Worldcon (Part the Fourth)

The pun wars raged behind me. The war was horrific; the puns stank to high heaven. That’s what happens when one of the Guests of Honor at your convention is Spider Robinson and as part of the tribute, Worldcon had set up a working Callahan’s Bar, including hosting some of the events in the books. That’s why there was a pun war. Why did I care? Because the Fanzine Lounge was technically located at the back of Callahan’s Bar.

To be honest, most of the puns were difficult to hear because the sound was rather muddy and muted in our corner, but that was okay. I saw Murray Moore, and there was a moment where we had to remind each other what cons we’d seen each other at before — the San Jose Corflu and the Reno Worldcon to be specific. Murray’s a great guy — he’s always so calm and thoughtful. I always like seeing him.

Shortly thereafter, it also gave me a chance to catch up with John Coxon, who I hadn’t seen since he was the TAFF delegate running around the Worldcon in Reno. We talked about the fact that he’d spent some time in Berkeley and now understood what the script Cal on my ball cap stood for and a bit about the fact that he was going to be in the masquerade that evening. Then there was some laughing remembrance of the day Chris Garcia, James Bacon, and John Coxon dropped by Sacramento on their way to Reno. I left work to meet them for lunch and we all went to an all-you-can-eat pizza place tucked into an obscure corner of Old Sacramento. It’s fun to talk about good memories. A friend of John’s asked him if the pizza was any good, and John basically said, “How should I know? I was hanging out with friends! And it was all-you-can-eat pizza!”

Ah, but the hour approached, and if I was going to catch Kirsten the way I caught Doug, I needed to hoof my way over to panel-land and wait. While I was waiting, I noticed the folks handing out copies of Amazing!, and I noticed that one of them was Steve Davidson. I’ve only known Steve online, but when I was a little more active with my fan writing, he has been supportive of my efforts. It was good to finally meet him in person.

Then I took up my position in front of the door, waiting for the panel to let out, and trying not to lose my place as the hallway became alive with particles bouncing in all sorts of random directions. Most of them stayed in general paths down the center of the room, but it seemed as if many of these particles were getting trapped in accumulations around doors, almost as if the doors themselves were clogged drains. Then, suddenly, there was a burst, and the drain unclogged, and two different flows tried to push against each other! Then, there was me, a still particle in a wild chaos of motion, a spot of calm in the dance…and then my quarry appeared.

After that, I joined the flow as well, with another friend who was happy to see me. Kirsten and I spent some time catching up, and then she said, “I could use a donut.” I paused, and then I said, “That sounds like an excellent plan.”

Folks, these were not ordinary donuts. There’s a few places around the country that make, for lack of a better term, gourmet donuts. The most famous of these places is probably Voodoo Donuts in Portland, OR, but San Jose has Psycho Donuts, and they had set up a table at Worldcon. I never passed by this table without seeing at least a bit of a line. The line was oh so worth it, though, as suddenly, you were confronted by all these amazing donuts — donuts with cereal as a topping, donuts of banana and caramel, donuts with actual strawberries as a topping — all sorts of amazing things.

After a quick perusal, I picked one with a spaceship on the top and a fruit filling for the science fiction part of Worldcon (a Nebula something, I don’t remember), and an amazingly crazy blue frosted donut covered with sparkles and stars and sprinkles and balls of sugar, and another crazy squirt of bright blue line frosting. This wonderful creation was called “Unicorn Farts”, and it stood up to its name in every fashion.

Kirsten has to head off to a convention office — this is the trouble with catching up with Bay Area friends at a Bay Area Worldcon, a lot of them are on staff — so I wandered back to the fanzine lounge to see who I could find there. There’s always somebody interesting there, and if there isn’t, there’s always somebody shortly. I pulled out my donuts to enjoy them and to watch the convention pass by. I’m fond of people-watching and eventually, people will gravitate towards a table where somebody is sitting. That’s sometimes how I’ve gotten into my best conversations at conventions.

This time was no exception. Ranger Craig got some time to sit down and enjoy the fanzine lounge and tell us some great tales. I won’t repeat them here, because they’re his stories to tell, but he’s a great storyteller. I spoke with James Bacon for a moment as he came to drop off a book for the fan fund auction, and I wished him well for his convention next year but told him it’s doubtful I’ll make it. I’ve been inactive in fandom and I don’t feel like I’m in a stable enough place in my life to mount a TAFF bid for next year. That’s about the only way I’m going to make it, bar winning the lottery.

Shortly, Schirm brought something interesting to the table — a portable crank phonograph from the 1920s. Along with it, he had several records, one dating to the time where, in order to record, the singers had to sing into a horn as there were no microphones. He also had several early jazz records, and some other novelty records. It was amazing that this machine, nearly a hundred years old, produced such amazing quality sound with no speaker, no batteries, and no power cord. It had just a crank, a needle, and a case that provided the resonance for us to hear it.

Things like Schirm’s wonderful phonograph are things one wouldn’t necessarily think of as belonging to science fiction and fantasy fandom, but in many ways it is. Not only is it a device that was futuristic for its time, it was retro-futuristic for the fans sitting around that table. Besides that, sometimes fandom is simply fans sharing their passions with one another — just like fanzines could talk about jazz and sports cars and still be fannish.

A friend of mine that I know through local writing circles, Richard Crawford, came up to the table while Schirm was playing the records. It was nice to say hi to him at Worldcon, and I’m glad he was able to enjoy his beer with some music. We didn’t get to talk much, but that was okay. Richard’s a local friend and we’ll get together at some point.

Halfway through the music, I realized that I had one other errand that I needed to run. Another local friend of mine, Michael Gallowglas — who writes under the name M. Todd, and you should buy all his books — just became a wizard, err, a master of fine arts in the field of creative writing, and this was my first chance to congratulate him instead of waiting until November. (I know a lot of my local friends because of NaNoWriMo…) I wandered back over to the dealer’s room to Michael’s table and gave him the congratulations he so heartily deserved. I would have stayed there and talked to him a bit longer, but he was doing paying work, so I just told him I’d see him in November.

I have so many amazing and wonderful friends. Sometimes it takes a convention to see all of them and remind myself of that fact.

Not done yet! I think I can finish it up in a fifth part. See you there!

Series:
Worldcon (Part the First)
Worldcon (Part the Second)
Worldcon (Part the Third)
Worldcon (Part the Fourth)

Worldcon (Part the Third)

Worldcon is a big place.

Okay, so it’s not as big as a Dragoncon or a Comicon, but there’s still several thousand people rattling around a convention center. Sometimes they hole themselves up in rooms to listen to people talk about nearly everything under the sun, some things that orbit it, and yet even more exotic and cosmic ideas. Worldcon is amazing for the diversity of its programming. But when you get there, you’re handed a paperback-sized volume with all the programming for the convention. So how the heck are you supposed to find somebody in that warren of panels?

Well…they could post their location on Facebook.

This is how I caught up with my friend Doug Berry, a guy I’ve known since my alt.callahans/#callahans days. He posted a picture about how he was sharing a room with Joe Haldeman. I consulted my handy paperback program guide, found the room number for the panel in question. I headed for the land of panel space, being held in a different area than I had spent most of my time that day. Since I had not been to this part of the convention before, I wandered in confusion until I could orient myself to the programming space layout and then parked myself in front of the door of the room the panel was being held in.

Sure enough, Doug came out shortly after, and it was good to see him. We talked a little about his new job — captain of the crosswalk, helping students cross safely — before we worked our way out of the crush and Doug had to go cover the protest as a roving reporter for the con newsletter. Before he left, though, he gave me the room number to the panel his wife, Kirsten, was hiding in for the next hour.

Ah, the protest. I didn’t spend any time watching it because, to be honest, I thought it was a bit dumb. Most of it was instigated by a guy trying to make a name for himself in certain political circles, using his ban from Worldcon as a way to howl about how he was being oppressed by the system. Of course, the common smear when you can’t find anything else to use is to call your opponents pedophiles. I suppose that’s because it’s one of the last few groups in society that most people agree is bad — so using it is a way of calling your opponent pure evil. From there, it’s not hard to move to some very dark places for humanity.

Thus, it amused me when I heard later that the protest was basically a dud, with few people protesting or counter-protesting, and the cops standing around being bored as hell in the meantime. It seemed fitting — Worldcon protests ought to be about the lack of flying cars or a colony on Mars or something science fictional, not this mundane stuff. Thus, I’m glad I didn’t give it much of my time.

Instead, I got a turkey sandwich and headed back to the fanzine lounge to have lunch. It was also a way to kill a bit of time before Kirsten’s panel finished. Besides, food is important when you’re attending conventions — keeling over for lack of blood sugar doesn’t do much good for anybody. The turkey sandwich was okay — it was a little dry but acceptable for convention center food.

I’m glad I went to the fanzine lounge to eat lunch, though, because in the middle of my sandwich, I looked up and saw John Hertz. I love John, and he’s been sending me his fanzine in the mail lately. So I told him that I’d been getting his fanzines in the mail, and that, yes, I’d submitted a fanzine to the WOOF distribution this year. Then we had a talk about fanzine fandom, some of the issues I’d had with it, and then he told me that he admired my writing and would like to see more. More than anything, this meant a lot to me.

I haven’t written much lately. Some of it is simply that I haven’t had the mental space with everything going on in my life. Some of it is my own head playing with me — sometimes it’s hard to write when my depression is telling me that nobody cares and my anxiety is telling me that if it isn’t perfect, it’s crap. And some of it is my own lack of attention, both deliberate and non-deliberate.

I’ve done a lot of work in the last year to combat the depression and the anxiety. I still have both, and I probably will always have both. But I can work with them to lessen the effect they have on my life. Sometimes, despite all the techniques I’ve learned, it’s hard to believe that I’m actually good at things. Thus, it helps to hear from others outside of me, people I admire, to tell me that I’m not that bad at the things I do.

One of John’s quirks is that he’s not overly fond of this Internet thing. So he’s probably not going to see this until I convert it to fanzine form and get Rhyme & Paradox #2 out into the world. That said, John, your words meant a whole damn lot to me and were part of the reason this Worldcon was so damn special for me.

Geez, this was just one day! But it was a very eventful day, as you can probably tell. We’ll just have to save the unicorn farts for another post.

Series:
Worldcon (Part the First)
Worldcon (Part the Second)
Worldcon (Part the Third)
Worldcon (Part the Fourth)

Worldcon (Part the Second)

So there I was, in the fanzine lounge.

As I said before, I’ve made my home in fanzine fandom, although I’ll admit, I’ve had some differences with it over the last few years. That’s a long story that’s not worth hashing out here, but it does mean that’s where I tend to gravitate when I go to cons. I wanted to make sure that my WOOF zine made it into the contribution piles. I can’t recall if I did this before or after I went off to the business meeting. I think I did it before, which means I’m slightly out of order. Memory is a weird thing.

This year, a good friend of mine from past Bay Area conventions — Craig Glassner, aka Ranger Craig — was running the joint. He had a couple moments before he had to run off somewhere, which gave me a chance to say hello and let him know I hadn’t forgotten about an obligation I owed him. His response to me was enough to take another weight I’ve been carrying for years off my shoulders. I’m still not going to forget, but just those words were enough to give me one less thing to chew on during these hard times. (He also let me know that my WOOF contribution had been stashed with the others, so it was safe.)

Now a convention is not a convention without a turn around the dealer’s room. (I’d have also made a turn around the art show, but there’s only so much you can do when you’ve got a day and lots of people you’d like to see. Besides, I’d have been tempted to buy art, which I wouldn’t be on site to pick up.)

The dealer’s room at any convention is a treat. The dealer’s room at Worldcon is even more so. There’s the booksellers because Worldcon is, second to being a fan convention, a literary convention. There’s the costumers, because costuming is also a big part of Worldcon. There are the artists and the writers working their way up, taking a risk by self-promoting their own stuff. There’s fannish organizations selling books and magazines. Lastly, there’s the other random stuff that might just appeal to science fiction fans. It’s a rather impressive place — and one I’d normally make several turns through before deciding to buy anything. Today, I had only a bit of money left over from the gas/food/parking budget, so it was mostly just looking at what was out there.

At the two prior full Worldcons I’ve attended, I’ve drug double-digit numbers of books with me to be signed, and braved the autograph lines. I flew to the 2008 Denver Worldcon, packing a second duffle bag full of books with me — I’d just barely made the cut-off of being able to take two pieces of luggage with me for free. On the trip back home, the bag weighed 38 pounds, a distinct relief as I’d feared that I’d be trying to move items between bags in the airport to make weight limits. I drove in 2011, which meant there was no such worries about weight limits. This time, between only having one day at Worldcon and so much to do, I did not bring a load of books.

However, I had noticed in my Twitter feed that Borderlands Books would be hosting a signing by Ann Leckie at noon. I had two of the three books in the Ancillary series, so I figured I could pick up the third — it’s always nice to buy a book from a bookseller when you’re crashing their autograph session — and have Leckie sign my copies. As I was checking out, I noticed the paperback copy of Provenance was out as well, so I picked that up as well. Ann Leckie is a wonderfully nice person — I wished her luck in the Hugos, but we both agreed that N. K. Jemisen was probably going to pick up the three-peat, and that was going to be special.

Another thing I found in the dealer’s room was dice. When it comes to dice, I happen to be a bit like a dragon accumulating shiny treasure. I am proud that I managed to keep myself from buying only one set of dice, as the temptation was there, because there were so many that I wanted! But I managed to narrow my choices to two: psychedelic dice and muted psychedelic dice. After a quick debate with myself, I picked the latter. Now I just need to find a role playing game to use them.

Those were the only things I bought from the dealer’s room, and it was actually much less than the money I had spare after paying for the things that I needed. I also picked up a copy of Amazing — I’d been a small supporter of their Kickstarter earlier this year, and it was great to see them passing out copies of their magazines after a successful funding.

After that, it was due to the convenience of modern technology that I was able to find another friend I was looking for. But we’ve gone long again, and that’ll have to be saved for the next post.

Series:
Worldcon (Part the First)
Worldcon (Part the Second)
Worldcon (Part the Third)
Worldcon (Part the Fourth)

Worldcon (Part the First)

There is such a thing as tears of joy.

I don’t even know where to start about yesterday except that it was the first time that I have felt truly happy in a long time. It’s been a couple years of exceptionally hard times for my family and I, a condition that has practically stolen my words from me except for passing thoughts on Facebook. I’m still not sure I want to talk about everything that’s been going on in a public forum, but it’s still rather rough.

As of Monday of last week, I wasn’t going to Worldcon. This had led me into a bad funk because I had been battling all the above bad times and the last few sparks of possibility that I might be able to go had been extinguished. I was even more frustrated because this year’s Worldcon was being held in San Jose. When you live in the Sacramento area, that’s just about in your backyard by Worldcon standards. A lot of my friends in both Bay Area and fanzine fandom would be there. Not being able to go was one of those things that stung deeply — yet another reminder of just how hard the times had gotten.

Then, Monday night, I was chatting with a friend who mentioned that another friend was going to Worldcon. That’s when I told her that I wasn’t able to go. She asked me why I wasn’t, and I said that it was money — that even going for a day would involve paying for gas, food, and parking. That was basically money I didn’t have.

That’s when she asked me if I would accept the money to pay for those things and allow me to go for a day. And I said yes. Lira, I cannot thank you enough for this gift, this joy, that has me sitting her at my keyboard crying so hard with joy and happiness. I didn’t realize just how much I needed this.

Saturday, the eighteenth of August, dawned early. The alarm went off at four-thirty in the morning. I was basically dressed and ready by five, but I wanted to write a short fanzine for the WOOF distribution at Worldcon. I don’t recall what the acronym stands for, but it’s a one-off collection of fanzines put out at Worldcon. My specific contribution will probably go on efanzines later, to join my contribution to the Reno Worldcon WOOF, but I want to let the distribution be out for a little bit before then. That was done by six, and I put my laptop in my backpack, put my bags in the car, and began the trip to San Jose.

There were a couple stops along the way — washing my car before I got on the freeway, Vacaville (yes, Cowtown, it amuses me every time) for gas and snacks, Concord to copy my zine — but I was in San Jose by nine-thirty, which, considering that I was taking my time and enjoying the trip. There was an unusual moment where a truck had managed to take out a stretch of guardrail, but other than that, it was smooth sailing.

Of course, I’ve never actually been in downtown San Jose. I should have just asked Google to give me directions from my parking spot to the convention center, but I didn’t, and confidently began walking in the wrong direction. All was not lost, though. I discovered a new feature on Google — if you ask it “Where am I?”, it’ll pop up a map with your location. With that, I was able to reorient myself and walk back to the convention center. A fellow fan gave me directions to registration and I was off.

After a couple false starts — I was waiting patiently in line for a registration clerk to finish with somebody and a couple people walked in front of me and went to an open slot before I could — I was able to get my badge and all was official. I was here, and unlike 2008, I had not hit anybody with my backpack, especially not John Scalzi. (Yes, that really happened.)

Once I set up my badge and bought my t-shirt, as I’ve done every Worldcon, I wandered off to the business meeting. I mainly went because I know that if there’s anywhere at the convention I’m going to find Kevin Standlee, it’s at the business meeting. I was about an hour late, so most of the business of the day had been completed. It’s not always my type of fandom, but everybody’s welcome to their particular fun. That’s part of the awesomeness of fan culture. You like business meeting fandom, I like fanzine fandom, he likes costuming fandom, she wants to be a science fiction writer, they are a gamer, zie likes science fiction movies. But at heart, we’re all fans, all geeking out together.

It was good to catch up with both Kevin and Lisa (Kevin’s wife), but also Rick Moen. I’ve known Rick since I was an undergraduate at Berkeley, when he would show up to some of the gatherings of the UC Berkeley Linux Users Group (LUG). It’s always fun when people you meet in one world end up crossing into another world, and finding Rick in fandom at what was technically my first Baycon was a treat.

After the business meeting, it was off to the fanzine lounge, where I ran into the one, the only, the larger than life, the amazing Christopher J. Garcia. Chris is the reason that I’m in fanzine fandom in the first place. While my first Baycon was technically 2003 or 2004, when I came for a night, the one I count as my first Baycon was 2007. I spent a lot of time wandering the halls seeing everything there was to see, and I repeatedly passed by a room labeled ‘Fanzine Lounge’. I didn’t go in. But I did google ‘fanzine’ and discovered efanzines.com. There I discovered a fandom that I felt was right up my alley.

Chris was running around like a madman — well, more than usual — because he was going to be hosting the masquerade that night. He would, of course, do an excellent job, but I’m getting ahead of myself here. That said, he was able to take a few moments to say hi. And just like everybody else, he was so happy to see me. This was something that would continue throughout the day, which just added to my happiness.

Wow — this has already gotten long, and I’ve still got more to say. Time for another post.

Series:
Worldcon (Part the First)
Worldcon (Part the Second)
Worldcon (Part the Third)
Worldcon (Part the Fourth)

I have a new blog

So my friends Zibb and Mal, and I have started a new blog where we’re talk science fiction and fantasy and mastering Ahri from league of legends, in all corners of the media world from books to movies to games. You can find us over at Conceptual Neighborhood and while we’re still ramping up, there’s some good stuff there. (PS: thanks for the name suggestion.)

I will probably still post here occasionally about things I’m thinking of that don’t necessarily fit the baliwick of Conceptual Neighborhood.

Why I Voted the Way I Did…

So the Hugo Award ceremony has come and gone, and the results were a Puppy rout, including five separate invocations of No Award in the five categories Pups had locked the ballot. At this point, I’m not interested in replaying the cultural war mishmash of the last seven months, to be honest. I just wanted to do a quick examination of why I voted the way I did.

First of all, I should state that I’m not a puppy. If you didn’t know that by now, I don’t know what to tell you. I’ve been dreaming of winning one since I was in high school and read Asimov’s pontificating about them, and I’ve been honored to be a participant in the process of choosing one since 2007, more or less. Some years are harder than others — the last couple have been eaten by personal problems. But I managed to vote this year.

This was my process:

1) Elimination of anybody who advocated that the Hugo Award should be destroyed. This affected only a small amount of people on the ballot, one of which was, of course the leader of one of the two slate campaigns. My reasoning for this was simple. If you express an interest in blowing the award up, then it’s fairly obvious that YOU DON’T WANT IT. This only affected three people, but eight nominations.

2) Reading all the stories. (And yes, despite my immediate elimination of the people above, I still read their stories, confirming that my decision as above was sane and rational — the works didn’t deserve the award anyway.)

3) Weighing all the stories in a complex matrix which did include, I admit, some bias against those folk who were going out of their way to accuse me, somebody who takes their Hugo voting rather seriously, of not bothering to read the nominated works. I read them — as I said, I take this *seriously*. In fact, there was a familiar name on the Puppy ballot this year — I voted for his novel to win best novel several years back. I don’t just go blindly in for the sake of diversity. This is important, Pups, as you will see in a moment.

I read and I read, and I read some more. And in the end, I backed away from my complete anti-Puppy pledge, voting for a couple of people here and there. Sadly, most of the works I did read were not worthy of a Hugo award, and I voted as such. However, I did end up giving votes to folks in both the short and long form editor campaigns — Jen Brozek is an awesome editor, and I expect she’ll win some legitimately soon enough, and I was impressed by the work Sheila Gilbert has edited.

There’s one editor I did place below no award that has the puppies screaming. That would be Toni Weisskopf, and this is my reason for doing so: I depend on the voting packet to help me with the editors. All I was given in regards to Weisskopf’s editing was a link to Baen Books. Weisskopf was not even the only Baen editor on this year’s ballot, and surfing over to that website gave me no clue as to who had edited what. If I cannot determine what you have edited, then I cannot fairly judge your work, and I must sadly concede that it is perhaps better to have no award be given than give an award which I cannot determine if the nominee is worthy.

If Ms. Weisskopf and Baen would like to prevent this in the future, perhaps either including a list of the works you have worked on in the packet or, if Baen is truly a tag-team sort of environment, mentioning what value you add to the process. I’m not all that familiar with Baen, partly because it’s not my particular cup of tea and partly because I get this feeling that I, even as a lifelong science fiction fan, am not particularly welcome in that particular publishing house.

But that’s the long and short of it. I voted based on what I read. It was a slog this year, instead of the joy it normally is.

I don’t think 2016 is going to be much better.

It’s OK if You’re a Puppy

Let me begin by stating that I speak only for myself. I speak not for past employers, present employers, potential future employers, friends, Romans, countrymen, other science fiction fanatics, people who are not myself, and most definitely not for George R. R. Martin.

After that, let me add that I think Irene Gallo used words that were ill-chosen, and that she painted with way too broad a brush. As Eric Flint has said, “Words matter.” I think neo-nazi to describe anybody was probably a bridge too far, although I know of a couple of people that I might, in a spew of frustration and hyperbole, have chosen those words myself to describe them. This is why I try very hard not to blog when I’m angry.

However, with all that said, I don’t think Gallo is completely at fault here. We’ve all made bad choices of words, and the time she posted that statement (May 11), tempers were still a bit high. As we’ve dug through May, things seemed to be calming down and people were settling down to read and get through this. The most appropriate time to have brought this up would have been in the days after the comment was posted, but no, that wouldn’t have caused maximum damage.

Enter Theodore Beale. I absolutely despise the man. He reminds me of nothing less than the smarmy jerk in high school who believed he was smarter than everybody and therefore, the rules didn’t apply to him. This applies to his absolutely ridiculous pen name (Vox Day, “voice of god”, isn’t it funny?), the way he blogs, and generally most interactions I’ve observed from him. He’s cruel, he’s petty, and he enjoys every second of it. Indeed, Beale is probably the soundest evidence that karma doesn’t exist.

Why does Beale matter? Well, he stumbled across Gallo’s words two hours after she posted them. (Note that “stumbled” is the nice words here — I’m certain he’s been reading the facebooks, twitters, and blogs of various high up people in search of ammunition. In other contexts, we would call him a stalker.) Instead of saying anything when he found them, he took a screen shot of the exchange and put it away for a more advantageous weekend. Perhaps one when the outrage seemed to be dying down, and when people were starting to feel for a way to bridge the gap. Maybe also a weekend in which the SFWA, an organization that Beale has placed on his enemy list, was holding their awards ceremony.

And sure enough, guess what appeared on the Internet on Saturday?

I’ll grudgingly give Beale credit for this — he knows his army of sycophants, suck-ups, wannabes, and fellow travelers very well, and knew dropping that screenshot on the Internet would be like throwing raw meat to hungry dogs. All the outrage that had been dying down is back, kicked up yet another notch. And I’m certain this amuses him very much.

It strikes me that Beale doesn’t want dialogue. He doesn’t want us to understand each other, because if we can understand — if we can glimpse that the other side of the screen sits another human being not all that much different from us — then his culture war is dead. He cannot afford to lose that — it is his driving force and his motivator.

I’m a science fiction fan because I like to read, Beale. I’m not here for your bullshit culture wars, and I really wish you’d take them somewhere else.

The Voter’s Packet has arrived!

And there was much rejoicing. Yay.

I’m going to chronicle my reading here on this blog, but I wanted to do a quick rundown of what is in this year’s Hugo Voter’s Package. Sasquan released the package yesterday afternoon, and I’ve been spending a bit of time putting it all on my Kindle.

It’s been an interesting year for the Hugos and I think the voter’s pack reflects that. So, category by category, here’s what’s in the packet and my thoughts on the matter.

I should note, before I get started, that the Hugo Packet is a gift from the participants to the voters to make us more informed voters, and that I am entitled to none of it. Sometimes I make comments that skirt that ground, but I do truly wish to say thank you to the publishers, authors, artists, editors, and other varied participants who make this effort to help us to be informed voters. It is appreciated.

The same goes to the folks back at Sasquan central who are administering the Hugo Awards. This has been a crazy year, and your diligence, patience, and hard work are appreciated by this voter.

With all that said…let’s get to it.


NOVEL
3 complete novels:

  • The Three-Body Problem, Cixin Liu
  • The Goblin Emperor, Katherine Addison
  • The Dark Between the Stars, Kevin J. Anderson

2 extracts:

  • Skin Game, Jim Butcher
  • Ancillary Sword, Anne Leckie

My thoughts: Orbit continues the practice they did last year of including an excerpt of a novel in the package. Last year, they did it with Ancillary Justice, Neptune’s Brood, and Parasite and those novels went 1-2-3 in the voting, so it didn’t hurt them. Butcher is published by Penguin. The three whole novels are all Tor. It’s interesting that Tor (and Baen) seem to be the publishers that get that this is a goodwill thing. Ah well, I have a copy of the Butcher and I’ve read Ancillary Sword, although I would have loved to get another chance to make it fresh in my memory.


NOVELLA
All works made available.

My thoughts: It’s interesting that they put all five of John C. Wright’s nominations into one ebook, but I guess that saves time. I’m not sure if I’m up to reading all five Wright works back to back to back, so I may have to put in chasers. Luckily, swapping ebooks is not a hard process.


NOVELETTE
All works made available.

My thoughts: A minor quibble that the Flynn is only in PDF, but I can live with that. I’m getting these for free, after all, and my kindle does read them.


SHORT STORY

All works made available.

My thoughts: Wow. Baen included the whole book that one of the short stories was in. That’ll make for some fun non-Hugo reading. (I don’t really have a problem with Baen. They’re sci-fi — yeah, maybe a bit conservative and gun fetishy at times, but they’ve also got some really good authors, like Lois McMaster Bujold and Eric Flint. PS: If you haven’t been reading Eric Flint’s take on the whole Hugo kerfluffle, you really ought to check it out.


RELATED WORK:

4 complete:

  • “The Hot Equations: Thermodynamics and Military SF”, Ken Burnside
  • Transhuman and Subhuman: Essays on Science Fiction and Awful Truth, John C. Wright
  • “Why Science is Never Settled”, Tedd Roberts
  • Wisdom from My Internet, Michael Z. Williamson

1 extract:

  • Letters from Gardner, Lou Antonelli

My thoughts: “The Hot Equations” is represented by a complete copy of Riding the Red Horse, which I believe covers entries in Related, Short Story, and Editor Short Form. It also covers the lone fiction credit for ESR in the Campbell, although that’s not stated in the notes attached to the files. “Why Science is Never Settled” is PDF only, as is the extract from Letters from Gardner. I wish there were a way to get a digital copy of Letters From Gardner because I’d like to read it in its entirety and $18.50 is a little steep for my budget at the moment. That said, I know the publisher of the book does good quality stuff (I have a copy of their version of Who Killed Science Fiction? around here.)


GRAPHIC STORY
4 works represented:

  • Ms. Marvel Volume 1: No Normal
  • Rat Queens Volume 1: Sass and Sorcery
  • Saga Volume 3
  • Sex Criminals Volume 1: One Weird Trick

My thoughts: The press release from Sasquan hints that the missing nominee (Zombie Nation #2) may be coming to the packet at a later date. It was also the only one that the guy who owns my comic book shop had never heard of. These two thoughts may or may not be related.


DRAMATIC PRESENTATION, LONG/SHORT
No representation

My thoughts: This isn’t unusual. The Hugos are not the Oscars, and digital video isn’t quite there yet.


EDITOR SHORT FORM
Contributions from all active members

My thoughts: This is one of two categories affected by late withdrawals, so there is nothing from Edmund R. Schubert. (Of course, he’s put out, independently, what he would have submitted, and I need to go through that.) Day is represented by the aforementioned Riding the Red Horse and the works of John C. Wright elsewhere on the ballot. Schmidt includes the anthology he co-edited with Brozek; Brozek includes another anthology that she edited. Resnick put a list of what he’s edited together.


EDITOR LONG FORM
Editorial bibliography from Anne Sowards, editorial bibliography and sample chapters from Sheila Gilbert, and a link to editorial bibliography by Toni Weisskopf.

My thoughts: Perhaps the most interesting thing here is this note included with the file: “Vox Day has no submission.” I’m sure there’s a reason for it, but it’s hard to judge somebody in this category without a nod towards what they’ve edited. Can Day truly say that he’s been No Awarded because of evil social justice warriors when he can’t even provide an editorial bibliography? I assume that because Weisskopf’s link is to Baen Books, that she edits all the long form stuff coming out of Baen — there’s no easy link on the site to tell. And whatever happened to Jim Minz? (And I thought he was Baen too…) Maybe this is stuff that will get sorted out.


PROFESSIONAL ARTIST
Four artists have sample work in this category.

My thoughts: I glanced through the sample artwork, and by and far, all of it is good stuff. I’ll do closer diligence when I hit this category. The missing artist is Carter Reid, the artist of the missing graphic novel above, so I will have to assume that his delayed submission will cover him here.


SEMIPROZINE
All candidates have sample work.

My thoughts: Nothing to write home about here. Abyss and Apex only has a PDF copy of their semiprozine, whereas the other four included epub and mobi copies, but that, as I have noted before, is a minor quibble.


FANZINE
Three candidates have sample work.

My thoughts: This is the second Hugo category affected by a late withdrawal, and thus only has four members in it. The missing candidate is Elitist Book Reviews. (Again, guys, don’t go blaming your loss on an SJW conspiracy when you don’t get stuff into the packet.)


FANCAST
All fancasts have a sample episode.

My thoughts: I’m not big on podcasts — I read much faster than I listen. But I’m going to give all five of these a try. I need to make sure they get on my phone. All episodes are in the mp3 format — of course, that’s generally the standard on the Internet.


FAN WRITER
All writers have sample work.

My thoughts: Everybody’s present here. Freer, Sanderson, and Green have work in multiple formats, whereas Johnson and Mixon have PDF only, but again, a minor quibble.


FAN ARTIST
All artists have sample work.

My thoughts: Foster, Schoenhuth, and Aalto have a URL to see more of their work elsewhere on the web, but all artists contributed something to the package itself. I flipped through the work in the packet and found much to admire. And I really need to bug both Brad and Steve for fanzine art…


CAMPBELL (not a hugo)
Three writers have submissions in this category.

My thoughts: English, Chu, and Cordova all have something in the packet. I haven’t looked closely to see what those things are. I think Chu is a novel, and Cordova had two items — both may be novels or they may be stories. I think English is primarily a short story author at the moment, but I could be mistaken. Although there is no note, I know Raymond’s only professional sale has been his story in Riding the Red Horse, which we have elsewhere in the packet. I have no idea what’s going on with Nelson.

***

…phew. That took some time to write up.

the letter and the spirit

Wow, aren’t you an absolutely lovely and charming person.

The article in question (via Do Not Link) opens with this quotation:

Situational dominance is contingent on local factors.

For example, a 5’4 female teacher with a firm demeanor is situationally dominant over a classroom full of 5-year-olds. If she raises her voice, she can even be intimidating. Outside the classroom situation, however, she’s a short woman in a low-prestige profession who will have trouble commanding general respect unless there are other mitigating factors. Certainly, she’d have problems bossing around rowdy teenagers.

Obviously, the man who wrote this never met my high school math teacher.

Mrs. Bjerke (that’s pronounced Bur-KEE) was not a very tall woman, and to boot she wore thick glasses. Just looking at her, Mr. Dampier would probably just dismiss her as yet another woman who couldn’t even handle a high school class. But see, that’s where he would be wrong. Because Mrs. Bjerke was the chair of the math department, the AP Calculus teacher, and the sort of woman who took absolutely no shit from anybody, whether said person was an unruly teenager in her class or the principal of the high school. The best part? I don’t recall her ever raising her voice. Just by sheer demeanor and presence, she kept us all in line.

My junior and senior years, I participated on the quiz bowl team at my high school. The participants of the quiz bowl were the teams in our athletic league, eight schools scattered across the central part of extreme Northern California, from Yreka in the north to Red Bluff in the south. My high school quiz team was very good, but our arch-nemesis were the Miners of Yreka. They were also very good, and they played Quiz Bowl by the exact interpretation of the rules — which included challenging every question they could possibly challenge. By doing this, they were able to throw other teams off their game. Just a touch of hesitation on the buzzers could mean the difference between victory and defeat, as we learned in the finals of my junior year. I may have made all-league at Quiz Bowl, but I still sputtered all the way back home about their methods.

And I vowed that when the quiz bowl team became mine that I would make sure my team was prepared for the bloody Miners. I made captain of the team — an expected outcome, but one that I was proud of — and I started to get my team together. They were as ready as I was going to make them. Unfortunately, our advisor, the one who had witnessed Yreka’s tactics the year prior, was out on maternity leave by the time the quiz bowl rolled around.

Luckily, we knew this was coming, and the advisor asked me if I’d be cool with Mrs. Bjerke as a stand-in. Of course I was — words cannot express my regard for her. We ran our last couple practices under Mrs. Bjerke’s watchful eye, and we were ready as we were going to be. This was going to be our year.

With eight schools, we each played four other schools, and the two teams with the highest total of points after four rounds was the winner. The common gathering place for all the teams was the library at the host high school, where they kept a chalkboard with the running tallies. And it was there after our second game, watching results from the various games trickle in, that an odd score went up on the board — Yreka had defeated West Valley by a huge margin, but there was a note added that the score was doubled because they could only play one round and not two.

A moment later, the West Valley team walked in. Now, West Valley was a sister high school to mine — we were the two high schools in our district, and they were usually our bitter rivals in almost every sports competition. But at the same time, they were our sister school. So I pulled the WV captain aside and asked him what happened.

He had that anger in his eye that I knew all too well from the year before. Yreka had challenged nearly every question in the round. That’s how they’d only gotten through one round in the time allotted for two. I nodded, and told him Yreka had pulled a similar gambit the year before on us in the finals of the quiz bowl.

We got through a third game, although I was stewing a bit. It was lunchtime, and our opponent in our last game was the aforementioned Miners of Yreka. So I pulled my team together while we were eating and reminded them of Yreka’s tactics and that we’d had positive confirmation they were doing it again per my conversation with WV’s captain.

That’s when Mrs. Bjerke stepped in. “They did what?” And as we relayed the stories, the look on her face was one I knew. It was the one she used when she was disappointed with somebody. “I’ll bring it up at the coach’s meeting here.”

I wish I had been present at that coach’s meeting. I am told that it was epic, the way Mrs. Bjerke tore the Yreka coach apart on sportsmanship and his tactics, about the difference between the letter vs. the spirit of the rules, and the kind of example he was setting for high school kids.

All I knew then was the coach’s meeting had gone long, and we’d had to start our fourth game without either coach. Yreka played hard — they were still a good team — but there was something missing from their spirit. Maybe it was us, determined to crush their cheating ways. That said, the challenges from them were much less than they usually were. About midway through the first half, the Yreka coach slid in, but he just sat at the back of the room, hardly even looking at his team or seeming to care what was going on. Mrs. Bjerke came in shortly after him, and she had that expression. At the half, I asked her what had happened. She just smiled and said that they had a nice conversation about sportsmanship.

The finals were extremely anti-climactic. We played Yreka again. They did even worse than they had in the game we’d played prior. And at the end of it, the Yreka coach asked me about my college plans — he seemed rather pleased I was going to Berkeley. Whether it was the fact I was graduating and couldn’t torment his quiz bowl team anymore, or if he was truly pleased, I couldn’t tell you. But I do know that was the politest he’d been to me in two years.

What’s the point of this? Well, it’s funny how the Yreka coach was very good at following the letter of the rules without caring a whit about the spirit of them. It reminds me of a certain other situation I’ve been following over the past month, in which the prize — whether it’s the actual trophy or the more nebulous prize of annoying folks who don’t think like they do — has taken on such importance that the spirit of the rules can be discarded.

I just think about what happened to the coach who discarded the spirit of the rules in order to win.

It won’t stop them. Those who are convinced of the rightness of their cause will willfully ignore everything that doesn’t correspond to that cause. But I hope someday they meet up with somebody that won’t take their shit.

My Mind is My Own

Over the last few days, I have been voraciously combing the internet, reading anything and everything I can find on the nominees for the Hugo awards and wrestling with my own conscience. I think I have finally come to a conclusion as to what I am going to do.

I will read all the Hugo nominees as if this were a normal year. I cannot betray my own sense of professionalism and well, I’ve read Glenn Beck and the entire Left Behind series without throwing the books through the window or across the room. I am, as I said in my earlier post, not looking forward to this. I am not reading these because the Sad Puppies demand that I must — I am because I feel an obligation to my own conscience to do so, just as I would any other year.

That said, I will rank all the nominees on either the Sad Puppies or Rabid Puppies slates below No Award.

There are some things on the ballot for which it pains me to have to do this. I have loved the Dresden Files ever since my good friend Eileen introduced them to me by giving me the books for Christmas — but Jim Butcher is on the slate. Guardians of the Galaxy was my favorite movie of the year and a work I might have actually nominated if I’d felt well enough to turn in nominations. Nope. The Lego Movie is right behind it in terms of movies I loved last year, and would have been a very close #2 to Guardians. Sorry.

I am especially grieved to make this decision in cases like Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, Black Gate, and Annie Bellet. It grieves me because Jen Brozek, a person I know and respect, is on the short form editor ballot and I would love to see her win a Hugo.

But I can’t vote any of these folks above No Award. I am sorry, but this is what my conscience demands of me. I will read your work in my packet. I will consider you for my own nominations in 2016 — and I plan to participate in the nomination round next year. But any ranking you may earn by the quality of your work will go after No Award this year.

I have decided this because I care about the Hugo. I have cared about the Hugo ever since I found out about it in an introduction in one of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation novels, and I dream of winning it someday. But in order to keep that dream alive, I have to make sure the Hugos survive. If it comes to a slate vs. slate situation, I would have even less chance of ending up on the Hugo ballot than I already did. So the only thing I can do is express my horror and displeasure at slate voting, and use what few tools I have to express that displeasure.

For those who are saying that I am only doing this because I disagree with the political stances of Sad/Rabid Puppies, I would be doing this if it were the John Scalzi/Making Light Slate of Rainbow Joy Kittens.

My mind is my own, and I make my own decisions.

It doesn’t really matter. I am just one person, and my blog is so minuscule that it won’t register. My vote is but a drop in an ocean, but it is mine. My mind, my thoughts, my opinions — they are my own.

Grimly and Without Joy

The 2015 Hugo nominations have come out.

Normally this is a great moment of satisfaction for me. I usually have not read all the nominees on the slate, so it’s like getting a Christmas present from my fellow science fiction geeks. Hugo nominations are generally so broad that what percolates up from the mass hive mind are usually stories that I don’t mind giving a bit of time to read and compare against each other. Most of the time, I find something interesting in this.

This process only works if it’s a true random percolation, though. The last few years, though, there has been a campaign called the Sad Puppies that suggests that the Hugo award is too liberal and too invested in identity politics, thus choosing works that are turgid and uninteresting instead of stories full of spaceships and laser guns with a glock mat and manly men, I suppose.

Now the first year of this slate, it fell under the radar. The second year, they managed to get a few works on the ballot — works I read, and in some cases, enjoyed. Were they truly Hugo-worthy? No, not as much as other things on the ballot, but with one exception, I didn’t mind reading them.

This wasn’t enough, I suppose. This year, the Sad Puppies managed to put together a slate. Not just one or two works in a category — that wasn’t enough. This was enough to disrupt the random percolation of works to the point where whole categories of the Hugo awards are dominated by this slate — and I wonder what I’m missing that would have risen to the level of a Hugo nomination in any other year. (I suppose I’ll find out when the long list comes out — it’ll be harder to dig up the works, but I might have to read them.)

I’ll read the works. I take my duty as a Hugo voter seriously, and I will rate the works as I see fit. I may end up ranking No Award above them all if I don’t feel any of the works nominated rises to the level of a Hugo in my opinion. It’s the best I can do in a situation I am obviously not happy about.

But I feel as if something I enjoyed has become a grim, thankless task. Politics is never far from any human endeavor, but this year, it feels like it’s all politics. Because here’s the part I elided around: part of the reason for this slate is that certain folks thought the Hugo wasn’t conservative enough.

Now I’ll freely admit, I’m not exactly conservative in my politics. I went to Berkeley, after all. But everything I was taught both in my deeply conservative home town and in liberal Berkeley is that you treat people with courtesy and respect, no matter where they’re from or what they look like. Do I always live up to this? I’m a human being, I’d be lying if I said I did. But it’s a good yardstick to work from.

There are people nominated this year that seem, from my vantage point, to go against this yardstick. Their words are, at best, ill-conceived, and at worst, vile hatred of anybody not like themselves. Bigotry and misogyny are rampant. Is this truly the best science fiction has to offer? I don’t think so, but apparently I’m wrong.

There’s a saying that when you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas. And while I’m not going to just toss every work on the Sad Puppies slate out without actually looking at them first — see the above about treating my duty seriously — I can understand why others would be tempted to do just that.

But it means this year’s reading will be done grimly and without joy.

I’ll probably have more to say about this in the future, as I start to read, but this will do for now.

My cat is more fannish than yours

Or at least she’s got good taste in sleeping arrangements.  Ebony is sacked out on my latest FAPA distribution which came in the mail today.

Home again, home again, jiggity jig

As much as I didn’t want to leave the fun that was Corflu, alas, all good things must come to an end. I wandered out a bit after ten last night, and got home a bit before 1. Time: about two and a half hours of driving, all told. If you want hassle-free transportation, there’s a step above limo service charlotte nc that you can hire. They also accept events and worldwide transportation services. I was less sleepy than I thought I’d be, which is somewhat of a miracle.

I’m still trying to process the weekend. Maybe with a full night’s sleep, I’ll be able to attempt to write some of it down.

Short of it, though, is I had an amazing time, and I’m going to do my best to see you all next year in realspace. In the meantime, I’ve got a first issue of Rhyme to put out. (For those of you not at Corflu, I introduced Rhyme, but deliberately numbered it ½ so that it wouldn’t be the first issue — I’ll get the electronic copy to Bill later in the week, I suspect.)

Meanwhile, I think some sleep is needed. My cat has already found the pile of fanzines, declared them cromulent, and sacked out on them. Mebbe she’s a fan, too.

A quick thought on the first day of Corflu

What. A. Ride.

I’ll have more to say when I’m a bit more coherent, but that’s the short of it.

Small and Far Away

I need to sit down and write stuff. All sorts of stuff. Maybe, this weekend, if I get my homework done, such things will be able to happen.

But the point of this post is to point to this: Small and Far Away, a one-shot fanzine created by members of the virtual fanzine lounge at the last Corflu. There’s a link to the PDF on that page. You should read it!

Yours truly, beyond having an article in the issue, is the one who did the layout work.

The next step is getting the first issue of Rhyme & Paradox out. I’ll be calling in favors shortly…