Worldcon Wayback Machine: Monday at ConFrancisco (1993) Day 5

ConFrancisco Souvenir Book cover by Alicia Austin.

Worldcon Wayback Machine Introduction: Thirty years ago this weekend ConFrancisco, the 1993 World Science Fiction Convention, was held in San Francisco, California. I thought it would fun to compile a day-by-day recreation drawing on the report I ran in File 770, Evelyn Leeper’s con report on (used with permission), and the contributions of others. Here is the fifth daily installment.

The Worldcon was held in the Moscone Convention Center, ANA Hotel, Parc Fifty Five, and Nikko Hotel.

Diana Paxson, left, and Jerry Pournelle, right, at the 1993 World SF Convention, ConFrancisco. Photo by © Andrew I. Porter.

[Mike Glyer] Thank You For Your Support: The lifeblood of the con, its volunteers and staff, earned the right to wear official t-shirts, each with a unique Teddy Harvia cartoon. The staff’s white t-shirts had red cartoons of a bridge, with three characters having this exchange: The Sun asked, “Think anyone’ll notice all the work we put into the bridge?” A rocket in flight answered, “With thousands crossing it, someone’ll notice.” A giant squid wrapped around the bridge agreed, “Wow! Look at all the work someone put into this bridge!”

[Mike Glyer] The Blue Riband: Sharon Sbarsky ordered 41 types of standard ribbons, the kind with double-sided tape for attaching to membership badges. They ranged in purpose from simple descriptions like “Committee”, “Staff” and “Hugo Award Nominee” to the truly whimsical: “Jumping Thing Contest”, “Hoax”, “AntiRibbon”, “Generic” and “Set Completer”.

“Set Completer” hints at the ferocious competition to accumulate the widest variety of ribbons. One aspirant for the title at ConFrancisco, Kevin Standlee, put it this way: “I’m Bruce [Pelz] this year. Bruce was Tim Illingworth last year.”

Bruce Pelz’ passion to be a completist collector of things ranging from fanzines to worldcon paraphernalia has inspired several affectionate and humorous efforts to frustrate him. Years ago the Lupoffs published an anticlimactic issue of their fanzine Xero containing a satirical prediction that Pelz would be shattered to see another issue appear after he’d sent his run of Xero to the bindery. When Bruce supervised the History of Worldcons exhibit for Noreascon 3, collecting committee ribbons for the display became his latest crusade, and inventing one-of-a-kind, unattainable ribbons became a game for Bruce’s friends.

ConFrancisco escalated the absurdity to new levels by authorizing a horse-collar-sized blue ribbon stamped “The ribbon Bruce Pelz doesn’t have” to be worn by a succession of fans including Rick Katze on Saturday night and Danny Siclari on Monday afternoon. Bruce Pelz said he finally got possession of it Monday night in a ceremony where he assumed the identity of its last wearer, Dave Kyle.

[Mike Glyer] Not According To Hoyle: Bruce’s other passions include playing bridge, and Gary Anderson attempted to give Bruce the biggest bridge he’d ever played with: the 24-foot-long replica Golden Gate bridge that was on the Esplanade Ballroom stage all weekend to symbolize ConFrancisco’s “Building Bridges” theme.

“The thought of the look on Bruce Pelz’s face when informed, especially in some ceremonial manner, that we were now bequeathing it to him for the Worldcon Exhibit was a point of much humorous discussion among the bridge building crew. Gary Louie had seen it and looked properly horrified when he was over here working on the 40 Years of Hugos show, precon.”

Anderson snickered, “I mean, here is this bridge, a tiny bit of fannish experience. How could anyone turn it down for exhibit purposes? It loomed over several events of memorable fannish history: Andy Porter’s Hugo, the 40 Years of Hugos show, a nice Masquerade, really pizzazz opening and closing ceremonies. Obviously it should be in the exhibit! There were only a couple of minor logistical details: we finished assembly on the thing inside the Esplanade, and it wouldn’t fit out any of the doors. We did it with hot glue, and try as one might, it would not fit back in the box. And then, space for the ride home, not to mention the virtual entirety of someone’s garage in perpetuity….”

Anderson’s team did a first-rate job building a replica of the trademark bridge, and did it quite cheaply. “Materials cost about $330, all told, plus about $70 worth of flameproofing…. We did it ourselves, with the Fabrication Bridge Crew (in our back yard) and the Assembly Bridge Crew (at the con). We had the thing flameproofed to the point where we were hoping the fire marshal would run the flame test on it — 20 seconds with a butane torch never even touched it.”

[Mike Glyer] Numbers: Fans were amazed to hear the con sold 8,228 memberships of all types, and waited for the final word about how closely ConFrancisco approached L.A.con Il’s record of 8,365 attending members.

The committee’s tentative figure for attendance is 7,455, the sum of full attending memberships, childrens’, press and complimentary memberships, plus one-third of the daily memberships (their equivalence to full attending memberships). ConFrancisco ranks as the third-largest Worldcon in history, just behind Noreascon 3’s 7,700 attendees.

[The Norton Reader] Largest Typo Award Although this zine may have had its share of typos, we would like to award the Largest Typo of the Con Award (Punctuation Division) to the sign in the Moscone Center North. The sign above the main doors reads “ConFrancisco Loves It’s Volunteers.”

David Gerrold at the 1993 World SF Convention, ConFrancisco. Photo by © Andrew I. Porter.

[Mike Glyer] Closing Ceremonies: Fans taking their seats for Closing Ceremonies found a lyric sheet for the closing chorus of “ConFrancisco, Here We Come”, and a piece of chocolate candy bribing them to sing it.

This was my first chance to see the parade of flag-waving fans, or the ceremonial entrance of Emperor Norton who walked ahead of a giant yellow banner monogrammed with a blue “N”. Guests of honor followed, with Tom Digby blowing bubbles at the audience.

After many thank-you’s came the most wonderful practical joke ever pulled at a Worldcon. Obsessive ribbon collector Kevin Standlee was introduced, then a team of fans carried out a giant replica name badge and tried to give it to him. The badge would have been too large for anyone but the Statue of Liberty, and Kevin pretended to stumble backwards, crushed under its mass, while the audience yelled, “Put it on! Put it on!”

Adding a classy touch to the list of thank-you’s, chairman Dave Clark and his division chiefs recognized people who’d worked heroically by awarding them “Golden Bear” medallions. (These were white enamel medals similar to the “Hero of MagiCon” design.) The list of winners unexpectedly included Jerry Pournelle, who was named as an expression of thanks for his graciousness in the face of a series of mishaps affecting his appearances at the con.

Dave Clark passed the gavel to John Mansfield, chairman of Conadian, the 1994 worldcon in Winnipeg. The Winnipeg committee made a very showmanlike introduction of its staff, and officials from their hotel and convention center. One of the officials scored minus points with locals by harping on the comparative safety of downtown Winnipeg, not to say fans aren’t happy that it’s so.

Mansfield told everyone that Winnipeg attendees will get a visa booklet for collecting the souvenir stamps that they’ll distribute throughout Conadian. The very first stamp was distributed by his crew as people left ConFrancisco’s closing ceremonies.

[Evelyn C. Leeper.] Gripe Session: (Monday, Noon) Panel: Gripe Session Monday, 12 noon Much of what I learned or heard about different aspects of the convention has been expressed in the appropriate section of this report; most of my gripes have been expressed already as well. But a few random items belong here, I suppose. Several people said that they had been contacting the convention with program ideas and offers to work, but never got any response, or got a response just a few weeks before the convention (when they had first written over a year earlier). One problem seems to be that it someone suggests something that doesn’t clearly fall into one particular section (for example, something that isn’t quite programming, and isn’t quite exhibit), then it gets batted back and forth and no one wants to take responsibility to follow up on it.

The claim was made that using the larger hall in the Moscone for the Masquerade and Hugo Awards Ceremony would have added at least $20 to each membership in the convention. This seems hard to believe, but it underscores the fact that Worldcons are getting too big to be handled in any reasonable and cost-effective way by more than a handful of cities. (Exercise for some Worldcon historian: how many cities which have previously hosted Worldcons are no longer able to do so, from a facilities stand-point?)

Ellison’s panels were in such small rooms, according to the committee, because Ellison came to the committee two and a half weeks before the convention (after all the programming had been laid out) to tell them that he was attending and what time-slots he wanted to speak in.

There was a lack of intermediate-sized rooms: Larry Niven’s Guest of Honor speech was in a room holding about 140. The next largest was one holding about 1500. It was decided that it was better to have him speak to a crowded room than a half-empty one, but future conventions should make sure they have at least one room for mid-sized events.

The letters to people who volunteered to be participants but were turned down was a point of contention. No matter how delicately they are phrased, they still will sound like the recipient is being told he or she is not important enough. As it was, ConFrancisco said they had more participants than MagiCon, and possibly more than Noreascon.

People were encouraged to volunteer; the committee claimed it took 10-20% of the attendees to help run a Worldon. For their part, committees are reminded to touch base with volunteers at least every three months, even if only to say, “Yes, we have your name and will be sending more specific information soon.”

The daily newsletter should carry all the various awards presented at the convention (see my notes on “other awards” above), and obviously this means that the presenters of awards must have press releases or the equivalent to give the editors of the newsletter.

[Evelyn C. Leeper] Miscellaneous: At each of the last three conventions I’ve gone to, someone has mistaken me for Connie Willis. I almost got through ConFrancisco without this happening, but just as we were leaving the convention center for the last time, someone passing us asked his friend, “Do you have Doomsday Book?” and when she handed it to him, held it out to me. I probably just should have signed it, but instead I said, “I am not Connie Willis. I am not as tall as she is, I do not have the same hair color as she does, and I didn’t win two Hugos last night.” Maybe I’ll have a button made!

The WSFS Business Meeting was at noon instead of the traditional 10 AM on the days it was held, and at the ANA Hotel, making it very difficult to get to. As a result, attendance was down. The Northwest Territories Division Amendment, the amendment clarifying the best fan writer definition (making it clear it is for work in the previous year), and the amendment reducing NASFiC lead time passed. These had previously been approved at MagiCon, so are now adopted. Passed and passed on to Conadian is an amendment authorizing retrospective Hugos for 50, 75, or 100 years previous to a given convention, so long as Hugos were not awarded for that year already.

[Mike Glyer] Postscripts: Dean Dierschow was ready to head home after ConFrancisco, his Subaru wagon fully loaded with his and friends’ belongings. He pulled up behind his hotel and went to pick up his children. When the three came downstairs they discovered the Subaru’s rear window had been smashed with a brick. Among the items stolen were artist Erin McKee’s cash box, art supplies and an unfinished artwork, Dave Clement’s guitar case, accessories and satchel and wooden boxes and calendars belonging to Phyllis White. The loss amounted to $2,600, much in cash. Friends of the Minneapolis fans raised money to help the burglary victims. Musicians in the fannish community also held a benefit concert at Dreamhaven Books, headlined by Cats Laughing, Piebald Dog, Decadent Dave Clement and Sneaking Suspicion.

[David Langford] Ansible 76: “Worldcon post-mortems go on and on. The curse of fame hit your editor in October, with the arrival of ConFrancisco’s ‘follow these easy instructions to complete your Hugo!’ kit — little pewter plaques to be stuck around the base, depicting dead sf notables from Mary Shelley to Isaac Asimov (glue not supplied). Less unworldly fans might have written GIFT – NO COMMERCIAL VALUE on the customs chit. Instead, I was amusingly landed with over 15 [pounds] in duty, VAT and UPS penalty charges for collecting same.”

1993 Hugo base designed by Arlin Robbins. Photo by Sheila Perry.

[Mike Glyer] Overall Critique: When workmen rolled up the blue carpet that had been the intersection of El Camino Real and Emperor Norton Boulevard, I saluted the con’s ending with a mock complaint, “Some town this is, they roll up the sidewalks at 3 p.m.”

Truthfully, ConFrancisco ran around the clock — if you count the fuzzy sunrise hour when people returning to their beds after partying ’til dawn passed early-rising committee workers on the way to reopen the convention. Beyond any individual’s ability to sustain the pace, the 1993 Worldcon was also too multifaceted for any individual to enter into all its experiences.

The current group dynamic encourages people to frame individual disappointments and complaints as across-the-board conclusions about the con, however unjustified. This dynamic grew out of ConFrancisco’s hard-luck history: their bid was ridiculed by the Hawaii in ’93 write-in campaign; they lost their headquarters hotel; Sue Stone and Terry Biffel, two ConFrancisco chairmen, died. When people start expecting bad things, anything that assists the self-fulfilling prophecy is likely to be plucked out of context and made part of the illusory mosaic of disaster.

More likely to be typical attendee opinions of ConFrancisco were the conversations overheard by the ANA’s convention manager and related to Crickett Fox, such as “Isn’t this convention well organized” and a variant, “You know, this con is so well organized that it’s not even like a Worldcon!”

ConFrancisco fulfilled the international vision of the late Terry Biffel, and surely has sown the seeds of an entire new generation of Bay Area fandom.

Worldcon Wayback Machine: Sunday at ConFrancisco (1993) Day 4

1993 Hugo base designed by Arlin Robbins. Photo by Sheila Perry.

Worldcon Wayback Machine Introduction: Thirty years ago this weekend ConFrancisco, the 1993 World Science Fiction Convention, was held in San Francisco, California. I thought it would fun to compile a day-by-day recreation drawing on the report I ran in File 770, Evelyn Leeper’s con report on (used with permission), and the contributions of others. Here is the fourth daily installment.

The Worldcon was held in the Moscone Convention Center, ANA Hotel, Parc Fifty Five, and Nikko Hotel.

Fans woke up Sunday morning and reached for a copy of the daily newzine to find out what they’d done the night before.

[Kurt Baty & Scott Bobo] Saturday Night Party Roundup. (Excerpted from The Norton Reader #8) Round 3! And we were greeted in the San Antonio in 97 suite by a Brad Foster party announcement drawn on erasable(!) board; we thought this primo in party decor.

Our now sizable entourage trooped to the top o’ the Parc to bridge the Bridge Publications party, where we watched Wanna the temple slave dance teasingly before the heroic proportions of the costume Battlefield Earth cutout. She was a hall costume winner and celebrating.

Now in a prehistoric mood, we entered the a WesterCon’94/95 suite and admired the in-progress Crayola crayon wall mural a la early “Con”ozoic.

In Atlanta in 98 we found a punch packed with peach, both with and without C2,H3OH (as they put it). Now in a jolly roger mood, we decided to pirate some rum and Coke from the friendly Baltimore in ’98 crew. Yo-he-ho.

Fans must have been hungry last night, as St. Louis in ‘97 set out a new set of bittersweet, milk and white chocolate bars (has it been 60 pounds already? Watch those hips! Morning aerobics, anyone?) Healthniks who were able to look beyond the chocolate agreed their veggie platter balanced the caloric orgy.

We backtracked to the Winnipeg/Glasgow Presidential suite for a fabulous blowout. Our fave fish cheeks chef, Hans Schweitzer (he’s all the rage now, you know, and a veritable fixture at WorldCons) sauteed cheeks (fish) for us. We consequently awarded him one of our Bheer pins for his chef’s sash. We satisfied our thirst with Glasgow’s inimitable and very Smooooth whiskeys.

We discovered smoked buffalo in the Coenobium party at Sophie’s urging. It was totally bison – and that’s no beef. We chilled out at the Cryonics party while discussing whole-body vs. head options. Really. Frankly, we’re partial to feet when it comes to party-hopping. Fetish, anyone?

The Space Access group gave us some space to breathe while we took a moment to catch our breath (great videos later – ed). In Norway (the party) we tested the varieties of aquavit (both above and below the equator) and were assured that a real Norweigan can tell the difference. Ja, sure.

Our Russian friends had their first beer (root, that is) in the Arisia suite. They decided they prefer the real thing, although we’re partial to A&W.

By this time, we had worked up a sweat so were delighted to discover the Sno-Cone machine in the Silicon party festooned with blue and orange crepe paper and balloons. What party review would be complete without a mention of the Con Suite? They were holding their own at 11:50, largely because of the spillover from the masquerade and the upbound fan jam (and the “Ice Cream of the Future” was pretty weird, too – ed).

We wandered overto the midnight Cult seance, but the only spirits we saw being raised were alcoholic. Going back to the top o’ the Parc, we returned to San Antonio (the suite) to hear that “some varmints had rustled the cacti!” Marshal Lisa later apprehended the desperados. We intend to give her a medal (Bheer!) for valor in defense of parties.

By 2:30, the AussieCon bid party was still strong; we took a moment to admire their edible monster table decoration. Amazing what can be done with a cantaloupe…and a little wax. Norway and Australia both performed admirably, but we decided to award the now well-experienced hosts of Winnipeg/Glasgow the Saturday “Party of the Night” Award. (Polite applause, please.)  

[Mike Glyer] Panel: Smoke-Filled Back Room. (Sunday 10:00 a.m.) [Panelists:] Arlan Andrews, Ben Bova, jan howard finder, Steve Gillett, Mike Glyer, Hugh Gregory, Bradford Lyau, Richard Lynch, Charles Sheffield] [Topic:] “Our Honored Guest jan howard finder presents his shadow cabinet as a presidential “candidate” who is pro-space. WOMBAT For President!”

jam howard finder

Among the GoH program items was a panel moderated by jan howard finder, who took the role of a presidential candidate surrounded by a cabinet composed of pros and fans called to answer the question: “What would be your initial program to get the country moving in the right direction which involves the space program and space?” His romantic call for renewed space exploration came paired with a practical understanding that voters would need to be motivated to pay for any proposal.

The idea never really worked because finder did nothing to keep the majority of panelists, Steve Gillett, Ben Bova, Brad Lyau, and Hugh Gregory, from changing ground to something they knew about. The panel became a 2-hour symposium on SSTO (single-stage-to-orbit) spacecraft. Two other writers made worthy but futile attempts to pull the others back on track, Arlan Andrews, possibly the only panelist who had worked for a presidential administration, and Charles Sheffield, who illustrated his remarkable insights with cleverly expressed lines like: “The soil conservation bureau long ago realized that mud is a national treasure.”

[Evelyn C. Leeper] Panel: Northern California in SF/F (Sunday, 10:00 AM) [Panelists:] David Bratman (m), Don Herron, Pat Murphy, Diana L. Paxson [Topic:] “The where and why of using real world locations in speculative fiction, with examples drawn from the world right outside the convention’s doors”

I arrived a little late to this, and missed the beginning, but Paxson was comparing using northern California to using Britain as an inspiration. In Britain, she said, there are a lot of structures, ancient and not so ancient, that can be used, and northern California lacks those. But northern California does have legends, and those can take the place of buildings. One of the stories set in the area that she talked about was Ursula K. LeGuin’s Always Coming Home, set in the Napa Valley in the far future after an earthquake has changed the contours of the land. To get the geography right, LeGuin had a cartographer friend of hers (George Hirsch) construct a three dimensional map of the area, then tilt the appropriate sections and flood it with water to see what the new shapes of the bodies of land and water would look like.

Many authors have used San Francisco as a setting. But do they really have that “sense of place” that is so important? Philip K. Dick had it in Martian Time-Slip and other stories, according to the panelists, but Dean R. Koontz’s Shattered (written under the pen name K. R. Dwyer) made it obvious that Koontz had never been in San Francisco. The Net by Loren J. MacGregor did a good job of describing the bars south of Market Street. Perhaps the classic use of San Francisco in science fiction/fantasy is Fritz Leiber’s Our Lady of Darkness, though Pat Murphy’s own The City, Not Long After certainly ranks up there.

Regarding her work, Murphy said that her work in the Exploratorium trained her to observe and “see beyond the surface,” and that is what lets her see the potentials of settings. Someone apparently mapped out all the places mentioned in The City, Not Long After, though Murphy says that the map would probably be a disappointment to try to follow; for example, the vacant lot where the refrigerator sculpture is in the book has no such sculpture in real life (yet!). Regarding this, one of the joys I find is walking around a new place and finding the settings that were described in literature or even other travelogues. And I am not alone–when we were on a boat of about ninety passengers in the Galapagos Islands a few years ago, at least five of us were reading Galapagos by Kurt Vonnegut. Murphy also warned that she and other authors often change some details (such as house numbers) to protect the people who live in the houses. You can claim that room 1247 of the Marriott is haunted– it’s a public building and “fair game.” But if you claim that 1726 Fairlawn Drive is haunted, the people who live there may not like the reputation their house gets. (Does the name “Amityville” ring a bell?)

And of course this sort of desire has spawned the “literary tour” movement, which has two subcategories: tours that visit places mentioned in books, and tours that visit places connected with the authors of these books. Some tours combine both, perhaps showing you where Dashiell Hammett lived and also the places he wrote about. The places connected with authors are often a disappointment–someone said that you go to some house where a famous author wrote his first novel, and you discover that it’s being inhabited now by a Vietnamese family who can’t understand why you are standing on the street taking pictures of their house. (It’s sort of like going back to your childhood home years later. People think you’re casing the joint.)

[Mark R. Leeper] Panel: Getting Around the Solar System (Sunday, 2:00 PM) [Panelists:] Jim Baen, Suzanne Casement, William S. Higgins, Gentry Lee, Jonathan V. Post (m) [Topic:] “What will life be like when we’re not confined to Terra?”

The panel started with the members introducing themselves. Gentry Lee was director of scientific analysis on the Viking Mission and a co-author with Arthur C. Clarke. Bill Higgins is from Fermi Labs. (Personal note: He also put together the science program at Chicon which in my humble opinion was the best at any Worldcon I have ever attended.) Jon Post works on research into nanotechnology, worked on the Magellan space mission and also Voyager 2. Suzanne Casement is a graduate student at UCLA. (In general Lee is more an advocate of unmanned robotic information[1]gathering missions. Higgins, active in the National Space Society, wants man to become a space[1]faring race and would much rather see manned missions than mechanical proxies.)

Post suggested that the first half of the discussion concentrate on what is currently being done in space and what will be done for the next thirty to fifty years. Later they would get to longer term. Lee thought that on the short term the emphasis would be on unmanned missions mostly. Manned missions would be mostly be “Antarctica-type” colonies. With robots we can do a lot more. Decisions have to be made who will pay for space exploration where are we going to go. The Challenger disaster was a real tragedy for the program and now engineering foul-ups, like on the recent Mars mission are making things worse for funding. The Mars Observer was an important lynch-pin and would lead to a lot of future planning. Losing it will cause a huge problem in deciding on new missions needed. We are now going for smaller craft that will have smaller ranges.

Post asked what major changes did members see coming. Higgins said there will be more of a push from the NSS to make hardware that is small and smart. He suggested that there would also be a look at other methods of propulsion. We still seem to be using the same old chemical propulsion rockets and we are nowhere near trying some other propulsion. He expanded on the National Space Society’s position saying that they are working to create a space-faring civilization and that they will really push for anything that will forward that goal. Particularly favored are plans to do prospecting on the moon and asteroids. However, the NSS is not particularly pushing for the missions to map Venus since it seems unlikely that Venus will be a near-term source of resources.

Casement said that in November a wide-field camera will be put in the shuttle for the Hubble telescope. It will be used to look a the planets and design missions. However the problem with the Hubble is that its designs were frozen about ten years ago in order to be able to build it and it would be much more effective with up-to-date technology.

From there the discussion moved to Post’s work experiences. He talked about his work on the Titan 34D. They worked to improve designs on that. His group made basic improvements to the shuttle like using multicolor displays. They also worked on error detection to predict component failure. Among the things that he worked on was a proposal for advanced launch systems including single-stage to orbit. One scheme he proposed included using a huge ground-based laser to power a craft. However, he feels that even if there is research into other propulsions, it will be a long time before rockets have much competition for sending things into orbit. He did discuss using solar sails once equipment is in space. Also he said he had invented a magnetic sail using magnetic field to push huge loop of wire. One of the long-term proposals was to build a craft out of solid hydrogen, cryogenically frozen, so that when it gets to its destination the entire structure could be used as fuel. If there is ice at Mercury’s poles, he suggests that we purify the water and use the poles as a fuel depot near the sun.

Lee considered all the possibilities and said we are in a sort of Burgess Shale point in technology. In the period of the Burgess Shale being formed there were many and very diverse life-forms. Some seem very strange to modern eyes. Evolution pared them down to a few successful types of life-forms and the rest died out. Technology is at a similar stage when there are many baroque ideas for how to solve problems of space travel. The vast majority of these will be discarded. With all the different possibilities for powering cars we have basically one kind of car, one powered with the petroleum[1]fueled internal combustion engine. We have basically one kind of rocket, and we will find which of the current weird ideas for space travel are the best of the lot and the rest will all be discarded. There will be one or two space transportation systems in the future. There will be one or two kinds of propulsion. Lee thinks that in the future we will be seeing primarily robot-control in space in the future. People will fly but not be doing the driving. He sees no compelling reason to put people into space.

Higgins responded with a defense of placing people into space. He said that we are in a time of rapid technological evolution. There will come a time when it will be cheaper and more convenient than today to send people into space. At that point far more people will want to travel in space. Scientists would like to be near what they study. And the biggest product from space will be information. A lot of people on earth will want to learn about new places.

Post asked the panel what is it that calls to us from beyond the solar system and how will we answer that call.

Casement said that people have an interest in finding other solar systems. JPL is already investing in interstellar exploration. But if there is an explorer mission to stars it will take a long time to get data back. Closer to Earth there is Voyager and Pioneer sending data back about more distant destinations and they are still finding interesting things.

Post observed that Gentry Lee sees no compelling reason to send people to the stars, but that does not mean that people will want to go anyway. Post asked what it is that pushes people. Why did people in the United States head west? Most were not looking to get rich, they were fleeing a society they could not stand.

Lee countered that they could breathe in California–they will not be able to do that in space.

Post asked if price came down, would people go? In the days of the Western expansion the cost of a covered wagon and the provisions to go west would be about $300,000 in modern money. If the cost comes down to $300,000 to go to Mars, he expects people will go. And everything said in this panel assumes nothing big is going to happen. If we find proof of alien intelligence, everything changes. If things get so bad on Earth that we will have to escape that will also push us into space.

Lee did not envision a massive move into space. He polled the audience as to how many people they thought would be living off Earth in 500 years. Most said they expected the number to be more then a million.

[Mike Glyer] A SMOFfish Controversy: Should Fans See The Hugo Base Before the Awards Are Given? In 1988, NOLAcon II chair John Guidry passionately believed that the Hugo base should be a beautiful work of art, and in 1992 artist Phil Tortorici fulfilled a similar vision for MagiCon.

ConFrancisco’s bases were being produced by artist Arlin Robbins and expecting something beautiful, the committee wondered if a copy of the base might be displayed in the Hugo Awards exhibit at the start of the con.

When the committee asked this year’s nominees for an opinion they found three schools of thought, by far the largest made up of those completely apathetic about the subject. Since the splinter group opposing early display of ConFrancisco’s Hugo base included the woman running the Hugo ceremony and the man in charge of the Hugo exhibit, ConFrancisco kept the traditional award-night unveiling.

Remember that Worldcons did not have a Hugo history exhibit before 1989. Most people never saw a Hugo close-up unless they bumped into a winner in the hallway. Then again, almost all Hugos given before 1984 were mounted on wooden bases and looked like glorified bowling trophies. There wasn’t anything about them that deserved an audience, and no special reason to be curious about their appearance. One glorious exception was Tim Kirk’s ceramic dragon base for the 1976 Hugos.

Since 1984 almost all the committees have rejected the cliched wooden base in favor of original art or a base made of a unique material, like Australian rosewood or Georgia granite. The artistry of the Hugo base has become a convention’s voice in the ongoing dialogue about how to express the award’s meaning in physical form. Tony Lewis, like everyone else on the Noreascon 3 committee, was proud of Noreascon 3’s Hugo base, a design inspired by landmarks of the 1939 World’s Fair. During the con he guided me into an office to see one close-up. Twenty Art Deco Hugos were lined up on the table, an impressive sight. Jill Eastlake, responsible for the awards, decided not to object since the nameplates were covered with masking tape and I wasn’t going to be handling them. Yet I privately wondered if I was indecently peeping before the ceremony. Thinking now about that experience I realize that I reflexively responded to an aura of secrecy associated with the need to guard the Hugo winners’ name plaques until they have been properly announced; the concealment of the design has only been a coincidental byproduct of that security. Further, for most years before 1984 there was no special reason a committee would want to display its generic wooden base, and prior to 1989 there was no planned exhibit where the current-year Hugo might be shown.

I’m Spartacus! No, I’m Spartacus! Hugo nominees, presenters and guests were invited to a 7:00 p.m. Sunday reception behind the stage in the Esplanade Ballroom, and cautioned to arrive by 7:30 with an eye to an 8:00 starting time for the ceremony. Everyone who cooperated was rewarded with an extra wait of 45 minutes for a late start. There was time for many conspiracies to hatch while the nominees grew restless, munching cheese cubes and gourmet crackers. We began improvising our own amusements.

Andy Hooper noticed Martin Hoare, Langford’s perennial Hugo accepter, and suggested if Langford won, “Let’s all stand up and yell, ‘I’m Dave Langford! I’m Dave Langford!”‘

Dick and Nicki Lynch, Lan Laskowski, Leah and Dick Smith [remembering last year’s mixup] and I also pretended to agree that no matter who they announced for Best Fanzine we would stand in unison and ask, “Are you sure?”

Hugo nominees had been asked by the committee to come in formal attire. I chafed at the suggestion, but division chief Janet Wilson Anderson swayed me with her clever reply to my complaint: “We do want a certain ‘air’ for the Hugos. Tuxes by all means for those who like ’em. Fannish Formal is perfectly appropriate, however, for those ‘tux-phobic.’ I attended the Confederation Hugos as a representative of a Hugo nominee dressed in Irulan’s gold gown from the movie Dune, and at Chicon wore my Napoleonic Court gown. Such garb would also be fine here (though it probably isn’t quite your style.) Gary [Anderson] wore the Padishah Emperor’s Uniform and looked quite formal.”

Diana Pavlac eventually convinced me Denisen Fraser issued the “black tie” advisory out of a gracious sense of wanting to let people know what is appropriate rather than letting it come as a surprise that many nominees do, indeed, dress to the teeth.

So, Diana and I took a few moments before the awards to see how people responded to the committee’s advice. Many did dress formally. Those who dared to be different did it with flair, like Andy Porter in the robes of an Oxford University Doctor of Divinity. Joe Haldeman thanked the committee for allowing him to present Hugos in two categories and giving his tux the extra exposure.

When the guests were dispatched to reserved seats in the VIP section, Fraser was ready to set the wheels in motion. Kevin Standlee perched on a chair and relayed her briefing to the nominees about their order of march. Kevin’s many colorful ribbons covered him like the high priest’s breastplate.

Hugo base artist Arlin Robins was introduced, and waved a sample of her 1993 Hugo overhead. Robins’ octagonal Hugo base was decorated with pewter castings, a compass rose on top and reliefs of well-known sf figures on several sides, including Hugo Gernsback. The craftsmanship was not equal to the idea, for the metal did not take the facial features very well and the identities of the figures weren’t apparent without reading the names underneath.

At last, the nominees were formed up and paraded to their seats.

In the dusk at the edge of the stage I recognized Val Ontell’s voice. She asked if I could see her husband, Ron, standing beside the last seat on the far side and said to walk to him. Ron picked that very moment to leave, and not knowing whether it was part of the plan I kept after him like a runaway steer until Marjii Ellers circled in front of me and aimed me at my seat. For all the jokes I made about Noreascon 3, I wish I could march in to the gladiator’s theme from Ben-Hur once more…

Several pros, most notably, Patrick Nielsen Hayden (on GEnie), accused ConFrancisco of poor hospitality toward program participants in general and Hugo nominees in particular. “I have to wonder at ConFrancisco’s many ‘anti-perks.’ Program participants had the extra-special excitement of additional lines and complications to chase down. Hugo nominees were honored even more by being made to stand up in the wings for forty-five minutes, and made to miss the cool Delta Clipper video.

“In general, I think we could stand to lose this whole procession-of-nominees thing. It was goofy and embarrassing when Noreascon did it, but at least they pulled it off with organization and dispatch. …At ConFrancisco, we had the spectacle of nominees’ spouses standing around looking puzzled and out-of-sorts while their significant others were held captive in the wings. Further, nominees and their spouses had the even more extra-special honor of being unable to pick where they sat, or who they sat with.

“One suspects the whole thing is designed to lather the egos of the people stage-managing the spectacle, rather than to honor anyone or make it an entertaining experience for the audience.”

My personal reaction was quite different and completely subjective. The rest of my weekend was so hectic that I regarded the nominees’ reception to be an oasis of relaxation. I welcomed the opportunity to talk to long-time friends, including Martha Beck, who I otherwise would have missed altogether.

I Never Wrote SF for My Father: Toastmaster Guy Gavriel Kay engaged in byplay with the tech crew and confidently assured everyone he had things under control: there would be no repeat of last night’s problems because he had — a TV remote control. Out of Kay’s sight his every comment was sarcastically denied by verbal slides projected on a screen at the left of the stage.

Three non-Hugo awards were presented first.

The Japanese national convention’s Seiun Awards won by Americans were presented by Masamichi Osako, Takumi Shibano and Nozomi Tashiwaya. Best Novel went to Poul Anderson for Tau Zero in translation. Poul was the only winner present; two other winners were R.A. Lafferty, for a short story, and Daniel Keyes for a nonfiction book.

Forry Ackerman presented a richly-deserved Big Heart Award to Marjii Ellers.

Rich Lynch and Dave Kyle at ConFrancisco in 1993. Photo and copyright © Andrew Porter

Dave Kyle came out and introduced Catherine Crook DeCamp, who presented the First Fandom Award to Ray Beam, turning the tables on the man who has given out that award so many times. Beam’s remarks closed, “Remember: if it wasn’t for our efforts, you wouldn’t be here tonight.”

Chairman Dave Clark announced ConFrancisco had designated a Special Award based on its central theme of building international bridges, to Takumi Shibano. It was a big weekend for Takumi, also selected (together with his wife, Sachiko) as Fan Guest of Honor for L.A.con III in 1996.

Then Janet Wilson Anderson narrated an excellent retrospective of the Hugos composed of slides of old photos taken by Jay Kay Klein, trivia questions spanning the entire history of the award, and chronologically-ordered pictures of books or magazines containing Hugo-winning fiction. Janet and company’s lively and innovative approach made one forget that retrospectives have been done at the past several Hugo ceremonies.

Kevin Standlee, whose responsibilities included supervising Hugo administrators Seth Goldberg and Dave Bratman, engaged in a comic moment by declaring ConFrancisco had gone beyond Price Waterhouse to insure the secrecy of the results. “Security to the bridge,” ordered Kevin and a pair of Klingons came out carrying the award envelopes.

Between the delay and the time devoted to other awards, the first of the official awards, the John W. Campbell Award, was given at 9:47 p.m. The Campbell was won by Laura Resnick. As she was somewhere in the Kalahari region of Africa, her father accepted the plaque for her. Laura had already conquered the romance genre by the time she turned to science fiction: she also won an award for Best Romance Novel of the Year in 1993. Mike Resnick announced later, “My stud fee just doubled!”

With Stanley Schmidt presenting, Mike Resnick accepts award on behalf of Laura Resnick.

In a departure from the usual, each Hugo presenter announced two winners. TAFF delegate Abi Frost gave out the Best Fanartist Hugo to Peggy Ranson, and the Best Fanwriter Hugo to Dave Langford’s proxy, Martin Hoare. Martin was sure when he phoned Dave in London a little later, Dave would answer, “You bastard, you woke me up this time last year, too!”

One of the con’s guests of honor, jan howard finder, presented the Best Fanzine Hugo to Mimosa, which won for the second year in a row. Amid the applause I heard Stu Shiffman yell out, “Bring back Nicki Lynch!” to compensate for my attributing that quote to him in my MagiCon report when he’d actually been in Seattle at the time. And who says fans aren’t timebinders… Then at the end of the ceremony Jay Kay Klein asked me for his subscription check back, “So I can give it to the fanzine that won.”

Finder also got to unleash the surprise of the night. When the Best Semiprozine Hugo went to Science Fiction Chronicle, a quarter of the audience gave a standing ovation. Andy Porter practically flew to the stage with his doctoral robes fluttering like wings. He declared, “These are not the robes of a Doctor of Divinity, but bless you all.”  Locus had won the category the nine other years it had been given, and for four consecutive years before that won as Best Fanzine. (Andy Hooper asked, “Do you think Andy will have the new masthead cut by tonight?”)

Winners received the announcement cards along with their Hugos. Jeremy Bloom, of the daily newzine staff, reported the card listing SF Chronicle as Best Semiprozine added underneath in parentheses, “Really. Not Locus. No Kidding.”

Tom Digby, also a con GoH, delivered the Best Nonfiction Book Hugo won by Harry Warner’s A Wealth of Fable, edited by Rich Lynch, to the publisher’s representative, Bruce Pelz. (The book had been published by SCIFI, the group responsible for L.A.cons II and III.)

Harry Warner with his 1993 Hugo, delivered after the con.

Gardner Dozois, looking spiffy in his salt-and-pepper jacket, gray slacks and shoes of a color that instantly brought Ricardo Montalban to mind [“rich Corinthian leather”], took away another Best Pro Editor Hugo. GoH Alicia Austin handed out the two artist Hugos, to James Gurney for “Dinotopia” and to Don Maitz. Dead guest of honor, Mark Twain, bestowed a Hugo on “The Inner Light” episode of ST:TNG, accepted by Peter Lauritsen.

Presenter Joe Haldeman saddened to suddenly remember that, 25 years before, his wife had been here in California while he was in the battlefields of Vietnam with two weeks to go until their R&R rendezvous, one he never kept because he was seriously wounded and hospitalized. Joe recovered and made jokes about his tux, and handed out the first of Connie Willis’ two Hugos. Connie Willis got a big laugh in her thank-you speech for “Even the Queen” when she said she had complained to Gardner Dozois on winning the Nebula for it that she would now have to go home and tell people what it was about — and she didn’t know what to say. “Tell them it’s a period piece,” suggested Gardner.

Haldeman delivered another Hugo to Janet Kagan who emotionally thanked her mom “for reading me science fiction before I could read it for myself.”

GoH Larry Niven announced the final two Hugos. Lucius Shepard’s Best Novella was accepted by Gardner Dozois who admitted, “I’m not Lucius Shepard, but I play him on TV.” Then came the tie for Best Novel between Connie Willis’ Doomsday Book and Vernor Vinge’s A Fire Upon the Deep. In the past there have been nine ties for Hugo or Campbell awards, and this was the first tie in the Best Novel category since 1966, when Herbert’s Dune and Zelazny’s …And Call Me Conrad shared the Hugo.

Ray Pettis told this story showing how SF Chronicle’s win overshadowed every other result: “When I was riding up in the elevator at the ANA after the ceremony, someone got on at the Filk floor — I assume he saw the high proportion of fancy dress — and said, ‘Hugo’s over?’ <‘yes’> ‘Any news?’ Robert Silverberg’s first comment from the back of the elevator was ‘Andy Porter won; Locus didn’t.’ On a night when there was a tie for Best Novel, and Star Trek: The Next Generation won a Hugo, and women writers dominated the wins, the first comment is ‘Andy Porter won.'”


Best Novel (tie)

  • A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge (Tor)
  • Doomsday Book by Connie Willis (Bantam)

Best Novella

  • “Barnacle Bill the Spacer” by Lucius Shepard (Asimov’s, July 1992)

Best Novelette

  • “The Nutcracker Coup” by Janet Kagan (Asimov’s, December 1992)

Best Short Story

  • “Even the Queen” by Connie Willis (Asimov’s, April 1992)

Best Non-Fiction Book

  • A Wealth of Fable: An informal history of science fiction fandom in the 1950s by Harry Warner, Jr. (SCIFI Press)

Best Dramatic Presentation

  • “The Inner Light” (Star Trek: The Next Generation) (Paramount Television)

Best Professional Editor

  • Gardner Dozois

Best Professional Artist

  • Don Maitz

Best Original Artwork

  • Dinotopia by James Gurney (Turner)

Best Semi-Prozine

  • Science Fiction Chronicle, edited by Andrew Porter

Best Fanzine

  • Mimosa, edited by Dick and Nicki Lynch

Best Fan Writer

  • Dave Langford

Best Fan Artist

  • Peggy Ranson

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Science Fiction Writer of 1991-1992

  • Laura Resnick

Special Committee Award

  • Takumi Shibano, “For building bridges between cultures and nations to advance science fiction and fantasy”

ConFrancisco received 841 valid ballots for the awards. They were counted and verified by the ConFrancisco Hugo Administrators, David Bratman and Seth Goldberg, with the assistance of a computer program developed by Jeffrey L. Copeland.

Andrew Porter in his Oxford robes after winning the 1993 Best Semiprozine Hugo.

Worldcon Wayback Machine: Saturday at ConFrancisco (1993) Day 3

Worldcon Wayback Machine Introduction: Thirty years ago this weekend ConFrancisco, the 1993 World Science Fiction Convention, was held in San Francisco, California. I thought it would fun to compile a day-by-day recreation drawing on the report I ran in File 770, Evelyn Leeper’s con report on (used with permission), and the contributions of others. Here is the third daily installment.

The Worldcon was held in the Moscone Convention Center, ANA Hotel, Parc Fifty Five, and Nikko Hotel.

Greg Bear near the Art Show at ConFrancisco in 1993. Photo by and (c) Andrew Porter.

[Mike Glyer] Art Show: Art Show director Elayne Pelz preferred to use her large area within Hall D by creating 15-foot aisles than by filling it with the maximum possible number of hangings. This decision became controversial as people tried to explain their subjective dissatisfaction about the average quality of the artists’ entries. Mike Kennedy, in The NASFA Shuttle, thought, “The quality was more uneven than I recall from past shows. There seemed to be a noticeable proportion of mediocre fan art and there was certainly a lot of media-oriented art (mostly Trek of various vintages.) The good stuff that was there was very, very good.” Many shared Stu Hellinger’s view: “There was less really memorable art at this con than any Worldcon I’ve seen in years.” Unlike Hellinger, the others blamed their frustration on the vacant space in the display area. John Pomeranz commented, “I was disappointed to see how under-utilized the art show space was given the number of excellent artists who were turned away.”

Elayne agreed that ConFrancisco’s art show with 280 panels was smaller MagiCon’s show of 320 panels, but added that was a deliberate decision. She fixed the size of the show at 280 to preserve a certain ratio between the number of panels and projected attendance, to give the artists a decent chance to make some money. This was a controversial policy in 1993 because attendance at ConFrancisco was projected to be much lower than at MagiCon, so Elayne’s ratio dictated significantly fewer panels. Fifty artists who wanted to show work could not get panels under to this policy.

Center of Hall D. Art Show is to the left. Photo by Mark Olson.

John Lorentz, past Westercon chair, responded, “Yes, there was room for more panels — but that doesn’t necessarily mean that we’d have seen more good art, nor that the individual artists would have sold as many pieces. …Many cons limit the number of dealer tables sold for the same reason.”

Several worthy ideals conflicted in this case. An average fan wants the largest and most visually interesting art show possible, and cannot conceive of any reason for limiting it apart from laws of Newton and the fire marshal. Artists, like dealers, want equal access to the Worldcon marketplace for business reasons: prior to the con they may claim they don’t care how many other panels or tables there will be, as long as they get in. Afterwards, both artists and dealers are prone to complain that so-and-so was a bad con if they don’t make very much money. For years a couple of dealers have told me that having 300 tables at L.A.con II was a bad policy because the people in the back of the room “didn’t make any money.” Yet nondealers tell me it was the best dealer’s room ever.

As to what was noteworthy in the show, I really enjoyed the exhibit of work by Hugo nominated artists, including James Gurney’s Dinotopia and the Teddy Harvia-Peggy Ranson black-and-white cover for File 770’s 100th issue. Michael Whelan’s section included a black-and-while oil preliminary for the cover of Mike Resnick’s novel, Ivory, that the author said he liked much better than the version that finally appeared.

A very humorous artwork, Diana Pavlac’s favorite piece, was a model of alien beings walking through a sf convention art show. The dollhouse-scale artworks mimicked the range of subjects and styles at a real worldcon, and of course the alien observers were pleasingly bizarre and colorful.

Kathryn Daugherty believes, “[The] real thrill of a worldcon art show is to see cover art; upclose, personal, and live. If you compare art reproduction to the original image, there is nothing like the real thing. Plus the fascination of seeing more than one piece by a professional artist at one time. I like Jim Burns’ work and I thought it was wonderful that he had so many pieces in the show, some from quite a long time ago and some recent. …Obviously this is a contrarian opinion, but since the number of interesting pieces (and even the number that sold) is higher than the expected rate if you strictly followed Sturgeon’s Law, I’ll stand by my opinion that this was a good art show.”

It was also a financial success, with $113,000 in sales, compared to $96,000 at MagiCon. The record is still $125,000, set at L.A.con II in 1984. (Art Show statistics don’t count income from ASFA Print Shop sales or panels used for non-sale displays.)


Best of Show: Bob Eggleton—Orcaurora

Best Artist: Michael Whelan

Judges’ Awards:

  • Alicia Austin—No Two Alike
  • Jim Burns—Aristoi
  • David Cherry—The Goblin Mirror
  • James Gurney—Garden of Hope
  • Jody Lee—World’s End
  • Frank Liltz—Riding the Starstream
  • Lubov—Web
  • Clayburn Moore—Celestial Jade
  • Janny Wurts—Curse of the Mist Wraith
Ray Nelson, Frank Lunney, & Robert Lichtman, ConFrancisco, 1993; photo by Jeff Schalles

[Mike Glyer] Panel: Does Fandom Need a 12-Step Program? (Saturday 10:00 a.m.) [Panelists:] Scott C. Dennis, Janice Gelb, Mike Glyer, David Levine. [Topic:] “Friends of Joe P. Is fandom an addiction or hobby? Is it possible to just say no to fandom? Can we make it, one con at a time?”

Just in case it does need one, Eve Ackerman came up with these twelve steps: “(1) We admitted we were powerless over fandom — that our lives had become unmanageable. (2) Came to believe that gafiating could restore us to sanity. (3) Made a decision to turn our lives over to the care of people who had no idea what ‘SMOF’ meant. (4) Made a searching and fearless inventory of our fanac. Cleaned out the spare bedroom taken over by zines and back issues of F&SF. (5) Admitted to all our various con comms and OE’s the exact nature of our wrongs. Told them firmly that we wouldn’t run the huckster room again.

“(6) Were entirely ready to admit that FIJAGDH. (7) Humbly asked our bosses not to fire us for using the office photocopier, fax machines and express mail envelopes for our zines. (8) Made a list of all persons we had harmed through fanac and became willing to make amends RSN, providing that it doesn’t embroil us in more fan feuds. (9) Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, understanding that our chances of becoming TAFF or DUFF winner were now really remote. (10) Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly moved away from the keyboard so we wouldn’t write about it and e-mail it out. (11) Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with non-fen. Read the Wall Street Journal, People and the National Enquirer so we’d have something to talk about. (12) Having a spiritual awakening as a result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to others (insofar as it doesn’t involve BBS e-mail, apas, fanzines or cons) and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”

[Evelyn C. Leeper] Panel: The 100 MPG Engine: Legends That Will Not Die (Saturday, 10:00 a.m.) [Panelists:] Gregory Benford (m), Rick Cook, Steve Howe, Daniel L. Marcus. [Topic:] “’Suppressed technology.’ How do stories get started about cars that run on water, carburetors that allow 90 miles per gallon, and anti-cancer drugs made from common household chemicals?”

Well, I had expected a panel talking about technological “urban legends” but instead got one talking about how some of these “wildcat” ideas are real, but not marketable. For example, there are cars that can get eighty miles per gallon of gasoline, but they are undrivable under street conditions: they have no acceleration and constantly backfire. The Wankel (rotary) engine was another idea that failed on its own merits (rather than being suppressed); its fuel consumption was high (about fourteen miles per gallon) and it generated a lot of pollution because the seals were never perfected. (So just what was its advantage supposed to be? I can’t even remember.)

And then there was the nuclear-powered airplane. Oh, it would have worked, but sufficient shielding around the fuel would have made it too heavy, so it would only work if you had a crew that didn’t mind getting fried by the radiation, and it would also irradiate all the land it flew over. But the designers had thought of what to do with it when they were done–they would land it in Antarctica and use that as a nuclear-waste dump. (Luckily, this idea never got off the ground–so to speak.)

And remember SDI? This was described by one of the panelists as a “Fast Eddie” Teller idea, and eventually people concluded that it also had more flaws than virtues.

Other ideas probably were more workable, but not wise. Small nuclear bombs, weighing less than a hundred pounds complete, could be used by guerilla forces in Europe after it was overrun by the Soviets. Well, that was the original idea, but someone apparently realized that given the state of the world, having bombs this small that people could smuggle around was a really bad idea.

On the other hand, the L5 solar power satellite sounded crazy initially, but turned out to be a good idea.

But why do we believe all the fantastic stories of great inventions and discoveries, even when they are bogus? (Cold fusion comes to mind, naturally, although it was pointed out that the whole cold fusion thing did teach us a lot about sub-quantum states.) Well, for one thing, we want to believe them. Someone (Thomas Hardy, I think) wrote a poem about how there was a legend that on Christmas Eve, animals could talk, and said at the end that he didn’t believe it, but that if someone say it were happening in the barn, he would go, “wishing it might be so.” Certainly there must be some explanation of why people believe what they read in the Weekly World News.

Howe said that one problem is that science nowadays is all done as “big science.” His analogy is that it’s as if the government of the 19th Century deciding to explore the West with an army that marches together as a unit instead of with lots of small exploration and settlement parties. So the “small science” is left with more than its share of cranks. Benford said that his school (University of California at Irvine), the crank calls are doled out to the various professors. Most fall into two categories: 1) “What was that thing I saw in the sky last night?” and 2) “I have a new energy source that will save the world.” Howe asked whether Benford wouldn’t be sorry if he rejected someone who turned out to be a genius. “Would I be sorry? Yes. But what are the odds?”

One panelist noted that he is more bothered by stories of suppressed cancer cures than stories of suppressed energy sources, because the latter are usually just humorous, but the former touch people personally in matters of life and death. Someone asked about Linus Pauling’s theories about anti-oxidants, and the response was that since he was still walking five miles a day at age 92, they shouldn’t be written off too quickly.

One audience member noted that the panelists were referring to crackpots as “he” and asked if they had ever run across any female crackpots, to which Benford responded, “I’ve dated some.” Cook noted, however, that female crackpots seem to be more conspiracy theorists than scientists.

One problem with the whole “suppression” and “conspiracy” theory these days is that suppressing an idea in the United States doesn’t do much about suppressing it globally. Of course, there is suppression here, but it is more from the Food & Drug Administration and liability laws than from any secret coterie. In addition (as was noted earlier) the public suppresses things by not buying them and hence driving them off the market. Most products represent a trade-off: you can get more miles per gallon, but only if you are willing to buy a smaller, lighter, slower car. Other products are monopolized (the example given was forceps, invented in the 14th Century but monopolized for a hundred years by one family).

Along the lines of the suppression theories, I recommend David Mamet’s Water Engine, recently made into a movie for TNT.

(There was a certain irony to the fact that this was opposite the panel on Nikola Tesla, and in fact, there was odd sounds coming over the public address system that may have been coming from the demonstrations associated with the other panel.)

[Mike Glyer] Digby Fanwriting Gets Rare Hardcover: Along Fantasy Way, an anthology of fanwriting by ConFrancisco guest of honor Tom Digby, was available for purchase at the Worldcon. The 58-page collection, edited by Lee Gold, featured illustrations by Phil Foglio, Brad Foster, Teddy Harvia and Kaja Murphy. There were samples of Digby’s fanciful, ironic, stand-the-world-on-its-ear humor from the past three decades.

Tom Digby

His kaleidoscopic Apa-L zine title (“Probably Something”) serves as an appetizer: “PROBABLY SOMETHING but not Combining Voodoo and Acupuncture for Remote-Control Healing”; “PROBABLY SOMETHING but not The Entire Staff of a Hotel Being Turned into Frogs During a Witches’ Convention.”

There are also brilliantly funny poems, too long to excerpt here. And there are many examples of Digby’s contributions to science: “Set up a Ferris wheel with a witch at the bottom and a princess on a special platform within easy reach of the top. Fill all the seats on the wheel with princes and start the wheel, with instructions that the witch is to change each prince into a frog as he goes by the bottom and the princess is to change them back as they go past the top. …Since princes weigh more than frogs, you should be able to use it as a perpetual (until the princes, princess, witch, etc., get tired) motion machine.”

Erle Korshak and his son Stephen at ConFrancisco, the 1993 World SF Convention. Photo by and copyright © Andrew Porter

[Evelyn C. Leeper] Panel: Language: Barrier or Bridge (Saturday 1:00 p.m.) [Panelists] Thorarinn Gunnarsson, Gay Haldeman (m), Michael Kandel, Yoshio Kobayashi, Maureen F. McHugh. [Topic:] “Translation helps bring works to audiences who can’t read them in the original, but how are works affected when the words and the grammar change?”

The panelists had some commentary on why they thought they were chosen for the panel and what their real qualifications were. Gunnarsson said, “I’ve never done translation work, but I’ve been annoyed by enough of it.” McHugh said that she though she was on the panel because so many of her stories were about China that people thought she spoke Chinese. She claimed she didn’t, but it was clear from things said during the rest of the panel that her Chinese was certainly more proficient than most folks’ second languages are.

The first, and perhaps obvious, point made was that translating is not a one-to-one thing. You can’t sit down with a dictionary and a grammar and hope to get any sense of what the original meant in the translation. Kandel noted, for example, that objects (nouns) in some languages can have gender, which can lead to interesting word-play if these objects are animate. If “wall” in Spanish is masculine (“el muro”) and in German is masculine (“der Wand”), then if a Spanish author writes, “The wall said to her, ‘Wake up, dear,'” that will have a different connotation than it would in German (or in English). (I should note that going in the other direction, there is a masculine word for wall in Spanish (“la pared”), so that translator would have a way out.)

Kobayashi said that in Japanese there is no swearing (or certainly not the variety we have in English), so translating strong language into Japanese can be a problem, particularly when the literal and figurative meanings of the words are both important. And often etiquette is tied up in language, according to Kandel–for example, whether the formal or familiar “you” is used matters in other languages, but there is no such distinction in English. Sometimes the difference is even more subtle: someone mentioned that Anne Frank’s diary was much “livelier” in Dutch than in English, but was unable to explain just quite how.

Other, non-translation-specific, changes can creep in. McHugh said that when the German rights for her novel China Mountain Zhang were sold, her agent wondered whether all the characters would sit down to a nourishing bowl of Brand Something soup. When McHugh asked what he was talking about, he explained that in Germany, they sell product placements in books, so the characters might all stop their conversation to sit down to a bowl of their equivalent of Campbell’s Soup, and then resume their discussion. (This apparently is the case in the German edition of Kim Stanley Robinson’s Pacific Edge.) Speaking of product placements, Gunnarsson thinks they are one reason that historical films aren’t as popular any more–you can’t sell product placements in them.

Sometimes a knowledge of other languages can affect the English original as well. McHugh said that since in Chinese everything is in the present tense, with a “tense marker” at the end of the sentence to say whether it is past, present, future, or what, she wrote China Mountain Zhang in the present to give it that feel. She also thought that, while science fiction may be partially global, it’s not yet Chinese. Many concepts which we assume are understood around the world–such as faster-than-light travel and time travel–are unknown outside of science fiction circles and perhaps not known even there.

Science fiction poses its own special pitfalls for the translator. A translator needs to know some science, otherwise you get something like “brown movements” for “Brownian motion.” But in Japan (and other countries, no doubt), translators are not educated in science, and scientists are not educated in languages. The result is that it is very difficult to find someone who can translate science fiction well. One thing Kobayashi said was that good style and characters are not important to Japanese science fiction readers (this is undoubtedly a result of the division of education as well), and that the literati hate science fiction. I suppose this makes translating a bit easier–one needn’t spend as much time searching for just the right phrase.

Someone of course noted that sometimes it may be necessary to translate English into American or vice versa. “He was left standing outside her door in his pants and vest” means one thing to an Englishman and another to an American.

The panelists agreed that the best translations are the ones you do yourself, but that it was impossible to learn that many languages and translate your work into them and still have time to write anything new. The translators on the panel said it took them about six months to translate the average novel. Kobayashi said Lucius Shepard’s Life During Wartime took him a year, due no doubt to Shepard’s heavy use of stylistic devices. A film novelization might take only one month.

While most translators don’t talk to the authors whose work they are translating, sometimes it can be very helpful, as when Joe Haldeman’s Japanese translator called up to ask just what he meant by “Unitarians on quaaludes.”

Kandel noted that in Italian there is a proverb: “To translate is to betray.” Ironically, the words in Italian for “translate” and “betray” are very similar (“tradurre” and “tradire”), forming a word-play that is entirely lost in English.

Jim Young at the 1993 World SF Convention, Confrancisco. Photo by © Andrew I. Porter.

[Mike Glyer] Film Program: Assistant division chief John Sapienza readied six departments cross-country from his home in Maryland, including the film program. The film program department head, a fan from Sacramento, resigned at literally the last minute because of his father’s serious illness. Sapienza took over the department at the con. That’s when John discovered that the Sacramento fan, despite earlier assurances, had not obtained licensing for ConFrancisco to show tapes of the movies announced in the program.

As John Pomeranz tells the rest of the story, “[Sapienza] jumped in and spent the last day before the convention arranging the necessary legal permissions for as much of the program as he could. The miracle of it is that he largely succeeded. Although the program schedule bore no resemblance to the one printed in the pocket program, there was a varied and interesting program, and those who attended apparently enjoyed themselves. John is one of the great problem solvers of fandom, and he never gets enough credit for the excellent work he does because he is also one of the most self-effacing men I know.”

John Sapienza responded to this published conreport, “I’ll take all the egoboo that comes along. In the interest of fairness, however, I should point out that the people who actually created the film program on site were our superhero Richard Ney and his crew. I was a programming subdivision head with six departments to coordinate. Richard was both technical operations department head for the Programming Division, and my subdivision’s film operations department head. Over a four-day period, I scrambled to acquire licenses to show the films that were on the printed film program. I fed the licenses to Richard as I got them, and he and his fine film crew created each day’s film program and got it into the newsletter. In addition, they went out to rental stores and got us a lot of public domain films to fill out the empty spaces in the program. They all did a great job saving the film program; Richard Ney did a fine job coordinating that while running technical support for programming as well.”

John Sapienza illustrates my personal definition of heroism in the context of the Worldcon, someone taking responsibility to get the job done in spite of any difficulty. It’s most dramatic in a last-minute crisis, and there are even a few people who seem to prefer working in crisis because of the emotional payoff, but I saw no less magnificence in Gary Anderson’s solution to building the bridge simply because it was carefully planned, or in Elayne Pelz’ stepping in to run the Art Show simply because she started months before the con. ConFrancisco announced its own pantheon of superheroes and heroes at Closing Ceremonies. SuperHeroes of ConFrancisco were Doug Houseman, Richard Ney, Spike Parsons and Gail Sanders; on the roll of Heroes were Shawn Blanchette, Shelia Bostick, Robbie Cantor, Todd Dashoff, Kathryn Daugherty, Kerry Ellis, Cindy Fulton, Rob Himmelsbach, Jean Hortman, Richard Lawrence, Gary Louie, Ellie Miller, Kathy Nerat, Jerry Pournelle, Joey Shoji, Sharon Pierce, John Sapienza, Donya White, Dianne Wickes and Jacob Wright.

Tending to be overlooked on such lists, which are job-oriented, yet gratefully acknowledged by their co-workers, are people who sustain the spirits of those around them. T. R. Smith told me, “I’m contemplating enrolling in the Peggy Rae Pavlat School of Serenity and Politeness.” T. R. greatly admired Peggy Rae’s calming influence on everyone she worked with.

 [Mike Glyer] Turning Klingonese: Klingon hall costumes were everywhere. Sam Pierce said there was even a Klingon highlight in the Art Show Auction: “Late in the auction, a small dragonish drawing came up for bid. After a young woman up front offered $25, a brash young fellow from the back said, ‘I refuse to be outbid by a woman who hums Barney tunes.’ The race was on and, in five dollar increments, we were soon up to $150. Brash spoke up again with some equally antagonistic comment. She replied with a string of Klingon that was obviously an oath of sufficient power to peel paint. The bidding continued to $225, when the fellow finally realized that he had so antagonized her that she’d have reached really deep to keep him from getting the piece. To our cries of ‘Wimp- !’ he conceded the drawing.”

The masquerade boasted at least three Klingon entries, such as the award-winning “A ‘quiet’ Klingon Night at Home” performed to the tune of “The Masochism Tango.” Roy Pettis counted so many Klingon costumes and events at ConFrancisco he said, “I don’t think I have seen such a common costume theme since the summer after Star Wars when I went to Balticon and was overwhelmed by Princesses in white robes and rum-raisin-bun hair-styles.”

The Klingon Assault Group hosted several program items, but reportedly when they didn’t show up to run the “Klingon Dating Game” the standing-room-only audience spontaneously generated the program. Andrew Bustamante told me a volunteer moderator, in Federation dress, selected contestants from the audience who also wore appropriate hall costumes. Bustamante said questions included: “What is your idea of a perfect date?” “What is your favorite fetish?”

He continued, “A Bajoran woman had to pull her phaser on a Klingon contestant: ‘I hear Bajoran women are easy.’ ‘Try it and see what I light up!’ A demonstration of Klingon smash and grab carry-off techniques by the male volunteers was interrupted by a silverhaired blonde in a silver, skintight suit with cape who picked up a Klingon male as if he were a small child, threw him over her shoulder and marched out of the room with him looking very confused. After a few moments of the audience roaring, he tried to carry her back and almost made it to the stage with her.”


[Mike Kennedy in The NASFA Shuttle, September 1993 issue] When I got there the line was already snaked around several times inside and wrapped one-third of the way around the big block. …Some people doubtless saw the line and decided not to go to the masquerade at all and some people were apparently turned away. …Uncle Timmy [Bolgeo], who was one of the last people they let in, found an empty seat right in the middle on the fourth row. I didn’t have to tell him he was slime since several people had beat me to it.

[Mike Glyer] The crowd was admitted slowly, at first, because the slick marble floor in the Esplanade lobby posed a safety hazard. The line quite outnumbered the Esplanade Ballroom’s 2,914 seats, so even more time was also devoted to finding and filling individual empty seats. The fire marshal permitted no standing room: no one could be allowed in unless they’d have a seat.

Though starting time was announced for 8:00 p.m., the first costume came onstage at 8:55 p.m. Janet Wilson Anderson, Mistress of Grand Guignol, that is to say division chief overseeing the Masquerade, defended: “Why did the Masquerade start late? Don’t blame the costumers or the crew. They were ready at 7:30 p.m. I had the judges backstage, had loaded in the limited mobility and vision folks and was standing at the main doors ready to open them when the Floor Manager stopped me. He advised me of a potential safety problem. It took 28 minutes to resolve. As soon as the problem was cleared up, I opened the doors – at 7:58. Load-in took 52 minutes longer than anticipated, mostly due to the worry over a mad rush on that slippery atrium floor. I’d had a couple of incidents with the floor already during the day, so we elected to slow people down.”

The Mistress of Grand Guignol commented more than once on the priority given to safety, begging the question of why, after her crew had been sliding around the Esplanade lobby floor all afternoon (“I’d had a couple of incidents with the floor already”) no one but the Floor Manager thought anything should be done about it. And why didn’t the Floor Manager deal with it before 7:30 p.m., when there was still time to inquire about floor covering (runners)?

“The remainder of the delay,” continued Wilson Anderson, “came from people refusing to relinquish the seats they’d saved for their friends over half an hour after putative start time. Guess I could have told the ‘ushers’ to be nasty about it, but it seemed impolitic to do so.”

Despite rumors, Kent Bloom was sure, “We didn’t turn away 1000 from the Masquerade. The ushers and line monitors I talked to said that they turned away 100 or so, and that no one who arrived before 8 p.m. (the scheduled starting time) was turned away. It always hurts to turn anyone away. We’ll try to do better next year.”

The start of the Masquerade loosed a completely unexpected problem, wonky stage lighting software. Mike Kennedy reported, “The Moscone’s computer, starting at about the intermission between entries 25 and 26, kept cycling on the lights in a ‘fail-safe’ mode. As things went along, the crew got faster and faster in shutting them back off so that it became a nuisance rather than disruptive. Gary Anderson said the tech crews “Virtually [had to] tell the Moscone building engineer what to do about it, actively stand with a tech’s finger on the switch to reset the lights when they went wild, and spend what were supposed to be off-hours the next day checking out the software reload.” Upon investigation, said Anderson, “We found out that there had been bugs all through the system, and that it had just been reloaded (but not thoroughly tested) before our arrival.”

Overcoming all problems, the ConFrancisco Masquerade offered 50 entries (12 Masters, 18 Journeyman, 20 Novices), consisting of 37 Original entries and 13 Recreations, totalling 115 participants on stage. [See dozens of ConFrancisco masquerade entry photos at ConFrancisco – 1993 WorldCon – Year Index – Part 5.]

[Mike Glyer] Parting Shot: Janet Wilson Anderson’s feels, “I have relatively little patience for those who grouse that they had to wait a bit, when literally hundreds of folks have put in such incredible effort to provide them with a show that can be seen in no. other venue.”

Best in Master Class: “Magic Carpet Ride” by Julie Zetterberg, Greg Sardo, Michael Citrak, Sue Frank, Dave Howell, Lincoln W. Kliman, John Moore, Bernie Strub. With specialty makeup help from Betty Bigelow.

[Mike Glyer] Site Selection: As co-chair of the LA in ’96 bid I spent most of my time over the weekend either arranging parties or taking votes and money at the Site Selection table. It surprises me to have this much material for a Worldcon report.

While others attended the masquerade on Saturday night, I counted votes with convention officials Kevin Standlee and George Brickner. Los Angeles was the only bid, so the winner was never in doubt, just the numbers. Los Angeles received 1,132 of the 1,286 votes cast.

[Mike Glyer] The History of ConFrancisco: Kevin told stories as we counted. He gave us the entire history of ConFrancisco, including the odd twists of fate that cost them the Marriott, a very large hotel just across the street from the Moscone originally intended to be ConFrancisco’s headquarters.

Just before the San Francisco bid won, in 1990, Ford Motor Company booked the Marriott for midweek dates that ruled out using it for the Worldcon. The committee scrambled to book more space in the Moscone and pick a new headquarters. Standlee says that after shouldering ConFrancisco out of the picture, Ford jilted the Marriott by moving its event to San Diego, but the Marriott never came back looking for ConFrancisco’s business.

ConFrancisco returned the favor by leaving the hotel, a rather sizable landmark, entirely off the street map in The Quick Reference Guide. Rumors also persisted that the hotel had no business other than 75 rooms taken by fans, but Mike Resnick, who stayed there, denied that it was any kind of ghost town: “At the last minute they booked an Esso convention; they were totally sold out on Saturday night, I know that.”

Worldcon Wayback Machine: Friday at ConFrancisco (1993) Day 2

Worldcon Wayback Machine Introduction: Thirty years ago this weekend ConFrancisco, the 1993 World Science Fiction Convention, was held in San Francisco, California. I thought it would fun to compile a day-by-day recreation drawing on the report I ran in File 770, Evelyn Leeper’s con report on (used with permission), and the contributions of others. Here is the second daily installment.

The Worldcon was held in the Moscone Convention Center, ANA Hotel, Parc Fifty Five, and Nikko Hotel.

[Mike Glyer] Friday in the Parc with Norton: The scourge of homelessness being on everyone’s mind it became unintentionally appropriate that an actor spent the weekend playing San Francisco’s celebrated wanderer, Emperor Norton. The original roamed 19th century San Francisco’s streets with his dogs Bummer and Lazarus.

The regally costumed impostor participated in Opening and Closing Ceremonies, cut the ribbon to officially open Hall D, attended the Hogu Ranquet, and convened ConFrancisco’s version of the meet-the-pros on Friday night at the Parc 55 Hotel. He decreed, “His Imperial Majesty, Norton I, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico invites all his loyal subjects — and all the disloyal ones as well — to the Imperial Reception in honor of ConFrancisco’s Honored Guests and Hugo and Campbell nominees.”

Norton’s party belied the proverb that there is no such thing as a free lunch. Science Fiction Age donated a huge cake. Other free snacks included a freeze-dried “ice cream of the future,” and someone who’d had several servings drank up everything in sight at the LA party, warning that the ice-cream of the future sucked liquid out him equal to its weight.

Reception organizer Eve Ackerman, the power behind the throne, credited Glasgow ’95 Worldcon committee for making the evening by staging a ceilidh, a Celtic dance party.

[Mike Glyer] The Hall D Concourse: ConFrancisco’s Concourse, simply called Hall D, worked very well. If the committee did not devise anything like MagiCon’s golf course to systematically lure people through the exhibits, their creativity shone through in other ways.

Two visual signatures energized the ordinarily dead space above Hall D. A colorful balloon sculpture of a 20-foot-long Chinese dragon strutted midair. A second balloon sculpture, all gray and meant to symbolize a bridge, hung at the back of the hall. The bridge was less successful, merely looking like a garland until viewed end-on, when the cross-braces became visible.

Hall D’s layout was roughly like a rectangle divided into six blocks. The blocks contained, in clockwise order starting from the upper left, (1) Historical exhibits; (2) Local color exhibits; (3) & (4) the Dealer’s Room; (5) sales, volunteers, bid tables and the fan lounge; (6) the Art Show.

Gary Louie did his usual outstanding job with the Hugo Awards exhibit, showing Hugos won by Kelly Freas, Robert Silverberg and others, and copies of award-winning novels. Gary also had his hand in the guest of honor exhibits. Did you notice two bogus items in the Larry Niven display, Niven’s Hollywood (by that other Niven), and The Hindmost, a non-sf book coincidentally named the same as the Puppeteer leader?

Hugo Awards exhibit. World Science Fiction Society banner. Gary Louie to the right, in back.

The Local Color exhibit had an appealingly cryptic geography. One day the newzine invited readers to find the exhibit “at the SF Abridged area, just this side of the Doggie Diner head, near the corner of El Camino Real and Emperor Norton Boulevard.” It’s quite possible everyone immediately understood the directions since they referred to the eight-foot-tall, torsoless head of that papier-mache hound from heck, M. Barkadero. His day job is advertising The Doggie Diner. He spent the weekend at ConFrancisco overseeing exhibits about the Bay Area: rock concert art from the Fillmore Presents collection, a government display about quakes, and vibrators from the Good Vibrations museum.

Just one block (or carpet square) away was the Speaker’s Corner, offering passing fans a platform where they could try and attract an audience for whatever was on their minds. Fanzine fans borrowed it Saturday afternoon to perform Andy Hooper’s latest faanish movie parody, The Last Ghurrah. Hooper was a riot in the Spencer Tracy role of a fan political hack at the end of his career, helped by a dozen players including Jeff Schalles and Jerry Kaufman.

Hooper also organized the Fan Lounge adjacent to the Local Color area. The Lounge was an oasis made of pipe and drape, opening onto an area containing eight round tables where customers of the espresso bar munched on muffins and foot-weary passersby alighted to rest and study the Quick Reference Guide. Andy Hooper supervised fanzine sales, and gave the evil eye to the overflow breakfast crowd poaching seats in his Lounge. The owner of the espresso concession complained how little business he was doing after I commented about the new plastic antennae he sprouted on the con’s second day, his own attempt at “local color.” I didn’t have a chance to ask him how business went the rest of the weekend because I couldn’t get through the line around his stand.

The refreshment area served a valuable purpose as someplace people could run into friends, because it was beside the heavily-traveled intersection of two paths leading to the Dealer’s Room or the Art Show.

[Evelyn C. Leeper] Panel: Ahoy, Have You Seen the Great White Archetype? (Friday, 12 noon) [Panelists] Mary J. Caraker, Howard Frank, Katharine Kerr (m), Mike Resnick, Carol Severance. [Topic] “What are they? Uses and abuses? Are there ‘styles’ in archetypes over the years?”

The panel described archetypes as “ripping off mythological themes,” as well as Christ figures and primitive legends. Most science fiction and fantasy is dominated by white European cultures and archetypes, though Severance uses Pacific Islanders and their archetypes. (Severance did note that she realizes that “Pacific Islanders” is a very broad term, encompassing many different cultures.) Severance felt that using different cultures made the fiction more interesting, because “every culture carries the rhythm of the physical setting that it’s in.” She mentioned in passing the large number of words for snow in Inuit languages, but also said that every Pacific Island language had a word meaning “death by falling cocoanut.” Caraker is using the Kalevala (Finnish)–European, but not really over-used.

The panelists tried to distinguish between stereotype and archetype by saying the an archetype is a function within a pattern of story (e.g., quest stories have a hero). As Maia Cowan noted, archetypes don’t have to be people; they can be the quest itself, the journey, the generational ship, the wild place, or the clean village. (Someone noted that Earth is a generational ship, and someone else observed only poor villages were clean, because only rich villages would have garbage.) Olaf Stapledon was an author with a lot of archetypes and no characters whatsoever.

One danger in talking about archetypes is that people will find things in writing that was never (consciously) intended by the author.

H. Rider Haggard was an author cited whose work was almost entirely archetypal. But Frank noted that Haggard’s best-known work was not his best, and that Haggard had the utmost respect for black culture in Africa, contrary to many people’s impressions. Haggard also has a Victorian view of women but not, Frank claimed, a negative one. (Frank recommended Nada the Lily and Eric Brighteyes as Haggard’s best. She was written in six weeks on a bet.)

Doyle used archetypes: the wise old storyteller in Watson (and others). In fact, the wise old storyteller is a very popular archetype among authors, undoubtedly because they are storytellers. Wells has his wise old professor (Cavor). Romulus and Remus are the feral children, which we see later in Rudyard Kipling’s Mowgli and Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Tarzan. But now these characters are usually given some flaw, usually for comic effect. Even so, science fiction still has noble characters, according to Frank, while most literature doesn’t. Kerr felt that women authors often play against archetype as well as against stereotype in their female characters.

We now have the wise and compassionate alien and the creation that destroys its creator. They may seem new, but they really go back to the angel and the golem. There’s also the master navigator, which shows up with Maoris as space-farers. And Heinlein’s “competent man” is another archetype.

Someone asked if archetypes are what prevents science fiction from becoming a literary artform, or at least accepted as literature. This seems unlikely; there is much archetypal literature that is accepted as literature.

Anti-heroes are also found in science fiction: Alfred Bester’s Demolished Man and The Stars My Destination, Clifford Simak’s City, and David Lindsay’s Voyage to Arcturus. The prophet as archetype is now often replaced by the author himself or herself, as when someone writes an “if this goes on?” tale. This observation led someone to wonder if a Calvinist (or other believer in predestination) could accept a cautionary tale. On the other hand, what are all the warnings of damnation in the Bible if not cautionary tales?

Apropos of not much else, someone noted that in 1966 a survey of science fiction authors was taken and only Robert Heinlein and Robert Silverberg were making more than $10,000 a year from their science fiction writing. (Isaac Asimov was making more, but mostly from his science writing.) Things have improved; a recent survey shows several authors (unnamed) making more than $50,000 a year from their science fiction writing.

[Mike Glyer] Panel: Professional Ethics for the Amateur (Friday 1:00 PM) [Panelists:] David G Hartwell (m), Teddy Harvia, Rachel E Holmen. [Topic:] “Artists, writers & editors: being professional- even if you’re not paid.”

Editors David Hartwell and Rachel Holmen, and artist Teddy Harvia addressed the topic from two viewpoints, how amateurs should interact with editors for the benefit of their future in the business, and how fans should function ethically within the realm of fannish publishing.

Hartwell began by admitting amateurs’ manuscripts are held to a higher standard of simple neatness, because if Heinlein or Delany submit sloppy manuscripts — as Delany may, due to his dyslexia — the editors already know they want to read the stories very carefully.

Rachel Holmen said that simultaneous submission of stories to several publishers can cause a real headache because amateurs don’t know the rules. Foremost, the writer must tell a publisher they are receiving a simultaneous submission. This avoids a real nightmare of having an editor, who has already sent a manuscript to press, discovering the same story in another magazine on the stands.

Teddy Harvia warned against unethical fanzine practices. He’s seen it all, in his 15 years as a fanartist. When a faned traced one of his cartoons onto mimeo stencil, Teddy considered it a misrepresentation of his art and refused to let the fan publish any of the others Teddy had submitted. The fan replied that he had the cartoons, he had the rights to them, and would do as he pleased. In an unusual move, Harvia engaged a lawyer to write a letter to the fan demanding attorney fees and a fine of $50. Apparently he scared the hell out of the kid, who sent the money.

[Evelyn C. Leeper] Panel: Gender Bending: What’s Good (Friday, 2:00 PM) [Panelists:] Michael Blumlein, Suzy McKee Charnas, Jeanne Gomoll (m) [Topic:] “Exploration of gender and roles isn’t as popular in science fiction as it used to be. Are the issues too imponderable or have we explored this area thoroughly?”

Blumlein started out by reminding us that the major debate about gender roles is still nature versus nurture. One of the best examples using the nurture theory in recent books is Sheri Tepper’s Sideshow, in which the one of the two (hermaphroditic) halves of a set of joined twins is raised as a boy and one is raised as a girl.

Charnas noted that women can fill the spectrum of behavior, but that most fiction doesn’t provide enough templates for this. However, if one writes about a society composed only of women, one finds that there is no problem in writing about a complete society. One doesn’t find parts that women can’t fit. (One assumes the same would be true from a men-only society, assuming some form of artificial reproduction. In fact, someone said that Lois McMaster Bujold did this with Ethan of Athos.)

One function of gender roles is to provide people with an anchor of stability. Most people are uncomfortable in free-floating masses of people (according to Charnas) and so groups form. (This hearkens back to Robinson’s comments about tribalism in his Postmodernism lecture.) Charnas gave Nicola Griffith’s Ammonite as a good example of this group dynamic. The discussion drifted into “gender dysphoria,” or the psychological condition of feeling that your psychological sex doesn’t match your physiological sex. (Forgive me if I am expressing this poorly; I do not have an M.D.) Someone said that, while transsexual surgery used to be considered a solution to this, such surgery is becoming less popular, though many people are taking the necessary hormones and living as the “other” sex. One suggested reason for this is that the easier of the two surgeries is male-to-female, but being a female in society today results in a loss of power, and people aren’t ready to do that permanently. (Though I would think living as a female would have the same effect.) With this, as with a lot of the discussion, a lot of generalizations were thrown around.

Someone pointed out that even if someone did change their sex later in life (such as happened in Virginia Woolf’s Orlando), they would still have experienced the first part of their life as their original sex. In the case of Orlando, he had gone through adolescence as a boy, and so did not have the same life experiences as someone who went through adolescence as a girl, even after he changed into a woman. (The panelists felt that the movie left a lot out that the book had.)

Regarding gender roles, someone observed that society makes rules because the rules aren’t fixed within us–if they were, we wouldn’t have to make artificial ones. Someone else cited The Rainbow Man by M. J. Engh, in which women were defined as people who could give birth. So a “woman” who had some physiological problem which would prevent her from giving birth would not be considered a woman by that society.

One belief expressed was that there is a lot of emphasis placed on the societal pressures put on girls and woman, and less placed on the corresponding pressures on boys and men. At least one panelist said that we pretend that we can “skip the angry part” of problem-solving, but that is not true; we need to confront the pain.

There was some book-flogging at the beginning of this panel. Blumlein, who has an M. D., has written The Movement of Mountains and The Brains of Rats, and has a new book (called X, Y) coming out soon from Dell which will deal with a gay man who wakes up one day as a woman.

[Note: When discussing this subject, one trips all over the pronouns of the English language. If one is discussing someone who is in transition from one sex to the other (or was one and is now the other), pick either “he” or “she” and stick with it. “He/she” may work in written language as a replacement for “He or she,” but in spoken language “he-she” is considered as offensive as any number of racial or ethnic epithets which I will not list here. This is undoubtedly because this grammatical construction has been picked up by the religious right and used by them in an extremely negative and condescending fashion. So now you know.]

[Evelyn C. Leeper] Panel: Turning the Wheels of If (Friday, 6:00 PM) [Panelists:] Charles K. Bradley, John L. Flynn, Evelyn Leeper (m), Brad Linaweaver, Paul J. McAuley. [Topic] “A discussion of likely change points for alternate realities, universes and histories”

[Much thanks to Mark [Leeper] for taking copious notes during this panel, as I can’t be on a panel and take notes at the same time.]

Although usually the panelists for a topic are authors who have written about that topic (and that was true here of Flynn, Linaweaver, and McAuley), Bradley was on the panel for a more unusual reason: he uses alternate history as a way to teach students regular history (though he did admit that sometimes he had to make sure they weren’t getting confused about what was real and what was imaginary!).

I started by asking the panelists to pick one change point they would like to see dealt with, with the caveat that it not be European or North American, and especially not the American Civil War or World War II. McAuley thought that something involving Chinese expansionism might be good, although the feeling was that the Chinese philosophy did not lend itself to exploration; the Chinese had more of a feeling that other people should come to them. I suggested that if this came out of Confucianism, then a timeline without Confucius might have some interesting results. (Someone later suggested that the Chinese stopped exploring because they saw no monetary benefit from continuing.) Flynn said the one alternate history story he had written (“Paradox Lost”) assumed that the Library at Alexandria hadn’t been burnt and that the Egyptians conquered the world. I pointed out that what Mark was always reminding people was that the amount of time since the fall of the Egyptian empire was shorter than the time the empire existed (or as Mark says, “We are in the umbra of the Egyptian empire”). Linaweaver said he had just written “The Bison Riders” in which the Aztecs are not defeated by the Spanish, but instead become high-tech and expand into North America. (Strictly speaking, this is still a North American change point, but not a Eurocentric one.)

Bradley thought that something interesting could be done with General William Walker, who tried to seize Baja California and Sonora in 1853. He failed, but set himself up as president of Nicaragua in 1856, but was expelled in 1857. In 1860, he invaded in Honduras, where his luck ran out: he was captured, court-martialed, and shot. Even today, he is hated by many factions in Central America. Another suggestion Bradley had was what if we had supported Ho Chi Minh, though again that is too close to an over-used change-point. My personal favorite (having recently read about prehistoric animal migrations) is what if the Bering land bridge had not existed? Not only would the Americas have been unpopulated when the Europeans (or Asians, or Africans) arrived, but the animal life of the Americas, and of Europe/Asia/Africa would have been vastly different. For example, as someone noted, horses and camels were New World animals which migrated back to the Old World and then died out in the New World. Imagine a Europe/Asia/Africa without horses or camels or donkeys. Other ideas for change-points batted around through the hour included what if Kaiser Wilhelm’s father had lived longer, what if the Roanoke Colony had never existed, what if Carthage hadn’t been defeated by Rome, what if Peter the Great hadn’t turned Russia towards the West instead of remaining Eastern and what if Huey Long had been elected President (Virginia Dabney had this happen in a 1936 story which also assumed the South won the Civil War, and Barry Malzberg did this last year in “Kingfish”). Bradley noted that there are still people who believe that Roosevelt had Long killed, leading to a brief digression into conspiracy theories and secret histories, with Linaweaver suggesting that maybe Roosevelt also flew the lead plane at Pearl Harbor.

There was some subsidiary discussion about the Aztecs. Political correctness these days blames the Spanish for conquering them, but the fact is that the Spanish had a lot of help from the Aztecs’ neighbors, who were tired of being captured for human sacrifices. Linaweaver claims the Aztecs were vicious fascists. (Note that he speaks from a libertarian perspective, though I suspect he’s right in any case.)

I asked the panelists’ views on the “tide of history” versus “great man” theories, noting that the former was in some sense the Marxist view and the latter the capitalist view, leading the former to be somewhat in disrepute these days. I placed myself somewhat in the middle: some things happen because of a unique individual, but there is also truth to Robert Heinlein’s “When it’s time to railroad, you railroad.” McAuley wondered if Marxism itself would have gotten off the ground without Marx to write Das Kapital. Since it was based on technological acceleration, would Marxism have arisen if we never got beyond water power? Flynn agreed that the “great man” theory seems the most likely to be true. Linaweaver agreed with me that a mix is the most reasonable guess. He suggested that without Hitler, there probably would have been a World War II, but it probably would have been very different, and the Holocaust would almost definitely have been greatly reduced. He noted that Communism had been based on the work of many people, but National Socialism was entirely Hitler’s concept. Other “great men” he listed were Einstein and Tesla. When I suggested that if Einstein hadn’t discovered relativity, someone else would have, Fred Adams from the audience said that was true– that relativity was in the air. I gave the further example of Newton and Leibnitz discovering calculus independently and almost simultaneously. (Christopher Ambler said this sort of simultaneity happens all the time.) Bradley was also middle-of-the-road, giving one example of the “great man” theory the idea that without a Lincoln, the United States would not have survived intact.

Someone commented that the rise of chaos theory has led to “fast” alternate histories, in which change occurs much more rapidly than it did before. It used to be that even after fifty years, things looked much the same as in our timeline, but now things become unrecognizable in a short time. This, of course, makes it more difficult for the reader to connect with the story.

At Flynn’s suggestion, I asked the panelists why they thought there was such a fascination, especially now, with alternate histories. Flynn suggested it was wish fulfillment. (Bradley noted that alternate histories strike a basic cord in the human psyche; he is descended from Aaron Burr and might have been king.) Ambler disagreed, saying that we may be interested in some of these alternate histories, but we don’t necessarily wish for them. Regarding this, I noted that there are two categories of alternate history: the pessimistic (things could have been better) and the optimistic (things could have been worse). The French seem to like alternate histories almost as much as the English-speaking world, yet their alternate histories tend to be more pessimistic (according to Mark Keller). In particular, they focus on how much better things would be if everyone spoke French. Linaweaver thought that the British, on the other hand, portrayed more dystopias than we did, partly because we are still an empire.

Someone said that most alternate histories focused on people; what about some that focused on diseases, natural disasters, and other events? I noted there have been several based on variations to the spread of the Black Plague (especially the stories in Robert Silverberg’s “Gate of Time” anthologies), but other ideas included what if Hurricane Andrew hadn’t hit (too soon to show radical change, in my opinion), what if the storm hadn’t delayed the Spanish Armada (done by Joseph Edgar Chamberlin as an academic study in 1908), and what if space aliens had invaded us? (For many of these and other ideas, Linaweaver said that work was being done on them, and that Harry Turtledove would be writing them all.) I noted that regarding plagues, 90% of the deaths in the New World after the Spanish arrived were from disease, not warfare.

We cautioned was that changes had to be somewhat reasonable, a constraint that many authors don’t seem to recognize. Many people look at what might have happened if the South had won the Civil War or Germany won World War II, but close examination shows usually there is no way for their scenario to have happened. Prospective authors should watch James Burke’s television series Connections to get an idea of causality in history.

I also observed that in alternate histories changing the past changes the future, and maybe this was popular because we want to believe that changing the present changes the future as well. We want control over our destinies, and alternate histories (in general) say that there is not pre-destination, but rather free will. (This may have arisen out of Kim Stanley Robinson’s comments in his lecture on Postmodernism, when he noted, “The future is going to be different depending on what we do.”) In traditional Judaism it is a sin to wish for something that is not possible, e.g., to want to change history. Yet alternate histories give us a way (vicariously) to do this. I also thought that part of my interest was based in my Jewishness–what if the Holocaust could have been prevented?

We never actually figured out why alternate histories were science fiction, although Linaweaver said they were part of the “speculative fiction” aspect of “SF.” In history and economics they’ve been around for a while, as “counter-factuals.” In any case, the panelists (especially the authors) said they hoped people kept reading them. Linaweaver also added that he enjoyed alternate histories because he still believed in human genius, and I suggested that the lesson to be learned from them is that one person can make a difference.

At the end, many people requested copies of the Robert Schmunk’s alternate history list, an invaluable reference. Linaweaver and Thomas Cron are working on a bibliography in book form, but it’s not out yet.

(I would like to note here that John Flynn came incredibly prepared for this panel–certainly more than I was. For example, he mentioned that in his reading up, he found that someone referred to change-points as the “Jon Bar Hinge,” after the character in Williamson’s Legion of Time. I would recommend him as a totally reliable panelist for other conventions.)

[Mike Glyer] Party Animal…Not: Friday began an entire weekend of large-scale open parties. Fans trying to get upstairs in the party hotel, the Parc 55, were delayed by spastic elevators that lit up like a keno board every time they reached the top or bottom floor, activating a dozen random floor buttons. The return trip became a halting, time-consuming pilgrimage. Kent Bloom heard that the elevator problems happened when the motherboard in the control computer overheated. Operations only returned to normal when a replacement was brought in about 1 a.m. Saturday.

I missed nearly every party, including the L.A. bid parties I supplied and helped set up, to run other errands. The few parties I did attend still produced their quota of memorable moments. When Rick Katze told me, ‘‘Chip Hitchcock isn’t at the con, he broke his ankle skydiving,” the image so took me by surprise I could only respond, “Was his Elvis suit too long?”

Outside the Baltimore in ’98 party I was talking with Ben Yalow, and we were joined by Dick Lynch and Teddy Harvia. Dick’s description of the latest Mimosa led to a spirited discussion of what a great fanwriter Dave Langford is that waxed so enthusiastic Teddy whispered consolingly, “I voted for you.”

Class Nine Climb: Genuine party animals Kurt Baty and Scott Bobo cruised until dawn gathering material for their excellent (perhaps that should be, “excellent, dude”) coverage in the daily newzine. They walked up 32 floors in the Park 55, on Friday night, to bypass the wonky elevators. Something they noticed en route was, “Our Russian friends were slowing down…but perked up when they noticed the video monitor on the 31st floor was showing adult videos. Kurt says this was the best ‘hack’ of the night.”

Copy! Kurt and Scott filed daily party reports in ConFrancisco’s very useful newzine, The Norton Reader. Alan Winston edited the Reader, helped by Chas Baden, Vanessa Schnatmeier and Jeremy Bloom. Robert Sacks also made a solid contribution, covering WSFS business meetings, and special events. Party reporters Baty and Bobo received Winston’s thanks because they “livened things up by laughing hysterically over their own reports.” You will, too when you read their report of Saturday’s parties in the next installment.

Worldcon Wayback Machine: Thursday at ConFrancisco (1993) Day 1

Worldcon Wayback Machine Introduction: Thirty years ago today ConFrancisco, the 1993 World Science Fiction Convention, began in San Francisco, California. I thought it would be fun to compile a day-by-day recreation drawing on the report I ran in File 770, Evelyn Leeper’s con report on (used with permission), and the contributions of others. Here is the first daily installment.

The Worldcon was held in the Moscone Convention Center, ANA Hotel, Parc Fifty Five, and Nikko Hotel.

ConFrancisco logo

[Mike Glyer] Booing Pavarotti: Sports fans can name the cities where crowds are always tough, knowledgeable and critical, prone to boo any mistake; so can opera buffs and bullfight aficionados. The Worldcon is similar, except that the tough crowd will go anywhere the con is held.

The comparison comes to mind because I heard unwarranted grumbling and sniping about ConFrancisco, criticism quite out of proportion to what I felt was the actual quality of the convention. This was a good, competently-run Worldcon which nevertheless had areas that could have worked a lot better by adopting the crowd-handling tactics of MagiCon (1992). Unfortunately, one of them was registration, and that made a poor first impression on many fans. Once fans were past the opening hurdles they discovered that ConFrancisco contained all the richness and variety expected of a Worldcon.

[Mike Glyer] The Longest One-Liner Town: On a clear, blue San Francisco day I pressed through the crowds lined up at the Powell Street cable car turntable and headed for the Moscone Convention Center, smugly grateful not to be in line for some tourist trap.

I crossed Market Street and in the next block saw a hole the size of an asteroid crater, full of scaffolding and concrete forms. The Moscone expansion proceeded on all sides, fortunately involving none of the interior space assigned to ConFrancisco. Taller than the catwalks, two ranks of international flags marked the entrance on the side away from me. Rounding the corner, I found the entrance was also marked by one of the longest lines in Worldcon history.

Most of my time in line was spent alongside Mike Resnick, so I enjoyed it a lot more than most, bantering about the delay. I was bemused to see Gardner Dozois and Kristine Kathryn Rusch covertly offering him the use of their green “SET UP” passes for immediate admission to the Moscone. Resnick declined and kept pointing out that a set-up pass got you inside but didn’t get you ahead in the registration line: without a membership badge, where could you go?

Bill Warren, the L.A. film critic, wondered why crowd handling at the Worldcon didn’t measure up to the San Diego Comic Con which deals with three times as many attendees. “You never had to wait more than five minutes in line in San Diego — but ConFrancisco seemed to thrive on lines.” Thursday’s incredible lines happened because ConFrancisco did no registration on Wednesday evening, despite the example of Chicon V and MagiCon, which registered over 2,000 members on Wednesday night. Instead, ConFrancisco wound up registering 3,500 members on Thursday. Waiting time obviously could have been reduced if they’d used early registration to split the crowd.

“Registration,” said Sharon Sbarsky, who worked the area at Noreascon 3, “is one of those areas that gets fixed and broken over and over again.” ConFrancisco’s Wilma Meier, chief of the division handling Registration, said informal plans to register on Wednesday were dropped because the computers didn’t get set up in time. “We were not ready to handle any transfers or special paperwork that might have come in that evening.”

But Sharon Sbarsky, who worked registration at Noreascon 3, pointed to their example of allowing pre-registered staff to check in on Tuesday and opening full registration on Wednesday. Computers were not required for the early stages of that process, and Sbarsky felt there was no reason to delay the majority of ConFrancisco members who were ready on Wednesday simply because computers weren’t online for transfers. The minority of people with those needs could have been asked to return Thursday when the system was fully in place.

Meier minimized the inconvenience, claiming, “Once the doors opened at 9:00 a.m. the longest anyone had to wait from end-of-line to getting their badge was approximately one hour.” I disagree: I got in line around 9:45 a.m. and was not fully processed until after 11:30 a.m. Not counting my time in the “Solutions” line, I waited 70 minutes. I spent my last 45 minutes in line at the “Solutions” table waiting to transfer a membership. When I reached the final gate I got my badge, pocket program and a blue ticket for the Souvenir Book. I went to find out what I could do with them.

[Mike Glyer] What Has It Got In Its Pocketses? Pocket programs are sometimes unwieldy and user-hostile, prone to be dismissed with the complaint, “It doesn’t even fit in your pocket!” ConFrancisco proved that if a program guide is easy-to-use, accurate and lightweight, people recognize that’s a lot more important than whether it fits in a man’s shirt pocket. (Half the fans never felt that was a necessity in the first place…)

ConFrancisco’s Quick Reference Guide received more compliments than any similar publication in Worldcon history. Thanks go to Gail Sanders, designer, and Tom Becker, computer programmer, for innovating the sturdy, 7 x 4 spiral-bound booklet. If future committees are sensible, the Quick Reference Guide will be widely imitated.

[Mike Glyer] The Incredible Shrinking Name: On the other hand, the badges are an example of what to avoid. Though David Bratman didn’t write it as a criticism, I think his description of people trying to read the badges at the GEnie party sums up the situation. “Never have I been to such a large party where so many of the attendees walked around hunched over, peering at each other’s nametags and periodically exclaiming, ‘Oh, so you’re so-and-so!”‘

Solutions to the Worldcon’s routine problems seem to get lost quicker than the secret of Damascus steel. Four years ago Noreascon pleased everyone by laser-printing headline-sized names on extra large badges. For some bizarre reason, the last two Worldcons continued the large badge size while printing the names in smaller, hard-to-read typefaces.

[Mike Glyer] The Bottom Line: The entrance hall used for registration was all glass and aluminum, reminiscent of the Crystal Cathedral. Access to the escalators involved a concealed sightline that surprised visitors at the last moment with a breathtaking, twenty-five foot descent into the exhibit hall. Or on Thursday morning, stunned them with the sudden realization that below was another huge line, snaking away from the program book distribution table.

Eric Watts heard that the reason Souvenir Books were distributed separately is that they weren’t ready when registration opened. However, another report said this arrangement for distributing program books was designed to reassure the publisher furnishing thousands of free copies of a new Niven/Barnes paperback that the books couldn’t pilfered by someone who’d tear off covers for returns. At the same time that fans picked up their program books they collected numerous other free books and souvenirs.

[Evelyn C. Leeper] Programming Statistics: There were 492 program items listed (not counting readings and autograph sessions). MagiCon had 420 program items, Chicon V had 520 program items, ConFiction 337, and Noreascon 3 833 (all not counting films or autograph sessions). I have no idea how many videos and films there were: due to family problems, the head of media programming had to withdraw shortly before the convention and the schedule was totally changed as the convention had to start from scratch at that point. (John L. Flynn came through with what must have been only hours notice with a series of lectures to go with the “Dracula” film festival that was shown one day.) There were also 33 autograph sessions and 29 readings. Once again, there were a lot of panels at this convention of interest to me, and I ended up with no time for lunch (and occasionally no time for dinner!)

Mark and Evelyn Leeper in 2002. Photo by Mark Olson.

[Evelyn C. Leeper] Panel: “State of the Short Story” (Thursday, 4:00 PM) [Panelists:] Maya Kathryn Bohnhoff, James Brunet, Scott Edelman, Rick Wilber. [Topic] “How does this form fare in science fiction and fantasy magazines and books, and in the rest of the literary world”.

Edelman began by saying that in his opinion, short fiction is where everything important happens first–it is the cutting edge. Other panelists felt that this might be connected to the fact that short fiction gives the author more immediate feedback or gratification. While a novel could take a year or more to write, a short story can be written in a much shorter length of time. So writers are willing to make the investment in experimenting in the shorter forms. In addition, there are more markets for short fiction now than there were ten years ago. This does not mean it’s easy to break into the market, but it is easier than before.

Because it is true that short fiction is not as profitable as novels, many people seem to feel that authors “graduate” from short fiction to novels. (See the introduction to Karen Joy Fowler’s collection Artificial Things for a description of this phenomenon: she says she prefers short fiction and even got a reputation as “the person who wouldn’t write a novel for Bantam.”) Wilber also thought that short stories were not only “a good place to get started, but … also a good place to be.” And Harlan Ellison, one of the most respected writers in the field, has never written a science fiction novel (though he has written a couple of non-science-fiction novels).

One problem with short fiction is that magazines have a definite shelf life. Stories may be popular, but after their month or two is up, they become impossible to find. While anthologies have a longer lifetime, they are less predictable or reliable. As Brunet put it, “The anthology is the hot date; the magazine is a long-term relationship.” It is true that inclusion in one of the “Year’s Best” anthologies will probably assure a story of being available for at least a couple of years, but original anthologies are trickier.

The panelists pointed out, however, that science fiction magazines at least have a readership. Literary magazines stay alive because of the pressures of academia: they provide a place to “publish” instead of “perish” for professors, and they are pretty much required reading for other professors. Science fiction magazines, on the other hand, stay alive because people want to read them. The opinion was expressed that this might even explain some of the hostility toward science fiction from academia: jealousy.

One recent phenomenon is the stand-alone novella from publishers such as Bantam. Priced below the cost of a novel and offering readers a chance to read a “book” without committing to a 600-page odyssey, they are also giving authors more market for novellas, traditionally a hard form to place.

Above all, though, Wilbur says, if you want to break into the short fiction market, “embrace rejection.” In agreement, Brunet said that the best experience he got for selling short fiction was his experience dating in his early twenties.

[Mike Glyer] Panel: Eric Drexler on Nanotechnology (Thursday 4:00 p.m.)

Nanotech prophet Eric Drexler spoke at ConFrancisco. Elton Elliot, that round mound of the profound, asked me if I’d heard nanotechnology might be applied to rid the body of excess fat. “I expect to see many people of the avoirdupois persuasion in the audience,” said Elton.

[Evelyn C. Leeper] Panel: “Today Is Tomorrow’s Yesterday” (Thursday, 6:00 PM) [Panelists:] Barbara Delaplace, John Hertz, Harry Turtledove (m) [Topic] “Likely errors in future historical fiction about our era”.

The panel started by defining “today” as the period from 1945 to the present. The most obvious errors, they said, would be simple anachronisms: pot-smoking free love in 1951 or a Beatles concert in 1947. Authors writing about a historical period need to throw in details like this to create verisimilitude–as Hertz said, “Verisimilitude is very tricky stuff”–but it is very easy to get it wrong. Suggesting a few details allows the reader to fill in the rest, and authors aren’t always careful about the details, especially if they think their audience is unfamiliar with the period.

Of course, unfamiliarity may not be the case. After all, there is a flood of information available for the present. Byzantine history (Turtledove’s specialty) requires inference from the documents surviving, but we are absolutely swimming in documents. Even with some of them unreadable due to obsolete media (such as music stored on eight-track tapes), there will be so much that it will be impossible to avoid verifiable errors with only a finite amount of research.

Another error is that people forget how quickly attitudes can change. This is what Mark calls the “Happy Days” Syndrome: the show took place in the 1950s, but everyone had the attitudes of the 1980s. This is also one reason that feminist Regency novels don’t work very well. (Hertz suggested that you think of a viewpoint as a geographic thing.) It’s easy to eat the food of people of another period and wear their clothing, but it’s hard to think their thoughts and feel their feelings. Turtledove warns, however, that you often have to tone down attitudes or the audience will be turned off by them. For example, the attitude that blacks were sub-human was very common in earlier centuries, yet having a “hero” who espoused this attitude, however accurately, would not be acceptable to modern audiences. Rest assured, though, that we will suffer the same fate or, as Turtledove put it, “Whatever you think about X will be considered absurd five hundred years from now,” where X could be religion, abortion, meat-eating, or any other subject. Yes, we think we have proof that our beliefs are right, but then previous generations also thought they had proof. Panelists also noted that some facts need to be left out–they are too convenient and people will think you have made them up.

One thing that Hertz felt characterizes our period as different that might very well seem absurd in the future is that we are as compulsively casual as previous cultures were formal. Whether the pendulum will swing completely back is not clear, but he feels that some return to formality will occur, and we will look absurd to future readers.

On the other hand, novels written about their own period can often skip important details that would be obvious to those of the author’s time, but completely lost on an audience a hundred years later. As one panelist said, he could tell when reading a Jane Austen that something important was going on, but he didn’t have the knowledge of the period to figure out what. Writers writing about earlier historical periods have to give the reader enough to understand what is happening. Georgette Heyer is supposedly good at this.

Turtledove observed that writing about the past was dangerous because “you have more excuse for making mistakes about the future than about the past.” Even so, some literary license is permitted since “historians deal with facts, novelists deal with truth.”

More basic questions raised were: Will anyone care about us? Why do we do the strange things we do? What are the future stereotypes of our age? These were not answered, but the last one brought about the observation that an era of history is only noticed after it is over. (As Kim Stanley Robinson noted in his lecture on Postmodernism people didn’t sit around in Europe and say, “Well, last year was the Dark Ages, but now is the Renaissance.”) Someone compared this to the cloud in Poul Anderson’s Brain Wave: you only realize it exists once you’re out of it.

[Mike Glyer] The Three Hundred Thirty-Nine Steps: Before the con, Kevin Standlee paced off the distance between facilities and published his findings: it is 968 “Standlees” from where I stayed in the Parc 55 Hotel to the door of the Moscone Convention Center, much of it along San Francisco’s Market Street; the daily run past throngs of homeless beggars, alcoholics and others scuffling to survive made a powerful impression on fans.

Two emotional responses were alloyed together, one of pity for the people’s desperate condition, the other of wariness for danger on the streets. In a four-block walk to the Moscone a person could see forty people camping inside doorways and construction scaffolding, be asked for money three or four times, and see several men sprawled on the sidewalk and know from their beet-red, dirty faces that they were passed-out drunk.

Eric Watts summed up the experience when he wrote, “The oddest feeling I had during ConFrancisco was when I was dining at the Parc’s Veranda restaurant with friends I hadn’t seen in several years, treating myself to what was, for me, a very expensive meal. We were seated next to the plate glass window, through which we all could see a homeless person lying under a blanket on the sidewalk against a building across the street. Another man walked past him, stopped and turned around, scouted the area briefly, bent over and took a box of food that apparently belonged to the vagrant, walked a few feet down the sidewalk and proceeded to eat whatever was inside. Everyone seated at my dinner table saw the incident, and we were all left speechless, silently outraged at the crime and silently disgusted at the sight of poverty, hunger and homelessness while we dined on fancy entrees with fine wine and cloth napkins. It was an uncomfortable and awkward moment.”

There was something to dislike about the neighborhood of the Moscone because of all the signs triggering a watchfulness for danger, whether or not danger was immediately present. I said so and some blamed me for anti-homeless bigotry. On the other hand I was aware of the following story.

When Robbie Cantor turned up on the first day of the con with three broken ribs, two black eyes and other bruises it wasn’t from a fall down a flight of stairs, as people were told at the time. Robbie, commenting that she violated her own rule, went unescorted at 1:30 a.m. from the Moscone to the ANA Hotel. She was accosted by a street person who hit her across the face with a plastic bag full of something, and they wound up in a street fight. In an exhausted standoff, they retreated toward the ANA. Robbie went inside and the assailant took off before police arrived. In the end, a police artist made a sketch of him from Robbie’s description for distribution to officers.

Robbie, part of ConFrancisco’s operations staff, reports that during the con members suffered three wallet or purse snatchings and another less severe mugging. Kurt Siegel pointed out that the number of crime incidents were lower than those he heard about at a computer-related symposium he attended in New York last February. But more fans were victims of crime, including violent crime, during this Worldcon than any other I know about, most of which never had any reports of street attacks and robberies.

Day-to-day encounters with street people profoundly influenced people’s experience of ConFrancisco, although some fans, like Eve Ackerman, managed to handle them cheerfully: “My favorite was the man selling newspapers produced by the homeless. He asked my husband to buy one as we walked to Union Square. ‘No thanks,’ Howard said and we kept walking. ‘How about one for your lovely daughter then,’ he yelled out. I did a 180, gave him a dollar and took a paper. I admire free enterprise.”

[Robert Sacks] Opening Ceremonies (from The Norton Reader #2) After a long wait on a line stretching three times around the Moscone South Lobby, the audience was allowed into the Esplanade Ballroom to wait.

At 8:52 the Opening Ceremonies finally began with a video and the song “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.” With ‘fog’ rising in the background, a model of the Golden Gate Bridge was rolled on stage and lit up. The crowd was easily pleased.

The audience was invited to give a big California welcome to the many worlds of fandom. After some musical numbers, the MagiCon Chair, Joe Siclari, was called upon to pass over the gavel, a golf club from MagiCon’s miniature golf course, to ConFrancisco chair Dave Clark; in addition he presented a chairman’s badge, estimated to have ribbons at least 6 feet long, in the Chair’s favorite colors, dalmatian.

Breaking ConFrancisco’s gavel, a loaf of sourdough bread, the Chair declared the convention off and running.

The several honored guests were interviewed on video. Toastmaster/Master of Ceremonies Guy Gavriel Kay introduced His Imperial Majesty Norton I, who entered and evicted Chairman Clark from the central chair of honor. The Toastmaster gave a brief history of the bid and convention, and announced the special guests from the Czech Republic. Larry Niven stated he was greatly honored and questioned why it took so long. Alicia Austin explained how she enjoyed people enjoying her artwork. Tom Digby, a suspected alien lifeform, blew soap bubbles. Wombat, jan howard finder, promoted backrubs. Mark Twain [‘channeled’ by Jon DeCles] talked about spending the coldest winter of his life one summer in San Francisco.

Senator Barbara Boxer’s letter of greeting was read; the President of the San Francisco Public Library Commission read Mayor Jordan’s proclamation of Sunday, the fifth of September, as World Science Fiction Day in San Francisco. H.I.M.’s reception was announced for Friday night. After the ConFrancisco anthem was sung to kazoo music provided by the LA Filkharmonic, Emperor Norton ordered the attendees to go forth and have a great time at ConFrancisco.

Remembering Harry

By Rich Lynch: Today we celebrate what would have been the 100th birthday of Harry Warner, Jr., who was perhaps the best-known stay-at-home science fiction fan of all time.

Harry was a lifelong resident of Hagerstown, Maryland and a fan for most of his life; his fan activities began in 1936, when he was in his early teens, but by then he had already been a science fiction reader for several years: “My father got a couple of Jules Verne’s novels from the library for me to read [and] I read a little science fiction in the Big Little books, which were popular a long, long time ago.  But I didn’t discover the prozines until 1933 – I bought my first Amazings and Wonders in that year.”

The path that Harry took into fandom was via the prozines.  When he was 13 years old, he wrote a letter to Astounding’s “Brass Tacks” letters column, printed in the October 1936 issue, which mentioned that he would like to “correspond with someone of my own age or a little older”.  Soon afterwards, he received about a dozen letters as well as a few fanzines (called ‘fanmags’ back then) in response, and began a letter exchange with some of the people who had written to him.  One of these was James S. Avery, a fan from Maine, who convinced Harry they should co-edit their own fanmag, and in November 1938 the first issue appeared.  This was Spaceways, a general interest fanmag which became one of the best fan publications of the pre-war years.

Spaceways was not destined to be a collaborative effort – it turned out that Avery never did contribute any material or effort to the publication so he was soon dropped as co-editor.  As for Harry, it turned out that one of his talents was in persuading good writers to contribute to Spaceways; this included such notables as H.P. Lovecraft, Jack Williamson, Bob Tucker, Fred Pohl, Forrest J Ackerman, Sam Moskowitz, and Robert Lowndes.  Harry also took great pains to keep Spaceways (and himself) above the fan politics and feuds that were endemic to the fandom of the late 1930s and early 1940s.  By doing this, he made many friends and very few enemies.

Harry gained a reputation in fandom as ‘The Hermit of Hagerstown’, this from his reluctance or inability to travel far from home.  As a result, he was frequently visited by those who were passing through the region on their way to or from various fan gatherings.  One of these, in 1943, was the notorious fan freeloader Claude Degler, whom Harry described as actually behaving like a gentleman, but: “He left Hagerstown without getting into my home, an accomplishment for which I have never been sufficiently recognized.”

Over the years, Harry actually did leave Hagerstown to attend a few science fiction conventions, including the 1971 Worldcon where he was the Fan Guest of Honor.  He was never very happy with the large crowd scenes, though, preferring the written word as his way of communicating with other fans.  In the last decades of his life, he limited his contact with other fans to groups of two or three at the largest, so if you wanted to meet him you had to go visit him in Hagerstown. 

All of his fanac then was done from home, either by publishing fanzines, writing articles for other fanzines, or as a correspondent.  His prozine letterhack days were pretty much over by the time he became a fanzine publisher, but he remained a prolific letter writer for the rest of his life, usually in response to the myriads of fanzines he received in the mail.  Harry always found positive, constructive things to say about even the most abysmal of crudzines, and it was always a badge of honor for a fanzine publisher to include a Harry Warner letter of comment in the Letters Column.  Many volumes could probably be published of the entertaining letters he wrote to fanzine publishers; at least partly for this prolificacy he was voted the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer twice, in 1969 and 1972, winning out over such notables as Walt Willis, Terry Carr, and Susan Wood.

Harry also received one other Hugo Award, in 1993, for Best Non-Fiction Book.  His large accumulation of fanzines provided him a resource from which to research the fandom of the 1940s and 1950s, and resulted in two books that he referred to as “informal histories” – All Our Yesterdays (Advent, 1969), about fandom of the 1940s, and A Wealth of Fable (SCIFI Press, 1992), about 1950s fandom.  The Best Non-Fiction Book Hugo did not exist in 1970, or both books would likely have won the award.

Harry’s influence as a writer and historian on fandom is huge, and not only in the United States.  Noted Swedish fan and writer John-Henri Holmberg wrote that: “What struck me about [Harry’s] letters, as well as his many fanzine essays, was his reasonableness, his sense of proportion, his quiet humor and good sense.  In many ways, I suspect that Harry Warner was the ideal fan, in the sense that he managed to avoid both the wild-eyed fanaticism and the angry disillusionment which devour so many of us.  He could see both sides to most conflicts, but even more importantly, he could also see that neither was particularly important.”

Harry leaves behind no relatives; only his writings survive him.  And even though he was a lifelong bachelor, he was as much a patriarchal figure as has ever existed in science fiction fandom.  Not long after Harry’s death in February 2003, fan historian Moshe Feder noted that: “[Harry] may not have any surviving blood kin, but we are his family, and his proper mourners, as is any faned anywhere who will never again receive a Harry Warner letter of comment.”  And he’s right.

Remembering Andrew Plotkin’s
17-year-delayed LOC to PyroTechnics #38

By Bill Higgins: In August 1986, Jamie and Gail Hanrahan published PyroTechnics #38, a fanzine founded by Jeff Duntemann.  It served as a club newsletter for General Technics, a loose organization of SF fans interested in do-it-yourself technology.  That was 34 years ago.

In 2003, Andrew Plotkin found a copy of Pyro 38 stored in his dad’s basement.  He decided to write a lengthy and thoughtful Letter of Comment.  On September 10, 2003, uncertain whether 1987 postal addresses would still be valid, Andrew posted his letter to the rec.arts.sf.fandom newsgroup for all on Usenet to read.

One may find a copy of the letter on Andrew’s Web site.

His Usenet posting still lurks within Google Groups.

Today I noticed that it has been just about as long between Andrew’s charming LoC and now as it has between the publication of Pyro 38 and the day Andrew posted his letter. I think this is a moment to celebrate.

The most recent issue of PyroTechnics, number 57, was published in 1997, six years pre-Plotkin. Nevertheless, we of the Pyro editorial staff are always glad to receive comments from readers. (I was one of two editors for #57.)

John Ridley, a GT member, has archived most of the issues of Pyro.  One may read Issue 38 at this link.

General Technics still exists, and more or less thrives, though we haven’t published a zine in quite a while. We throw room parties a couple of times a year at Chicago and sometimes Detroit cons.  We hold a weekend club outing annually.  We correspond on a busy mailing list.  Some of us have gafiated, but a goodly number are still active fans and/or pros.  We still chatter about SF, science, and do-it-yourself technologies.  In the Seventies we called ourselves “techies;” the closest modern word, I suppose, would be “makers.”

Anyway, I salute Andrew Plotkin’s noble gesture.  He reminds us that fandom is, among other things, a long conversation.  Here’s to friendships that stretch across decades.  And long may the conversation continue.

When You Fall Off the Internet, You Have to Get Right Back On

[Editor’s Note: Twenty years ago I reprinted Bill Bowers’ catalog of online fanac, Fan Basic 101, in an issue of File 770. As a companion piece, I wrote about my own experiences as a novice website creator. They now make a rather nostalgic set of confessions.]

By Mike Glyer: If you have to write your own HTML code, designing a web page is a lot like being forced to solve one of those word problems that starts “if a train leaves Baltimore at 50 miles per hour.” On the other hand. I’ve always used Microsoft Publisher and I feel the experience combines the best features of building blocks and finger-painting, with no tidying afterwards.

I started out like an Internet neo, searching for free icons, copying blinky lights, culling through hundreds of animated GIFs, and thieving other pages’ colorful backgrounds. Naturally, I also spent hours selecting a  free hit counter.

A link on CompuServe’s Ourworld (which hosts my web page) led me to a suite of icons created from photographs of the nine planets as seen from space. They are very well crafted, and float beautifully on a mottled gray background reminiscent of a lunar landscape. I made them the thematic elements of my main page.

Somewhere else I found three sets of animated red, yellow and green console lights that blink at slow, frequent, and rapid speeds. Every article about web page design warns against loading a page with too many animated files and blinking lights. Because “too many” is not a numerical limit, I am free to assume that the ten or twelve blinky lights I’ve used as hyperlinks to news stories is not “too many.”

Once I had my web page set up, I wanted it to be easy for you to read and use. My first concern was the address:

Try getting anyone to type a 55-character address! One solution is getting other web pages to link to mine. Then, the only person who ever has to type the address correctly is the other webmaster. Chaz Boston Baden and the Chicon 2000 page have sent some of you my way. I’d like to set up reciprocal links with more fannish web pages. 

I’ve also thought about how to get a shorter URL. The obvious way is to register my own domain and pay to have it hosted on a server. Domain registration costs about $70 for the first two years. At that price I have to ask, for the number of hits I’m going to get, does it make more sense to pay for my own domain, or just send each of you a dollar bill with a polite request to look at the site?

Another way to get a shorter URL is by going through someone else’s domain. Charlie, how about —….?

Or maybe I can go in with a local group. SCIFI wants to set up a web page to get some good publicity. Shaun Lyon offered to handle the whole thing for us through Network Solutions. His own “Dr. Who” pages are getting 12,000 hits a day. Hearing that, I darned near left the meeting to drive home and add some  “Dr. Who” stuff to my site.

But no. If the sole object was to reach the maximum number of people, it would have made the most sense to convert File 770 to an e-mailed zine. The medium’s practically free. The audience is still there — most, if by no means all, fans get e-mail. Best of all, fans will immediately read something delivered to them, whereas many will never get around to browsing a fannish web page, or necessarily look at one more than once. Despite the advantages I’m not going to do that. Developing layouts that flow text and art together is something I enjoy too much to give up editing a paper fanzine. Designing a web page involves the same pleasures, and adds new dimensions of color, animation, sound and mutability.

As yet, a faned can’t use e-mail to achieve all he can do on a web page. The culture of e-mail use, more than technology, is the main barrier to distributing documents with the same level of design complexity found on a web page. Any use of graphics rapidly increases a document’s size, and fans don’t seem to appreciate receiving unsolicited 400K e-mails. (Bill Bowers handles this by sending a notice that his e-zine is available for you to request.) There are also some technical limits. A document’s layout is unlikely to remain stable if it is read by a different program than created it. And megabyte-sized files will be rejected by the filters on some services.

So for the time being, I’m investing my energy in a web page, and keeping it consistent with the purpose of the paper File 770,  not adding any Doctor Who stuff. Of course, I want more people to read it.  I assume that when I mail out 325 copies of File 770, 325 people read it. What if I actually knew the truth, the way I know how many readers access my web page? In fact, the number on my hit counter hasn’t changed since last Thursday. Odd how that little counter subverts everything. Suddenly, I don’t need LoCs, I don’t need contributions — I need a big number! I want to win! How can I tap the power of the Internet to draw an audience and shift my counter into overdrive?

I heard there were free services that promote web pages. A search on Altavista promptly retrieved a list of 14. The first one I looked at – — worked so satisfactorily I’ve made no comparisons. is an easy-to-use, free site with extensive and intelligent coverage of search engines and indexes.

It’s even fun to use.’s designer believes – correctly – that users will disdain the simplest instructions and blunder ahead, filling in blanks on the computerized forms with their unenlightened best guesses. So the designer steers us to a tutorial cleverly written as a dialogue between himself and his 6-year-old son. The tutorial proceeds as if we adults were looking over little James Ueki’s shoulder as he learns how to make Dad’s site promote his first web page:

“At first, James wants to use the account name ‘Anakin Skywalker,’ but after Dad explains who Anakin grows up to be, James (unimaginatively) decides to use his name as his account name, and his nickname (‘jkun’ is Japanese for ‘jimmy’) as his password. Dad will have to talk to him about choosing an unguessable password later!”

Fellows like Dad and I are too grown-up to need instructions ourselves, of course, but I closely watch little Jimmy’s progress so that I won’t be embarrassed by making any errors he’s managed to avoid. Along the way I pick up a lot of good information about the differences between a search engine and an index, what they’re looking for and strategies to optimize a page for selection.

He makes Yahoo sound like the grail for anyone trying to increase traffic on their website. He says that Yahoo is selective and it helps a page get listed if it has won some legitimate awards. So my first thought was to go back to the ISP that hosts my page, CompuServe’s “Ourworld,” and apply for consideration as Ourworld’s  Site-of-the-Day.

Within hours of getting my e-mail, they notified me that my page had been “suspended.” They sternly reminded me about the three cardinal rules Ourworld homepages must obey: (1) they can’t violate copyright, (2) they can’t post pornography, and (3) they can’t carry on a business. I hadn’t done (1) or (2). That left (3). I knew this was about the subscription rates in the colophons. So I spent a couple of hours finding and deleting the subscription info and reloading the page. The authorities did not trouble me again.

I may never get listed on Yahoo, but I did become CompuServe Out-of-Sight for a day.
Meantime, the robots are doing their work. I’ve been listed on at least one search engine. Where? I’ll give you a hint.

People on the island of Vanuatu can’t brag very often about having something North America lacks. Now added to that very short list is getting the File 770 web page indexed on Matilda, their local Internet portal. The Matilda search engine has a series of portal pages tailored for users throughout the South Pacific, including Vanuatu, though Australia and New Zealand probably account for most of their traffic. Matilda added File 770‘s page to its index within two days of submission, a decision encouraged by the frequent mention of “Australia” in stories about the latest Worldcon. Until Altavista, Excite, and perhaps the big prize, Yahoo!, catch up with Matilda’s leadership, fan(s) on Vanuatu will have a lot easier time searching for the File 770 web page than most of you.

But please keep trying!

[The only place you can see that old website anymore isn’t on Vanuatu but at the Internet Archive.]

Hugo Voting: Let’s Look at the Record Yet Again

By Jo Van Ekeren:

I’ve spent the last couple of years exhuming statistics and ephemera about the Hugo Awards from various sources, including old Usenet posts on Google Groups, old fanzines, archived con websites, and various historical documents which have been scanned and made available online (and I give my thanks to those of you who have been making those archiving efforts, especially Joe Siclari, Edie Stern, Mark Olson, and Bill Burns).

I’ve managed to resurrect full or partial statistics for around 23 additional years beyond what was posted at A few years have already been posted there, and I will be gradually rolling out the rest of them over the next few months as I get them formatted into readable documents.

This post is an expanded and updated version of earlier statistical analyses by George Flynn:
Hugo Voting: Let’s Look at the Record by George Flynn [1988]
Hugo Voting: Let’s Look at the Record (Again) by George Flynn [1999]

and of an update by Jed Hartman which pulled in some additional years and electronic vs. paper voting numbers:
Hugo stats: numbers of nominating ballots by Jed Hartman [2018]

I’ve updated it with Site Selection ballot numbers, Advance Membership numbers, and Hugo participation percentages for 2000-2019, plus Retro Hugo data, as well as showing the difference between the number of categories which were on the nominating ballot versus the number of categories which had sufficient participation to be on the final voting ballot.

I’ve got source citations for all of the numbers included here. A lot of the information came from documents on The Hugo Awards, Fancyclopedia 3, FANAC, eFanzines, the SMOFS Long List, old Usenet posts on Google Groups, and the Wayback Machine. If you have questions about where one of the numbers came from, you can message me here.

You are welcome to link to the full Google document — and certainly can make a backup of it if you wish — but please be aware that I expect it to continue to change as more bits of information become available.

Please do report to me any errors or omissions you might notice, either in the comments on this post, or by submitting a message here.

What does the most recent data about Hugo nominators and voters tell us?

  1. Tracking of the electronic vs. paper nominations and votes, at the turn of the century, was helpful in evaluating the amount of electronic uptake by Hugo voters. That hit 99% in 2011, and has remained there ever since. Now this comparison tracking is chiefly of interest in noting how many remaining members are either unable or unwilling to nominate and vote electronically.
  2. From 1989 through 2007, participation in the final ballot was consistently under 20% of the Advance membership (those eligible to participate in voting). In 2008, both overall membership numbers and Hugo participation began to rise steadily. It is likely that common acceptance and the ease of the ability to nominate and vote electronically contributed significantly to this. In addition, 2008 was the first year of the annual Hugo Voter Packet – containing finalist works which were not otherwise available for free – and this has also likely contributed to the rise of member numbers and of Hugo participation among members.
  3. The ratio of Supporting to Attending members has also steadily risen in the last 10 years, and while some of this can be attributed to the Puppy campaigns of 2015-2016 as well as to fans from the U.S. being unable to attend overseas Worldcons in London and Helsinki, it seems clear that access to a large number of free works in the Hugo Voter Packet is also a contributing factor. Percentage of eligible advance member participation in the Hugo Awards is now at an all-time high, at 40% to 50% of the eligible membership.
  4. Site Selection, which has remained a mail-in or on-site endeavour, has seen somewhat of a decline in participation in the last 10 years. This is likely due to having only one bid site in many of those years, but possibly also somewhat due to people who previously voted for both Hugos and Site Selection by mail in the past now only voting for the Hugos online. This is not likely to change unless and until it becomes common for bidcoms to be willing to have electronic voting for Site Selection.

Hugo Voting: Let's Look At The Record Again (1971-1999), by George Flynn




# of


# of


197129 - Noreascon IBoston934373291,60045.8%
197230 - L.A.Con ILos Angeles927055092561,50036.7%
197331 - Torcon IIToronto, Canada11350708113752,20032.2%
197432 - Discon IIWashington DC12?930126452,60035.8%
O197533 - Aussiecon OneMelbourne, Australia12267600125281,88031.9%
197634 - MidAmeriConKansas City124861,595129933,60044.3%
197735 - SunConMiami Beach12500800128842,80028.6%
197836 - IguanaCon IIPhoenix135401,246131,1544,20029.7%
O197937 - Seacon '79Brighton, UK134671,160139204,12628.1%
198038 - Noreascon TwoBoston135631,788131,5495,44732.8%
198139 - Denvention TwoDenver124541,247121,6804,52927.5%
198240 - Chicon IVChicago126481,071121,1195,00021.4%
198341 - ConStellationBaltimore126601,322127295,50024.0%
198442 - L.A.con IILos Angeles135131,467131,3686,74021.8%
O198543 - Aussiecon TwoMelbourne, Australia13222443135272,19920.1%
198644 - ConFederationAtlanta135681,267131,863 (’88)
1,276 (’89)
O198745 - Conspiracy '87Brighton, UK13567990131,3734,95320.0%
198846 - Nolacon IINew Orleans144181,178141,4554,72125.0%
198947 - Noreascon 3Boston13539980131,6366,10016.1%
O199048 - ConFictionThe Hague, Netherlands14291486141,0883,41814.2%
199149 - Chicon VChicago133521,048132,0865,12620.4%
199250 - MagiConOrlando14498902142,5095,29717.0%
199351 - ConFranciscoSan Francisco15397841141,2825,83414.4%
199452 - ConAdianWinnipeg, Canada14649491141,4394,38811.2%
O199553 - IntersectionGlasgow, Scotland14477744141,5544,90015.2%
199654 - L.A.con IIILos Angeles14442939141,0646,00015.7%
199755 - LoneStarCon 2San Antonio13429687131,4674,40015.6%
199856 - BucConeerBaltimore13471769132,1685,13115.0%
O199957 - Aussiecon ThreeMelbourne, Australia13425438138202,42518.1%

Hugo Voting: Let's Look At The Record Yet Again (2000-2020),
by Jed Hartman and Jo Van Ekeren
YearWorldcon             Location[1]
# of
Valid Nominating Ballots
Valid Final Ballots
# of
58 - Chicon 2000Chicago1340713031.9%1,07147544.4%131,6985,26220.4%
200159 - Millennium PhilconPhiladelphia1349517836.0%1,05028226.9%132,0945,01320.9%
60 - ConJoséSan José1462637159.3%92469775.4%141,0344,42220.9%
61 - Torcon 3Toronto, Canada1473877647861.6%141,4814,20418.5%
200462 - Noreascon 4Boston1456736664.6%1,093141,6865,61319.5%
O200563 - InteractionGlasgow, Scotland1554643679.9%68455280.7%15[7]4,16916.4%
200664 - L.A.con IVLos Angeles1553343481.4%71160084.4%141,5614,12817.2%
65 - Nippon2007Yokohama, Japan1540934083.1%589159024,69112.6%
200866 - Denvention 3Denver15483895158264,06222.0%
200967 - AnticipationMontréal, Canada167991,0741,04096.8%167633,81228.2%
O201068 - Aussiecon 4Melbourne, Australia168641,094165262,89837.8%
201169 - RenovationReno161,00699298.6%2,1002,08699.3%167604,68844.8%
201270 - Chicon 7Chicago171,1011,922179325,21836.8%
201371 - LoneStarCon 3San Antonio171,343132999.0%1,848171,3484,46841.4%
O201472 - Loncon 3London, UK171,923188998.2%3,5873,57199.6%177788,58041.8%
201573 - SasquanSpokane172,122211999.9%5,9505,91499.4%172,62510,32157.6%
201674 - MidAmeriCon IIKansas City174,032401599.6%3,130171,3216,17450.7%
O201775 - Worldcon 75Helsinki, Finland182,464245899.8%3,3193,31599.9%181,2277,67243.3%
201876 - Worldcon 76San José191,813179599.0%2,8282,81099.4%197266,39344.2%
O201977 - Dublin 2019Dublin, Ireland201,800179799.8%3,0973,08999.7%208806,000?51.6%
O202078 - CoNZealandWellington, New Zealand191,584158299.9%2,221221699.85195874,48649.5%

Hugo Voting: Let's Look At The Record for the Retro Hugos

Worldcon             Location[1]
# of
Valid Nominating Ballots
Valid Final Ballots
# of
1996194654 - L.A.con IIILos Angeles13111---605---10
2001195159 - Millennium PhilconPhiladelphia121304836.9%86215718.2%10
2004195462 - Noreascon 4Boston131319673.3%84110
2014193972 - Loncon 3London, UK1623322697.0%1,3071,29599.1%10
2016194174 - MidAmeriCon IIKansas City1648147598.8%86911
2018194376 - Worldcon 76San José1720419294.1%70368897.9%9
2019194477 - Dublin 2019Dublin, Ireland1821721498.6%83482699.0%11
2020194578 - CoNZealandWellington, New Zealand1812011797.5%52151699.0%12

No.Footnote Explanation
[1]Number of categories includes the Hugo Awards, the Astounding Award, the Lodestar/YA Award, and any other special categories or awards announced that year. Discrepancies between total nominating categories and total voting categories are the result of categories with insufficient nominations being dropped from the final ballot.
[2]Chicon 2000 received 1,101 Hugo ballots, of which 475 were electronic ballots and 626 were paper ballots. 30 ballots were invalid, which left 1,071 valid ballots. It is unclear how many of the 30 invalid ballots were paper vs. electronic.
[3]ConJosé received 940 Hugo ballots. There were 697 were electronic ballots, 226 paper ballots, and 17 fax ballots. 16 ballots were invalid, which left 924 valid ballots. It is unclear how many of the 16 invalid ballots were paper vs. electronic vs. fax.
[4]Torcon 3 received 805 Hugo ballots, of which 478 were electronic ballots and 327 were paper ballots. 29 ballots were invalid, which left 776 valid ballots. It is unclear how many of the 29 invalid ballots were paper vs. electronic.
[5]The number of final Hugo ballots for Nippon 2007 is unknown. The quoted figure is the number of Novel ballots / 80%, which is the average percentage of final ballots cast for Novel during that stretch of years.
[6]Site Selection went from 2 years to 3 years in advance
[7]Site Selection went from 3 years to 2 years in advance

Best Fannish Cat

Let us return now to those thrilling days of yesteryear when Australian fans were called upon to vote for the “Best Fannish Cat” in the Ditmar Awards.

The earliest of these two forgotten episodes in SJW credential history occurred in 1991. The nominees were:

1991: Suncon, Brisbane

Best Fannish Cat

  • Apple Blossom, humans: Elaine Cochrane & Bruce Gillespie
  • Constantinople, human: Phil Wlodarczyk
  • Emma Peel, human: Terry Frost
  • Godzilla, humans: Ian Gunn & Karen Pender-Gunn
  • Honey, humans: Gerald [Smith] & Womble
  • Satan, human: Phil Wlodarczyk
  • Truffle, humans: Mark Loney & Michelle Muijsert
  • Typo, human: Roger Weddall

Typo won the award.

“It’s a long story,” recalls Bruce Gillespie. “The person who was Chair of the convention in Brisbane stuffed up many aspects of the convention. She was also part of a non-Melbourne group who believed that every aspect of the Ditmars was a cruel plot by Melbourne fans to keep all the Ditmars for themselves. So she allowed members of the convention to vote for the categories as well as the items in the categories. Irresistible bait to Melbourne fans in general — who ganged up to include Best Fannish Cat in the categories.”

Bruce Gillespie holding his cane toad Ditmars. Photo by Janice Gelb.

Marc Ortlieb says that wasn’t the only mischief fans got up to at Suncon. “That was the year that things got really silly. The NatCon was in Brisbane and, as a joke, Mark Loney created stuffed cane toads to present at the ceremony, with the real Ditmars to be presented at the closing ceremony. The cane toads were presented, but the real Ditmars weren’t ready.” The real ones would be distributed later at a Nova Mob club meeting.

Even though the award was a put-on, “Best Fannish Cat” made such an indelible impression on Australian fanhistory that the category would be revived in a future round of Ditmars.

As Gillespie sees it, “The list of nominees was regarded as so exemplary that the category was repeated (once) in a later set of the Ditmars. Apple Blossom was our nominee in 1991, and Flicker was our nominee in the much later Ditmars. Neither won, but the winners were very popular cats who had been met by many Melbourne fans. The general effect was to confirm the suspicion of Perth fans that Melbourne fans ‘did not take the Ditmars seriously’.”

Roger Weddall, owner of the winning cat, Typo, was elected the DUFF delegate in 1992. Unfortunately, he was diagnosed with lymphoma shortly before leaving for North America, and ended up cutting short his trip after attending Magicon. He died a few months later. Thus it really was with affection that in 1993 someone drafted “A Modest Proposal for the [Swancon 18] Business Meeting” urging the creation of the “Roger Weddall Memorial Ditmar Controversy” and crediting him with some of these shenanigans:

It happens without warning, under no man’s control. None can predict where it will strike or how often. Yes it’s the Ditmar Controversy! It is time to take the guesswork out and have a permanent, official Ditmar Controversy each year and every year. Let us not leave it to chance and ConCom whim to arrange a proper and fitting controversy but instead let us make a firm and binding commitment for now and forever to have

Roger Weddall
Memorial Ditmar

In honour of Fandom’s best Ditmar Controversers, the man who brought you the best Fannish Cat, Cane Toads and other Ditmar atrocities,

Vote Yes!

At the 1993 Natcon Business meeting

However, there are Aussie fans for whom these memories of the ’91 Ditmars are not bathed in a golden glow. A 2005 Swancon XXX progress report solicited nominations for the Tin Duck Award (a genuine, annual award) with the warning – “Please do not invent new categories. (e.g. No Best Fannish Cat. We’ve heard it before, and it wasn’t funny the first time.)”

But with the passage of time nostalgia kicked in. Dudcon 3, the 2010 Australian National Science Fiction Convention revived Best Fannish Cat as a special committee award. The less facetious eligibility rules included requirements that nominees be “natural members of the species Felis Catus,” and be alive and resident in Australia at the time of the nomination.


Thoraiya Dyer unsuccessfully advanced her cat, Aerin, as a candidate by forcing it to be photographed in a Darth Vader costume.

Instead, these cats made the finals:

Tabby Allen

He is a big, lazy, neutered Tom, who just hangs around the house and sleeps on Genevieve’s bed. Sometimes he lays on the couch with us while we watch Doctor Who, but I cannot claim any other great fannish activity.

– James Allen

Felix Blackford

His real breeding name is Mystical Prince Felix, but he answers to Fifi. If fannish credentials other than his owning us are required, I will point out that the last line of the bio that Damien Broderick wrote for my story in the current Cosmos is: “She devotes her life to Mystical Prince Felix, a truly enormous Ragdoll cat.”
– Jenny Blackford

Peri Peri Canavan

Named for being orange with attitude, just like the sauce.
Is a firm believer in First Breakfast, Second Breakfast, Elevensies, Luncheon, Afternoon Tea, Dinner and Supper.
Knows that a library chair is a great place to nap.
Enjoys a good SF TV show/film/book because it means an available lap.
Can time travel, if the time involved is dinner time.
Stomach is larger on the inside than the outside.
– Trudi Canavan

Flicker Gillespie

Origin: derelict building in Collingwood.
Official description: black domestic shorthair.
Fannish credentials: How many fannish cats know their fathers? Flicker is father of Harry and Sampson Gillespie, as well as Miss Smith Endacott and Rascal Taylor. Now that his fathering days have been cut short, Flicker will sit on any visiting fannish lap that stays still for more than a few seconds.
– Elaine Cochrane

Pazuzu Sparks

Named for the Exorcist’s demon,
He meows ’cause he’s endlessly dreamin’
Of food and the flap
Which he knows is a trap
Set up by that bad Nemo”s schemin’

His nemesis one day will pay
But meanwhile he spends all the day
Knowing instead
That fridge, pantry and bed
Are all his, and that that way they’ll stay.

So he’ll crash at a run through the door,
Spread litter all over the floor,
Scrounge every crumb,
Bite my elbow and thumb
then curl up with Foyle and his war.
– Robert Hood

(The verse is by Robert Hood the Australian writer – not our Rev. Bob.)

Voters chose Peri Peri Canavan as the Best Fannish Cat of 2010.

Peri Peri Canacan, the Best Fannish Cat of 2010