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:
(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.
…When aggregate storytelling is done unofficially, we call it “transformative work,” of which fan fiction is a major part.
An especially intriguing example of modern-day aggregate storytelling — from both an official and unofficial standpoint — is the TV show Supernatural, about two monster-hunting brothers and the found-family they make along the way. The show has enjoyed a voracious fanbase, which kept the series alive for fifteen seasons and spawned thousands and thousands of fan works (as of this writing, there are 243,690 entries related to Supernatural on Archive of Our Own alone. This is to say nothing of Tumblr, Twitter, etc.).
Starting with the season four episode “The Monster at the End of this Book,” the show began engaging with fan reactions through self-referential stories. Sam and Dean literally read fan fiction about themselves on screen, and the characters used vernacular created by the Supernatural fanbase throughout.
The fans didn’t simply consume the story. They changed the way the story was told. It would be difficult to argue that the author(s) should be considered as good as dead in terms of critical consideration when the author(s) were still actively creating in tandem with the audience’s reception…
Escape Pod is pleased to announce a new special project for 2021: Black Future Month, a month-long celebration of Black voices in science fiction, guest edited by Brent Lambert of FIYAH Magazine. Episodes will air in the month of October and feature two original works of short fiction as well as two reprints.
NOTE: For this special event, we are only accepting submission from authors of the African diaspora and the African continent. This is an intersectional definition of Blackness, and we strongly encourage submissions from women, members of the LGBTQIA community, and members from other underrepresented communities within the African diaspora.
Pay rate, format, and content will follow Escape Pod’s regular guidelines, with two exceptions:
Manuscripts do not need to be anonymized for this submissions portal.
Stories must be between 1,500 – 5,000 words.
(3) SFF POSTAGE STAMPS COMING. The UK’s Royal Mail has announced that on March 16 the Legend of King Arthur stamps will be released. This set will be followed by an April 15 issue celebrating classic science fiction. As of today, no images from either set have been posted. Norvic Philatelics speculates what might be commemorated in the Classic Science Fiction set:
This issue consists of pairs of 1st class, £1.70 and £2.55 stamps – with the usual additions of a presentation pack first day cover, and postcards.
Some research reveals that this is the 75th anniversary of the death of the author H G Wells, and the 70th anniversary of the publication of John Wyndham’s The Day of the Triffids”, so it seems likely that one of Wells’ books will feature on one stamp and Wyndham’s will appear on another.
(4) GOODBYE, MR. CHIP. The trailer dropped for HBO Max’s Made for Love. It’s sf, right? At least for another few minutes.
The classic story of boy meets girl, boy implants high-tech surveillance chip in girl’s brain… Featuring Cristin Milioti, Ray Romano, Noma Dumezweni, and Billy Magnussen, Made for Love is coming to HBO Max this April.
…. Before I dive deep into Willis’s construction of parallel characters, I want to speak more generally about the potential for parallels — echoes — inside a book, when that book takes place in multiple timelines. Many books do take place in more than one timeline, of course, whether or not they involve time travel! And there’s so much you can do with that kind of structure. As you can imagine, life in Oxfordshire in 1348 is dramatically different from life in Oxford in 2054. But Willis weaves so many parallels into these two stories, big and small things, connecting them deftly, and showing us that some things never really change. I suppose the most obvious parallel in this particular book is the rise of disease. The less obvious is some of the fallout that follows the rise of disease, no matter the era: denial; fanaticism; racism and other prejudices; isolationism; depression and despair; depletion of supplies (yes, they are running out of toilet paper in 2054). She also sets these timelines in the same physical location, the Oxfords and Oxfordshires of 1348 and 2054 — the same towns, the same churches. Some of the physical objects from 1348 still exist in 2054. She sets both stories at Christmas, and we see that some of the traditions are the same. She also weaves the most beautiful web between timelines using bells, bellringers, and the significance of the sound of bells tolling.
Simply by creating two timelines, then establishing that some objects, structures, and activities are the same and that some human behaviors are the same across the timelines, she can go on and tell two divergent plots, yet create echoes between them. These echoes give the book an internal resonance….
Lisa and I have been getting increasingly antsy and wanting to get out of the house and go see things, but with no sign of a vaccine being available for us mere under-65s, we wanted something that would be away from other people and was close enough to be able to get back home the same day. So we decided to go see the site of the atomic test in our backyard….
I know it’s unlikely that anyone else will come visit this spot, but if somehow your travels take you across “The Loneliest Road,” you might consider a relatively short side trip to one of the few atomic bomb test sites you can visit on your own.
(7) FREE HWA ONLINE PANEL. The Horror Writers Association will present a free Zoom webinar, “Skeleton Hour 7: Writing Horror in a Post-Covid World” on Thursday, April 8, 2021 at 6 p.m. Pacific. Panelists will include: Richard Thomas (moderator), Sarah Langan, Usman T. Malik, Josh Malerman, A.C. Wise, and Lucy A. Snyder. Register here.
The Krakau found an Earth that has been overrun by the bestial survivors of a planetary plague. Still, better half a glass than an empty glass. The benevolent aliens retrieved suitable candidates from the raving hordes and applied suitable cognitive corrective measures. Lo and behold, humans were transformed from wandering monsters to trustworthy subordinates. Although perhaps not all that trustworthy. Humans are relegated to menial tasks.
Marion “Mops” Adamopoulos is in charge of Earth Mercenary Corps Ship Pufferfish’s Shipboard Hygiene and Sanitation team. Chief janitor, in other words. Not command crew. Except that an unexpected attack eliminates her Krakau commanders while most of Pufferfish’s humans revert into beasts. Mops has no choice but to take command of a ship neither she nor the remaining non-bestial humans know how to operate.
Tell, don’t show. Dump your information. Write in second person. Write in passive voice. Use adverbs. To heck with suspense. Rules mark what’s difficult, not what’s impossible. There’s a whole range of exciting storytelling possibilities beyond them. Not every story needs to be in second person, but when it’s the right voice for the right story, it can be magic. The right information dump, written perfectly, can become a dazzling gymnastic feat of beauty, fascination, or humor. “Break the Rules” will teach you inspirations and techniques for rowing upstream of common knowledge. You can break any rule–if you do it right.
Join award-winning speculative fiction writer Rachel Swirsky for a workshop in which she teaches you how and why to break the rules. Next class date: Sunday, April 4, 2021, 1:00-3:00 PM Pacific Time.
(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
March 8, 1978 — The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was first broadcast forty-three years ago today on BBC Radio 4. It was written by Douglas Adams with some material in the first series provided by John Lloyd. It starred Simon Jones, Geoffrey McGivern, Mark Wing-Davey. Susan Sheridan and Stephen Moore. It was the only radio show ever to be nominated for a Hugo in the ‘Best Dramatic Presentation’ category finishing second that year to Superman at Seacon ‘79. It would spawn theater shows, novels, comic books, a TV series, a video game, and a feature film.
(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
Born March 8, 1859 — Kenneth Grahame. Author of The Wind in the Willows which it turns out has had seven film adaptations, not all under the name The Wind in the Willows. (Did you know A.A. Milne dramatized it for the stage as Toad of Toad Hall?) Oh, and he did write one other fantasy, The Reluctant Dragon which I’ve never heard of. Have any of y’all read it? (Died 1932.) (CE)
Born March 8, 1899 – Eric Linklater. The Wind on the Moon reached the Retro-Hugo ballot; it won the Carnegie Medal. Three more novels, nine shorter stories for us; two dozen novels all told, ten plays, three volumes of stories, two of poetry, three of memoirs, two dozen of essays & history. Served in both World Wars. Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. (Died 1974) [JH]
Born March 8, 1922 – John Burke. Co-edited The Satellite and Moonshine (not Len Moffatt’s fanzine, another one). A score of books including novelizations of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines (okay, call it adjacent), fourscore shorter stories, for us; a hundred fifty novels all told. Correspondent of The Fantast, Zenith, and at the end Relapse, which I wish Sir Peter Weston hadn’t retitled from Prolapse, but what do I know? (Died 2011) [JH]
Born March 8, 1928 — Kate Wilhelm. Author of the Hugo–winning Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang. She also won a Hugo for Best Related Book and a Locus Award for Best Nonfiction for Storyteller: Writing Lessons and More from 27 Years of the Clarion Writers’ Workshop. SFWA renamed their Solstice Award the Kate Wilhelm Solstice Award. She established the Clarion Workshop with her husband Damon Knight and writer Robin Scott Wilson. (Died 2018,) (CE)
Born March 8, 1932 – Jim Webbert, age 89. Among our better auctioneers – we raise money that way, few would pay what con memberships really cost. Collector of books, other art, model rockets. HO model railroader. Chemist. Three decades in the Army Reserve, often teaching. Often seen at LepreCon. Fan Guest of Honor at TusCon 1, CopperCon 9, Con/Fusion, Kubla Khan 20 (all with wife Doreen). [JH]
Born March 8, 1934 — Kurt Mahr. One of the first writers of the Perry Rhodan series, considered the largest SF series of the world. He also edited a Perry Rhodan magazine, wrote Perry Rhodan chapbooks and yes, wrote many, many short stories about Perry Rhodan. He did write several other SF series. Ok, what’s the appeal of Perry Rhodan? He runs through SF as a genre but I’ve not read anything concerning him. (Died 1993.) (CE)
Born March 8, 1939 — Peter Nicholls. Writer and editor. Creator and co-editor of The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction with John Clute which won a Hugo twice. He won another Hugo for the Science Fiction Encyclopedia. His other publications were Science Fiction at Large, The Science in Science Fiction edited by Nicholls and written by him and David Langford, and Fantastic Cinema. He became the first Administrator of the United Kingdom based Science Fiction Foundation. He was editor of its journal, Foundation: The Review of Science Fiction, from 1974 to 1978. (Died 2018.) (CE)
Born March 8, 1973 – Daniel Griffo, age 48. Lives in La Plata (a Silver Age artist?), Argentina, with wife, son, and two pets named Indiana and Jones. I am not making this up. Comics, lettering, 3-dimensional activity books, My Visit to the Acupuncturist (I’m not; why shouldn’t there be a children’s book about that?), two about Dragon Masters – here’s one of them, Future of the Time Dragon. Website. [JH]
Born March 8, 1976 — Freddie Prinze Jr., 45. I’m fairly sure his first genre role was in Wing Commander as Lt. Christopher Blair followed by the animated Mass Effect: Paragon Lost in which he voiced Lieutenant James Vega. Speaking of animated endeavors, I’ve got him in Kim Possible: A Sitch In Time voicing Future Jim / Future Tim followed by being in all in all four seasons of the animated Star Wars Rebels as Kanan Jarrus. And that’s a series which I highly recommend as it may well be the best Star Wars fiction ever done. (CE)
Born March 8, 1978 – Samanta Schweblin, age 43. Another Argentine, this one living in Berlin, writing in Spanish. Two novels, two shorter stories for us; three collections. Casa de las Americas Award. Juan Rulfo Prize. Tigre Juan Award, Shirley Jackson Award for Distancia de rescate, in English Fever Dream. [JH]
(12) COMICS SECTION.
The Far Side reveals the tragic conclusion of a nursery rhyme.
(14) ON BOARD. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the March 3 Financial Times, gaming columnist Tom Faber looks at the appeal of board games during the pandemic.
For those who fancy themselves not Victorian engineers or colonial settlers but fantasy warriors and space explorers, games such as Twilight Imperium and Terraforming Mars hold more appeal. You can learn the rules of most within an hour or two, but there are some more elaborate offerings such as dungeon crawler Gloomhaven, which weighs 10kg and currently sits at the top of the ratings on the authoritative site BoardGameGeek. Games have grown in beauty as well as sophistication–see Wingspan, with its 180 gorgeous bird illustrations and pleasing tokens in the shape of pastel-shaded eggs.
As the games themselves have become more desirable, board game cafes such as Draughts in London and Snakes and Lattes in Toronto have sprung up and help legitimise board gaming, At the same time, the internet has facilitated the discovery of new games and willing opponents, as well as enabling the rising trend of board game crowdfunding–Frosthaven, the followup to Gloomhaven, raised almost $13m on Kickstarter.”
After having endured the horrors of Oklahoma and Kentucky, I’ve decided that I should announce my mask policy. I’m not a head of state or a governor, I’m just a guy, so there is no way to enforce my preferences on the world— except, of course, by way of sarcasm and mockery.
Just remember that I’m the guy that came up with several rules for living, including Williams’ First Law: Assholes Always Advertise.
So here goes:
While there is very little scientific data about how effective mask use is in preventing COVID, the wearing of masks in public is (at the very least) a courtesy to others, particularly those most vulnerable to the disease.
So if you’re in public and not wearing a mask, I’m not going to assume that you’re a brave iconoclastic thinker challenging accepted dogma, I’m going to assume that you are a complete asshole. And not only are you an asshole, you’re advertising yourself as such.
…On the positive side, I love the concept of the alien spaceship disintegrating as it enters the solar system. I’m frankly fascinated by the backstory of that, which sadly, in episode one at least, the series shows no signs of exploring, versus the “what does each piece of debris do this week” storytelling. I liked the way the program began, with the tiny shard of debris transporting an unfortunate maid from high up in a hotel to her death in the dining room, without marring any of the ceilings or floors she falls through. Grabbed my attention!
But there was very little about the alien technology or curiosity on anyone’s part about the aliens themselves or what destroyed the ship. No discussion about whether the debris is actually some kind of invasion or what might happen next. No one here seems to care if there was an FTL drive to be had. I frankly wished this was a series about going to explore what’s left of the hulk in space, rather than these cut and dried, solved in an hour individual cases….
(17) A LITTLE LIST. At the Hugo Book Club Blog, Olav Rokne has compiled a list of “Screen adaptations of Hugo-shortlisted works”. There are 47 so far. (The list excludes Retro Hugo awards as well as all Graphic Novels and comic book adaptations.)
The scrutiny also prompted some public libraries to review their Dr. Seuss collections.
A group of librarians across Toronto Public Library’s system will evaluate the titles in question and issue recommendations, according to a spokeswoman.
“Occasionally, children’s books written some time ago are brought to our attention for review,” Ana-Maria Critchley said in an email.
“If the review determines there are racial and cultural representation concerns the committee will recommend to either withdraw the book from our library collections or move the book from children’s collections to another location, such as a reference collection for use by researchers.”
The Vancouver Public Library is also launching reviews of each of the six Dr. Seuss titles.
Scott Fraser, manager of marketing and communications, said this process is usually initiated by a request from a patron, but the library made an exception given the “extremely unusual” decision by a rights holder to suspend publication.
Copies of the books will remain on the shelves while the review is underway, Fraser said, and officials will then decide whether to keep a title in the collection, change its classification or remove it from the stacks.
Vancouver Public Library previously reviewed “If I Ran the Zoo” in 2014 in response to a complaint about stereotypical depictions of Asians. A caption in the book describes three characters as “helpers who all wear their eyes at a slant.”
The library decided to keep the book on the shelves, but stop reading it at storytime, and only promote it as an example of how cultural depictions have changed….
…Prior to this discovery, Zhang and his research group had been pondering the possible existence of space hurricanes for years. The team’s research focus lies in the interactions between the ionosphere, an atmospheric layer that extends some 50 to 600 miles above Earth’s surface, and the magnetosphere, the region shaped by our planet’s protective magnetic field. At the poles, these interactions generate the magical and dazzling auroras that are popularly known as the Northern and Southern Lights.
Tropical hurricanes are driven in part by the movements of heavy air masses that generate strong winds; Zhang and his colleagues suspected a similar mechanism might be at work in the outer space environment close to Earth. In the case of space hurricanes, the solar wind, a stream of charged particles that flows from the Sun, slams into Earth’s upper atmosphere and transfers its energy into the ionosphere, driving the cyclone formation.
(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “WandaVision Pitch Meeting” on ScreenRant, Ryan George explains that Marvel fans will be frustrated by the slow drip of revelations about how WandaVision connects to the MCU that they’ll become really frustrated by the phrase “Please Stand By.”
[Thanks to Andrew Porter, John Hertz, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, JJ, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Brian Z.]
Stuart told File 770, “The letter was workshopped by the entire group, and wasn’t published before they gave express approval so it very much is a group of co-signees.”
The group includes: Charles Payseur, Benjamin C. Kinney, Jennifer Mace, SL Huang, Shiv Ramdas, SB Divya, Jenn Lyons, Sarah Gailey, Paul Weimer, Sarah Pinsker, Claire Rousseau, Maria Haskins, Tasha Suri, Marguerite Kenner, Alasdair Stuart, Jonathan Strahan, Pablo Defendini, Elsa Sjunneson, Brent Lambert, Freya Marske, Julia Rios, Alix Harrow, Gideon Marcus, Janice Marcus, Lorelei Marcus, James Davis Nicoll, Neil Clarke, Cora Buhlert, Charlie Jane Anders, Brandon O’Brien, Erica Frank, Jen Zink, Adri Joy, Fran Wilde, Suzanne Walker, Chimedum Ohaegbu, Navah Wolfe, John Picacio, and Max Gladstone.
The letter says:
We applaud the courage and conviction of the CoNZealand organisers in pivoting to a virtual Worldcon during an unprecedented global event. Their work has been admirable and — in many aspects — both innovative and successful.
We are a group of Hugo Award finalists who identified concerns with our programming when we received our “final schedules” this week, and came together to help CoNZealand recognize and address these issues.
In brief, our key concerns are:
Many Hugo finalists have not been offered programming and panels relevant to their nomination.
We believe that many of our panels cannot be adequately performed without more diverse participants and/or a reframing of the topic.
Communication with Hugo finalists about the financial requirements for participation has been inconsistent or absent, with contradictory information on whether or not we were able to participate in programming without a full attending membership. This issue particularly impacted Black, Indigenous and people of color (“BIPOC”), leaving them more likely than other finalists to receive no programming.
We present our concerns in the hope that these issues represent not intentional choices on the convention’s part but the unavoidable consequences of Worldcon’s discontinuous structure, and the necessary prioritization CoNZealand has had to undertake in order to pivot successfully to a virtual event.
We have tried to be brief and targeted in our recommendations so as to remain sensitive to the time pressure CoNZealand is under. Accompanying this letter is a spreadsheet containing specific examples of the issues above. We have listed (1) which panel topics we are missing; (2) which panels have problematic design or membership; (3) which panels we finalists want off or are willing to leave to create space; and (4) finalists that were deterred from participation due to lack of membership.
Our data are incomplete because we could only recruit a limited number of Hugo finalists to provide input without further delaying the process. Among our group of finalists, about 25% entirely lack relevant panels, and about 45% are dissatisfied with the fit of the programming they have.
We recognize there is a difficult balance to strike when raising concerns to an overtaxed team less than two weeks before an event, however many of us have repeatedly raised these issues or volunteered only to receive no response. We have intentionally not sought to assume ownership of programming items, but we are committed to assisting where possible and desired by CoNZealand. However, we emphasize that our bringing awareness to these issues does not obligate us to single-handedly resolve them.
As part of our offer to assist, we have begun identifying additional and replacement panelists who could add necessary diversity. If CoNZealand lacks sufficient BIPOC attendees, we hope you will provide free attendance to needed panelists who aren’t members. Moreover, there remain issues we cannot address on our own, especially (1) communicating with all finalists whether paid membership is required for programming; and (2) making sure all finalists with memberships are on relevant programming.
We are not united in what actions we intend to take if our concerns are not addressed. Many have already begun the process of asking to be removed from programming in its entirety, while others are actively working to locate replacements for the programming items they feel need improvement. Our focus at this stage remains taking action to make our concerns known, and to support CoNZealand addressing them in the combined spirit of fostering an environment for all to share in the celebration of our genre.
We appreciate your volunteerism in contacting all those people for us. As you know, due to privacy regulations, we cannot contact people more than once without a response from them. We hope they will get in touch with us directly and soon, to see if we can fit them in.
All the best, Jannie
Shea points to CoNZealand’s inclusion initiative in answer to the letter’s question “whether paid membership is required for programming.” Typically, only people who have bought attending memberships become Worldcon program participants. The introduction to the inclusion initiative explains what help is available:
Marginalised communities are overrepresented in the group suffering the greatest fallout from this pandemic, and as such, we want to ensure that our community does not suffer a loss of its hard-won diversity. We want to lower the barriers for participation for those from underrepresented communities.
We want the convention to be a global one, where all communities and viewpoints are represented, and this fund is intended to help those who would otherwise not be able to participate fully in the activities of the Worldcon.
The initiative upgrades eligible members from supporting to attending memberships. …There are a small number of attending passes available.
CoNZealand is especially challenged in its efforts to answer these needs because, as a virtual convention, it isn’t limited to programming people who can afford to come to Wellington, as would have been the case before the pandemic — it could draw people from everywhere. But like most non-U.S. Worldcons it has a smaller membership base from which to draw the financial support needed to make its budget.
Following the jump is a roundup of Twitter comments from participants.
Jeanne Gomoll, whose art, design, and organizing energy has propelled and sustained the Award for the last 25 years, is retiring from the Otherwise Motherboard at the end of 2019. The remaining members of the Motherboard are incredibly grateful for Jeanne’s tireless, brilliant work and look forward to celebrating her contributions at WisCon in 2020.
Up until 1991 it felt to me as though the efforts of the Madison SF Group, Janus and Aurora fanzines, and WisCon, to encourage and celebrate feminist science fiction were largely restricted to a single place and to those who came to this place and attended WisCon. Indeed, by the late 1980s, it felt to me as if our efforts to foster feminist SF were increasingly being met with opposition and might possibly have been in danger of flickering out, as the backlash to feminism in general and feminist SF in specific gained strength. Pat Murphy’s 1991 announcement of the Tiptree Award thrilled me and gave me renewed strength. It was as if a small group of us, following a narrow, twisty path had merged with a much wider, well-traveled path. After the Tiptree Award began handing out annual awards and raising funds, and had sparked a massive juggernaut of community activism, I stopped worrying about the viability of the movement.
I will be forever grateful to the Tiptree Award and proud of my work on it. I chaired two Tiptree juries—one in 1993, which chose Nicola Griffith’s Ammonite as the winner; and the other in 2016, which presented the award to When the Moon Was Ours, by Anna-Marie McLemore. I served on the Motherboard for 25 years, 1994-2019, and worked behind-the-scenes on most of the auctions during those years, and as an artist creating logos, publications, and Tiptree merchandise. I will be forever grateful to the Motherboard for the work we did together and the friendships we created along the way. I am awed by and very proud of the community of writers and readers who supported and were nurtured by the award, even as they guided the award further along the path toward greater diversity and scope.
The Tiptree Award, and now the Otherwise Award will always have my heartfelt support. But it is time for me to step back and make space for a new generation of activists. I want to thank my fellow motherboard founding mothers and members, past and present—Karen Joy Fowler, Pat Murphy, Jeff Smith, Alexis Lothian, Sumana Harihareswara, Gretchen Treu, Debbie Notkin, Ellen Klages, Delia Sherman—for all they have done and for their friendship, which I will value forever.
(2) THIS IS HORROR. Public nominations are being accepted
through January 8 for the This
Is Horror Awards.
The public nominations are now open for the ninth annual This Is Horror Awards. This year we’ve retained all the categories from last year and added one more, ‘Cover Art of the year’. Here are the categories: Novel of the Year, Novella of the Year, Short Story Collection of the Year, Anthology of the Year, Fiction Magazine of the Year, Publisher of the Year, Fiction Podcast of the Year, Nonfiction Podcast of the Year, and Cover Art of the Year.
Readers can e-mail in their nominations for each category. Taking into consideration the nominations for each category This Is Horror will then draw up a shortlist.
We invite you to include one sentence as to why each nomination is award-worthy.
Jason: How much of an increase in your budget would be required to pay all editorial and publishing staff a living wage?
Scott: Estimating using a salary of $15/hour for the work our staff does, we would need a $45,000 increase in our annual budget to pay all staff a living wage. That’s double what our annual budget is to pay for the stories we publish. To cover that, our monthly donations through Patreon would have to increase by 7000%….
Jason: Neil Clarke of Clarkesworld has said some of the problems experienced by genre magazines come about because “we’ve devalued short fiction” through reader expectations that they shouldn’t have to pay for short stories. Do you agree with this? Any thoughts on how to change this situation?
LDL: …I think the issue is one of exhaustion on the part of volunteer staff and a strained supporter base. In my observation, the people who contribute to zine crowdfunds also contribute to crowdfunds for individuals in emergency situations. There are a lot of emergencies or people in general need, just within the SFF community and funds are finite. If you’re supporting your four favorite zines every year, donating to three medical funds, two Kickstarters, a moving fund, and also taking on costs associated with at least one fandom-related convention every year, it’s not sustainable for a lot of readers, especially the marginalized ones….
Jason: In addition to paying your writers, Asimov’s also pays all of your staff, something which is not common among many of today’s newer genre magazines. Is it possible to publish a magazine like Asimov’s without the support of a larger company, in this case Penny Publications?
Sheila: An anecdotal review of the American market doesn’t really bear that out. F&SF is published by a small company. Analog and Asimov’s are published by a larger (though not huge) publishing company. Being published by a larger company does have its advantages, though. While only one and a half people are dedicated to each of the genre magazines, we do benefit from a support staff of art, production, tech, contracts, web, advertising, circulation, and subsidiary rights departments. I’m probably leaving some people out of this list. While the support of this infrastructure cannot be underestimated, Asimov’s revenue covers our editorial salaries, and our production and editorial costs. We contribute to the company’s general overhead as well.
Jason: Strange Horizons also helped pioneer the idea that a genre magazine could be run as a nonprofit with assistance from a staff of volunteers. What are the pros and cons of this publishing model?
Vanessa: With volunteer staff, the con is simple: no pay. Generally, working for no pay privileges people who can afford to volunteer time, and devalues the work we do as editors. I’d like to think that at SH, we have partially balanced the former by making our staff so large and so international that no one need put in many hours, and folks can cover for you regardless of time zone. Despite having 50+ folks, we’re a close group. Our Slack is a social space, and we bring our worst and best days there for each other. Several members (including me) have volunteered right through periods of un- and underemployment because of the love of the zine and our community….
(4) NEBULA CONFERENCE EARLYBIRD RATE. The rate has been extended
another week —
HelenKay Dimon, a past RWA president, previously told The Guardian that she regularly received letters from white RWA members expressing concern that “now nobody wants books by white Christian women”.
There is “a group of people who are white and who are privileged, who have always had 90% of everything available, and now all of a sudden, they have 80%. Instead of saying: ‘Ooh, look, I have 80%,’ they say: ‘Oh, I lost 10! Who do I blame for losing 10?’” Dimon said.
The tweets that sparked the ethics complaints against Milan, which were posted this August, were part of a broader conversation on romance Twitter about how individual racist beliefs held by gatekeepers within the publishing world have shaped the opportunities available to authors of color.
The…next installment of Frank Herbert’s Dune World saga has been staring me in the face for weeks, ever since I bought the January 1965 issue of Analog. I found I really didn’t want to read more of it, having found the first installment dreary, though who am I to argue with all the Hugo voters?
And yet, as the days rolled on, I came up with every excuse not to read the magazine. I cleaned the house, stem to stern. I lost myself in this year’s Galactic Stars article. I did some deep research on 1964’s space probes.
But the bleak desert sands of Arrakis were unavoidable. So this week, I plunged headfirst into Campbell’s slick, hoping to make the trek to the end in fewer than two score years. Or at least before 1965. Join me; let’s see if we can make it.
In September 1963, Tolkien drafted yet another of a number of letters responding to questions about Frodo’s “failure” at the Cracks of Doom. It’s easy to imagine that he was rather exasperated. Few, it seemed, had really understood the impossibility of Frodo’s situation in those last, crucial moments: “the pressure of the Ring would reach its maximum,” Tolkien explained; it was “impossible, I should have said, for any one to resist, certainly after long possession, months of increasing torment, and when starved and exhausted” (Letters 326). Even had someone of unmatched power, like Gandalf, claimed the Ring, there would have been no real victory, for “the Ring and all its works would have endured. It would have been the master in the end” (332).
It would have been the master.
From humble beginnings as a mere trinket bartered in a game of riddles (see the original Hobbit), the Ring grew in power and influence until it did indeed include all of Middle-earth in its simple band of gold. “One Ring to rule them all” wasn’t just meant to sound intimidating—it was hard truth. Even Sauron couldn’t escape the confines of its powers. It was his greatest weakness.
But how did the Ring become the thing around which the entirety of the Third Age revolved (Letters 157)?…
(8) JANUARY 2. Get ready – tomorrow is “National
Science Fiction Day”. It must be legit – “National Science Fiction Day
is recognized by the Hallmark Channel and the Scholastic Corporation.”
National Science Fiction Day promotes the celebration of science fiction as a genre, its creators, history, and various media, too. Recognized on January 2nd annually, millions of science fiction fans across the United States read and watch their favorites in science fiction.
The date of the celebration commemorates the birth of famed science fiction writer Isaac Asimov. An American author and Boston University professor of biochemistry, Isaac Asimov was born Isaak Yudovich Ozimov on January 2, 1920. He was best known for his works of science fiction and his popular science books.
(9) TODAY IN HISTORY
January 1, 2007 — The Sarah Jane Adventures premiered starring Elizabeth Sladen who had been in the pilot for K-9 and Company which the Beeb didn’t take to series. The program, which as you well know was a spin-off of Doctor Who, lasted five series and fifty-four episodes. It did not make the final Hugo ballot for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form in either 2007 or 2008.
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born January 1, 1854 — James George Frazer. Author of The Golden Bough, the pioneering if deeply flawed look at similarities among magical and religious beliefs globally. He’s genre adjacent at a minimum, and his ideas have certainly been used by SFF writers a lot both affirming and (mostly) critiquing his ideas. (Died 1952.)
Born January 1, 1889 — Seabury Quinn. Pulp writer now mostly remembered for his tales of Jules de Grandin, the occult detective, which were published in Weird Tales from the Thirties through the Fifties. (Died 1969.)
Born January 1, 1926 — Zena Marshall. She’s Miss Taro in Dr. No, the very first Bond film. The Terrornauts in which she’s Sandy Lund would be her last film. (The Terrornauts is based off Murray Leinster‘s The Wailing Asteroid screenplay apparently by John Brunner.) She had one-offs in Danger Man, The Invisible Man and Ghost Squad. She played Giselle in Helter Skelter, a 1949 film where the Third Doctor, Jon Pertwee, played Charles the Second. (Died 2009.)
Born January 1, 1933 — Joe Orton. In his very brief writing career, there is but one SFF work, Head to Toe which the current publisher says “is a dream-vision allegory of a journey on the body of a great giant or ‘afreet’ (a figure from Arabic mythology) from head to toe and back, both on the body and in the body.” Like his other novels, it’s not available digitally. (Died 1967.)
Born January 1, 1954 — Midori Snyder, 66. I was most impressed with The Flight of Michael McBride, the Old West meets Irish myth novel of hers and hannah’s garden, a creepy tale of the fey and folk music. She won the Mythopoeic Award for The Innamorati which I’ve not read. With Yolen, Snyder co-authored the novel Except the Queen which I do recommend. (Yolen is one of my dark chocolate recipients.) She’s seems to have been inactive for a decade now. Anyone know why?
Born January 1, 1957 — Christopher Moore, 63. One early novel by him, Coyote Blue, is my favorite, but anything by him is always a weirdly entertaining read. I’m hearing good things about Noir, his newest work which I’m planning on listening to soon. Has anyone read it?
Born January 1, 1971 — Navin Chowdhry, 49. He’s Indra Ganesh in a Ninth Doctor story, “Aliens of London.“ I also found him playing Mr. Watson in Skellig, a film that sounds really interesting. Oh, and I almost forgot to mention that he was Nodin Chavdri in Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
Born January 1, 1976 — Sean Wallace, 44. Anthologist, editor, and publisher known for his work on Prime Books and for co-editing three magazines, Clarkesworld Magazine which I love, The Dark which I’ve never encountered, and Fantasy Magazine which is another fav read of mine. He has won a very, very impressive three Hugo Awards and two World Fantasy Awards. His People of the Book: A Decade of Jewish Science Fiction and Fantasy co-edited with Rachel Swirsky is highly recommended by me. He’s not well represented digitally speaking which surprised me.
Born January 1, 1984 — Amara Karan, 36. Though she’s Tita in an Eleventh Doctor story, “The God Complex”, she’s really here for being involved in a Stan Lee project. She was DS Suri Chohan in Stan Lee’s Lucky Man, a British crime drama series which is definitely SFF. Oh, and she shows up as Princess Shaista in “Cat Among Pigeons” episode of Agatha Christie’s Poirot but even I would be hard put to call that even close to genre adjacent.
Before Dean Parisot signed on to direct Galaxy Quest, Harold Ramis was supposed to helm the movie, which was initially titled Captain Starshine. However, according to Tim Allen, if Ramis directed the film, it wouldn’t have just been titled differently — it would have looked quite different as well.
[…] “Katzenberg pitched me the idea of the commander character and then they started talking and it became clear that Ramis didn’t see me for the part,” Allen said. “It was pretty uncomfortable.”
[…] Interestingly, Sigourney Weaver also wouldn’t have gotten her role as Gwen DeMarco in Galaxy Quest if Ramis had directed the film, despite their relationship from Ghostbusters. “I had heard that Harold was directing a sci-fi movie but he didn’t want anyone who had done sci-fi in the film,” she said. “Frankly, it’s those of us who have done science fiction movies that know what is funny about the genre.”
…I’ll start with this reddit AMA from a few years back, and an interview with Tingle on Nothing in the Rulebook. His answers reveal a consistent approach to the writing life that mirrored the habits of authors who are, possibly, even more well-known than our favorite erotica author.
Asked about a typical writing day, Tingle replies:
yes average day is getting up and having two BIG PLATES of spaghetti then washing them down with some chocolate milk then i get out of bed and meditate to be a healthy man. so when i am meditating i think ‘what kind of tingler would prove love today?’. if nothing comes then i will maybe trot around the house or go to the park or maybe walk to the coffee shop with my son jon before he goes to work. if i have a good idea i will just write and write until it is all done and then I will have son jon edit it and then post it online.
OK, so to translate this a bit out of Tingle-speak, we have a recommendation that you fuel your writing with carbs (and also an unlikely alliance with Haruki Murakami’s spaghetti-loving ways) with a bit of a boost of sugar….
(14) GREASED LIGHTNING. [Item by Daniel Dern.] From one of the CES 2020 press
releases I got today…
Subject: [CES NEWS] Experience a Roomba-Like Device that Navigates the Home Charging ALL Devices
…I want to put an innovative device on your radar: RAGU, a Roomba-like robot that navigates the home charging ALL of your devices.
GuRu is the first company to crack the code on totally untethered, over-the-air charging.
discounting remote mal-hackers, this sounds like a recipe for either a droll TV
episode, or Things Going Horribly Wrong. (Fires, fried gear, tased/defibrilated
pets and sleeping people, etc.)
Spare a thought for the poor fat rat of Bensheim, which became stuck in a German manhole in February. She was eventually freed, but not before passers-by took embarrassing photos of her plight. “She had a lot of winter flab,” one rescuer said, compounding the humiliation.
In this case, the animals were the rescuers rather than the rescued (sort of).
Anticipating the threat of wildfires later in the year, staff at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California hired a hungry herd of 500 goats to eat flammable scrub around the building in May.
And so, when fires did strike in October, the library was saved because of the fire break the goats had created by eating the flammable scrub. Nice one, goats.
As always, the existential wisdom of Werner Herzog prevails. “You are cowards,” the director castigated on set of The Mandalorian, upon realizing the producers intended to shoot some scenes without the Baby Yoda puppet in case they decided to go full CGI with the character. “Leave it.”
Herzog, who guest-starred on a few episodes of the Disney+ Star Wars spinoff series, was one of Baby Yoda’s earliest champions. And indeed, Baby Yoda — a colloquial epithet referring to the mysterious alien toddler merely known as “The Child” in the script — was designed for maximum neoteny. The gigantic saucer-like dilated eyes; the tiny button nose; a head that takes up nearly half his body mass; the hilariously oversized brown coat; the peach fuzzy hairs tufted around his head; and the pièce de résistance of his custardy little green face: that minuscule line of a mouth that could curve or stiffen in an instant and erupt a thousand ancient nurturing instincts in any viewer. (He’s the only thing my normally stoic husband has ever sincerely described as “cute.”) Heck, there may very well be a micro generation of Baby Yoda babies about eight months from now, thanks to this frog-nomming, lever-pulling, bone-broth-sipping little scamp.
And all because Jon Favreau and company finally recognized that rubber-and-fabric practical effects will almost always have a greater emotional impact than plasticky digital ones.
The recent success of The Mandalorian, thanks to the adorable face that launched a thousand memes, and Netflix’s fantasy-adventure epic The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, recently nominated for a WGA Award and a Critic’s Choice Award, prove that we still need puppetry and mechanical effects in the age of CGI….
(18) PERRY MASON. My fellow geezers may enjoy this quick
[Thanks to Jo Van Ekeren, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, JJ, Chip
Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Daniel Dern, Contrarius, Darrah
Chavey, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File
770 contributing editor of the day Kip W.]