The Diary of A (Slightly Unhinged) Hugo Award Nominee
By Chris M. Barkley:
March 18, 2022
At 6:09 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time my email inbox received a message. At that moment, I was listening to National Public Radio’s daily flagship news broadcast, All Things Considered. My partner, Juli, was taking that evening to watch our nearly nine-month-old grandson, Bowie.
(Yes, that’s his REAL, LEGAL name. His mommy insisted.)
And YES, he’s named after THAT royal, musical personage. So mommy gets style points for good taste. But, I digress…)
After dinner, I went upstairs to our office and began to do some additional research for a future edition of the Chicon 8 Progress Report.
After grinding away for an hour or so, I decided to get off the writing treadmill for a while, flop on the bed and check Facebook posts on my phone. After noodling away for a few minutes, I switched over to my email for a cursory look.
At 8:38 p.m., my eye caught an unusual title in the inbox:
Hugo Awards – CONFIDENTIAL – Fan Writer – Barkley
I’ll tell you what, dear reader, when I saw that title, it felt as though time had somehow slowed down to a crawl in anticipation of my heart jumping into hyperspace…
I clicked on the email and read the first line:
I am delighted to inform you that you have reached the list of Finalists for the 2022 Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer, to be presented by the 80th World Science Fiction Convention (Chicon 8).
My heart jumped into hyperspace. For several moments, I couldn’t breathe or move. I stared at my phone, gobsmacked. Then, I forced myself to read the next sentence:
Please keep this nomination strictly confidential until the public announcement of the full ballot in April.
And I thought, “HOLY SHIT, I’ve just been nominated for a Hugo Award and I can’t tell anyone until, when? EASTER maybe?
But, OF COURSE, I immediately began plotting who I would tell. There was no doubt I would absolutely tell one person FIRST, that would be Juli. I DID tell our cat, Nova, who was trying to fit in a nap on the bed before her nightly petition for a late night snack. She was not duly impressed by the news.
I considered driving over to interrupt her evening with Bowie but ultimately decided it would be better to wait until Juli got home.
ALL of this was all shocking to me because this was coming only two days after the nomination window had closed. I would have thought it might have taken longer to compile all the votes. So, YAY technology?
After calming down, somewhat, I put the phone down and went back to my laptop to stare at a larger print version of email. I then printed out two copies; one for posterity and the other for show.
In the meantime, I sent a Facebook direct message to my Esteemed Editor and our gracious host Mike Glyer.
By the time Juli came home at 11:00 p.m., I had already placed the email I printed out in an envelope and put it under her pillow. When she finally climbed into bed, I told her I had a surprise for her and pointed to her pillow.
I was not disappointed as I saw her face blossom into a look of shock, then jubilation. “I am so proud and happy for you,” she gushed and she hugged me.
Mr. Glyer responded to my text just before midnight, writing:
“Great news! Congratulations, so well deserved!”
This, from a person who has won a fistful of Hugo Awards for his works as an writer and an editor over the decades, I was incredibly gratified for the opportunity to write for File 770.
I don’t know when or how I fell asleep that evening…
“Why does climate change cast a much smaller shadow on literature than it does on the world?” asked the novelist Amitav Ghosh, writing in The Guardian in 2016. “Is it perhaps too wild a stream to be navigated in the accustomed barques of narration?”
…Yet the idea of a world in crisis is fundamental to horror, a genre historically devalued by the gatekeepers of high culture as, well, outlandish and unserious. Horror has always sought to amplify fear. It works against false comfort, complacency and euphemism, against attempts to repress or sanitize that which disturbs us. Inevitably, the climate crisis has given rise to a burgeoning horror subgenre: eco-horror. Eco-horror reworks horror in order to portray the damage done to the world by people, and the ways the world might damage or even destroy us in turn. In eco-horror, the “natural” world is both under threat and threatening.
The best-known work of eco-horror might be Jeff VanderMeer’s “Southern Reach” trilogy (2014), about a beautiful and deadly exclusion zone known as Area X. The first book, “Annihilation,” which was made into a Hollywood film last year, is narrated by a biologist on a mission to explore the area. She records her initial impressions of the abandoned landscape, including a “low, powerful moaning” audible at dusk. Her team discovers a structure in the earth, an inverted tower. The biologist is lowered into it. There is a smell like rotting honey. The walls are covered with words, the writing system of some kind of fruiting body. She hears a heartbeat. The structure turns out to be a living organism, a “horror show of … beauty and biodiversity.” The biologist leans in close and is sprayed with golden spores — infected….
(2) A LOT OF GOLD IN THEM THAR HILLS. The Hugo Book Club, an unofficial blog about its namesake, has tweeted a long, thoughtful thread about the Best Fan Writer Hugo category, probing how meaningful it is — or isn’t — that any given fan has previously heard of all the finalists. Thread starts here.
Back in 1984, Breton co-wrote a science fiction novel called “Softwar” based around the National Software Agency (which in no way resembles the U.S. National Security Agency). Billed as a “technology thriller,” the novel’s plot is centered on an American cyberattack on Soviet computers. “At the time no one was speaking about viruses, the word didn’t exist,” Breton said, according to Liberation.
However, his co-author Denis Beneich later claimed Breton “never wrote a word of this novel” although “he had the idea for it.”
Breton, whose Commission portfolio would include the space industry, wrote two other novels in the mid to late 1980s — “Vatican III” and “Netwar” (all three of his books are worth checking out, if only for the cover art).
His love of sci-fi doesn’t stop with books, however. Breton also helped come up with the idea for a high-tech theme park called “Futuroscope” in Chasseneuil-du-Poitou, just north of Poitiers in western France. Its tag-line is “Expect the unexpected,” which sounds like good advice ahead of a hearing before the European Parliament.
Charlie Chaplin slept here. So did Sarah Bernhardt, Mary Pickford, Lillian Gish, Franz Liszt, Warren Harding, Andrew Carnegie, Thomas Wolfe, Cloris Leachman and Arlene Dahl. Likewise, D.W. Griffith, who, in 1912, shot two movies — “A Feud in the Kentucky Hills” and “The Informer” — in this dot of a town in the foothills of the Poconos.
Josh Sapan has slept here too — as often as his schedule permits. But 33 years ago, when Mr. Sapan learned of Milford’s many charms from a friend, he knew nothing about the town’s past. Still, he was sufficiently captivated to buy a waterfront cabin.
It was enough that he could look out his windows after dark and see no illumination but the moon, enough that the Delaware rolled along mere steps from his door. “I just love houses on rivers and I really love this house,” said Mr. Sapan, 67, the president and chief executive of AMC Networks, a Manhattan-based company that owns and operates cable channels including AMC, BBC America and SundanceTV. “I don’t know what it is. I find it quite magical, if that’s the right word.”
Mr. Sapan had yet to learn that the novelist Stephen Crane had camped out for a summer in Milford with friends, and published a satirical newspaper during his stay, that Milford was the birthplace of the conservation movement, and that in the 1950s and 1960s, it was the red hot center of the science fiction writers’ universe, even figuring in Kurt Vonnegut’s novel “God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater,” because several big names in the genre, notably the literary agent Virginia Kidd, had settled in town….
Andrew Porter left a comment there filling in more of the “big names” only alluded to in the article:
Milford is associated with many science fiction writers. Authors Damon Knight, James Blish and Judy Merrill also lived there. It was the setting for the annual Milford Science Fiction Writers Conference for many years, starting in the 1950s, which spun off other “Milford” conferences, most notably in the UK and Seattle, as well as the “New Wave” in SF in the mid-1960s. Also in Milford, the foundations were laid for the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, an active organization which presents the annual Nebula Awards. For more information about how Milford looms so large in the science fictional universe, see the Wikipedia page here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milford_Writer’s_Workshop
…Given the reins of Paramount Pictures with little experience in 1966 thanks to a friendship with corporate owner Gulf & Western’s Charles Bluhdorn, Evans turned the company around thanks to a string of critical darlings that would eventually become classics. During his tenure as production VP, he oversaw genre fare like Rosemary’s Baby, Don’t Look Now, and Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.
Moving on from leading the studio, Evans personally produced movies like the adaptation of William Goldman’s Marathon Man (starring Dustin Hoffman), Popeye (with Robin Williams), and early comic book film The Phantom. Some hit higher highs than others, but Evans was a constant presence in the industry.
Robin Brett, a NASA scientist who 50 years ago was among the first to study and direct research on lunar samples — popularly known as ‘‘moon rocks’’ — from the Apollo space missions, died Sept. 27 at his home in Washington. He was 84.
The cause was Alzheimer’s disease, said his wife, Jill Brett.
From 1969 to 1974, Dr. Brett was chief of the geochemistry branch at NASA’s Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston. In July 1969, he was among a select four scientists present for the opening of a sealed box containing the first moon rocks from the initial Apollo lunar mission.
…When the lunar samples were first brought to Earth, they were kept for a period in a quarantined and sterile environment, lest they contain or exude a noxious substance that might be harmful in earth’s atmosphere.
Dr. Brett doubted the necessity of this precaution, which he demonstrated, he said, by becoming the first man on Earth to lick a moon rock.
What did it taste like?
‘‘A dirty potato,’’ he answered.
(9) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.
[Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I saw Zombieland:
Double Tap, which delivers if you want a pretty gory zombie movie with many
good jokes. Early in the film the four main characters are hiding out in
the ruins of the White House. They exchange Christmas presents even
though it’s November 17 because they don’t have anything else to do. Emma
Stone gives Jesse Eisenberg a copy of the first edition of The Fellowship of
the Ring. (We don’t know why the White House has first editions of
thank you,” Eisenberg says, “and look, you’ve ruined the book by
scribbling on the first page.”
course, it isn’t really a Tolkien book but they did fake the original cover…
(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.
October 28, 1951 — The Out There series premiered. It was one of the first SF anthology series. It lasted a mere twelve episodes. Some of the SF writers it adapted were Heinlein, Sturgeon, Bradbury, Bissell and Long. Heinlein in particular was a favorite source for them.
October 28, 1994 — Stargate premiered. Starring Kurt Russell and James Spader, critics intensely hated it, and it rated 50% at Rotten Tomatoes. It of course spawned Stargate SG-1 series franchise.
(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born October 28, 1902 — Elsa Lanchester. The Bride in 1935’s The Bride of Frankenstein with Boris Karloff. In 1928 she appeared in three silent shorts written for her by H. G. Wells: Blue Bottles, Daydreams and The Tonic. Ray Bradbury originally wrote “Merry Christmas 2116” to be performed by Lanchester and her husband Charles Laughton. (Died 1986.)
Born October 28, 1951 — William H. Patterson, Jr. Author of Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century, a two-volume look at Heinlein which arguably is the best biography ever done on him. He also did The Martian Named Smith: Critical Perspectives on Robert A. Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land. This Tribute to Bill Patterson by Mike with comments by Filers is touching indeed. (Died 2014.)
Born October 28, 1951 — Joe Lansdale, 68. Writer and screenwriter whose DCU Jonah Hex animated screenplays are far superior to the live action Hex film. Bubba Ho-Tep is a American comedy horror film starting Bruce Campbell is his best known genre work though he has done a number of another works including The God of The Razor and Reverend Jedidiah Mercer series which are definitely Weird Westerns.
Born October 28, 1952 — Annie Potts, 67. Janine Melnitz in the still-best Ghostbusters and in Ghostbusters II as well. She has a cameo as Vanessa the hotel clerk in the Ghostbusters reboot. She is listed as reprising her original role in the forthcoming Ghostbusters 2020 which I’ll freely admit I know nothing about.
Born October 28, 1958 — Amy Thomson, 61. Writer of four novels in a decade twenty years ago including Virtual Girl which won her the Astounding Award for Best New Writer. She published one piece of short fiction, “The Ransom of Princess Starshine”, in 2017 in Stupefying Stories which is edited by Bruce Bethke.
Born October 28, 1958 — Kristin Landon. Though she was working on a fourth novel in the series at the time of her death, the published novels will comprise the Hidden Worlds trilogy: The Hidden Worlds, The Cold Minds, and The Dark Reaches. (Died 2019.)
Born October 28, 1962 — Daphne Zuniga, 57. Her very first was as Debbie in The Dorm That Dripped Blood, labelled a Video Nasty in the UK. You know her much better as Princess Vespa in Spaceballs, and she also in The Fly II being Beth Logan. Series work include Nightmare Classics, Batman Beyond, Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child, Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits and, no surprise here, Spaceballs: The Animated Series where she voicedPrincess Vespa
Born October 28, 1967 — Julia Roberts, 52. How can I resist giving Birthday Honors to Tinker Bell in Hook? Not to mention she was in the seriously weird Flatliners that I saw at a virtually empty theater. Of course, there’s the ever weirder Mary Reilly with her in the title role. For something more charming, she voiced Charlotte the Spider in Charlotte‘s Web. I’m going to skip her as a Smurf I think…
Born October 28, 1974 — Joaquin Phoenix, 45. Currently The Joker. He hasn’t done much genre acting setting aside being Max in SpaceCamp when he was twelve, and being Billy Hercules in the “Little Hercules” episode of Superboy. Well he did a Shyamalan film but I refuse to consider them genre.
Born October 28, 1982 — Matt Smith, 37. The Eleventh Doctor, also Alex in Terminator Genisys, a film I’ve not seen. Nor likely will. He’s also Jim in The Sally Lockhart Mysteries: The Ruby in the Smoke based off the Philip Pullman novels.
(12) EL-MOHTAR REVIEWS. Amal El-Mohtar, in a book review column for the NYT,“Dark Books for Dark Times”, opines about His Hideous Heart, a collection edited by Dahlia Adler, Tamsyn Muir’s Gideon the Ninth, Paul Krueger’s Steel Crow Saga, and Annalee Newitz’s The Future of Another Timeline.
… Conceptually “The Future of Another Timeline” is breathtakingly brilliant, and part of a constellation of time-travel stories this year that wed present-day activism to a willingness to change the past. But as I read, I found myself far more affected by the smaller, fiercer story of Tess and Beth’s early years — the story of feral friendships formed in extreme circumstances, of surviving abuse and finding the power to seek revenge or walk away from it. Everything about that story clutched at my heart, while the broader time-travel stakes and narrative diminished in effect; I became less concerned with the overarching conceit than with the story of these young women arguing over what love and honesty demand. But time travel creates the space for that story to happen — and Newitz’s book is, more than anything else, about the importance of fighting for such spaces. In that, it’s entirely successful.
…The blackouts solved nothing, of course. De-energizing the electrical grid is a bludgeon: imprecise, with enormous potential for collateral damage as people deal with a darkened world. It doesn’t even eliminate fire risk. What it largely does is shift responsibility away from Pacific Gas & Electric, the state’s largest utility company, whose faulty transmission lines had been found to have caused some of the most destructive wildfires on record.
In fact, cutting power can exacerbate some fire risks. In a blackout, more people rely on home generators, many of which have been installed without permits and might be no less faulty than the utility’s own equipment. Detours and gridlock force more cars into vulnerable places. (Sparks off roadways are another top cause of wildfire.) The blackout makes it harder for the public to respond to fire emergencies even as it does little to prevent all the other factors that cause them — from careless barbecues to tossed-out cigarette butts to plain old arson. One of the state’s most serious fires so far this year was ignited by burning garbage.
But a mandatory blackout does have one radically positive effect. By suddenly withdrawing electrical power — the invisible lifeblood of our unsustainable economic order — PG&E has made the apocalyptic future of the climate crisis immediate and visceral for some of the nation’s most comfortable people. It is easy to ignore climate change in the bosom of the developed world. But you can’t fail to notice when the lights go out.
…In the American West, our climate will only get hotter and drier, our wildfires worse. Every year more places are going to burn, and we will, repeatedly, be horrified by the losses. But we should not be shocked by them. The blackouts have laid bare the uncomfortable fact that the infrastructure we’ve built and maintained over the course of many decades isn’t matched to the threats we face in our rapidly unfolding climate emergency….
… Fat Sal’s, the overstuffed sandwich makers in Hollywood, have gotten into the mix before, and now for Halloween the group is transforming its corner address off Highland into a Big Kahuna Burger from the movie Pulp Fiction.
Much like in years past, Fat Sal’s plans to its dining area to fit the new temporary theme. Expect a grassy Hawaiian-tinged awning and overt nods to the 1994 film everywhere, including slogans (“Now that is a tasty burger” or “That’s that Hawaiian burger joint”) and an image of Jules Winnfield, the character played by Samuel L. Jackson in the Tarantino flick. A separate area will be turned into the pawn shop from the film as well, and diners will be able to check out merchandise in that space…
After a record-breaking 780 days circling the Earth, the U.S. Air Force’s mysterious X-37B unmanned space plane dropped out of orbit and landed safely on the same runway that the space shuttle once used.
It was the fifth acknowledged mission for the vehicle, built by Boeing at the aerospace company’s Phantom Works.
“Today marks an incredibly exciting day for the 45th Space Wing,” Brig. Gen. Doug Schiess, 45th Space Wing commander, said in a statement. “Our team has been preparing for this event, and I am extremely proud to see their hard work and dedication culminate in today’s safe and successful landing of the X-37B.”
As in previous missions, many of the details about the vehicle’s activities in the past two years are being kept under wraps. One experiment was to “test experimental electronics and oscillating heat pipe technologies in the long-duration space environment,” according to the Air Force statement.
Randy Walden, the director of the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, said the latest X-37B mission “successfully hosted Air Force Research Laboratory experiments, among others, as well as providing a ride for small satellites.”
“The statement that this @usairforce X-37 flight deployed small satellites is alarming, since the US has not reported those deployments in its UN Registration Convention submissions,” McDowell tweeted. “This would be the first time that either the USA or Russia has blatantly flouted the Convention.”
[Thanks to Nicholas Whyte, Andrew Porter, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, John
King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, and Cat Eldridge for some
of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel
It will probably not be a surprise that I love dragons — a lot of fantasy and SF readers also do! There’s something intrinsically fascinating, for me, about flying, graceful reptiles with magical powers.
You’ll notice I don’t say “reptiles that breathe fire”, and the main reason for that is that the first dragons I encountered weren’t the Western ones that needed to be killed by the likes of Saint George, but the r?ng, the Vietnamese dragons, who tend to live underwater, have deers’ antlers and a long serpentine body but generally no wings, and who are generally benevolent entities who dispense rain (or catastrophic floods if angered).
(3) REACHING FOR THE SHELF. Nicholas Whyte created a quick introduction to the Hugo Awards, which he administers for Worldcon 75.
(4) A SINGULAR SENSATION. I wasn’t able to help Jason Kehe when he asked me about Chuck Tingle – you know as much as I do — while Vox Day said on his blog he simply refused to answer questions from the media. But Tingle himself was happy to offer a quote for WIRED.com’s article “The Hidden, Wildly NSFW Scandal of the Hugo Nominations”.
Hiscock’s nomination is the work of the Rabid Puppies, a community of reactionary sci-fi/fantasy writers and fans who in 2015 sought to derail the Hugos’ big-tent evolution by stuffing the notoriously gameable ballot box with what they saw as criminally overlooked white male nominees. After the Rabid Puppies found huge success—they placed more than 50 recommendations—predecessors the Sad Puppies smuggled in a 2016 Best Short Story nominee they hoped would really tank the proceedings: Space Raptor Butt Invasion, an erotic gay sci-fi tale self-published by an unknown named Chuck Tingle.
Incredibly, though, the plan backfired. Tingle turned out to be a ridiculously lovable, possibly insane ally—or at least a very shrewd performance artist—who used his new platform to speak out against exclusion and bigotry in all their forms. In the intervening year-plus, he’s emerged as something of a cult icon, pumping out ebook after skewering ebook of wildly NSFW prose. His latest, Pounded In The Butt By My Second Hugo Award Nomination, refers to the recognition he got this year, on his own, in the Best Fan Writer category.
Here’s what the man of the hour had to say:
Chuck Tingle: hello buckaroo name of JASON thank you for writing and thank you for congrats on this way! i believe this author is put on the nominees by THE BAD DOGS BLUES as a way to prank the hugos like when they thought author name of chuck was some goof they could push around (no way buddy not this buckaroo). so it seems to be same idea as last year dont know much about it. thing is you cant just nominate some reverse twin of chuck there is only one chuck on this timeline and he is nominated as BEST FAN WRITER all by his own! this is a good way i am so proud! so long story short i hope this new author is not a reverse twin of the void but who knows i have not seen the end of this timeline branch yet.
A Best Series award makes perfect sense: when a book is part of a larger story, no matter how mind-blowing, it can be tough to judge it on its own merits—so why not take a look at series as a whole? After all, we all know SFF loves its trilogies (and its 10- to 14-book epic sagas). This is a great way to recognize a body of work, especially when the nth book of an excellent series generally has little chance of being nominated (let alone winning), but is still worthy of recognition. No one was quite sure how the nominations would shake out (could the entire Star Wars Extended Universe be considered as a singular series?), but there’s no arguing that the books on this inaugural ballot don’t seem to be entirely in the spirit of the award. There’s a wide-range of serious talent on the list, venerable classics alongside burgeoning favorites, all displaying the kind of character- and worldbuilding that can only be accomplished across multiple books.
(6) GOING TO THE WORLDCON. The Shimmer Program announced that the winners of the Worldcon 75 Attending Funding for Chinese fans offered by Storycom are Yang Sumin and Zhang Jialin (Colin). Each will get RMB 10,000 for use in attending and staffing the con. They are expected to gain experience in the Worldcon organizational work and help with future Chinese bids.
Jukka Halme, Chair of Worldcon 75 and Xia Jia, Chinese science fiction writer, selected the winners from five finalists.
There are photos and introductions to the two winners at the link.
(7) ISLAND NEWS DownloadProgress Report #1for NorthAmeriCon’17, to be held in San Juan, PR from July 6-9. Lots of areas where they’re looking for staff and volunteers.
All my life I’ve been a fan of science fiction, but I never knew much about the history of the field, nor did the majority of die-hard fans that I encountered. How could we – who could instantly recall every detail from our favorite comic books and every line of dialogue from Star Wars or Back to the Future – love something so much and know so little about its origins?
Last year, I found the answer when I was given a handful of wonderful out-of-print books chronicling the rich history of science fiction and fandom, including The Way the Future Was by Frederik Pohl, The Futurians by Damon Knight and The Immortal Storm by Sam Moskowitz. In their pages, I learned about the fascinating beginnings of fandom, which was mired in political warfare between overzealous teenagers, where clubs would form and disintegrate overnight. What I found most interesting, was an account of the first science fiction club ever established, called The Scienceers. It was founded in New York, on December 11th, 1929. Nearly 90 years ago. The first president of the club was a young African-American man named Warren Fitzgerald, and the first club meetings were held in his home….
Well, there’s been a glitch in my serene and inexorable progress toward eradicating my cancer. I developed an abscess at the site where the pancreas drain came out of my abdomen from the splenectomy. (Nasty damn thing! Painful as hell, too.) So I had to go back into the hospital for five days while the doctors drained it and pumped me full of antibiotics. I’m now on a home IV antibiotic regimen.
In the meantime, my oncologists suspended the chemotherapy regimen until the 20th. Chemo depresses the immune system so you really don’t want to pile it on top of an active infection. (That’s probably why I developed the abscess in the first place, in fact.) I’d just finished the third cycle, so what’s essentially happening is that we’re suspending one cycle and will resume the fourth cycle right when the fifth one would have originally started…
(11) TODAY IN HISTORY
April 6, 1968 — Stanley’s Kubrick’s science-fiction classic 2001: A Space Odyssey makes its debut in movie theaters.
Trivial Trivia: In Kubrick’s next movie, Clockwork Orange, there is a scene in the record store where the LP for 2001 is displayed.
(12) RICKLES OBIT. Famous comedian Don Rickles (1926-2017) passed away today at the age of 90. His genre work included The Twilight Zone, “Mr. Dingle, the Strong” (1961), X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes, both The Addams Family and The Munsters, The Wild, Wild, West, I Dream of Jeannie, and Tales from the Crypt. Late in life he voiced Mr. Potato Head in the Toy Story film series.
As with the two previous core lists, here are twenty epic fantasies chosen entirely on the basis of merit and significance to the field. No implication is intended that these are the only twenty books you should consider.
I agree that was wise to say, since he omits the first three authors whose names I’d expect to see on such a list. On the other hand, if not for Nicoll’s list I would have remained unaware that Kara Dalkey (someone I knew at LASFS 40 years ago) has written a well-regarded fantasy.
The whitewashing controversy is pretty simple at its core:
if a character’s race is changed toward yours, you will tend to be sanguine with it. If it is changed away from yours, you will tend to object. If you have control of the property, you will choose changes toward you, on average.
To this end, if you are group X, you will put X’s into makeup to resemble Y’s so you can control the image systems and keep the money circulating in your own communities. When that stops working, you’ll change the back-stories. It all achieves the same result, and other X’s will support any change you make.
The changers will not be honest about the fact that they simply preferred the change. They will blame the audience, the lack of actors, the material, another country. Anything but themselves.
The audience prefers it too, but also will not take responsibility. It is the creators, the material, other people. Never them.
As this is what is really going on, and everybody does it, you can remove this entire issue from the table and ask instead: what kind of world do we want? I can answer this for myself: I want a world where art reflects the world as it is. Not “politically correct” but “demographically correct” which, we can see, translates into “economically correct.” But #1 continues to dominate far too often, corrupting the creative process (thank God!) and creating under-performing movies and television and outright bombs.
(15) TOR LOVE. The xkcd cartoon “Security Advice” became the most-clicked link from File 770 yesterday after Darren Garrison commented, “Well, it looks like Randal Monroe is part of the Tor cabal.” Read it and you’ll understand why.
Spinning out of DC UNIVERSE: REBIRTH comes the newest adventures of Batgirl in BATGIRL VOL. 1: BEYOND BURNSIDE! New York Times best-selling creators Hope Larson (A Wrinkle in Time) takes one of Gotham’s greatest heroes on a whirlwind world tour in BATGIRL VOL. 1: BEYOND BURNSIDE. Barbara Gordon’s heart belongs to Burnside, the ultra-hip Gotham City neighborhood. But some threats are bigger than Burnside. And when those threats come calling, Batgirl will answer! When Babs plans a trip to train with the greatest fighters in the Far East, she has no idea her vigilante life will follow her. Lethal warriors are out to take her down, each bearing the mysterious mark of “The Student.” And where there are Students, there must also be…a Teacher. As part of the epic Rebirth launch, Batgirl Vol. 1: Beyond Burnside is a perfect jumping-on point to start reading about Batgirl and her action-packed, crime-fighting adventures! (DC Comics)
(18) BESTER TV EPISODE. “Mr. Lucifer,” story and teleplay by Alfred Bester, can be seen on YouTube. Broadcast in glorious b&w in four parts on ALCOA Premiere Theater, starring Fred Astaire and Elizabeth Montgomery, on November 1, 1962.
In addition to “Mr. Lucifer,” Astaire played several other characters. Music by a much younger John “Johnny” Williams.
Links to parts 2-4 listed on upper right side of page.
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Darrah Chavey, Darren Garrison, Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day m.c. simon milligan.]
The starring role in BBC1’s Doctor Who was offered to a black actor but it “didn’t work out” according to the series showrunner, Steven Moffat.
Moffat said it would be “amazing” to have two non-white leads after Pearl Mackie, whose father is from the West Indies, was cast as the Doctor’s companion earlier this year.
He said the producers took a conscious decision to cast a non-white actor as the companion “because we need to do better on that. We just have to”.
Moffat said the show had tried to go one further by casting the first non-white Doctor, but the choice later fell through….
Moffat said Doctor Who had “no excuse” not to feature a diverse cast of black, Asian and minority ethnic actors. “Sometimes the nature of a particular show – historical dramas, for instance – makes diversity more of a challenge, but Doctor Who has absolutely nowhere to hide on this,” he said.
“Young people watching have to know that they have a place in the future. That really matters. You have to care profoundly what children’s shows in particular say about where you’re going to be.
“And we’ve kind of got to tell a lie: we’ll go back into history and there will be black people where, historically, there wouldn’t have been, and we won’t dwell on that. We’ll say, ‘To hell with it, this is the imaginary, better version of the world. By believing in it, we’ll summon it forth.’
“And, outside of the fiction, it’s about anyone feeling that they can be involved in this industry as an actor, a director, a writer … It’s hugely important, and it’s not good when we fail on that. We must do better.”
RS: I’ve been reading your Raadchai stories for eleven years now (Yeah, eleven years. Let that sink in.) and I know the gloves and tea were in them by the time I started reading. Were they part of the initial germ of the Raadch, or if not, how did they evolve?
They weren’t part of the initial germ, but they got into the mix pretty soon after that. And I’m not sure where they came from or why they stuck–it just kind of worked for me somehow.
Which is how a lot of things are when I’m writing. Sometimes I’ll see someone say, like, “Oh, and this detail here, this is obviously Leckie doing this profound intentional thematic thing” and I’m like, no, actually, it was shiny, or else it made the story work the way I wanted it to, but I am not going to speak up and spoil the impression that I was actually doing this very sophisticated thing!
Experience movie magic! Conducted by six-time Emmy® Award-winning conductor and composer Mark Watters, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra performs the score live for an evening of Disney Silly Symphonies. These classic shorts, Walt Disney’s earliest experiments in animation, set timeless fables and fantastical scenes against a backdrop of lively classical music. With LACO providing the accompaniment live in the theatre, it’s an evening that’s sure to exhilarate your senses!
There’s no better setting for this night of classic cartoons than The Orpheum Theatre, one of LA’s most opulent and lovingly restored movie palaces in the historic downtown Broadway District. Bring the whole family and enjoy the show.
projecting on the silver screen a curated selection of landmark animated shorts including the first commercial short produced in Technicolor and five Academy Award winners!
The Skeleton Dance (1929)
Flowers and Trees (1932)
Three Little Pigs (1933)
The Old Mill (1937)
The Ugly Duckling (1939)
The Country Cousin (1936)
Music Land (1935)
(5) A SPAGHETTI EASTERN. Aaron Pound reports on Balticon 50 in The Tale of the Good, the Bad, and the Shoe-Cop.
The Good: There was a lot that went right at Balticon 50. This was a unique event, as Balticon invited all of its previous guests of honor back to celebrate the fiftieth time this convention had been held. As a result, the lineup of guests was quite impressive for a relatively small regional convention, and a similar event is probably not going to happen outside of a Worldcon for at least a few years….
The Bad: Balticon 50 had a lot of issues. Some were beyond the control of the convention staff. The following problems, however, are pretty much squarely on them.
One glaring problem was that programming was a mess, and apparently so from the beginning of the convention. Balticon provided both a large convention book containing a schedule and a pocket guide that also had a schedule. The first problem was that these schedules were incompatible with one another, each listing events at different times – they diverged by a half an hour, which unsurprisingly served to make it difficult to figure out when an event was supposed to take place. The second problem was that many program participants had schedules that were, as Mur Lafferty described it, “temporally impossible”, with many participants double-booked for two events at one time, or booked with back-to-back events separated by several hotel floors…..
And the Shoe-Cop story? I musn’t lift all of Aaron’s material. Go read the post.
As part of its effort to combat fake reviews on its platform, Amazon sued three of its sellers today for using sock puppet accounts to post fake reviews about their products. Amazon has been aggressively pursuing reviewers it does not consider genuine over the last year, often using lawsuits to discourage the buying and selling of reviews, but this is the first time it has sued the sellers themselves.
Today’s suits are against sellers who Amazon claims used fake accounts to leave positive reviews on their own products. The fake reviews spanned from 30 to 45 percent of the sellers’ total reviews. The defendants are Michael Abbara of California, Kurt Bauer of Pennsylvania, and a Chinese company called CCBetter Direct.
There is a treasure buried somewhere in Milwaukee. Not just in Milwaukee, but in nine other North American locations, including (possibly) New York, San Francisco, and Montreal. And it’s not so much “treasure” as hunks of ceramic encased in Plexiglas. But one man’s trash is another man’s marketing strategy.
The treasures were hidden in 1981 by publisher Byron Preiss, as part of his plan to promote his new book, The Secret. Preiss’s fantasy paperback (which predated the identically titled self-help book by a quarter of a century) included a series of puzzles in the form of cryptic verses with matching images. If solved, they’d lead readers to a real-life ceramic bin, or “casque,” containing a key to a safe-deposit box, which held a gem worth roughly $1,000….
The next puzzle wasn’t solved until 2004, when an attorney named Brian Zinn tracked down a casque in Cleveland from a verse that mentioned Socrates, Pindar, and Apelles (all three names are etched into a pylon at the Cleveland Cultural Gardens). After four hours of digging holes, he found the casque buried next to a wall marking the perimeter of the gardens.
To date, the Cleveland casque is the last known resolved puzzle. “Byron Preiss, according to family and friends, figured all of them would be found upon publication. I don’t think he realized how difficult the poems were,” said James Renner, an author and filmmaker who’s working on a documentary about the book.
Preiss died in a 2005 car crash at age 52, and never disclosed the locations of the remaining casques. His publishing house went bankrupt and was acquired by a rival press. Many people viewed the sale as the last chance to redeem the gems, suggesting now, there may only be empty bins.
But 35 years later, people are still searching….
As for the gems, which were believed to be confiscated in bankruptcy proceeding after Preiss’s death, Preiss’s widow Sandi Mendelson told VICE they’re safely in her possession and will be available to the first people to recover the remaining casques.
“If somebody would find something, yes,” said Mendelson. “I haven’t done anything with them, so they’re still around.”
Like The Martian before it, it is the science in The God Wave that makes for such an engrossing and convincing tale. The story feels utterly believable and meticulously researched, whilst not being overbearing; the novel will please hard- and soft-sci-fi fans alike. Hemstreet uses plenty of familiar tropes throughout, and you’ll recognise scenes reminiscent of Alien and Star Trek.
(10) VICTORIAN GAZING DRAGON. Hampus Eckerman said, “Seeing the nice posable dragon in the last pixel scroll reminded me of this dragon illusion.”
Ever seen those illusions where there is a face that seems to turn toward you? I’ve seen it in theme parks and museums like the Exploratorium, and the Disneyland Haunted House thing. But, now you can make your own. All you need is a printer and some scissors!
Being that close to death all the time changes the way you think about life. It’s why I feel such an affinity for other people who’ve been through it, or who are going through it. My spouse is a cancer survivor. He had just finished the last of his radiation a few months before we met. We understood life in a way that only people who’ve stared at death really do. You appreciate the little things a lot more. You constantly feel like you’re running on borrowed time.
Most of all, you get how precious life is, and you do your damnedest to hold onto it.
In reading this post from Steven Spohn over at Wendig’s site, I was reminded of this again. I may have all the appearances of being able-bodied, but when people talk about tossing out people for being defective, I can tell you that somewhere on there, no matter how far down, I am on that list. I know that because before I got sick, I put people like me on that list. I believed in “survival of the fittest.” What I didn’t realize is that “fittest” is a lie. The “fittest” don’t survive. There are some truly ridiculous animals out there (pandas??? Narwhales??). Those who survive are the most adapted to their particular niche. That is all. They are not stronger or smarter or cooler or better built or more logical.
What is it about horror and dark fiction that appeals to you the most?
The peek behind the curtain. Not necessarily a peek at something real, but a peek at the sort of things that we might wonder about that we don’t understand. Few of us believe there really are goblins in the shadows, but what if there were? That’s the nature of shadows—you don’t really know what’s in there. What we do know, however, is that there is a dark side to life, to human nature. Horrors and atrocities are real, so exploring them in fictional ways allows us to deal with them intellectually and philosophically. I don’t believe it’s just morbid curiosity, either. Our brains are wired to sense things about the world, about our environment. We are driven to explore, to discover, to learn. We enjoy so many creature comforts, so many sources of entertainment, so many colors and sights and recreations, I think many of us are drawn to seek out the opposite as a way of reminding ourselves of how good things can be. It’s like listening to the blues. People don’t play Muddy Waters to be depressed, they listen to him to be reminded of struggles, of adversity, of our common humanity. People like me, I believe, like dark fiction because a part of ourselves like to swim in deep waters, to be reminded that we can be afraid, intrigued, mystified. When we lift ourselves from the pages, the world seems a much brighter place.
Propshop, in collaboration with Lucasfilm, is now making official prop replicas of its work from The Force Awakens available to collectors in a new line called Star Wars Collectibles: Ultimate Studio Edition. Wave one is a treasure trove of memorable gear from the film: FN-2187 (i.e., Finn) Stormtrooper Helmet (with blood streaks!), Kylo Ren Helmet, Poe Dameron X-wing Helmet, Darth Vader Helmet (Melted), Rey Staff, Chewbacca Bowcaster, Kylo Ren Lightsaber Hilt, and Rey Lightsaber Hilt. Propshop is making them the same exact way it made the original props: 3D prints of the final output made for the film, all hand-painted by the original prop makers.
Although Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was especially intense for a PG-13 movie, the “Ultimate Edition” is including extended or brand new action scenes that are more comfortable nestled in rated-R territory. So if you liked the original version’s fights, get ready for even more bombastic throw-downs. Along with these sequences, this cut is also including 30 minutes worth of scenes cut from the theatrical release, taking the runtime to over three hours. This includes one (or several) featuring Hunger Games star Jena Malone. Several months ago, it was rumored that she was playing Barbara Gordon, a.k.a. Batgirl/Oracle. However, in this trailer, she’s seen with blonde hair and looks like she’s working at the Daily Planet with Lois Lane. Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean she’s still not Barbara. Maybe this version dyed her hair and took a job at the Planet to separate herself from the Bat-Family. Still, this is peculiar.
In this interplanetary adventure, a space shuttle embarks on the first mission to colonize Mars, only to discover after takeoff that one of the astronauts is pregnant. Shortly after landing, she dies from complications while giving birth to the first human born on the red planet – never revealing who the father is. Thus begins the extraordinary life of Gardner Elliot – an inquisitive, highly intelligent boy who reaches the age of 16 having only met 14 people in his very unconventional upbringing.
While searching for clues about his father, and the home planet he’s never known, Gardner begins an online friendship with a street smart girl in Colorado named Tulsa. When he finally gets a chance to go to Earth, he’s eager to experience all of the wonders he could only read about on Mars – from the most simple to the extraordinary. But once his explorations begin, scientists discover that Gardner’s organs can’t withstand Earth’s atmosphere.
Eager to find his father, Gardner escapes the team of scientists and joins with Tulsa on a race against time to unravel the mysteries of how he came to be, and where he belongs in the universe.
[Thanks to Hampus Eckerman, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael J. Walsh, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Doctor Science.]
In the womb-tank coded with thought and memory, Twoseret learned three things: that her life will be full of peace, that she will never die, and that she will know precisely one tragedy. These facts are absolute, untarnished by chance and impregnable to intervention.
The Hugo nominating deadline is March 31. And I was wondering if, on Easter weekend when the Best Fan Writer nominees are announced, there will be the usual cuckoo in the robin’s nest – an established pro novelist?
Over the past few years the category has been won by pro writers John Scalzi, Frederik Pohl, Jim C. Hines, and Tansy Rayner Roberts, with actual fans Cheryl Morgan and Claire Brialey breaking through, too.
Every time I approach this subject lots of you write to say, “Oh no, Mike, you’re crazy — pros can be fans too!”
This is such a very important ideological axiom – to fans. Those eager to win the argument that “pros can be fans too!” never seem to recognize that it isn’t fans who are stopping this from happening, rather, that they are trying to force a kind of egalitarianism on writers that never really takes, however interested or polite the writers may be while the award is on the table.
Because once everyone’s done marching around waving their hands as confetti falls from the rafters and the brass band blows like mad and the world has once again been made safe for fannish egalitarianism, nobody pays attention to the implicit message we get back from the pros that people were so hot to give a fan Hugo —
People who are building careers as writers do not want to identify their brands with anything that hints of the amateur.
And the Fan Writer Hugo that was a big deal for six months gets swept under the rug.
Bibliography:It’s here. New York Times best seller in fiction. Awards won include the Hugo, the Locus, the Seiun and Kurd Lasswitz. Works translated into 20 languages.
Where is it?
The late Frederik Pohl had two online bios, one at his official website and the other on his blog, and neither acknowledges the Best Fan Writer Hugo. The pro site speaks generally of winning the Hugo “six times; he was the only person ever to have won the Hugo both as writer and as editor….” The blog says of his awards: “He has received six Hugos, three Nebulas and forty or fifty other awards, some of which he has given himself.”
Six Hugos. Did you know Pohl, in fact, won seven Hugos? The seventh was his Best Fan Writer Hugo.
Now at the time he was nominated Pohl was gracious about it, clearly understood the honor he was being paid, said “I couldn’t be more pleased,” and was unquestionably qualified to compete in the category. I still thought his response was pretty much along the lines of “if you insist” – rather like Robert Silverberg’s attitude toward winning the 1950 Retro Hugo for Best Fan Writer.
Silverberg also doesn’t list his Retro Hugo on his official page, but that comes as no surprise if you remember what he wrote to File 770 the time I left him off a list —
I take umbrage at your omitting Me from your list of winners of the Best Fan Writer Hugo who have also sold pro fiction. May I remind you that I was the (totally undeserved) winner of the 1950 Retro-Hugo in that category, beating out such people as [Walt] Willis and [Bob] Tucker? Of course I would not have won the award if I hadn’t had a few stories published professionally along the way. But I did get the Hugo.
That’s the thing. A Best Fan Writer Hugo added nothing to the career Pohl already had, and made Silverberg feel fans must be completely clueless about what he truly values.
Then, last year’s winner, Tansy Rayner Roberts, has a lengthy bio on her website that mentions three awards won by her fiction but is silent about her Best Fan Writer Hugo. The site’s landing page does call out her involvement in “the Hugo-nominated Galactic Suburbia podcast.” Not said is that the nomination is in the Best Fancast category.
That’s what Milt Stevens will be asking voters to do at the 2013 Worldcon Business Meeting – delete the Best Fanzine, Best Fan Writer, and Best Fan Artist Hugo categories from the WSFS Constitution.
Stevens shared the text of his motion with readers of the Smofs listserv and justified it by saying these categories are “susceptible to manipulation” because they get fewer voters and are chronically influenced by people campaigning for themselves. He also expressed frustration with fans’ irreconcilable differences over the definition of a fanzine —
Efforts at compromise have failed. One group says that fanzines are words on paper only, and nothing else can be allowed. Another group thinks fanzines and fan writing are anything the voters can imagine and will tolerate no limitations whatsoever. There is wide dissatisfaction with these three awards, and it doesn’t seem likely to go away.
When Milt and I discussed his idea a few months ago, I argued that the implicit message in his motion was not that fanzine fans refuse to let the awards be abused, but that we quit, we’re abdicating our influence over the future of this subset of the Hugos. And other fans, semipros and bloggers who already feel entitled to control the awards will just tell us don’t let the door bang our butts on the way out.
I disagree with the proposal to repeal the fan Hugos because I feel our best interests involve keeping fanzines in the mix for these awards. There are still large numbers of fanzines being published and there’s no reason to legislate the irrelevance of this healthy brand of fanac.
It’s also too bad that the debate over the motion will inevitably make fanzine fans look more like jackasses than we already do, having just spent the last two years getting our alleged political allies to help us reconstitute the Best Fanzine category as we supposedly wanted it to look. Something they were happy to do because they had no intention of asking Hugo Administrators to enforce the result the movers, including Rich Lynch, said the rules change was actually supposed to have.
Like it or not, for fanzine fans the Hugos resemble the joke version of the Laws of Thermodynamics — you can’t win, you can’t break even, and you can’t get out of the game. So, since we can’t get out, we should not be abandoning the influence we still have left.
Update 08/01/2013: Corrected which set of natural laws the joke refers to, per comment.
By Steven H Silver: Because I don’t really want to work today, I was just looking over the Fan Writer Hugos and offer the following:
Only five individuals have won the fan writer Hugo on their first nomination, and one of those, of course, was in the first year it was offered:
Alexei Panshin (1 win /1 nominations)
Ted White (1/1)
Bob Tucker (1/1)
Bob Shaw (2/2)
Frederik Pohl (1/1)
Four people have declined a Best Fan Writer nomination: Alexei Panshin, which is why his win/nomination ratio is 1/1, Harlan Ellison, Ted White, and Mike Glyer.
24 of the 61 people nominated have only had one nomination (this includes James Bacon, who is currently a nominee).
14 people have dropped off the ballot and returned in subsequent years, 15 if you count Glyer’s declined nomination.
13 people have won the award, including 6 multiple winners (Warner, Geis, Wood, Shaw, Langford, Glyer)
12 people have had their first nomination in the 2000s
2 women have won the award (Wood, Morgan)
The longest streak of nominations and the longest winning streak both belong to Dave Langford (19 wins in a row, 31 nominations, 21 wins, total)
Most nominations without a win in the category is 12, a tie between Arthur Hlavaty and Evelyn C. Leeper.
The last time there were five different winners in five subsequent years was from 1970-1974 (Tucker, Geis, Warner, Carr, Wood) there has never been a longer streak of different winners. This year, no matter which nominee wins, will tie that period.
But don’t even get me started on the Best Fanzine and Best Fan Writer awards. Maybe I’m exposing my ignorance here, but beyond StarShip Sofa, I haven’t heard of a damn one, nor am I familiar with any of the writers. My beef, obviously, is the lack of presence of blogs, bloggers and online writers. Where’re the Nialls (Harrison and Alexander)? Where’s Abigail Nussbaum or Adam Whitehead? No nod for SF Signal? Really?
Really? Are we to assume from Moher’s tone that there’s a consensus about the best work in the field accepted by everyone except the actual Hugo voters?
There’s no consensus – there’s not even a plurality of opinion. Not among fandom at large and not among those dinosaurs the “traditional fanzine fans.”
Look how many different things were nominated in the fan categories this year – 119 fanzines, 225 fan writers. The leading fan writer (whoever that is) appeared only on 22% of the ballots. It was possible to reach the finals in Best Fanzine or Best Fan Artist with support of just 13% of the voters, and in Best Fan Writer with only 9%. Four-fifths of the voters might easily be asking if everyone else really neglected their favorites, but filling in the blank with names Moher never mentioned:
Best Fan Writer
Best Fan Artist
I happen to agree that Moher’s examples are, indeed, excellent. The thing is — there’s a lot of quality work being done, many admired writers, and the voters in the fan categories are passionate about a wide variety of choices. They have such a diversity of interests that there’s no justification for Moher to take on so, as if his examples of the most award-worthy fan writers or fanzines are so superior they’re the only ones anyone should embrace.
The Not So Great Divide: Moher’s complaint about a “lack of presence of blogs, bloggers and online writers” among the nominees appeals to the idea there is divide between people who engage in online fanac and… uh… come to think of it, who exactly is supposed to be on the other side of that divide?
Everybody uses the Web now. The Cool Kids and the Old Pharts haven’t been divided between pixels and paper for years. Did you notice there were only 14 paper ballots out of 1006 cast?
In hindsight, I believe the separation of various fan communities was not a technological divide but was a byproduct of people’s attempt to define fandom in a way that allowed them to believe they were keeping up with the part that mattered (therefore making it okay to ignore the rest.) Time is finite and interests vary with the individual, few fans have the desire or resources to participate in the full spectrum. That’s a social dynamic at work, not a byproduct of choices in communication technology.
There may be a divide of a different kind at work currently. Aren’t most of Moher’s examples distinguished by their passion for discussing sf & fantasy? Don’t most of the present fan Hugo finalists focus on fandom and social interests rather than discussions of genre literature? In the last culture war between faanish and sercon fans, the former were offended by all those darn book review zines hogging space on the Hugo ballot. I wonder if we haven’t cycled around to a version of this controversy again.
Despite our milieu being called “science fiction fandom” we often underestimate how much a quality discussion of science fiction or life inside the writing business appeals to fans. Would Fred Pohl have won a Best Fan Writer Hugo if every post was about the bheer can tower to the moon or something equally skiffy?
This pendulum swings back and forth as time passes and varies which interest dominates the Hugo ballot.
Legislated Change: When the “Making the Web Eligible” amendments to the Hugo rules took effect in 2010 many fans predicted they would yield a radically different slate of nominees – a prospect filling some with delight and others with dread. Those predictions came true. The winner of the 2010 Best Fanzine Hugo, StarShip Sofa, was a podcast. Three first-timers were up for the Best Fan Writer Hugo, two bloggers, those overnight sensations James Nicoll and Fred Pohl, plus letterhack Lloyd Penney.
Yet in 2011 voters returned some of the old standbys to the final ballot, so it’s not as if an asteroid struck the earth last year and wiped out the dinosaurs.
Why Does It Look This Way? Three factors seem to have moderated the change everyone predicted.
First, the growing participation in the Hugos — a record 1006 Worldcon members cast nominating ballots in 2011 — hasn’t impacted the fan categories. The average voter isn’t interested in fanac and leaves that part of the ballot blank.
Second, veteran fans with somewhat convergent ideas about fanzines still exert leverage on the Hugo nominating process, as I’ll explain.
Third, voters don’t know what “Making the Web Eligible” made eligible that wasn’t before. The amended rules failed to provide clear direction. This vagueness makes newcomers shy away from participating in the fan categories. People only vote when they’re somewhat confident about what they’re supposed to be voting for.
White Space: Hugo Administrator Vincent Docherty’s statistical summary shows that while practically every voter nominated something in the Best Novel category, with 83% participation, the typical ballot otherwise left many of categories completely blank.
Total Ballots = 1006
Votes Cast in Category
Percentage of All Ballots
Best Short Story
Best Related Work
Best Graphic Story
BDP, Long Form
BDP, Short Form
Best Editor, Short
Best Editor, Long
Best Pro Artist
Best Fan Writer
Best Fan Artist
My interpretation of these statistics is that they show voters nominate in categories where they feel a higher level of confidence in their knowledge about what deserves an award — and skip the rest.
Something else I believe is true, though it can’t be proven with the voting stats, is this:
Most Hugo voters don’t read fanzines.
Most Hugo voters don’t read blogs by fans.
Because most Hugo voters don’t read fan writing, which is what your typical fanzine or fannish blog is filled with. It really makes no difference whether the fan writing is online or what format it’s in.
Most Hugo voters don’t know any names to write down in the fan categories, so most of them don’t nominate in the fan categories.
Ballots Better Than Bullets: That leaves those of us who think we do know something about the subject to thresh things out. And the numbers show in the Best Fanzine category that the people who are sure they know what a fanzine is and have an opinion about what the best ones are, simply by filling out their ballots completely, wield a surprising degree of influence over what makes the final ballot. This can be inferred from the voting statistics.
In every category a great many voters cast “bullet votes” — they write down just one or two selected friends or favorites. Here’s how we know that. Remember, a voter can nominate up to five items in each category. Now look at the Best Novel category:
Total Ballots = 1006
Best Short Story
Best Related Work
Best Graphic Story
BDP, Long Form
BDP, Short Form
Best Editor, Short
Best Editor, Long
Best Pro Artist
Best Fan Writer
Best Fan Artist
Docherty reports voters made 2657 total nominations. Therefore, 2657 divided by 833 ballots equals an average of 3.19 nominations per ballot.
Working through the rest of the ballot there’s surprising consistency — nearly every category averaged 2-3 nominations or less per ballot.
Some voters are filling in four or five slots on their ballots, so that overall low average can only be achieved if a large proportion of the other voters write in just a single nominee – casting bullet votes.
Without looking at the ballots, which isn’t allowed, no one can tell which nominees were helped by bullet voting, and that’s beside the point. My purpose is to show how prevalent bullet votes must be.
I believe we fannish voters continue to have a greater impact for the very reason that we do put something in all five spaces. If, after I fire one of my bullets for File 770, I follow it with another for Challenger (which is a terrific fanzine), give the third to The Drink Tank and so on – that collectively lifts a certain community of fanzines above the background noise. Even a small convergence of this kind influences the outcome.
Why Johnny Can’t Define “Issue”: A few months ago I was happy to get an e-mail from the Hugo Administrator telling me File 770 was nominated. The e-mail also asked me to verify that I was eligible in the category:
We’re delighted to inform you that File 770 has been nominated for a Hugo Award in the category of Best Fanzine. The Best Fanzine category is for any generally available non-professional publication devoted to science fiction, fantasy, or related subjects which by the close of 2010 has published four (4) or more issues (or the equivalent in other media), at least one (1) of which appeared in the previous calendar year, and which does not qualify as a semiprozine.
Can you confirm this requirement and do you accept the nomination in this category?
Easy for me to answer that affirmatively, I had a paper issue out last year. All the other finalists had distinct issues, too.
Were any of the prospective nominees blog creators, who read this paragraph and decided their work didn’t qualify and declined the nomination? I doubt it. Nobody on the verge of making the final ballot will think, “I’ve made 200 blog posts but I’m not sure if that’s the equivalent of four issues, so I’d better turn down this nomination.”
But I do suspect that Hugo voters are deterred from nominating things that don’t come in easily-definable issues. Maybe they should be. Last year John Scalzi, seconded by Cheryl Morgan, advanced the idea that their blogs were not fanzines or related works, setting an example to the effect that bloggers should be recognized only in the Best Fan Writer category.
No way of really deciding who’s right – the authors of “Making the Web Eligible” failed to say what “the equivalent in other media” is. And because fans shy away from voting in categories unless they’re confident in their knowledge, don’t you suppose the lack of an explicit definition chills participation?
Vincent Docherty, Hugo Administrator for 2010 and again in 2011, provided helpful guidance last year that made it clear the voters collectively would have the most say about what qualifies:
In summary, unless I feel very certain a work is technically ineligible, (which includes having only a trivial amount of new material), I will accept the will of the nominators. It is therefore up to the electorate to act as the jury on the facts and answer the question: ‘Is this work a fanzine (or semiprozine or Related Work) or not?‘
Of course the rules change was nicknamed “Making the Web Eligible” for a reason – the movers did not intend that only things looking like paper magazines would be allowed into contention as fanzines, otherwise they need not have changed the rules.
Conclusion: I hate to say it, but the infinite audience of the internet mostly avoids reading our fascinating verbiage, whether it appears on a hip happening blog or in a bilious old PDF file at eFanzines. Everybody wishes they drew like Scalzi at Whatever. Most are lucky to draw like Glyer at File 770. Enormous numbers of people online have an interest in sf – it’s mainstream now. How many are engaged in fannish activities like fan writing, con running, publishing, etc. How many are connected to the Worldcon community whose members vote on the Hugos?
We have fannish communities with varied interests and tastes and while it’s typical of the age to assume the other side is biased and corrupt, in fact it’s everyone’s privilege to like what they like. The prospects with the most support will make the final ballot, which is how the Hugos are designed to work.
(P.S. I note that SF Awards Watch has done its own exploration of the voting stats in “A New Hugo Award Podcast”. If this post was inspired by their work I’d happily admit it, but it’s not.)
Update 05/23/2011: Fixed one table — thanks to Mike K. Discovered I had copied another test calculation which isn’t discussed in this post.
Eligibility of online works
under the amended Hugo Award rules By Vincent Docherty
I am the WSFS Division Head for the 2010 Worldcon, Aussiecon 4, and Administrator for the Hugo Awards.
Mike Glyer recently asked for my opinion on how a couple of the newly-ratified WSFS rules changes will be administered. Specifically: ‘Will blogs and websites be eligible in the Best Fanzine and Best Semiprozine categories if they meet the general criteria of either category?‘
Hugo administrators usually refrain from commenting on general eligibility questions in advance, preferring to deal with actual nominations. There is a lot of interest in the Hugos among people with an interest in the rules and potential nominees, and feedback can be unforgiving of actual or perceived errors. However Mike did raise an interesting point in regard to the recent changes to the WSFS rules, which resulted from the work done by a sub-committee looking at the eligibility of web-based works: “This coming year poses different problems, however, and fans will want to know in advance whether it’s a waste of a nominating vote to write down blogs and websites in the Best Fanzine category.”
I’d like to make clear my approach to administering Hugo nominations. This is based on working with other Hugo Administrators and having been on the Hugo administration sub-committee in 2005. When looking at nominations:
1. first follow the WSFS Constitution as it applies to the Hugos;
2. where the rules aren’t sufficiently clear, be guided by the will of the voters;
3. consider, but not be bound by, rulings by previous administrators;
4. any mistakes I make are my own and not a precedent.
Let’s look at the relevant changes that actually occurred in the WSFS Constitution following the 2009 Business Meeting. Kevin Standlee, the BM chair, has updated the text which is now online at http://www.wsfs.org/bm/rules.html
The clauses which were modified, and relevant to the questions, are now:
3.3.5: Best Related Work. Any work related to the field of science fiction, fantasy, or fandom, appearing for the first time during the previous calendar year or which has been substantially modified during the previous calendar year, and which is either non-fiction or, if fictional, is noteworthy primarily for aspects other than the fictional text, and which is not eligible in any other category.
3.3.12: Best Semiprozine. Any generally available non-professional publication devoted to science fiction or fantasy which by the close of the previous calendar year has published four (4) or more issues (or the equivalent in other media), at least one (1) of which appeared in the previous calendar year, and which in the previous calendar year met at least two (2) of the following criteria:
(1) had an average press run of at least one thousand (1000) copies per issue,
(2) paid its contributors and/or staff in other than copies of the publication,
(3) provided at least half the income of any one person,
(4) had at least fifteen percent (15%) of its total space occupied by advertising,
(5) announced itself to be a semiprozine.
3.3.13: Best Fanzine. Any generally available non-professional publication devoted to science fiction, fantasy, or related subjects which by the close of the previous calendar year has published four (4) or more issues (or the equivalent in other media), at least one (1) of which appeared in the previous calendar year, and which does not qualify as a semiprozine.
The substantive changes were: ‘Best Related Book’ becomes ‘Best Related Work’, and the addition of the phrase ‘(or the equivalent in other media)’ to the Semiprozine and Fanzine categories. These were proposed by the web eligibility sub-committee in 2008 and ratified this year.
When increasing numbers of genre works began appearing online, sometimes exclusively, two Worldcon committees exercised their discretion to add a “Best Website” Hugo category. These were popular categories, and the nominees can be seen here: http://www.thehugoawards.org/hugo-history/ However, in at least one case, the same work appeared in both Best Website and another category, and several nominees were in effect containers for fiction, non-fiction or fannish work eligible in other also categories. There was a concern that the same content could be eligible in multiple categories. This was a trigger for the eventual creation of the subcommittee tasked with looking at web eligibility.
Even before 2009, the rules already permitted fiction, dramatic presentations, and in the last few years, semiprozines and fanzines, to be nominated regardless of media platform. The recent change brought the Related Work category into line and provided some additional clarity to Semiprozine, Fanzine, (and Editor Short Form, which isn’t in the scope of this article). The important thing is the content, not the container or medium or means of delivery.
The answer to the general question about whether genre websites, including blogs, are eligible in principle is clearly yes, since the rules now explicitly permit works published in other media in several categories. The follow-up question is which websites and blogs are eligible in which categories, and are there easy to understand guidelines for nominators?
Under the revised rules, a web-only publication of an individual work, or series of issues of a work, would certainly be eligible as a Fanzine, Semiprozine or Related Work, depending on whether it satisfies the specific category rules. There are hard boundaries between Fanzine and Semiprozine: a work either meets two of the five tests, and is therefore a Semiprozine, or it doesn’t, and so is a Fanzine. (For instance, a notable fanzine changed category in 2003, when its editor decided to declare it a Semiprozine., and it presumably satisfied at least one other condition for Semiprozine.). If a work is eligible to be a Fanzine or Semiprozine, then it is not eligible to be a Best Related Work.
Many genre websites, including blogs, are continuously updated with material, making them difficult to classify as individual works or ‘issues’. ‘Issues’ of a magazine or fanzine have two characteristics: they comprise discrete blocks of new material. Reference, news, and SF club and convention websites comprise much-changing material. Other sites such as the various online fanzines and magazines are largely containers for individual works. Blogs and some other genre sites are somewhere in between – is each article/blog entry an individual work or issue in its own right or is it the whole that is the work? And how often does an update need to occur to trigger eligibility?
The eligibility criteria in Fanzine and Semiprozine include the condition: ‘which by the close of the previous calendar year has published four (4) or more issues (or the equivalent in other media), at least one (1) of which appeared in the previous calendar year‘. That’s an easy test for works, whether paper or online, which comprise clearly labeled, separate issues, but less easy for continuously updated websites such as blogs or clubs and cons.
In regard to the requirements of discreteness, WSFS clearly wants electronic media to be included. Blogs are a vital part of the electronic fan writing scene just now. I suspect that ‘issue’ in this context is a proxy for ‘new content’.
I would accept that any content update in the previous calendar year would be sufficient for the last eligibility criterion, but how to assess ‘four or more issues’? One can imagine the extreme case of a blog with four short entries, by a popular genre figure, being eligible in the minds of some nominators, and arguably passing the ‘letter of the law’.
I asked Ben Yalow to provide some additional background information on the eligibility rules and with his permission I have reproduced some of his key comments. (In one place I generalized a reference to a regular recent nominee):
Historically, there was a two-part test for a paper publication to meet for deciding its eligibility. The first criterion was whether it was a “this year” work or not — did an issue appear in the appropriate year? And that test is common to all of the Hugo categories. But for a web site, or something in some other medium that is continually modified (rather than having a quantized “issue”), the judgment has to be whether there is sufficient new material to trigger eligibility. And, for that, I would expect the guidance would have to be to follow the will of the voters unless it’s so obviously wrong as to be absurd. For instance if a blogger had only one post to a sizeable existing blog in a year, then it would probably be considered too minimal an amount to requalify it — but it should probably be something equally absurd to trigger that administrator action.
The second part — the “four issues” test — should be interpreted based on the parliamentary history of what that was inserted into the Constitution to do. Although we don’t have minutes for the Business Meeting where that was adopted (Seacon, in 1961), we do know the cause. Specifically, “Who Killed Science Fiction?” (Earl Kemp’s one-shot) appeared on the ballot, and actually won — and the Business Meeting decided that one-shots shouldn’t be eligible in Fanzine (and it was carried across to Semiprozine when Fanzine got split). So the “four issues” test — which is easy to administer for things that proclaim themselves as having quantized issues — needs an equivalent test, which is what the wording “(or the equivalent in other media)” tells the administrator to do. So, for a blog/web site, the question is whether it’s a one-shot item (for example, a blog set up for people to post on at a specific Corflu should be considered a one-shot, and not eligible, even though it has lots of individual posts), or an ongoing item, which is the equivalent to the “four issues” test for continuous-posting media.
I think there is a lot of sense in that, which I would summarise as: a nominee must have substantial original content in the year in question, and that it be more than a flash in the pan, (the Hugo is designed not to be awarded to a one-shot wonder), and therefore had substantial material in prior years.
What guidance is available then, in terms of how much new material triggers eligibility? It is not my role to supplant WSFS and so I can’t give a definitive minimum count of words, and I also can’t declare that the concept of ‘issue’ is meaningless. Some guidance is needed to avoid a situation where a trivially small amount of work is considered sufficient. So I think a useful rule of thumb would be that new material, comparable to the amount of new material in an issue of a typical small fanzine, appeared in the last year, and that substantially more than that appeared overall. Any blog, or news-site or other website which has new material each year, and which is popular enough to get enough legitimate nominations to get on the ballot, should be able to exceed this.
I hope these are perceived as reasonable suggestions, which will work in combination with the will of the nominators and a certain degree of judgment by the administrator. The Hugos don’t run in a vacuum and most nominators and voters are familiar with the rules and aren’t trying to game the system.
In summary, unless I feel very certain a work is technically ineligible, (which includes having only a trivial amount of new material), I will accept the will of the nominators. It is therefore up to the electorate to act as the jury on the facts and answer the question: ‘Is this work a fanzine (or semiprozine or Related Work) or not?‘
I’ve found it useful to think through these questions, and I’m very grateful to Chris Barkley, Paul Dormer, Paul Ewins, Mike Glyer, John Lorentz, Mark Olson, Kevin Standlee, Ben Yalow and others, who took the time to offer opinions and background information. Some things are much clearer to me and others no doubt need further thought. New Hugo rules can take some time to settle down, and sometimes they need to be revised in order to provide more clarity. Some of the people I have talked to have also taken a line that we should be more prescriptive about what a Fanzine is, and that blog writers should only be eligible for Fan Writer. I leave that to those who can make a persuasive case at the WSFS Business Meeting.
I expect that the best guidance will be provided by the actual nominations from fans who genuinely want to celebrate and reward what they think has been best in the genre, which after all is really at the heart of both Worldcon and the Hugos. The members of WSFS are a very large jury, and it’s up to each person to make their own individual decision about whether a work is a fanzine (etc.) or not.