort of hope that human being would somehow, against all odds, would eventually transcend our petty differences and build a better future for ourselves.

The image I hold most dear to my heart is the sight of a Black Woman, Lt. Uhura (Nichelle Nichols), a flag officer on the deck of a starship performing a vital role in exploring the galaxy.

It is a testament to the strength of this message that it has survived intact among the meddling of numerous television and movie executives, their hordes of bean counters, marketing “geniuses” and inept writers and directors.

This is not to say that the original series is not without its faults. as with most programs of their time, there are instances of misogyny and sexism that have not aged very well.

But as time passed, Star Trek evolved as well.

Star Trek: The Next Generation begat Deep Space Nine, Voyager and a prequel, Enterprise. They laid the foundation for the current crop of new shows, Discovery, Lower Decks, Picard and Strange New Worlds, which will premiere in May.

Like many of you, I was shocked and amazed when Stacey Abrams appeared on Discovery’s season ending episode, “Coming Home”.

But, in retrospect, it was perfectly appropriate. Stacey Abrams has been a lifelong fan of Star Trek, science fiction and many other forms of genre literature.

Many, including a lot of Republicans (and other haters of all stripes) were upset at her appearance on Star Trek, calling her either ‘woke’, an opportunist or just terrible in her brief role.

But they don’t get it. And they NEVER will.

Stacey Abrams understands, perfectly, what’s at stake, not only with her election but the mid-terms as well.

Democracy, and our republic, our freedoms and our very way of life are all hanging in the balance.

Star Trek is NOT just a futuristic utopian adventure story, it is a story about how we as humans (and non-humans) explore, endure, survive and most importantly, hope.

Stacey Abrams KNOWS all of this.

That’s why she was on Star Trek.

And I, for one, was more than happy to see her there.

I hope you did, too.

DAY TWELVE – March 29, 2022

Today, Juli and I caught up on The Blacklist and The Endgame, two NBC serial crime dramas.

We were also delighted to see a video of our granddaughter Navia wielding a pair of drumsticks, banging on daddy’s drum kit. I guess we’ll have to scratch that off of our Christmas list for her.

Tomorrow, we’ve arranged a playdate between Navia and Bowie at a nearby park, weather permitting.

DAY THIRTEEN – March 30, 2022

This morning, my sister Diane sent me a text message stating that my Aunt Naomi (on my father’s side) had died overnight in her sleep. She was 90 but when I saw her last she seemed to be in reasonably good health. I felt totally bummed because her son Gerald had died  suddenly on Christmas Eve.

Well, I needed to get out of the house. The weather was a little iffy in the afternoon; yet another cloudy and VERY windy but still warm enough for sweaters. So everyone decided to chance it and go ahead with the meetup.

Charlie and Laura were seated outside at a restaurant in the park and were waiting for us to show up before ordering food. Did I mention it was windy? In fact, a high wind alert had been called for the afternoon.

As we strolled towards the park, the wind gusts were so virulent that they nearly knocked me completely off my feet, something I have never experienced before.

Beth, Bowie, Ben and Lily showed up shortly afterwards but the conditions were terrible, so we all agreed that today was a wash and we would try again when spring had actually sprung…

DAY FOURTEEN – March 31 2022

I began the day in mourning for my aunt. I stepped outside and was greeted by the sight of several groups of daffodils, which were completely enclosed yesterday, were in full bloom. I took this to be a good sign.

Today, I received an email stating that my commercial account at a well known local bank had been suspended due to a series of suspicious and possibly (GASP!) fraudulent activity.

Do tell…except I have been banking at a credit union for the past twenty-five years. Nice try, though. HEH!

Meanwhile, Juli received a postcard in the mail claiming that the warranty on her Honda Fit had expired and would she be interested in extending it? Well, if we block their phone calls, SURELY we will respond to an innocuous but sincere postcard offering their (BOGUS) services, right?

At 2:58 p.m., an email from Chicon 8 alerted me that ONE WEEK  from today, the Hugo Award Finalists would be announced at 10 a.m., CDT.

Pressure? No pressure.

Why do you ask?????

DAY FIFTEEN – April 1, 2022

This morning’s weight: 221.8 pounds. I have a LONG way to go to 190lbs. #Sheesh!

Today is the birthday of one of my literary heroes, Samuel R. Delany. It was a pleasure posting a birthday greeting on his Facebook page. In the past, we (in fandom) have used the honorific “The Dean of Science Fiction” to the oldest and most revered of writers. I think we should bestow it on “Chip” Delany.

Juli and I watched the first episode of Marvel’s Moon Knight this evening.  And our mutual reaction was WTF was THAT? Mind you, neither of us were familiar with the character from the comics and I, in particular, wanted to start this series without any preconceived notions.

I have no doubt that Moon Knight is well written and directed, at least so far and Oscar Isaac and Ethan Hawke are fantastic in their roles. I have no idea what’s going to happen next and I like what I’ve seen so far. Bring it on, I say.

No pranks were pulled nor accepted today. Promise!

DAY SIXTEEN – April 2, 2022

This morning, I switched my Facebook profile image from a stern image of the nineteenth century black activist Frederick Douglass to…Well, this will take a bit of explaining.

At Worldcon 76 in San Jose (2018), Juli and I accosted our good friend and the Pride of Canadian SF, Robert J. Sawyer at the main entrance of the convention center.

Juli said she would love to take a picture of us together and we both agreed to pose.

When she tried to tag both Rob and myself to post on Facebook, THIS HAPPENED:

Facebook photo of Robert J. Sawyer and Chris Barkley)

The result is one of the more infamous (and totally fabulous) failures of Facebook’s facial recognition software. When I pull it out every now and then, people love it. We get a kick out of being “twins” and mistaking ourselves for one another.

Needless to say, it is one of my, and Rob’s all time favorite photographs. He also congratulated me on the nomination as well, which, coming from an actual winner of a Hugo Award, was quite gratifying.

I saw something else on Facebook later in the day that ticked me off, the term “woke.” Originally, it was used by people in the civil rights movement to demonstrate that racists and bigots could not beat back their protests and were wide awake about what they were doing in America.

However, in the past decade or so, neo-conservative pundits on social media and over the airwaves have seemingly claimed the term, using it to ridicule and question the motives and goals of progressive minded people.

Over the past few months, I decided to counter-attack with something I hope catches on and become viral: When some says “woke”, I sternly correct them by saying (or writing), “NO! I think you meant ‘AWARE’, as in ‘I am AWARE you are trying to “gaslight” me.’ Thanks for playing.”

I needed to get out and feel good today so I decided to indulge in some shopping therapy. To wit, I went to two of my neighborhood Half Price Books outlet and bought hardcover copies of the 1990 Book of the Month Club anthology Radical Utopias (featuring The Female Man by Joanna Russ, Triton by Chip Delany and Walk to the End of the World by Suzy McKee Charnas) and Kissing the Beehive by fantasist Jonathan Carroll.

DAY SEVENTEEN – April 3, 2022

My sister Gwen forwarded an obituary of my aunt that was posted in our local paper. I posted it on Facebook and received a great deal of sympathy and support from my friends. I am very grateful for it.

Otherwise, I spent most of the day watching (international) football and transcribing my diary notes before I got too far behind and completely missed my self-imposed deadline on Friday. You’re Welcome.

Today’s newest Star Trek outrage comes from Angelo Stagnaro of the National Catholic Register, an ultra-conservative religious website, who proclaimed, “I Didn’t Abandon Star Trek — Star Trek Abandoned Me”. (Subhead: “It’s time to eject Star Trek: Discovery out of the nearest airlock.” HORRORS!)

Mr Stagnaro, claiming to be a lifelong “trekker” (his self-described term, not mine) is shocked and dismayed with Star Trek: Discovery because, quote,” has more homosexual, bisexual and transsexual characters than you can shake a phaser at, and they threaten to add even more.”
He goes on at length, lambasting empowered female characters, male characters with ‘feelings” and lamenting for the good old days when Star Trek was more like cops and robbers and sexy alien women in space.

Was Mr. Stagnaro watching the same Star Trek we were?

Well, not being someone who minces words with people who read too much of their own twisted political views in sf, I posted the following response:

Mr. Stagnaro:

You may be Catholic, BUT YOU’RE NO FAN OF STAR TREK! Star Trek didn’t leave you, YOU DECIDED TO BE LEFT BEHIND!

You have totally misunderstood what Star Trek stands for and represents. Does the term “IDIC”, made famous in the original series episode ” Is There In Truth No Beauty”, ring a bell with you?

“Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations. Symbolizing the elements that create truth and beauty.”

You know, it is because of ultra-conservative, feckless, small minded, self righteous idiots like you that convinced me to renounce and leave the Church for good over fifty years ago.

Evolve OR stay eternally ignorant, “trekker” JERK!

(And NO, I will NOT link to this vile and hateful article. Fair Warning; you can look it up yourself if you’re that curious or want but mind you, you’ll risk losing the contents of your stomach involuntarily.)

DAY EIGHTEEN – April 4, 2022

Day Forty of the War in Ukraine. No, after seeing what I saw today, it was more like the Massacre of Ukraine…

The day was filled with graphic photos and videos from the Ukrainian suburb of Bucha. Heinous images of murder and war crimes “allegedly” committed by Russian soldiers.

If I were a Ukrainian, I would state, unequivocally, that there will be no peace with these marauders and brigands until the Russian field commanders and the government officials who planned and executed these murderous rampages were held fully accountable for their actions.

What the Russian army left behind them as they callously retreated cannot and will not be forgotten anytime soon.

DAY NINETEEN – April 5, 2022

BETTER Star Trek news today; Variety reports that the entire cast of ST:The Next Generation will be featured in the third and final season of Picard, which (in Paramount’s infinite wisdom) has already completed principal photography.

President Barack Obama was BACK in the White House today, to celebrate the anniversary of the passing of the Affordable Care Act, AND President Biden’s signing of an Executive Order which expanded coverage to more people and plugged a few loopholes that have plagued the current version.

And he ably demonstrated that if he wanted a career in stand-up comedy, he absolutely would crush it!

Tiger Woods announced that he was playing in The Masters golf tournament today. Goodness knows he’s been through A LOT in the past 14 months (when he was almost killed and nearly had a leg amputated in a traffic accident) and that his personal life, foibles and troubles have been laid bare for everyone to see.

But, he remains a compelling person to me and I still root for him whenever he plays. What he has done as an athlete has been astounding and admirable. What he has done in his personal life is regrettable and makes me somewhat sad. But now, late in career, what he does on a golf course brings me a little joy. Good luck to him this weekend.

I spent most of the day transcribing this diary in my pajamas. During a break, I ordered a pair of Van Huesen shawl neck sweaters that caught my fancy on eBay. Ah, living the high life!

DAY TWENTY- April 6, 2022

Here’s a funny story; last night before I staggered off to bed, I read an item in the daily Pixe; Scroll (“Now That’s A Pixel I’ve Not Scrolled In A Long Time. A Long Time”) that two-time Hugo Nominee Cora Buhlert had received her nomination swag in the mail.

First of all, I was a little annoyed that she had gotten her swag in advance before me. However, had I been a little less bleary eyed, I should have noted that Ms. Buhlert had just received her swag for the previous Worldcon, Discon III, NOT, as I had erroneously thought, Chicon 8!

To compound things further, I congratulated her on her third Hugo nomination in the File 770 comments AND on her Twitter page.

So, imagine my surprise when I woke up this morning  to find a stern admonishment from my Esteemed Editor (“Don’t Jump The Gun There, buddy!”) in my email inbox AND Juli pointing out my error on Cora Buhlert’s Twitter feed.

Well, I submitted the following apology on File 770 and directly to Ms. Buhlert:

HEY,

I want to apologize to Cora Buhlert and the Filers for TOTALLY misreading her tweet about her reception of her Discon III nomination swag…And for being two days ahead of the Chicon 8 announcements of this year’s Hugo Award Finalists.

Mea Culpa,

Chris B.

I’m going to look like a freaking GENIUS tomorrow when they announce her as a Finalist.

I HOPE! (GULP!)

DAY TWENTY-ONE – April 7, 2022 (VOLCANO DAY!) 

I went to bed at 11:15 p.m. last night. I woke up at 4:37 a.m.

I checked my vitals on my imitation Fitbit; my pulse rate was 59 and my blood pressure was 117/73. I think it’s lying through its teeth (if it had any). I feel very anxious. It takes a bit of effort but I rolled back over and went back to sleep.

The clock radio woke Juli and I up at the appointed time. She had coffee, I had a bowl of cereal.

As 11:00 a.m. approached, I try to keep telling myself that things are going to be ok. But, in the back of my mind, my uncertainty comes and goes.

As 10:00 a.m. came and went, I decided to open up my laptop to listen to Little Steven’s Underground Garage on SiriusXM and just try to relax. Tunes from Ry Cooder and Taj Mahal, The Beatles, Howlin’ Wolf and The Ramones do their best to massage my ears and mind.

A small aside; for years, whenever I saw famed fan writer Claire Briarley’s name on the Hugo Ballot, for a brief moment, I saw MY NAME instead of hers. Dyslexia?

Although personally, this is a big deal for me, I’m trying to keep my ego in check. Because I am NOT trying to portray this achievement as though I were on a level with Thurgood Marshall, Jackie Robinson or Marian Anderson.

But, I hope this nomination will provide some inspiration and outreach to more fans of color and marginalized factions who are part of sf fandom to speak up and be heard. In this time and age, with all of the technology and social media platforms available to us, there has never been a better time for anyone who has a boisterous or unique point of view to be heard and been seen.

At EXACTLY 10:00 and 30 seconds a.m., Central Daylight Time, the Chicon 8 Facebook and Twitter feed dropped the 2022 Ballot of Finalists for the Hugo Awards.

I immediately scrolled through the Facebook posting and found the Best Fan Writer listing and was stunned to see my name at the top of the list; COOL!

But then my journalistic instincts cut in and  for the next hour, I began to share the news across my extensive contacts on Facebook and lastly on my Twitter page.

I spent the next two hours either fielding greetings from friends and acquaintances or congratulating friends who were nominated or my fellow nominees in the Fan Writing category.

According to the report from the Chicon 8 website, there were 368 ballots for 168 nominees; finalist range 31-117. I feel very humbled to be considered the cream of the crop out of so many nominees! And I realize that I may never be nominated again, so believe me when I say that I sincerely savored this moment…

I knew of three of my fellow nominees through their association and reputation with File 770; Cora Buhlert (www.corabuhlert.com), Paul Weimer (http://www.princejvstin.com/) and Jason Sanford (https://www.jasonsanford.com/) all of whom were nominated in the same category last year.

Alex Brown (they/them) and Bitter Karella (she/her, to the best of my knowledge) are completely unknown to me.

I in searching for them online was delighted find out that Brown (@QueenOfRats) / Twitter) is a queer person of color, a regular commentator and reviewer for Tor.com, Locus and NPR Books.

Ms Karella is more well known than I realized, she is the author of The Midnight Society Twitter account (The Midnight Society (@midnight_pals) / Twitter), a biting pastiche of the Nickelodeon series “Are You Afraid of the Dark?”, in which modern horror writers snipe at each other with reckless abandon.  (In fact, Newsweek published an interview with her the very next day): www.newsweek.com/mightnight-pals-imagining-top-horror-writers-kids-gets-hugo-nomination-1696225

Of all of the nominated writers, I think it would be a safe bet to say that I am the oldest (at age 65) of the group. (The other nominees are free to correct me, if they wish.) From what I can tell from having briefly pursued everyone’s works is that if this is my only nomination, I can safely say that this category will have a lively and productive life beyond my contributions. I applaud their efforts and I am happy to be considered among them as peers.

Christy Johnson, the Chair of Millennicon and my boss for many years (before it folded in 2016), called me on the phone to congratulate me, which I greatly appreciated.

For lunch, I had the traditional Hugo Nominee Announcement meal; Blueberry Pie and Vanilla Artisan Bean Ice Cream!

After the celebratory lunch, I changed my Facebook profile picture:

The momentous day continued: At around 2 p.m., I took a break to watch the historic vote on the floor of the United States Senate. Although the final vote was delayed for more than thirty minutes by two recalcitrant Senators (who shall remain nameless and reviled for all time, as far as I’m concerned), the final vote was eventually tallied and Vice-President Kamala Harris was all smiles (and I swelled with pride) as she affirmed the confirmation of the Supreme Court’s newest Associate Justice-Elect, Ketanji Brown Jackson.

When I returned to my laptop, there were more greetings to acknowledge and thank you to be given.

One of the more persistent queries was why my name was listed first among the nominees. While I am first alphabetically by last name, the rest of the names on the list are definitely not.

So, to quell any controversy, I posted on my Facebook page that I was listed first because I was the first to execute the Hugo Nominee Super Secret Double Probation Secret Handshake properly as it was demonstrated in Season Three of Stranger Things. (https://youtu.be/iaG28c1Iih4)

I hope that cleared things up…

As the day progressed, I managed to get a closer look at some of the rest of the nominees on the ballot and a few things jumped out at me:

  • Catherynne M. Valente scored a Triple Play (on Baseball’s Opening Day, no less!) by achieving nominations in all three of the short Fiction categories, Short Story, Novelette and Novella in the same year. Check me if I’m wrong but I don’t think THAT has even been done before. BRAVO, Ms. Valente!
  • Blue Neustifter’s “Unknown Number” was also historic; it is the first piece of short fiction published on Twitter to be nominated for a Hugo Award. That’s incredible!
  • The Complete Debarkle: Saga of a Culture War, by Camestros Felapton is probably the MOST complete retelling of the historic upheaval of Sad/Angry/Rabid Puppy Wars of several years ago and will provide an invaluable insight as to what happened for decades to come.
  • Encanto?  Have we learned NOTHING from making WALL-E a Hugo winner? I mean, OK, it’s a fine children’s film but it’s not the sort of thing I find Hugo worthy. Ah, well, I suppose we CAN probably talk about Bruno at the convention…
  • Space Sweepers, written and directed by Jo Sung-hee, is the most intriguing entry on the Best Dramatic Presentation-Long Form nominees, as far as I’m concerned. It was first released in February of 2021 and still stuck in the minds of the nominators for a long, LONG time. I am very eager to see it and what all the fuss is all about.
  • The Expanse (with “Nemesis Games”) was the only returning entry from last year in the Best Dramatic Presentation-Short Form category. The rest of the newcomers are all first timers; The Wheel of Time, Arcane, For All Mankind, Loki and Star Trek: Lower Decks will all be vying for their Hugo Award and I am excited for all of them.
  • Over the past year or so, I have happily made the acquaintance of Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki, a Nigerian sf writer and editor. With his two nominations, for Best Editor-Short Form and Best Novelette (“O2 Arena”), he became the first African born writer to be nominated for a Hugo Award AND be nominated in these two categories SIMULTANEOUSLY! That is utterly remarkable. I hope can make it to Chicago to be properly feted, as he should be.

Good Luck to these and all of the other 2022 Hugo Award Finalists.

That evening, Juli, I and her son Stephen traveled to a downtown brewery to play a weekly game of trivia. Our friends Ed, A.J. and Katy had been apprised of the Hugo nomination and were all quite happy to see us.

Katy, who is not a fan, googled what a Hugo award is and was quite interested in what fandom is and the nomination process. I also showed her a series of photos of some of the variations of the trophy bases over the decades (including my favorite of all time, the 2007 Nippon Hugo Award that featured the rocket framed against Mt. Fuji and their national superhero, Ultraman, standing off to the side: https://www.thehugoawards.org/hugo-trophies/2007-hugo-award-trophy/ 

Katy then surprised me by asking for my autograph. It felt a little weird but I complied, writing on the back of one of the scoring sheets:

And as the day wound down and the trivia game progressed, our thoughts turned to baseball, as the Cincinnati Reds opened their season in Atlanta against the 2021 World Champion Atlanta Braves.

Our team, Mr. Peabody’s Wayback Machine, got smoked on the last question, in which we were asked to put four pop songs in chronological order:

  1. “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” by Elton John
  2. “King of the Road” by Roger Miller
  3. “Take Me Home, Country Roads” by John Denver
  4. “Thunder Road” by Bruce Spingsteen.

Good Luck!

Meanwhile, the Reds defeated the Champs, 6-3, on five strong innings from starter Tyler Mahle, who gave up one unearned run, with closer Tony Santillan picking up the save. The Reds scored six runs on ten hits with one Error, The Braves three runs on four hits and no errors.

Only one hundred and sixty one games to go!

DAY TWENTY-TWO – April 8-10, 2022

A FEW FINAL THOUGHTS

After an incredible day like yesterday, it’s rather hard to summarize how I’m feeling today, but I’ll try.

I am a fan writer because I love to write. But I also love to inform people and express my opinions as well.

And I endeavor to be a better writer. Becoming a better writer might lead to making money with your writing, but becoming a better communicator and human being doesn’t have a price tag.

Essentially, I try to tell the truth as I see and try to be on the right side of history. If I’m wrong, which I am occasionally, I apologize and try to do better.

I also try to tell truths that I find fascinating, funny or uncomfortable. I strive to learn every day, to challenge and be challenged by the opinions of others in order to find illumination and enlightenment.

And at times, I will utilize crass observations, hyperbole and humor in the search of those higher and more noble truths.

So, in the end, I’m glad you’re taking time out to read my musings and all of the other fan writers around the world.

Take care, vote and we hope to see some of you readers at Chicon 8 this September.

This column is dedicated to my college journalism teacher, Jon Hughes, who taught me well enough to earn a Hugo Award nomination. I owe him so much and I THANK him most profusely for his thoughtfulness, wisdom and insights.

14 thoughts on “Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions #64

  1. Congratulations Chris!

    They say two can keep a secret if one is dead. I don’t think I would be able to keep that sort of news to myself!

  2. Congratulations, Chris! And to Camestros, Cora, and Paul too.
    And now I’m wanting to visit Joseph-Beth. Maybe for my birthday in May, if we’re not getting another Covid surge.

  3. Hurrah! I was waiting for this post so I could fan scream a little bit! Congratulations Chris, well deserved.

    Otherwise, WALL-E is a truly fantastic film that I absolutely deem Hugo worthy.

  4. Do you pronounce “Bowie” to rhyme with wowwie-zowwie, as the late David did?

  5. Chris, congratulations and best wishes. Your writing, posting and implacable opinionating are an inspiration to me. I hope to see you and congratulate you in person at Chicon 8.

  6. Congratulations Chris! Well deserved, and in fact long overdue.

    For the sake of pedantic accuracy, the “first African born writer to be nominated for a Hugo Award” was Manly Wade Wellman, who was born in Angola, though to American parents who moved back to the USA rather quickly.

  7. Michael J. “Orange Mike” Lowrey on April 11, 2022 at 12:16 am said:
    Do you pronounce “Bowie” to rhyme with wowwie-zowwie, as the late David did

    David Bowie of course.

    He reminds us of the babe
    What babe
    The babe with the power
    What power
    The power of voodoo.

  8. Congratulations Chris. Your opinion on the DH is another reason the nomination was well deserved.

  9. Once again congratulations, Chris. It’s an honour to be nominated alongside you (as well as Paul, Jason, Alex and Bitter Karella).

    I fully sympathise with the rollercoaster of emotions BTW, particularly if you’re a first time finalist.

    I’m also glad that my Open Letter to the Hugo Finalists was useful.

    I hope I’ll make it to Chicago, pandemic willing, and that we can celebrate together.

  10. Mazel tov, Chris. I hope Glyer is paying you by the word. Seriously, you’re one of the few names I recognize in an increasingly alien-to-me Hugo nominations list. And you’ve got my vote!

    Did I ever send out that IMHO excellent photo I took of you in DC?

  11. BTW, Chris, the Nippon Hugo base with Ultraman and Mount Fujii is also my personal favourite, though there have been a lot of stunning ones over the years.

  12. Pingback: Some Thoughts on the 2022 Hugo Finalists | Cora Buhlert

  13. Pingback: AMAZING NEWS FROM FANDOM: 4/17/22 - Amazing Stories

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