Not a Blog

The Replacements

May 6, 2016 at 2:44 pm
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MidAmericon II has finally announced the replacements for the two Hugo nominees who withdrew from the ballot as originally announced.

Replacing BLACK GATE in Best Fanzine is LADY BUSINESS, which can be found here

Replacing “The Commuter” by Thomas Mays in Short Story is “Cat Pictures Please” by Naomi Kritzer, which was originally published in CLARKESWORLD

I am not familiar with either of the new nominees… but since they were not part of any slate, I think both of them are likely to be strong contenders. I look forward to checking them out.

(As I said in a previous post, sixth place has never been so important).

((Though I am curious as to whether these two new finalists were indeed sixth. It seemed to take MAC a rather long time to announce the replacements after the withdrawal, something that could presumably be accomplished in minutes just by looking at the list and seeing who was next up — unless, perhaps, there were other withdrawals along the way? We’ll find out come August)).

Short Story and Fanzine were two categories where the Rabid Puppies had swept the field, top to bottom. Accordingly, they were also two categories that I had earmarked as being in need of Alfies. But the withdrawals and replacements broke the Rabid stranglehold, leaving me with a decision to make — do I still present Alfies in those categories, or no?

I am going to need to ponder that for a while.

Hugo Withdrawal

May 1, 2016 at 4:24 pm
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I see that the fanzine BLACK GATE has withdrawn from the Hugo race, after being slated by the Rabid Puppies and nominated (perhaps) as a result of that.

You can read their reasons here:

This is the second year that BLACK GATE has refused a nomination, so one certainly has to admire them for their consistency. And no one can deny that this is a very difficult decision for those, like BLACK GATE, that were put on the ballot by the Rabids without their consent (it is an easy decision for the Rabids themselves and their allies, of course, most of whom are squealing as happily as pigs in shit).

Since I’m on record as urging the “hostages” to stand their ground, I can’t applaud this decision. But I will not criticize it either. They had a tough call and they made it, consistent with their own politics and principles.

I will quibble, however, about one of their assertions: that even if BLACK GATE had elected to remain on the ballot, they had no chance of winning. I am not going to go so far as to say they were the favorite… but I think they would have had a shot. All five of this year’s nominees were on the Rabid Slate, yes. But two of the five — BLACK GATE and FILE 770 — are clearly hostages, slated without their consent. Despite the success of No Award in last year’s voting, I think the presence of so many hostages this year changes the equation. My hope is that fewer fans will resort to the Nuclear Option. If so, I think FILE 770 will win here… but BLACK GATE would have given Glyer’s zine its strongest competition. Oh, and yes, No Award will be contending too. TANGENT might have a very slim outside chance.

BLACK GATE’s withdrawal changes all that, of course. The big question is, what takes its place? Whatever it is, I’d say that it instantly becomes a major contender here, just as THREE BODY PROBLEM became a contender last year after Marko Kloos pulled out of novel. My guess is that the rocket goes to either FILE 770 or the new nominee…

(One also wonders what will take place of the “The Commuter,” the Thomas Mays nominee in Short Story. Mays has also withdrawn).

Sixth place has never been so crucial.

A Response to John C. Wright

April 30, 2016 at 8:32 pm
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The GUARDIAN interviewed me a couple of weeks ago about Puppygate and the Hugo Awards (before the ballot was announced, fwiw), and quoted me in the article that resulted. Here’s what they said about what I said (of course, I said a lot more, but only a few bits were quoted):

“The prestige of the Hugos derives from its history. Robert A Heinlein won four times, Ursula K Le Guin won, Harlan Ellison won. That’s a club any aspiring writer wants to be a member of,” George RR Martin says. “When the Hugo ballot came out last year it was not just a right-wing ballot, it was a bad ballot. It was the weakest we’d seen for years.”

Now it appears that John C. Wright has taken umbrage at my opinion. He writes on his journal:

“Evidence enough that Mr. Martin had not read the works on the ballot. I say no more, lest I be accused of self-aggrandizement, for the works he thus criticizes are mine. He did not have so poor an opinion of my work when he bought it for his SONGS OF THE DYING EARTH anthology, however: a fact he conveniently forgot when he began leveling absurd and absurdly false accusations against me.”

In the comments section of the same journal entry, someone named “Paul B” says:

“Sir, is it possible that Mr Martin never actually read (at least majority of) submissions for that Dying Earth tribute anthology? I know not how these things tend to work, or if you had any personal exchanges with him during that time (of the sort that included his personal thoughts on your story), but I know of many a case where a name of widely known author on the cover of various anthologies was used to bait potential buyers while said author had little or no involvement with said anthologies (think of those ghost and horror story anthologies of yore, where stories were advertised as “hand picked” by Alfred Hitchcock and the like).”

To which, John C. Wright replies:

” Certainly it is possible. It is possible that he did not do the jobs for which he was paid. That is one of the two possibilities, neither of which redound to his glory. Either he is lying now, when he uses the prestige of his name to belittle my worthy work as unworthy, or he was lying then, by putting his name on a book to lure the unwary reader into purchase, ergo using the prestige of his name to inflate my unworthy work as worthy. Either way, it is a lie.”

I am not going to get down into the cesspool with Wright here, though, believe me, the temptation is strong. I will not let his comments go unanswered, however.

So let me just restrict my reply to the facts.

For the elucidation of Paul B, who admits that he does not know how these things work but feels the need to hold forth anyway, I have read every word of every story in all my anthologies, both the ones I co-edit with Gardner Dozois and the ones I edit solo, like WILD CARDS. In the collaborations, Gardner handles the bulk of the paperwork; the contracts, pro rata calculations, paying royalties, etc. But all the creative work is shared equally between us, and no story is purchased unless both of us agree that it is acceptable.

And yes, Gardner and I did purchase and publish a story from John C. Wright for SONGS OF THE DYING EARTH, our Jack Vance tribute anthology. The story is “Guyal the Curator.” I thought then, and I think now, that it’s a good story. Read it and judge for yourself. If you’re a Jack Vance fan, I think you will enjoy it. Wright himself is a huge Vance fan. I don’t recall how I knew that, but I did, and that fact was certainly foremost in my mind when I suggested to Gardner that we invite him into the book. He replied enthusiastically, and gave us a good story. If it had not been a good story, we would not have published it. Gardner and I did have to reject one of the other stories we had solicited for SONGS OF THE DYING EARTH, by another writer; we paid him a kill fee. And there were three or four additional stories that required extensive work; we bought them, but only after giving notes and asking for revisions. “Guyal the Curator” required none of that. It was a solid, professional piece of work, a nice Vance tribute, an entertaining read.

All that being said, I do not know why Wright seems to believe that by purchasing and publishing one of his stories seven years ago, I am therefore somehow required to like everything that he writes subsequently, to the extent that I would feel it Hugo worthy.

It should be pointed out that “Guyal the Curator” was not itself nominated for a Hugo (there being no Puppies around in 2009 to push it). None of the stories from SONGS OF THE DYING EARTH were Hugo finalists, truth be told. Do I think some were worthy of that honor? Sure I do. I cannot pretend to be objective, I’m proud of the anthologies I edit and the stories I publish. Do I think that all the stories in SONGS OF THE DYING EARTH (or ROGUES, or OLD MARS, or OLD VENUS, or LOWBALL, or any of my anthologies) are Hugo-worthy? Of course not. In a normal year, the Hugo finalists are supposed to represent the five best stories of the year in that word length. Was “Guyal the Curator” one of the five best short stories (actually, it might have been a novelette, after so long I do not recall the word length) of 2009? No. It was a good story, not a great story. The Hugo Awards demand greatness. It was an entertaining Vance tribute, but it was not a patch on real Vance, on “The Last Castle” or “The Dragon Masters” or “Guyal of Sfere.” And truth be told, it was not even one of the five best stories in SONGS OF THE DYING EARTH. A good story, yes, I’ll say that again. But there were better in the book. (And how not? We had an amazing lineup of contributors).

Which brings us back to Puppygate, and last year’s Hugo ballot.

I read every word in every story in the anthologies I edit, as I’ve said. I did not read every word in every story on last year’s Hugo ballot, no (or on any Hugo ballot, for that matter). I start every story and give them a few pages. If they grab me, I keep reading. If they bore me or offend me, or fail to interest me for whatever reason, I put them aside. Mr. Wright seems convinced that I did not read his stories on last year’s ballot. He’s half-right: I did not read all of them. But I started all of them (there were five), finished some, set others aside. The same as I do with any story I read; no special treatment.

I did not find any of them Hugo-worthy. Not one of them was as good as “Guyal the Curator,” in my opinion. No doubt others liked them better.

It should be pointed out that the comments quoted by the GUARDIAN, to which Mr. Wright takes such umbrage, make no mention whatsoever of him or his work. I merely said that it was a bad ballot, the weakest seen in years. I stand by those comments; your mileage may differ. And yes, with his five finalists, John C. Wright was part of that, but hardly the whole of it. Truth be told, while I did not and do not feel his stories were Hugo-worthy, there was MUCH worse to be found on last year’s ballot in other categories. But that horse has been beaten to death, so I see no need to give it any more whacks.

The bottom line here is that liking some of a writer’s work does not oblige you to like all of his work. I yield to no one in my admiration for Robert A. Heinlein, but my love for HAVE SPACE SUIT, WILL TRAVEL and THE PUPPET MASTERS and “All You Zombies” and “The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag” does not make me like I WILL FEAR NO EVIL or TIME ENOUGH FOR LOVE any better.

In closing, let me suggest to John C. Wright that you do yourself no favors by boasting constantly about the worth and brilliance and “literary” qualities of your own work. You might do better to take a lesson from a writer that we both love: Jack Vance. I had several conversations with Jack when Gardner and I were putting together SONGS OF THE DYING EARTH, and never once did he tell me how amazing and eloquent and literary he was. Quite the opposite. He never called his stories anything but “my junk” when speaking to me, and seemed bemused and flattered that so many other writers had found such inspiration in them. Vance was amazing and eloquent and literary, of course, one of the greatest wordsmiths our genre has ever produced, but he left it to others to sing his praises.

Puppies at Christmas

December 24, 2015 at 6:11 pm
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It’s Christmas Eve. Time for my ritual screening of my favorite adaptations of A CHRISTMAS CAROL… the Reginald Owen version, the Alastair Sim version, the George C. Scott version, and… best of all… BLACKADDER’S CHRISTMAS CAROL, with Rowan Atkinson. Time for eggnog. Time for wrapping prezzies. Time for peace on earth, and good will toward men… and women… and aliens… and elves… and even puppies. So in the spirit of the season, I am going to say something nice about the Sad Puppies.

Last year’s Puppygate was an ugly affair. I am not going to rehash it here. My views are all on record, my original blog posts still up for anyone who wants to go back and read them. The last thing I want… the last thing anyone who truly loves science fiction, fantasy, and fandom would want… would be to have to go through the whole thing again in 2016. Whatever your view of how the Hugo Awards turned out at Sasquan, I think we can all agree that we would like MidAmericon II’s awards to be more joyful, less rancorous, less controversial.

And maybe… just maybe… we’ll get our wish. Call me naive. Call me an innocent. Call me too trusting by half, too nice a guy to see how things really are… but, really, I am starting to have some hope. All over the internet, people are already talking about the Hugo Awards, making recommendations, discussing the work… the WORK, the things we love, the stuff that unites us instead of the stuff that divides us. I’ve been trying to do my part, here on my Not A Blog, and will continue to do so. Over at FILE 770, similar discussions are taking place. And on many other websites, blogs, and bulletin boards as well… including Sad Puppies 4.

Yes, the Sad Puppies are doing it again. ((No big secret, that was announced even before worldcon)). Discussions of possible nominations in all Hugo categories can be found on their SP4 site here: Go check it out. You can even join in. So far as I can tell, you don’t need to be a Puppy to recommend.

As of a few minutes ago, there were 159 ‘thoughts’ in the Best Novel section, which suggests a healthy level of participation. And, I am pleased to say, almost all of what follows seems to be honest and enthusiastic discussion of the work. I am seeing very little name-calling compared to what we saw in Sad Puppies 3, a dearth of references to CHORFS and ASPs and Puppy-kickers and that perennial favorite, SJWs. I am not seeing any “nominate this, it will make their heads explode” posts that we saw so often last year.

Instead, people are recommending books. A very wide range of books. Sure, new works by familiar Puppy favorites like Larry Correia, Mike Williamson, and John C. Wright are being recommended (no surprise there)… but so are works by Neal Stephenson, James S.A. Corey, Naomi Novik, Victor Milan, Terry Pratchett, S.M. Stirling, Ian Tregillis, Ernie Cline, Elizabeth Bear, Gene Wolfe, Michael Moorcock, Orson Scott Card, Greg Bear, Kate Elliott, and many others… including the latest Marko Kloos, and… wonder of wonder… novels from N.K. Jemisin and Anne Leckie!

There are some really good names on that list. Some really good books. (And many I have not read yet, but will look up now). And there’s an amazing range of literary styles, subgenres, and… yes… political and religious views. And all this is to the good.

(Similar discussions are taking place on Sad Puppies 4 for the other categories, though Best Novel has the most participation).

For decades now, LOCUS and NESFA and other fan groups have produced reading lists at year’s end, long lists generated by recommendations from their editors/ members/ etc. If at the end of this process, Sad Puppies 4 puts forth a similar list, one that has room for BOTH Larry Correia and Anne Leckie, I don’t think anyone could possibly object. I won’t, certainly. A list like that would not be a slate, and the whole “slate voting” thing will become moot.

And that would be great. That would mean no Puppygate II. That would mean a spirited literary debate about writers and books without the acrimony and the name-calling. From that debate a truly democratic and diverse ballot could emerge, one that represents all tastes. That would mean no ‘No Awards‘ at Big MAC II, and the Hugo ceremony could once again become a joyous celebration of the best and brightest in our field.

In my post-worldcon blog post last August 31 (( )) I expressed the hope that the ugliness of 2015 could be left behind, that Fandom and Puppydom could coexist in peace. That’s still my hope. And right now I am feeling a little more hopeful than I was in August. People are talking books, not trading epithets…

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good read.

Handicapping the Hugos, Part the Second

August 16, 2015 at 9:43 pm
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Continued from last rock. My thoughts and predictions for this year’s Hugo Awards.

BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION, SHORT FORM. Which is pretty much “Best Television Episode,” though in theory various other types of “short form” are eligible. In certain years it has actually been the “Best Doctor Who Episode” category. Last year, for instance, episodes of GAME OF THRONES and ORPHAN BLACK went up against no fewer than four (4!!) DOCTOR WHO episodes. (GAME OF THRONES beat them all, and in the UK no less. No one was more shocked than me. Before the ceremony, I’d told David Benioff and Dan Weiss that we didn’t have a chance of beating the Doctor on his home turf. Which might be evidence that I am really rubbish at predicting these races, but there you go). This year the ballot is considerably more diverse. Episodes of DOCTOR WHO, GAME OF THRONES, and ORPHAN BLACK have been joined by the pilot from THE FLASH and an episode of GRIMM. This may be the first time since this category was created that five different series were represented, which I see as a good thing. FLASH, GRIMM, and GAME OF THRONES were all part of one or the other slates. ORPHAN BLACK and DOCTOR WHO were not. The relationship between the three “slate” picks and the Puppies is all one-sided, I promise you; no one at HBO has the vaguest notion who Teddy Beale and Brad Torgersen are, and I figure the same is true for the producers and directors of THE FLASH and GRIMM. Nonetheless, the followers of the “Puppy-free ballot” are crossing all three shows off their list, leaving only DOCTOR WHO and ORPHAN BLACK. GAME OF THRONES has actually won three Hugo Awards in a row, and might have a good shot at taking a fourth here… but I think the Whovians (still annoyed at losing last year), the Puppy-free voters, and the Loncon voters will swing the balance. I think DOCTOR WHO bounces back and wins here. Of course, I would be happy to be proved wrong, as I was last year. (And of course I cannot hope to be objective here, since I do have a horse in this race. If GAME OF THRONES wins, HBO has asked me to accept for David and Dan and the show).

BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION, LONG FORM. Three nominees from the slates — INTERSTELLAR, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, and THE LEGO MOVIE — against two that were un-slated — CAPTAIN AMERICA: WINTER SOLDIER and EDGE OF TOMORROW. All pretty good to excellent movies, and one that I thought was great. (I voted for that one, but don’t think that it will win). Any of them would make a worthy Hugo winner. (So would PREDESTINATION, which sadly did not make the ballot). This category, more than any other, demonstrates the folly of those voting the “Puppy-free ballot.” I am quite sure that Christopher and Jonah Nolan, the folks at Marvel, and the Lego team have never heard of the Puppies, of either stripe; they may not even heard of the Hugo Awards. To throw their work aside, just because the Puppies put it on their slate, is as unjust as it is moronic. You don’t want VD and Brad Torgersen telling you who to vote for, so why in the world would you let them tell you who NOT to vote for? Me, I voted for the movie I liked best, and I hope you all did the same. I think GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY is going to win, though THE LEGO MOVIE could upset. If WINTER SOLDIER takes it, it will be mostly because of the blowback against the slates. The Pups will likely try to claim a GUARDIANS Hugo as a victory for them, but it’s a hollow boast; their backing is irrelevent.

BEST GRAPHIC STORY. One Puppy nominee, a zombie story. Four finalists from fandom. From the comments I have seen on Puppy blogs, a lot of Puppies will be No Awarding this category. The Puppy nominee is the weakest here, in both story and art; the Puppy antipathy to the other finalists seems to come down to “they’re not ours” and “they are more of that social justice shit.” I know that many Sads claim they have been unfairly characterized as bigots, and sure, maybe so… but there are certainly bigots AMONG them. How else to explain their hatred of MS. MARVEL, which is a sweet, charming, entertaining superhero story, distinguished only by the fact that the hero is a sympathetic young Muslim girl? No, the comic wasn’t WATCHMEN or DARK KNIGHT, it broke no new ground, but it was well-told, well-drawn, fun to read, funny in places. Sure, you could argue SAGA was better, or RAT QUEENS… but the negatively about MS. MARVEL is way disproportionate. In any case, I liked several of these, but I think SAGA will win.

BEST RELATED WORK. Hoo boy. What can I say that dozens of reviewers have not said before me? This will be the first NO AWARD of the evening, I think… and deservedly so. The nominees are all Puppies. Two are simply undistinguished. Lou Antonelli’s LETTERS FROM GARDNER is more a short story collection than a “related work” and really should not have been eligible (and I have to wonder, if it wins, does Gardner get a rocket too for providing those letters?). And the last two nominees are… well, one is erudite and ugly, and one is stupid and repugnant. To get this chaff on the ballot, the Puppies crowded off Jo Walton’s WHAT MAKES THIS BOOK SO GREAT and the second volume of Patterson’s biography of Robert A. Heinlein, among other things. Even one of the Puppy nominees is urging a No Award vote here, in his own category… probably so that he can then claim victory when it comes to pass. If No Award does not win here, it won’t win anywhere.

BEST SHORT STORY. All Puppies, but a stronger lineup than Related Work. Kary English has a real shot here with “Totalled.” Of all the slate nominees, that’s the one that the non-Puppy readers and reviewers have found the most interesting. The Steve Diamond story was a late addition after Annie Bellet withdrew; straightforward adventure, and from a major house (Baen), it could be a dark horse. The two Castalia House stories have a shot only if there are a lot more Rabids among the new voters than anyone dreamed. So… English has a decent shot, but in a fairly close race this one goes NO AWARD.

BEST NOVELETTE. “The Day the World Turned Upside Down” by Dutch author Thomas Olde Heuvelt is pitted against four Puppies. The Heuvelt slid onto the ballot only when a John C. Wright story was disqualified as ineligible. The Moens and others opposed to the slates will all be voting for it on those grounds, I guess, but it is not as strong as standard bearer as might be hoped, and if it carries the day it will be mostly because of backblow against the slates rather than its own innate literary quality. The four Puppy nominees range from “meh” to “not too bad,” in my opinion. I don’t see any of them as Hugo calibre. Three of them are from ANALOG, however, and ANALOG still has the highest circulation of any of the print magazines. One of those might emerge, as the others are eliminated and the ANALOG votes cascade. But I think this category goes NO AWARD as well.

BEST NOVELLA. All Puppies. FOUR Castalia House stories, three of them by John C. Wright. If the Puppies have been winning earlier, if lots and lots of those new voters are Puppy supporters, maybe one of the Wrights will emerge. But the fifth nominees, “Flow” by Arlan Andrews, is from ANALOG, which is much more widely read than anything by Castalia House, and Andrews has not antagonized nearly as many fans as Wright and Kratman have. He may even get some non-Puppy votes. Enough to win? Likely not. Novella goes NO AWARD as well.

BEST NOVEL. Aha. “The Big One.” Last award of the evening. Two finalists from the slates, against three that came out of fandom. This will be an interesting contest. There are, I think, four strong contenders. SKIN GAME is hurt by its association with the slates, and by being part of a long-running series, and by being urban fantasy, never a popular subgenre with Hugo voters. That’s three strikes right there… but it would be a mistake to count Jim Butcher out. He’s a very popular author, a megaseller with millions of fans, and one should NEVER underestimate someone like that (as I learned at Millenium Philcon, when I got schooled by Harry Potter and J.K. Rowling). Internet fandom has been fighting the Puppy Wars for months now, and we assume the whole world is aware of them, but that’s far from true. A certain percentage of the Hugo voters may be entirely unaware of all of this, and many of them may vote SKIN GAME, a fast-moving and entertaining Harry Dresden. I think Butcher is the strongest candidate the Puppies have for a major win… though Butcher himself is not a Puppy, and has stayed entirely above this fray. That being said, his competition is pretty strong. I don’t think Anne Leckie will win for ANCILLARY SWORD. She took the big one last year with ANCILLARY JUSTICE, and — unlike the artist categories — it is very rare for the same writer to win twice in a row. (Orson Scott Card did it, with ENDER’S GAME and SPEAKER FOR THE DEAD, but he’s the only one I can recall). THREE-BODY PROBLEM and GOBLIN EMPEROR are very different books, but both them have real strengths. Here’s the thing, though: although THREE-BODY was not on the Puppy slates, some of the Puppies have praised it afterward, so if and when the Puppy nominees are eliminated in successive rounds of the Australian ballot, some of their votes will shift to Cixin Liu, enough to put him over the top. I think THREE-BODY PROBLEM wins a Hugo for China (but I won’t be too shocked if GOBLIN EMPEROR or SKIN GAME scores an upset). No Award has no chance here. (Oh, and for what it’s worth, Emily St. John Mandel’s STATION ELEVEN remains the best novel I read last year, and I am going to be very curious to see how many nominations it got, and whether it came close to making the ballot).

And there have them. My picks.

Let me close with this. Winning is winning. Losing is losing. Do not let anyone tell you otherwise. If I am wrong, and the Nuclear voters or Deidre Moen’s Puppy-Free crowd prevail, I will be unhappy and sad, but I will be the first to admit that I lost. If it turns out those 2400 new voters were all Beale fans, and John C. Wright and VD emerge clutching rockets, I will be disgusted and sick to my stomach, but I will also tell the truth and say, “We lost. Bad.”

But if the vote goes the way I am predicting, with a mix of slate and non-slate victors and a few No Awards where they were earned, I will applaud that as the best result we could have hoped for, and a victory for worldcon, fandom, and the Hugos themselves.

I hope at least a few of the more honest Puppies will have the integrity to admit the same.

Win, lose, or no award, I intend to have a great time at the con with my fannish friends.

See you all in Spokane.

Handicapping the Hugos

August 16, 2015 at 7:46 pm
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I do not own a Tardis, nor a crystal ball, and I cannot gaze into the flames like Melisandre of Asshai to see glimpses of the future. So I really have no idea how the Hugo Awards are going to shake out this Saturday, when the rockets are handed out in Spokane.

I can make guesses, though. Educated guesses, but guesses nonetheless. Once upon the time, back in the 70s and 80s, I used to be pretty good at handicapping the Hugos. I had no special knowledge, but I knew the field and I knew fandom, so I could look at the list of nominees and predict the winners, and I’d be right at least half the time. Damned good ((for baseball)).

Admittedly, I seem to have lost that knack in more recent decades, and my batting average has gone way way down. Maybe I don’t have my finger on the pulse of the field as well, being too busy with my own books. But what the hell. You win some, you lose some, and some get no award.

I still have no special insider knowledge, so your guesses may be as good as mine… but I’m in a quixotic mood, so I’m going to take a run at it and tell you what I think is going to happen come Saturday… and what I WANT to happen, which will not always be the same thing. For the most part, I won’t tell you which nominees I vote for myself, though in certain categories you may be able to winkle it out.

More Hugo ballots were cast this year than ever before: 5950 of them, to be precise. Last year, Loncon only received 3587 votes. That’s almost 2400 new voters. Virtually all the races are going to turn on who those voters are. Trufans? Sad Puppies? Rabids? Gamergaters? My own guess is “all of the above.” Ah, but how many of each?

The proof is in those ballots.

Past Hugo races were simple. You read the nominees, ranked them in the order that you liked them. Maybe you put some below No Award, the ones you thought unworthy… but No Award almost never won anything. Usually it finished last.

This year is very different. Thanks to Puppygate, we now have distinct groups of voters. There are the Sad Puppies and the Rabids, each seemingly committed to its own slate of nominees. Judging by the nominations, the two Puppy factions command at least 200 votes, and may well have doubled or tripled that number during the controversy. We have the “nuclear option” advocates, the most extreme of those on the other side, who want to vote No Award in every category. Their close cousins, not quite so radical, are those taking Deirdre Moen’s “Puppy-Free Ballot” as their bible, excluding all the finalists from the slates (plus Laura Mixon, just for pique) and choosing from what remains, voting No Award in the All Puppy categories.

And then there are the rest of us. I don’t like what the Puppies did, and have not been shy in saying so, but once it was done, it was done. So my own approach has been the simplest. Read the work, make your judgements, cast your vote. If there are nominees you feel are unworthy of a rocket, rank them below No Award. If ALL the works in a category are unworthy, vote No Award.

The interplay between these five groups of voters will determine who wins and who weeps.

I have already discussed the Campbell Award. Taking the rest of the ballot in turn, we have:

BEST FAN ARTIST. The only Puppy-free category. Either the Sads and the Rabids do not care about fan art, or they did not know any fan artists. I would like to see Steve Stiles win this one. He’s nominated almost every year, but never wins. Spring Schoenhuth came on strong last year, and could contend. But the award will probably go to BRAD W. FOSTER, who has won eight times before. In the artist categories, once you start winning you tend to keep on winning.

BEST FAN WRITER. The ballot pits four Puppy picks against Laura J. Mixon, who earned her spot with her devastating expose of the notorious internet troll Requires Hate. In a normal year, Mixon would be a long shot. Most fan writing is… well, more fannish, often featuring wit and humor. Trip reports, con reports, satires. Investigative journalism, of the sort featured in Mixon’s report, is seldom seen here, and might have had a tough go. But none of the usual fan writers made the cut this year. Most of those opposed to the slates are going to unite behind Mixon, I think. The strongest of the Puppy candidates is Jeffro Johnson, who seems to be mostly a book reviewer. And yes, book reviewers have won here before. Dick Geis comes to mind, and Charles N. Brown as well (though Charlie did a lot more). The other three are more purebread Puppies, most of whose writing seems concerned with attacking “SJWs” and other bugaboos. In their own way, they are minor league versions of Requires Hate… far less venomous, yes, and coming from the right instead of the left, but still more heat than light. Unless there are a lot more Puppies than I think, I doubt that any of them are contenders. The real threat to Mixon is No Award. The Puppies will all be ranking her last, since she’s all that opposes their foursome; Hate’s allies and enablers (yes, there are still some) will be voting against her, because How Dare She; the Nukes are No Awarding everything; and Deirdre Moen has crossed Mixon off her “Puppy-Free Ballot” as well, the only non-Puppy accorded that singular honor. Will the combination of all these factions be enough? I hope not. I think Laura Mixon’s courageous and compassionate article was not only the best piece of fanwriting out last year, but IMPORTANT as well. If there was ever a time to stand up against hatespeech and bigotry, whether from the right or the left, it’s now. If Sasquan gives out only one Hugo next Saturday, I hope it is Laura Mixon who wins it… for herself, and for all of the victims of Requires Hate. When I put on my handicapper’s hat, however, I rate the odds about even between Mixon and No Award. I will pick with my heart instead of my head, and predict a Hugo for LAURA J. MIXON.

BEST FANCAST. Not a category I have much interest in, if truth be told. Three of the finalists come from the slates, two from fandom. I am going to throw a dart and predict a Hugo for TEA AND JEOPARDY, by Emma and Peter Newman.

BEST FANZINE. Four nominees from the slates. Only JOURNEY PLANET stands apart. One of the Puppy choices, BLACK GATE, has withdrawn, but too late to be removed from the ballot. TANGENT, a long-running and venerable review zine whose roots go back to the 70s, has name recognition with pros and traditional worldcon fans as well as the Pups, which should make it a threat. But I think JOURNEY PLANET wins out in the end.

BEST SEMIPROZINE. This one should go to LOCUS in a walk… except, oooops, the rules were jiggered so that LOCUS is not eligible. Only two nominees from the slates, and one of those, ANDROMEDA SPACEWAYS, seems horrified to have been slated. No matter. I think that LIGHTSPEED takes this one.

BEST PROFESSIONAL ARTIST. The finalists are last year’s winner, Julie Dillon, and four Puppies. JULIE DILLON wins in a rout. As with fan artist, once someone starts to win in these categories, they tend to win a bunch in a row. Dillon would have had an excellent shot at repeating in any case, but the Pups made it much easier for her by displacing John Picacio, Marc Simonetti, Michael Komarck, Dan Dos Santos, Donato Giancola, and a lot of other major artists, some of them past winners, who could have provided her with real competition.

BEST EDITOR, LONG FORM. The first All Puppy category. If Vox Day wins, the end time is surely nigh for both worldcon and the Hugo Awards. VD is not the best editor in the field, or one of the best five, or one of the best fifty. His presence here is no more than a “fuck you” from his followers to those dreaded SJWs. I think… hope… he will finish last. The other four finalists are legitimate editors, however, and deserving of their nominations. I think the contest is between Sheila Gilbert of DAW and Toni Weisskopf of Baen. Jim Minz is a good guy and a good editor, but he’s at Baen, and the Baen voters are going to go for Toni, who is the senior presence there. Anne Sowards of Ace and Roc is a worthy choice too, and it’s nice to see her getting some recognition, but I think she’s a long shot this year. Weisskopf and Gilbert were both nominees last year at Loncon, and Weisskopf was the last one eliminated in the first round of voting, losing out to the eventual winner Ginjer Buchanan. And she had more nominations even than Ginjer last time around. I think this may be her year. The Puppies love Baen the best of all the publishers in the field and will rally around her, but Toni is a solid professional with a lot of friends in fandom and prodom as well, and she’s done a commendable job with Baen Books since succeeding the late Jim Baen. The Nukes and the Moens will be No Awarding this category, since it is all slate, but I think (hope) there are not enough of them to matter. It would be a tragedy if we threw out four good editors just because the Puppies like them too. So my prediction here is TONI WEISSKOPF. The first nominee from the slates to take a Hugo.

BEST EDITOR, SHORT FORM. All Puppies again. VD again. Last place again. Edmund Schubert of ORSON SCOTT CARD’S INTERGALACTIC MEDICINE SHOW withdrew, but too late to be removed from the ballot. That leaves Jennifer Brozek, anthologist Bryan Thomas Schmidt, and Mike Resnick. I think the Hugo goes to MIKE RESNICK. And yes, he’s a deserving winner. He’s founded an interesting new magazine, GALAXY’S EDGE, at a time when the old magazines are dying. He’s a former worldcon GOH, a mainstay of midwestern fandom for decades, well known and much beloved. He’s edited lots of good anthologies. Oh, and the Puppies love him… albeit for the wrong reason (losing the column he and Barry Malzberg did for SFWA BULLETIN in a kerfuffle over sexism). More important than any of that, Mike has been a mentor to uncounted number of new young writers over the years, some of whom have gone on to become Hugo and Nebula nominees themselves. Discovering and nurturing new talent is one of the most important things an editor does. Resnick has won numerous Hugos (and lost more), but all for his writing; this would be his first win as editor. All that being said, I do think the slates seriously fucked up this category. A win here, whether for Resnick or one of the other nominees, would be far more meaningful if it came against stronger competition, against Sheila Williams and Ellen Datlow and Gordon van Gelder and Gardner Dozois and the other great editors who have long dominated this category. To be the champ, you need to beat the champ, I always heard; this year, the Puppies kept all the champs off the ballot.

I am only halfway done, I know. But this is very long. I will break here, and cover the rest of the categories in another post.

If any of you out there want to post your own picks, feel free. It could be fun to see who gets the most right. But remember… we’re handicapping here, not fighting another round in the culture war. Attack posts and abuse will be deleted.

Worldcon: Winning and Losing

August 14, 2015 at 5:08 pm
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Drumroll, please. The end is nigh. The climax approaches. Come Tuesday, I will be flying off to Spokane for Sasquan, Bigfoot’s favorite worldcon. A week from Saturday, this year’s Hugo Awards will be handed out, and we can put an end to the Puppy Wars… the 2015 edition, at least. There will be winners, there will be losers. Some will celebrate, some will weep. The vote totals will be parsed to a fare-the-well, no doubt, and spin doctors will be out in force.

The Puppies are already spinning, in fact. If you visit the Puppy blogs, you’ll soon see that both the Sads and Rabids are busy constructing a nifty little narrative so they can claim victory no matter what happens. If nominees from the Puppy slates take home rockets, they won! If No Award prevails across the board, they won by destroying the Hugos. If non-slate finalists prevail, they won by “proving” something or other (since they keep changing their complaint, pretty much any result is guaranteed to prove something, if squinted at the right way).

All that is nonsense, of course. Like most Puppy claims have been from the start of this fiasco. Hypocrisy and delusion. Me and my friend Occam, we use a simpler razor. If the Puppies win, they win. If they lose, they lose. And No Award… well, that does make this a three-body problem rather than a simple binary one, but I will get to that later. So if the Hugo voters do indeed vote down the bulk of Puppy nominees, please stand up with me and blow a big loud raspberry at any Puppy who tries to claim that black is white, up is down, and losing is winning. It ain’t.

WILL the Puppies lose?

I don’t know. No one knows. Don’t believe any fool who tries to tell you otherwise.

We do know that 5950 Hugo ballots were cast this year, smashing all previous records. You can find the details here: Last year, in contrast, only 3587 valid ballots were received, though Loncon was the largest worldcon in history. There’s no doubt that the Puppygate controversy that has iamed the internet since the nominations were announced drove those numbers. Supporting Membership rocketed up to unprecedented levels.

But who are all these new members? Over at FILE 770, the feeling seems to be that most of them are fans rallying to the defense of the Hugos. If so, the Puppy finalists will not only lose, they could very well be crushed, with lots of them finishing behind No Award. But some of the Puppies seem equally convinced that the new members are Puppy supporters, joining up in droves to stick it to those vile [fill in Brad Torgersen’s offensive epithet of the week]. If that’s true, the Puppies could actually win some rockets. Hell, if this betokens a mass migration of Gamergaters, the Rabids might even sweep the awards.

Which narrative is true? Which is deluded? No one knows, and no one is going to know until David Gerrold and Tanarive Due start to rip open those envelopes a week from Saturday.

For those on the edge of their seat wondering how this will all turn out, here’s a hint: watch the Campbell Award.

Just as there are “swing states” and “swing counties” and “swing precincts” that act as predictors of the results of an election, this year’s voting for the John W. Campbell Award (Not A Hugo) for Best New Writer will give us a strong indication of who is likely to prevail in all the races to follow.

the first Campbell winner

The Campbell Award is traditionally the first major writing award of the evening, given before any of the actual Hugo Awards. It is usually preceded by the First Fandom Award and the Big Heart Award, and sometimes by the Seiuns, the “Japanese Hugo.” Some worldcons prefer to give the Seiuns at another time; I have no idea where Sasquan will come down on that. Most of the Puppies do not even know what First Fandom is, and I know damn well that none of them are going to win a Big Heart Award, now or ever, so we can be reasonably certain that those two awards will go as usual. Bringing us to the Campbell.

This year’s Best New Writer finalists include Wesley Chu and four Puppies. Jason Cordova, Kary English, and Eric S. Raymond were on both slates, Sad Puppies and Rabid. Rolf Nelson, the fourth Puppy, was on the Rabid slate, but not the Sad.

In any normal year, Wesley Chu would have to be considered the overwhelming favorite to win the tiara. The Campbell has a two-year window of eligibility, and this is Chu’s second and final year. He was a nominee last year as well, with the third-highest number of nominations, behind only the ultimate winner and a second-place finisher, neither of them eligible this year, so we know that a lot of fans already like his work. His body of work has only gotten stronger in the intervening year. And, honestly, bottom line, Chu is the best writer of this year’s five… and that IS what the Campbell is supposed to reward after all, the Best New Writer.

But will he win? Well, that’s in the hand of those 5950 voters.

If Wesley Chu takes the Campbell, as he should, I think we will be in for a fairly reasonable night in Spokane. There will be some winners from the slates, and some categories will go the No Award, but most of the rockets will actually go to deserving work. If Chu wins, I think the vast majority of the fans in the auditorium will be more happy than not by night’s end.

If No Award wins, however… if No Award takes the Campbell, it will represent a huge and ominous victory for the “nuclear option,” for the faction of fandom that wants to destroy the village in order to save it. A victory by No Award in this category will signify that the voters decided to throw the baby out with the bathwater, and will likely betoken a long ugly night ahead, with category after category going to No Award. Myself, I think this unlikely. I think the hardcore “vote No Award on everything” voters are a small (if noisy) minority. But I could be wrong. It could happen.

And what if one of the four Puppy finalists takes the tiara?

That would represent a victory for the Puppies, certainly. But even there, certain distinctions should be made. Rolf Nelson was a candidate of the Rabids, but not the Sads. A victory by Nelson would be a singular triumph for Teddy Beale and the most extreme elements of Puppydom… and could suggest even worse results ahead, up to and including VD actually winning one or both of the Editing Hugos for which he is nominated.

Kary English, on the other hand, represents a much more moderate side of Puppydom. Though initially put forward by both the Sad and Rabid slates, VD later dropped her and removed her from his suggested ballot entirely when English put up a couple of blog posts that distanced herself from the Puppy party line. English is also a Hugo nominee this year, for her story “Totalled.” She’s the strongest writer of the four Puppy finalists, and in any normal year would be Wesley Chu’s toughest competition. This year? She could well finish last, since some trufans will not forgive her for being part of the slates to begin with, and the Rabids will not forgive her for breaking ranks. Myself, I think English deserves better. While I don’t think she is as good as Chu at present, she is plainly a talented new writer, and not unworthy of a Campbell nod. I would prefer a Chu victory in this category… but I’d rather see English take the tiara than No Award.

Oh, and while we are crunching candidates here, Eric S. Raymond warrants a few words. A candidate of both the Sad and Rabid slates, Raymond was nominated as one of the field’s best new writers on the basis of a single published story, the thinnest resume in the entire history of the Campbell Award. Maybe if that story was the greatest short ever published in our genre, that would be warranted… but it’s not. Even Raymond himself expressed incredulity at his nomination. Given how little SF he has produced compared to Chu and the other finalists, one might think that Raymond would be the longest of long shots. Ah, but there’s another factor. However much a neophyte he may be as a writer of science fiction, Eric S. Raymond is a well-known figure is the gaming world. Should Raymond win the Campbell, despite his shaky credentials as a writer of fiction, it would suggest strongly that large numbers of gamers had purchased supporting membership to vote for him. (Whether those gamers were Gamergaters is another question entirely, and one that cannot be proved. So far as I know, Raymond has not been a part of the Gamergate controversy).

I have no idea who is going to win.

But once we know the winner, it will tell us a lot about how the rest of the night will go.

Watch the Campbell.

(Some thoughts on the other Hugo categories to follow, if I find the time)

Sasquan and Beyond

July 26, 2015 at 12:57 am
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A couple posts down, I posted about worldcon and what it means to me, and why I am going to be going to Sasquan and throwing a big party there (someone needs to make a big futile, stupid gesture, and it might as well be me).

From talking and emailing with various friends and colleagues, however, I know that some of them will NOT be going to Spokane, mainly because the Hugo Wars have left a bad taste in their mouths. Others will attend, but not without trepidation. They wonder how much of the acrimony of Puppygate will spill over into the con itself… to the panels, the parties, the hallways. Will this worldcon be a celebration or a battleground? A family reunion or a family feud?

I wish I could answer that question, but no one really knows. I’m hoping for “celebration” and “family reunion,” and I think that’s the best bet… but we won’t know till the fat lady sings and the dead dogs howl.

There are a couple of questions that are key here.

Number one, how many Puppies are actually going to be coming to Spokane? Hundreds of people have bought Sasquan memberships in the last couple of months, presumably to vote on the awards and site selection, but the majority of those have been supporting memberships. Are any of the Puppies buying attending memberships?

I have no idea. We do know that none of the Puppy leaders will be in Spokane. Brad Torgersen is in the military, and on deployment. Larry Correia attended the Reno worldcon (and blogged about what a great time he had, though he changed his mind a few months ago and revised his trip report retroactively), but he has clearly stated a number of times that he finds Dragoncon and Gencon more congenial and does not plan to return to worldcon. And VD, we are told, cannot attend any worldcon held on US soil. (I do not know the truth of that, though it does appear true that Beale lives somewhere abroad).

Torgersen, Correia, and Beale are by no means the only Puppies, of course. What about the others? Wright, Kratman, Hoyt, Williamson, May, Paulk, the Tor Boycott guys? Any of them? If any of the slate nominees should win a Hugo, will they be there to accept? Sure, many of those on the slates will be there, folks like Mike Resnick and Toni Weisskopf and Jim Minz, but just as we must distinguish between the Sad Puppies and the Rabids, we need to distinguish between the actual Puppies and those they chose to nominate.

Will the Sad Puppies be sitting on panels, signing autographs in the dealer’s room, attending the parties? Hell, will they be throwing parties? (The Furries sometimes have room parties at worldcon, what about the Puppies?) Will any of the Rabids turn up, without their rabid leader?

The fannish fears about Sasquan becoming a battleground are going to prove baseless if no Puppies actually come to Spokane. Which is entirely possible. Way back in one of my first posts on Puppygate, I said that the Puppies want to decide who gets the Ditmars, but they don’t want to be Australians. That analogy still holds true; the Puppies want to decide who gets worldcon’s award, but they don’t seem to want to come to worldcon.

But maybe I am wrong.

If so, the second question arises. Assuming some Puppies do indeed come to Spokane — a lot, a few, just one — what will that do to the atmosphere of the con?

This of course is a two-sided question. Will the Puppies behave? How will the trufans behave toward them? Will people get along, agree to disagree, maintain some semblence of courtesy? Or will we have blood in the halls and the party suites?

Tor always throws a huge party at worldcon. Will the boycotters try to make their presence known there, or at the Tor table in the dealer’s room? Baen Books often has a party too. Is that going to be a Puppy stronghold, or will writers from across the spectrum be welcome? If there is a panel on Puppygate, will it turn into a bloodbath?

And then there the two biggest potential flashpoints. The Business Meeting, and the Hugo ceremony itself. The Business Meeting takes place AFTER the Hugos, and I suspect that much of what happens there will be determined by what happened the night before. But it could get very contentious. The Hugo Awards… David Gerrold has stated several times that he wants to make the ceremony fun and non-political. I commend him for that. But there is only so much that a presenter can do. There’s only one of him, and hundreds in the audience. David can set a tone, but he cannot control what will happen.

What happens at Sasquan, I believe, is going to be very important… because it will go a long way toward determining what happens after worldcon, next year and the year after and the year after that. “The culture war has come to science fiction,” some of the headlines about this kerfuffle have read. True enough, I fear. The question is, is the culture war here to stay, or can we make a peace? Will Puppygate fade and be forgotten after Sasquan, or will we need to fight the same battles next year?

The answer to that lies with the Sad Puppies. The Rabids? Forget it. Beale has vowed to destroy the Hugos, to burn them to the ground, and I have no doubt he will try… this year, next year, the year after. There’s no reconciliation possible there.

The Sads, though… as much as I have disagreed, and continue to disagree, with Correia and Torgersen, I have managed to have relatively civilized and courteous exchanges with them both, and I don’t think either intended what has happened. Beale wants to wreck the Hugos; Correia and Torgersen just seem to have wanted to get themselves and their friends nominated. I don’t like the way they went about it, but they are not the first to have that impulse. Neither one will be involved with Sad Puppies 4, we are told… and that’s good. I can only hope that their chosen successor will go about things differently… recommendations rather than a slate, discussions of the virtues of the writers they like rather than attacks on the writers they don’t like, an end to all the crap about SWJs and CHORFs, the endless name-calling.

I am old enough to remember 1974, when Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle published THE MOTE IN GOD’S EYE and Samuel R. Delany published DHALGREN. Both major works by major writers, both bestsellers, both instantly recognized as classics… but in what may have been the last great battle of the Old Wave and New Wave, the fans who loved MOTE hated DHALGREN, and vice versa. (I loved them both myself, but I think I was almost alone in that). At every con I went to that year, fans and writers alike debated the virtues of those two important novels. The arguments were impassionated, endless, often heated, sometimes derisive… but underneath it all was always the sense that we are all still fans together, united by a common love for our genre.

It was not a culture war. It was a literary debate.

That’s what we need to return to, if we are ever to get beyond Puppygate.

Can we? I hope so. One of the things that gives me hope is — surprise — one of the Puppies, a writer named Kary English. She will be up for two awards on Hugo night. Both the Sad Puppies and the Rabids had her on their slate for the Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and she’s on the ballot there. And both slates also pushed her story “Totaled,” which is on the ballot for Best Short Story. English did not refuse the nominations or ask to be removed from the ballot, like Marko Kloos and Annie Bellet and (later) Edmund Schubert, for which sin some of those on “my side” of this fight will not forgive her. But she did later make two blog posts about Puppygate — you can read them here and here– calling for the Puppies to talk about the work and why they liked it (which none of them were doing, all the actual literary debate and reviews were coming from the other side) and then asking me to left out of any future Puppy slates. For that sin, she got on the Rabid shitlist too, and Beale dropped her from his slate.

I don’t know Kary English. (It is possible I have met her or been in the same room with her at some previous con, but if so I don’t remember. I meet a lot of people). Until Puppygate and her double nomination, I had never read any of her work. But I agree with much of what she had to say in those posts, and I applaud her for saying it, knowing (as surely she must have) that by breaking ranks with “her side,” aka the Puppies, she would face the wroth of some of those who had previously championed her. I know that there are some on “my side” who have slammed English despite these posts, insisting that she spoke up too late in the game, that she was trying “to have it both ways.” No, sorry, that’s idiocy. Like Kloos and Bellet and Schubert before her, she’s opting out of the kennel and the slates. I will not fault her for not doing so sooner. This thing has been hard for all concerned, and these choices are painful… especially for a young writer who has just received his or her first Hugo nomination.

If there is any hope for reconciliation post-Puppygate, it lies with voices of moderation and forgiveness on both sides, not with the extremists and the haters. It lies with Marko Kloos and Annie Bellet and Edmund Schubert. I hope they are all at worldcon. I would like to meet them, buy them a drink, shake their hands, and argue about books with them.

And Kary English too. The chances are good that, come Hugo night, she will be losing a Hugo Award and a Campbell Award both (maybe not, upsets happen, no one knows, I get surprised every year, but that’s my best guess). If so, I’ll have a Hugo Loser ribbon for her badge, and she’ll be welcome at my Hugo Loser Party.

Six Days Left

July 25, 2015 at 1:06 pm
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Less than a week remains to cast a vote for this year’s Hugo Awards. Voting closes on July 31, but it would be wise not to wait until the last day. Sasquan has already warned that its servers may overload if there is too large a rush of last-minute ballots. Remember, you can vote NOW, even if you haven’t finished reading, and return later to change your ballot once you’ve read more.

The ballot is here:

And of course, you need to be a member of worldcon (Supporting or Attending, either will do) and secure a PIN to be able to vote.

You can join here:

Membership also allows you to vote for site selection for the 2017 worldcon. There are four contenders: Japan, Montreal, Washington DC, and Helsinki.

Parris and I are supporters of the Helsinki bid. I was GOH at Finncon a few years ago, and at Archipelacon more recently, and the Finnish fans are wonderful. Also, I favor making worldcon truly a global affair, which means going outside the US from time to time. Finland has never had a worldcon. Montreal and Japan are also outside the US, of course, but both have hosted worldcons in the recent past. I missed the Japanese worldcon, but I understand that it is still massively in debt, so going back there so soon seems unwise. I did attend the Montreal worldcon, and it was one of the worst-run in recent memory, with a truly horrendous hotel and party situation. On the other hand, Washington DC has not had a worldcon since 1974, and the Washington bid is a very strong one, with a great concom and great facilities. They are probably the favorite this year, and in any other year I’d be backing them too. This year, though… it’s still Helsinki for us.

How you choose to vote is, of course, entirely up to you.

As for the Hugo Awards proper… I do not have the time or the space or the energy to share my own views on every story and book and writer on the ballot. This is by no means a normal Hugo year, however; Puppygate has plunged all fandom into war as never before. So I will recap a few of my own views from previous blog posts downstream.

I oppose the “nuclear option” of voting No Award down the board, to protest the hijacking of the ballot by the Sad and Rabid Puppies.

I favor reading the work, and voting for the stories, books, and writers you feel are worthy of a Hugo. Those you do NOT feel are worthy of the Hugo can and should be ranked below No Award or left off your ballot entirely.

This does not mean I am entirely opposed to voting No Award in all cases. Far from it. Having now finished most (not quite all) of my Hugo reading, I can say that I will probably be voting No Award myself in… hmmm… at least three categories, maybe four, maybe even five. These are categories where in my judgement none of the nominated work is worthy of a rocket.

But in those categories where I do find one or more nominees to be of sufficient quality, I will be voting for him or her or them, regardless of whether or not they were on a slate. And yes, this is true even if only one nominee is worthy. To throw out that one worthy nominee because they “had no real competition” (as some have suggested) seems wrong-headed to me. If it is worthy of a Hugo, give it a Hugo, that’s what I say.

Let me be specific here. Short Form Editor, Long Form Editor are all slate, but there are nominees in both who deserve a Hugo, and I’ll be voting for them. The Puppies liked a lot (though not all) of the nominees in the two Dramatic Presentation categories as well… but you know, so did I, so I’ll be voting for those as well. Sorry, but IMNSHO, only an idiot would want to “no award” GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY or INTERSTELLAR because the Puppies slated them. I am not going to tell you which movie or TV show or editor or novel I am voting for. I’ve mentioned some that I liked in older blog posts. Your mileage may vary; read, watch, consider, vote.

I will, however, make one exception there, one “endorsement,” if you will. I am voting for LAURA MIXON for Best Fan Writer, and I urge everyone reading this to do the same. (Hardly a surprise, I know, since I suggested that she be nominated in the first place). Having looked at the Hugo packet, I can say with a fair amount of certainty that Laura is plainly the best writer of the five nominees… but there’s more to my choice than that. In this year of all years, with Puppygate turning so toxic and hatespeech spreading all over the internet, it behooves us more than ever to honor someone who spoke up AGAINST Hate and for healing, not by spewing vitriol in retaliation, but calmly, dispassionately, with clean hands and composure and… most of all… compassion. A victory for Mixon here would have huge symbolic value, I think; a vote for her is a vote for decency, and a vote against the trolls and haters of all stripes and persuasions, be they left-wing or right-wing or just loony.


FILE 770 reports that Sasquan membership has passed 10,000, and that more than 2900 Hugo ballots have already been cast. The record was set last year at Loncon, when 3587 ballots were received. Given the Puppygate war, there’s a good chance that Sasquan will break that record, since it seems memberships are still pouring in.

Six days left.

Let your voice be heard.

A Family Reunion

July 23, 2015 at 11:49 pm
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We are now less than a month away from worldcon. On Tuesday, August 18, Parris and I and some friends will be boarding a jet plane for Spokane, returning the following Tuesday. With the convention — and the Hugo awards — looming ever closer, I have been giving a lot of thought to what this worldcon might be like.

Sasquan will be the 73rd World Science Fiction Convention. For me, it will be the 41st (I just counted). That’s a lot. My first was Noreascon I in Boston, in 1971. I’ve missed a few along the way, most recently the one in Japan in 2007, but for the most part I have been going ever since, and I imagine I will continue going until the year finally comes when my name and picture show up in the “In Memoriam” portion of the Hugo Awards. (Not this year, I trust. Even if my head did get bitten off by a shark. Not for many years to come, I hope).

Truth be told, six months ago I was seriously considering skipping Sasquan. Not something I do lightly, given my history, given how much I have loved worldcon over the years. But I’ve been to Spokane, and while it seemed a pleasant enough town I wasn’t dying to see it again… and I do have a lot on my plate right now. But that was before Puppygate. Once that kerfuffle broke, I knew I could not possibly stay away. When your family is being attacked, lied about, and threatened that’s not the time you want to skip the family reunion.

And fandom is a family to me, a family of friends that I love as much as I love the family I was born into back in Jersey. I realized that way back in 1971, at that first worldcon. “These are my people,” I thought. “This is my world. I belong here. I want to be a part of it.” And so I have been, lo these many years. Worldcon is the annual family reunion, the gathering of all the clans and tribes… and the Hugo Awards are our moveable feast.

The approach of Sasquan has got me thinking about worldcons (and awards ceremonies) past, so I thought I’d share a few pictures from my own family albums.

That picture up above of the goof in the yellow turtleneck is me at my second worldcon, Torcon 2 in Toronto, 1973. That was the first year of the John W. Campbell New Writer Award, and I was a nominee. I lost (so I have that in common with Larry Correia and Brad Torgersen). Here’s the guy who won it, with his plaque:

Note the victory cigar; you could smoke at cons in those days. Also note the lack of the tiara. The Campbell tiara was decades in the future. Also, I pity the fool who tries to put a tiara on Jerry Pournelle, then or now. Vote totals were never released in those days, but it was a close race that year, so close that the Torcon people actually gave a runner-up plaque to the second-place finisher, Geo. Alec Effinger. Nothing for the other four nominees, of course, and Gardner Dozois wasn’t sure that a Campbell Award loser even qualified for membership in his “Hugo Losers Club.” We argued about it the rest of the con, and he finally said, okay, I could be a loser.

((Unlike other, more recent, losers I did not take my defeat as evidence that the system was broken, the vote was rigged, or I was the victim of prejudice against lapsed Catholics from New Jersey. I just told myself to write more, and write better, and maybe I’d win one of those rockets one day. Comes of growing up a Brooklyn Dodgers fan. “Wait till next year” is a saner, healthier response than “I lost, something must be rotten.”))

Next year, 1974, I was nominated for a Hugo, as it happened… but I lost that too. Now, Gardner informed me, I was a real, full-fledged member of the Hugo Losers Club.

But in 1975 something truly strange happened. I was nominated again, and I won, for “A Song for Lya.”

If I happen to look queerly like Ben Bova in that picture, that’s because it’s him. Worldcon was in Australia that year, and I couldn’t afford to go. I was at home in Chicago in my underwear when the phone rang and they told me that I’d won. So Ben accepted for me, and stopped in Minneapolis on the way home to give my Hugo to Gordy Dickson. Who held it for a while, then passed it along to Joe Haldeman when Joe and Gay visited from Iowa. Joe kept it on his desk for a few months but finally brought it to the first Windycon, where I finally got it. (Gardner threw me out of the Hugo Losers Club when he heard).

The Hugo Awards have been an important part of worldcon for half a century… but there’s a lot else that goes on at worldcons as well. Panels, readings, the masquerade, the huckster’s room, filksinging, regency dances, dum-dums (well, not for a while), parties, parties, parties… and yes, romance too. Friendship, flirting, love, sex, skinny dipping (back then, not so much these days), one-night stands and lifelong love affairs. And marriages… including my own.

Here’s me with my first wife, Gale Burnick, at Suncon. That was Miami Beach, 1977, and it rained cats and dogs the whole damn con.

I still have that hat, which I got in Orlando at Disney World on the way to the con. I no longer have that wife, however.

Here’s me with Parris, a few years after my divorce, at LACon II in Anaheim, 1984 (note the rats). For me, the second time was the charm; I got it right.

I met both of my wives at science fiction conventions, as it happens. Love and romance and friendship are all easier when you have something in common, and for us, that was SF and fantasy and fandom. SF cons are a lot more than just the “professional conferences” that some neopros mistake them for; in fact, they are really not professional conferences at all (which is not to say you cannot do business there).

But back to those Hugo awards. Here’s a blurry picture of one of the greatest nights of my life: Hugo night at Noreascon II in Boston, 1980, the night I became the first guy ever to win two Hugos for fiction in a single night (Jack Gaughan had done it earlier for artwork). I won Short Story and Novelette, for “The Way of Cross and Dragon” and “Sandkings.”

I figured that, whatever else might happen, that two-in-one-night record would last a long long time. Hoo hah. Gordy Dickson duplicated the feat the very next year, at Denvention in 1981. I was the presenter who opened the envelope and gave him the first of his two, for Novelette, whereupon we both sat down, and he immediately bounced up again to win for Novella, defeating one of my own stories for the double. I was back to being a loser. But you know, I didn’t really mind. Win some, lose some… then lose some more. The chant of the Hugo loser. But it is a rare and precious thing to be a Hugo Loser.

The night that Gordy won the double will always be legendary in worldcon lore. Edward Bryant was the toastmaster that year, and decided to present the Hugos on roller skates.

Ed’s bit was very funny… though maybe less so for Ed, since the stage tilted a little and he was always rolling forward and threatening to go off the edge. Maybe he should have gone with his first notion, and made his entrance on the back of an elephant.

See, here’s another secret about the Hugo Awards that the Puppies don’t seem to get. They are supposed to be FUN. Win or lose, it is a celebration, not a war.

And sometimes the losers have the most fun. Which brings me, in a round-about way, to the Hugo Losers Party, a worldcon tradition since Big Mac in 1976.

Up above, I made mention of the Hugo Losers Club that Gardner Dozois had started. Until ’76, this organization existed only in Gargy’s fevered brain. But at Big Mac, four years before that magical night when I would win two Hugos, I lost two in a single night. One to Larry Niven, one to Roger Zelazny; I like to lose to the best. Afterward my friends patted me on the back and told me I’d been robbed, which is what friends do, and Gardner said he’d forgive me for winning that Hugo the previous year in Australia and let me back into the Hugo Losers Club.

And somewhere in there, between the third beer and the fourth, we decided the Hugo Losers should have a party. My hotel room was chosen as the venue, Monday night for the time (later the party would always be on Hugo night, but that first one was more of a dead dog). We scrounged our booze by going around to all the other parties and begging leftovers, so we had some box wine and a lot of Old Milwaukee beer and some smuggled Coors. Gardner took on the role of doorman, so only true losers could get in: winners who dared appear were pelted with cheese doodles and booed lustily. I got as drunk as I have ever gotten and ended up standing on the desk, leading the losers in a LOOOOOOOOOSE chant modeled on Bob Tucker’s famous SMOOOOOOOOOTH. But Bob always passed around a bottle of Beam’s Choice, and we were passing Boone’s Farm, I think. (Good enough for losers).

Ah, that was an epic night. The stories I could tell. (And will, if you ply me with booze at Sasquan, but it had best not be Boone’s Farm, I’m not as desperate as I was). LOCUS wrote us up as the best party of the convention. The Hugo Losers Party became a legend.

Then, of course, it became a tradition. Gardner and I ran another one at Suncon in 1977, and yet another at Iguanacon in 1978 (I lost my first novel Hugo that year). I don’t think there was one in 1979, but don’t know for sure… that year worldcon was in England, and I didn’t have the money to go. But the Hugo Losers party came back big in 1980, at Noreascon II. That blurry picture up above? That’s me, entering the Hugo Losers Party with two Hugos in my hands. Such hubris cannot go unpunished. Nor did it. Please note the man lurking behind me. That’s Gardner, smiling innocently. A few moment later, when my back was turned, he produced a can of whipped cream and sprayed it all over my head. Sic Semper Victorius.

I was hoping to be sprayed again the following year, at Denvention… but damn it, I lost again, this time to Gordy, as related above, so once again I became a Loser in good standing. I did get to welcome my old friend Howard Waldrop to the club, since he lost his first Hugo that night, also to Gordy. (Howard has in fact never won a Hugo, so if he’s not the current Bull Goose Loser, he is surely close). Here’s me presenting a consolation prize to him at that year’s Hugo Loser Party, a faux “special issue” F&SF cover (some of the stories illustrated there had not even been written yet, but would be). ((One of these years F&SF should do a real Howard Waldrop special issue, he surely deserves it)).

The Denvention Hugo Losers party was another of the legendary ones. Rusty Hevelin was Fan GOH and he let us use his suite, which was huge… but so many losers packed in that you could hardly move, so we had to pretend to close the party and throw half of them out. (The ones who left were the real losers, heh heh).

Sometime after Denver, the Hugo Losers Party passed into other hands. It continued to be held, but slowly, as years and decades passed, it changed. It became quasi-official, held every year immediately after the Hugos. Somehow the tradition developed that the party should be hosted by the next year’s worldcon. The event got fancier and more upscale, sometimes held in suites, but more often in convention center or hotel function rooms, with hors d’oevres and cash bars and a list of who could be admitted and who could not. Some years only the current year’s Hugo losers were allowed in, while past year losers were turned away… and… shudder… WINNERS were admitted with nary a boo, and nary a cheese doodle tossed in their direction.

People still did anything to get in. Look:

I don’t know if the disguise worked. But I do know that in other years, even Gardner was turned away from the party he had founded. For shame, for shame.

Even more shamefully, a few years back some irony-impaired nominees decided that they did not like being called “losers,” and to soothe their sensitivities the party was renamed “the Post-Hugo Nominees Reception,” or something similarly lame. (Everyone but the terminally humorless still calls it the Hugo Losers Party, of course). And so it went and so it went, right up to LonCon, where Sasquan hosted what had to be the lamest, dreariest, more boring Hugo Losers Party of all time. Or should I say, the worst Post-Hugo Nominees Reception.

Which brings me back to Sasquan. Following the current tradition, next year’s worldcon has to host a party… and I know the KC folks know how to throw a party, so I have no doubt their bash will be a lot better than the dreary one in London. But it will still be a Post-Hugo Nominees Reception.

Worldcon deserves better. Especially this year, after Puppygate and the deep wounds that Puppygate has inflicted on fandom, our genre, and the Hugos. So it’s time for the trufans to do what we do best…

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I am taking back the Hugo Losers Party. It’s gonna be EPIC.

Fuck 1999. Let’s party like it’s 1976. ]]>