Mike Resnick’s Galaxy’s Edge Editorial

By Mike Resnick: Thanks to all the stink raised by both sides at Worldcon, I have an editorial, “The End of Worldcon as We Know It”, in the just published issue of Galaxy’s Edge. It’s accessable online for free…and if you’d like to run it in File 770, you have my blessing.

The End of Worldcon As We Know It

The recent brouhaha (a much better word than kerfluffle) over the Hugo ballot has caused a number of people, online and elsewhere, to proclaim that this is The End of Worldcon, at least the End of Worldcon As We Know It.

So it’s probably time for a little history lesson, because you know what will actually cause The End of Worldcon As We Know It?

Peace, camaraderie, and tranquility.

You think not?

Do you know what Fredrik Pohl, Donald A. Wollheim, Cyril M. Kornbluth, and Robert A. W. Lowndes have in common? I mean, besides their positions as giants in the annals of science fiction, with Wollheim and Pohl being Worldcon Guests of Honor, Kornbluth being still in print six decades after his premature death, and Lowndes editing for close to half a century?

They were all stopped at the door and not allowed to attend the very first Worldcon back in 1939.

No kidding. It was clearly going to be the End of Worldcon before it was even born.

It’s all written up in The Immortal Storm: A History of Science Fiction Fandom in the 1930s, by Sam Moskowitz, the guy who turned them away. (It seems they wouldn’t sign a pledge to behave and to not distribute Futurian John Michel’s Communist diatribe at the convention. Of course, while these four and Michel were being refused entry, Dave Kyle quietly brought a bundle of copies of Michel’s tract, Mutation or Death, into the con.)

It has become known in the field’s history books as The Exclusion Act. Well, in those histories written before 1956…after which it is known as the First Exclusion Act.

Move the clock ahead and stop it in 1964, the year of the Breendoggle.

You don’t know about the Breendoggle?

It seems that the Pacificon committee decided to bar the spouse of a major writer from attending, and this caused quite an uproar, to the point where literally half of fandom was threatening to boycott the convention if he came, and the other half threatened to boycott it if he was not permitted to attend. It was certainly going to be the End of Worldcon As We Know It.

At the last minute, the spouse elected not to attend, and the Worldcon went off as scheduled. So who was the spouse, I hear you ask? Walter Breen, the husband of Marion Zimmer Bradley. And why didn’t the committee want him to attend? If I tell you that he’d been arrested for pederasty in 1954, and died in jail in 1990 while serving time for child molesting, I think you’ll be able to intuit it.

Clifford D. Simak was not only a fine writer, but probably the most decent and gentle man ever to appear in this field. He was the Guest of Honor at the 1971 Worldcon, during the height of the truly acrimonious Old Wave/New Wave War. He spent most of his Guest of Honor speech talking not about himself, or his writing, or even science fiction, but rather attempting to make peace between the warring sides. Alas, he was too rational and made too much sense; the war continued unabated.

But (I hear you say) this End of Worldcon As We Know It is being caused by Hugo balloting, not all that other stuff that delights fannish historians every few years. Surely there’s never been a problem with voting before!

OK, guys—come back from Barsoom and Mesklin and Hyborea, and spend a little time in the real world again.

Not that long ago, in 1989, the Hugo Committee received a number of ballots for a certain up-and-coming artist. Problem was, most of the voters’ memberships were paid for with consecutively-numbered money orders from the same post office. The committee decided not to allow his name on the ballot, though he had enough paid-for votes. (I am told that some people are publicly buying and giving away a number of memberships to this year’s Worldcon. I have no idea what the Hugo committee plans to do about it.)

Of course, that’s far from the only “irregularity.” Remember a couple of years ago, in 2013, when there were only three short stories on the ballot? The reason for that is embedded in the Hugo rules: to make the ballot, a nominee in any category must receive at least 5% of the ballots cast.

Now remember back to 1994. Not the same situation, you say? You just looked, and there were five short stories nominated.

Well, you’re almost right. Only three short stories received 5% of the nominations. So the Hugo Administrator, in his infinite wisdom, added two novelettes to the ballot to fill it out—and sure enough, a novelette won the 1994 Hugo for Best Short Story.

Ah, but this year will be different, I hear you say. This year we’ll be voting No Award in a bunch of categories, and history will thank us.

Well, it just so happens that No Award has triumphed before. In fact, it has won Best Dramatic Presentation three different times. (Bet you didn’t know that Rod Serling’s classic “Twilight Zone” series lost to No Award, did you?)

But the most interesting and humiliating No Award came in 1959. The category was Best New Writer, and one of the losers was future Worldcon Guest of Honor and Nebula Grand Master Brian Aldiss, who actually won a Hugo in 1962, just three years later. That No Award was so embarrassing that they discontinued the category until they could find a sponsor eight years later, which is how the Campbell Award, sponsored by Analog, came into being.

Please note that I’ve limited myself to Worldcons. I haven’t mentioned the X Document or the Lem Affair or any of the other notable wars you can find in various pro and fannish histories (or probably even by just googling them). This editorial is only concerned with The End of Worldcon As We Know It.

And hopefully by now the answer should be apparent. You want to End Worldcon As We Know It? Don’t feud. Don’t boycott. Don’t be unpleasant. Don’t be unreasonable. Don’t raise your voices in mindless anger.

Do all that and none of us will recognize the Worldcon that emerges.

25 thoughts on “Mike Resnick’s Galaxy’s Edge Editorial

  1. Heh. I just want to say that I’ve found Fancyclopedia to be quite helpful in catching up with some of the references you old timers throw around, and some of the stuff makes for *insane* reading. I particularly like the prior kerfuffle (hey, I like the word) involving what was known as the Cosmic Circle – look it up on Fancyclopedia, it makes for really an amusing read!

  2. In loosely this semantic space, may I commend charivari to your collective attention?

  3. I suppose I should not be rolling my eyes at the damn “buying and giving away memberships! What will the committee do!” nonsense again, but I am. My eyes hurt.

  4. I like “kerfuffle.” It’s a word like “squabble” — it suggests a disagreement that’s more noise than substance, and is thus inherently diminishing of what the Puppies see as a grand culture war but is really a selfish, whiny demand for all the toys.

    In a kerfuffle, when it’s over there’ll be a mess on the floor that needs to be swept up, but no real structural damage.

    “Brouhaha” is another fine word, but it’s more dramatic than “kerfuffle.” Not wildly dramatic, but a brouhaha is sweeping and chaotic where a kerfuffle doesn’t involve much more than jostling and voices raised in aggrievement.

    The Puppies aspire to crisis, war, revolution, something transformative. They don’t deserve more than kerfuffle — a mess that may involve wiping down the linoleum but not replacing any of it.

  5. Gabriel F.: I suppose I should not be rolling my eyes at the damn “buying and giving away memberships! What will the committee do!” nonsense again, but I am. My eyes hurt.

    Con or Bust was helping fans of color attend conventions long before the Puppies reared their spoiled tantrumy heads.

    Of course, that’s not going to stop the Puppies from claiming that it’s all just part of the Sekrit SJW Kabal Konspiracy.

  6. OK here is a truly pressing issue: kerfuffle or kerfluffle? I keep seeing both interchangeably. I prefer the former, though “fluff” in the middle of the latter does add resonance with the whole puppy thing…

  7. May I suggest “stramash”? Like “kerfuffle,” it comes from the Scottish and has the advantage of looking like starmash which would be a fine title for a series of MilSF books.

  8. Mike, thank you extremely much for informing those recently (and not so recently) involved in fandom about the “immortal storms” that have swept through fandom in the past. I rented one of the rooms at George Scither’s house in West Philadelphia between 1970 and 1975 and I can tell you that he, who was influential in fandom at that time, was still angry about how the Breendoggle was mishandled. He had heard reports about one child who had complained about Breen’s behavior and had been ignored by the adults around them. George (who was a West Pointer, Class of 1950, I believe) was one of those who thought the parents should have called the cops about Breen after the first report, as most parents would do today, and that Breen should have been barred from cons immediately,

  9. Cmm: kerfuffle, and for bonus canine points it is derived from the Scots curfuffle.

    Jack Lint: as I mentioned on the other thread, seems like more of a donnybrook.

  10. I’ve posted this before, but it’s “kerfuffle” which is of Canadian origin. It is from the Scottish “curfuffle” (or “carfuffle,” but I like “curfuffle” here because it has “cur” in it which is appropriate for our puppy discussions.) “Fuffle” means to throw into disorder.

    While I’ve always liked “donnybrook,” it does seem to play on the stereotype of the Irish being an unruly people. I’ve felt that those in County Dublin were entitled to refer to an unholy mess as a “United States Congress” or a “spring break.”

  11. Jack Lint: now you made me curious about how “donnybrook” arose. There was apparently a tall tale about a raucous altercation that allegedly once took place at the fair. Then:

    while Donnybrook fair lasted it was the resort of all manner of men. Peers, horse-jockeys, aldermen, sheriffs, pickpockets, showmen, peasants, strolling players, Dublin jackeens, barristers, thieves, Orangemen and liberators, says our friend already referred to, all mingled in a universal saturnalia, all confounded in a mazy labyrinth of headlong jollity, without distinction of rank, fortune, or avocation. Rows of tents of every shape and description, disposed in streets, afforded accommodation to the endless succession of visitors; and during the day-time, the unaffected genuine fun of the scene would betray a puritan into laughter; but as night approached, the lovers of quiet and eschewers of broken heads gradually retired; the strains of the emulous fiddlers and pipers grew fast and furious; the tents were lighted up; dancing, drinking, and fighting commenced their joint and riotous reign, and then began a scene of uproarious merriment, to which the polyglott revelry of the workmen of Babel, if we could imagine them drunk with Irish whiskey, would be a sleepy and tranquil harmony.

  12. Kurt Busiek on July 3, 2015 at 11:56 pm said:

    I like “kerfuffle.” It’s a word like “squabble” — it suggests a disagreement that’s more noise than substance [..] “Brouhaha” is another fine word, but it’s more dramatic than “kerfuffle.”

    I tend to see a “kerfuffle” as something that takes place largely in the abstract (online or in print) and “squabble” as the equivalent of a kerfuffle, but in real life. I agree with you that “brouhaha” is more dramatic — when you get to brouhaha, there might be chairs overturned.

    Oh, and, I think “kerfluffle” is a misspelling for “kerfuffle,” probably because of kerning.

  13. McJulie on July 4, 2015 at 8:23 am said:

    I think “kerfluffle” is a misspelling for “kerfuffle,” probably because of kerning.

    Possibly also because of confusion with the English word “fluff”.

  14. US sportscasters have taken to using “scrum” to describe any sort of unorganized clash, but really I think they are misguided because a rugby scrum starts out and often remains quite organized compared to say an American football play. (Waiting for them to discover the maul and the ruck.) If there were an opposing side to the puppies, then scrum might be appropriate as the two sides push at each other.

    Brouhaha is supposedly from medieval theatre and described “the cry of the devil disguised as clergy.” This might take on a different meaning considering some of the dramatic personæ involved here.

  15. Jack Lint on July 4, 2015 at 8:58 am said:
    Brouhaha is supposedly from medieval theatre and described “the cry of the devil disguised as clergy.”

    Are you saying that “brouhaha” is medieval for “bwah-ha-ha”?

  16. Are you saying that “brouhaha” is medieval for “bwah-ha-ha”?

    Works for me. Though I’m now curious as how far back bwahaha/mwahaha/muhaha goes.

    Oddly, the word origins for brouhaha is often given as the corruption of barúkh habá. (Welcome in Hebrew.)

    Another word we could use would be “hubbub.” Originally “whobub” for confused noise. Has the Bugs Bunny, “what’s the hubbub, bub?” going for it. It also leads us to “rhubarb” which can be used for a hubbub supposedly because a crowd of actors would repeat “rhubarb” when there was a hubbub going on during a scene.

  17. Resnick’s description of the 1989 incident differs a bit from what I remember. As I recall, the prospective nominee was presented with the evidence of the bulk-purchased memberships, and somewhat-graciously declined the nomination, relieving the Hugo administrator of the necessity of making the difficult decision. I also have a vague recollection of being told that the administrators contacted one or more of the people whose names were on the memberships and nomination forms, and having those people express surprise because they weren’t aware that they had joined the convention or nominated for the Hugos.

  18. The issue is what works with “puppy”.
    “Puppy kefuffle” has a pleasant rythym that none of the others have.

    As far as names go I’d vote no award before “puppygate”

  19. The issue is what works with “puppy”

    Puppy clash? Like a kaffeeklatsch, but with puppies!

  20. Camestros Felapton on July 4, 2015 at 10:21 pm said:

    The issue is what works with “puppy”.
    “Puppy kefuffle” has a pleasant rythym that none of the others have.

    As far as names go I’d vote no award before “puppygate”

    I agree with the assessment of rhythm.

    I also feel that “Puppy kerfuffle” gives the situation the level of dignity it deserves.

    (I am weary of the repeated attempts to … I’m not sure which, either slap “-gate” onto the end of any damned thing in an attempt to come up with some scandal as awful as Watergate except not perpetrated by Conservatives, or an attempt to dilute the suffix so much that people will forget how awful Watergate actually was.)

  21. Was there a go to scandal before Watergate? Somehow Puppy Tea Pot Dome doesn’t work as well. (But Tea Cup Puppy Dome has a ring to it.)

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