(1) SFWA VOTING ON NEW MEMBERSHIP QUALIFICATIONS. At The World Remains Mysterious, Cat Rambo encourages SFWAns to support these “Possible Upcoming Changes to SFWA Membership”. SFWA members have until February 15 to cast their votes.
…An interesting development for SFWA that seems to have been flying under most people’s radar is that the organization’s members will be voting on whether or not to change the membership requirements in a way that the organization has not previously done. This may be one of the biggest changes made to the membership yet in the organization’s 50+ years of history.
The new qualifications: a writer can join as an Associate member once they have earned $100 over the course of their career, and as a Full member at the $1000 level.
That’s a huge and very significant change from the current, somewhat arcane membership requirements of $1000 over the course of a year on a single work to become a Full member. Particularly when you think that one of the most contentious propositions on the discussion boards in the past has been the idea of re-qualification, of making people prove they qualify on a yearly basis. Moving away from a system so complicated SFWA had to create a webform to walk people through whether or not they qualified to something like this is a big win in so many ways.
Cat follows up with six reasons SFWAns should vote for the change.
Meanwhile, she notes that the SFWA Board has already implemented another tool which did not require a membership vote:
One other change from the board meeting answers the question of how this affects the idea of “SFWA qualifying markets,” which has in the past been used as a way to make sure fiction markets increased their rates every once in a while. We’re going to see a fiction matrix that looks at a number of factors, including pay, but also response time, quality of contract, etc. It’s very nice to see this long overdue project finally manifest, and I bear as much guilt as anyone in the long overdue part, since I was around when it was first proposed and should have kicked it along significantly harder than I did. I’m very happy to see this and ten thousand kudos to the people who made it happen.
An email sent to SFWA members in January (which I did not receive from Cat) explains the new matrix:
Short Fiction Matrix: The Short Fiction Committee has developed a plan to replace the current Market Qualifying list with a Short Fiction Matrix that will better evaluate the professionalism of short fiction markets and model best practices. This is not contingent on the bylaws vote; the Board has already approved this plan to respond to changes needed to the membership criteria to admit newly voted-in categories of SFWA members. As a result, the current Market Qualifying list is less useful to prospective members, many of whom are deterred from applying by mistakenly assuming that only works sold to markets on the Market Qualifying list make them eligible to apply.
The move to a matrix will better fulfill SFWA’s mission to promote and educate on writer-friendly practices in our industry. It will also aim to correct misperceptions that SFWA’s minimum professional rate is the onlybenchmark that a publisher must meet to be considered professional. SFWA will continue to fight for fair and equitable conditions across SF/F and related-genre markets via a minimum professional per-word rate, but additional metrics will give us more tools to use to achieve that goal. We are not abandoning the minimum professional rate at all, but reinforcing it with this matrix. SFWA recognizes the importance that this rate has served in the industry and plans to preserve that outside of the membership qualification criteria.
The rate is meant to encourage better pay for creators, not limit their chances to participate in their professional organizations.
Ten categories have been proposed to comprise the matrix, including wordcount payment rate, payment procedures, good contract practices, audio and translation rights, and promotional efforts, among others. Precisely how each category is evaluated and the points assigned are still in discussion….
LElias2784: Hi Marlon! So excited that you’re doing this! Can you tell us how you developed the maps that are printed in the books?
MJ: The great thing about writing say, New York is that the city is there. Make up a place and you need a world for the characters to move around. I have to bear in my two things, which might seem at odds. 1. The world is new to the reader, so a lot of world building needs to happen, but 2. it’s not new to the characters and they can’t move through it like a tourist, which means I can’t move around like a tourist. So I sketch a rudimentary map before I even write a word. And it helps to define the place. But as the book gets deeper, the maps gets more detailed, until I reach the point where the book is following the map, not the other way around. This creates challenges, for example, by adding up the distance travelled by a character you might realize that they weren’t gone a week, but a year. Or instead of reaching a new destination, they merely circled back to the old. Which means constant modifications. OR you get to the point where the map IS the standard and the prose is what has to change. I appreciate that part actually, because I can say nope, can’t write that because that’s not in the map….
(3) NEW INTERVIEW SERIES LAUNCHES. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] I have decided to interview authors/editors of SFF-related non-fiction books in a probably futile attempt to restore Best Related Work from “Best response to whatever annoyed us at last year’s Worldcon.” Here’s the introductory post: “Introducing Non-Fiction Spotlights”.
… So I want to shine a spotlight on works of long form non-fiction that came out in 2021. The main focus of this series will be on non-fiction books, whether academic or popular, though I will also feature the occasional documentary or blog series. And indeed the first installment of this series will feature a non-fiction book which started out as a series of blogposts. I am not looking for essays, articles, poems, Twitter threads, virtual cons, podcasts, archives, databases, recommendation lists and similar projects at the moment, no matter how worthy….
I’d been thinking of a project like this for some time but the January 6, 2021 riots at the US Capitol was a specific impetus. I wanted to talk about how a section of the US population had become entranced by ideas that seemed so sharply at odds with reality. The overlap between the thinking of some of the key figures in the Sad/Rabid Puppy campaigns and issues such as Covid-denial and election-fraud conspiracy theories was substantial. One key personality from that time had become a major promoter of Qanon, another had been an early proponent of anti-covid-lockdown protests and yet another had been an active proponent of election-fraud conspiracy theories. I really wanted to trace the journey that people went through and how the earlier (fairly minor) conflict foreshadowed later events.
(4) LEDE GENERATOR. Rodolfo Ocampo extended an invitation to the internet: “As part of my PhD, I’m researching human-AI creative interaction. I created a little tool where you can write two themes and see the beginning of a story come alive.” You can try it here: Narrative Device.
I was asked to enter two themes. I gave the AI “hamburger” and “moon.” Here’s what I got back:
The moon was full and shining brightly in the sky. The stars were out, and it was a beautiful night. A family of four was out eating a hamburger at a local burger joint. They were all enjoying their meal, when the father said, “I love hamburgers. They’re such a classic.” His children agreed, and the mother said, “I love moon pies. They’re so yummy.”
The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power follows the forging of the original rings of power that allowed the Dark Lord Sauron to spread darkness across Middle-earth….
(6) DEEP DIVE INTO HOBAN. Evelyn C. Leeper invites Russell Hoban fans to enjoy her webpage of “Russell Hoban Reviews”. “Hoban’s style is (to me) quintessential magic realism, and incredibly poetic, and I wish his adult books were not so hard to find.”
(7) IAN KENNEDY (1932-2022). Comics artist Ian Kennedy died this month – 2000 AD has a profile: “Ian Kennedy 1932-2022”.
…It is no hyperbole to describe Kennedy as a legend of British comics. With a career spanning more than seven decades, his meticulously detailed but dynamic work graced dozens of titles, from Hotspur to Bunty, from Commando to 2000 AD.
… As tastes changed, so did the audience for his work. His style adapted perfectly to the new generation of science-fiction comics like 2000 AD, for which he worked for on strips such as ‘Invasion’, ‘Judge Dredd’ and ‘M.A.C.H.1’, as well as on ‘Ro-Busters’ for stablemate Star Lord. One of his most covers featured the perfect intersection of his changing career – Messerschmitt 109s from World War Two transported to the skies over Judge Dredd’s Mega-City One, with one pilot screaming “Himmel! This isn’t Stalingrad!”.
His richly coloured art, with his particular skill for sleek, dynamic and functional machines and spacecraft, was perfect for the relaunch of ‘Dan Dare’ in Eagle in the 1980s as well as Blake’s 7, M.A.S.K., the short-lived IPC title Wildcat….
(8) ANGÉLICA GORODISCHER (1928-2022). [Item by Cora Buhlert.] Argentinian author of SFF and many other things Angélica Gorodischer has died at the age of 93. For some reason, there have been almost no obituaries in the English language world, not even from places like The Guardian, where you might expect to find them. Locus had a brief item and here is a longer tribute from an obscure news site: “Angélica Gorodischer, the woman who imagined universes” at Then 24.
…She knew from a very young age that she would dedicate herself to writing. Perhaps she did not imagine that she, as a declared feminist writer since the 1980s, would leave a singular mark on literature written in the Spanish language. The true homeland of Angélica Gorodischer, who died at her home in Rosario at the age of 93, was books: the books she read and those she wrote, among which Trafalgar (1979) and the stories of Kalpa Imperial (1983) stand out. The latter was translated into English by none other than Ursula K. Le Guin, the greatest figure in Anglo-Saxon science fiction.
Gorodischer’s best novel, Prodigies, is not sff but was translated into English by Sue Burke, another noted sff author.
(9) MEMORY LANE.
2002 — [Item by Cat Eldridge] Twenty years ago at ConJosé where Tom Whitmore and Kevin Standlee were the Chairs and Vernor Vinge was the author guest, David Cherry the artist guest, Bjo & John Trimble fan guests and Ferdinand Feghoot was the imaginary guest (ok, would someone explain that choice please), Neil Gaiman wins the Best Novel Hugo for the best excellent American Gods.
Five novels made the final nomination list: Lois McMaster Bujold’s The Curse of Chalion, Connie Willis’ Passage, China Miéville’s Perdido Street Station, Robert Charles Wilson‘s The Chronoliths and Ken MacLeod’s Cosmonaut Keep.
It would also win the Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel and be nominated for the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature, a BFA for the August Derleth Fantasy Award for Best Novel and the World Fantasy for Best Novel.
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born February 7, 1908 — Larry “Buster” Crabbe. He played the lead roles in the Tarzan the Fearless, Flash Gordon, and Buck Rogers series in the Thirties, the only person to do all three, though other actors played some of those roles. He would show up in the Seventies series Buck Rogers in the 25th Century as a retired fighter pilot named Brigadier Gordon. (Died 1983.)
Born February 7, 1941 — Kevin Crossley-Holland, 81. Best known for his Arthur trilogy consisting of The Seeing Stone, At the Crossing-Places, and King of the Middle March. I really liked their perspective of showing a medieval boy’s development from a page to a squire and finally to a knight. Highly recommended.
Born February 7, 1949 — Alan Grant, 73. He’s best known for writing Judge Dredd in 2000 AD as well as various Batman titles from the late 1980s to the early 2000s. If you can find it, there’s a great Batman / Judge Dredd crossover “Judgement on Gotham” that he worked on. His recent work has largely been for small independents including his own company.
Born February 7, 1950 — Karen Joy Fowler, 72. Michael Toman in a letter to our OGH asked we note her Birthday as she has a “A Good Word for one of his favorite writers” and so do I. Her first work was “Recalling Cinderella” in L Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future, Vol I. Her later genre works are Sarah Canary, the Black Glass collection, a World Fantasy Award winner, and The Jane Austen Book Club novel, is not SF though SF plays a intrinsic role in it, and two short works of hers, “Always” and “The Pelican Bar” won significant Awards. Her latest genre novel, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, is being adored far and wide. She won a World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement.
Born February 7, 1952 — Gareth Hunt. Mike Gambit in The New Avengers, the two season revival of The Avengers that also starred Joanna Lumley as Purdey and Patrick Macnee as John Steed. Quite excellent series. He was also Arak in the Third Doctor story, “Planet of The Spiders”. (Died 2007.)
Born February 7, 1955 — Miguel Ferrer. You likely best remember him as OCP VP Bob Morton in RoboCop who came to a most grisly death. Other notable genre roles include playing FBI Agent Albert Rosenfield on Twin Peaks and USS Excelsior helm officer in The Search for Spock. In a very scary role, he was Director of Hatcheries and Conditioning in Brave New World. Lastly I’d like to note that he did voice work in the DC Universe at the end of his life, voicing Martian Manhunter (J’onn J’onzz) in Justice League: The New Frontier and Deathstroke (Slade Joseph Wilson) in Teen Titans: The Judas Contract. (Died 2017.)
Born February 7, 1960 — James Spader, 62. Most recently he did the voice and motion-capture for Ultron in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Before that, he played Stewart Swinton in Wolf, a Jack Nicholson endeavor. Then of course he was Daniel Jackson in Stargate, a film I still enjoy though I think the series did get it better. He also plays Nick Vanzant in Supernova and Julian Rome in Alien Hunter.
(11) COMICS SECTION.
(12) FCBD 2022. Titan Comics unveiled artist Piotr Kowalski’s cover for their Bloodborne Free Comic Book Day edition, which will be given out at participating comic shops on May 7.
Enter the city of Yharnam through the eyes of its citizens, when new hunters take to the streets to fight against the cruel and unusual epidemic that has gripped the city. In the black of night, families and faith will be tested… Based on the critically-acclaimed Bloodbourne video game!
…In the Paris-born-and-raised George’s ancestral homeland, George Orwell described him as an author of what G.K. Chesterton called “good bad books,” singling out for praise his 1920 novel Caliban amid the “shoddy rubbish” of his wider oeuvre.
Still even authors of rubbish — and perhaps especially authors of rubbish — can sense the shape of things to come. For its edition of May 7, 1922, the New York Herald commissioned George to share that sense with their readers. In response he described a world in which “commercial flying will have become entirely commonplace,” reducing the separation of America and Europe to eight hours, and whose passenger steamers and railroads will have consequently fallen into obsolescence. “Wireless telegraphy and wireless telephones will have crushed the cable system,” resulting in generations who’ll never have seen “a wire outlined against the sky.”
That goes for the transmission of electricity as well, since George credits (a bit hastily, it seems) the possibility of wireless power systems of the kind researched by Nikola Tesla. In 2022, coal will take a distant backseat to the tides, the sun, and radium, and “it may also be that atomic energy will be harnessed.” As for the cinema, “the figures on the screen will not only move, but they will have their natural colors and speak with ordinary voices. Thus, the stage as we know it to-day may entirely disappear, which does not mean the doom of art, since the movie actress of 2022 will not only need to know how to smile but also how to talk.”…
The Rogues are joined by Whetstone Magazine editor Chuck Clark as they journey into the depths of esoteric time on a quest for a deeper understanding of the Sword & Sorcery mainstay, Kane the Mystic Swordsman and his creator, Karl Edward Wagner. Is this mysterious, flame-haired immortal a friend? Perhaps a foe? And what’s this about World Domination? Hang on to your fur-diapers and winged helms, it’s gon’ get rough!
Oliver and Jason get to some INTERESTING places in their far-reaching discussion, including subjects like: writing workshops, working class literature, modernist literature, R.A. Salvatore as a literary gateway drug, starting a literary magazine & the origin of Whetstone, why he feels you shouldn’t send your best work to Whetstone, “mid-list exposure”, submitting for ultra low acceptance rate magazines, elevated language, Clark Ashton Smith, grading English papers by engineers, Jason’s role as academic coordinator for the Robert E. Howard foundation, Walter Benjamin, how a genre rooted in our past like sword & sorcery can give people an inspiring vision of something new…
… Now, she has entered a franchise with a fractionally longer Hollywood pedigree than her own, as Garsa Fwip in The Book of Boba Fett, a spin-off of The Mandalorian – itself, of course, a spin-off of Star Wars. It takes a while to get your ear in to her natural register, which is playful, very literary and full of bathos. “It’s so exciting to be part of the lineage,” she says of Boba Fett. “It feels like a calling, like there’s some reason that the universe has decided that you’re going to enter into these stories.”…
(17) GENRE ON STAGE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times, behind a paywall, Sarah Hemming reviews A Number, a 2002 play by Caryl Churchill that is playing at the Old Vic (oldvictheatre.com) through March 19 and is about a father and son.
The son has just discovered that he is one of ‘a number’–a set of identical humans cloned from an original. Every shred of their relationship is being reconfigured in his mind. More shocking still, he’s not even number one: Somewhere out there is another, older him–a son five years his senior who grew up in care. Before long, Bernard 1 is in the kitchen too, with his own set of questions…
…Its genius as drama is that it (the play) relies on the skill of the actors to scope out the minute shifts in body language that bring these questions (about the purpose of life)) alive. In (Lyndsey) Tuirner’s deftly calibrated staging, (Paapa) Essiedu is mesmerising as multiple iterations of one person. As Bernard 2, he pads about the living room, apparently at ease. But his hands, either buried in the cuffs of his overlong sweater sleeves or nervously flexing and grasping the air, tell a story of deep-set insecurity. As Bernard 1, the original, abandoned son, he is tighter, sharper, angrier. But as he listens to his father explain why he gave him up, he becomes entirely still–we see a man sunk in deep, bewildered pain. It’s a superbly detailed performance.”
Sarah Hemming also reviews Alistair McDowall’s play The Glow, which is playing at the Royal Court Theatre (royalcourttheatre.com) through March 5. The play is about a Victorian spiritualist named Mrs Lyall.
Here Mrs Lyall’s instinct to cheat death and reach into eternity proves key as the play slips its moorings and roves across time, rolling form glimpses of pre-history and Arthurian legend to the 1970s and 1990s and even the heat death of the universe.
Our woman (Mrs Lyall) is a constant throughout: a time-travelling stranger or spirit, permanently in search of a home. She becomes symbolic of humanity’s nagging sense of profound loneliness: the root of legend, myth and religion, McDowall has said of this play, ‘I want it to feel like there’s a vast, undulating network of stories that you only get a sliver of,’ and he works to give the audience the same bird’s eye view as the woman, stepping outside linear time, allowing patterns to emerge and overlap.
Back in February 2021, SOPHIE fan Christian Arroyo began a petition to dedicate the planet TOI-1338 b in honor of the late pop star, noting that the pale lavender, cloudy atmosphere of the planet (discovered in the summer of 2019 by Wolf Cukier) looked similar to the ethereal album cover art of SOPHIE’s debut record Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides. “I am requesting that TOI-1338 b be named in honor of SOPHIE, in honor of a great LGBT+ influence,” wrote Arroyo. “I want her name to be remembered and her influence to continue to flourish for many years to come.”…
Fresh off the heels of his career-invigorating feud with a rock that wants to take his oatmeal raisin cookie, Elmo has returned to the spotlight yet again to prove that he’s a thinking, feeling organism who deserves to be treated with greater respect than both inanimate objects and the world’s animals.
Since there is no better way for him to prove such a thing than to look to an ordeal devised by Frank Herbert in the novel Dune, Elmo has now been made to prove himself through an edit of the 2021 film adaptation’s take on the Gom Jabbar test….
[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Chris Barkley, Daniel Dern, Peer, N., Cora Buhlert, Cat Rambo, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Charon Dunn.]
DECLASSIFIED! Seven Secret and Untold Stories From the Worldcon Press Office
By Chris M. Barkley:
For many, many years, I have wanted to write a manual specifically to pass along my knowledge, feeling and opinions about working in and operating the Worldcon Press office.
For most people who attend any convention, they only see a fraction of what is going on behind the scenes, much like the tip of an iceberg. If those who complain about the things they see going wrong had any idea of the complex goings on that happens behind the scenes, it would certainly turn more than a few of their hairs white from shock.
And believe me, I’ve earned my share over the years but fortunately, I shave every other day so I’m not reminded of how I earned them.
From the 1983 Worldcon in Baltimore (ConStellation) to Kansas City in 2016 (MidAmericon II), I worked in the Press/Media Relation offices for the World Science Fiction convention a total of nineteen times; fourteen as a staff member, five as the head of the office — three of those times I was asked on a last minute, emergency basis.
After MidAmericon II in 2016, I loudly announced (and not for the first time, mind you) that I was permanently retiring from the position.
I might as well have been shouting into the winds of Arrakis because I seriously considered taking the Press Office position this year at DisCon III at the request of a senior concom member.
After discussions with the members of my MidAmericon II (whom, I might add, was the BEST team of con-workers I had ever assembled), I quickly found that none of them could attend the convention during the alternate date in December.
I declined the offer and felt some considerable remorse, since it would leave the convention without anyone to handle media relations. Conversely, seeing that there was still an enormous amount of time until the start of the convention, I realized that this would be an excellent opportunity to impart and pass along a considerable amount of my knowledge and wisdom and still help the convention. (In addition, I also offered my services as a consultant to whomever took the Press Office position.)
So, for the past five months I have been hard at work, remembering, compiling, writing and editing a concise manual that could be utilized for practically any convention, regardless of the genre or fan base.
In doing so, I also chronicled several incidents, humorous anecdotes and near apocalyptic stories that happened along the way. I have NEVER shared many of these stories publicly before due to the privacy issues and the delicate nature of some of these encounters. But, I feel as though enough time has passed that discussing them now will not cause too much embarrassment or shock to anyone in particular. Even so, in some cases, I have omitted the names of the participants for the sake of privacy.
The entire Press Relations manual, sans some of these stories, will be made available by Our Gracious Host on a separate link at the end of the column, and at the conrunner.net website in the very near future.
1) The One Where I Nearly Caused An INTERNATIONAL INCIDENT With the Soviet Union (ConStellation,1983)
My career in the Press Office began at the 1983 Worldcon in Baltimore, ConStellation. YES, the very last Worldcon to hold a full dinner banquet with the Hugo Awards Ceremony. Here’s the late Steve Stiles take on the dinner: Beautiful Steamers at Fanac.org.
And somewhere, I STILL have my crab mallet from that evening. But, I digress…
It was my fifth Worldcon and I was bored. Up until then, I had been content with going to panels, shopping in hucksters room, perusing the Art Show and partying with my friends. The only other time I had volunteered at a Worldcon was a brief stint working a shift for a friend at the IguanaCon II Art Show in 1978.
So, midway through the first day of the convention, I made my way to the ConStellation Gopher Hole, filled out the appropriate paperwork and presented it to a woman at the desk.
I was rather perplexed when she asked where I would like to be stationed because I hadn’t really given it any thought. Then, she wisely asked what sort of background I had. I replied that I had been an English major in college, a reporter and film reviewer for my college newspaper and, until recently, had been a sf radio talk show host at a public access station.
“Well,” she said, “I’m going to send you down to the Press Office. They could use some help there.”
So, I reported to the Press Office, which was nearby. I have no recollection of who was in charge. But I do remember that one of my first assignments as a staff member was to escort several reporters to a special reception taking place later that day.
The future Academy Award winning film (and future Hugo nominee as well) The Right Stuff was premiering later that year. Fan writer Evelyn C. Leeper’s convention report noted:
Chuck Yeager (who flew the X-1) and Gordon Cooper (one of the original Mercury astronauts) were there to help Warner Brothers promote the film The Right Stuff (about the early space program), and they were both very interesting. (By the way, I recommend the book The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe.) There were also several other noted scientists and even a congressman to talk about the space program, etc.
I decided to hang out for a few minutes to watch the spectacle unfold before going back to the office. I was just about to leave when I noticed a tall, thin gentleman speaking with a distinctive accent I thought might have been Russian.
When I inquired who the man was, I was told by one of the hosts that he was one an envoy from the Russian Embassy who had driven up from D.C. to take in the convention for the day. He was standing about six feet away, laughing with another participant about something.
For a moment, my blood ran a little cold. Then I began to get angry.
Just two days before, Korean Air Lines Flight 007, a 747 aircraft headed to Seoul, South Korea with 246 passengers and a flight crew of 23, had been shot out of the sky by a Soviet interceptor. The crew committed a navigational error which resulted in the plane drifting too far off course to an area inside a restricted Soviet airspace, resulting in the destruction of the plane. There were no survivors. Among the dead was Lawrence P. McDonald, a conservative member of the US House of Representatives from Georgia.
At the time, very little information was available on exactly how and why this had happened. With the denials,suspicions, recriminations and military mobilizations occurring on an hourly basis between the Soviet and NATO forces, it was one of the most tense moments of the Cold War.
So, there I was, in the same room with a citizen of the Soviet Union.
Three feet away from me was a metal folding chair.
It would be a simple thing to grasp it in my hands, smoothly fold it together and smash it into the diplomat’s head.
And if I did what I was thinking, I would probably have served a lengthy prison sentence and brought infamy and shame to my family, my newborn daughter, Laura, my friends and fandom.
So I turned my back to the Soviet diplomat and left the room.
In my heart of hearts, I hope someone expressed their displeasure with that fellow’s government and what happened just off the northern coast of Japan.
But that day, I knew it could not be me.
2) The One Where I Found Out Who Won The Hugo Awards For the First Time (LACon II,1984)
I was VERY uneasy the very first time when I found out who was going to win the Hugo Awards in advance of the Ceremony. Usually, the Hugo Awards Ceremony Staff handles both the Hugo Awards results, nomination and voting statistics and the short press release that comes with them.
Needless to say, when I was working for the L.A.con II Press office in 1984, seeing the results of the Hugo Awards was not on my bingo card.
The convention was held at the incredibly impressive venue; the Anaheim Hilton and Convention Center, which were located right across street from Disneyland. My second tour of duty in the Press Office coincided with the largest attendance ever recorded at a Worldcon up until then, with almost 6400 members pre-registered in advance. With a strong marketing campaign by the convention committee, another 2000+ fans were walk ups.
Among the highlights (and by far biggest draw) was the first official showing of all three Star Wars films in an all-night marathon. (I was there and stayed awake through the middle of Empire Strikes Back and woke up in the middle of Return of the Jedi. I also remember staggering back to my hotel room as the sun peeked over the horizon to catch a few hours of sleep before I reported back at the Press Office.)
The biggest brouhaha I had to deal with came a few hours before; someone came in and said that a commercial LA radio station had announced that the Trilogy showing that evening was FREE to the public! I quickly got on the phone with the station and DEMANDED that whomever made that announcement should rescind immediately before the convention was overrun with people.
To this day I don’t know whether they did it or not. I do know that the showing was not mobbed, so there’s that.
Fast forward to the Hugo Awards Ceremony; that afternoon, manila envelopes the voting and nomination results were delivered to the Press Office. They were to be embargoed and kept in the office until after the Ceremony, when they would be distributed to the fannish and other news media outlets.
My boss, Fred Harris, looked in the envelope and noticed that the packet was missing a one-sheet press release with a summation of the winners. I remember that there were only three people on the team; Fred, myself and a woman I will call Linda for reasons of privacy (and I because I can’t remember her actual name).
Because Fred had to go to the auditorium and see to the seating of the press, Linda and I were charged with typing up a brief summation of the winners, xeroxing multiple copies and stuffing the envelopes.
Linda and I locked the door behind Fred and got to work. We looked, incredulously, at the winners in all of the categories and wrote up the summary in short order. Linda then went out, made the copies and returned to the office in short order.
When Linda and I finished, we sat down and just sat down and stared at each other. Beyond the Hugo Award administrators, we were the only people on the planet who knew who was going to win a Hugo that night. We were full of nervous energy and literally nowhere to go. Although Fred didn’t explicitly say so, we both felt as though we were going to be in the office until the end of the Ceremony.
After a while, I suggested we open the door for a little while so we wouldn’t feel so confined and Linda agreed.
The Press Office was located on one of the main hallways to the auditorium where the Hugo Ceremony. When I opened the door, there was a steady stream of people headed in that direction.
And then, something very improbable happened. As I was watching the crowd streaming by, I saw a very familiar face.
During the course of the convention, I made a lot of new friends, including one Glen David Brin, electrical engineer, astronomer and one of the emerging acclaimed authors of hard science fiction. His second novel in the Uplift series, Startide Rising, had already won the Nebula and Locus Awards for Best Novel and was heavily favored to win the Hugo as well.
Check that; it was GOING TO WIN THE HUGO AWARD that evening.
Once he saw Linda and I standing in the doorway, he made a beeline straight to us. Linda had never met him before and once he got close enough to read his con badge, her eyes got a bit wider and she looked as though she was going to go into shock.
“Hey Chris, good to see you! I’m on my way in right now. Are you guys coming too?”
I quickly explained that we had to watch the Press Office and that we might catch up with him later.
“That’s fantastic! Boy, I can’t tell you how excited I am about tonight. Wish me luck, huh?”
Both Linda and I sagely nodded and wished him well. With that, David Brin fairly bounded down the hall to his destiny.
When he was out of sight, both Linda and I looked at each other, went into the office and locked the door. We laughed hysterically for a minute just to throw off our nervousness. We stayed there until Fred came knocking on the door later.
So, your office may be asked to take custody of copies of the results before the Hugo Ceremony, to be embargoed and distributed to the press afterwards. Needless to say, it is vital that you, as the head of the Press Office, take full responsibility to keep the results safely under wraps.
They should be held strictly on a need-to-know basis: and you, personally, don’t need to know. As someone who has been privy to those results (on several RARE occasions) I cannot tell you how nerve-racking it is to walk around with that knowledge rattling around your noggin.
If you are offered the opportunity to know in advance, my advice to you is to try and avoid that situation or turn it down altogether.
DON’T DO IT! Enough Said…
3) The One Where I Took Over the Worldcon Press Office on Six Days Notice AND The Infamous Neil Gaiman and Rebecca Eckler Incidents (Torcon 3, 2003)
Another important thing to remember is that you cannot do this job alone. If you are lucky, as I have been over the many years, to have a number of trusted associates working closely with you at your convention, your chances of succeeding are quite good.
In 2003, the Toronto Worldcon (Torcon 3) faced a big crisis; it turned out that the person they had appointed to run their Press Relations office had done absolutely nothing regarding press contacts or registration in advance of the convention. Once I found out about the situation, I and my wife at the time, Naomi, volunteered to take over. I had headed up the Press Office previously at LoneStarCon II in 1997 on very short notice and I had a pretty good idea of how to set up an office in a hurry.
I immediately started calling and emailing all of the local media outlets to let them know that there would be a Press Office to help them with any of their inquiries. I also put a call out for volunteers on the Torcon 3 website and asked a few people in fandom I knew who could handle the job.
By the time we arrived in Toronto, I had done as much preparation as I could and hoped for the best.
One of the best examples of having the right person at exactly the right time came on the very first morning of the convention.
Anne Pinzow was a walk-on to the Press Office. She was (and still is, to the best of my knowledge) a writer and editor for a local New England newspaper and volunteered to help out at the convention as a change of pace. Needless to say, her skills and experience were put to the test almost immediately…
On the morning of the second day of Torcon III, our morning staff meeting was rocked by a headline in the Arts Section of the Toronto Star. Hugo Award Winning Fan Writer and Fan Editor Cheryl Morgan (who also served on the Press Room staff) chronicled what happened next and published her account in her fanzine, Emerald City (http://www.emcit.com/emcit097.shtml#Wheels):
The first major embarrassment that we suffered was on Thursday morning when an article appeared in The Star, a local newspaper, announcing that Neil Gaiman had won a Hugo for “Coraline”. This sounded terribly like a leak from the convention, but although we often give out the results under an embargo just before the ceremony, there was no way that the paper could have gotten word of the results that early. So we phoned them.
Here I must give credit to my colleague, Anne Pinzow, who handled the call, firstly for her patience in working through The Star’s automated call handling system, and secondly for the magnificent way in which she laid the law down. A Hugo, she explained, can make or break an author’s career. Winning it can be worth millions of dollars. And by suggesting that the results were known beforehand The Star was casting doubt on the validity and integrity of the voting process, and therefore on the awards themselves. It was a wonderful performance.
As it turned out, however, the editor in question was already duly contrite. Murray Whyte, the journalist who had interviewed Neil and written the piece in question had already phoned up and complained bitterly about his article being butchered. It turned out that what had happened was that an enthusiastic sub-editor had not understood the difference between being nominated and winning, and had “sexed-up” the article to make it sound better. There were red faces all round at The Star. They printed an apology on page 2 on Friday, and on Sunday they devoted half of page 2 to a report of the Hugos.
So, an utter disaster was averted, but just barely. And thankfully, Neil Gaiman, being a prince among writers, was a good sport about the imbroglio and did not hold up the scurrilous headline above his head as Harry Truman had infamously done back in 1948 (“DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN”) after winning the Hugo award for Coraline.
On the day of the Hugo Awards Ceremonies, I received a phone call from a reporter named Rebecca Eckler, a “lifestyle” writer from the National Post. She wanted a press pass plus one to attend the Hugo Awards. When I asked for the name of the other person she replied “Gollum” (which should have set off an alarm bell right then and there).
I told her that I would be in the press office with the badges and gave her instructions on how to find me. I had decided to skip going to the Hugo Awards and stay in the office to distribute the results of the Hugo Awards (with the stipulation that they were to be embargoed until the end of the ceremony) via individual email to newspapers and other media outlets. I released the staff to attend without any instructions other than seeing that any journalists were properly seated in a designated area.
In hindsight, those were not the best decisions. Here’s why:
Rebecca Eckler never showed up at the Press Office as she had promised. She and her companion turned up at the Hugo Awards pre-ceremony reception unannounced and were refused entry. Ms. Eckler, who was well along in her pregnancy at the time, decided to make a fuss at the entrance of reception, citing that she was a journalist and entitled to be admitted. None of my staff were there to ameliorate the situation or to alert me to Ms. Eckler’s presence.
When it came time for the nominees and their guests to be escorted into the hall at the beginning of the Hugo Ceremony, Ms. Eckler and her companion joined the line and were seated with the nominees! According to reports I heard afterwards (and her account that was eventually published in the National Post the next day), she eventually became bored and the two of them left before the end of the ceremonies.
The bottom line is that I, or someone on my staff, should have been present at the reception and at the Hugo Awards ceremony to mitigate what happened. While there was a high likelihood that a negative story about Torcon III could have been prevented, some prompt action could have stopped her disruptive behavior.
As a reminder of what happened, I kept Ms. Eckler’s press pass after all this time, pictured below:
There are several things that you, as the head of the press relations for your convention, should remember:
You are responsible for what happens on your watch, whether it’s your fault or not.
Someone with authority must be present at ALL of the important public events and functions of the convention.
4) The One Where I Won a Kentucky Derby Bet, ROYALLY PISSED OFF J. K. Rowling, Her Publisher and Solicitors, But Lived To Tell About It. Barely. (Interaction, 2005)
When I was attending Noreascon IV in Boston, I was asked by Vincent Docherty, one of the organizers of Interaction (the 63rd Worldcon) whether I would be interested in helping run the Interaction Press Office. Vincent, and apparently others on the convention committee, were very impressed with how I handled the office at Torcon III.
(Also, although my memory may be a bit fuzzy on the details; back in 1995, I had heard secondhand that that year’s Scottish Worldcon, Intersection, had no Press Office. And foolishly (if it’s true), had not allowed any reporters to cover the convention at all. Naturally, at the time, I assumed that they did not want a repeat of that situation. I tried to find any mention of this online but I was unable to confirm whether this actually happened or not. In any event, I am quite sure that someone reading this will either acknowledge as a fact or take great pleasure in correcting me at length that this is some sort of fever dream fairy tale. And so it goes.)
In any event, I accepted the position of being a deputy to a very nice fellow named David Stewart. Little did he know what sort of trouble I was going to cause for him…
One of the first things I did after accepting was to send in my paperwork for my first passport ever, which was issued out of the State Department’s New Orleans processing facility. (It holds a special place in my heart because I received it before Hurricane Katrina devastated the area in late August of that year. It has since expired but I still carry it with me as an alternate photo ID.)
But here’s how the 2005 Kentucky Derby factored into what happened:
That spring, I started making plans in earnest to make the trip to Scotland, which would have been my very first trip outside of North America. I was working a steady job back then but I wasn’t able to save up enough for airfare and expenses. But as March melded into April, I was still far short of what I needed to go.
When the first of May rolled around, I had a crazy idea; I could get enough cash for the trip by achieving a big win at the Kentucky Derby. It was a family affair; my then wife, my daughter, Laura and I ambled over the Lebanon Raceway just east of where we were living to enjoy the day.
About a half an hour before the race, we started making our selections. Naomi and Laura made several relatively small bets on the three of the favorites, Alex Afleet, Wilko and Bellamy Road. I had allocated fifty dollars for myself and spread out most of it on other horses. When I was down to my last ten dollars, my gaze fell upon a 50-1 shot, a horse named Giacamo. (And, unbeknownst to me at the time, had finished fourth in the Santa Anita Derby in his previous start.) I sighed, went with my gut and placed the bet.
You can imagine dead reader, my utter astonishment when Giacamo, in 18th place after three-quarters of a mile, made a jaw dropping move to make up ground while moving six wide around the backstretch turn. He then turned up the jets, closed on and muscled past the leaders and WON by half a length!
I was speechless! I now had at least enough for my airfare and all I had to worry about was saving up for food, transport and lodging. Things were finally looking up. What could possibly go wrong now?
Until, that is, things went terribly wrong.
About a week or so before the Derby, I was feeling a little perturbed towards J. K. Rowling. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was due to be published in July of that year. At that point in time, Ms. Rowling, who won a 2001 Hugo Award for Best Novel for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, had NEVER publicly acknowledged winning it. I couldn’t even find it even mentioned on any US copy of the paperback edition.
So, being the volatile, hotheaded type fan that I was back then, I was determined to do something about it.
Since this was before the advent of Twitter and Facebook, I wrote an actual, physical letter to Ms. Rowling, lamenting the fact that there was no mention of the Hugo Award on The Goblet of Fire. I also pointed out that the World Science Fiction Convention was being held in Glasgow, just a stone throw away (relatively speaking) from Edinburgh and it would be awfully nice if she were to send the convention some sort of greeting.
Somewhere, there is a copy of that letter sitting in the files of Scholastic Books.
And at Bloomsbury’s headquarters in the United Kingdom.
And her solicitors in London.
And her literary agent in London.
Because I wanted to be SURE that my letter would make it past her gatekeepers, mind you.
Well, kids, my message got through all right. And the gatekeepers were not pleased.
So a week or so after my triumph at Lebanon Raceway, I received several anxious emails from David Stewart and members of the convention committee, demanding an explanation of my actions.
You see, dear reader, I sent those letters signed with my name along with my official designation as the Deputy Head of the Intersection Press Office, a HUGE faux pas that tied my perceived diatribe with the convention itself!
Needless to say the letter made everyone angry (especially the solicitors, I was told) that some cheeky Yank was telling them what they ought to do.
Once I gauged the gravity of what was going on, I felt I had no choice whatsoever but to offer my resignation from the Press Office. My would-be boss David had a different and slightly sardonic reaction. He still wanted me to work in the office. Because, as I remember him writing in an email, “You mean he doesn’t have to work but I still have to deal with this? That’s not very fair, is it?” (I am sorry to report that David Stewart and I never had a chance to meet in person; he died after a short illness in 2006. I definitely owed him a pint or two. Ad Astra, David…)
Alas, things also unraveled at home as well; I was laid off from my job, my wife moved out to go the graduate school at the University of Dayton and the five hundred dollars was quickly consumed by bills. So I had to stay home that summer, much to my chagrin.
During all of this turmoil, I never heard (either directly or indirectly) about any reaction from Ms. Rowling herself. And yes, In hindsight, I think everyone would have been better off if I had just signed my name but I doubt that it would have had the same impact if I had not.
Because two things happened in the wake of this international incident; in July, J.K. Rowling did issue a brief statement welcoming the World Science Fiction convention to Glasgow and the next year, the designation “Hugo Award Winning Novel” started appearing on the paperback edition of The Goblet of Fire.
So, for what it’s worth, I am quite satisfied with that…
5) The One With Michael Chabon (Denvention 3, 2008)
In 2008, I was back in the Captain’s chair of the Press Office and I was hoping for a nice, quiet convention with very few annoyances or controversies.
And for a majority of the Denvention, my wish was granted.
On the day before the Hugo Awards Ceremony, I received a call from a producer from National Public Radio’s Weekend All Things Considered (whose name is lost to history). He wanted to know if I could arrange an interview with the winner of the Best Novel category with their then current host, Andrea Seabrook.
Checking the programming schedule, I told the producer that four of the five nominees for Best Novel, John Scalzi (The Last Colony), Ian MacDonald (Brasyl), Charles Stross (Halting State) and Robert J. Sawyer (Rollback) were there. The ONLY author who was absent was Michael Chabon, whose World War II alternate history epic, The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, was a heavy favorite to win. (Historical note: by the time of Denvention 3, it had already won the Nebula Award, the Locus Award, the Sidewise Award and the California Book Award Gold Medal AND had been shortlisted for the Edgar (from the Mystery Writers of America) and the British Science Fiction Association award.
I told the producer that I would contact all of the nominees, including Michael Chabon, and have them contact NPR directly after the Hugo Awards Ceremony.
Consulting the sprocket program, I spent some time out of the office Friday afternoon tracking down Scalzi, Sawyer and MacDonald and they all readily agreed to be on the air if (or when) they won.
Charlie Stross was the only one I couldn’t find that day. I looked up any contact information I could scrounge up on Chabon’s whereabouts online but I came up empty. I left several messages with HarperCollins in New York and sent an email to his agent and hoped someone would get the message by the next day.
I was feeling quite chuffed that NPR, a network that I had been an ardent fanboy of since 1973 was taking some serious interest in the Worldcon. I told any friend or acquaintance who wandered by the office that I was setting up this fabulous interview with NPR that day.
That evening, I was at a bid party, minding my own business and enjoying myself when a very good friend (who shall remain nameless for reasons that will become very obvious) came in, spotted me, grabbed me by the arm and literally dragged me into a nearby vacant bathroom and closed and locked the door.
When I asked them what that was all about, they explained in a very excited tone that they had heard about the impending NPR interview and wanted to help. And before I could ask what sort of help, they blurted out that Michael Chabon was going to win Best Novel!
Now at that point in time I was a little crestfallen because I fervently try NOT to know who will win any of the Hugo Awards in advance but it seems as though every time I have tried to evade knowing, I’m cursed to find out. (I am truly grateful that they didn’t spill the beans about the rest of the rest of the categories, though.)
I thanked my “confidential source” and we returned to the party before anyone ( I had hoped) noticed that the two of us were conferring in a locked bathroom.
So now, even though I knew who was going to win Best Novel, I still had to contact Charlie Stross and Michael Chabon, just in case any of the nominees caught up with each other and compared notes at some later date.
I finally caught up with Mr. Stross Saturday morning and imparted NPR’s request, feeling very badly about playing my part in this elaborate charade. That afternoon I finally heard back from Michael Chabon’s publicist, who informed me that he and his family were vacationing in Maine that weekend. I gave him the NPR producer’s contact information and told him to expect an announcement on who won later that evening.
After the ceremony, I sent the publicist an email with an official list of the Hugo Award results and hoped for the best.
Here is the most pertinent slice of this interview:
SEABROOK: Can I ask you, what do you think of other work that’s going on in science fiction right now? Do you read science fiction?
Mr. CHABON: Yes I do. I still read science fiction, and I see all kinds of diversity. I think – I find a very intense ongoing kind of intellectual and aesthetic debate in the world of science fiction. The people who are reading it and the people who are writing it seem to me to be engaged in an ongoing conversation about the fiction that they love on a level that I think is enviable, that would be a credit to the world of mainstream fiction.
6) The One About George R.R. Martin (Chicon 7, 2012)
Chicon 7 was decidedly challenging for Juli and I on many fronts. For one, the Press Office was nowhere near the Information Desk or Registration; it was located near one of the main auditorium stages and a cluster of meeting rooms being used for panels. I had requested a meeting room for office space but was really disappointed when I found out that the “office” was actually a coat check booth. Fortunately, there was a small furnished room adjacent to the booth that was more than adequate to serve as the main interview room.
My partner Juli and I arrived without anyone else set to staff the office so we were trusting that we were going to attract some good volunteers out of the Gopher Hole. We were rewarded twice over when local Chicago fans Belma Torres and Dan Berger reported for duty. They were fantastic in the office and handled themselves very well during the convention. (Belma eventually moved to Australia a few years ago and subsequently got married there, Dan, his wife Terry and his two sons Alec and Ryan remain good friends with us to this day.)
We made do with the coat room as a base of operations and the Information Desk sent us a steady stream of registered and walk up journalists to cover Chicon 7.
Our one big hiccup occurred on the first day when several people from Logistics came by with several hand carts and requested that we surrender all the furniture in our interview room so it could be used on stage for several bits that had been planned for Opening Ceremonies.
Since the stage was not very far away from the office, I readily agreed. But I made them swear on a stack of fanzines that they would return the large couch and the three easy chairs as soon as the event was over because we needed it for several big interviews, among them a sit down with George R.R. Martin that was scheduled for the next day.
As the day progressed and Opening Ceremonies started, I began to feel a little uneasy about the arrangement. At one point I strolled over to the hall where it was under way and saw people lounging and having a good time with the audience. That was the last time I would see our furniture for the next 20 hours.
Because two hours after the Opening Ceremonies, our furniture had not been returned to us. I sent Dan Berger out to the Logistics to find out what happened. He returned a short while later and reported that no one in Logistics had any idea of what he was talking about.
Livid, I went to Logistics and demanded, in an usually loud voice, that we REALLY needed to find our goddamn furniture, immediately! The poor woman manning the desk promised to look into it and I fumed all the way back to the Press Room.
By the end of the day, the furniture had not been returned.
When we opened the office the next morning, there was STILL no furniture.
That’s when I decided we were going full vigilante on this situation.
Leaving Dan in charge of the office, Juli, I and another volunteer went to Logistics, borrowed several handcarts and started canvassing the convention hall rooms and hallways to find our furniture. We didn’t have to search long.
After checking the hallways and the Exhibits display, Juli spotted our couch in the Fan Lounge. Very quickly afterwards, we found the other lounge chairs nearby. We quickly loaded everything up and trucked it all back to the Press Office, just an hour before the start of George R.R. Martin’s interview.
The moral of the story is quite clear; if you loan out ANYTHING at a Worldcon, get it in writing and keep close track of it until it’s returned.
By the way, the Press Office staff returned the hand carts promptly to Logistics, because that’s how we roll…
7) The One With The VERY SAD Puppy (Sasquan, 2015)
Sasquan was a very strange, tense and ultimately uplifting affair from start to finish.
The original co-Chair of the convention, Bobbie DuFault, died suddenly on the morning of September 14, 2013. Sally Woehrle, the other co-chair, took over in her stead. In hindsight, it was a portent of the terrible events that followed in the wake of this terrible news…
An arch conservative author, Lou Antonelli, made a scurrilous and false police report to the Spokane Police Department, claiming that Author Guest of Honor and Hugo Award Ceremony co-host David Gerrold was “insane and a public danger and needs to be watched when the convention is going on”.
On August 11th, 2015, the following message was posted on the Sasquan Facebook Page:
“The Executive Committee of Sasquan, the 73rd World Science Fiction Convention, would like to address the matter of actions taken by Mr. Lou Antonelli with regards to one of our Guests of Honor, Mr. David Gerrold. On August 1st, Mr. Antonelli participated in a podcast in which he stated that he had written a letter to the Spokane Police Department, in which he stated to them that Mr. Gerrold was “insane and a public danger and needs to be watched when the convention is going on”.
Normally, online communications between members is not something in Sasquan’s purview to referee. However, Mr. Antonelli’s letter, which requested police action against Mr. Gerrold during the time of the convention, is within our purview. As such, we found that there was a strong possibility this act was a violation of our posted harassment policy, particularly if the letter had, in fact, been sent.’
Well, a long story shortened…
‘However, after the recommendation was made, Mr. Gerrold, as the aggrieved party, specifically requested that the Executive Committee set aside this recommendation on the grounds that Mr. Antonelli did apologize, is sending a retraction to the Spokane Police Department and because, as a Hugo Nominee, he deserves to attend the ceremony.
The Executive Committee has chosen to accept Mr. Gerrold’s request, and considers the matter closed as of this time. Ms. Bourget has spoken and corresponded with the Spokane Police Department, and they also consider the matter closed. We would like to thank Ms. Bourget for the calm professionalism she lent to the proceedings, and Mr. Antonelli and Mr. Gerrold for coming to a settlement that benefits not just them, but the Worldcon and its members.”
There were lots of right wing, racist and sexist authors who had themselves slated onto the nomination ballot and a majority of fans who regularly vote on and or attend the Worldcon were in no mood for such shenanigans. In response to the Puppies chicanery, an incredible number of people joined the convention; an astounding 5,748 fans bought Supporting memberships (ostensibly to outvote the Puppy coalition), bringing the total number to a whopping 10,350 total members.
But now, small, brief, editorial aside:
Here’s the thing, as far as I’m concerned; the Sad/Angry/Rabid Puppy affair accomplished nothing for the usurpers who wanted to disrupt and/or destroy the Hugo Awards. Looking back over the past eight years it is quite evident that they utterly failed in style, substance and in an overall way, had very little significant societal impact. There has always been some generational tension between fans, editors, writers and artists in fandom. But in the days before social media, it played out more like a slow motion riot with the participants trading shots through frequently published fanzines or in person at conventions (with and without fisticuffs in some cases).
These reactionaries wanted to stop something that has always been inevitable in literature, change. When these elements of the so-called conservative end of sf fandom thought that their brand of warping spaceships, alien wars and far flung empires were being ignored by the Hugo Awards electorate, they decided to cheat by nominating slates with their own nominees. But by doing so, they just mobilized and galvanized what was already happening, that women, people of color, indigeonous peoples from all of the world and the LGBTAQ community and other marginalized folks were becoming the emerging voices of this generation. The Puppies were driven by the fear of being replaced or, even worse, erased from our collective history. Their fears were expressed in some very unflattering ways; racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia and a decided lack of empathy for people who pushed back against their narrative.
Those of us who were actively opposing them, were portrayed as being out of control radicals, unpatriotic, socialists and traitors. It became so turbulent that even the mere mention or promotion of a disenfranchised person was labeled as racist by them. And while they promoted themselves with a great amount of hubris as the tree and roots of modern sf fandom and literature, in fact they are just merely a branch of a much larger tree. To this day, they remain so dogmatic about their own importance, their false sense of privilege and so devoted to their own myopic point of view that they still don’t realize that they have done themselves and fandom as a whole, a great disservice by acting like an unruly mob without any sense decency or of cognitive dissonance. And yes, they did manage to make a big fuss and draw some attention to themselves but in the long run, their actions will be judged by history to be abhorrent.
If anyone wants to read a fairly comprehensive history of what went down may do so here: The Puppy Kerfuffle Timeline at Camestros Felapton.
And, if that weren’t enough, a series of forest fires completely surrounded the city, enshrouding the entire region in a haze of smoke and ash and casting the convention into something akin to a hellish, eco-disaster film.
Juli and I were called in to head up the Press Office in emergency mode (again) because the convention’s original choice had to drop out for personal reasons. Although this time, unlike many of the other times, we had a full six weeks notice to get the office up and operational.
In addition to all of this, I got personally involved. I stepped up and volunteered to be a Hugo Award acceptor for Analog author Rajnar Vajra whose slyly aware John W. Campbell-ish pastiche, “The Triple Sun: A Golden Age Tale” (published in Analog, 07/08-2014), had been slated onto the Hugo ballot by both the Sad and Rabid Puppy groups..
I made Mr. Vajar’s acquaintance in April 2015, right after the nominations were announced. He had posted on sf/horror writer Adam-Troy Castro’s Facebook page, vehemently condemning both camps and I quoted him (with his permission) in a File 770 column. I also offhandedly offered to pick up his Hugo and deliver his acceptance speech, too.
You can imagine how flabbergasted I was when Mr. Vajra emailed me in July asking if I would do exactly that. In a File 770 post soon after, I wrote:
Several months ago, after the nominations came out, I made the acquaintance of Rajnar Vajra, author of the Hugo nominated novelette, The Triple Sun: A Golden Age Story. Although nominated on the Sad/Rabid Puppy slate, he has vehemently disassociated himself from them. When other nominees dropped out of the Hugo Awards race, he bravely stayed in, because he believed in his story and vacating the nomination slot may have given the ballot yet another puppy candidate.
I half jokingly told Rajnar that I would be happy to accept the Hugo Award on his behalf if it became necessary. He laughed it off at the time but a month ago, he found out that he could not attend. I was slightly aghast when he emailed me but I accepted because I knew what he had in mind.
I believe that Rajnar’s only loyalty is to his craft and to his readers. In his absence, he chose a person of color to represent him at the Hugo Ceremony as a pointed reminder of fandom’s diversity. Mr. Vajra has emailed his eloquent acceptance speech and if needed, I will proudly deliver it verbatim.
When Juli and I arrived at the Press Office, we were ably assisted by a well known Seattle fan, Margaret Organ-Kean, who agreed to serve as the Deputy Press Officer. I cannot begin to tell you how gracious and helpful she was in the office, especially during my prolonged absences because of my obligations to attend the Business Meeting and the Hugo Award Ceremonies.
On that Saturday afternoon, a very peculiar thing happened.
I was standing near the entrance of the Press Office when a middle aged man entered the office. He was white, middle-aged and looked as though he might need some help.
“Hello, how can I help you?”, I said in a pleasant voice.
He just stared at me.
I waited. He kept staring.
After about 20 seconds, I gave up, went back to my desk and sat down to keep an eye on him.
My partner Juli, who is white, witnessed this and decided to make a run at him while I watched warily from a distance.
He immediately perked up and said that he was looking for a reporter to give an interview. When Juli inquired why, he said that he was a John W. Campbell Award nominee for Best New Writer. (I am not identifying the writer because I don’t want to give this person any more publicity than he deserves. His fifteen minutes in the limelight has expired.)
Since this fellow was definitely NOT Wesley Chu, it verified my gut feeling that this guy was part of the Puppy delegation.
In overhearing some of his remarks to Juli, it was fairly evident that while he knew the Campbell Award was somewhat prestigious, he had no fucking idea who he was, his place his in the history of sf literature or, most importantly, what he stood for politically or on social issues.
The most amusing part of the conversation happened when Juli asked him about “The Tiara”.
His eyes blinked with confusion. “Tiara? What about a Tiara? I don’t know anything about that.”
“Well,” Juli said with some enthusiasm, “if you win, you get to wear the Ceremonial Tiara that comes with the Campbell Award.”
(For those of you who may have forgotten, The Ceremonial JWC Tiara was created in 2005 by the late sf writer Jay Lake and author Elizabeth Bear and, until recently, was handed down from winner to winner. Among the distinguished alumni who have proudly worn it have been DisCon III Chair Mary Robinette Kowal, Caribbean-American fantasy author David Anthony Durham and one John Scalzi, a frequent target and perceived arch-enemy of the Puppy crowd.)
“Uh, are you kidding?”
“Oh no,it’s a real thing. And you have to wear it if you win.”
I swear, his face actually blanched when he heard that he might actually be required to wear such an item on his precious, masculine head.
“No, no, no, I can’t do THAT!” he insisted. Juli turned her head slightly and could see the look of approval on my face. I winked.
But, no matter what his own political views, I had no objection to helping him. Our role in the Press Office is to provide journalists the opportunity to talk to and write about what was happening at Sasquan and that included any Puppy who wanted to talk to the media.
He left soon afterwards after Juli took his name and cell phone number and had promised to call if any reporter wanted to talk to him. Eventually, we arranged for him to talk to someone. I think it was Wired magazine, but I could be misremembering exactly who did. In any event, it’s lost to the mists of history as far as I’m concerned.
At the Hugo Awards Ceremony, the Puppies slate of nominees went unrewarded (including, unfortunately, Mr. Vajra, who finished third behind No Award). The only tangential thing they could claim as a victory was the Best Dramatic Presentation-Long Form win for Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, which was a HUGE consensus winner among all of the voters.
There was some good news that evening; for the first time ever, translated fiction won Hugos: The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu (translated by Ken Liu) in the novel category and the novelette “The Day The World Turned Upside Down” by Thomas Olde Heuvelt (translated by Lia Belt). Marvel Comics’s first volume of Ms. Marvel (written by G. Willow Wilson, illustrated by Adrian Alphona and Jake Wyatt), the feminist minded sf thriller Orphan Black (“By Means Which Have Never Been Tried” by Graeme Manson and John Fawcett) and the aforementioned Wesley Chu won the Campbell Award (which was recently re-christened the Astounding Award for Best New Writer).
The Hugo Award results were delivered to the office AFTER the Ceremony for distribution to the press at my expressed request.
The cherry on top of all of these proceedings came at Closing Ceremonies, where I was presented with a Hero of Sasquan medal for taking over the Press Office on short notice.
When I accepted before a standing room only crowd, I told them that I was not the only person in the Press Office; I was only as good as the team of people I was working with. I profusely thanked them for all of their hard work and dedication.
Then I praised the person I called the TRUE MVP of the Press Office, my partner Juli. I held up a black stainless steel ring she had given me for my birthday. The interior of the ring has an inscription that is a quote from Amy Pond (a Doctor Who companion) to her husband, Rory; “I Love Your Stupid Face”.
I told the crowd what the inscription said and they laughed and cheered. And then I shouted, “I LOVE YOU, JULI MARR!!!!!” and the crowd went crazy!
When I returned to my seat, I asked Juli whether or not she had gotten any pictures of my speech.
“I’m sorry’, she said, “I was too stunned to take any.” I smiled and gave her a kiss.
I STILL LOVE YOU JULI MARR!!!!!
Download Chris Barkley’s Fantasy & Science Fiction Media Relations – Press Room Guide here:
(1) BACK FROM THE NEBULAS.
Connie Willis shares with Facebook readers some of her info from the “We Have
Always Been Here” panel —
At the Nebula Awards weekend in Los Angeles this last week I was on a panel with Sarah Pinsker, Cat Rambo, and Eileen Gunn called “We Have Always Been Here,” about early women SF writers. We discussed a bunch of them and decided to follow up with a Twitter hashtag–#AlwaysBeenHere–and discussions on our blogs and Facebook pages of these terrific (and sometimes nearly forgotten) writers.
One of the reasons their names aren’t well-known now is that they, like everybody else in SF at the time, were writing short stories rather than novels, so their stuff can be hard to find. Great writers like Fredric Brown, Ward Moore, and Philip Latham found themselves in the same boat.
Here are some of the women writers I’d like to see be read by a new generation…
(2) UNREAD WORD POWER. Cedar Sanderson expands our vocabulary in “Tsunduko
Tsundere” at Mad Genius Club.
…My daughter explained to me that tsundere is ‘typically someone who acts like they don’t want something, but they really do.’ In anime or manga it’s actually a romantic style. Argues with the one they are attracted to, but inside they are all lovebirds and sighs. I am feeling a bit like this in my current relationship with books, in particular paper books.
(3) HERO PICKER. In the Washington Post, Sonia Rao profiles Sarah Finn, who, as the casting director of Marvel, has cast more than 1,000 roles in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, including Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, and Tom Hiddleston:
The risk paid off. Downey’s performance as the morally torn superhero anchors the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Infinity Saga, which began with 2008?s “Iron Man” and concluded 21 films later with last month’s box-office behemoth, “Avengers: Endgame.” It’s difficult to imagine anyone but him in that role — a statement that could extend to any of the heroes, really.
That’s largely thanks to Finn, who took on the gargantuan task of casting every actor who appears in the MCU (aside from those in “The Incredible Hulk,” released a month after “Iron Man”). That amounts to more than a thousand roles overall, she says, ranging from characters as high-profile as Captain America to those as minor as his background dancers. The job — which Finn held for the first five MCU films alongside Randi Hiller, who now heads casting for live-action projects at Walt Disney Studios — calls for a certain prescience, the ability to predict what sort of traits an actor would one day be asked to exhibit in films that have yet to be written.
Stan Lee’s former business manager, Keya Morgan, was arrested in Arizona Saturday morning on an outstanding warrant from the Los Angeles Police Department.
The LAPD’s Mike Lopez confirmed that the arrest warrant was for the following charges: one count of false imprisonment – elder adult; three counts of grand theft from elder or dependent adult, special aggravated white collar crime loss of over $100k; and one count of elder or dependent adult abuse.
The investigation into whether Stan Lee was the subject of elder abuse began in March 2018 stemming from actions allegedly taken by Morgan in May and June of 2018.
The grand theft charges stem from $262,000 that was collected from autograph signing sessions in May 2018, but that Lee never received.
(5) MORE ON JACK COHEN. Jonathan
Cowie writes —
The funeral was mainly a family affair with Ian Stewart and I representing SF, and in addition to myself there were a couple of other biologists.
However there were over a hundred messages sent in to family. And a few tributes read out including one from Nobel Laureate Prof. Sir Paul Nurse who was one of Jack’s student and who praised his teaching saying that every university departments needs its Jack Cohen.
And he’s archived an article he
commissioned from Jack for Biologist way back in the 1990s on alien life
(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.
May 25, 1953 — It Came From Outer Space premiered (story by Ray Bradbury).
25, 1969 — The first shave in
space took place on Apollo 10.
1977 — Star Wars: A New Hope premiered on
May 25, 1979 — Ridley Scott’s Alien debuts.
1983 — Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of
the Jedi in theatres.
(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
by Cat Eldridge.]
Born May 25, 1808 — Edward Bulwer-Lytton. In addition, the opening seven words from Paul Clifford : “It was a dark and stormy night”, he also coined the phrases “the great unwashed”, “pursuit of the almighty dollar” and “the pen is mightier than the sword.” ISFDB credits him with eight genre novels including The Coming Race, Asmodeus at Large and Last Days of Pompeii to name but three. He wrote a lot of short fiction with titles such as “Glenhausen.—The Power of Love in Sanctified Places.— A Portrait of Frederick Barbarossa.—The Ambition of Men Finds Adequate Sympathy in Women”. (Died 1873.)
Born May 25, 1916 — Charles D. Hornig. Publisher of the Fantasy Fan which ran from September ‘33 to February ‘35 and including first publication of works by Bloch, Lovecraft, Smith, Howard and Derleth. It also had a LOC called ‘The Boiling Point’ which quickly became angry exchanges between several of the magazine’s regular contributors, including Ackerman, Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith. He paid for the costs of Fan Fantasy by working for Gernsback at Wonder Stories. (Died 1999.)
Born May 25, 1935 — W. P. Kinsella. Best I’d say known for his novel Shoeless Joe which was adapted into the movie Field of Dreams, one of the few films that Kevin Costner is a decent actor in, ironic as the other is Bull Durham. Kinsella’s other genre novel’s The Iowa Baseball Confederacy and it’s rather less well known that Shoeless Joe is but it’s excellent. He also edited Baseball Fantastic, an anthology of just what the title says they are. Given that he’s got eighteen collections of short stories listed on his wiki page, I’m reasonably sure his ISFDB page doesn’t come close to listing all his short stories. (Died 2016.)
Born May 25, 1939 — Ian McKellen, 80. Best known for being Magneto in the X-Men films, and Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies. I’m fairly sure his first genre role was as Dr. Faustus in an Edinburgh production of that play in the early Seventies. He also played Macbeth at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre during that period. He’d played Captain Hook in Peter Pan at The Royal National Theatre, and was the voice of the Demon in The Exorcist in the UK tour of that production. Of course he was Dr. Reinhardt Lane in The Shadow, The Narrator in Stardust, Sherlock Holmes in Mr. Holmes, Cogsworth in Beauty and the Beast and finally he’s going to be Gus the Theatre Cat in the forthcoming Cats.
Born May 25, 1946 — Frank Oz, 73. Actor, director including The Dark Crystal, Little Shop of Horrors and the second version of The Stepford Wives, producer and puppeteer. His career began as a puppeteer, where he performed the Muppet characters of Animal, Fozzie Bear, Miss Piggy, and oh so patriotic Sam Eagle in The Muppet Show, and Cookie Monster, Bert, and Grover in Sesame Street. Genre wise, he’s also known for the role of Yoda in the Star Wars franchise.
Born May 25, 1946 — Janet Morris, 73. Hey I get to mention Thieves’ World! Yea! In that universe, she created the Sacred Band of Stepsons, a mythical unit of ancient fighters modeled on the Sacred Band of Thebes. She has three series, both listed as SF though I’d call one of them fantasy, the Silistra quartet, the Kerrion Space trilogy and the Threshold series.
Born May 25, 1949 — Barry Windsor-Smith, 70. Illustrator and painter, mostly for Marvel Comics. Oh, his work on Conan the Barbarian in the early Seventies was amazing, truly amazing! And then there was the original Weapon X story arc involving Wolverine which still ranks among the best stories told largely because of his artwork. And let’s not forget that he and writer Roy Thomas created Red Sonja partially based on Howard’s characters Red Sonya of Rogatino and Dark Agnes de Chastillon.
Born May 25, — Kathryn Daugherty. I’m going to let Mike do her justice, so just go read his appreciation of her here, including her scoffing at the oversized “MagiCon” pocket program and the pineapple jelly beans she was responsible for. (Died 2012.)
Born May 25, 1962 — Mickey Zucker Reichert, 57. She’s best know for her Renshai series which riffs off traditional Norse mythology. She was asked by the Asimov estate to write three prequels in the I, Robot series. She’s the only female to date who’s written authorized stories.
Born May 25, 1966 — Vera Nazarian, 53. To date, she has written ten novels including Dreams of the Compass Rose, what I’d called a mosaic novel structured as a series of interlinked stories similar in to The One Thousand and One Nights that reminds a bit of Valente’s The Orphans Tales. She’s the publisher of Norilana Books which publishes such works as Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Sword and Sorceress anthologies, Catherynne M. Valente’s Guide to Folktales in Fragile Dialects and Tabitha Lee’s Lee’s Sounds and Furies.
(8) COMICS SECTION.
Comics takes “A Writer’s Routine” from A to Z.
(9) URSULA VERNON. A hound
wants out of this chicken outfit. Thread starts here.
The Doom Patrol isn’t a team of shiny superheroes, a team of super-villains working to thwart those heroes, or even bad guys with a change of heart. They’re flawed, but trying, and their quests are less of the greater-good variety and more of the personal, soul-searching kind (even if they do casually prevent an apocalypse or two along the way). Each of the team members has your standard issue set of powers. What’s different about this show is the way they view and use them: as consequences and reminders of the mistakes they made in life they must learn to use and accept rather than invitations to a virtuous or higher moral calling. It’s refreshing to see this team as a found family working for smaller stakes and through very human issues – more often through things like superhero therapy than sprawling battles.
(11) OBJECTION. We’ve all heard sf stories get criticized for bad science – but what happens when a Real Lawyer Reacts to Star Trek TNG Measure of a Man — an episode written by Melinda Snodgrass?
When Starfleet officer Maddox orders Data’s disassembly for research purposes, Data is thrust into a legal battle to determine if he is entitled to the rights enjoyed by sentient beings. Data tries to resign his commission but Starfleet won’t let him. Worse, against his will, Commander Riker is ordered to advocate against Data. Captain Picard must defend Data in a trial for his life. Is it a realistic trial? Does Data deserves all the rights and privileges of a Starfleet officer? IS DATA A REAL PERSON?!
(12) LINGO SLINGING. The Washington Post’s Avi Selk profiles linguist David J. Peterson, who created
the Valyrian and Dothraki languages for Game
of Thrones in “a 600-page document owned by HBO”. Peterson
explains he began his career by being irritated at a scene in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi where
Princess Leia includes the words “yate” and “yoto” to mean
“a wookie; a bounty; a thermal detonator, and 50,000 space credits.”
Selk also profiles several other creators of imaginary languages, including
Jessie Sams, who teaches a course in imaginary languages at Stephen F. Austin
State University. “How
a community of obscure language inventors made it big with ‘Game of
A running joke in “Game of Thrones” has Peter Dinklage’s character, Tyrion, repeatedly butchering the Valyrian language, despite his best efforts.
In the episode last Sunday, he’s trying to ask a military guard for permission to see a prisoner and comes up with: “Nyke m?zun ipradagon bartanna r?elio.” A subtitle on the screen translates this for us as: “I drink to eat the skull keeper.”
When the guard stares at him in confusion, Tyrion tries again but only utters more gibberish. Finally, the guard informs him in perfect English, “I speak the common tongue,” and takes him to see the prisoner. Hah.
It’s a simple gag on its face, but there’s a deeper layer. The language Tyrion is garbling actually exists….
I like short stories to be self-contained: a good idea or a complete story. As such I often gravitate to stories that are focused on doing one thing well. It also means that I tend to prefer vignettes, where Hugo short stories can be surprisingly long (7500 words or less).
Note: it’s hard to discuss a short story without spoilers, so if you don’t want to be spoiled, skip to my rankings and general comments.
There’s always one on each ballot–one finalist that is totally unavailable–and this year it is “Attitude” by Hal Clement. This will not stop it from winning, of course; Clifford Simak’s “Rule 18” won a Retro Hugo in 2014 for its 1939 publication, and it had been reprinted since only once–in Italian. I think I can safely say that he won on name-recognition, and the same could happen with Clement. (“Attitude” is available in NESFA’s Clement collection, but I have no access to it.)…
(15) THE WRIGHT STUFF. Steve J. Wright has
completed his Lodestar YA Novel Finalist reviews.
This year, Nature turns 150 years old. To mark this occasion, we are celebrating our past but also looking to the future. We would like to hear from you. Nature is launching an essay competition for readers aged 18 to 25. We invite you to tell us, in an essay of no more than 1,000 words, what scientific advance, big or small, you would most like to see in your lifetime, and why it matters to you. We want to feature the inspiring voices and ideas of the next generation
The deadline for completed essays is midnight GMT, UK time, on 9thAugust 2019. The winner will have their essay published in our 150th anniversary issue on 7 November, and receive a cash prize (£500 or $ equivalent) as well as a year’s personal subscription to the journal. For further information and to submit, visit go.nature.com/30y5jkz. We are looking for essays that are well reasoned, well researched, forward-looking, supported by existing science, and leave room for personal perspective and anecdotes that show us who you are. We encourage you to entertain as well as to inform; we are not looking for academic papers, an academic writing style or science fiction (though clearly those with an SF interest may have interesting ideas.
(17) BIG BANG’S BREXIT. Okay, it’s safe to talk about The Big Bang Theory again — its final show has aired in the British Isles and western Europe. British media reaction includes:-
As millions of dollars in donations stacked up for the Notre-Dame Cathedral following the horrific fire last month, the Washington National Cathedral was quietly building its own restoration fund—brick by plastic brick.
[…] [Instructions were] created by the designers and professional Lego aficionados at Bright Bricks—are used by volunteers and kind donors who buy individual bricks and place them on the growing replica by hand. The bricks go for $2 each and all the money goes toward the $19 million needed to repair damage from a 5.8-magnitude earthquake in 2011.
[…] While the size of the project is impressive, what’s perhaps more remarkable is that Santos is designing and assembling only with off-the-shelf Lego bricks. This requires some creative workarounds and repurposing of parts. Small stone angels that sit at the foot of the tomb of Bishop Henry Yates Satterlee (the first Episcopal bishop of Washington and a key figure in the Cathedral’s construction) are represented by Star Wars droid heads. Part of the ornaments along a stained-glass window are made of droid arms. A cross at the altar of the basement chapel (Bethlehem Chapel) is made of Lego tire irons, and an ornate railing on the outside of the back of the cathedral is made of Harry Potter wands. The Lego cathedral will also include a Darth Vader head, replicating the actual Darth Vader “gargoyle” that sits high on the Northwest tower.
THE KAIJU. The “Godzilla: King of the Monsters – Knock You Out – Exclusive Final Look.”
Movie comes to theaters May 31.
Following the global success of “Godzilla” and “Kong: Skull Island” comes the next chapter in Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Legendary Pictures’ cinematic MonsterVerse, an epic action adventure that pits Godzilla against some of the most popular monsters in pop culture history. The new story follows the heroic efforts of the crypto-zoological agency Monarch as its members face off against a battery of god-sized monsters, including the mighty Godzilla, who collides with Mothra, Rodan, and his ultimate nemesis, the three-headed King Ghidorah. When these ancient super-species—thought to be mere myths—rise again, they all vie for supremacy, leaving humanity’s very existence hanging in the balance.
JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, P J Evans, SF
Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Carl
Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to
File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]
Dozens of writers have put their names to a letter to the Guardian that urges UK voters taking part in Thursday’s European parliament elections to use their franchise to support the European Union, “unless they know what they are choosing to lose, for themselves and everyone they know, and are happy with that”.
The authors, who also include Neil Gaiman, Nikesh Shukla, Kate Williams and Laurie Penny, go on to say: “It seems to us that the same question is facing every industry and every person in the UK: what will you choose to lose? Because we used to hear about advantages in Brexit. We used to hear about the bright future, the extra money, the opportunities. Now the advocates of Brexit just assure us that it won’t be as bad as the last world war.”
We met at the Freer Gallery, and then wandered over for lunch at the Capitol Hill branch of Hank’s Oyster Bar, which opened in 2012.
I first met Kaaron slightly less than 10 years ago, at the 2009 Montreal Worldcon, where her novel Slights was one of the inaugural titles from Angry Robot Books. The publisher even had a robot rolling around the launch party! (It was not angry, however.) She’s published many more novels and stories since then, with one novel, The Grief Hole, winning all three of Australia’s genre awards — the Aurealis Award, the Ditmar Award, and the Australian Shadows Award. Her most recent novel is Tide of Stone. She’s published seven short story collections, the most recent being A Primer to Kaaron Warren.
We discussed how her recent Rebecca reread totally changed her sympathies for its characters, the disturbing real-life crime related to the first time she ever saw The Shining, the catalyst that gave birth to her award-winning novel Tide of Stone, how she came up with new angles for tackling stories about such classic characters as Sherlock Holmes and Frankenstein, the way flea market bric-a-brac has led to some of her best ideas, the only correct method for preparing fairy bread, her go-to karaoke song, and much, much more.
…The first trailer for the upcoming Sonic the Hedgehog movie definitely got people talking…just probably not the way the studio intended. Reaction to Sonic’s design—his muscular legs, his regularly-proportioned head, his teeth—was swift, loud, and overwhelmingly negative. The filmmakers heard the cries of the masses, and they responded with action, as director Jeff Fowler tweeted a few days after the trailer’s release that they would be working to tweak the design of the character…
(4) DRAGON RECOMMENDATIONS. Red Panda has created a “Dragon
Awards 2019 Eligible Work” based on Renay’s Hugo recommendation’s
spreadsheet. She says, “We’re trying to
get folks to pay attention to the Dragon Awards to prevent them from becoming
puppy awards by default. Here is a spreadsheet of eligible works – and people
are welcome to add to it as long as works fit the Dragon award rules.”
Now I don’t have a problem with either the 20Booksto50K group or their system. I don’t doubt that the group or their conferences help a lot of indie writers. And while their approach to writing and publishing isn’t mine, there are a nuggets of useful information in there.
Alas, the rest of the Martelle’s post engages in same tired “indie versus traditional publishing” rheotric that we’ve been hearing since 2010. “Traditional publishing is slow” – yes, it is, because their model is different, but that doesn’t make it bad. “Awards don’t matter, but whether stories resonate with readers does” – okay, so why are you so desperate to win an award then?
In February we ditched our pre-release “Want to See” percentage in favor of a more straightforward Want to See tally (kind of like the “likes” you see on social media). We also removed the function that allowed users to write comments about a movie prior to seeing it. You can read about these changes here.
What’s next? Today, we’re excited to introduce new features to our Audience Score and user reviews with the addition of Verified Ratings and Reviews.
So, let’s get to it.
Rotten Tomatoes now features an Audience Score made up of ratings from users we’ve confirmed bought tickets to the movie – we’re calling them “Verified Ratings.” We’re also tagging written reviews from users we can confirm purchased tickets to a movie as “Verified” reviews.
… The first Audience Score you see on a movie page – that’s it next to the popcorn bucket just to the right of the Tomatometer – will be the score made up of Verified Ratings. As with the current Audience Score, when the score is Fresh (that is, above 60%), you’ll see a red popcorn bucket; when it is Rotten (59% and below), the bucket will be green and tipped over (you can read more about that here). If you want to see a score that incorporates all included ratings – both verified and non-verified – simply click “more info” where you can toggle between the two….
…All this is a reminder that genre tales now dominate the entertainment landscape. The people behind all these platforms are fighting to attract the attention of us, the SF, fantasy and horror fandom.
But they are also fighting for our wallets. And while is is technically possible for one household to receive all these services, it is unlikely that very many households could afford to.
Once, producers essentially had two ways of monetising their entertainment. They could charge for it – for movie tickets, videotapes or discs; or they could give it to us via free-to-air television and sell our eyeballs to advertisers.
Now, we have a new eco-system where the producers are charging us, not for individual works, but for whole bundles of content. So we can get the Netflix package, the HBO package or the Hulu package, but not everything….
What is this in contrast to? Sure, things are different than when
all TV was free, however, not so different from periods when there were five or
eight or ten printed prozines coming out that you could only get by
subscription, unless you were lucky enough that your local library subscribed
to some (never all) of them.
KERR OBIT. British
children’s book writer and illustrator Judith Kerr died May 22 aged 95. Cora Buhlert
In spite of the title, her most famous work (at least in Germany) When Hitler Stole the Pink Rabbit is not genre, but about the Kerr family’s escape from the Nazis in the 1930s. The pink rabbit of the title was young Judith Kerr’s beloved toy, which she lost en route. But a lot of her children’s picture books are at least genre-adjacent and several feature SJW credentials. Besides, she was married to Nigel Kneale, British TV writer and creator of Professor Quatermass:
by Cat Eldridge.]
Born May 24, 1925 — Carmine Infantino. Comics artist and editor, mostly for DC Comics, during the late 1950s know as the Silver Age of Comics. He created the Silver Age version of the Flash (with writer Robert Kanigher) and the Elongated Man (with John Broome). He also introduced Barbara Gordon as a new version of Batgirl. Infantino wrote or contributed to two books about his life and career: The Amazing World of Carmine Infantino and Carmine Infantino: Penciler, Publisher, Provocateur. (Died 2013.)
Born May 24, 1945 — Graham Williams. Producer and script editor. He produced three seasons of Doctor Who during the era of the Fourth Doctor. He went to be one of the producers of Rould Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected. (Died 1990.)
Born May 24, 1946 — Jeremy Treglown, 63. Author of Roald Dahl: A Biography and Roald Dahl: Collected Stories. Amateur actor who met his first wife while both were performing Romeo and Juliet at University.
Born May 24, 1949 — Jim Broadbent, 70. He played Horace Slughorn in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2. He joined the cast of A Game of Thrones, playing a role of Archmaester Ebrose, in the seventh season. His genre credits include Time Bandits, Brazil, Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, The Borrowers, The Avengers, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (well somebody had to be in it).
Born May 24, 1952 — Sybil Danning, 67. Her rise to fame began with her role in Roger Corman’s space opera cult classic, Battle Beyond the Stars. She went on to star in Hercules, Howling II: Your Sister Is a Werewolf (which bears the charming alternative title of Howling II: Stirba – Werewolf Bitch), a faux trailer directed by Rob Zombie titled Werewolf Women of the SS for Quentin Tarantino’s Grindhouse (I couldn’t make this stuff up!), the Halloween remake and finally she as in a horror film called Virus X. Series, She appeared in recurring roles of the The Lair as a vampire out for revenge.
Born May 24, 1953 — Alfred Molina, 66. His film debut was on Raiders of The Lost Ark as Satipo. He was an amazing Doctor Octopus on Spider-Man 2, and he also provided the voice of the villain Ares on the outstanding 2009 animated Wonder Woman. Oh and he was a most excellent Hercule Poirot on Murder on the Orient Express. I know, not genre, but one of my favorite films no matter who’s playing the character.
Born May 24, 1960 — Doug Jones, 59. Among his roles, I’ll single out as Abe Sapien in the Hellboy films, the Faun and the Pale Man in Pan’s Labyrinth, the ghosts of Edith’s Mother and Beatrice Sharpe in Crimson Peak, and the Amphibian Manin The Shape of Water.
Born May 24, 1965 — Michael Chabon, 54. Author of one of the great baseball novels ever, Summerland. Then there’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay which is the best look I know of at the comics industry during the Golden Age. And The Final Solution: A Story of Detection may be an awesome home to the Greatest Beekeeper Ever.
(10) COMICS SECTION.
Wondermark takes fan disappointment about Game of Throne’s final season in a hilarious new direction.
(11) REVISITING THE ENCHANTED DUPLICATOR. The highlights from February’s two-day conference on The Art of the Mimeograph at the University of Westminster include an appearance by fanhistorian Rob Hansen beginning around the 8:54 mark.
(12) OVERFLOWING LID. Alasdair
Stuart says his Full Lid for May 24 2019 “takes a look at DJ Kirkbride
and team’s excellent SF/crime/comedy comic series Errand Boys. I’ve also got a breakdown of the 2014 Godzilla in the first of two briefings
in the run up to Godzilla: King of the
Monsters. There’s a look at the excellent documentary Knock Down The House and the one thing about its structure that
bothered me. Finally, special guest Sarah Gailey drops by to do the Hugo
Spotlight feature, which, this week, features me.”
…The creative team behind Errand Boys is a who’s who of people whose work I pick up, sight unseen. DJ Kirkbride and Adam P Knave are two of the best writers and editors in the business and Frank Cvetkovic is one of the best letterers. They’re joined by a raft of artists whose work is unfamiliar to me but is all massively impressive, kinetic and fun.
I am pretty sure this is the first time someone has been a finalist both in a fiction category and in an art category (Antoine de Saint-Exupery). It is also the first time a father and son appeared on the same ballot–well, sort of. Fritz Leiber, Jr., is a finalist for three works of fiction; Fritz Leiber, Sr., (the actor) appeared as Franz Liszt in PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1943), a Dramatic Presentation (Long Form) finalist.
As Disney plunders its archives for live-action remakes of animated classics, the question of “Why?” continues to be less evident on the screen than it is on the company ledger. The one quiet exception was Pete’s Dragon, which succeeded because it had no fidelity to the second-rate slapstick and songcraft of the original, and could re-imagine the premise from the ground up. When the catalog titles get as massive as Aladdin, however, the mission becomes to replicate it as closely as possible, which inevitably leads to stilted facsimile. No matter how sophisticated CGI gets, the speed and fluidity of animation is hard to reproduce.
The new Aladdin mostly has the beat-for-beat quality of the live-action Beauty and the Beast, the current standard-bearer for pointlessness, but there are elements of it that really pop, even for being bizarre missteps. Foremost among them is Will Smith’s Genie, whose entire look is a Violet Beauregarde nightmare of bright blue and CGI-inflated swole, with a top-knot/goatee combination that suggests 10,000 years away from the fashion pages. Yet Smith is the only member of the cast who’s bothered to rethink the original character: He doesn’t bother to imitate Robin Williams’ manic schtick, but draws on his own ingratiating silliness and kid-friendly hip-hop flavor instead. If everyone else had followed suit, this Aladdin wouldn’t necessarily be any better, but at least it would be its own thing….
Facebook says it removed 3.39 billion fake accounts from October to March. That’s twice the number of fraudulent accounts deleted in the previous six-month period.
In the company’s latest Community Standards Enforcement Report, released Thursday, Facebook said nearly all of the fake accounts were caught by artificial intelligence and more human monitoring. They also attributed the skyrocketing number to “automated attacks by bad actors who attempt to create large volumes of accounts at one time.”
The fake accounts are roughly a billion more than the 2.4 billion actual people on Facebook worldwide, according to the company’s own count.
Love your beloved classics now—because even now, few people read them, for the most part, and fewer still love them. In a century, they’ll probably be forgotten by all but a few eccentrics.
If it makes you feel any better, all fiction, even the books people love and rush to buy in droves, is subject to entropy. Consider, for example, the bestselling fiction novels of the week I was born, which was not so long ago. I’ve bolded the ones my local library currently has in stock.
Cora Buhlert, Daniel Dern, John King Tarpinian, JJ,. Mike Kennedy Cat Eldridge,
Standback, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Rob Hansen, Carl Slaughter,
and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770
contributing editor Peer.]
Mark and Evelyn Leeper in 2002. Photo by Mark Olson.
By Bill Higgins: 1978 was a good year for me and, apparently, a good year for starting fanzines. Congratulations on celebrating File 770‘s fortieth anniversary! And last Friday I noticed that Issue Number 1998 of MT Void had slipped into my mailbox. Which means that Evelyn and Mark Leeper are scheduled to publish the two-thousandth issue on February 2, 2018.
TOPIC: A Brief History of the MT VOID and the Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society (comments by Mark R. Leeper)
We have had some questions about the Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society and the MT Void. Let me try to answer all the questions in one very short history.
Since we first met Evelyn and I have always mixed out interest science fiction with our socializing. We were in the science fiction club at the University of Massachusetts from before school started freshman year until we graduated. The last six months I was the president of the club. Evelyn preferred to be the club librarian and did about six times the work anyone else in the club did.
When we graduated we married, and while I was getting my Masters from Stanford we filled the need for a science fiction club by joining PenSFA, the Peninsula Science Fiction Association, which included such members as artists George Barr and Jim Thomas.
When I graduated Stanford I went to work for Burroughs Computer Corporation in Detroit. Wednesday evenings we would go over to Wayne State University and attend the science fiction meetings of the Wayne Third Foundation. We liked the people of that area, but Detroit was depressing and cold. Also, Burroughs was a rather unpleasant place to work. After three and a half years, at the end of 1977, we left and went to work for Bell Laboratories, the research arm of the telephone company.
Bell Laboratories was one of the primary scientific research environments in the world, and they treated their employees well. They even funded social clubs for their staff. But nobody had started a science fiction club. This seemed peculiar for a cutting edge research facility. There was a little science fiction activity, but it consisted of one group what shared the cost of a subscription to the Science Fiction Book Club and then they passed the books around by inter-office mail. This was not entirely satisfying. We did go to the Empiricon science fiction convention in November, 1978. On the way home I told Evelyn that we really ought to found a science fiction discussion group at Bell Laboratories. Things were never the same again. By the end of 1978 we had a working science fiction club.
Bell would give some minimal funding to the club and we could use company facilities if we could get ten people to say they would join it. At first we thought finding ten people interested would be difficult. That fear was quickly disposed of. We should have been able to call ourselves the “Bell Labs Science Fiction Club”, but that was not allowed by the company so we were just the “Science Fiction Club”.
We met every other week and discussed one book and picked another for the following meeting. So two notices had to go out through inter-office mail for each meeting, one to remind people of the coming meeting and one to tell people what book had been chosen for the next meeting. That was a notice a week, and they started hand-written and photocopied, then typed, and eventually e-mailed. A year or so later the meetings were changed for once every three weeks so we would send out two notices every three weeks, but we soon returned to weekly publication. It seemed pointless to just have one item per notice so I started commenting on films and making jokes. Evelyn would write book reviews and other comments and announcements.
We at first were based at Bell Laboratories in Holmdel, New Jersey, but members would come to meetings from other nearby Bell Laboratories locations, particularly Lincroft and Middletown. Each of these locations had a two-letter code to make addressing in interoffice mail quick. Holmdel was HO; Middletown was MT; Lincroft was LZ. Why Lincroft was not LC we never found out. The meetings were at whichever facility Evelyn and I were at the time. We were moved around. At a time when we were in Middletown we decided that the club and the notice needed a better name. We could have called ourselves the Middletown-Holmdel-Lincroft Science Fiction Club, but we shortened that using the mail codes to the MT HOLZ. That is not an abbreviation for a mountain’s name, and there appears to be no Mount Holz. Instead it is pronounced as if it were “empty holes.” The weekly notice has was similarly named the MT VOID or pronounced “empty void.” These names were proposed by member Paul S. R. Chisholm.
There are still something like 215 real members of the MT HOLZ Science Fiction Society. Activities have become increasingly rare. For a long time there was a video film festival that went along with the club showing pairings of related films like THE POWER and SCANNERS, WHO? and THE RETURN OF MARTIN GUERRE, or Z and ELENI. As participation dropped off the festival died and was reborn once or twice. These days we do not even announce showings to the whole club, but this activity goes on. The one activity that still goes strong is a weekly publication of surprising length, the MT VOID. It may well be the science fiction fanzine that has had the greatest number of issues. The notice/fanzine has had 1574 issues going back to 1978. The members get the MT VOID emailed to them, but it is reprinted on numerous web locations and my reviews appear separately on sites like the Internet Movie Database and Rotten Tomatoes. [-mrl]
Asked for a comment on reaching issue 2000, Mark Leeper replied, “If you are going to start a fanzine one thing you should have that we did not have is an exit strategy.”
I can’t recall when I myself began subscribing to MT Void. Sometime in the Nineties? Maybe the late Eighties? Anyway, it has given me many years of pleasurable reading, as movie reviews, book reviews, wit, whimsy, and the occasional mathematical puzzle paraded past my eyeballs.
I salute Evelyn, Mark, and their correspondents for the remarkable longevity of their creation, and for their efforts in maintaining a high level of entertainment. Long may MT Void wave!
Congressman John Lewis (D-Ga.) was at San Diego Comic-Con on Saturday discussing his award-winning graphic novel, March, which resulted in a real march for civil rights awareness.
After Lewis’ panel ended, he led a group of over 1,000 people through the San Diego Convention Center, with some shouting “No justice, no peace” as they marched past cosplayers and attendees. According to the Associated Press, Lewis made sure to stop and shake hands with people who recognized him as he passed.
(3) HELSINKI DINING TIPS. Worldcon 75 has posted its Restaurant Guide [PDF file].
Helsinki is currently undergoing a “fun dining” wave. It seems not a day goes by without a new street food restaurant being opened on one corner or another, from Mexican burrito shops to a boom of high-quality burger joints. At the same time, many Helsinki restaurateurs are opening casual fine dining restaurants, where the food is top-notch but the atmosphere is laid-back. Helsinki also has many restaurants with long histories and traditions…
This is a convention report for NorthAmeriCon ’17 (NASFIC 2017, and henceforth referred to as just NASFIC), held in San Juan, Puerto Rico, July 6-9, 2017, with a little bit of sightseeing thrown in (because a separate report would not be worthwhile).
It is with some trepidation I start this report. We had never attended a NASFIC before. For a long time we always went to Worldcon, and for the recent years where we skipped the overseas Worldcon, the NASFIC seemed like a misguided attempt to be a substitute. But a NASFIC in Puerto Rico was very appealing for a couple of reasons: I am half Puerto Rican, and we could take a tour of the Arecibo Telescope. And of course, I figured it was a chance to connect with authors and old friends and all that….
Aside from a two-part novella from Beneath Ceaseless Skies (which was just a flash away from counting as a novel), July was a relatively light month in the webzine world. The number of noteworthy stories is also light, but Clarkesworld continued its resurgence with a July issue that was probably even better overall than the June (though each had a standout story), Ellen Datlow picked another for Tor.com, and some other zines also contributed particularly good work.
(6) HITTING THE TARGET. Having seen some make the wrong choice, Sarah A. Hoyt advises indie authors to find “The Right Slot” – to be sure they’re marketing their work in its proper genre. In her latest column for Mad Genius Club she takes a cut at defining several genres, beginning with fantasy.
The SUBJECT determines genre. A non exhaustive list of genres and subgenres and subjects (this is off the top of my head and I’ll miss some. If you guys want an exhaustive list it will take a long time.)
Fantasy – Anything that is technically impossible in our reality, by our physical rules, including but not limited to supernatural beings, all the creatures of Tolkien, etc. Often draws on the myths and legends of mankind.
Has subgenres: High Fantasy – Tolkien-like. Also often known as heroic fantasy.
Alternate history – usually where magic works, but still related to our world.
Urban fantasy, which might of might not be a subgenre of alternate history. It’s not just “fantasy in a city.” Although both F. Paul Wilson’s Repairman Jack and Larry Correia’s monster hunters are technically urban fantasy, as is my Shifter series, it would be more honest to call it “contemporary fantasy.”
Urban fantasy has a structure added to the theme and location, and that often involves a young woman with powers, a love interest on the dark side, etc. Think Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Paranormal Romance – Like Urban Fantasy but way more in the romance and sex side. In fact, it’s more a subgenre of romance, really.
The work of Scottish artist Katie Paterson is nothing as mundane as oil on canvas or carved marble. Her works includes Timepieces—nine clocks showing the time on the planets of our solar system, plus the Earth’s moon (Pluto still loses out); Fossil Necklace—170 beads carved from fossils, each representing a major event in the 3 billion year history of life on Earth; and Campo del Cielo, Field of Sky—a 4.5 billion year old meteorite, melted then recast into a replica of its original form, and finally returned to space by the European Space Agency.
In May 2014, Paterson planted 1000 Norwegian spruce trees in a forest north of Oslo, Norway. The plan is to harvest them in 2114 for paper to print a limited edition anthology of books. Each year, starting in 2014, an author was to be invited to write a book for Paterson’s project, Future Library; he or she will have one year to complete the work, which then won’t be read until well after the turn of the next century.
The completed manuscripts will be kept in a specially designed room on the fifth floor of the New Deichmanske Library in Oslo. The authors’ names and the book titles will be on display, but the manuscripts themselves will be unread until the anthology is published in 2114.
Key: First row vertical: Hugo Weaving, Lee Pace, Cate Blanchett from The Hobbit as Elrond, Thranduil, and Galadriel. Second row vertical: Marvel: Red Skull (Captain America: The First Avenger), Ronan the Accuser (Guardians of the Galaxy), Hela (Thor: Ragnarok)
Looking around on the Net for background information about Jordin Kare, who died last week at age 60 (see yesterday’s post), I realized how little is available on his SailBeam concept, described yesterday. SailBeam accelerates myriads of micro-sails and turns them into a plasma when they reach a departing starship, giving it the propulsion to reach one-tenth of lightspeed. Think of it as a cross between the ‘pellet propulsion’ ideas of Cliff Singer and the MagOrion concept explored by Dana Andrews.
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS
Born July 26, 1894 – Aldous Huxley
Born July 26, 1928 – Stanley Kubrick
(11) A LIST TOP DC MOVIES. Io9 gives you “All 28 DC Animated Original Movies, Ranked”. Why isn’t the new Wonder Woman movie #1? Because, like the title says, this is a list of their animated movies. Cancel the heart attacks…
This list contains the 28 DC Animated Original movies released so far, ranked from worst to best on the quality of their story, characters, and adaptation of the source material….
It’s a quick read that you can finish in one sitting, but the ideas and advice it contains will stay with you long after you’ve put it down. Some of Austin’s suggestions will validate what you’re already doing, some will challenge you to fundamentally change a creative practice, others will inspire you to grab a notebook and get to work immediately.
Because it’s such a small and accessible book, you’ll want to go back to it from time to time. Just like Stephen King’s On Writing, as you change and grow as an artist, it reveals new ideas and inspirations to you that you may have missed on a previous read.
This is a fantastic addition to your library, and a wonderful gift for any creative person in your life.
YouTube crafters Natural Nerd have a new video up showing viewers how to make their own custom Iron Throne phone charger. It’s marvelously simple, and could make for a good starter project if you’re interested in exploring nerd crafts. Basically, make a throne out of blocks of wood, glue on a ton of cocktail swords, coat in metallic paint, and thread in the charger cord, and you’re there!
Superman can do anything, it seems, but have a mustache. Or to be more accurate, it’s Henry Cavill’s mustache that’s reportedly causing some problems for Warner Bros.’ upcoming Justice League movie, which is due to be released on November 17 but is nonetheless currently undergoing extensive reshoots (which are generally filmed to fix or replace scenes that aren’t working). After initial filming on Justice League was complete, it seems that Cavill reasonably assumed he was done playing the smooth-jawed Man of Steel for a minute and grew out his facial hair for a part in the next Mission: Impossible movie. According to a new Variety report, however, Justice League is being retooled so much — with an assist from The Avengers’ Joss Whedon, no less, now that director Zack Snyder has stepped away from the project to cope with his daughter’s recent death — that Warner Bros. has agreed to just digitally remove Cavill’s mustache from any reshot Justice League scenes rather than lose any more time.
But Jon Bogdanove thinks it would make a great addition.
(15) MARVEL VALUE STAMPS. The publisher is bringing them back:
Who saved them? Who clipped them? Who collected them? This fall, the Marvel Universe returns to an untapped corner of its expansive history for MARVEL LEGACY with the return of the Marvel Value Stamps. Just as Marvel Legacy is bridging the past and the future of Marvel’s iconic universe, this nostalgia-based program is designed to excite new readers. Comic fans may remember these fondly, while new fans and the uninitiated will be able to enjoy them without destroying their prized possessions!
Inspired by the classic 1970’s program where different stamps could be clipped from the letters page of Marvel books, fans will be able to collect stamps featuring all their favorite Marvel characters. These stamps will be on inserts within the regular cover editions for all first issue Marvel Legacy titles, beginning with titles debuting in October. And a proper homage to these collectible stamps wouldn’t be complete without a collectible stamp album – to be revealed!
…AT&T launched Telstar, the first commercial communications satellite (which we’ll be covering in the next article!)
The world of literature suffered a major loss with the death of Nobel Prize winning author William Faulkner.
In Los Angeles, young artist Andy Warhol exhibited a work consisting of thirty-two paintings of cans of Campbell’s Soup….
(17) GAZE INTO THE FUTURE. And don’t forget to sign up for Galactic Journey Tele-Conference #2, happening Saturday, July 29, where they’ll present their predictions for the 1962 Hugo Science Fiction Awards.
(18) THE PLAY’S THE THING. A local community theater in Urbana, IL is staging Jordan Harrison’s 2014 play Marjorie Prime, recently produced as a movie. It runs July 27-August 12. An interview with the director is here. Get tickets here.
Marjorie Prime, written by Jordan Harrison and directed for the Station by Mathew Green, is a near-future play where technology has gone just a little farther than today. In the show, Tess is caring for her elderly mother, and Tess’ husband Jon advocates for the use of an artificial intelligence companion called a “Prime”. Primes are designed to help a particular person, in this case Marjorie, record and retain their memories, often taking the form of someone close to the subject.
….One of the consequences of Alma’s divorce from the on-line Real Town is that she can no longer check references and definitions and she quickly realises that everyone’s speech is littered with literary and historical references. This makes an interesting game for the reader, too, attempting to parse and divine all of the little jokes and quotes that Adam Roberts has thrown in along the way. To add to the interest, characters who spend much of their time on-line find real-life speech difficult so that several conversations consist of stammering and stuttering and the breaking of words into individual syllables replaced with homophonous single-syllable words. It’s quite fun to follow the convoluted and sometimes rambling speech.
The basic plot of the book follows Alma’s investigations into the miraculously-appearing dead body, with a secondary investigation into a mysteriously skinny man…..
…Eventually, I recommended it to a friend for his kids, who were complaining about their road-tripping. When my friend got back, he thanked me for the rec and said “It’s all about shitty parents.”
For some reason, I hadn’t clued into this as the theme. Perhaps I’d taken it as straight-on adventure. Maybe I hadn’t considered how lucky I am to have the parents and extended family I did. Then it occurred to me what a giant strategic advantage it was to Riordan to have linked crappy parents to the Greek myths.
Percy is of course pretty miffed at times about having Poseidon essentially be a dead-beat dad whom he doesn’t meet until he’s twelve and who really doesn’t meaningfully interact with him even after that. He has a crappy step-dad to boot, but he’s not the only one with parental issues….
(21) IN VINO. Martin Morse Wooster has sent File 770 lots of beer label stories. Now he tries to even the score by reporting that Australian wine lovers can enjoy Some Young Punks‘ vintage “Monsters Monsters Attack!”
A full 750ml of Monster Mayhem bottled up for far too long breaks and takes over the unsuspecting city. Trixie and Tessa’s middle names are danger and adventure but is the maelstrom released by the raging beast too fierce to be calmed by their charms? Will they arrive in time or will a deadly rage be realised.
Variety / Vintage 2015 Clare Valley Riesling
Vineyards We sourced fruit from two sites in the Clare Valley; Mocundunda and Milburn. All the fruit was whole bunch pressed before fermentation in a mixture of stainless and neutral oak by a mixture of cultured and indigenous yeast. Post ferment the wine is merely stabbed and filtered prior to bottling.
Thing that I am getting awfully sick of, in dramatic presentations of sf/fantasy works.
Honestly, if I ever see this again, it will be too soon.
The exposition-sentence that begins with, “What if I told you–”
Usually followed by something that sounds batshit insane to the person who’s been living a normal life until that moment.
I first became aware of this with Laurence Fishburne in THE MATRIX, but it has become the go-to form, and I just saw it with the trailer for the new TV series, THE INHUMANS. I think but cannot be sure that it was in DOCTOR STRANGE too. But it’s certainly all over the place….
For those of you who want books signed, please, bring them to one of my two listed autograph sessions. I will NOT be signing before or after panels, at parties, during lunch or breakfast or dinner, at the urinal, in the elevator, on the street, in the hall. ONLY at the autograph table. If the lines are as long as they usually are, I’ll only be signing one book per person.
You can also find his programming schedule at the link.
(24) LAUGH WARS. Martin Morse Wooster says Star Wars Supercuts: Parodies of The Trench Run is “a really funny four-minute mashup from IMDB of lots of parodies of the Death Star Trench Run. I particularly liked the Family Guy bit where Red Leader is followed by Redd Foxx, Red Buttons, and Big Red chewing gum…”
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Jason, Evelyn Leeper, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Jim Meadows, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Nigel.]
When fanwriter Evelyn Leeper broke her hip on March 20, her husband Mark decided the best way for them to keep all their friends updated was to start a blog.
Mark wrote the first post from the emergency room of Bayshore Hospital.
Evelyn fell off the bottom step of the attic steps in our garage, hit her head, and it looks like she broke her hip. Right now I am waiting for her to return from the x-rays.
Evelyn began adding to the blog while she was still in the hospital. Now she’s back home but the recovery process has been painful, as she describes in her May 14 entry:
Leg pains (including knee pains and hip pains) come and go. I suspect the knee pains may be if I sit on a low couch, or drive some distance, with my leg bent for long periods of time. There is less pain from twisting around, though, so it seems things are improving. I can actually sleep on my side, somewhat curled up (which had been my favorite position for sleeping before all this).
Here’s wishing Evelyn a rapid and complete recovery with freedom from pain.
Paul Cornell and Si Spurrier have called for a 50/50 male/female balance on all convention programs.
I am terribly prone to complacency, therefore, regardless of my initial skeptical reaction to the implied criticism, I think anybody who puts himself out there trying to raise the bar for con runners is doing me a service just by making me think about why I do things the way I do.
Next, I wanted to know how other convention program organizers feel about Cornell’s initiative. Will it make any difference? Should it? How practical is it? I reached out to a dozen experienced conrunners (plus fandom’s best-known program reporter) with these questions:
What is your approach is to gender parity on panel programs?
Do you think Cornell’s initiative will change or has already changed your approach?
Do you have any comments on Paul Cornell’s and Si Spurrier’s actions?
Responses came back from Emily Coombs, Janice Gelb, Evelyn Leeper, Jim Mann, Craig Miller, Priscilla Olson, Arlene Satin and two fans preferring to remain unnamed. Most of their comments were so deeply thoughtful I decided to run them in full. That makes for a long post, of course, so I have placed their views after the jump.
The double-century issue of The Drink Tank (#200), its fourth annish, is more than historic — it’s a hoot-and-a-half. Chris Garcia and a whole slate of interesting fans have packed it with laughs.
When Chris invited Cheryl Morgan to contribute, the word annish seems to have been garbled in transmission. But who could have done a better job than Cheryl of envisioning traditional Amish fanac?
A fanzine produced by science fictional Amish, therefore, would be composed on an Apple Mac, or a Dell running Windows XP (which, incidentally, is still on sale in the future because Microsoft still haven’t got the bugs out of Vista, or whatever they are calling the latest release).
Cheryl shows that being a fine writer can take you far. Beth Zuckerman proves that fine writing combined with advance preparation goes even farther toward ensuring your convention experiences will yield great fanzine material. No conreport of mine can ever hope to achieve anything like her account of Arisia 2009:
I did have to seek out a t-shirt vendor, because while my 51-lb suitcase was fully equipped with rocketship pajamas, the ostentatiously unnecessary coin bra, an entire No. 6 costume with eyebrow makeup, a veritable mountain of lingerie, and a generous supply of little rubber things, somehow I entirely failed to bring anything to wear during the day before the parties started.
Pro wrestling is one of Chris Garcia’s passions. In this issue, his friend Bobby Toland has a lot to say about professional wrestler Kurt Angle’s need to learn humility, and how those lessons might be imparted. One of the hallmarks of good fanwriting is its ability to make fascinating a subject that ordinarily would be of little interest, which is my default response to pro wrestling. Toland held my attention from start to finish.
I also admired the trivia quiz “Fantastic Fours” by Frank Wu and Brianna Spacekat Wu. I answered more than half of them wrong, but everyone reading this review should be able to name the foursome composed of Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello, and Michelangelo.
Christian McGuire spends most of his time as one of the leading conrunners of the age, but thanks to Chris Garcia he hasn’t been completely lost to the world of fanwriting. Plenty of people will want to read all about McGuire’s adventures at Further Confusion 2009 once I mention that one of the lines in the report is: “A prurient Pink Panther holding up the tail of the Tiger before him offered Andy the choice to play jump rope with the tail. All I can say is that Andy can Double-Dutch with me any day.”
Leigh Ann Hildebrand is yet another friend of Chris’s with a great sense of humor. This is not even the funniest line in her list of “Five Things I’m No Longer Allowed To Do in the Fanzine Lounge”:
4. Not allowed to offer impromptu origami classes using materials at hand, even with the justification that it’s a form of performance art expressing my thoughtful critique of the phrase “core fandom.”
Every issue of The Drink Tank is highlighted by a combination of original art and assorted graphics liberated from the internet. An example of the latter, my favorite in issue #200, is the wry parody of RIAA’s anti-piracy ads showing a woman in a pre-WWI hairdo manipulating two Edison phonographs under the caption “Home Cylinder Duplication Is Killing the Music Industry.”
It doesn’t seem that long ago Chris was gushing poetically about what it might be like to produce his hundredth ish, at the time something only a select few active faneds like Arnie Katz, Knarley Welch and Mike Glyer could claim. Within five seconds after mentioning this in File 770, I immediately heard from myriads of offended fans who’d been left off the list, the most impressive being Mark and Evelyn Leeper who wondered what was the big deal, since their MT Void has published fifteen “one-hundredth” issues.
But the point is that it’s my turn to live vicariously through Chris’s experience. At the rate I’m producing issues there’s a good chance I will have to wait until 2028 or so to have a 200th issue experience of my very own. Great work Chris!
When people discovered only one work of fiction by a woman was on the 2007 Hugo ballot lightning rent the blogosphere. Writers seeing this as a denial of women’s contribution to sf voiced surprise, disappointment and anger. Some of them decided to work for change, creating websites with information about works by women published in 2007, in hopes of making them more competitive for awards. Then came the backlash from bloggers defending the makeup of the Hugo ballot, or arguing that it wasn’t symptomatic of any problem that needed to be solved. The debate made sf fandom’s corner of the web crackle with electicity.
Once again, there are no women represented in [the Best Novel] category, although there are several in the other categories. There will probably be some more flack about this, which I believe is really irrelevant…. Of far more importance is just what the quality level is of those that are nominated.
Denvention posted this year’s Hugo nominees a few days ago, and much rejoicing was heard across the land. I’m happy to see that there wasn’t a repeat of last year’s ovary-free fiction categories, though there are still fewer women than I’d like. Just means I’ll have to work harder for next year!
Bradford seemed to feel that the increase in women nominees, from one to four, represented a satisfying reward for the work she and others had invested in putting out the word about fiction by women.
What accounts for the change since last year?
Some of the explanations I thought of included:
The calm has less to do with the issue and more to do with how the blogosphere works – something that ignites a brushfire of comment can use up the topic, even in the case of an issue people care about.
The number of women nominees isn’t, in itself, a significant issue, it was just an opportunity to draw attention to women’s or feminists’ concerns. People will move on to a fresh issue.
The number of nominees matters, and moving the needle from one to four is satisfying progress. Or,
The quality of the works nominated is the main thing, and some people have in hindsight decided last year’s controversy took away from that focus, but they still hope more women get nominated.
I asked Adrienne Martini, Evelyn Leeper and Nancy Kress, all women who are very familiar with the sf field and these issues, why the heated discussion did not resume where it left off.
I began with Adrienne Martini because her column for Bookslut was the most interesting and pungent thing I read about last year’s controversy. Actually, I was incensed when I first read it. As I realized later, that was the first clue that I would feel compelled to give the question serious thought. (After all, I was also incensed when Harlan Ellison used the 1978 Worldcon to agitate for the Equal Rights Amendment, but I ended as a convert to the idea.) I sent her an e-mail outlining these ideas and asking for comment.
Adrienne Martini responded:
Pungent — I like that. For me the whole episode itself was rather pungent. FWIW – my initialBookslutpost was borne out of anger, not necessarily because of the Hugo noms that year. Until the list of nominees made it startlingly apparent that nothing had changed, it did feel like women in the SF/F field had gained some momentum. Not just the old reliables — the women that men point to to say “look, we have some” — but doors for all female writers in the field felt more open. Then it slammed shut, rather abruptly.
In hindsight, I would have said that differently than I did and wouldn’t have taken it out on Eifelheim. But I don’t regret the anger, which did seem to touch off a number of discussions, most of which were worth having.
I’m not certain there is just one explanation for why it’s so quiet this year. I do lean toward the first two. Plus, I don’t think that year-to-year comparisons shake out useful data. What will be interesting is to see what happens in 2009, 2010 and 2011.
Evelyn Leeper knows sf, is well versed in the history of the Worldcon and its Hugo Awards, and has been up for the award herself a dozen times in the Best Fan Writer category. Evelyn said this about my four suggestions:
The calm has less to do with the issue and more to do with the way the blogosphere works – something ignites a brushfire of comment that uses up the topic, even in the case of an issue people care about.
Could be, although if Usenet is any indication, there is never a topic so dead that a brushfire can’t be lit in it.
The number of women nominees isn’t, in itself, a significant issue, it was just an opportunity to draw attention to women’s or feminists’ concerns. People will move on to a fresh issue.
This definitely seems the case to me.
The number of nominees matters, and moving the needle from one to four is satisfying progress
Not really. That is, I don’t think the number matters that much. One needs to look at what percentage of SF writers (not the population at large) are female, etc. That is, if only 10% of the writers are female, then you can’t complain that they aren’t 50% of the nominees.
And 20 authors out of the entire set of authors is such a small figure that it is not statistically significant.
For 1992, 12 of the 23 fiction nominees were by women. Does anyone ever talk about that? Did we reach some sort of high point then?
The quality of the works nominated is the main thing, and some people have in hindsight decided last year’s controversy took away from that focus, but they still hope to see more women get nominated.
If I had to choose one answer, it would be this one (though frankly, the gender, or race, or religion of the nominees is pretty low on my list of concerns for the Hugos).
When Rowling won the Hugo, no one seemed to be thrilled a woman had won. There was more concern that a fantasy had won.
The people who are complaining — can they list works by women that better than what made the ballot? I have found that if you have a panel on “The Top Ten [X],” people will criticize the list and say, “Well, what about such-and-such.” To which the answer is, “Okay, but which work will you take off the list to make room for it?” It’s not enough to say, “There were lots of good works by women,” one needs to be able to point to works better than what is on the list, and indicate what should be removed.
Now, of course, the nominations are all subjective, so this should be easy, but while people will occasionally list things to be added, no one ever seems to do the other half.
And people don’t seem to complain that not enough “people of color” are nominated. Why the focus on gender?
Nancy Kress’ 1993 speech on “Women in American Science Fiction,” a horizon-expanding exploration of the sf genre’s history, brought me a lot closer to understanding the grievances behind last year’s Hugo and gender controversy, as I wrote in File770 #150, pages 15-17. Here’s what she answered:
Nancy Kress:I don’t know why there aren’t more women on the Hugo ballot this year. If you read my 1993 speech, you saw that women SFWA members win awards (Hugos and Nebulas combined) in roughly the same numbers as their membership. Here are the updated figures, from the 2007 SFWA Directory:
Male names: 58%
Female Names: 35%
Other: 7% (These people are unknown to me personally and are using initials, have unisex names like “Pat” or “Terry,” or have non-English names which I don’t know the usual gender for).
Female Hugo winners: 35
Male Hugo winners: 93
Female Nebula winners: 57
Male Nebula winners: 70
So women are under-represented for Hugos and over-represented for Nebulas. Why? I have absolutely no idea.
While Kress doesn’t claim to know the answer, her statistics do help answer one of Evelyn Leeper’s queries about the proportion of male and female pro writers. (Kress also posted these figures on her blog. Mike Flynn added some comments that also are worth reading.)
In the final analysis, why wasn’t there a replay of last year’s Hugo controversy?
Reason Number One: No mana. Larry Niven’s story “The Magic Goes Away” postulates that magic works until the local supply of mana is exhausted. The Hugos were thoroughly worked over last year. Bloggers like to be read, and repeating the exact same arguments that were made a year ago is not the way to get an audience.
Reason Number Two: If a person literally was only concerned about getting more women nominated for the Hugo, he or she may have been satisfied by the progress represented by there being four fiction nominees by women instead of one.
For others whose complaints about the Hugos were linked to the larger inquiry about whether women have equal access to succeed as sf/fantasy writers, the Hugo Awards are just one set of data among many that can be mined for statistics to support a feminist critique.
As people are aware, the validity of statistics depends on the size of the sample. For example, prozine editors have bought and published hundreds of stories over the past 15 years. Something is shown by comparing the percentage of stories by men and women these editors have selected over that timespan, as Feminist SF – the Blog recently did.
But I really feel that Sheila Williams [editor of Asimov’s] should get more notice (perhaps even accolades) for doing exactly what all of us who are annoyed by gender imbalance have asked other editors to do. (And let me point out again: we have not asked them to publish stories JUST because they were written by women, or to not publish stories JUST because they were written by men.)
Another post on the Feminist SF blog using proportional representation as the hook, 17.948%: Best of Best New SF, challenged Gardner Dozois’ The Best of the Best New SF on grounds that only 7 of its 39 stories were by women.
When someone uses a statistic to level criticism at very small sample, like the Hugo ballot or Dozois’ selection of top stories from the last 20 years, I think it’s fair to expect them to anticpiate Evelyn’s question, “Okay, but which work will you take off the list to make room for it?” Or the question I’m most interested in, “What work do you want to add?”
The bare number 17.948% doesn’t carry the argument. Would anyone read a murder mystery that only dealt in the probability of there being a victim? I want to know whose story was unjustly left out. Tell me about the good stuff I am missing. There are a lot of good stories published every year, and when I add the critics’ lists to the Hugo ballot or Gardner Dozois’ list, it gets easier to find them all.
Update 5/12/2008: Fine-tuned the lead-in to K. Tempest Bradford’s quote.