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Odds and Ends

March 3, 2016 at 1:45 pm
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Got back from MystiCon on Monday. It was a fun weekend, and did much to restore my spirits. After all the internet rancor that has dominated on-line discussion of late, it was good to be reminded of what cons are all about… and how warm, welcoming, and open fandom can be. The Roanoke crowd seemed like good folks. And it was great to see how many young people and first-timers were at the con (I asked for a show of hands on several occasions). All the alarums about the demise of traditional SF fandom may be somewhat premature, I’m thinking.

Back home, of course, I had the usual thousand new emails waiting in my inbox. But among them, at long long last, was my Hugo PIN from MidAmericon II. I can finally begin nominating for this year’s awards. I urge all of you to do the same. (And will have a few more Hugo thoughts and recommendations in subsequent posts).

We had a great event at the JCC with Tony DiTerlizzi of THE SPIDERWICK CHRONICLES. And one last week, before I left, with Joe Lansdale and HAP & LEONARD. Plenty of signed books from Tony and Joe both are now available in the Cocteau bookstore. If you’re an autograph hunter, strike now while the supply lasts.

We have more fun events coming up in the next few months as well. Magician Francis Menotti will be making a return appearance, with the trick that fooled Penn & Teller, and we have booksignings scheduled with Darynda Jones, Joe Hill, and Stephen Graham Jones. And a little further out, Neil Gaiman will be appearing with some gigantic Tasmanian cave spiders. Go to the JCC website and sign up for our email newsletter if you’d like more details on forthcoming events at the theatre.

Meow Wolf’s opening comes closer every day. The gang down at Silva Lanes is working overtime right now, getting a little frantic as they labor to make sure everything is ready for opening weekend.

Oh, and GAME OF THRONES season six is drawing nigh as well. You may have heard. Before the season six debut on April 24, the JCC will be running a season five marathon. Weekly screenings, two hours per week, of the S5 episodes on our big medium-sized screen. And admission is FREE. First come, first seated.

I am sure there’s more. Life is busy. Hope yours is too.

See You In Roanoke

February 22, 2016 at 12:53 pm
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Next weekend I will be heading off to MystiCon, in Roanoke, Virginia, where I’ll be a Guest of Honor. A new con for me, and a new part of the country (it’s been on my schedule since 2013).

They have a website at http://mysticon-va.com/ with a list of all the other guests — but, alas, it says there that they are sold out, so if you’re not signed up, you may be out of luck.

I am looking forward to spending some time with old friends there, and to making some new ones.

Truth be told, I need a good con just about now. I am tired and I am stressed, and I am so so so sick of the toxic rancor that more and more seems to characterize the internet.

So… let’s raise a few glasses and have a few laughs at MystiCon, and try to remember why we love science fiction, fandom, and each other.

Thanks

January 2, 2016 at 10:36 pm
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The outpouring of support in response to my post on THE WINDS OF WINTER has been astonishing.

Thank you all, so very much.

There were forty pages of screened comments on the post by the time I logged on this morning. I haven’t even been able to read half of them as yet. So if I haven’t unscreened yours yet, be patient. (My loyal minions often do much of that for me, but they all have off right now for the New Year holiday).

I am going to close comments on this post, lest I have even more messages to deal with.

But I cannot tell you how much I appreciate all the kind words and good wishes.

Labor Day

September 7, 2015 at 2:44 pm
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It’s Labor Day.

We ought to be at worldcon.

Labor Day weekened was the traditional date for worldcon for half a century. Not in the beginning, no. And not so often of late either. But in the middle, yes. For decades and decades. You could set your calendar by it.

It’s still the best date for a big con. Which is why Dragoncon moved there.

Dragoncon should go back to its original July dates. And worldcon should go back to Labor Day.

Yes, I know all the arguments against. Don’t want to hear them again, thank you. I say they’re spinach, and I say to hell with them.

It’s Labor Day.

We ought to be at worldcon.

Hugo Voting Continues

June 13, 2015 at 7:06 pm
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With the Puppy Wars heating up again — not that they have ever really cooled down — this seems an opportune moment to remind all and sundry that there is still plenty of time left to join Sasquan and cast your ballot for this year’s Hugo awards.

With the electronic ballot, once you have a membership number and a PIN, you can go and post some preferences and votes now, then return a day later, or a week later, or a month later, and change them, or add some more rankings. Your vote does not get counted until balloting closes.

The ballot is here: http://sasquan.org/hugo-awards/voting/

If you have not voted the Hugo Awards before, please note that it is an “Australian ballot,” a preferential system whereby one ranks the nominees. You don’t just vote for one. You can rank NO AWARD as if it were any other finalist; ahead of some nominees, behind others.

(Which is the way I believe one should use NO AWARD. As I have stated previously, I am opposed to the nuclear option of just blindly voting NO AWARD in every category).

Of course, you need to be a member to vote. Supporting Memberships will cost you $40. You can sign up to buy one at https://sasquan.swoc.us/sasquan/reg.php

In addition to voting privileges, a Supporting Membership will get you the convention’s program book (usually a handsome item, though it varies from year to year) and other publications.

You can also sign up as an ATTENDING member and actually attend the convention, which is the course I strongly recommend for those who have the time and the money. Cons are fun, especially worldcon; that’s what they are all about. Reading, panel discussions, the art show, the dealers’ room, the masquerade, filksinging… all sorts of great stuff goes on. Something for all tastes. And EVERYONE is welcome, despite what you have heard. (Just don’t be an asshole. Assholes get welcomed too, but the welcome wears out more quickly).

Both supporting and attending members get an electronic “Hugo packet” that will enable you to read many of the works nominated for this year’s rockets. You should do that, no matter what side of the Puppy Wars you are on; we want informed voters. Yes, sadly, IMNSHO this is the weakest Hugo ballot in recent memory, thanks to the Puppy slates… but there’s still some damn strong work there, especially in Novel and Dramatic Presentation. And of course it is possible that your own tastes may differ from mine.

So join, read, vote. And fifty years from now, when your fannish grandchildren ask you, “Say, gramps, what did you do in the Great Hugo War?” you’ll have an answer for them.

More Hugo Musings

April 30, 2015 at 1:44 am
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Continuing the musings I began last night, about this year’s Hugo ballot… the actual nominees, the work, rather than the politics…

This one will be shorter than my last, since I don’t have much to say (yet) about the three fan categories I want to touch on.

BEST FANCAST is a stupid new Hugo category created to keep “fancasts” out of the hoary old Best Fanzine category. The nominees this year include three Puppy picks, and two that were not on the slates. I haven’t heard any of the five. I doubt I will be voting in this category.

BEST FANZINE is the aforementioned hoary old category that dates back almost to the start of the Hugos. Here They Speak Twilltone and Gestetners, and then oldtimers mutter darkly about Ditto. But there are e-zines here as well. The Puppies grabbed four of the five slots in this category. Only JOURNEY PLANET was not part of the slates. However, one of the Puppy finalists, BLACK GATE, has withdrawn, leaving three. The only one I know well is Dave Truesdale’s TANGENT, the online continuation of the an actual print fanzine that Truesdale has been publishing since the 70s. TANGENT has been nominated for Hugos before, I believe, though I don’t think it has ever won. It’s what trufans call a “sercon” zine, that is, mostly book reviews and criticism. Book reviews also seem to be the main focus of ELITIST BOOK REVIEWS, another Puppy pick… which seemed to me a lot like TANGENT, but not nearly as well done. There are much better review ‘zines and blogs than these to be found on the internet, among them PAT’S FANTASY HOTLIST, the WERTZONE, BLOG OF THE FALLEN, and last year’s winner, A DRIBBLE OF INK, but none of those made the ballot, so we will need to choose from those that did. I don’t always vote in the Fanzine category (please note, I am saying I do not vote, not that I vote NO AWARD, two different things), but I expect I will this year. I still need to check out a couple of the remaining nominees, and look more deeply at the ones I was already familiar with.

BEST SEMIPROZINE. This category has always pissed me off, since it was created largely to kick LOCUS out of Best Fanzine, where it was winning every year. Of course, once Semiprozine was created, LOCUS proceeded to win that a bunch of times too, until the rules were jiggered once again to kick it out once more. (This is one reason I oppose jiggering the rules, even to stop the Puppies). They really ought to call this category BEST SEMIPROZINE THAT ISN’T LOCUS. But they don’t. We have five finalists here, only two of which are from the slates… and one of those, ANDROMEDA SPACEWAYS IN FLIGHT MAGAZINE, has been loudly declaring that they were not informed and never asked to be on anyone’s slate. I am really only familiar with LIGHTSPEED and STRANGE HORIZONS from this category. Both of those are pretty good. If anyone has an opinion to offer on the others, do speak up. If I have time to check them out, I will… if I don’t, I will abstain in this category, i.e. not vote. I won’t go NO AWARD, since I do think the two semipros I know are worthy. Not as worthy as LOCUS, mind you, but there you are…

And that’s all I have to say about those. For now, at least.

Talk among yourselves.

Joining Sasquan

April 16, 2015 at 2:26 pm
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The Hugo Awards, the center of the controversy that has plunged all fandom into war, will be awarded this summer at Sasquan, the 2015 World Science Fiction in Spokane, Washington.

I have been going to Worldcons for a long time. My icon is a picture of me at Torcon II, the 1973 Worldcon in Toronto, where I lost the very first John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. Wasn’t I cute? It was my second Worldcon, following on Noreascon I in Boston in 1971. (I missed LA in 1972).

You can be a part of Worldcon too. Just go here:

https://sasquan.swoc.us/sasquan/reg.php

You can buy a Supporting Membership for $40, which will give you the right to vote on this year’s Hugo Awards. Whether you vote for the Sad Puppies, or for the Rabid Puppies, or against the Puppies, or vote NO AWARD on everything, or read the work and vote on what you like, or abstain, or elect some combination of all of those… that’s up to you. The important thing is that you vote, however you think best.

Even better, you can buy an ATTENDING membership, and actually come to the convention. Usually they are a lot of fun. That’s why I keep coming back. Don’t believe what you may have heard, we will not be parading about with the heads of puppies impaled on spears.

Come to the party. Everyone is welcome. Don’t believe anyone who tells you otherwise.

One Nice Night

April 12, 2015 at 1:38 pm
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I felt strongly that I had to speak up about Puppygate, and I have. I am glad I did. But do not think for a moment that I’ve enjoyed it. Though I have done my best to keep the discussion civil, there’s still a whiff of venom in the air. (You should see some of the comments I’ve deleted). It gives one a headache.

With all that being said, it’s nice sometimes to restore one’s faith in humanity, and I did some of that last night at my theatre. Magician Francis Menotti was performing at the Cocteau, and I went down to catch his act. Francis was wonderfully entertaining, and the crowd was great too. Old people, young people, kids, black people and white people and brown people, men and women, all ooohing and aaahing at the magic and laughing at the jokes, enjoying adult beverages (well, not the children) like our famous Burning Tumblewheel and our new White Walkers. They all came out smiling, and lots of them stopped afterwards in the bar to chat with me and Francis. One young couple were making their first visit to Santa Fe; they had just gotten engaged, and the two of them were bright-eyed and excited and glowing. Made me feel good just to meet them.

That’s what worldcons used to be like. Should be like. Could be like again.

Last night restored my faith in people, a little. It’s not fandom that’s toxic. It’s the internet.

STAY ON TOPIC!

April 9, 2015 at 8:57 pm
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Okay, I am getting swamped with comments on all my Hugo/ Puppygate postings. So many that I may having trouble keeping up… which is not helped by the way LJ makes it impossible to see the content of a comment on a comment without expanding it, so I don’t know what is screened or unscreened.

I thank everyone who has posted. There has been a lot of support, a lot of dissent, a lot of good discussion. The vast majority of you have kept your posts respectful and civil, even when you took issue with something I said, or with another poster. I appreciate that. I have only had to delete a handful of abusive posts.

However, I am going to delete a lot more, starting now. For a different reason. Too many posts are wandering off topic.

Each of my posts is focused on a specific aspect of the Hugo/ Sad Puppy controversy, and that’s what the comments should address.

I do not want to have to deal with long (or short) posts about GamerGate, the Tea Party, affirmative action, the Constitution, rape on campus, or any of the other myriad issues that people are beginning to drag into this. All topics worthy of discussion, to be sure, and maybe we will discuss them at some point… but not now, please.

Stick to the Puppies. Stick to the Hugos. Agree or disagree, engage with the points I am trying to make with each of the main posts.

[Comments closed on this one. I am still trying to moderate all the comments on the previous posts].

Puppygate

April 8, 2015 at 1:49 pm
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The last thing I want to do… the last thing I need to do… is get involved in the firestorm of controversy that has sprung up around this year’s Hugo ballot. I have books to write. I have TV shows to develop. I have anthologies to edit. Oh, and a movie theatre, and a bowling alley and prep school that we are turning into art space, and charities to help support. And somewhere in there, an actual life to live.

Besides, this is a nasty, nasty fight, and anyone who speaks up, on either side of this, risks being savaged. It is no fun being savaged. It raises one’s blood pressure, and brings out the urge to savage back.

A wiser man would probably just keep quiet, and let this storm pass him by.

But no… that’s the path of cowardice. Much as I do not relish what is to come, I have been a part of science fiction fandom most of my life, and the Hugo Awards and worldcon are very important to me, and I cannot and will not stand by and keep silent while they are under attack.

So I am going to say a few things.

Some of you reading this will not like what I am going to say. I expect I will get the usual rash of “I am never reading your books again” emails and posts. Fine, go ahead, I am used to those. They come in every time I say anything of substance.

I suspect I may get those sorts of emails from both sides of the Puppygate wars. I have my own views on all of this, and they don’t line up precisely what what either camp is saying.

So be it. My views are my views. I do not speak for any clique or slate or movement.

I have been thinking about all this for days, since rumors first began to circulate that this year’s Hugo slate might be problematic. I have a number of points I want to make. Rather than write one long long long rambling post touching on all of them, I am going to make a series of posts, each focusing on one specific aspect of the controversy. Although I am going to close comments on this initial introductory post, I will allow comments on the posts that follow… but I will NOT allow abuse in any form, either of me or any other commentator, and I will expect those commenting to STAY ON TOPIC. Dissent is fine, so long as it is courteous and reasoned, but address your comments to the points I am raising, not to side issues.

If you want be abusive, hey, there are plenty of other places on the internet for that. The Sad Puppies websites will allow you to abuse the people they are calling “Social Justice Warriors” all you like, and the sites of those who oppose the Puppies will allow unlimited abuse in the other direction, it seems. But none of that will fly here.

By this time, I know, many of my readers are going to be asking, “What the hell is he talking about? What sides? What controversy? What’s a Sad Puppy? What’s a Hugo Award?”

I am not going to attempt my own summary. Millions of words have already been written about this. SALON is covering the story. So is ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY, and the TELEGRAPH in the UK. Other mainstream news blogs will be picking it up soon. Within our genre, fuller accounts can be found on io9 and FILE 770. If you want to hear directly from the major players in this drama, you can check out the websites of writers Brad Torgesen and Larry Correia (MONSTER HUNTER NATION) for the Sad Puppy side, or MAKING LIGHT and TOR.COM site for those opposed to them. Be prepared for lots of vitriol on all those sites, especially when you get to the comments.

And for those who do not have the appetite to wage through thousands of posts, well, the basics are simple. A group of writers and fans, many of them of a conservative political and/or literary bent, felt that they were not being adequately represented in the Hugo Awards, and put together their own slate of stories and writers they wanted on the ballot. They blogged, they organized, they got out their voters, and they were wildly successful… to the extent that this year’s Hugo ballot is dominated by their choices.

Call it block voting. Call it ballot stuffing. Call it gaming the system. There’s truth to all of those characterizations.

You can’t call it cheating, though. It was all within the rules.

But many things can be legal, and still bad… and this is one of those, from where I sit.

I think the Sad Puppies have broken the Hugo Awards, and I am not sure they can ever be repaired.

I will expand on that, and explain why, in the posts that follow.