Pixel Scroll 2/21/24 Born Of Scroll And Pixel?

(1) NOT A NEW PHENOMENON. [Item by Anne Marble.] If the article quoted in Seanan McGuire’s thread is any indication, the people marketing “romantasy” seem to think they’re the first to publish fantasy novels for women. Or maybe they know better — but they don’t care because they’re trying to market romantasy/romantic fantasy.  Bluesky thread starts here.

(2) WELCOME TO DYSTOPIA. Like Abigail Nussbaum says in her headline: “The 2023 Hugo Awards: Somehow, It Got Worse” at Asking the Wrong Questions.

… I’m going to say this again, because it is so shocking that it seems to have taken a lot of people some time to grasp the enormity of it: hundreds, perhaps even thousands of valid, legal nominating ballots were dropped from the final nominating stats, apparently under the pretext of having represented a slate, even though slates are perfectly legal under the Hugo rules. This was done on the orders of the Hugo administrator, with apparently no outside input or discussion, and appears to have elicited so little response from the Hugo team that they are casually mentioning it as if it’s nothing. If these numbers are correct, it’s entirely possible that the whole Hugo ballot should have looked completely different, and that none of the eventual winners in the fiction categories should have even been nominated.

What this means is that the entire 2023 Hugo scandal is something completely different from what we’ve understood it as during the last month. Appalling as it is, the choice to screen English-language nominees for ideological compatibility may, in fact, be a sideshow to the real scandal, which is that hundreds of Chinese voters have been disenfranchised. And—barring even more revelations—this disenfranchisement cannot be blamed on PRC sensibilities and censorship. I truly doubt that it was in the interest of China, or the Chinese business interests who took over Worldcon, to remove Chinese-language nominees from last year’s Hugo ballot. This decision came from the American and Canadian staffers who made up the English-language Hugo team, many of them Worldcon volunteers of long standing.

In this context, it is infuriating to recall just how quickly the response to our original sense of what this scandal was turned to anti-democratic measures and calls to limit the power of rank-and-file Worldcon members. “Elections have consequences!” crowed the people who are still pissed they weren’t allowed to steal the site selection vote in 2021, while others called to limit site selection to those with “skin in the game”—read, those with the wherewithal to travel to US-based conventions. But as it turns out, the call was coming from inside the house. This was never a China problem. It’s an us problem. If the allegations that are now emerging claiming that McCarty has behaved this way in the past, and also harassed other Worldcon staffers, are to be believed (and there is certainly more than enough reason to believe them at this point), it’s a profound failure on the part of Worldcon and its membership to police toxic members, which has now blown up in all our faces….

(3) TCHAIKOVSKY’S STATEMENT ABOUT 2023 HUGO. His Children of Time was announced as winner of the 2023 Best Series Hugo, however, after all the revelations “Adrian Tchaikovsky Will No Longer Cite His 2023 Hugo”.

There are many reasonable points of view about how to deal with the awards. File 770’s goal is to support and respect the recipients’ decisions.

Another author, Samantha Mills, recently made a decision comparable to Tchaikovsky’s, in a blog post titled “’Rabbit Test’ unwins the Hugo”

(4) THE WHOLE WORLD IS WATCHING. The Hugo Awards scandal has even made it into Sweden’s Dagens Nyheter – “Litteraturpris valde bort kinesiska författare”. The article is behind a paywall, though that’s honestly only a problem if you read Swedish.

(5) RAH VS. PKD. Giant Freakin Robot, in “The Sci-Fi Master Whose Work Has Been Ignored By Hollywood, And That Needs To Change”, feels Robert A. Heinlein deserves the kind of cinematic attention given to Philip K. Dick. (Survey says – *bzzzt*! “Wrong!”)

…Hollywood has had an ongoing love affair with the works of Phillip K. Dick for decades now. Sometimes it’s a healthy relationship, giving us masterworks such as Blade Runner. Sometimes it’s downright abusive when it produces flicks like Screamers or Paycheck. And sometimes it splits the difference and serves up enjoyable silliness such as Total Recall.

Still, as many times as the movies have returned to Dick’s catalog, you’d think he was the only SF writer out there. We all know better, of course, and pretty much any SF fan has their dream list of books they’d love to see brought to the silver screen.

If Hollywood really wants to freshen things up, they should take a closer look at the work of Robert A. Heinlein….

(6) BANNED FROM THE HIGHWAY. [Item by Dann.] Remember when non-genre magazines used to publish SFF stories?

Every automobile begins as the sparkle in someone’s eye. In 1981, Neil Peart and his Rush bandmates introduced the world to a Red Barchetta. Saved in an old white-haired uncle’s barn. A relic from before the Motor Law being chased down by gleaming alloy air cars before being saved by a one-lane bridge

But before that, it was an old MGB roadster. Rendered obsolete by wave after wave of modern automobile safety standards had made surviving car crashes not only likely but predictable. The drivers of the newly designed cars expected to walk away from accidents unscathed. As a result, drivers of these Modern Safety Vehicles began targeting older vehicles leaving them in mangled heaps. Those driving older cars were likely to be left in a similarly mangled condition. The price for driving a classic. And so the driver of the old MGB engages in a race for his life pursued by a pair of MSVs.

The story was “A Nice Morning Drive“. It was written by Richard S. Foster and first published in the November 1973 issue of Road & Track magazine. Neil Peart had encountered the story and was inspired to re-tell it in a more distant future where automobiles were banned. It appeared in 1981 on the quintessential RUSH album, Moving Pictures as the second track, “Red Barchetta“.

The band had tried to contact Richard, but R&T no longer had his current address. They did add a credit note referencing the original story in the liner notes.

It was many years later before a friend pointed out that Neil had been inspired by Richard’s story. And it was a few years after that when Richard began corresponding with Neil. The two eventually planned a motorcycle ride along the East Coast. It turns out that they both owned the same model motorcycle, the BMW R1200GS.

As a footnote, Moving Pictures came out in my junior year of high school when I took an advanced composition class. At some point, a red car entered into the zeitgeist of my classmates. The model would shift to suit the moods and tastes of various authors. Sometimes it was only glimpsed under a protective tarp. Other times it would it would fly along country roads kicking up a stream of fall leaves. Our automobile appreciations lasted about a month before our teacher put a firm but kindly end to our vehicular ruminations.

(7) BACK IN ACTION. Nancy Collins’ February 19 update to her GoFundMe backers is good news indeed: “Fundraiser by Nancy Collins : What Doesn’t Kill Me Leaves Me With Medical Bills”.

I want to take a moment to thank all of you once again for the great kindness and generosity you have shown me in the recent weeks and also update you on my current status and plans.

This coming weekend (February 23rd-25th) I will be a guest at Pensacon 2024 in Pensacola, FL. My doctor says I’m in good enough health to travel as long as I continue to pace myself and take my meds and supplements. And, to be blunt, I can’t afford to pass up what is likely my only comic con appearance for the foreseeable future. So if any of you who have donated are at the convention this coming weekend, please stop by so I can thank you in person. My good friend, Adam–who is the one who talked me into going to the ER instead of gutting it out another 24 hours–will be driving me there and back, as well as helping set-up and run my merchandise table for the weekend, so I have reliable support with me.

I have 3 more weeks, more or less, of blood thinners twice a day ahead of me before I get an idea of whether or not the blood clots were a one-off event or a symptom of something more serious. Until I know one way or another, I will be staying close to home. However, I still plan to be at the Outer Dark Writer’s Symposium in Atlanta next month, health permitting.

(8) LEE AND MILLER PHOTO. Following yesterday’s announcement of Steve Miller’s death, Andrew Porter sent File 770 his photo of the Steve and Sharon at Book Expo.

(9) MARK MERLINO DIES. Mark Merlino, one of the early founders of organized Anime and Furry fandoms in North America, died February 20 at age 71. He suffered a stroke in December, then was diagnosed with stage 4 liver cancer about two weeks ago. 

Merlino was known for organizing ConFurence, the very first furry convention, which laid the groundwork for the community’s expansion and visibility. His influential role was also recognized in the documentary feature The Fandom, showcasing his significant contributions.

Mark Merlino in 2006.

(10) RICHARD MATHEWS (1944-2024). Scholar Douglas Anderson pays tribute to a colleague in “R.I.P. Richard Mathews (1944-2024)” at Tolkien and Fantasy.

I just googled to see if my old friend Richard Mathews was still the Director of the University of Tampa Press, only to find out that he died last month.

I met him at the 1987 Mythcon in Milwaukee, where we both appeared on a panel on David Lindsay. We found we had many common interests. Richard had published, with Borgo Press, a short book on Tolkien, Lightning from a Clear Sky (1978), and other short books on William Morris and Brian Aldiss. His most notable work was the Twayne volume Fantasy: The Liberation of Imagination (1997; reissued in 2012), which was filled with insights despite the somewhat odd structure of the book (presumably imposed upon him as part of the series it was in). Richard also contributed introductions to some of the William Morris reprints for the Newcastle fantasy series in the 1970s…. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born February 21, 1946 Alan Rickman. (Died 2016.) The first time I saw Alan Rickman was in the decidedly not-genre role of German terrorist leader Hans Gruber in Die Hard, a film that’s still high on my list of great thriller films. Great role for him, too. It was amazingly his first film role.

He would won a BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for playing the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. I actually did see that film. No, I’ll never watch again. Simon R. Green’s publicist tells me he made a lot of money for writing the novelization. 

Rickman went on to play the wizard Severus Snape in the Harry Potter series. I can’t say I cared for the character but I don’t think we were supposed to. I never got beyond a hundred pages in the first novel before I gave up reading it, but loved the films. 

While in the film The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the GalaxyWarwick Davis played Marvin, the android who was clinically depressed and in the novels I thought a royal pain in the ass, it was Alan Rickman who actually voiced the character.

He also voiced Absolem, the Caterpillar in an odd version of Alice in Wonderland. Look it up. Trust me, it’s weird.

And yes, I saved the best first last for last which as you already know is his role in the Hugo Award winning Galaxy Quest which is by far his best genre role. Alexander Dane is a Shakesperean actor who resents his character  Dr. Lazarus, the ship’s science officer. His catch phrase? Oh, you know that by heart.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Macanudo shows who really was entitled to say, “How wude!!”

(13) ALL IN THE FOUND FAMILY. [Item by Steven French.] How the story of the ‘Hopkinsville goblins’ led to ET, Gremlins and a bunch of other movies! “The Long, Surprising Legacy of the Hopkinsville Goblins” at Atlas Obscura.

…THE STORY COMES TO US from the local newspaper Kentucky New Era, which, on August 22, 1955, reported strange goings-on the previous night, eight miles north of Hopkinsville, Kentucky. At about 11:00 pm, two cars arrived at the local police station, blasting out of the night filled with at least five adults and several children, all of whom were highly agitated. “We need help,” they told the police. “We’ve been fighting them for nearly four hours.”

Once they’d calmed down enough to talk, they unfurled a strange story. One of the men, Billy Ray Taylor, had been visiting from Pennsylvania. At one point, he went outside to fetch water from the farm’s well. As he walked through the failing light, he saw a circular-shaped object hover through the air before coming to rest in a nearby gully…

… Concerned, Taylor retreated inside and returned with a shotgun to investigate. As he walked into the gloom, a strange, goblin-like thing with glowing eyes appeared and moved toward him. It had “huge eyes,” and hands out of proportion with its body, and looked to be wearing some kind of “metal plate.” Taylor retreated to the house yet again and grabbed a .22 caliber pistol, while Lucky Sutton grabbed a shotgun and joined him.

A creature—whether it was the same one, they didn’t know—appeared in the window, and Sutton unloaded his shotgun at it, blowing out the window screen. When they went outside to see if they’d hit anything, Taylor felt a “huge hand” reach down from the low roof above and grab his hair….

(14) CARVING OUT A PLACE IN SPACE. “Japan to launch world’s first wooden satellite to combat space pollution” – the Guardian has the story.

The LignoSat probe has been built of magnolia wood, which, in experiments carried out on the International Space Station (ISS), was found to be particularly stable and resistant to cracking. Now plans are being finalised for it to be launched on a US rocket this summer.

The timber satellite has been built by researchers at Kyoto University and the logging company Sumitomo Forestry in order to test the idea of using biodegradable materials such as wood to see if they can act as environmentally friendly alternatives to the metals from which all satellites are currently constructed.

“All the satellites which re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere burn and create tiny alumina particles, which will float in the upper atmosphere for many years,” Takao Doi, a Japanese astronaut and aerospace engineer with Kyoto University, warned recently. “Eventually, it will affect the environment of the Earth.”…

(15) IT’S SUN-GRY. The Guardian reports — “Astronomers discover universe’s brightest object – a quasar powered by a black hole that eats a sun a day”. (“Feed me!”)

The brightest known object in the universe, a quasar 500tn times brighter than our sun, was “hiding in plain sight”, researchers say.

Australian scientists spotted a quasar powered by the fastest growing black hole ever discovered. Its mass is about 17bn times that of our solar system’s sun, and it devours the equivalent of a sun a day.

The light from the celestial object travelled for more than 12bn years to reach Earth….

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Animation Magazine encourages readers: “Watch: Prime Video Sneak Peeks ‘The Second Best Hospital in the Galaxy’ in New Clip”. The series debuts February 23.

…In a new exclusive clip shared with Animation Magazine, we get an advance look at the premiere episode. The excerpt features Dr. Klak (Keke Palmer), Dr. Sleech (Stephanie Hsu), Dr. Vlam (Maya Rudolph) and Dr. Plowp (Kieran Culkin). In Season 1, doctors Sleech and Klak take on a highly dangerous and potentially groundbreaking case and, in doing so, put existence itself in jeopardy. (Although considering their dismal personal lives, oblivion might be an improvement.)…

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Taral Wayne, Rich Lynch, Anne Marble, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Steven French, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jeff Jones.]

Adrian Tchaikovsky Will No Longer Cite His 2023 Hugo

Adrian Tchaikovsky

Adrian Tchaikovsky has announced on his website that due to the revelation of major problems with 2023 Hugo administration he will no longer acknowledge the Best Series Hugo presented to Children of Time.


A Statement on the 2023 Hugo Awards

When the Children of Time books won the 2023 Hugo for best series I was overjoyed. The Hugos have been a major feature of the genre fiction landscape for decades. It should be a signal honour to be shortlisted for one, let alone to win.

Over the last month or so, a cascade of information has been released or uncovered demonstrating that those responsible for administering the award for the 2023 Worldcon (held at Chengdu, China) took a variety of actions that significantly distorted the result.

For details, I’ll direct you to Abigail Nussbaum’s writing here  which is up to date as at the time of this statement. However the TLDR is:

      1. Several works receiving large numbers of votes were ruled ineligible for unstated reasons, which from leaked emails appears to be the US-based administrators unilaterally deciding that they might cause political offence.
      2. A number of Chinese-language nominations appear to have been entirely disallowed.

The second, in what seems to be a mass disenfranchisement of Chinese voters, means that the composition of the shortlists, as they were presented to be voted on, was entirely unreliable, with an unknown number of Chinese nominees denied their chance at contending.

Based on this information, I cannot consider myself a Hugo winner and will not be citing the 2023 award result in my biographical details, or on this site.

The Hugo awards have the potential to be a respected pillar of the international fan community. I would be delighted to be considered, honestly and on my own merits, for such an award in the future. I look forward to systemic changes so that future awards can be administered with an eye to clarity, equity and accountability. 


[Thanks to JJ for the story.]

Ersatz Culture Guest Post: Additional Comments on the Smofcon “What Can We Learn From Chengdu” Panel

By Ersatz Culture: I was super-happy that Rcade wrote up the Smofcon “What can we learn from Chengdu?” panel, as this was something that I felt definitely needed doing, but it wasn’t a task that I relished taking on personally.

However, there are a few additional comments I’d like to add, which I wouldn’t have expected Rcade or anyone else to know about, but which I feel are pretty relevant.  I’ll tackle things in the order they appeared his piece, even if that’s possibly not the best logical structure for a standalone article.

These sponsorships will not be accounted for in the convention’s financial report, Chengdu Worldcon co-chair Ben Yalow revealed during a panel discussion in December at Smofcon, a conference for convention planners. “None of that appears on our financial report because we didn’t get any money out of the deal. The convention never saw that money. What the convention saw was Hugo finalists who would show up and their plane ticket was taken care of and their hotel room was taken care of. It means that our financial report is completely accurate and totally misleading.”

It is perhaps worth noting that a number of contracts covering aspects of the Worldcon do appear on various Chinese internet sites.  I don’t have an exhaustive collection of these, and I believe that other people may have more complete records.  For example, a contract with item number SCIT-GN-2023080147 is for the post Hugo ceremony party, and had a winning bid of 488,500 yuan, or around $68k USD.  Another contract covering communications and the con websites may be of interest to Filers, as it explicitly mentions File 770 as one of a number of sites to monitor and respond to.  The value of that contract is listed as 765,000 yuan, or around $107k USD. 

Whether these contracts show up on any future financial report remains to be seen. [Click for larger image.]

The Smofcon discussion has drawn attention since Chris M. Barkley and Jason Sanford revealed last week that Chengdu Hugo Awards administrator Dave McCarty manipulated the nominations and final vote

This is a minor and pedantic point, but it’s a bit of a touchy subject for me.  As far as I’m aware, I was the first person to raise the Smofcon Chengdu panels on social media on January 28thwhich was also run on that day’s Scroll.  This was over two weeks before the Barkley/Sanford report was published, which makes no mention whatsoever of Smofcon or indeed Smofs.  Of course, that report has massively escalated coverage of all the issues around Chengdu, but the subject of Smofcon in conjunction with that report was raised by other people.

Chengdu sponsors “were not particularly intrusive,” Yalow said, but the con could not change a sponsored panel’s scheduled time or panelists without consulting that sponsor.

I haven’t had time to dig out references to back this up, but I believe there were a high number of changes to scheduling of the non-sponsored, more fannish or literary panels.  This caused stress to the people who were on those panels, causing scheduling conflicts with their other activities, etc.  That’s probably not attributable to the sponsors, but it does feel like the fan and literary panels were treated as second-class citizens.

I’m going to sidetrack here slightly, but can I remind people of an item I wrote up in the November 11th Pixel Scroll, regarding how the con’s commercial activities impacted the more fannish stuff?  This was part of a long write-up of a long Chinese-language article from a mainstream magazine, presented here via machine translation with minor manual edits, and with my emphasis added:

Previous conventions would set up a memorial area, which is a place for middle-aged and elderly science fiction fans to reminisce and reminisce about the past.  In 2017, the British science fiction writer Brian Aldiss [who had previously visited Chengdu, and has several works published in China] passed away. There was a small space at the World Science Fiction Convention that year, displaying his works, and photos from his life, as well as some of his treasure possessions, and a black and white TV playing back interviews with him. In 2023, Aldiss’ daughter Wendy had also come to Chengdu. She told our reporters that the Chengdu Worldcon was originally going to hold an exhibition for those photos, but it was not possible “because of a lack of space.” 

[Double Hugo finalist, CEO of the publisher 8 Light Minutes, and member of the Chengdu concom] Yang Feng originally planned to stage a commemorative exhibition at the convention, in honour of Mike Resnick, the former editor-in-chief of the American science fiction magazine “Galaxy’s Edge”.  After Resnick’s death in 2020, his collection and books were put up for online auction, and 8 Light Minutes bought a large number of items. “Look, this is full of his things,” said Yang Feng, pointing to a glass cabinet.  Initially, the organizers promised an exhibition area of 70 square meters. Worried about missing out, “thousands of yuan [was spent] on freight shipping” the collected items.  However, the exhibition area ended up being occupied by several technology companies, and Yang Feng was only given a glass cabinet.

Whilst this was probably not directly related to any of the sponsors, I believe it does show how priorities can change for what is supposed to be a fan-run con when business interests are involved.

There was one part of Chengdu that disallowed sponsors. “One of our ‘do not break this rule ever under any circumstance’ was no sponsorship in respect to the Hugos,” Yalow said.

I guess if you don’t mention that someone won a Hugo when you use them in an advertorial for one of the sponsors, that was published on the con’s website, then it doesn’t count as “in respect to the Hugos”?

The moderator Coxen read the question aloud: “One of the objections to Raytheon as a sponsor for DC 3 was not just who they were but the perceived lack of transparency around it. How do you think we could reconcile that with the effective but relatively subtle sponsorship Chengdu had?”

To be clear: no-one on the panel ever mentioned Raytheon in the main discussion about sponsorships, although they did namecheck Google and Boeing.  It was only when an audience member at the very end asked a question that the most controversial Worldcon sponsor ever was included in the discussion.

She [Tammi Coxen] responded jocularly. “Nobody knew who the sponsors were, at least from the West, so nobody asked you hard questions about them from the West!”

Yalow dodged the question. “That’s a political question that is in a sense above my pay grade,” he said.

I guess SMOFs don’t read File 770?

In the October 9th Pixel Scroll, I wrote an item with the title “Who’s sponsoring the Chengdu Worldcon?”, pointing out that the two named sponsors in the Chengdu section of the just-released WSFS Business Meeting agenda did not match what had been previously announced at the June 12th Brand Conference, which named China Telecom as the first sponsor.

The photos from that Brand Conference show Yalow, McCarty and Montgomery both in the audience and on stage.  The China Telecom logo can be seen on a large video wall, in English, so all three of them would surely have seen it. [Click for larger images.]

Observation 1: Per the Diane Lacey emails, June 12th is one week after Dave McCarty said that he would be arriving in China i.e. it seems almost certain that in the same visit that included this brand conference, he was also working on interfering with the Hugo nominations.

Observation 2: Whilst I wouldn’t expect someone to pick up on this in the bustle of a flashy PR event, perhaps they would have been curious enough to have researched who exactly China Telecom were after the fact?  That person would have quickly learned from Wikipedia that

In January 2021, China Telecom was delisted from the NYSE in response to a US executive order.[27] The same year, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) revoked China Telecom’s operating license in the U.S. for national security reasons.[28] However, China Telecom (Americas) Corp plans to keep offering other services on United States soil.[29] In March 2022, the FCC designated China Telecom (Americas) Corp a national security threat.[30]

As I am not a US citizen, what US agencies might think about China Telecom is fairly academic to me.  Perhaps I’m being naive, but following the 2013 revelations from Edward Snowden, I’d be surprised if their relationship with China’s government is much different from US telcos and tech companies and the NSA/CIA/etc.  However, given the history with the Raytheon sponsorship, maybe someone on the Chengdu concom might have wondered whether China Telecom might not be seen as a problematic sponsor?  NB: As I understand it, China Telecom are one of the big three mobile phone networks in China, so I imagine for a Chinese Worldcon attendee, their sponsorship of the event would be no more controversial than, say, AT&T or T-Mobile sponsoring a Worldcon in the west.

The October 11th Pixel Scroll contained a further update about the sponsors.  In it, I linked to a Chinese language WeChat/Weixin post from the con’s account, that listed all the actual sponsors, with brief descriptions of what business sector they operated in, thanks to help from a few different people online who researched them.  

If after all that coverage “[n]obody knew who the sponsors were”, then I guess I was wasting my time doing the daily Chengdu write-ups.

One slightly curious thing is that Huawei is not listed as an official sponsor, but their branding did appear on at least one panel, at which (IIRC) one or two of their employees appeared.  Additionally, per the Smofcon panel, they paid, or offered to pay, the expenses for at least one guest.  Huawei might be considered another controversial sponsor, given the multiple entries in the relevant section of their Wikipedia page.  However, despite them being namechecked at least twice, this did not provoke any reaction at Smofcon.  (Disclosure: I’ve owned a couple of Huawei Android devices in the past, and both I thought were decent and offered good value-for-money for their price point.  And again, they are a mainstream mass-market brand in China and many other countries, so their inclusion would not seem surprising to a Chinese attendee.)

Source: Zero Gravity Newspaper #14

I still intend to write-up the other Chengdu panel from Smofcon, which features three of the employees of Chengdu Business Daily from the Chengdu concom, plus Yalow, McCarty and Montgomery.  There are elements of that video that I find much more upsetting than this “What did we learn from Chengdu?” panel.  However, properly writing it up will involve a fair bit of re-reading of con reports and other research, in order to properly discuss some of that video’s content.  I know that at least one Chinese member of the con has now purchased a Smofcon membership in order to watch that video, and perhaps they will also have comments to make on it.

Pixel Scroll 2/15/24 I Think There Is A World Market For About Five Pixel Scrolls

(1) INTERNATIONAL REACTION TO HUGO AWARDS CENSORSHIP REPORT. Chris M. Barkley and Jason Sanford’s report “The 2023 Hugo Awards: A Report on Censorship and Exclusion” (also available at Genre Grapevine and as an e-book epub file and as a PDF) has sparked the attention of mass media: .

The Guardian: “Authors ‘excluded from Hugo awards over China concerns’”. In addition to covering the report, the article includes an excellent quote from Chinese social media:

…The incident prompted discussion among the science fiction community in China. One commenter on Weibo wrote: “Diane Lacey’s courage to disclose the truth makes people feel that there is still hope in the world, and not everyone is so shameless … I can understand the concerns of the Hugo award staff, but ‘I honestly think that the Hugo committee are cowards.’”…

BBC Radio 4: Last night’s arts programme Front Row’s third quarter looked at the Hugo Awards debacle. “Ukraine drama A Small Stubborn Town, Emma Rice, The Hugo Awards”. Jonathan Cowie says, “It was a superficial dive. For example, it did not note that the nominating stats literally did not add up, so clear fraud, nor that Glasgow also is ignoring WSFS rules.” (Cowie adds, “Remember to skip to the programme’s final third quarter.”)

In the wake of the Hugo Awards scandal, Gavia Baker-Whitelaw, culture critic and Hugo awards finalist, Han Zhang, editor-at-large at Riverhead Books, focussed on finding works in the Chinese language for translation and publication in the US, and Megan Walsh, author of The Subplot: What China is reading and why it matters, discuss the fallout and what is reveals about the popularity of Sci-Fi in China.

There’s also a paywalled article in New Scientist: “Amid (more) Hugo awards controversy, let’s remember some past greats”.

IT IS a truth universally acknowledged that all awards are total bunk except for the ones you personally have lifted into the air in triumph. That rule doesn’t hold, however, if your prize is in some way sullied later on. This, sadly, is the situation for the winners of the 2023 Hugo awards….

Slashdot has an excerpt of 404 Media’s paywalled article: “Leaked Emails Show Hugo Awards Self-Censoring To Appease China”.

And here are some highlights from the vast social media discussion.

John Scalzi: “The 2023 Hugo Fraud and Where We Go From Here” at Whatever

Cora Buhlert: “The 2023 Hugo Nomination Scandal Gets Worse”

Mary Robinette Kowal’s thread on Bluesky starts with this link.

Neil Gaiman commented on Bluesky: “I’m unsure how comfortable I would be participating if anything I was involved in was nominated for a Hugo in 2024, if there were people involved who had been part of what happened in Chengdu.”

Chuck Tingle’s thread on X.com begins, “this report of leaks regarding what actually happened at hugo awards shows a disgusting way. years of buckaroos working in and around hugo awards popularizing phrases like ‘chuck tingle made the hugos illegitimate’ when the rot was starting with them.”

Courtney Milan, on Bluesky, offers a series of short scripts for how censorship could have been deflected. The first is: “Ways to handle censorship if someone asks you on the DL to censor your award. 1. ‘No, this isn’t in our rules. Is this going to be a problem? I can let the community know that the Hugo rules aren’t going to be applied if so.’”

(2) IT ONLY GETS VERSE. [Item by Jennifer Hawthorne.] A brilliant poem by TrishEM about the Hugo mess: “A Vanilla Villain’s Variant Villanelle” at What’s the Word Now. The first stanza is:

It’s wrong to allege we were mere censors’ tools;
If you knew all the facts, you’d condone our behavior.
I grok Chinese fans, and was their White Savior.
I maintain the Committee just followed the rules.

(3) HOW CENSORSHIP WORKS.  Ada Palmer’s post about censorship and self-censorship comes highly recommended: “Tools for Thinking About Censorship”. It begins:

“Was it a government action, or did they do it themselves because of pressure?”

This is inevitably among our first questions when news breaks that any expressive work (a book, film, news story, blog post etc.) has been censored or suppressed by the company or group trusted with it (a publisher, a film studio, a newspaper, an awards organization etc.)

This is not a direct analysis of the current 2023 Chengdu Hugo Awards controversy. But since I am a scholar in the middle of writing a book about patterns in the history of how censorship operates, I want to put at the service of those thinking about the situation this zoomed-out portrait of a few important features of how censorship tends to work, drawn from my examination of examples from dozens of countries and over many centuries….

(4) ELIGIBILITY UPDATE FOR US NATIONAL BOOK AWARDS. “US National Book Awards: Opening to Non-US Citizens”Publishing Perspectives has the story.

In recent years, as readers of Publishing Perspectives’ coverage of book and publishing awards know, there have been several cases in which higher-profile book and publishing awards programs have decided to broaden their eligibility requirements for authors whose work is submitted.

Today’s (February 15) announcement from the National Book Foundation about the United States’ National Book Awards‘ change in eligibility opens the program to submissions of work by authors who are not citizens of the United States, as long as they “maintain their primary, long-term home in the United States, US territories, or Tribal lands.”

These new updated criteria will be in effect as of March 13, when submissions for the 75th National Book Awards open….

(5) WAYWARD WORMHOLE. Two workshops will be available at “The Rambo Academy Wayward Wormhole – New Mexico 2024”.

The Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers is pleased to announce the second annual Wayward Wormhole, this time in New Mexico. Join us for the short story workshop to study with Arley Sorg and Minister Faust, or the novel workshop with Donald Maass, C.C. Finlay, and Cat Rambo.

Both intensive workshops will be hosted at the Painted Pony ranch in Rodeo, New Mexico. The short story workshop runs November 4-12, 2024, and the novel workshop runs November 15 through 24, 2024.

The Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers has been in existence for thirteen years, serving hundreds of students who have gone on to win awards, honors, and accolades, including Nebula, Hugo, and World Fantasy Awards. “I attended Clarion West, and have taught at multiple workshops now,” says Academy founder Cat Rambo. “While others have delivered the gold standard, I decided to stretch to the platinum level and deliver amazing workshops in equally amazing settings. Last year’s was a castle in Spain, this year a fabulous location in southwestern America. And wait till you hear what we’ve got cooked up for 2025!”

More details about these exciting workshops and how to apply!

(6) CHENGDU WORLDCON ROUNDUP. [Item by Ersatz Culture.]

Photos from the reopened Chengdu Science Fiction Museum

The Chengdu SF Museum reopened to the public a few weeks ago, after an event a few days earlier involving Hai Ya and other authors.  The images I’ve selected here are primarily because of their potential interest to MPC types, but you can click on the following links to see the Xiaohongshu galleries these came from.

As far as I can tell, all of these photos have been taken in the past few weeks; there are none from when the Worldcon was running.

Gallery 1Gallery 2Gallery 3Gallery 4Gallery 5Gallery 6Gallery 7Gallery 8Gallery 9

(7) OCTOTHORPE. Episode 103 of the Octothorpe podcast, “Just This Guy, Y’know?”, is available for listening. John Coxon, Alison Scott, and Liz Batty say:

Octothorpe 103 is here! We discuss a bunch of stuff which isn’t Hugo Award-related before moving onto the bits of the kerfuffle that we couldn’t fit into 102 and hadn’t come out when we recorded.

The words “Octothorpe 103 Hugo Regalia Shop” appear above a selection of costumes. There are small depictions of a clown, a pirate, a panda and a banana above full-length depictions of a member of the Catholic church (with Hugos on their mitre and crosier), a gangster (labelled “boss”, holding a Hugo), Zaphod Beeblebrox (holding three Hugos) and Jesus (with a crown of thorns but made with Hugos).

(8) MOURNING MUSIC. “Matthew” (at Bandcamp) is a tribute song about Matthew Pavletich by his sister, Jo Morgan. Matthew died in January. The lyrics are heart-wrenching – see them at the link.

‘Matthew’ is a touching tribute dedicated to Jo’s beloved brother who passed away after a courageous battle with Motor Neurone Disease. Tenderly capturing the power of familial love, serving as an anthem honouring all the qualities defining him.

Jo says “I wrote this song to celebrate my brother Matthew who passed away from Motor Neurone Disease in January 2024. There are so many wonderful qualities about this beautiful man and I am so blessed to have had him as my brother. He lost so much to this illness, and I want the world to know about this sweet and humble gentle man.”

Jo will be making a donation from some of the proceeds from the song to support MND NZ and animal welfare charities.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born February 15, 1945 Jack Dann, 79. It’s been awhile since we’ve done an Australian resident writer, so let’s do Jack Dann tonight. Yes, I know he’s American-born but he’s lived there for the past forty years and yes he’s citizen there.

In 1994 he had moved to Melbourne to join Janeen Webb, a Melbourne based academic, SF critic, and writer, whom he had met at a conference in San Francisco and who he married a year later. Thirty years later they’re still married. 

They would edit together In the Field of Fire, a collection of science fiction and fantasy stories relating to the horrors of the Vietnam War. I’m not aware who anyone else has done one on this subject, so go ahead and tell who else has. 

Jack Dann

He published his first book as an editor, Wandering Stars: An Anthology of Jewish Fantasy and Science Fiction forty years ago, (later followed up by More Wandering Stars: An Anthology of Jewish Fantasy and Science Fiction) and his first novel, Starhiker, several years later. 

His Dreaming Again and Dreaming down-under are excellent anthologies of Australian genre short fiction. The latter, edited with his wife, would win a Ditmar and a World Fantasy Award. Dreaming Again, again edited with his wife, also won a Ditmar. 

With Nick Gever, he won a Shirley Jackson Award for one of my favorite reads, Ghosts by Gaslight: Stories of Steampunk and Supernatural Suspense.

He’s written roughly a hundred pieces of shorter fiction.  I’ve read enough of it to say that he’s quite excellent in that length of fiction.  Recently Centipede Press released in their Masters of Science Fiction, a volume devoted to him. Thirty stories, all quite excellent.

So what is worth reading for novels beyond Starhiker which I like a lot? Well if you’ve not read it, do read The Memory Cathedral: A Secret History of Leonardo da Vinci in which de Vinci actually constructs his creations as it is indeed an amazing story. 

The Rebel: An Imagined Life of James Dean is extraordinary. All I’ll say here is Dean lived, had an amazing life and yes it’s genre. I see PS Publishing filled out the story when they gave us Promised Land.

Those are the three novels of his that I really, really like. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) EVIL GENIUS GAMES. [Item by Eric Franklin.] Morrus, the owner of ENWorld, posted an article on “The Rise And Fall Of Evil Genius Games” that may be of interest to the gaming contingent of File770’s readership: EGG has produced games for a number of licensed genre properties, including Pacific Rim, Escape from New York, and The Crow. “DriveThruRPG – Evil Genius Games”

How does a company go from over twenty core staff to just six in the space of a few weeks?

In the summer of 2023, Evil Genius Games appeared to be riding high. They’d made about half a million dollars over two Kickstarter campaigns and had raised $1M from several rich investors in the form of technology companies. The company boasted 25-30 core staff, an official tabletop role-playing game for a movie franchise called Rebel Moon was well under development, and EGG standees and window clings representing characters from the d20 Modern-inspired Everyday Heroes could be seen in game stores across America.

By the end of the year, the Rebel Moon game was dead, staff had been asked to work without pay for periods of up to three months, freelancers were struggling to get paid, people were being laid off, and the company’s tech company investors seemed to be having cold feet in the face of escalating expenditure and dwindling resources….

(12) SFF FROM LAGOS. “’Iwájú’ trailer: Disney’s enticing limited series is set in a futuristic Nigeria” says Mashable. Available February 28 on Disney+.

“Iwájú” is an original animated series set in a futuristic Lagos, Nigeria. The exciting coming-of-age story follows Tola, a young girl from the wealthy island, and her best friend, Kole, a self-taught tech expert, as they discover the secrets and dangers hidden in their different worlds. Kugali filmmakers—including director Olufikayo Ziki Adeola, production designer Hamid Ibrahim and cultural consultant Toluwalakin Olowofoyeku—take viewers on a unique journey into the world of “Iwájú,” bursting with unique visual elements and technological advancements inspired by the spirit of Lagos.

(13) NSFF770? [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Star Zendaya walked the red carpet at the Dune Part Two premiere wearing a formfitting silver and translucent robot-inspired outfit. Friendly warning: anyone inclined to over-agitation at such a sight might want to make sure they’ve taken their heart medication before checking out the video. “Zendaya’s Robotic Outfit For The ‘Dune: Part Two’ Premiere Has To Be Seen To Be Believed” at Uproxx. Article includes a roundup of X.com posts with video.

(14) WHAT REALLY MATTERS. “This new map of the Universe suggests dark matter shaped the cosmos” at Nature. See the compilation photo at the link.

Astronomers have reconstructed nearly nine billion years of cosmic evolution by tracing the X-ray glow of distant clusters of galaxies. The analysis supports the standard model of cosmology, according to which the gravitational pull of dark matter — a still-mysterious substance — is the main factor shaping the Universe’s structure.

“We do not see any departures from the standard model of cosmology,” says Esra Bulbul, a senior member of the team and an astrophysicist at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics (MPE) in Garching, Germany. The results are described1 in a preprint posted online on 14 February.

The galactic clusters were spotted in the most detailed picture ever taken of the sky using X-rays, which was published late last month. This image revealed around 900,000 X-ray sources, from black holes to the relics of supernova explosions.

The picture was the result of the first six months of operation of eROSITA (Extended Roentgen Survey with an Imaging Telescope Array), one of two X-ray telescopes that were launched into space in July 2019 aboard the Russian spacecraft SRG (Spectrum-Roentgen-Gamma). eROSITA scans the sky as the spacecraft spins, and collects data over wider angles than are possible for most other X-ray observatories. This enables it to slowly sweep the entire sky every six months….

(15) VALENTINE’S DAY IN THE TARDIS. How can you not click when Radio Times offers to tell about “Doctor Who’s four greatest love stories – and why they make the cut”?

The love stories definitely aren’t the main focus in Doctor Who… but they certainly don’t hurt.

From David Tennant’s Ten and Billie Piper’s Rose being ripped away from each other in Doomsday, to Matt Smith’s Eleven and Alex Kingston’s River Song finding their way back to each other through time, some of them are love stories for the ages.

Some of them, perhaps, deserved a little more time (looking at Jodie Whittaker’s Thirteen and Mandip Gill’s Yaz), and some don’t even feature the Doctor at all, with Karen Gillan’s Amy and Arthur Darvill’s Rory melting our hearts….

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Cat Eldridge, Jason Sanford, Cat Rambo, Kathy Sullivan, Eric Franklin, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Steven French, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Glasgow 2024 Announces Kat Jones Resignation as Hugo Administrator

Glasgow 2024 Worldcon chair Esther MacCallum-Stewart today responded to public concerns about how the Chengdu Worldcon handled eligibility decisions for the 2023 Hugos, and also announced the resignation of Glasgow’s Hugo Administrator Kat Jones, who participated in doing assessments of potential finalists which others on the Chengdu committee used to make those decisions.


Glasgow 2024 Chair’s Statement, 15th February 2024

As Chair of Glasgow 2024, A Worldcon for Our Futures, I unreservedly apologise for the damage caused to nominees, finalists, the community, and the Hugo, Lodestar, and Astounding Awards.

Kat Jones has resigned with immediate effect as Hugo Administrator from Glasgow 2024 and has been removed from the Glasgow 2024 team across all mediums. 

I acknowledge the deep grief and anger of the community and I share this distress. 

I, and Glasgow 2024, do not know how any of the eligibility decisions for the Hugo, Lodestar and Astounding Awards held at the 2023 Chengdu World Science Fiction Convention were reached. We know no more than is already in the public domain. 

At Glasgow 2024 we are taking the following steps to ensure transparency and to attempt to redress the grievous loss of trust in the administration of the Awards. 

The steps we are committing to are: 

1. When our final ballot is published by Glasgow 2024, in late March or early April 2024, we will also publish the reasons for any disqualifications of potential finalists, and any withdrawals of potential finalists from the ballot. 

 Full voting results, nominating statistics and voting statistics will be published immediately after the Awards ceremony on 11th August 2024. 

2. The Hugo administration subcommittee will also publish a log explaining the decisions that they have made in interpreting the WSFS Constitution immediately after the Awards ceremony on 11th August 2024. 

 Glasgow 2024 will continue to address this matter as we go forward as a Worldcon. 

 (signed by) Esther MacCallum-Stewart Chair, Glasgow 2024, A Worldcon for Our Futures.

[Based on a press release.]

Diane Lacey’s Letter About the 2023 Hugos

Diane Lacey shared 2023 Hugo administration team emails with Chris M. Barkley and Jason Sanford for use in “The 2023 Hugo Awards: A Report on Censorship and Exclusion”. And she sent them the following letter, written to “sincerely apologize to my community”. Their report links to a copy, however, Lacey has accepted File 770’s offer to publish the letter as a separate post as well.


January 25th, 2024

Let me start by saying that I am NOT making excuses, there are no adequate excuses. I am thoroughly ashamed of my part in this debacle, and I will likely never forgive myself. But the fans that have supported the Hugos, the nominees, and those that were unfairly and erroneously deemed ineligible in particular, deserve an explanation. Perhaps the only way I can even begin to ease my conscience is to provide one.

I was asked to join the Hugo committee for Chengdu, and I agreed to do so because I care about the Hugos. I’ve been a member of several Hugo committees going back to 2009 and I was the Hugo Administrator in 2012. The Hugos have always been important to me, and I believed, in part because of the depth of Dave McCarty’s experience, and because I thought he felt the same way, that they would be run with integrity.

It happened gradually. We vetted entries, as always, checking length, publication dates, etc. Then things began being removed from the vetting lists.  We were told there was collusion in a Chinese publication that had published a nominations list, a slate as it were, and so those ballots were identified and eliminated, exactly as many have speculated*. This certainly accounted for some of the disappearances. These were all Chinese language publications so I don’t know who the authors might have been. I was never privy to the actual nomination numbers.

Should I have resigned? Probably, but hindsight, as they say, is 20:20. It was apparent that there were issues beyond the slate. We were told to vet nominees for work focusing on China, Taiwan, Tibet, or other topics that may be an issue in China and, to my shame, I did so. Understand that I signed up fully aware that there were going to be issues. I am not that naïve regarding the Chinese political system, but I wanted the Hugos to happen, and not have them completely crash and burn.  I just didn’t imagine that there would be so many issues, and that they’d be ultimately handled so poorly by Dave. (Okay, so maybe I do have a certain level of naivete.) Dave insisted that there needed to be more time elapsed before the Chinese nationals would be safe from the ensuing uproar, and he made it clear from the time the finalist names were released that he intended to wait the entire 90 days. Are they safe now? I hope so, I truly do, but I can’t imagine that ensuing uproar and the international media attention that came along with it has done them any favors.

As far as Dave’s apparent actions in cooking the results, I have to say I didn’t really expect that either. And if I had I, like many others have said, would have imagined he’d do a better job. (Again, my non-zero level of naivete at play.)  Had that been the case I might not be writing this, but he didn’t do a better job. The fallout has negatively affected something I care deeply about, the Hugos, and I’m not sure they can recover.

Again, I am not making excuses. I sincerely apologize to my community. I don’t expect you to forgive me when I can’t even forgive myself. I’ve violated your trust, and I don’t deserve your forgiveness, but I am so very sorry. Mea Culpa.

Diane Lacey

*Although since then, a better explanation has been given for the “cliff” phenomenon in the data.


2023 Hugo Awards-related Statement by Kat Jones

By Kat Jones: This has been provided to File 770 in response to a request for information from Jason Sanford about the 2023 Hugo Award process and any point at which I interacted with it. 

I have extreme concerns for my personal safety and others involved in this situation, and out of respect for that I would be grateful if comments could be closed on this statement.

_________________________________________________________________________

Dear Jason, 

I admit I’m confused by your questions – if you have the full emails and full threads, you already have the answers. I’m concerned that the confidential Hugo Award eligibility research work product that was ‘leaked’ to you may be incomplete or modified. And I am really shocked that this extremely extremely confidential material was shared in the first place.

In relation to my involvement with Chengdu, as the previous Hugo administrator from Chicon8,  there is a necessary handover aspect from administrator-to-administrator. Then in addition, at the request of the Chengdu team I assisted with eligibility research for some of the English language works/creators in June 2023. I performed some of the 2023 Hugo Awards eligibility research on some of the English-language potential finalists. 

In other years that I have been involved, Hugo eligibility research has proceeded as follows:

  • The top 10-12 nominees per category are listed without order or EPH data for a pool of Researchers to check for potential issues.
  • These researchers undertake checks against the eligibility requirements in the WSFS constitution under the direction of the Hugo Administrator.
  • They flag potential eligibility issues, confirm where no eligibility issues are found, research contact information, compile that information and pass that on to the Hugo Administrator.
  • They are no longer involved in any of the decision processes. 
  • There is no way to know, from the researcher’s perspective, whether a researched work didn’t appear on the final ballot because it was excluded or because it didn’t get enough nominations, until the final stats are released. 
  • The Hugo Administrator and Hugo subcommittee then vet the researched information on the top six nominees after EPH has been run, undertaking further checks based on any elements that have been flagged in line with the instructions they issued.
  • After their additional vetting and checks, if the Hugo Administrator determines that there are eligibility issues with a work/creator, they generally reach out to the creator to confirm whether there is any additional information that could clear up any potential eligibility issues and allow that work to remain on the final Hugo ballot as the nominators intended.
  • This continues until there are six valid nominees in each category.

For Chengdu, I conducted the eligibility research as instructed by the 2023 Hugo Award Administrator, and asked for clarifications where instructions were not clear. I did have concerns, and I shared them with the Administrator. Those concerns you should have evidence of if you have access to all communications. I was not involved in the evaluation of the data we flagged – and you’ll note in those emails we all expressed confusion over the vague instructions and had no idea whether anything we were mentioning was an actual problem. 

I had serious concerns at this point about this process. I then stepped back and did no further work for the Chengdu Worldcon after the first pass of eligibility research. I only had visibility into that first step as a Hugo researcher. I did not ever and do not have visibility into why the choices that were made, were made. 

I would not be willing to participate in any way in the administration of an award under such circumstances again.  I don’t think we, as a community, should put our Hugo Award administration teams in this kind of no-win situation.

The safety, wellbeing, and freedom of our community members is a whole different kind of consideration. 

Out of extreme fear for my personal safety and the safety of the other individuals in these communications, would you please do us the kindness of redacting our personal email addresses? 

Yours sincerely,

Kat


[Comments are closed.]

The 2023 Hugo Awards: A Report on Censorship and Exclusion

This report is being released simultaneously on File770 and Genre Grapevine and is also available to download as an e-book epub file and as a PDF.


By Chris M. Barkley and Jason Sanford

“You acquire information and you convey the information. That’s the job.”

++ National Public Radio News Director, Editor and Reporter Emeritus Linda Wertheimer, February 7, 2024

INTRODUCTION

By Chris M. Barkley: The earliest documentation of the phrase, “News is only the first rough draft of history,” is attributed to a 1943 New Republic book review written by Alan Barth. The phrase quickly caught on with other writers and journalists at the time and for many decades, the late Washington Post president and publisher Philip L. Graham was wrongly given credit for the phrase.

For journalists, such as myself for example, the phrase rings true on a very basic and emotional level. And while what you are about to read here will be considered shocking and a seismic event in the history of SF fandom and the World Science Fiction Society in particular, it is my hope that it is just the beginning of a greater story yet to be told.   

What my colleague and co-author Jason Sanford and I are going to outline in this lengthy report will most certainly not be the final word on the extraordinary events and actions surrounding the 2023 Hugo Awards that were adjudicated and presented by the 81st World Science Fiction Convention held in the city of Chengdu in China in October of 2023.

To understand how extraordinary these events were, I refer back to the 79th Worldcon held in Washington D.C. in December of 2021; a bid from fans based in The People’s Republic of China won the bid for the 81st Worldcon over the bid from Winnipeg, Manitoba Canada by a wide margin.

This in itself was not unusual, except that there was a considerable amount of consternation on the method and accounting of the Chinese ballots. A majority of the ballots from China had email addresses and not the traditional street addresses that fans in other parts of the world usually provide.

The DisCon III committee allowed the contested votes and the Chengdu bid was declared the winner.

Almost immediately there were signs that the Chengdu convention committee may not have expected to win; the one-sheet announcement had no guests of honor, hotel information or membership rates listed. Most alarmingly, several vital convention committee spots were either vacant or non-existent. 

In the intervening twenty-one months, there were long periods of silence from the concom, which caused a great deal of concern among many SF fans and convention organizers as well. 

This period was followed up by a frenzy of activity. First came the announcement of the author Guests of Honor, the Hugo Award winning novelists ‎Liu Cixin from China and Canadian Robert J. Sawyer and Russian SF author Sergey Lukianenko.

Lukianenko, who was mostly unknown to readers and fans in the West, turned out to be an ardent supporter of Russian dictator Vladimir Putin and subsequently made inflammatory comments about his support for the unprovoked war against Ukraine, which began in February of 2022.

In addition, the Chengdu Worldcon was heavily criticized because it was being held under the auspices of an authoritarian regime which regularly spied on, discriminated against or jailed political dissenters, religious minorities, writers, artists, booksellers and publishers. There were also allegations that the government was colluding with business interests to build the venue the convention would be held in. The delays in the construction of the facility moved the date of the start of the Worldcon from early August to mid-October.

But, against all odds, the Chengdu Worldcon was staged successfully and was widely acclaimed by all those who attended, including myself.

I was invited by the Worldcon Convention Committee and its hosting organization, the Chengdu Science Fiction Society as a finalist in the Best Fan Writer category. (Full Disclosure: My airfare, lodgings and meals were paid for by the convention. I gave no considerations to the Worldcon in return for my attendance).

The Science Fiction Museum turned out to be a fabulous site for the proceedings, the panels were well attended, presentation areas were spectacular and the Hugo Awards Ceremony came off without a hitch.

But, having attended thirty-one previous Worldcons, there is no such thing as a convention without some problems or complications; the main one was that I heard first hand of complaints by attendees that there were a limited number of tickets for the main events, the opening ceremonies, the Hugo Awards ceremony and closing ceremonies.

The only curious thing I noticed was that the long list of nominations and the voting results, which are usually out soon after the ceremony, were not released. In fact, that was still the case by the time I left China, which was two days later.

The final voting results were finally published on December 3, 2023, forty-six days after the end of the Chengdu Worldcon. There was no explanation for the delay.

And on January 20th, ninety-one days from the opening of the convention, the Long List of nominees was published on TheHugoAwards.org.

There was a firestorm of outrage, condemnation, speculation and rumors of malfeasance surrounding the absence of the works of novelist R.F. Kuang (Babel), screenwriter and producer Neil Gaiman (The Sandman), fan writer Paul Weimer, and Xiran Jay Zhao — who would have been an Astounding Award nominee for Best New Writer — despite having enough nominations to make the Final Ballot.

At the time of its release, no further explanation was given by the Chengdu Worldcon Convention Committee or Hugo Award Administrators, other than the works in question were ruled not eligible.

Both Jason and I have taken care to diligently gather evidence to answer the following questions:

  • Who was responsible for the “not eligible” rulings?
  • Was there evidence to support marking these particular works “not eligible”?
  • Why were these particular works chosen?
  • To what extent was the Chinese Communist Party and business interests involved?
  • What measures should be taken to ensure that the disenfranchisement of future nominees is never repeated?

This report, prepared by myself and Jason Sanford, is not meant to be the final word on what happened at this Worldcon. We are hoping that others, both here and abroad, will follow in our journalistic footsteps and come forward with more information and details about these events.

We hope that this is not the last inquiry into the curious, shocking and ultimately devastating story that we hope will bring about changes in how Worldcons are run and how the Hugo Awards are administered. We also acknowledge that this report will be quite upsetting to the fannish community but we hope that exposing the truth will also lead to the first steps in healing these social and political wounds ailing us.

As journalists, we are dedicated to be fair, accurate, and equitable in our pursuit of the truth. We are lucky that we live in an open society where inquiries like this are not only legal, but possible.

Jason, I, and other dedicated journalists like the recently retired Linda Wertheimer (whom I quoted above) know that we carry a sacred responsibility to get it right and convey it directly to you, factually and without bias.

++ Chris M. Barkley — 14 February 2024

LEAKED EMAILS AND FILES REVEAL POLITICAL CONCERNS RESULTED IN INELIGIBILITY ISSUES WITH 2023 HUGO AWARDS

By Chris M. Barkley and Jason Sanford: Emails and files released by one of the administrators of the 2023 Hugo Awards indicate that authors and works deemed “not eligible” for the awards were removed due to political considerations. In particular, administrators of the awards from the United States and Canada researched political concerns related to Hugo-eligible authors and works and discussed removing certain ones from the ballot for those reasons, revealing they were active participants in the censorship that took place.

When the Hugo Award voting and nomination statistics were released, no detailed explanation was given for why multiple authors and works were deemed “not eligible” even though they had enough nominations to make the award’s final ballot. The only official explanation came from overall Hugo Awards administrator Dave McCarty, who said “After reviewing the Constitution and the rules we must follow, the administration team determined those works/persons were not eligible.”

However, emails and files released by another member of that Hugo administration team, Diane Lacey, shows that the rules “we must follow” were in relation to Chinese laws related to content and censorship.

Lacey previously served as an administrator for the Hugo Awards in 2009, 2011, and 2016, and was the lead Hugo administrator for Chicon 7 in 2012. The 2023 Hugo Award Administration Team for the 81st World Science Fiction Convention in Chengdu were comprised of the following people according to the official Hugo Awards website: Dave McCarty, Ben Yalow, Ann Marie Rudolph, Diane Lacey, Shi Chen, Joe Yao, Tina Wang, Dongsheng Guo, and Bo Pang.

While the official Hugo Awards website doesn’t list Kat Jones as an administrator, the emails Lacey shared show Jones was involved in working on the awards. Lacey also confirmed this in an interview, as did Jones who said in an email exchange that “I did a small amount of work in the margins of the 2023 Hugo process, but was nowhere near any decisions.”

In an apology letter released to this report’s authors, Diane Lacey wrote “Let me start by saying that I am NOT making excuses, there are no adequate excuses. I am thoroughly ashamed of my part in this debacle, and I will likely never forgive myself. But the fans that have supported the Hugos, the nominees, and those that were unfairly and erroneously deemed ineligible in particular, deserve an explanation. Perhaps the only way I can even begin to ease my conscience is to provide one.”

The emails Lacey shared are extremely illuminating about the entire controversy. In an email from Dave McCarty dated June 5, 2023, he announced to the Hugo Award administration group that “This is us, the group of folks that are validating the Hugo finalists.”

None of the Chinese members of the administration team were listed as recipients in any of the emails examined for this report, only administrators who were from Western countries.

After discussing technical details of the work in the June 5th email, McCarty wrote “In addition to the regular technical review, as we are happening in China and the *laws* we operate under are different…we need to highlight anything of a sensitive political nature in the work. It’s not necessary to read everything, but if the work focuses on China, taiwan, tibet, or other topics that may be an issue *in* China…that needs to be highlighted so that we can determine if it is safe to put it on the ballot (or) if the law will require us to make an administrative decision about it.”

On June 5, Kat Jones asked McCarty for a “list or a resource you can point us to that elaborates on ‘other topics that may be an issue *in* China’?”

McCarty responded on June 5 at 7:18 pm saying “At the moment, the best guidance I have is ‘mentions of Hong Kong, Taiwan, Tibet, negatives of China’. I will try to get better guidance when I have a chance to dig into this deeper with the Chinese folks on the committee.”

On June 6, Kat Jones wrote an email to the administration group titled “Best Novel potential issues.” In the email, Jones raised concerns about the novels Babel, or the Necessity of Violence by R. F. Kuang and The Daughter of Doctor Moreau by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. Jones wrote that Babel “has a lot about China. I haven’t read it, and am not up on Chinese politics, so cannot say whether it would be viewed as ‘negatives of China’” while adding that The Daughter of Doctor Moreau talked “about importing hacienda workers from China. I have not read the book, and do not know whether this would be considered ‘negative.’”

Babel, which won the Nebula Award for Best Novel, ended up being deemed “not eligible” for the Hugo Awards despite having 810 nominations, more than enough to make the final ballot. The Daughter of Doctor Moreau was not removed from the ballot.

When the authors of this report reached out to Kuang for comment, her publicist said by email that due to her academic schedule and writing deadlines Kuang was unavailable for an interview.

In addition to being involved in work on last year’s Hugos, Kat Jones is the current overall Hugo Awards administrator for the 2024 Worldcon in Glasgow, Scotland.

In an emailed statement in response to a request for comment, Jones said she was concerned that the “confidential Hugo Award eligibility research work product that was ‘leaked’” may be incomplete or modified, and that she was “shocked that this extremely extremely confidential material was shared in the first place.”

“In relation to my involvement with Chengdu,” she added, “as the previous Hugo administrator from Chicon8, there is a necessary handover aspect from administrator-to-administrator. Then in addition, at the request of the Chengdu team I assisted with eligibility research for some of the English language works/creators in June 2023. I performed some of the 2023 Hugo Awards eligibility research on some of the English-language potential finalists. …

“For Chengdu, I conducted the eligibility research as instructed by the 2023 Hugo Award Administrator, and asked for clarifications where instructions were not clear. I did have concerns, and I shared them with the Administrator. Those concerns you should have evidence of if you have access to all communications. I was not involved in the evaluation of the data we flagged – and you’ll note in those emails we all expressed confusion over the vague instructions and had no idea whether anything we were mentioning was an actual problem. I had serious concerns at this point about this process. I then stepped back and did no further work for the Chengdu Worldcon after the first pass of eligibility research. I only had visibility into that first step as a Hugo researcher. I did not ever and do not have visibility into why the choices that were made, were made.”

At the end of her statement, Jones said “I would not be willing to participate in any way in the administration of an award under such circumstances again.  I don’t think we, as a community, should put our Hugo Award administration teams in this kind of no-win situation. The safety, wellbeing, and freedom of our community members is a whole different kind of consideration.”

The entire statement from Jones can be downloaded here.

The American and Canadian Hugo Award administrators also examined political concerns around the finalists for the Astounding Award for Best New Writer. In an email dated June 7, 2023, Lacey raised possible issues with regards to Xiran Jay Zhao, Naseem Jamnia and Sue Lynn Tan. Xiran Jay Zhao ended up being deemed “not eligible” despite being a finalist in that same category the year before. Naseem Jamnia made the final ballot while Tan appears to have not had enough nominations to make the final ballot.

The Hugo Awards category that received the most concerns in the email chain was Best Fan Writer. As Kat Jones wrote in an email dated June 7, 2023, “This category has the potential to be problematic, under the constraints you’ve listed, for most non-Chinese fan writers.” Jones then detailed items of possible concern for numerous fan writers including the two authors of this report along with Paul Weimer, Bitter Karella and several writers who subsequently did not receive enough nominations to qualify for the 2023 final ballot such as Alex Brown (a 2022 Hugo finalist in this category), Camestros Felapton (a 2018 Hugo finalist) and Alasdair Stuart (a three-time Hugo finalist).

Paul Weimer would eventually be deemed “not eligible” for the award despite meeting eligibility requirements in the constitution of the World Science Fiction Society, which lists the rules governing the Hugo Awards. Among the concerns Jones raised about Weimer’s writings were him having traveled to Tibet, him having a Twitter discussion with Jeannette Ng about Hong Kong along with mentioning Hong Kong and Tiananmen Square on that social media platform, expressing support for the Chengdu Worldcon while also sharing negatives about the Chinese government in a Patreon article, and writing a review of S.L. Huang’s The Water Outlaws where Jones said Weimer praises Huang for “tak[ing] one of the pillars of Chinese literature and reinvent[ing] it as a queer, feminist retelling of an important and nation-defining story.”

It should be noted that Mr. Weimer was nominated for the Hugo Award as fan writer on the 2020-2022 Hugo Award final ballots and last year for Best Fanzine as one of the editors of Nerds of a Feather.

In an interview on February 11, 2024, Weimer said he only found out he was declared “not eligible” for the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer when the complete Hugo nomination and voting statistics were released. He confirmed he was eligible for the Best Fan Writer Award by virtue of publishing more than 60 works in various places.

“I had more ‘fan writer’ somethings than you can shake a stick at … by any definition of the word,” he said.

Weimer also confirmed that, despite the research done on him by the Hugo administrators, he has never visited Tibet. Instead, he had previously traveled to Nepal and Vietnam.

When told about the political research the Hugo administrators did on him, Weimer’s initial response was very pointed: “Well fuck,” he said, noting that he doesn’t curse that often but a precision f-bomb seemed appropriate here.

“I was afraid that in the end this was going to come down to soft or hard or some kind of censorship once things started leaking out,” Weimer said. “I mean, they came up with a dossier on all of us and went through stuff from 10 years ago? I mean, I honestly think that the Hugo committee are cowards. I would like to hope that if I was in the position of Dave McCarty and the others I’d have simply said we can’t hold the awards under these conditions and just cancel the fucking things rather than going through political dossiers. This is the worst possible outcome.”

Strangely, neither the emails nor other supporting files shared with the authors explain why the episode “The Sound of Her Wings” from Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman TV series was ruled ineligible. When asked about this, Diane Lacey said she wasn’t sure who reviewed finalists for the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation but it wasn’t her, Kat Jones or any other associate administrators.

At the time of publication, Gaiman has not responded to a request for an interview. A request for comment with Xiran Jay Zhao is also still pending.

The emails provided by Diane Lacey can be downloaded here.All emails examined by the authors are included in that document. Personal email addresses of the people on the Hugo Award administration team have been redacted. In addition, the name of one Hugo administrator who was cc’d on the shared emails but didn’t respond to any of the emails was redacted. Otherwise the emails haven’t been altered or edited in any way. The authors of this report initially received these emails in a printed format. Some of the emails in the combined PDF are from a scanned version of the print copies.

In addition to the emails, Lacey also shared other supporting documents, including a “validation” spreadsheet where comments were shared by the Western Hugo administrators about different Hugo finalists and potential finalists. Comments on the finalists ranged from “possible issues” to “minor possible issues” to “no issues.”

One interesting aspect of the “validation” spreadsheet is it appears to show a number of Chinese works that may have been removed from the final ballot. For example, in the Best Novel category, four Chinese novels are listed including We Live in Nanjing by Tianrui Shuofu. None of these novels made the final ballot.

In both Diane Lacey’s apology letter and an interview, she said some of these Chinese works were removed due to “collusion in a Chinese publication that had published a nominations list, a slate as it were, and so those ballots were identified and eliminated.”

However, the Hugo administrators from the United States and Canada appear to have only examined works and authors who were from the Western world and who mainly published in English. The “validation” spreadsheet shows that the Western administrators did not raise concerns about any of the Chinese authors or works on that spreadsheet, only about Western-based authors and works originally published in English.

Because of this, it is possible some of these Chinese works were removed for other reasons than slating.

While the emails from the Hugo administrators don’t reference overall Hugo Awards committee decisions or any specific orders from the Chinese government, a post reported to be from a Sichuan government website discusses work done to censor works related to last year’s Worldcon.

In the post, the Propaganda Department of the Sichuan Provincial Committee of the Communist Party of China stated that “Three special groups reviewed the content of 1,512 works in five categories, including cultural and creative, literary, and artistic, that were shortlisted in the preliminary examination of the Chengdu World Science Fiction Convention, conducting strict checks on works suspected of being related to politics and ethnicity and religion, and putting forward proposals for the disposal of 12 controversial works related to LGBT issues.”

The post was later deleted.

Because the post was deleted, it is difficult to prove its authenticity. However, the post does tie in with language from the Chengdu Worldcon’s second progress report that was shared by ErsatzCulture on X-Twitter on January 20 and by Nibedita Sen on Bluesky on January 23. That language stated “Eligible members vote according to the ‘one person, one vote’ rule to select Hugo Award works and individuals that comply with local laws and regulations.” [emphasis added]

It’s also possible self-censorship was undertaken due to fears of what might happen if certain finalists made the final ballot, or due to pressure from financial interests and businesses in China not wanting to upset a major investment opportunity. As reported by China.org.cn, “Investment deals valued at approximately $1.09 billion were signed during the 81st World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon) held in Chengdu.”

As Lacey said in an interview, “The things that were marked ineligible, was it local pressure from the government or was it business interests? I can’t answer that. From my knowledge, I would probably say business interests.”

In an interview conducted on February 4 in Chicago, Dave McCarty said that the Chinese government was not indirectly involved in the Hugo Awards “except insofar as the government says what the laws are in the country. … So the government of China says what’s cool in China and the people just operate inside of the bounds of what’s cool, which is exactly the same way that you and I work here.”

What McCarty appears to be referring to is self-censorship. As discussed in the academic article “The Cost of Humour: Political Satire on Social Media and Censorship in China,” there is a “red line” around certain forbidden topics in the country. Because people don’t know exactly what the red line is, and because the punishment for crossing the line can be so severe, “self-censorship is the only way to protect themselves and lower the risk.”

In recent years, this practice of self-censoring has spread to numerous Western organizations and groups that work in or have dealings with China, including Hollywood studios, technology companies, and Ivy-League schools.

Regardless of whether official government censorship took place or if it was self-censorship, what is certain is that the Hugo Award administrators from outside of China were actively involved in researching issues that enabled this censorship.

In an email dated June 7, 2023 at 6:18 PM and sent to the Western Hugo administrators, Dave McCarty said “Tomorrow I have a 4 hour meeting with my chinese counterpart to look at ballot detail and determine if any ballots are to be voided (which happens with frequency so that it’s not *really* that controversial if we determine we need to do it) as well as what things we need to move categories.” The identity of this Chinese counterpart remains unknown at this time.

McCarty then added “The chairs and the administrators will review the items we’ve highlighted in research Friday evening if we have enough time after the ballot review…otherwise we’ll be looking at it on Saturday (China time, of course, so we’re about 13 hours ahead of you).”

This statement, along with McCarty’s earlier email saying the administrators will “determine if it is safe” to put finalists on the ballot or “if the law will require us to make an administrative decision about it,” shows that the research the Western administrators did on Hugo Award finalists was used by the Chengdu convention chairs and administrators to determine who would be on the final ballot.

Lacey confirmed in an interview that this is what happened. “We were supposed to identify any issues and pass them on,” she said. “The decisions were above our heads.”

As Lacey explained in more detail in her apology letter, “We were told to vet nominees for work focusing on China, Taiwan, Tibet, or other topics that may be an issue in China and, to my shame, I did so. Understand that I signed up fully aware that there were going to be issues. I am not that naïve regarding the Chinese political system, but I wanted the Hugos to happen, and not have them completely crash and burn.”

Since the release of the Hugo Award nomination statistics on January 20, Western fandom has been outraged over what happened while multiple mainstream media outlets including The Guardian, Publishers Weekly, and Esquire have covered the story. In addition, there have been unverified reports of fans in China who are also angry at having their first Worldcon tainted by this affair.

In the initial week after the release of the statistics, multiple posts by Chinese fans were translated and shared in the Western world, such as a thread of comments in a Bluesky thread shared by Angie Wang. And Zimozi Natsuco, a genre fan from China, published an essay on File770 describing shock and anger at what happened while also giving a glimpse behind the scenes at what might have gone down.

However, in recent weeks posts like these from Chinese fans have been harder to find. According to a report by Ersatz Culture on File770 released on January 27 (see item #8 at link), posts related to the Hugo Awards controversy in China began disappearing around this time.

This report’s authors attempted to reach out to Chinese genre fans for comment, but did not receive any responses in time to include in this report.

An explanation for what might be happening came from Pablo Vazquez, a traveling genre fan and co-chair of the 12th North American Science Fiction Convention in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Vazquez is also well known for his connections with genre fans around the world.

When Vazquez was asked if he could help connect the authors with any fans in China who might comment for this report, he said “I’m sorry. They do not want to speak to the media even anonymously.”

As Vazquez stated in a follow-up comment, “I have a lot of love for Chinese fandom and my friendships and connections there run deep. That’s a real and vibrant fandom there that is, like us, wanting very little to do with their government being involved in their fandom. They definitely don’t think it’s their government and instead think its corporate interests or, even worse, a fan/pro organization. Honestly, they seem more scared by that than anything else which saddens me to see and despite multiple attempts to get them to share their story they seem really hesitant.”

He elaborated further: “They don’t seem to fear official reprisal (the CPC seems to want to find who’s responsible for embarrassing them on the world stage actually) but rather ostracization from their community or its outright destruction. If I were to hazard a guess, the way we blew up this affair in the international media has now put this fandom in very serious trouble. Previously, it was one of the few major avenues of free speech left in China. Now, after all this, the continuation of that freedom seems highly unlikely.”

In the days following the January 20th release of the nomination Long List, several forums have been created online and all of them are calling for the Hugo Awards to be separated from the control of the sitting Worldcon and amending the Constitution of the World Science Fiction Society (WSFS) to accomplish this.

In Dave McCarty’s February 4th interview, he said he was opposed to separating the Hugos from Worldcon, calling it “entirely wrong headed.”

“Even though I am certain that every administration decision I made was correct, I don’t think that anybody would ever give me this job again,” McCarty said in the interview. “The answers that I’ve got for the administration decisions, all I can say is again, after reviewing this Constitution and all the other rules we must follow, the administration team ruled that these works were ineligible, which absolutely, categorically is our right to do, you know, that’s right there in the WSFS Constitution.”

A full transcript of the File 770 interview with Dave McCarty can be found here.

When Paul Weimer was asked if he supported separating the Hugos from each local Worldcon, he said, “I was already moderately inclined toward that idea and now I’m more inclined. Clearly we need third-party auditing of the ballot and the whole process as a standard practice. Custom is not strong enough. Custom failed here. It wasn’t a failure in Chengdu, it was a failure here. We need guardrails of multiple types. Because otherwise people are going to stop trusting the Hugo results and that will be the death of the awards.”


OBSERVATIONS AND CONCLUSIONS

By Jason Sanford: In a recent article in Esquire about the Hugo Awards controversy, I talked about how the science fiction and fantasy genre saved my life. I still remember how as a kid certain SF/F novels and stories gave me an escape from horrific days while also opening my mind to new possibilities. These stories also revealed to me that other people saw the world in similar ways to myself.

All of this gave me the drive to not give up and to continue moving forward. And in a major way, I found the stories that illuminated and saved my life through the Hugo Awards. Back then I read every Hugo winner and finalist I could find. While I didn’t agree with or even like many of them, they were still the standard by which I approached the SF/F genre.

When I grew up and began writing my own SF/F stories, I realized the idealized version of the Hugos from my youth didn’t exist. The Hugo Awards, like all awards, were flawed. Some stories that deserved to be finalists never made the ballot. Other works that did likely shouldn’t have been there. And that’s before getting into the political infighting, lack of diversity, lack of inclusion, and other issues that have plagued the awards for decades.

No, the Hugo Awards aren’t perfect. However, what I still love about the Hugos is how they result from thousands of people across fandom working together to honor stories and authors. I love how readers continue to discover new authors and stories thanks to the words “Hugo Award finalist” or “Hugo Award winner.” I love seeing the excitement in an author’s face when they’re nominated for or win a Hugo.

I also respect how each problem that pops up with the awards is examined and dissected by the genre as a whole until maybe, eventually, possibly, a solution is found.

Now the Hugos are facing the biggest crisis in their history.

Make no mistake; the 2023 Hugo Awards were censored because certain authors and works were deemed to have too many political liabilities, at least from the viewpoint of the Chinese government. While it’s unclear if this was official censorship from the Chinese government or self-censorship by those afraid of offending governmental or business interests, we can now be certain that censorship indeed took place.

However, what also disturbs me is that the administrators of the Hugo Awards from the United States and Canada, countries that supposedly support and value free speech, appear to have been active participants in this censorship.

Let me say that again because there are too many people who believe all this happened solely because of the Chinese government: The administrators from the United States and Canada appear to have helped censor the Hugo Awards!

As detailed in the emails and files examined by myself and Chris Barkley, these Western administrators took it upon themselves to research political concerns about many of the finalists. I was one of those finalists they researched and let me tell you, this is the first time I’ve seen what amounts to a political dossier being created on what I’ve said and done. It’s not a good feeling.

That this happened in conjunction with the Hugo Awards sickens me even more.

I know the Hugo Award administrators from the United States and Canada were in a tough spot. They deeply cared about both Worldcon and the Hugos and wanted both to be successful. But in their attempt to do that, they took actions that go against the very heart of what the awards should represent.

This didn’t have to happen. The administrators could have refused to research the political issues around various award finalists. They could have spoken out when these issues first emerged. They could have told the entire SF/F genre what was happening before the awards were held.

Instead, the true story is only now coming out.

Ironically, while the Western Hugo administrators appear to have taken these actions in an attempt to protect both the Hugos and Worldcon, the result has been the exact opposite. This controversy has deeply hurt fandom in both the Western world and in China.

In the leadup to the Chengdu Worldcon, I wrote about speaking with many of the SF/F fans from China who went to the 2022 Worldcon in Chicago. I noted that we all love science fiction and fantasy and how, despite my disagreements with many actions of the Chinese government, I hoped the Chengdu Worldcon would help bring together our shared international fandoms.

Instead, as Chris and I documented in this report, it now appears SF/F fans in China are fearful of possible repression resulting from the Hugos controversy.

It’s my sincere hope that in the years to come we all remember that the regular SF/F fans in China didn’t want this to happen. They are as horrified as Western fans are by all of this. Instead of blaming China’s genre fans, we should work to ensure this issue with the Hugo Awards never happens again.

I want to thank Diane Lacey for providing these emails and files to Chris and myself. This is an amazing act of bravery and was undertaken because Lacey deeply cares about the Hugo Awards. I highly commend her for her work in revealing all this to the world. I also urge everyone to read her apology letter.

The SF/F genre has a lot of work in the coming months and years. We must ensure nothing like this ever happens again. The first opportunity for change will happen this year at the Worldcon in Glasgow. During the business meeting, proposals to decouple the Hugos from Worldcon will be raised and must be approved. You can read the beginning of proposals to do this in these posts by Chris Barkley and Cheryl Morgan.

The World Science Fiction Society (WSFS) must also start the process of incorporating so they have the actual power to deal with issues like this in the future. If we want Worldcon to exist a decade from now, the WSFS must change.

The Hugo Awards remain one of the most prominent and visible worldwide icons of the science fiction and fantasy genre. The awards must be saved. The good news is the genre has the power to do just that.


Jason Sanford is a science fiction and fantasy writer who’s also a passionate advocate for fellow authors, creators, and fans, in particular through reporting in his Genre Grapevine column. His first novel Plague Birds was a finalist for both the Nebula Award and the Philip K. Dick Award.


OBSERVATIONS AND CONCLUSIONS

By Chris M. Barkley: When I received the documents that are included in this report on February 3rd at Capricon 44, I did not look at them immediately. In fact, I waited until I got home in Cincinnati the next evening.

I did not read that material that day because I was attending a party honoring a very ill friend, who, as it turns out, couldn’t attend because of a medical emergency. I did not want anything to detract from my enjoying the celebration.

But once I read the first two pages of the emails provided by Diane Lacey, I was stunned, anxious, confused and finally, very angry about what I was seeing. And, as I read the remaining pages, I became even more upset to the point of being violently ill.

The Chengdu Hugo Administrators compiled what a casual observer could reasonably consider to be dossiers of the works of possible nominees, including myself and my co-author, Jason Sanford.

As you can see, these lists contain what the admins thought the People’s Republic of China’s government officials and censors may consider to be politically offensive or subversive in our works, both in the recent past and up through the year of our eligibility.

After I got over my initial shock, I realized I had a dilemma; when pursuing a story, the journalists who are chronicling the events usually do not find themselves as the subject of the inquiry. But these documents, and the truth behind them, were entrusted to me. So, as far as I was concerned, there was no way I could avoid being involved.

I also realized I could not do a report on this story alone. For a brief while, I considered enlisting the help of mainstream reporters. But after reading several recent news articles about the Hugo controversy, I found that they lacked the insight about SF fandom that was needed to bring in a sense of context to what was happening.

I decided that whomever I chose I had to have an insider’s knowledge of fandom and be a very good writer in their own right as well. So, I called in my fellow nominee and professional journalist Jason Sanford.

Once he was apprised of the evidence I had in hand, he did not hesitate to jump in and provide an invaluable perspective of what we should write. In fact, Jason provided the bulk of the third person narrative of this report.    

And as we wrote, we knew that the truth we were revealing would have immediate and lasting consequences for everyone in science fiction fandom, here in North America and internationally.

I have remarked to my partner that I don’t believe in fate. I don’t believe that everything that happened, from my surprise nomination last year, the offer of attending the Chengdu Worldcon, winning a Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer and being personally embroiled in the controversy that followed in its wake was not fated to happen.

Everything that did happen could have been avoided if the government of China, their associated business interests and those involved in the running of the Worldcon had not tried to “do the right thing”, culturally speaking. 

By western standards, we generally believe that suppressing the truth and then covering up the attempt to do so is considered abhorrent and should be rightly condemned. But in the People’s Republic of China, and in other totalitarian nations, speaking out and having a differing opinion can lead to being ostracized by the community, imprisonment, homelessness, becoming a refugee or death.    

For decades, each individual and independent Worldcon convention committee has had complete jurisdiction and control over the administration of the Hugo Awards. And now that we have seen the disastrous results of what might happen in repressive countries like Turkey, Hungary, Russia and Uganda, which have every right to bid under the current Constitution of the World Science Fiction Society, we can well imagine what would happen if they hosted a Worldcon.

And if that were to come to pass, would the members of the Worldcon be bound to nominate and vote on their ballots according to the “local laws and regulations” of an oppressive host country. Moreover, are the Hugo administrators beholden to assist them?

It is my opinion that Mr. McCarty and his fellow western based administrators felt by ingratiating themselves with the Chengdu Worldcon Committee and other Chinese administrators working with them, they could to interdict any direct actions of censorship by the Chinese Communist Party officials, members of the censorship board or the security services by researching and ruling on potential nominees themselves.

The resounding answer should be a very loud NO.

I think that people in fandom, including the Chengdu Hugo Award admins, seem to have forgotten that the Hugos are not supposed to be a popularity contest but a merits-based award that is a judgment of the year’s best works of fiction and non-fiction. As such, it is up to the fans, who I might add, paid out of their own pockets for the privilege to nominate and vote on an annual basis, who should have the final word on who is honored.,

Not the Hugo administrators, not the hosting convention committee and certainly not a group of government bureaucrats and censors with their own non-consensual political agenda. 

In his interview with me, Dave McCarty was adamant that the Hugo Awards should remain under the direct auspices of the Worldcon hosting the proceedings. But this debacle and the Hugo administrators role in interdicting the nominations of four participants who should have been included on the Final Ballot practically ensures that the next two WSFS Business Meetings will seriously consider severing this traditional and long standing relationship, and, at the very least, enact amendments that safeguard the nomination and voting process from any geo-political influences, here in North America and the rest of the world as well.

The firestorm of speculation and outrage that followed the release of the nomination Long List engendered a frenzied demand for the truth of what really happened, a furious yearning that could not and would not be denied by pronouncements of obfuscation, half truths or attempts at subterfuge.

Which brings us to Diane Lacey, who is the hero of this story.

Ms. Lacey, whom I have also known for many years through socializing and working on SF conventions, is very distraught about her role in what happened. What she feared the most was that when this story was released to the public, she would become a pariah in the fannish community.

It is my fervent contention, and I think that my colleague Jason would agree, that what Diane Lacey has done was brave, conscientious and ultimately, the right thing to do for herself and for the community at large.

The omissions of the works of R.F. Kuang, Neil Gaiman, Paul Weimer and Xiran Jay Zhao formed the outline of the puzzle that has been confounding all of us since January 20th. The emails, spreadsheets and Lacey’s personal reminiscences provided a great number of the pieces that provided most of the answers fans have been asking for, at least for now. As far as our investigation is concerned there was no reason to exclude the works of Kuang, Gaiman, Weimer or Xiran Jay Zhao, save for being viewed as being undesirable in the view of the the Hugo Award admins which had the effect of being the proxies Chinese government.

What remains unknown at this time is what was the extent of the involvement of the Chinese government or the business interests that surrounded the development of the Science Fiction Museum, if the business deals that emerged from the convention were orchestrated in conjunction with the convention organizers, a more detailed knowledge of the reaction from the SF fans in China, and whether or not there have been repercussions for them from this shameful incident.

I fully acknowledge the complete truth may never be known. But with the publication of this report, we now know more than we did on the morning of January 20, 2024.

And I can assure anyone reading this that the search for more explanations and answers will continue.

And so must the Hugo Awards.

The purpose of this report goes beyond a clarion call for truth and transparency, it is also a plea for healing and transformation.

The Hugo Awards have been in existence for seventy one years. It has strived to honor the best SF, fantasy, horror and works of related interest during those years. I consider it to be, as several astute critics have called it, “the literature of change”.

What has happened is a test of our will to ask the right questions, find the right answers, heal our wounds and be resilient in the face of adversity.

Because reacting out of fear is not the answer. Facing down that fear is…

“You know the greatest danger facing us is ourselves, an irrational fear of the unknown. But there’s no such thing as the unknown, only things temporarily hidden, temporarily not understood.”

-Captain James Kirk, from Star Trek, “The Corbomite Maneuver”, written by Jerry Sohl, 1966.


Chris M. Barkley has been a contributor to File 770 since 1997. He is currently a correspondent and a news editor for the daily newszine The Pixel Scroll.


This report is Dedicated to the Memory of author and former National Public Radio host Bob Edwards (1947-2024); a journalist’s journalist and the morning voice to three generations of radio listeners.

Pixel Scroll 2/7/24 We’ll Pixel Them All With Laughter And Merriment, Except For The Ones We Scroll For Experiments

(1) PRH PLANS EDITION OF A FAMOUS POTTER FANFIC. [Item by Anne Marble.] Penguin Random House (through Del Rey) is going to publish a revised version of “Manacled,” a very famous Harry Potter fanfic. This is a Hermione plus Draco (Dramione) fan fiction with a lot of trigger warnings. The author, SenLinYu, announcd this on Tumblr:

I’m excited to announce that I have signed a book deal with Del Rey at Penguin Random House in the US and Michael Joseph in the UK for my debut novel, Alchemised, a standalone dark fantasy set in a war-torn world of necromancy and alchemy, in which a healer with amnesia is taken as a prisoner of war and must fight to protect her lost memories and the secrets hidden among them. It will grapple with themes of trauma and survival, legacy, and the way that love can drive one to extreme darkness, and it is, as you may be able to tell, a reimagined version of Manacled.

I know I’ve been rather quiet about my publishing journey, and a lot of that has been because I didn’t want to spark any concerns or worry that I might be abruptly taking away a story that is such a deep part of myself and that I know has meant so much to so many people. This process has unfolded very slowly and quietly because I have tried to be mindful as I could be in every step of the way. 

As most of you know, I have been a reader in fandom long before I ever began to write. Fanfiction is incredibly special to me, and I have tried to do my best not to undermine its legal protection or allow my works to do so either. During the last several years, there has been a growing issue with illegal sales of Manacled, putting both me and the incredible community that shares fanfiction freely in legal jeopardy. 

After consulting with the OTW as well as other lawyers, it has grown clear that as a transformative writer I have limited options in protecting my stories from this kind of exploitation, but I wasn’t sure what to do; I didn’t want to just take the story down, in part because I worried that might only exacerbate the issue, but I didn’t know what other options I had. Then I suddenly had this idea of alchemy, which was peculiarly appropriate; an academic world filled with unique transmutational abilities, and a necromantic war against people who had discovered the secrets of immortality, and I could see a path to reimagining the story while still holding on to as much of the original spirit of Manacled as possible.

I began redrafting the concept privately around Christmas 2022, and then as if the universe had aligned, just as I was finishing, Caitlin Mahony and Rivka Bergman of WME reached out to me and were delightfully enthusiastic about concepts and ideas for my new alchemical world and the ways I had reimagined the story. 

I’m thrilled to be working with Emily Archbold, my visionary editor at Del Rey, along with Rebecca Hilsdon at Michael Joseph in the UK, to polish this novel for publication in Fall 2025. I feel uniquely privileged that both my publishing teams are familiar with Manacled and understand how special it is to so many people, and how important it is that this reimagining captures the same spirit while also having its own wings. 

Manacled is not going anywhere at present. It will remain online throughout 2024, at which point it will, if you’ll pardon the pun, alchemise for 2025 and be removed from AO3….

The revised version is described as “Alchemised, a standalone dark fantasy set in a war-torn world of necromancy and alchemy, in which a healer with amnesia is taken as a prisoner of war and must fight to protect her lost memories and the secrets hidden among them.” As far as I know, it will be published under the name SenLinYu — just like the original fan fic. A lot of people are happy for the author. They are happy she is finally going to get paid for her work. They also see it as Penguin Random House banking on the popularity of her fanfic.

One aspect that drove the author’s decision is that “Manacled” is so popular that some people have resold it online without the permission of the author. However, those sales are illegal, and they jeopardize both the original author and the fanfic community. The author mentioned that she consulted with the Organization for Transformative Works (OTW) as well as lawyers about how to protect herself. So she decided to revise the fanfic and turn it into a new work. It will be sold in 2025. Until then, the original fanfic will still be available on A03. This news is not without its critics. First, a number of posts have accused the author of ripping off The Handmaid’s Tale alongside the Harry Potter elements. I haven’t read the fanfic, so I’m not sure how close it gets. From what I understand, there is a “concubine” element. (It seems a lot of dystopias have borrowed heavily from A Handmaid’s Tale in recent years.)

One poster got truly angry about this upcoming publication, calling the author a “freak” and a “horrible person” for romanticizing abuse. I’m sure this won’t be the only complaint along these lines. I’m torn with that sort of take. Yes, maybe some readers might get the wrong idea from reading a very dark story. But maybe we’re not giving readers (even young ones) enough credit.

(2) DON’T LET KIDS GET SMARTER. “LeVar Burton’s Banned Book Rainbow” is a show-within-the-show on Jimmy Kimmel Live, beginning at the 11:05 mark:

(3) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Isabel Yap and Randee Dawn in person at the KGB Bar on Wednesday, February 14 starting at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

ISABEL YAP

Isabel Yap is the author of Never Have I Ever: Stories, which was published by Small Beer Press in 2021, and was named one of the 2021 Best Books for Adults by the New York Public Library. Her work has appeared in venues including Tor.com, Lithub, and Year’s Best Weird Fiction. Her collection won the British Fantasy Award, and was a finalist for the Ignyte, Locus, Crawford, and World Fantasy Awards. By day she works in the tech industry as a Product Manager. She likes visiting museums, playing the ukulele, and commiserating with others about how hard it is to write books.

RANDEE DAWN

Randee Dawn is the author of the bestselling novel Tune in Tomorrow, which was a finalist in the 2023 Next Generation Indie Awards. Her latest story, “The Fifth Horseman,” appears in the new anthology The Four ???? of the Apocalypse. Her stories have also appeared in Soul Scream, Horror for the Throne, and Even in the Grave, and she is the co-editor of Across the Universe: Tales of Alternative Beatles. An entertainment journalist who writes for the Los Angeles Times, Variety, and other publications, Randee lives in Brooklyn with her spouse and a fluffy, sleepy Westie.

Location: KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street, New York, NY 10003 (Just off 2nd Ave, upstairs)

(4) CHENGDU WORLDCON ROUNDUP. [Item by Ersatz Culture.]

Observations from Hugo winner Ling Shizhen regarding the trophies

As yet, I’ve not noticed any Chinese coverage of the core part of Chris M. Barkley’s interview with Dave McCarty on Weibo, perhaps because of the initial lack of transcripts making that less accessible to non-native speakers, plus I’m uncertain how accessible SoundCloud, Google Drive, etc are to Chinese users.  (Google Drive I’m fairly sure is inaccessible in China without workarounds)

However, the notes at the end of Chris’ piece, regarding damage to the trophies that were shipped to the US, have garnered some discussion.

One of my Chinese SF friends made me aware that Best Fanzine co-winner Ling Shizhen had spoken on WeChat about the subject.  I don’t personally have access to that app, nor did I have alternative contact details for Ling, so I reached out to RiverFlow to see if I could get more information which I might be able to share more widely. 

Here is the the subsequent response from Ling via RiverFlow, firstly in the original Chinese, and then a machine translation via DeepL, with minor manual edits for phrasing.

2023年10月22日,我自成都抵重庆。一路行程中,我的箱包被塞满,为防这奖杯受损,便基本手持,虽感沉重,这奖杯无事。

后由重庆回上海时,先快递回去一大批于2023成都世界科幻大会收到的物件,便想这奖杯放书包里会好些。这奖杯被安置妥当后,一路小心,最多受行走及列车难免的些许微小颠簸。

至家后,发现有问题:这奖杯底座上的“星门”和这奖杯底座间的衔接处,有此前未有的松动,那“星门”有点晃。才发现:那“星门”本不是整块完全焊死在这奖杯底座上。于是想还不如一路手持由重庆回上海。至少我的相关亲历可以说明这奖杯很经不得碰……

On 22nd October 2023, I arrived in Chongqing from Chengdu [a journey of approximately 300km per Google]. During the journey, my bag was stuffed to the brim, so I basically held the trophy in my hand to prevent it getting damaged, and although it felt heavy, the trophy was fine.

When I returned to Shanghai from Chongqing [a distance of just under 1,700km per Google], I couriered back a large number of items I received at the 2023 Chengdu World Science Fiction Convention, so I thought it would be better to put the trophy in my backpack. After the trophy was properly placed, I was careful all the way, and it endured nothing worse than the inevitable bumps of walking and trains.

After arriving home, I found that there was a problem: the connection between the “stargate” and the base of the trophy had loosened up in a way that I had not been seen before, and the “stargate” was a bit shaky. It was only then that I realised that the “stargate” was not completely welded to the base of the trophy. So I think it would have been better to go all the way back to Shanghai from Chongqing carrying it by hand. At least my personal experience shows that this trophy is not very contact-friendly.

Many thanks to Ling Shizhen and RiverFlow for getting back to me so promptly, and for providing the information I requested.

Ling Shizhen and RiverFlow receiving the 2023 Hugo Award for Best Fanzine.  Image from the 2023 Hugo Ceremony video stream
Close up of the 2023 Hugo base, taken from the 2023 Worldcon Opening Ceremony video stream, previously published in the 2023-10-18 Pixel Scroll.

(5) FLAME ON. [Item by Steven French.] The Guardian is agog as “House of Flame and Shadow by Sarah J Maas races to the top of bestseller chart”.

The story of a half fairy, half human woman has gripped UK book buyers this week, as a novel about the hybrid heroine shot to the top of the bestseller chart.

House of Flame and Shadow by Sarah J Maas, the third book in the Crescent City series featuring Bryce Quinlan, has become the third fastest-selling science fiction and fantasy title since records began since its publication on 30 January.

Maas sold 44,761 copies of the new title in the week of its launch, coming in behind Terry Pratchett’s 2011 book Snuff with 54,687 launch week sales and Rebecca Yarros’s Iron Flame which saw a record-setting 57,055 sales last November, according to the Bookseller.

Maas and Yarros are driving a surge in popularity of the “romantasy” genre, which blends elements of romance and fantasy and has attracted huge numbers of readers through social media recommendations, particularly via TikTok. Videos with hashtags related to Maas have been viewed more than 14bn times, her publisher Bloomsbury said.”

(6) USED OR OVERUSED? At the Fantast Author’s Handbook, Philip Athans challenges the use of  particular word: “Active Search: Because”.

…I want to talk about the word “because.” I think “because,” which like all words is perfectly fine and in no way “banned,” sometimes—actually, fairly often—sounds clunky….

(7) COLLINS FUNDRAISER. Horror author, comics creator, and File 770 news contributor Nancy Collins was hospitalized earlier this week with blood clots in one lung, and as she says in the title of her GoFundMe, “What Doesn’t Kill Me Leaves Me With Medical Bills”.

This past Saturday (February 3rd, 2024) I woke up to discomfort in my left chest every time I inhaled. As the day went on I experienced increasing pain that radiated into my armpit and through my left shoulder, accompanied by extreme exhaustion. That evening I drove myself to the E.R. at a hospital near my house here in Macon, GA. By that point I thought I was having some kind of cardiac episode, as my mother’s side of the family had a long history of heart issues.

Within 30 minutes of being taken into the exam area, I was screaming in agony and could no longer sit up. Being kept prone helped alleviate the intensity of the pain, but breathing was still an issue.

An EKG, a set of Xrays, and a MRI scan later, I was told I wasn’t having a heart attack. However, I did have a blood clot in my lower left lung–actually, several small ones, according to the doctor. He said that if I hadn’t come in when I did Saturday night, odds are I would not have woken up Sunday morning.

They admitted me into the hospital, where I was ordered bed rest, pumped full of blood thinners, and then underwent several ultrasounds. They kept me over the weekend, finally releasing me Monday evening with several prescriptions and an outpatient appointment with a hematologist. I suspect I will be on blood thinners for the rest of my life. (I know, ironic for someone best known for writing vampire stories. Even more ironic–the clots appear to be the result of me sitting too long in front of my laptop while writing. )

I’m setting up this campaign to help with the medical bills from this unexpected reminder that I am no longer a spring chicken. While I have medical insurance, it ain’t all that and a bag of chips. I’m still on the hook for 25% of my treatment–possibly more, if it turns out any of the physicians, technicians, or laboratories who handled my case happen to be out-of-network.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born February 7, 1960 James Spader, 64. How can I not do the Birthday of James Spader, the performer who played Dr. Daniel Jackson, Egyptologist in Stargate? Yes, I’m really fond of that film. And yes, I am equally fond of the Stargate SG-1 franchise. 

His first SF film actually came as a starring role as Joey Callaghan in Starcrossed where an alien woman is running from a deadly enemy and tries to hide here. She meets a young mechanic (Joey), who helps her to go home and to be a freedom fighter there.

James Spader in 2014. Photo by Gage Skidmore.

A decade later, his next role is in Stargate one. I thought it was a great performance by him. And yes, the character as performed by Michael Shanks in Stargate SG-1 continuity is just as interesting, just completely different. His role I thought was more true to that of being an Egyptologist but the Stargate SG-1 continuity isn’t really concerned with the original premise, is it? 

If you saw Avengers: Age of Ultron, and I will readily admit that I have not, he not only voiced Ultron but did the motion capture for it. 

But his greatest role, and I readily admit that is not genre was in The Blacklist as Raymond “Red” Reddington, a former US Naval Intelligence officer turned fugitive who’s forced to become an FBI crime consultant. And I was surprised to learn that he was an executive producer for that series. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) TRACING THE ROOTS OF COMICS. At Colleen Doran’s Funny Business the artist takes her work on a Neil Gaiman book as the jumping-off point for a discussion of comic art history: “CHIVALRY: From Illuminated Manuscripts to Comics”.

One of the many reasons I wanted to adapt Neil Gaiman’s Chivalry into graphic novel form was to create a comic as a bridge and commentary re: comics and illuminated manuscripts.

We’re often told that the first comic was Action Comics #1 featuring Superman, a collection of Superman comic strips that morphed into comic books as an art form.

Sequential art predates Action Comics #1.

Action Comics popularized sequential art book storytelling that had already appeared in other forms in fits and starts throughout history. Comic books didn’t take off as a popular medium for several reasons, not least of which was the necessary printing process hadn’t been invented yet and it’s hard to popularize – and commercialize – something most people can never see. 

You find sequential art in cave paintings and in Egyptian hieroglyphics. I’ve read that comics (manga) were invented by the Japanese in 12th century scrolls.

And sequential art appears over and over again in Western art going back well over 1000 years, and in book form at least 1100 years ago.

The most obvious example of early sequential art in Western art – as a complete narrative in sequence – is the Bayeux Tapestry. …

(11) GRIMDARK ARCHITECTURE. The completed Brooklyn Tower is being compared to Barad-dûr. “Brooklyn Tower and 100 Flatbush Lead a Borough’s Art Deco Revival” at Bloomberg.

On an overcast day, the delicate pointed crown of the Brooklyn Tower is invisible in the clouds, as if a vengeful enemy has shrouded its superlative vantage in smoke. Nonetheless, over the low-rise flatlands that comprise most of the borough, the jagged edges rising along the dark shaft are present and unmistakable.

The Batman building, the Tower of Sauron — the nicknames write themselves. And why not? Better this than another squared-off tower that simply fiddles with the ratio of white solid to blue glass. Maybe I should hate it for its bigness, its blackness, its thrust — but I don’t. Skylines need punctuation. The designers of the Brooklyn Tower, SHoP Architects, threw everything at this to make it an exclamation point…

….“The idea was Gotham, it was Deco,” says Gregg Pasquarelli, founding partner of SHoP Architects. “Batman should live here.”…

Color photo of Brooklyn Tower, a supertall skyscraper.
Brooklyn Tower is the borough’s first supertall skyscraper. Photo: Max Touhey, courtesy of SHoP Architects

(12) OMG! The H Book Club blog on X.com made this gobsmacking observation:

Footnote: In case you don’t already know the background:

(13) MARVEL TV CREW MEMBER LOSES LIFE. “’Wonder Man’ Crew Member Dies During Production Of Marvel TV Series” reports Deadline, and people are donating to the support of his widow.

Go Fund Me drive has already raised more than $115,000 for Juan Carlos Osorio, the crewmember on Marvel’s WonderMan series who died Tuesday after falling from a catwalk at Radford Studios.

“On February 6th, 2024, our friend Spike lost his life on the set of Marvels WonderMan shoot at CBS Radford studios due to a potential structural failure,” reads the fundraise, started by Bill Martel. “We are hoping the Production Company, The Facility, MBS, Marvel Studios handles things properly, but expect a long road fraught with attorney fees and expenses. In the mean time, bills will be mounting and the widow, Boom Operator Joanne W. will be left to deal with everything. Help if you’re able, it’s greatly appreciated.”…

(14) INVESTMENT MEANS ADDING DISNEY CONTENT TO FORTNITE. “Disney Invests $1.5 Billion in ‘Fortnite’ Developer Epic Games” reports Variety.

Disney is investing $1.5 billion in “Fortnite” developer Epic Games in what will be the Mouse House’s “biggest foray into the game space ever,” Disney CEO Bob Iger announced Wednesday.

…Per further information provided by Disney, “in addition to being a world-class games experience and interoperating with ‘Fortnite,’ the new persistent universe will offer a multitude of opportunities for consumers to play, watch, shop and engage with content, characters and stories from Disney, Pixar, Marvel, ‘Star Wars,’ ‘Avatar’ and more. Players, gamers and fans will be able to create their own stories and experiences, express their fandom in a distinctly Disney way, and share content with each other in ways that they love.”…

(15) RARE UNFINISHED DOCUMENTARY FEATURE FILM TRAILER FOOTAGE FROM “THE MAN WHO ‘SAVED’ THE MOVIES”. [Item by Steve Vertlieb.] Here’s the original theatrical trailer for the never completed feature length motion picture documentary, The Man Who “Saved” The Movies, concerning over half a century of published writings…associations with actors, composers, writers, and directors…and some seventy-six years devoted to a passion for both films and film makers, while lovingly chronicling the life and career of film, and film music historian Steve Vertlieb.

Featuring appearances by Veronica Carlson, Philippe Mora, Paul Clemens, Juliet Rozsa, Lee Holdridge, Mark McKenzie, Patrick Russ, and Gregg Nestor, the film remains a work in progress. While financial difficulties have sadly plagued its production, it is my hope that it may one day reach completion.

… and, yes, that is me with Frank Sinatra, Johnny Mathis, Kirk Douglas, William Shatner, Jack Klugman, old friend and iconic American film director, Frank Capra, Oscar winning film composer, John Williams, Oscar winning film composer, Miklos Rozsa, famed science fiction author, Ray Bradbury, iconic special effects titan, Ray Harryhausen, “Psycho” author Robert Bloch, together with “The Time Machine” producer/director, George Pal, Hammer Films’ star, Peter Cushing, and screen hero/gold medal Olympian, Buster Crabbe.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ob6-t0MKXRY

(16) COLD WAR SURPLUS? “Remnants of a Nuclear Missile Are Found in a Garage” – in Bellevue, WA – reports the New York Times. “The police responded to a call from a U.S. Air Force museum that said a man had offered to donate a Cold War-era missile stored in his late neighbor’s garage.”

Members of the bomb squad in Bellevue, Wash., on Thursday were called to inspect parts of a military-grade missile in the garage of a resident.

Elements of the larger, intact missile, such as the warhead, were missing and the authorities deemed the piece to be inert and safe, the police said in a news release on Friday.

An Air Force museum in Dayton, Ohio, contacted the police in Bellevue on Jan. 31 to report that a resident had offered to donate the missile, which belonged to his late neighbor….

…The next day, the man was “surprised” to hear from the police because he had not called them but invited the bomb squad to inspect the missile remnant, Officer Tyler said.

Squad members identified the rocket as a Douglas AIR-2 Genie missile, designed to carry a 1.5-kiloton nuclear warhead….

…It was clear that the missile remnant did not pose a threat given that it was missing its warhead and did not contain rocket fuel, Officer Tyler said.

“It was essentially just a rusted piece of metal at that point,” he said. “An artifact, in other words.”…

The NYT news report reminds me that when I first got into fandom I heard tell about Russell Seitz, a fan who was famous for having acquired the components of an ICBM. The following is one version of that story:

In the late 70’s, when most of our nuclear arsenal was converted from liquid to solid fuel, the U.S. Government auctioned off a number of obsolete missile silos and their contents. Mostly the silos got bought by local farmers who converted them for grain storage. I only know what happened to one of the missiles. It was offered at sealed bid auction and a friend of mine, Russell Seitz, bought it. When you bid on something like this, you have to send in a check for 10% of your bid as a deposit. He looked at his bank account, and figured he could spare about $300 that month, so that’s what he sent. When he discovered that he’d won the bid, he had to scrounge up the rest. Now the buyer must pick up the goods himself, but he can request that his purchase be delivered, at government expense, to the nearest military base. Being an undergraduate at M.I.T. at the time, he had the missile shipped to Hanscom Airforce Base, about 12 miles away. He then arranged for a truck, and donated the missile to a local modern art museum (I forget which one). Tax laws were a little different in those days, and if you donated something to an art museum, you could deduct not the just the purchase price, but the original value of the object, which was considerable. Income averaging allowed him to spread the “loss” out over a number of years so that he didn’t have to pay taxes for a long time! He was legendary at M.I.T. for quite a while, and acquired the nickname “Missile” Seitz.

(17) EARLY RELEASE SUPER BOWL AD. Does having the Aquaman actor in it make this an item of genre interest? You decide! Zach Braff, Jason Momoa and Donald Faison appear in a Flashdance-themed Super Bowl commercial for T-Mobile.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. The official trailer for Despicable Me 4 is out. The movie comes to theaters on July 3.

In the first Despicable Me movie in seven years, Gru, the world’s favorite supervillain-turned-Anti-Villain League-agent, returns for an exciting, bold new era of Minions mayhem in Illumination’s Despicable Me 4.

Following the 2022 summer blockbuster phenomenon of Illumination’s Minions: The Rise of Gru, which earned almost $1 billion worldwide, the biggest global animated franchise in history now begins a new chapter as Gru (Oscar® nominee Steve Carrell) and Lucy (Oscar® nominee Kristen Wiig) and their girls —Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), Edith (Dana Gaier) and Agnes (Madison Polan)—welcome a new member to the Gru family, Gru Jr., who is intent on tormenting his dad.

Gru faces a new nemesis in Maxime Le Mal (Emmy winner Will Ferrell) and his femme fatale girlfriend Valentina (Emmy nominee Sofia Vergara), and the family is forced to go on the run. The film features fresh new characters voiced by Joey King (Bullet Train), Emmy winner Stephen Colbert (The Late Show with Stephen Colbert) and Chloe Fineman (Saturday Night Live). Pierre Coffin returns as the iconic voice of the Minions and Oscar® nominee Steve Coogan returns as Silas Ramsbottom.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Anne Marble, Steve Vertlieb, Heath Row, Kathy Sullivan, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Steven French, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Thomas the Red.]