Chengdu Worldcon Presentation at Smofcon 38

It’s been over a year since the Chengdu Worldcon won the 2023 site selection contest and voters have never heard from the committee. In contrast, Glasgow 2024 emailed members less than three weeks after winning at Chicon 8.

WHERE IS PR#1? Early in December at Smofcon 38, Chengdu Worldcon co-chair Ben Yalow finished his presentation by saying, “Those of you who have worked me with me through many, many decades are aware of the fact that I am of the sort of person who believes that the purpose of silver linings is to bring dark clouds with them.” That sentiment perfectly suits the leadership of a committee that embodies Zeno’s Paradox. Yalow said in September at Chicon 8 that a draft of PR#1 would be ready “within another few days” but at Smofcon, he said that members haven’t gotten PR#1 yet because Chengdu “has not completely finalized hotel arrangements,” nor will they receive it “until everything is locked in to the satisfaction of people who get very nervous.”

Whether the convention will have enough money is evidently the source of that anxiety. Yalow said at Smofcon, “People may or may not realize membership income is a trivial part of this Worldcon, unlike every other Worldcon in the past several decades, we are totally dependent on sponsorships and we are working with various corporate and governmental entities to get sponsorships locked down. Until we get the amount of those dollars and a lot of amounts locked down plans are still very very very much up in the air” and Yalow said securing these sponsorships has been “a significant source of delay.”

2025 SITE SELECTION AND 2023 HUGO VOTING. Questioned about Chengdu’s readiness to run site selection for 2025, Yalow used the committee’s failure to issue PR#1 to justify vague answers about their preparation to carry out basic functions in two major areas. Yalow said, “Until we can get PR1 out we are reluctant to put other specific schedules in. However, we recognize that there are some deadlines that are locked in from either the Constitution or the necessary administration of things. We know that the filing deadline for site selection is 180 days before the Worldcon. There is no choice on hitting that deadline.”

As for the Hugos, Yalow said: “…In order to make the Hugos work we really need to open things over the next couple of months. You do not have a hard deadline there but since, as people are aware, a number of us have been involved in Hugo Administration in the past — specifically Dave [McCarty] has done it several times, I’ve been on the subcommittee several times — we know what the Hugo schedule has to look like. So those are things that are driving. Yet on the other hand we are not going to wait for a progress report to get those kinds of questions and mailings done.”

McCarty, who was sitting next to Yalow during Chengdu’s presentation, added: “Our goal is to have online nominations open by the end of January. The tentative schedule for nomination is January for as much as we have an open February and all of March for nomination, and locked in dates for other things behind.

“Probably the web will come online before PR2 with a paper nominating ballot comes out. The paper nominating ballot will come out in sufficient time to get things in for the end of March.”

Later on, McCarty said members could expect the committee to send them an email with Hugo voting information: “Regarding Hugo voting… there should be an email blast going out to people with all the information about nominating and your information about logging into the website. That should go out slightly before the website opens up for people to nominate, so that should be sometime in mid-January. There’s likely to be an email from Chicon 8 about stuff to remind folks about the upcoming Chengdu [Worldcon] and participating as well. This happens I believe slightly even before that, so there’s a couple of different blasts that we’ll be sending out [about] nominating information to people coming up in the next six weeks or so.”

BUSINESS MEETING. The Smofcon audience, trying to digest what had been said, wondered if Chengdu was prepared to carry out another constitutional requirement, asking “Do you have any contingency plans for the situations where you cannot secure sponsorships or have your convention or do anything else like hold the business meeting?”

Yalow answered, “It takes 12 people to hold a business meeting. Holding a business meeting is not an issue. We will comply with all of the requirements in the constitution. That’s easy to do. That doesn’t require a lot of sponsorship.”


One of the tribal divisions among conrunners is between those who prioritize the convenience of the committee and those who prioritize serving the members (which is not just more work but involves sharing more information publicly and addressing criticism in a productive way). The 2023 site selection voters want to be acknowledged as part of a Worldcon community. Too bad that has not been convenient for the Chengdu Worldcon committee which has chosen to spend a year perfecting their first “progress” report instead of doing a simple act of community-building by contacting its members.

Video of the 2023 Worldcon (Chengdu) Presentation at SMOFCon 38 on December 3 is available at the link. There are also videos of the other presentations online, including the one from Glasgow 2024.

Chengdu Worldcon Update

What has developed since Chengdu Worldcon co-chair Ben Yalow, at a Chicon 8 Q&A session, set expectations about when the convention’s new website would launch, its first progress report would appear, and when 2023 site selection voters who now are members would hear from the committee?

As a necessary first step they have set up a nonprofit corporation in the U.S.. See the articles of incorporation for the Development Center for Chengdu Worldcon, available from Wyoming state public records.

Creating the corporation is expected to pave the way for the 2023 Worldcon to open accounts in the U.S. where they can hold their money and do credit card transactions. Asked about progress since his Chicon 8 statement, Ben Yalow said in a November 18 email, “Under construction. We’re working on opening the necessary bank accounts.”

Asked whether DisCon III is still holding $180,253.50 of site selection fees in escrow for the winner, Yalow indicated, “See above comments about bank accounts.  Once they’re open, DC3 will send the money.”

The Chengdu Worldcon decided not to delay launching their new website until the registration functions could be turned on, and it went online the first week in September. People can now subscribe there to receive news notifications. 

The committee has granted full attending memberships with all WSFS rights to those who purchased an advance supporting membership in Chengdu (voting token at DisCon III), or actually voted in 2023 site selection. Although voters have not yet been contacted by the committee, at the beginning of November the Chengdu Worldcon introduced a capability to their website that lets them log in with the same email address they used to vote for 2023 site selection and check the rights they already have. Here is an example of what you see:

People using the website are advised that the credit card capability is not yet available.

The new website’s front page has a field labeled “Guests of Honor,” however, no information about them appears on it, even their names. Asked why, Yalow’s explanation was, “It’s still under development.  And we decided it was more important to get something out while still working on the basic content.”

In December it will be a year since the site selection vote and members have yet to be contacted by the Chengdu Worldcon. Asked when that can be expected to happen, Yalow said, “Probably relatively soon.  We’ve got a draft of PR1, which will go to the membership.”

What Did We Learn About the Chengdu Worldcon During Chicon 8?

Chengdu Worldcon co-chair Ben Yalow provided some updated information in response to questions posed during the Future Worldcons panel on September 2. With him on the platform were the Vice-Chair, and the Chair of the Chengdu Science Fiction Society (the business entity behind the convention). Yalow fielded most of the questions.  

COVID. Asked “Will we we need to quarantine two weeks to enter China,” Yalow noted that Chengdu had recently gone back into lockdown, and prior to that there had been periods when a 14-day quarantine was in effect, but ultimately he could only say, “Tell me what the pandemic is going to be a year from now and I will tell you what the quarantine situation will be.”

CHENGDU WORLDCON FINANCIAL ISSUES. Several basic questions people have tried to ask on the Chengdu Worldcon Facebook page in recent months – “Why haven’t I heard from the committee since you won?”, “Why isn’t there more information on the website”, “When can I buy a new membership?” – at first seem to be about different topics, however, the answers all come back to the committee’s trouble in figuring out how to open accounts in the U.S. where they can hold their money and do credit card transactions. That is affecting how memberships are being handled, delaying the installation of a new website, and keeping new people from joining.

When Chengdu won the 2023 site selection vote last December, it was reported that 2,915 valid votes were cast, and a further 917 tokens were sold for which no matching ballots were received. According to DisCon III, they are still holding $180,253.50 of site selection fees in escrow for the winner. 

However, the Chengdu Worldcon committee’s financial report to the Chicon 8 Business Meeting showed they are only counting 1,305 domestic (Chinese) memberships. An accounting footnote says: “Until the voting fees are transferred, we are not showing those memberships in the totals. However, everyone who purchased an advance supporting membership in Chengdu (voting token at DisCon III), or who voted at DisCon III, is already a full attending member, with all WSFS rights of Chengdu Worldcon 2023.”

At the Future Worldcons panel Yalow said they have been trying to find workarounds for the restrictions on sending money to China. He did not explain what those restrictions are. Right now the funds are in an account held by a US tax-exempt entity, the corporation that ran DisCon III. And the plan is for the money to be transferred to a new Wyoming (U.S.) corporation.  

Yalow told the audience, “We have finished setting up the corporation. We received our certificate of incorporation about a week ago.” They now have to pass corporate resolutions, open corporate bank accounts, and apply to credit card companies to take credit card purchases of memberships. “We believe this process should take a few more weeks.”

An entirely new website is being developed to handle the transactions. He said the beta version is ready.

“Until we are able to deal with the credit card situation we can’t turn on those functions in the website. We don’t know for sure, but probably within the next few weeks.”

He also said they have found a way to pair with WeChat, which works in China but most people “here” don’t have it.

PROGRESS REPORTS. Yalow said there was a draft of Progress Report #1 being worked on that he thought would be ready “within another few days.” All of their Progress Reports will be published electronically.

VENUE. Asked about the cost of hotel rooms at the Chengdu Worldcon’s venue, Yalow said they would cost “a few hundred dollars at the headquarters hotel.” There are cheaper places around the city, and the convention location is on the mass transit system (and much of the signage there is bilingual).

VIRTUAL WORLDCON. Yalow said there will be fully virtual memberships. They have not yet taken a platform and until they have one in place they won’t know how different or similar the experience will be (presumably a comparison to what it has been in past virtual Worldcon presentations). Yalow said there are “substantial limits on what technology will and won’t allow, but we will do our best to work around those.”

SERGEY LUKIANENKO. Someone asked will they retain Sergey Lukianenko as a guest of honor. “Yes,” was Yalow’s one-word answer.

The question was probably asked with awareness of the resolution before the Business Meeting condemning “Sergey Lukianenko’s appalling utterances, calling Ukrainians Nazis and encouraging an illegal invasion of Ukraine.” The day following the Future Worldcons panel, the WSFS Business Meeting voted to adopt the resolution.

Update 09/06/2022: The new Chengdu Worldcon website launched today. See “New Chengdu Worldcon Website Is Up”.

Chengdu Worldcon Committee Names Yalow as Co-Chair; Adds Overseas Staffers

The 2023 Chengdu Worldcon committee tweeted April 24 that it has named Ben Yalow one of three co-chairs of the convention. They have also appointed Dave McCarty, Donald Eastlake III, Randall Shepherd as Vice-Chairs.

 In addition, Bill Lawhorn has become a co-division-head.

A number of other overseas fans – Colette Fozard, Nicholas Whyte, Tammy Coxen, Pablo Vazquez, and Dave McCarty – were previously announced as part of the committee in a handout distributed at the DisCon III business meeting.

Here is the committee’s latest organization chart:

CO-CHAIRS

Ben Yalow, Hongwei He, Chen Shi

HONORARY CO-CHAIR

Haijun Yao, Xiaolan Liang

VICE CHAIR

Tong Xia, Yating Wang, Yao Chen, He Huang, Feng Yang, Zhenyu Jiang, Yue Sun, Zi La, Dave McCarty, Donald Eastlake, Randall Shepherd

ADVISER

Colette Fozard, Nicholas Whyte

INTEGRATED PLANNING AND COORDINATION DIVISION

Division Head: Yating Wang, Bill Lawhorn

ARTISTIC DESIGN DIVISION

Division Head: Yue Sun

MARKETING DEVELOPMENT AND BRAND BUILDING DIVISION

Division Head: Yuxi Tan

PUBLIC RELATIONSHIP DIVISION

Division Head: Tong Xia

MEMBER SERVICES DIVISION

Division Head: Yao Chen

TRANSLATION SERVICES WORKING DIVISION

Division Head: Shuang Liang

HUGO AWARD SELECTION EXECUTIVE DIVISION

Division Head: Zhengyu Jiang, Dave McCarty

BUSINESS MEETING EXECUTIVE DIVISION

Division Head: Xue Yao

2025 CONVENTION SITE SELECTION IMPLEMENTATION DIVISION

Division Head: Chi Yao

EVENT OPERATIONS DIVISION

Division Head: Liu Yang

PUBLICITY DIVISION

Division Head: He Huang

NORTH AMERICA, EAST ASIA, EUROPE AGENT

Division Head: Feng Yang

CONVENTION SERVICE DIVISION

Division Head: TBA

Many of the overseas committee members were part of the international array of visiting writers and Worldcon runners who attended the 5th China (Chengdu) International Science Fiction Conference in 2019, including then-DisCon III co-chairs Colette Fozard and William Lawhorn, then-Chicago bid co-chair Dave McCarty, plus Ben Yalow, and Pablo M.A Vazquez who was there as a winner of the Shimmer Program’s Two-Way Exchange Fund.

Below is the handout distributed in December.

[Thanks to Michael J. Walsh for the story.]

Barkley: DisCon III, the Fifth Day

To Be Fair, I Was Left Unsupervised: A Disjointed Chronicle of 79th World Science Fiction Convention, Discon III – Day Five

By Chris M. Barkley:

DAY FIVE: THE LAST DAY

Sunday, the very last day of Discon III, was a VERY busy day.

Juli and I had finished packing the night before.

I was also up early (again) because I had a 10am panel; “Inspired Or Copied, The Ethics of Art”, featuring artists agent Jane Frank, attorney at law Harold Feld, and authors Keith DeCandido, J.T. Greathouse and myself. As I looked in the program book, I did not see anyone listed as a moderator. Which made me wonder why I was on this panel to begin with. Oh well, I thought…  

But first, there were two other issues on my plate that morning. As I got dressed, Juli informed me that I maybe in hot water with our friend, author Jonathan Brazee. Apparently, I misstated his rank in the United States Marine Corps as “Lt. Colonel” instead of his actual rank upon retirement as full Colonel. 

If you think the distinction is rather minor, think again. Consider this; my brain fart is the equivalent of mistaking the rock band Nickelback for The Beatles. I have several friends and relatives who have served in the armed services and nothing upsets them more than civilians like myself getting aspects of their lives dead wrong. So, I got dressed, dreading the prospect of running into the Colonel.

The other thing that caught my attention was a Facebook post by Adam-Troy Castro. In it, Mr. Castro totally eviscerates Jon Del Arroz, a internet provocateur (troll) mostly known for his incredibly egotistical boasts of writing talent and notorious passive-aggressive attacks on progressive writers, women, the LGBTQ community and practically anyone else who casts doubts his on his “greatness”.

Needless to say, I picked up Mr. Castro’s post and spread it all over Facebook (including the DisCon III page) and on my Twitter page with the caption (gleefully borrowed from Game of Thrones): “He who SHOUTS that he is a King, is no king.”  

THAT, dear readers, felt very, VERY satisfying.

On my way to my panel, I decided to grab a quick bite of something in the DisCon III Green Room (located just off to the side of the hotel’s main restaurant) to tide me over until I could eat a fuller breakfast. And guess who was there, having coffee with a friend —

As I started to apologize profusely, he laughed and said that he actually got a kick out of being one of the “luminaries” spotted at the bottom of the first column of this series of DisCon III reports. Totally relieved that I would not be set upon by angry veterans or service members of the armed forces, I grabbed a cup of tea and made my way to my panel. (Subsequently, Col. Brazee contacted me via text and said that no further public apology was necessary but I must disagree. When a mistake of that magnitude is made by a reporter, a correction is not only called for, it’s mandatory as far as I’m concerned.)

As I passed through the lobby, I stopped by the Information Desk for the last newsletter and the traditional hoax parody as well. I also saw that there were several dozen silver colored, Flash Gordon shaped foam rockets on the next table over. Curious, I went over and examined one and saw the red and black label, which is how I found out that the defense contractor Raytheon was an official sponsor of DisCon III. (WHAT? I should have been paying more attention during the con! In my defense, I was unsupervised…)

Thinking that these would make a nice trinket for my four grandchildren, I grabbed several of them. As I passed by Ellen Datlow, who was seated in the East Promenade eating from the grab and go buffet, I gifted her with one as well. She was very appreciative since this rocket was MUCH lighter than the Short Form Editing Hugo Award she had won yesterday evening.

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

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Barkley: DisCon III,
The Fourth Day

To Be Fair, I Was Left Unsupervised: A Disjointed Chronicle of 79th World Science Fiction Convention, DisCon III – December 19-20, 2021

By Chris M. Barkley:

DAY FOUR

(Author’s Note: As of this writing, I misplaced all of my notes for Day Four. The things I write about here may be a bit truncated, so please bear with me with this day’s events…)

I woke up relatively early (for a Worldcon), at around 8:45 a.m. Dapperly dressed in my Chelsea FC pajamas and socks, I decide to go down to the Information Desk for the latest Dis N’ Dat newsletter for the latest news and Programming changes.

Just as I exited the elevator, I encountered Laurie Mann and Dave McCarty in deep conversation. Mr. McCarty told me that he was on his way to the Site Selection Meeting and was particularly vexed because the contest between the Chengdu and Winnipeg bids was, as of this morning, in doubt.

 This was a little peculiar because under normal circumstances, the identity of the winning bid would have been leaked the previous evening by unknown sources and would have been circulating among the parties last night.   

But as I inferred from my earlier conversation with Ms. Mann and Mr. McCarty, this did not happen. By now, most of you may know that the statement from Kevin Standlee a few days earlier cast the election in doubt due to what was perceived by some as an infraction of the rules regarding the lack of valid addresses by those voting for the Chengdu bid. 

To my understanding of the matter, a majority of  the Chengdu voters used as email address because that is how they interpreted the use of that term in China 

Mr. McCarty, who is associated with the Chengdu bid, had no idea whether or not the disputed ballots would be allowed or not this morning.

Quickly realizing that either history, a controversy, or both was about to occur, I bolted to my room, got properly dressed, grabbed a tea and a protein bar and raced down to the Palladian Ballroom for the reveal.

The Site Selection Meeting had been scheduled for 9:30 a.m. but that passed by as the room slowly filled with interested parties.

[The rest of Chris’ report follows the jump.]

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DisCon III Business Meeting Keeps Lodestar, Best Series; Passes Controversial Resolution About Site Selection

The DisCon III business meeting today voted to retain the Lodestar Award and Best Series Hugo category. Both were up for a re-ratification vote before being permanently added to the WSFS Constitution.

The Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book passed by an “easy majority”.  

The Best Series Hugo category passed in a close vote.

 The meeting also passed a controversial resolution advising the Site Selection administrator that he reclassify as “No Preference” votes those ballots lacking any of four pieces of information specified in the motion.

The motion was signed by two leaders of the Winnipeg in 2023 bid, bid chair Terry Fong, and vice-chair Jannie Shea.

Short Title: Required Site Selection Information

Resolved, That it is the sense of the WSFS Business Meeting that any Site Selection ballot that does not contain a Membership Number, Name, Signature, and Address that meets the country of origin’s requirements should be counted as “No Preference.”

When it came to the floor, however, Site Selection administrator Tim Szczesuil said he was requesting the meeting’s guidance. He pointed to the relevant part of the WSFS Constitution, rule 4.4.1, and said it was “somewhat ambiguous with respect to what is required of the voter.” The rule reads —

4.4.1: Site-selection ballots shall include name, signature, address, and membership-number spaces to be filled in by the voter. Each site-selection ballot shall list the options “None of the Above” and “No Preference” and provide for write-in votes, after the bidders and with equal prominence. The supporting membership rate shall be listed on all site-selection ballots.

“The way it, to me, it could be read either as the ballot is required to have four items – I think it’s the name, the address, the signature, and the member number. Or it could be that the member has to include that information on the ballot.”

Potentially, the resolution can lead to ballots lacking any of the four items not having their preference for Chengdu or Winnipeg counted toward determining the winner.

Ben Yalow spoke against the resolution, saying he considered the rule “incredibly clear” that it was about the spaces for certain information which must be on the ballot, not what the voter must fill in.

The business meeting chair Don Eastlake turned over the meeting to another officer so he could go to the floor and speak in favor of the resolution, “I do not believe we should allow anonymous or semi-anonymous people who don’t provide enough information or don’t provide a name or haven’t signed [the ballot] to affect site selection…” Dave McCarty’s comment in support of the motion was that address information is needed “to be able to tell if they are real people.”

The site selection validation process doesn’t ever take time to test voters’ residence/mail address information and make a judgment about it. The two critical factors are that the voter must have a membership in the current Worldcon, and that the payment of the site selection voting fee must clear. However, a person could do everything required to become a member of the current Worldcon, DisCon III, and still fail a 2023 site selection voting requirement. For example, Eastlake pointed out a past practice that people who fail to sign their ballots do not get their votes counted, although they still get a supporting membership in the new convention.  

The business meeting passed the resolution 47-30. Because it is a resolution, it is not binding. However, since he requested it, File 770 has asked Site Selection administrator Tim Szczesuil to comment how he will apply the resolution.

OTHER BUSINESS. Kevin Standlee reports on his LiveJournal that the meeting ratified all nine of the constitutional amendments passed on from last year’s Worldcon. “These amendments were initially passed in Ireland, then technically rejected and then re-passed in New Zealand, in order to evade the problem that hardly any WSFS members could actually get to the meeting in Wellington.”

The nine items are E.3 to E.11 in the business meeting Agenda.

Schedules for DisCon III GoHs and Special Guests

The daily schedules have been released for DisCon III’s Guest of Honor Nancy Kress; Fan Guest of Honor Ben Yalow; and Special Guests Sheree Renée Thomas, Malka Older, and Andrea Hairston. Following each of their names is a day-by-day list of the events they will be attending.

DisCon III is the third World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon) that has been held in Washington DC, USA. Worldcon is the annual gathering of science fiction and fantasy fans, writers, artists, musicians, and other creators from across the globe. DisCon III will be at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, DC, on December 15-19, 2021. Covid policy is here. Virtual events can be found at www.DisCon3.org 

The schedules appear after the break.

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Pixel Scroll 11/21/19 Because The Scroll Belongs To Pixels

(1) CHENGDU ROLLS OUT THE RED CARPET. An international array of visiting writers and Worldcon runners will attend the 5th China (Chengdu) International Science Fiction Conference this weekend.

China Daily previewed the event in an English-language article “Sci-fi conference to be held in Chengdu”.

…The guests are from 14 countries and regions, and over 40 events will be organized during the three-day conference.

…Chengdu, the capital of Southwest China’s Sichuan province which is best known as the home of pandas, is the cradle of “Science Fiction World,” China’s most popular sci-fi periodical.

Founded 40 years ago, the magazine has cultivated a large number of well-known sci-fi figures including Han Song, Wang Jinkang and Hugo Award-winner Liu Cixin.

Chengdu has made great efforts in recent years to develop the sci-fi culture industry and build itself into China’s science fiction town. It has put in a formal bid to host the 81st World Science Fiction Convention in 2023.

Chengdu’s bid is competing with two other bids Nice, France, and Memphis, TN.

A partial list of the international writers and conrunners who are in Chengdu includes CoNZealand (2020) co-chairs Kelly Buehler and Norman Cates, DisCon III (2021) co-chairs Colette Fozard and William Lawhorn, Chicago in 2022 bid co-chairs Dave McCarty, Helen Montgomery, plus Crystal Huff, Pablo M.A Vazquez, Ben Yalow, Derek Künsken, Mimi Mondal, Robert J. Sawyer, and Francesco Verso.

Pablo M.A Vazquez is a winner of the Shimmer Program’s Two-Way Exchange Fund, chaired the 2017 NASFiC, and will co-chair of the 2020 Corflu.

Some of the guests and visitors were also part of the group photo below taken at the China Science Fiction Conference two weeks ago (November 2-3) in Beijing, China. SFWA President Mary Robinette Kowal is at center, with Vazquez on the left, and Vincent Docherty (co-chair 1995 and 2005 Worldcons) to the right.

(2) ILM INNOVATION. Slashfilm fires the imagination with its description of a new visual media tech: “How Lucasfilm’s New ‘Stagecraft’ Tech Brought ‘The Mandalorian’ to Life and May Change the Future of TV”

… Kennedy adds an interesting little tidbit about the material used to create the screen:

“But I’m going to add one other thing that I didn’t know anything about this and it’s an interesting little tidbit. You have to grow the crystals for these screens. Who knew? You have to wait five years for the crystals to grow. And the crystals means a limited number of screens. Not only do you have to grow them but if you have volume, it’s important that you have the same bunch of LCD screens so that all the crystals are growing together. And then, how they refract the light, then they go into a whole pass on the ground crystals to then curate which ones are refracting the light in the same way so Its quite a process.”

So now the soundstage, a performance capture volume like the one James Cameron used on the Avatar films, is wrapped with these very high-resolution LED screens that present footage either shot on location or “in combination with CG environments.” Brennan explains further:

“And we’re able to have the perspective with cameras, but that means that you can change from Iceland to the desert in one [minute] from setup to setup so it really changes the flow of production. I think it also helps because actors are not in a sea of green. They’re actually seeing the environments that they’re in. And you add to that, after the puppetry and they’ve got characters to perform against in the environments that they are in and I think it does change.”

(3) BEST SFF. Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Lavie Tidhar pick “The best science fiction and fantasy of 2019” for Washington Post readers. They make a wide, international sweep.

Silvia: I like mosaic novels so it’s no wonder I thought “Automatic Eve” by Rokuro Inui was cool, but it also had a Phillip K. Dick meets steampunk Japan vibe that is hard to miss. The other science fiction novel I recommend is Maurice Carlos Ruffin’s “We Cast a Shadow,” in which a black lawyer wants his son to undergo an expensive procedure that will render him white. It’s a near-future, socially charged and pretty impressive debut.

(4) TOP OF THE DECADE. And Paste Magazine figures with only a month to go it’s safe to call these titles “The 30 Best Fantasy Novels of the 2010s”. I’ve actually read four of them – yay me!

1. The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin (2015)

The first book in N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy introduces a stunning world in the midst of an apocalyptic event. To avoid major spoilers, let’s just say that The Fifth Season is brimming with gloriously intense family drama and includes one of the most phenomenal magic systems ever created. It also boasts a complex protagonist who is a mother, gifting us with one of the most formidable and fascinating characters of the 21st century. Jemisin made history by winning the Hugo Award for Best Novel three years in the row for this trilogy, cementing her status as an essential voice in fantasy literature. But critical success aside, simply diving into her luminous prose will be enough for you to discern why she’s such a brilliant, must-read author. —Frannie Jackson

 (5) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • November 21, 1942 — “Tweety Bird” debuted.
  • November 21, 1969 — First ARPANET link put into service.  

ARPANET was an early computer network developed by J.C.R. Licklider, Robert Taylor, and other researchers for the U.S. Department of Defense’s Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). It connected a computer at UCLA with a computer at the Stanford Research Institute, Menlo Park, CA. In 1973, the government commissioned Vinton Cerf and Robert E. Kahn to create a national computer network for military, governmental, and institutional use. The network used packet-switching, flow-control, and fault-tolerance techniques developed by ARPANET. Historians consider this worldwide network to be the origin of the Internet.

  • November 21, 1973 — The Michael Crichton scripted Westworld premiered. Starring Yul Brynner, Richard Benjamin and James Brolin, critics gave it mixed reviews but it has an 86% rating among watchers at Rotten Tomatoes. 
  • November 21, 2012 — The animated Rise Of The Guardians enjoyed its premiere.  The feature starred the talents of Hugh Jackman, Jude Law and Isla Fisher. Based on William Joyce’s The Guardians of Childhood series, it really bombed. However the audience rating at Rotten Tomatoes is very healthy 80%. 

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 21, 1924 Christopher Tolkien, 95. He drew the original maps for the LoTR. He provided much of the feedback on both the Hobbit and LoTR and his father invited him  to join the Inklings when he was just twenty-one years old, making him the youngest member of that group. Suffice it to say that the list is long of his father’s unfinished works that he has edited and brought to published form. I’ll leave to this group to discuss their merit as I’ve got mixed feelings on them.
  • Born November 21, 1937 Ingrid Pitt. Actor from Poland who emigrated to the UK who is best known as Hammer Films’ most sexy female vampire of the early Seventies. Would I kid you? Her first genre roles were in the Spanish movie Sound of Horror and the science-fictional The Omegans, followed by the Hammer productions The Vampire Lovers, Countess Dracula, and The House That Dripped Blood. She appeared in the true version of The Wicker Man and had parts in Octopussy, Clive Barker’s Underworld, Dominator, and Minotaur. She had two different roles in Doctor Who – somewhat of a rarity – as Dr. Solow in the “Warriors of the Deep” episode and as Galleia in “The Time Monster” episode. (Died 2010.)
  • Born November 21, 1941 Ellen Asher, 78. Editor who introduced many fans to their favorites, as editor-in-chief of the Science Fiction Book Club (SFBC) for thirty-four years, from 1973 to 2007 (exceeding John W. Campbell’s record as the person with the longest tenure in the same science fiction job). She was personally responsible for selecting the monthly offerings to subscribers, and oversaw the selection of individual works for their special anthologies and omnibuses. She has been honored with a World Fantasy Special Award and an Edward E. Smith Memorial Award for Imaginative Fiction. In 2009, she was given a World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement, and she was Editor Guest of Honor at Worldcon in 2011.
  • Born November 21, 1942 Jane Frank, 77. Art collector along with her husband quite beyond belief. Really. Together they put compiled a legendary collection of genre artwork, The Frank Collection, that has won awards. She is the author of numerous articles on illustration art, artists and collecting, and the book The Art of Richard Powers which was nominated for a Hugo, The Art of John Berkey, and The Frank Collection.
  • Born November 21, 1944 Harold Ramis. Actor, Writer, and Producer, best-known to genre fans for his role as Egon Spengler in the Saturn-winning, Oscar- and Hugo-nominated Ghostbusters and its lesser sibling Ghostbusters II (the scripts for both of which he co-wrote with Dan Aykroyd). He had voice roles in Heavy Metal and Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone, and a cameo in Groundhog Day, for which he received Saturn nominations for writing and directing. He was also director and producer of Multiplicity. (Died 2014.)
  • Born November 21, 1945 Vincent Di Fate, 74. Artist and Illustrator who has done many SFF book covers and interior illustrations since his work first appeared in the pages of Analog in 1965. He was one of the founders of the Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists (ASFA), and is a past president. In addition to his Chesley Award trophy and 7 nominations, he has been a finalist for the Professional Artist Hugo 11 times, winning once; two collections of his artwork, Infinite Worlds: The Fantastic Visions of Science Fiction Art and Di Fate’s Catalog of Science Fiction Hardware, have been Hugo finalists as well. He was Artist Guest of Honor at the 1992 Worldcon, for which he organized their Art Retrospective exhibit. He was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2011. You can see galleries of his works at his website.
  • Born November 21, 1946 Tom Veal, 73. He’s a con-running fan who chaired Chicon 2000. He was a member of the Seattle in 1981 Worldcon bid committee. He chaired Windycon X.  In 2016 he married fellow fan Becky Thomson. And he wrote the “1995 Moskva 1995: Igor’s Campaign“ which was published in  Alternate Worldcons and Again, Alternate Worldcons as edited by Mike Resnick.
  • Born November 21, 1950 Evelyn C. Leeper, 69. Writer, Editor, Critic, and Fan, who is especially known for her decades of detailed convention reports and travelogues. A voracious reader, she has also posted many book reviews. She and her husband Mark founded the Mt. Holz Science Fiction Club at Bell Labs in New Jersey (Mt = abbreviation for the labs’ Middletown facility), and have produced their weekly fanzine, the MT VOID (“empty void”), since 1978; it is currently at Issue #2,041. She was a judge for the Sidewise Award for Alternate History for 20 years. She has been a finalist for the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer twelve times, and Fan Guest of Honor at several conventions, including a Windycon.
  • Born November 21, 1953 Lisa Goldstein, 66. Writer, Fan, and Filer whose debut novel, The Red Magician, was so strong that she was a finalist for the Astounding Award for Best New Writer two years in a row. Her short fiction has garnered an array of Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Award nominations, as well as a Sidewise Award. The short story “Cassandra’s Photographs” was a Hugo and Nebula finalist and “Alfred” was a World Fantasy and Nebula finalist; both can be found in her collection Travellers in Magic. Her novel The Uncertain Places won a Mythopoeic Award. You can read about her work in progress, her reviews of others’ stories, and other thoughts at her blog.
  • Born November 21, 1965 Björk, 54. Who bears the lovely full name of Björk Guðmundsdóttir. I like Icelandic. And I’ve got boots of her band somewhere here I think. She’s here for The Juniper Tree which is a 1990 Icelandic film directed and written by Nietzchka Keene which is based  on “The Juniper Tree” tale that was collected by the Brothers Grimm. She’s one of five performers in it. Oh, and because her last album Utopia explored that concept even using cryptocurrency as part of the purchase process.

(7) ZOMBIES APPERTAIN THEIR FAVORITE BEVERAGE. [Item by Errolwi.] Complaints about a “terrifying to children” TV ad for New Zealand soft drink L&P have been rejected by the NZ advertising watchdog. Stuff has the story — “‘Frightening’ L&P zombie ad attracts 40 complaints from viewers”.

Coca-Cola Amatil, which produces the beverage, said the ad was a light-hearted parody of “zom-com” or “zomedy” movies such as Shaun of the Dead and Warm Bodies

…The Advertising Standards Authority dismissed the complaints, saying that while the ad may be distasteful to some viewers, it did not reach the threshold to be considered likely to cause harm or serious offence.

It noted that since receiving the complaints, the advertiser had decided to reschedule the ad to be screened after 7pm.

(8) BEWARE THIS SORT OF SPOILER. Whoops, too late. SYFY Wire insists: “Worry you must not! Yoda Baby merchandise will be coming in time for Christmas”.

We still don’t know what the titular hero of The Mandalorian is going to do with the little “asset” that he found in the first live-action Star Wars series, but it is more than clear that the real world wants a piece of it. Everyone wants merchandise for the “Yoda Baby,” and there’s good news on the horizon. 

Disney and Lucasfilm purposely held back this bit of salesmanship to avoid spoilers, but that starship has flown. CNBC reports that all kinds of toys and apparel based on the character will be out in time for the holidays. 

(9) IN WIRED. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] The December WIRED has three articles on Star Wars that I thought were interesting. These are:

  • Angela Watercutter interviews cosplayers who enjoy cosplaying Rey because her costume is relatively simple and because she is the first female character in Star Wars to wield a lightsaber: “Everybody Loves Rey, a Star Wars Story”.

Annamarie McIntosh is coming undone. People in comic-book tees are rushing past her, lit up by too-bright fluorescents. She’s surrounded by massive signs with corporate logos, from Nintendo to DC Comics. The cavernous hall is 460,000 square feet, and McIntosh is taking up about three of them, trying to cinch the beige bandages wrapped around her arms. “We’re having issues here,” she says, with an exasperated giggle. “It’s been falling down all day.” With an assist by her mom, the 17-year-old finally twists and tucks her costume into place. All things considered, the fix is easy. It’s 2019’s Comic-Con International, and compared to the wizards and warlocks and Wonder Women crowding the floor, the outfit of the Jedi Rey is plain, simple. Sensible.

  • Adam Rogers undertakes “A Journey to Galaxy’s Edge, the Nerdiet Place on Earth” — and discusses how the park is a form of storytelling.  He says that cosplaying in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is banned, although “I saw a few women cosplaying on the down low, hair done weird, rocking galactically appropriate boots.” This graf of Rogers is news to me:

Eventually, Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser will open. That’s a two-day stay adjacent to the Orlando park in a hotel designed to look like a Star Wars spaceship, a luxury liner called the Halcyon.  The windows will somehow look out onto space; families will get tours of the bridge, and ‘port day’ will connect to Galaxy’s Edge.  Apparently even the hotel building ill be bermed off from arriving guests–all they’ll see is the ‘terminal’ where they board a shuttle to the Halcyon in orbit above.

The biggest battle in Star Wars is between its mythic arcs—the heroes’ journeys—and its political stories. Padmé fell on the political side so squarely that the prequel trilogy expended significant visual and narrative energy trying to drag her toward the mythic, where Anakin Skywalker was waiting.

She never got there. Her realm was that of the negotiation and the vote, and nothing was able to bring her into line with the adventure and the myth.

(10) KIWI IN TRAINING. Stephen Colbert has spent the week masquerading as The Newest Zealander. I don’t think any WorldCon venues are in shot, but parts are right next to Museum of NZ.

Prominent New Zealand celebrities Lucy Lawless (“Xena: Warrior Princess”) and Bret McKenzie (“Flight of the Conchords”) show Stephen around the town of Wellington and offer him tips on how to blend in as a local.

[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, Michael Toman, N., Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Errolwi, Tom Boswell-Healey, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]

2021 Site Selection Confirms Washington DC

Washington D.C.’s unopposed bid to host the 2021 Worldcon was officially voted in this weekend at Dublin 2019. The name of the convention will be DisCon III. Bill Lawhorn and Colette H. Fozard are the co-chairs.

The committee announced their current guests are: Nancy Kress, Author GoH; Malka Older, Special Guest; Sheree Renée Thomas, Special Guest; Toni Weisskopf, Editor GoH; and Ben Yalow, Fan GoH.

Total valid votes: 878

DC in 2021 798
None of the Above 18
Miscellaneous write-ins 26
No Preference 36
Invalid ballots 2

The complete details (with all write-ins) are here [PDF file.]