Save Uncle Hugo’s – December 2021 Update

A future location where Don Blyly can reopen Uncle Hugo’s and Uncle Edgar’s may have been found he says in his December update, if he can get it at the right price. His two stores were burned by vandals in 2020 while protests were happening elsewhere in Minneapolis. Blyly has since cleared and sold that lot, and is looking to reopen elsewhere assisted by an insurance payment and the Official Help Save Uncle Hugo’s Fund at GoFundMe which has raised $190,880 to date.

Don Blyly

Here are the highlights of Don Blyly’s December 23 “How’s Business?” update.

Last month he found three prospective buildings to consider – one would be satisfactory if he can get it for the right price.

Around the first of November I found 3 new listings that seemed to be worth looking into.  One was another strip center in Richfield which claimed to have 25 off-street parking spaces.  When I got there, I counted 15 off-street parking spaces and no on-street parking spaces for blocks.  The building seemed to be divided into two spaces, both of which had signs in the windows to indicate that they had businesses operating there. The one that had about 2/3 of the space was clearly occupied, while the other side with about 1/3 of the space looked empty.    Any property I buy has to be used at least 51% by the Uncles to avoid really bad tax consequences, so I crossed this option off the list.

The second new option claimed to be in Edina, but was actually in Minneapolis near the border with Edina, but was priced high enough to have been in Edina.  It had four off-street parking places, and parking on-street looked very difficult.  The total retail space would have been a little over half of the old Uncles location.  I crossed this option off the list.

The third new option was in south Minneapolis.    The city election was November 2, with a battle between the abolish the police faction and the fix the police faction.    I waited until I saw that the “abolish” faction had lost before I was willing to look at the third option.    The third option has about the same retail space as the old Uncles location (but as one large space instead of two separate rooms), and about as much basement space as the old Uncles basement and back storage room combined.  It doesn’t have any off-street parking, but lots of on-street parking is available.    The owner of both the building and the business in the building wants to sell the building, wind down his business, and retire.  I’d be able to bring in contractors to do remodeling in the spring and open for business sometime in the summer.  It looked like a great fit. 

The seller knows how to run his business, and I know how to run my business, but neither of us is an expert on real estate transactions.  So, we are both represented by real estate agents.  One of the many functions of the agents is to come up with a “fair” price for the building, and this is done by looking at comparable recent sales.  My agent looked at 12 sales of single-story commercial buildings in the area to find what the average price per square foot of retail space was, and then figured that the basement space was only worth half of what the first floor space was worth per square foot. My agent concluded that the “fair” price for the building was about $250,000 less than the asking price.  The seller’s agent only looked at the 3 highest prices per square foot in the area and ignored the other 9 sales.  Also, a property that includes a building with off-street parking is going to go for more than the same building without off-street parking.  If you look at a sale that includes off-street parking and claim that the entire sales price should be used to calculate the per square foot value of the retail space, that will substantially inflate the value of the retail space.  The real estate agents have been doing a dance with their vastly different numbers, and my agent has been searching for other buildings to go on the market at a price he considers more reasonable.  I’ve offered considerably more than my agent considers a “fair” price, but we still don’t have a deal.  If we reach an agreement on the price, I’ll pass along more information about the location and an estimate on when the Uncles might re-open; but there’s no point in doing that now.

Blyly continues to sell off his personal collection of books, with the money going toward reopening the Uncles.

I’ve been working seven days per week (but fewer hours when real estate matters claim a lot of time) on listing the books in my personal library on Abebooks.com, and I’m now working on the authors with a last name starting with Pa (although I jumped ahead to list Terry Pratchett and Clifford Simak because of multiple requests for those authors, and most of their books were signed)

You can view the Uncles’ Abebooks listing by going here and clicking “View this seller’s items”. You should be aware that none of the images of the books are supplied by me, but rather are stock images from Abebooks which may or may not be accurate. Also, Abebooks wants to sell books, not necessarily just my books, so they make it easy to accidentally go from viewing the Uncles books to viewing books from hundreds of dealers.

He advises customers:

Abebooks takes a commission on both the price of the book and on the shipping charge, so I make more money if you buy directly from me instead of through Abebooks (email me (UncleHugo@aol.com) with what you want to buy and I’ll explain how to go about it). If you only want to buy one book, it costs you the same whether you go through Abebooks or directly through me, but if you want to buy multiple books you will save on shipping by buying directly from me. The money from selling my personal library will go into the pot of money to try to re-open the Uncles.

NESFA 2021-2022 Short Story Competition Taking Entries

The 2021-2022 NESFA Science Fiction & Fantasy Short Story Contest is accepting entries through September 30. The contest “encourages amateur and semi-professional writers to reach the next level of proficiency.” The complete guidelines are here.

Ineligible are writers who have been paid more than $1000 for their writing from any source, and/or have published a novel or multiple shorter works adding up to more than 40,000 words in any paying publication.

A qualifying story must have strong science fiction or fantasy elements and must be shorter than 7,500 words. Stories must be original works of fiction, submitted by their authors. No reprints, fan fiction. or poetry.

There is no entry fee. One entry per author.

The results will be announced during the awards ceremony at Boskone 59, to be held February 18–20, 2022. The winner will receive a certificate of achievement, three NESFA Press books, and a free membership in one of the next two Boskones (their choice). Runners-up will receive a certificate, and two NESFA Press books. Honorable mentions will receive a certificate and one NESFA Press book.

[Thanks to Steven Lee for the story.]

UMass Amherst Evicts Historic 9200 Volume SFF Library Belonging to 3 Student Clubs

Three student clubs are protesting a policy change by the University of Massachusetts Amherst which has evicted their 9,200-volume science fiction library from the permanent space it occupied for almost six decades. The groups have distributed the following press release asking for public support, including signing the “Help save a historic student library” at Change.org.


The UMass Science Fiction Society (UMSFS) library is a historic public lending library, founded in 1964, with over 9,200 items in its collection. However, a new policy by the University of Massachusetts Amherst has taken away the permanent space for the library which has been in existence for nearly six decades. This new policy effectively denies the public access to the second-largest science fiction library in New England. It acts as the location for thousands of books, videos, and board games which are accessible to anyone who wants to get a library card. In addition to the books available for lending, the library serves as a reading room for its patrons, and meeting space for several clubs. The collection was built through generous donations of books from students, alumni, and other community members, and cared for by generations of student volunteers. As of June 23, over 2500 people have signed the petition to preserve this historic student library. 

This new policy comes at an odd time, just after completion of the $62 million Student Union, half of which is paid for by an increase in student fees, with no mention ahead of time about the curtailment of permanent club spaces. It also comes as most students are finally able to return to campus. Under the new policy, clubs are not allowed to have “designated” spaces on campus. Instead, clubs must rent out rooms in advance. While this might work for other clubs, the library has a large collection which requires a more permanent space. 

History. UMSFS is one of the oldest college science fiction clubs in the country and once hosted Isaac Asimov. Countless students have benefited over the years from the chance to explore this deep and varied collection, meet other students with similar interests, deepen their sense of connection with the college, find their niche and safe space. The students treasure this collection, their club, and their connection with its long history.

Notable alumni including Suzanne Palmer, a Hugo Award winner, and Jane Yolen, a prolific and award-winning author, have spoken out about the loss of the UMSFS library. Palmer tweeted “That place was my heart, the first place in my life I felt safe.” Yolen put out a statement on Facebook “I am appalled at such a possible move on the UMass library’s part and devoutly hope they will reconsider it.”

Over 35 other alumni have sent in testimonials as to the value of the UMSFS library. The exploration of science fiction can deepen the joy of reading, help expand imagination, and are part of academic research. The world is changing rapidly and we need people who have a greater vision of possibilities for the future. 

Three Clubs Affected. The library space and collections are shared by UMSFS, the Game Hobbyists’ League, and the Anime and Manga club. The Game Hobbyists’ league has 242 items in its collection. The Anime and Manga Club has 1,026 items. The library is a keystone; it provides a hub for club meetings,  and a space where members of the community can get together and socialize over common interests. All three of the clubs hold weekly meetings during the school year and organize events such as book clubs and film screenings.

Curtailing Access and Endangering the Books. Loss of the space has forced the removal of the books to storage in Bartlett Hall. It would not be feasible to run a lending library from long-term storage. The storage space UMass has provided is not climate-controlled, which could quickly and irreparably damage our books due to heat and humidity. Our library has numerous valuable and rare materials, including first editions, such as Survivor, Octavia Butler’s lost novel, and signed posters from science fiction giants such as Ray Bradbury. This move by the University violates the UMSFS Constitution (which was approved by the University), which states that UMSFS is a lending library. Without a place to lend out the books, they will continue to be confined to storage. UMSFS is a Registered Student Organization with the college, serving students for several generations, but this new policy by UMass Amherst blocks it from achieving its mission. Books and the life of the mind should be respected by an esteemed institution of Higher Education. This student created and run library space is a gem that should be protected by the University instead of replaced by administrative office space.

The move-out is currently in process. The public is asked to assist by:

[Based on a press release. Thanks to Elodie Carel, Rick Kovalcik, and Vivian Spartacus for the story.]

BSFS Shares Outcome of Investigation Into Harassment Complaints

The Baltimore Science Fiction Society has released the results of an outside investigation into four allegations that Balticon 54 committee member and forthcoming Balticon 55 chair Eric Gasior violated the club’s Code of Conduct. (See also “BSFS Opens New Investigation of Harassment Complaints”.)

The investigator, a Maryland attorney who specializes in employment law and also conducts HR training on the avoidance of illegal discrimination and harassment in the workplace, found that two complaints about “conduct in personal relationships” were unsubstantiated, while concluding that two complaints about the treatment of Balticon 54 volunteers was substantiated.

The BSFS Board of Directors has asked Gasior to resign as Chair of Balticon 55. Vice Chair Yakira Heistand will take over as this year’s con chair.

The club’s press release says —


The investigation has been completed into allegations that Eric Gasior violated the Code of Conduct of the Baltimore Science Fiction Society (BSFS”). The investigator found that two complaints about conduct in personal relationships were unsubstantiated. Complaints were substantiated about the treatment of Balticon Tech Department volunteers during preparations for Balticon 54.

The BSFS Board has asked Mr. Gasior to resign as Chair of the upcoming Balticon 55, which also entails no longer serving on the BSFS Board. Ms. Yakira Heistand will move up from Vice Chair and will serve as the Chair of the Con. The Board is taking other steps recommended by an independent investigator to make organizational improvements including providing anti-harassment training for all BSFS leadership, requiring all BSFS volunteers to sign the Code of Conduct, and creating new policies on handling Code of Conduct investigations.

The Baltimore Science Fiction Society (“BSFS”) received complaints against Eric Gasior from four people who claimed that Mr. Gasior had violated the BSFS Code of Conduct and/or engaged in other actions inconsistent with a leadership position within the organization. Mr. Gasior was Vice Chair of BSFS’s Balticon 54 and was elected to serve as Con Chair of Balticon 55. Both positions are part of the Board of Directors.

The BSFS Board is committed to providing a safe and welcoming environment for all attendees and volunteers at BSFS events and Balticon. Any complaints of Code of Conduct violations are taken very seriously. To resolve concerns that the Board did not make an effective response to the complaints against Mr. Gasior, we retained Melissa Menkel McGuire, Esq. of Wright, Constable & Skeen, LLC to conduct an independent, thorough, and fair investigation of the complaints against Mr. Gasior.

The full report is not being released to protect the privacy of the complainants, witnesses, and Mr. Gasior. Further, maintaining confidentiality creates an environment in which people will feel comfortable reporting issues of harassment, discrimination and other violations of the Code of Conduct while protecting the integrity of investigations.

The nature of the complaints and the investigator’s conclusions are as follows:

Complaint #1: Mr. Gasior failed to respect personal boundaries during a friendship with the complainant, who also expressed concern over Mr. Gasior’s leadership role at BSFS.

This complaint was found unsubstantiated.

Complaint # 2: Mr. Gasior failed to respect personal boundaries in a prior personal relationship in 2015 and 2016. The allegations were unrelated to any BSFS event. The complainant’s articulated reason for submitting the complaint to BSFS was due to a concern about Mr. Gasior having a position of power within BSFS.

This complaint was found unsubstantiated.

Complaints #3 and #4: Two people complained that Mr. Gasior engaged in actions that were disruptive to members of the Technical Department during preparations for Balticon 54.

The investigator found that these complaints were substantiated.

The BSFS Board is taking the following actions in response to seven recommendations in Ms. McGuire’s report:

1. The Board has informed the complainants of the results of their individual complaints. A copy of the investigation report will not be provided to any party. The report is subject to attorney-client privilege and the Board is not waiving this privilege on the advice of counsel.

2. The Board will release a public statement addressing the disposition of all complaints without identifying complainants by name. In further respect of the privacy of complainants and witnesses no details beyond the text of this statement will be released.

3. Under the BSFS By-Laws, the Board does not have the power to remove Mr. Gasior as Chair of Balticon 55. He has not agreed our request to voluntarily step aside from that position. Accordingly, his continuance as Con Chair and member of the Board is subject to a review by the BSFS membership at the monthly meeting on April 10, 2021.

4. Effective immediately, all volunteers are required to sign an acknowledgment that they have read the Code of Conduct and will abide by its requirements. Submissions from current volunteers are due not later than May 1, 2021. New volunteers will meet this requirement at the beginning of their service. An online form will be provided in the near future to accomplish this.

5. The Board will develop and adopt a policy and guidance for conducting any future investigations of Code of Conduct violations.

6. An anti-harassment training program for all BSFS and Balticon leadership and critical personnel will be implemented to minimize the potential for Code of Conduct violations at Balticon, BSFS events, or through BSFS controlled communication channels. The program will include a requirement for documenting training completion. A guidance document will be provided to volunteers in other positions. The program will be implemented before the return to in-person Balticons.

7. The Board will explore ways to improve communications within the Balticon Committee and strengthen our ability to treat our volunteers with the respect they deserve.

The Baltimore Science Fictions Society, Inc., a 501(c)(3) all volunteer organization, exists to promote the creation and appreciation of science fiction and fantasy cultural arts primarily through literary art forms, but also embracing the many related graphical, musical, and theatrical creations inspired by SF. The public is welcome to attend a variety of BSFS sponsored events. Please see the calendar on www.bsfs.org/bsfscldr.htm for the current event calendar.


BSFS Taking Entries in Jack L. Chalker Young Writers’ Contest

The Baltimore Science Fiction Society invites young writers between the ages of 14 and 18 who live in or attend school in Maryland to enter the Jack L. Chalker Young Writers’ Contest.

The contest is looking for original, highly imaginative science fiction stories under 2,500 words. Submissions are being taken through March 31. See the complete guidelines here.

The submissions ranked first, second and third receive cash prizes of $150, $100 and $50, respectively. The three winners also receive complimentary registrations for Balticon for themselves and their parents or a guest. They also receive a Balticon T-Shirt.

Chalker, an award-winning sff author who helped to found the BSFS in 1967, also was a history teacher in Baltimore City Schools for 12 years. Chalker was best known for his Well World novel series. He died in 2005, and the writing contest was named in his memory beginning in 2006.

BSFS Opens New Investigation of Harassment Complaints

The Baltimore Science Fiction Society has announced a new investigation of harassment complaints to be conducted by an outside investigator who will be looking into complaints the club addressed in an earlier statement. In the meantime, Balticon 55 chair Eric Gasior has voluntarily stepped aside from the club Board and the Balticon Committee, with Vice Chair Yakira Heistand to serve as the acting con chair.

The club’s press release says —


On the evening of January 4, 2021, the Baltimore Science Fiction Society (BSFS) Board of Directors (the Board) released a statement on the completed investigation of harassment complaints submitted against Mr. Gasior, the Con-Chair of the upcoming Balticon 55 convention.

At the monthly BSFS business meeting of the general membership on January 9, 2021, a BSFS member made a motion to reopen the harassment investigation. During debate on the motion, attendees raised concerns about the thoroughness, completeness, and transparency of the harassment investigation. Additionally, a previously anonymous complainant voluntarily identified herself as a complainant and repeated her complaint. After much discussion, the motion was tabled to be taken up at a closed meeting of the Board to be held the next day, January 10, 2021.

In light of the new information and the concerns the BSFS business meeting raised, the Board decided to engage an impartial, independent, outside investigator to perform a new, thorough, complete, and transparent investigation into the harassment complaints.

Using resources maintained by a locally based association of non-profits, the Board developed and is evaluating a list of investigators holding expertise relevant to performing a harassment investigation. From the list the Board will identify the best investigator available to perform a timely investigation. The Board’s expectation is to engage an investigator within the coming week to start work at the earliest date possible. The Board will provide the investigator with all the evidence the Board collected during the previous investigation. The Board will fully support the investigator’s efforts to gather additional evidence.

In the interest of cooperating with this investigation while Balticon 55 planning proceeds, Mr. Gasior has voluntarily stepped aside from the Board and the Balticon Committee for the duration of the investigation. Mr. Gasior’s status as a Life Member of BSFS remains unchanged. Effective immediately, and for the duration of the investigation, Ms Yakira Heistand, the current Vice Chair of Balticon 55, will serve as the acting Balticon 55 Con-Chair.

Upon completion of the investigation the Board will work with the investigator to publish the investigator’s findings and report. Within the context of the results of the investigation the Board may revisit the question of the Balticon 55 Con-Chair authority. The Board is committed to acting in accordance with the results of the investigation.


BSFS Reports Results of a Code of Conduct Investigation

The Baltimore Science Fiction Society (BSFS) Board of Directors has issued a statement about their investigation into “allegations that Mr. Eric Gasior acted inappropriately and/or violated BSFS’s Code of Conduct.” Gasior was Vice Chair of the Virtual Balticon 54 (2020) and will continue as Chair Balticon 55 (2021) now that the Board has determined his “actions were not behavior prohibited under the Code of Conduct.” However, “they did represent repeated and concerning problems in communication with Balticon volunteers” and the statement lists steps the club has taken to address those problems.

Specifics about the complaints and who made them are not disclosed in the statement.

This statement summarizes the results of the Baltimore Science Fiction Society (BSFS) Board of Directors’ (Board) investigation into allegations that Mr. Eric Gasior acted inappropriately and/or violated BSFS’s Code of Conduct.

The Board has investigated all complaints brought to our attention from Virtual Balticon 54 (VB54) and in October 2020. The complaints arose from two major sources. The first complaints the Board received were caused by communication failures caused by emergency changes to Balticon in response to Covid-19. In attempting to better understand changing plans for the virtual convention, Mr. Gasior disrupted some staff preparations creating confusion and additional stress. The BSFS Board deeply regrets that this was not effectively handled at the time. Other complaints did not arise directly from Balticon or BSFS activities; this information was considered in order to deepen our understanding of the problem and because, as Balticon Chair, Mr. Gasior represents BSFS. Based on all evidence presented, we concluded that Mr. Gasior’s actions were not behavior prohibited under the Code of Conduct;[i] however, they did represent repeated and concerning problems in communication with Balticon volunteers.

The BSFS Board takes all allegations of violations of the Code of Conduct very seriously and will not tolerate inappropriate behavior at any BSFS related event, including Balticon. All members and guests are encouraged to bring such matters to the Board’s attention at any time, without fear of any adverse action being taken against them for doing so.

The Board took a considered and deliberative approach to the investigation. Because the Board takes such allegations seriously, we took the time required to investigate these complaints to be confident we gave all parties a fair opportunity to provide any and all evidence each party wished to share. We regret that this led to the mistaken impression that the Board was not addressing the allegations. We appreciate our volunteers and the work they put into making Balticon happen. The Board apologizes for any stress caused because we did not intervene in these matters prior to VB54 and for any subsequent harm during the period in which we were working to fully investigate, understand, and deliberate on the matters placed before us.                                                            

During our investigation, the Board identified confusion about the role of the Anti-Harassment Working Group[ii] and concern that individuals holding a senior role in the working group, while also holding a major role in investigating alleged violations of the Code of Conduct, might have a conflict of interest[iii]. The investigation also revealed additional information about the number of VB54 volunteers affected by the behavior described in the complaints.

To address the problems identified during the investigation, the Board has taken the following actions:

1. Issued this statement to the BSFS community, including our apology for any impacts on our volunteers and the rest of the BSFS community.

2. Advised Mr. Gasior that the roles of Con Chair and Vice-Chair are not compatible with hands-on involvement in any Balticon department and strongly recommended he work through the department heads.

3. Renamed the Anti-Harassment Working Group to the Anti-Harassment Policy Group to clarify the Group’s purpose. We have accepted Mr. Gasior’s resignation from the Group. He will not be part of the Group while he is serving as Con Chair. This clarifies the separate roles of policy development versus incident investigation and resolution.

4. Recommended that Mr. Gasior work closely with the Balticon Vice-Chair, Ms. Yakira Heistand, and other members of the Board, for assistance in managing Balticon communications. The Board will continue to monitor preparations for Balticon 55 and take additional action if warranted by future events.


[i]  In general, prohibited actions include sexual harassment or misconduct, violence or the threat of violence, other unwelcome physical contact, coercion, stalking, or slurs and derogatory comments and similar behavior. For details on the Code of Conduct, please see https://bsfs.org/policy.htm.

[ii] The Anti-Harassment Working Group members provide advice to the BSFS Board on preventing harassment and drafting the Code of Conduct and related policies. The Group’s members have no role in investigating or resolving alleged violations, and were not part of this investigation or adjudication of these complaints.

[iii] Mr. Gasior was not part of any Board discussions concerning this investigation except for the opportunities provided to submit responses to the complaints.

Agner Wins NESFA 2019-2020 Short Story Contest

The results of the 2019-2020 NESFA® Science Fiction & Fantasy Short Story Contest were announced at Boskone 57 on February 16, 2020.

The contest “encourages amateur and semi-professional writers to reach the next level of proficiency.”

Steve Lee says, “We got submissions from all around the world, including one in Russian (which we sent back for an English translation).”

Winner:

  • “Stick in the Mud” by Mary Alexandra Agner

First Runner-Up:

  • “Hope Chest” by Sarah Day

Honorable Mentions:

  • “Author of the Dreams of an Outer God” by Jonathan Bronico
  • “Deathtree” by Kit Harding
  • “The Gravity of Grace” by Carina Bissett

First readers: James Boggie, Ann Crimmins, David G. Grubbs, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kerpan, Suford Lewis, and Kelsey Pouk.

Final round judges: Elaine Isaak, Tony Lewis, and Kim Stanley Robinson

Florida’s OASIS Convention Goes on Hiatus

Last year Central Florida fan club OASFiS – the Orlando Area Science Fiction Society – held their 30th annual OASIS convention, however, they announced today there won’t be one in 2020.

We’ve been generous with our conventions and our attendees. OASIS 29 & 30 revealed a need for restructuring our future conventions. As a result, we must regretfully announce that there will not be an OASIS convention in 2020.

We’ll provide the latest updates of our progress through Twitter, Facebook and the OASFiS web page.

We will be looking on getting an art grant from the same organizations that help support the Florida Film Festival, Orlando Fringe Festival, and the Enzian Theater.

We are looking into putting in a bid for Deep South Con.

Meanwhile, they appeal to people to join the club:

Each convention, we’ve asked people who love fandom to join OASFiS and help us build future conventions and events. In this critical time, we need you more than ever. It might be fun to watch fan activities from an audience seat, but it’s more fulfilling to make them happen and bring your own ideas to the world.

BSFS Receives Permit to Build ADA Ramp at its Headquarters

By Dale Arnold: The Baltimore Science Fiction Society has received a permit to construct an ADA compliant ramp outside its headquarters after a two year process which was delayed by both lost government records (improper hand recopying of data still held on physical index cards) at the Baltimore Zoning and Planning Department Office and not one but two ransomware attacks at that department which brought their computer systems down to the point where they had to rebuild the entire system… After explaining that even though the zoning code did not have a category for science fiction society or literary society, that the Baltimore Science Fiction Society was not like a union hall or a dance club or other things that the zoning folks believed might be similar…  

BSFS is happy to announce we finally received the permit. This ramp will finally allow people using wheelchairs to enter the front of the Baltimore Science Fiction Society Building and not use the steep scary freight ramp at the back of the building.  

The final ramp design is more complex than we had originally hoped adding to some of the approval delays and boosting up the price due to the slope of the property, placement of doors on the building, and location of gas and plumbing lines.  Engineering drawings and fund raising for this project began in 2013 and it has been a long haul, but we now have the funds, permit, and contractors lined up to perform construction in March 2020. (when the weather breaks as concrete sets poorly in the cold)  

All of the surplus funds raised at Balticon 50 where George R. R. Martin was guest of honor, as well as many thousands of dollars raised from fandom at other events will go to cover the total cost of over $30,000.00 for the project.  BSFS thanks everyone in fandom that contributed for their faith and generosity toward this project.