Making Movies

Hey girls, you know that thing where you have been asked to be interviewed for an educational film, so you get your hair done specially and you spend ages agonizing over what to wear and doing your make-up, and the two guys who are on with you rock up, look at you, and go, “oh, I just threw something on this morning…”

Of course I knew this was the way things were when I signed up for the woman gig. Also I enjoy the whole dressing up thing, so I’m not complaining. But I also know that when the film gets shown people watching it will glaze over the gay guy and the trans guy on it, but will go on endlessly about how unconvincing I look and how everyone can tell I’m “really a man”. Because that too is the way the world is.

Dysphoria. It is real because other people really do judge you.

Posted in Gender, Personal | Leave a comment

Finns for Hugos

Yeah, I am lamentably late publishing anything for Women in Translation Month. It is, after all, the last day of August. But I didn’t want to talk about these two books until the current year’s Hugo excitement was over, because they are both candidates for next year.

It would be nice to have a Finnish author or two on the ballot in Helsinki, wouldn’t it?

Of course, this being Finland, both books are by women, and both have strongly feminist themes. I wouldn’t expect anything less of my amazing Finnish friends. Both are translations. But there the similarities end. The Core of the Sun by Johanna Sinisalo was originally written in Finnish and is science fiction. Maresi by Maria Turtschaninoff was originally written in Swedish and is YA fantasy. Both are great books in their own way.

So if you’d like to know more, check out my reviews. You can find The Core of the Sun here, and Maresi here.

Posted in Books, Feminism, Finland | 2 Comments

Parsec Award Announcement Coming Soon

The winners of this year’s Parsec Awards will be announced at Dragon*Con this weekend. I’ll be keeping a close eye on the announcement.

As you may know, the Parsecs are given for achievement in speculative fiction podcasting. Salon Futura isn’t up for anything, which doesn’t surprise me as uploads are anything but regular. Besides, you have to submit your podcast in order to be considered, so I’m clearly full of FAIL on that account. However, quite a few people I know are among the finalists.

There are no Clarkesworld stories up in the fiction categories, which may be because Neil didn’t submit any. However, Beneath Ceaseless Skies has a few contenders. Also both Uncanny and Strange Horizons are finalists in the Best Speculative Fiction Magazine or Anthology category. Verity, the all-woman Doctor Who podcast, is a finalist in the Best Speculative Fiction Fan or News Podcast (Specific), which will give Tansy something to crow about after the torrent of awards that have been heaped on Alisa and Alex for Letters to Tiptree.

However, the category that I am most interested in is Best Speculative Fiction Audio Drama (Short Form). That’s because one of the finalists is Ray Gunn and Starburst, written by my good friend ‘Olly Rose. There will be a great deal of celebrating done in Bath if the results go the right way.

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Mike Carey in the Salon – Part I

Today on Salon Futura I posted the audio from my interview with Mike Carey on Ujima Women’s Outlook back in May. We were mainly discussing his latest novel, Fellside, but conversation also strayed onto The Girl with All the Gifts and the X-Men.

Mike’s comments are particularly interesting in view of the US Department of Justice’s recent decision to stop using private prisons. Whether the UK will follow suit is very much open to debate.

As I note in the interview, I was also scheduled to interview Mike at Waterstones that evening. I have edited the audio from that and hope to have it online for you later this week. In the meantime, here is Part I.

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YA and Gender Conference, Italy 2017

Hello academic pals. Here is a conference that you may be interested in. It is called Literature, Translation, and Mediation by and for Children: Gender, Diversity, and Stereotype, and it will take place at the University of Bologna at Forlì in October 2017. That’s a fair way off, but abstracts have to be in by January 31st so you don’t as much time as it seems.

You may be asking why I am recommending this. Well, obviously the subject matter is of interest. But in addition one of the organizers of the conference is Dr. Raffaella Baccolini who was the scholar Guest of Honor at Finncon this year. She’s very smart, and a lovely person. I’m sure she’ll put on a great conference.

Also, there’s the location. Forlì is not actually in Bologna. It is a little way south-east thereof. It is actually closer to Ravenna than Bologna, and if I am going to be in the area there’s no way I am not going to see those mosaics and to pay my respects to Theodora. About half way between Bologna and Forlì there’s a little town called Imola, which is home to the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari, one time home of the San Marino Grand Prix. And of course San Marino itself is just a little further along the main road from Forlì.

Actually, to be frank, if I’m going to Italy then I have to go to Rome too because there are things in the Capitoline Museum that I need to see. I would love to go to Pompeii as well, but I don’t know how far the budget will stretch.

Anyway, it sounds like an amazing opportunity, and I shall certainly be submitting a paper. Hopefully some of you folks will be interested in going too. I don’t want to have to consume all of that great Italian food and wine by myself.

You can find the Call for Papers here.

Posted in Academic, Conventions, Formula 1, History | Leave a comment

Whisky Tasting Redux

As Twitter followers will know, last night I attended a whisky tasting given by the fabulous folks at Independent Spirit in Bath. Chris Scullion is enormously knowledgeable about whisky and always worth listening to. Last night’s tasting focused on things that were new in stock, so it was a bit of a mixed bag.

There are a couple of things I want to mention from last night. The first is the question of non-proprietary bottlings. Normally whisky distilleries are incredibly protective of their brands. Nevertheless, casks of malt whisky do sometimes find their way onto the market. Mostly these are sold with made-up names, though the disguise is often tissue-thin. Once in a while, however, the independent bottler will do a really good job and the distillery will allow the use of their name. The final whisky in last night’s tasting was a 7-year-old Talisker from Douglas Laing which does bear the distillery name. Very nice it was too.

One of the malts in the tasting was a Tullibardine. That’s not a well-known distillery, but it is notable for two reasons. Firstly the bottles carry a date of 1488. That’s the year in which King James IV of Scotland stopped by to purchase beer for his coronation. Making whisky is a much more recent activity at the site, but the distillery still proudly trumpets its royal connection.

Tullibardine, however, is no longer Scottish owned. The current owners are a French family who are primarily in the wine business. Their name is Picard, and we all know what that will mean some time in the far future. For now, however, it just means that they have access to some very interesting barrels in which to mature the whisky. The malt that we had last night was the Tullibardine 225, which is matured in Sauternes casks. That gives it a very different, and very fruity, flavor. They also do the Tullibardine 228 which is matured in Burgundy casks. Personally I prefer the 225, but they are both very interesting.

My thanks again to Chris for a fabulous evening. If you do happen to be in Bath, do pop into the shop and say hello.

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Paul Cornell in The Salon

Here’s another Ujima interview that I am posting because the Listen Again link has expired. In keeping with our theme of Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Who, here is Paul Cornell.

Obviously the main topic of conversation was Paul’s Shadow Police novel, Who Killed Sherlock Holmes. We also discussed some of his other projects, including This Damned Band which is now available as a graphic novel. Along the way we discuss diversity in fiction, fandom, and why a vicar’s husband is so obsessed with devil worship. At one point I do actually say, “this interview has gone completely off the rails”, which I guess shows you how much fun Paul and I were having.

If you haven’t bought Who Killed Sherlock Holmes yet, you might like to listen to Paul read from it at his recent BristolCon Fringe appearance.

Next week, Mike Carey.

Posted in Books, Comics, Podcasts, Radio | Leave a comment

Changes Afoot at Charing Cross Gender Clinic

News broke this afternoon that Charing Cross Gender Identity Clinic is severing its relationship with its current host, West London Mental Health Trust. In a statement the Trust said:

The Board has made a decision that the medium-term strategic focus for the Trust will be to develop mental health services, physical care and integration between the two.

As a result, the Trust has come to the conclusion that patients requiring gender identity services would be better served in the long term by another provider, and has therefore served notice on our contract to NHS England.

Gay Star News, who are not averse to a big of clickbait, followed this up with a report saying that the clinic was about to close, and that this was brought about by a massive increase in demand. Neither of these things appear to be true, at least in the short term. WLMHT makes it clear in their announcement that they intend to continue services until a new host is found for the clinic. While they do mention increased demand in the announcement, they do not blame it for their decision.

Charing Cross has been in the forefront of gender medicine in the UK since at least the 1930s, and for a long time was the only clinic in the country. It is still the only clinic serving the heavily populated South-East of the country, and the whole of Wales because the Welsh government has been shamefully remiss in failing to provide a proper service for trans citizens. Even some of my friends around the Bristol-Bath area attend Charing Cross rather than the more local Exeter clinic. Losing it would be a major blow, but it is by no means clear what will happen.

Dr. Stuart Lorimer, a widely respected gender specialist with a long history at Charing Cross, popped up on Twitter to say that the decision to cut ties with WLMHT had been made by the clinic, not by the Trust.

He also noted that the clinic had alternate hosts already in mind.

I can certainly see the advantage of trans services not being so clearly associated with a mental health trust. Equally it is true that Charing Cross has been a problem for WLMHT. I doubt that the Trust’s management will have been pleased with this report by the Quality Care Commission. It is difficult to know whose spin to believe here. Possibly there was simply a breakdown of relationships and a need for a new start.

What is clear is that, to coin a well worn political phrase, Something Must Be Done. Because an awful lot of trans people are dependent on Charging Cross and will be very worried about their future right now.

Hopefully this will be an opportunity for Welsh trans activists to pressure their government for a local service. The Assembly has done a lot of talking but very little spending of money. It is time for that to change.

I also know that Caroline Lucas, the MP for Brighton Pavilion, has been pestering NHS England for a GIC in her city to serve its very large trans population. This may help her cause.

Equally hopefully, one of the organizations that Dr. Lorimer has in mind will come through and take on the job of managing the clinic. They might do a better job. Certainly there’s room for improvement. What worries me is what happens if no London-based NHS organization is willing to take up the challenge.

Indeed, it is worrying that an NHS Trust can say publicly that it doesn’t want to provide services to trans people any more and is dumping them, because that’s what the WLMHT press release says. It may not be true, but if it is what is to stop other NHS trusts all over the country from doing the same?

The alternative is that NHS England will give the contract to a private provider. I note that Dr. Lorimer and some colleagues recently set up a private consultancy providing gender services. I have seen some trans people already expressing concern about this. An NHS England contract would presumably stipulate the certain services had to be provided for free, but a private operator would always be looking to squeeze more profit out of the service and would be likely to cut and run if it could not make enough money doing it.

All in all, it is a mess, and a mess that is likely to continue while there is no serious commitment from government to provide health care for trans people. (Or indeed any health care for anyone where some Tory MPs are concerned.)

Update: Dr. James Barrett, the Lead Consultant at Charing Cross GIC has issued a statement. Dr. Lorimer has distributed it via Twitter:

That certainly confirms that the clinic feels that the break happened on their initiative. It doesn’t explain why the WLMHT saw fit to claim that the break was their decision. All in all it seems like there is a breakdown of the relationship between the Trust and the GIC, in view of which perhaps a parting of ways is for the best.

Posted in Gender, Health | Leave a comment

On the LGBT Trail in the British Museum

Last Friday I had a day in London which I spent mainly doing research in the British Museum. Part of that involved following up items in R.B. Parkinson’s fine book, A Little Gay History. However, I found that several of the items in it are not currently on display, and I found quite a few more than might have been featured.

This post is photo-heavy and quite long so I am putting the rest of it behind a cut.
Continue reading

Posted in Gender, History | 8 Comments

Cavan Scott in The Salon

I have been working on processing some of the interview material that I did for Ujima and has now vanished from the Listen Again service. This week will be mainly about Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Who, with a bit of Star Wars and The Beano thrown in. I’m starting up with Cavan Scott who does all of those things. Later in the week I’ll bring you Paul Cornell as well.

Here’s Cav. I had the poor man in the studio for a whole hour. With the music, news and ads removed it boils down to about half of that. Among other things we talk about how he came to have the #1 selling book in the whole of the UK.

Posted in Books, Comics, Podcasts, Radio, Salon Futura | Leave a comment

Hugos Best Dressed Award, 2016

Back when I was doing Emerald City I started an award for the best dressed person at the Hugos. It is hard doing it when I’m not actually at the ceremony, but being a hopeless fashionista I try to keep up the practice as much as possible. My apologies to all of the people whose fabulous outfits have not got onto teh intrawebs. Next year I will include you all.

I do try to include the guys as well. Sadly far too many of them seem slaves to oppressive Western cultural traditions and turn up in boring suits because that’s the only thing that is socially acceptable. I think they need a liberation movement. I miss having Charlie Stross and Cory Doctorow to liven things up. It’s a shame that Chuck Tingle wasn’t there. I’m sure he would have put on a good show.

Having two women host the ceremony certainly got us off to a good start. Both Pat Cadigan and Jan Siegel looked lovely. Jan dear, I now have serious cleavage envy.

Lynne Thomas always looks lovely at these things, and it is no surprise that someone in the audience yelled out “best dress” when she came on stage. Sadly she’s not a winner this year.

I didn’t see Zoe Quinn’s entire outfit, but she gets an honorable mention for these adorable unicorn shoes.

Photo by Lyda Morehouse

There’s an honorable mention also for Michi Trota, who not only gave the best speech of the evening but also had a fabulous necklace.


Runner up, Hao Jingfang, bravely bucked the ballgown trend and looked positively angelic. Sorry about the poor picture quality, it was the best I could find.


However, the winner was called by Pat from the stage, and who am I, a mere mortal, to contradict her word? Besides, she’s right (as usual). Therefore, for not only looking utterly gorgeous, but also fitting in perfectly with the artistic theme of the convention, the Emerald City Best Dressed at the Hugos Award goes to Alyssa Wong.

Photo by John Scalzi

Posted in Awards, Clothes | Leave a comment

Africa Gets Speculative

While the world’s attention has been on Kansas City, exciting things have been happening in Africa. Yesterday saw the official launch of the African Speculative Fiction Society. They already have their own awards, the Nommos (named after characters from Dogon cosmology). I hope that in due course there will be equivalent of Eurocon bringing science fiction and fantasy goodness to countries all around the continent.

Tade Thompson, who is the UK regional officer for ASFS, is due to be on my radio show later this year when his latest novel is out. I’ll be asking him about the new society then.

Posted in Science Fiction | Leave a comment

Hugos in the News

One of the effects of the Puppies has been to bring the Hugos to the attention of the mainstream media. A lot of the coverage has, of course, been embarrassing, but now that the Awards are a subject for discussion we are starting to see more serious coverage, and more general interest around the world.

So, for example, I was very pleased to see this coverage of the Awards in a youth-focused news site based in India. Hopefully that is giving young Indian writers dreams of rockets in their future.

Of course Nnedi has a point:

All of the fiction winners this year are really good, and it would be nice to see them get celebrated for that rather than for their dealing yet another defeat to the Puppies.

China at least has got it’s act together and is enthusiastically celebrating a second win. The South China Morning Post majors on the fact that Hao Jingfang beat Stephen King to the trophy, whole The Shanghaiist notes that Hao has two published novels that I hope will now get translated.

Hao, however, is no stranger to mainstream news. Her story was actually cited in The Economist back in July. Another political news site, Quartz, picked up the story after her win.

Newspapers in the Philippines have also taken note of what went down in Kansas City. Here’s The Inquirer celebrating Michi Trota’s win.

Next year, of course, we will get to see what Finnish newspapers make of Worldcon. The Helsinki Sanomat has generally had good coverage of FinnCon so I’m looking forward to seeing what they do for the big show.

Posted in Awards, Journalism | 2 Comments

WSFS Has Spoken – What Does It Mean?

Over the long weekend the World Science Fiction Society Business Meeting met several times. It was a marathon, much longer than is usual at Worldcon, because there was a lot to discuss. So much so, in fact, that I’m not going to attempt to cover it all in one post. This post, which is quite long enough, will be devoted solely to measures that affect how the Hugo Awards are conducted. The majority of these measures were intended, in some way or another, to combat the efforts of Pox Day and his Rabid Crypuppies.

Of course I was not actually at any of the meetings. However, video of the meetings has been posted online, and I am particularly indebted to Mx. Rachael Acks for their superb live-blogging of the meetings.

I want to start with the theory that the Puppy Problem will go away because they will get bored of pumping their money into voting when it is clear that they can’t actually game the final ballot and will those always end up getting thumped with a No Award. Pox may think that by putting people like Neil Gaiman on his slate that he can claim to have “won” because so many other people love Neil’s work too, but Neil has made it very clear that he dislikes the Puppy project just as much as anyone else.

An analysis on the Chaos Horizon website makes the claim that the Puppies are already running out of steam because Pox got 437 nominations for Editor: Long Form in the first round of voting, but only 165 first preference votes. They attribute this to large numbers of Puppies having participated in the nominating stage on the strength of the two-year eligibility rule for that part of the voting, but being unwilling to splash an additional $50 on a supporting membership of MidAmeriCon II to be able to vote on the final ballot.

This analysis is somewhat flawed because the voting methods are different. You get five equally weighted votes in the nominations, but have to rank them in the final ballot. There’s no guarantee that every Puppy voter will have put their Glorious Leader in first place when other Puppy Picks are available. Pox was eliminated fairly quickly in Editor: Long Form, so we can’t gauge the level of support he had in preferences. However, in Fanzine, where far fewer people cast ballots, the Castalia House Blog ended up with 298 votes in the final round of redistribution.

Still, 298 is a lot fewer than 437, and I’m not entirely surprised that some of the Puppy supporters have given up. Pox may be able to convince himself that he’s winning, but his fans will be a lot less invested in his infallibility. As the Puppies will have to pony up cash again to nominate next year, we may see rather fewer of them.

I want now to look at a couple of measures that were not specifically aimed at the Puppies, but which are relevant to the way in which the votes are counted and which will feed into the discussion later. Both are measures which received first passage at Sasquan last year and were ratified this year, so they will be in operation in Helsinki.

The first measure removes the requirement for finalists to have at least 5% of the vote. This is the rule that resulted in us having fewer than 5 finalists in Short Story for several years because the nominations were so diverse. One of the arguments for keeping it was that we may end up with lots of finalists because of a big tie for 5th place. That now may not happen, for reasons I shall explain later.

The other measure is the so-called Nominee Diversity motion, which is specifically aimed at the Dramatic Presentation: Short Form category. Basically it means that if there are lots of Doctor Who episodes on the final ballot, they must all be written by different people (or possibly not — see updates below). The salient point here is that WSFS members have got fed up of having a category for TV episodes in which almost every finalist comes from the same show (that’s definitely right). This too has relevance for later discussion.

The first set of specifically anti-Puppy measures to be discussed were those intended to limit participation in the voting pool. Currently you can participate in the nominating stage if you have a membership in the current Worldcon, the previous one, or the next one. There were motions to cut this down to just the current and previous years, and to the current year only. The former was passed (and requires ratification next year), the latter was not.

I’ve been a bit concerned about these motions because I don’t like the idea of us retreating into elitism as an anti-Puppy measure. We should be encouraging participation, not discouraging it. Having seen the debate, I think we did the right thing.

The right to nominate if you are a member of the following year’s Worldcon is a relatively new thing, and it is now opposed by experienced Hugo Administrators who cite problems with the system. There’s no doubt who is a member of the previous year’s Worldcon. No one is going to be joining it after it has happened. Next year’s convention, on the other hand, has a growing membership, and that leads to a requirement to coordinate closely with that event to ensure that everyone who has a right to vote can do so.

That would be OK if it meant that lots of new people were getting to vote, but most of the people who join a Worldcon more than a year in advance are WSFS regulars who join every year. We were told that including next year’s members resulted in the franchise being extended to very few additional people, and it wasn’t worth the effort.

Restricting nominating rights to just the current year is a different matter. From the debate that was very clearly an attempt to make it more expensive to vote. Also, as Lisa Hayes cogently pointed out, many people join Worldcon the current too late to participate in the nominations stage, or even the final ballot. The two year system gives those people a stake in the Hugos, which is a Good Thing.

Well done, Business Meeting, in both of those cases. We seem to have got it right.

Now we get to the serious changes in the voting mechanism. First up was a new proposal, Three Stage Voting (3SV), which I discussed before the convention. At the time most of the negative points I had seen made were about the additional load placed on the Hugo Administrators, which I addressed. At the Business Meeting three new groups of objections emerged.

The first was that the proposed calendar simply didn’t allow enough time for everyone to read and judge 15 semi-finalists in each category. That’s a fair point, and I’d like to see if any adjustments could be made to give people more time. However, it is also true that no one has enough time to read every eligible work before the nominations stage, and yet we still have it, so I’m not sure that this objection holds water.

Some people were also concerned that 3SV could be used by the Puppies to kick deserving finalists off the ballot. I’m not worried about this. The threshold to remove a potential finalist is quite high, and the Puppies have proved twice now that they just don’t have the numbers to game anything other than the nominations.

The final objection was that 3SV is purely a negative proposal designed to kick Puppy Picks off the final ballot. Effectively it is a proposal to move the process of No Awarding forward in time so that we end up with 5 finalists in each category, each of which people are happy do not need to be thumped with a No Award.

No one (expect possibly Pox and his cult followers) particularly likes how contentious the Hugos have become. But using No Award is a wholly negative action and we have been doing that a lot lately. 3SV doesn’t make the process more negative, it just moves the negativity to an earlier stage of the process.

At this point I should note that when I first wrote about 3SV I did not fully understand how it was proposed to work. I apologize profusely for this. Kevin has since put me right, but there was no time to go into the detail before the convention as a complicated amendment would have been required.

I thought that in stage 2 of 3SV we’d be allowed to up-vote works on the long lists as well as down-vote them. It seemed obvious to me that we would want to do that. However, the current proposal only allows for down-voting.

Allowing up-voting as well would have two benefits. Firstly it would allow people to change their votes based on items on the long lists that they had not heard about before. It is by no means unheard of for a work that got the fewest nominations to win the final ballot, because being on the final ballot exposes it to a lot more readers. Allowing up-voting in stage 2 would enhance that effect. In addition, if we had up-voting, the second stage would be much less of a solely Puppy-kicking exercise.

Kevin tells me that the proposers of 3SV decided not to allow up-voting because they feared that people would demand that the Voter Packet include all 15 items in each category on the long list, which would be a massively complex operation. I think that was foolish, for two reasons:

  1. People will demand to have these works in the Voter Packet anyway. Indeed, someone at the meeting did so.
  2. As I noted the other week, part of the value of 3SV is crowdsourcing eligibility checking. The items on the long list would not have been checked for eligibility so we have a solid excuse for not putting them all in the Voter Packet.

Talking of eligibility checking, Jonathan Cowie pointed out that the nominations statistics for this year show 83 nominations for “The Coode Street Podcast (Jonathan Strahan)” and separately 66 nominations for “Coode Street Podcast (Wolfe/Strahan)”. This is an obvious error. Thankfully, even if the two had been combined, the show would not have made the final ballot, but at least one mistake like that has been made in the past that did affect who got to be a finalist. We need extra eyes on eligibility checking.

Obviously allowing up-voting would be a greater change, and therefore can’t be tacked on during the ratification process next year, but I think it is worth doing. More to the point, I think that WSFS members will demand it, once they get to see all of the good stuff on the long lists that they wish they had nominated.

3SV was passed by the meeting, which then proceeded to discuss ratification of E Pluribus Hugo (EPH), the complicated statistical procedure intended to combat slate voting of the type practiced by the Puppies.

Up until recently, we had no idea what effect EPH would have. This year we had actual test data. There are two reports, one looking at the 2014 and 2015 Hugo Awards, and one looking at this year’s data (they also look at the Retro Hugos from 2014 and 2016, but those tests are not as useful because a lot fewer people vote). The reports are quite long, but the salient points are as follows:

  1. EPH will not get rid of all of the Puppy Picks on the final ballot. At best it will remove one or two.
  2. EPH will also kick off some non-Puppy works. Indeed, in 2014 it would have kicked off one of the eventual winners.
  3. The effect of EPH on the Dramatic Presentation categories is currently unknown because it was not tested on them.

The effect of EPH on this year’s ballot was quite encouraging. It didn’t get rid of all of the Puppy Picks, but it added enough good material to allow a contest in almost every category. That is, there were at least two finalists worth voting for in most of the categories. But not all of them. It made no difference to Fan Artist, and in Fanzine Lady Business again finished sixth. Given the validation of EPH, Black Gate may not have withdrawn.

The effect on previous years was less good, and in particular it is notable that EPH made five changes to the final ballot for 2014, a year in which the Puppies were not active. In particular it kicked Galen Dara out of Professional Artist, a category that she went on to win.

What is going on here? You may well ask. Surely the point of EPH is to defeat slate voting. It should not make any difference to the ballots if there were no slates in operation. But it does, because it detects what we might call “natural slates”. That is, if a whole bunch of people happen to nominate the same works, EPH will penalize that, even if no collusion took place. Algorithms have no political bias. They do their job in all cases.

One thing we can say about this is that it has proved the Puppies have a point. While I am satisfied that there was no SJW slate in operation in 2014, nevertheless EPH found that some categories did indeed suffer from “group think”, and it acted to produce a more diverse set of finalists. I like the idea that Joey Hi-Fi would have been a finalist in 2014.

So I have no objection to the detection of “natural slates”. Politically, however, I suspect it will be a minefield. If, next year, when EPH is used on the actual voting, people who are not on the Puppy slates get eliminated by it, I think that there will be an outcry. Fandom at large is expecting EPH to get rid of all of the Puppies, and no one else. It will not do either. People are not going to be happy.

Another potential issue here is the effect that EPH will have on Helsinki in particular. Finnish fans will presumably want to vote for Finnish works. Because there are a lot fewer Finnish writers than non-Finnish ones, there will be much less diversity in their nominations. I suspect that EPH will see the Finnish votes as a slate and kick some of the nominees off. That too will make some people unhappy, including me.

By far the biggest problem with EPH, however, is its effect on the Dramatic Presentation categories (and my thanks to Martin Easterbrook for alerting me to this). None of the tests presented to the Business Meeting included these categories. Apparently it was too time consuming to do this. So my first question is, what about the poor Hugo Admins for Helsinki who will have to run EPH on those categories? It sounds like they are in for a lot of work.

In addition I note that the Dramatic Presentations are two of the highest profile, and highest participation, categories in the Hugos. If there is a problem with them, there will be serious outrage. If I were being offered a new piece of software and the tests I was shown deliberately excluded two of the most important cases I would have been very worried indeed, and would have sent the people trying to sell me the software packing until they had done all of the tests I wanted.

So what will be the effect of EPH on the Dramatic Presentation categories? I quote from Rachael Acks’ live blog here: “Dramatic presentation will be the most changed category.”

Why? Because these are the categories that have the least diversity in nominees. To EPH, both Dramatic Presentation categories look like slates have been at work, and it will act to diversify the finalists.

To some extent it will be right. The Dramatic Presentation: Short From category has had slate voting of a sort for as long as it has existed. Fans of each series get together online to decide which episode(s) to nominate. No one has cared too much in the past, partly because it is only one category, partly because the slates are not run by arseholes determined to wreck the Awards, and partly because there are several competing slates each year.

However, as we have seen from the passage of the Nominee Diversity amendment, WSFS members have become fed up of Dramatic Presentation: Short From being dominated by Doctor Who every year, and they have acted to try to stop that. EPH will, I think assist with that process. Which is perhaps a good thing.

Except that the Doctor Who fans won’t like it. If they see some the episodes they nominated getting kicked off by EPH I suspect that complaints will be made. In fact, given the amount of dummy-spitting I have seen because of Jessica Jones winning the category this year, I suspect that very vociferous complaints will be made.

Something else that concerned me about EPH is what was said by the people doing the testing. Jameson Quinn was still in favor of EPH, but it is his baby. Dave McCarty was much more reticent. Dave was one of this year’s Hugo Administrators, he’s a past Worldcon chair, and like Kevin and I he is a member of the Hugo Awards Marketing Committee, the people charged with dealing with any bad publicity that the Hugos get. This is what Dave had to say in the testing report:

The changes to the Ballot and Long list are not easily verified and for people reviewing the detailed results at the end the only way to check that the process is working correctly would require access to secret nomination data and significant time. The difficulty in verification means that to check any result requires time which is NOT available to award administrators when it is time to close the nominating and prepare for the Ballot announcement. These are significant hurdles for a process that is generally designed to be open and democratic.

All of which makes me quite worried about the effect that EPH is going to have. Fortunately there is a clause in the motion implementing it that allows us to suspend it for a year at the Business Meeting. So if things go very badly pear-shaped in Helsinki we can keep voting to suspend it until the BM can vote to remove it again.

Having said all of that, EPH does have one unexpected benefit. If you have looked at the testing reports you will see that, whereas the traditional nomination system always gives integral numbers of votes, EPH gives fractional numbers. That’s a result of the algorithm. This will, I think, make it much more difficult for ties to happen, which will remove one of the major worries over the effect of dropping the 5% rule.

Finally, on Puppy issues, the Business Meeting ratified the 4 and 6 proposal. Or rather they didn’t, because they voted to change it to 5 and 6 and ratified that. Yes, they watered it down, making it less effective as an anti-Puppy measure.

Why would they do that? Well partly because they felt it was safe to do so. They had already passed EPH, so they felt the Puppy threat was being dealt with. 5 and 6 is a very different thing to 4 and 6. It is basically a proposal to increase the number of finalists on the ballot. It is a “share the love more widely” exercise. Business Meeting attendees are a bunch of softies at heart, and they tend to like any proposal that means giving out more prizes. They also dislike having anything taken away from them. 4 and 6 would have reduced the number of works they can nominate in each category, whereas 5 and 6 does not.

Overall I think we have made progress this weekend. I am fairly confident that next year’s final ballot will have at least one, hopefully two, deserving winners in each category, even if Pox and his cult do decide to try to piss in our beer again. But I also expect a fair amount of controversy over the fact that EPH does not do what people expected it to do. It will not get rid of all of the Puppy Picks, and it will kick off some non-Puppy finalists.

It’s the Hugo Awards. There will be drama.

Updates: A couple of small but significant changes here. I mis-spelled Jameson Quinn’s name, for which profuse apologies. Also supporting membership of Mac II was $50 (though it is down to $40 for Helsinki and San José).

The other update is a bit more complicated and pending. The Nominee Diversity motion isn’t as clear as I, with my editor hat on, would like. I read it one way. Kevin, with his knowledge of the intent of the proposers, says it means something different. I need to talk to him more about that. What I did miss is that you can have two similar works on the ballot, not just one.

Normally I get Kevin to proof this stuff, but he’s driving home from Worldcon and so has no time to look at anything in detail.

Posted in Awards | 16 Comments

Alfies Update

As I noted yesterday, Tea and Jeopardy won an Alfie this year for being the best placed non-Puppy in the Fancast category. Emma and Pete have done a special episode to mark the occasion. In it Emma has an attack of the squees and the little chickens perform “The Rains of Castamere”. It is hilarious. Give these folks a Hugo next year, folks, they deserve it.

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The Chesleys


The Hugos are by no means the only awards to be given out at Worldcon. Another very significant set of awards is the Chesleys, given by the Association of Science Fiction & Fantasy Artists (ASFA). Locus has a full list of winners and finalists. I’d like to highlight a few that pleased me.

First up, adding to the diversity of the weekend and a fantastic Worldcon for Uncanny Magazine, Best Cover Illustration – Magazine was won by Tran Nguyen for the cover of Uncanny #4 (see above).

Second, Best Art Director was won by Neil Clarke for his work on Clarkesworld, which is an amazing achievement given that he’s up against professional art directors in big publishing houses. Well done, (ex-)Boss!

Kinuko Y. Craft won the Lifetime Artistic Achievement award, which is richly deserved.

And finally a nod to my good friend John Picaccio who picked up Best Product Illustration for one of his Loteria cards (see below).


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Emergency Holographic Kevin

That’s an old Star Trek joke. No one remembers Voyager these days, right?

Anyway, last night there were Hugos, and that meant being up in the middle of the night, because it is my job.

Back in the dim, dark days before Twitter I used to update a blog live from the award ceremony. The SMOFs hated that. Then Twitter happened and everyone did it. With a lot of help from Kevin, what I was doing morphed into an official text-based report on the ceremony run via the CoverItLive (CiL) system. These days, of course, we have live video on UStream as well, but that doesn’t work for everyone due to bandwidth issues. Also UStream doesn’t always hold up, and they seem happy to stick ads in the feed even when the host Worldcon has paid for it to be ad-free. So the text-based coverage has value. These days it is fronted by Kevin and Mur Lafferty, and I help out behind the scenes, mostly by handling the comments. Last night we had over 900 people online following what we had to say.

It does need a team. Basically you need one person to handle the factual stuff — who the finalists are, who won, what is happening on stage; you need one person to handle the comments; and you need someone to be a color commentator and make it entertaining.

The main problem with doing this is that we can never tell how much help we are going to get from the host convention. Sometimes we get none at all; sometimes they are very good; and sometimes we get treated like an enemy that is threatening their brand.

This year, thanks to Dave McCarty, we got details of the results in advance. This was very useful and allowed us to do a lot of advance prep so that we could be more efficient during and after the ceremony. On the downside, we don’t seem to have got any help with Internet access, because when it came time to go live neither Kevin nor Mur could get online. All we had was Kevin tweeting from his phone.

I, however, was sat at home with good quality wired access. So I had to take over running the event. I was reliant on the UStream coverage and Kevin’s tweets to find out what was going on. Thankfully the audience was very patient, and I’m hugely grateful to Susan de Guardiola who took over compiling the lists of nominees and posting them via the CiL comment system so that I could concentrate on other stuff.

The other major problem that we had was that the order of business was not as expected. Traditionally we announce non-Hugo things first, then the Hugo categories in reverse order so that we end with Novel. MidAmeriCon II decided to start with the fan categories, some back to the non-Hugos, and muddle up the order of the rest.

There is, of course, no requirement to do things in a particular order. But equally there is no obvious reason to change. What appears to have happened here is that Mac II’s Hugo Ceremony team decided that fan Hugos are worthless and should be demoted in the pecking order. People have opinions. I don’t care much, except that it made it hard for me to know what was coming up next.

Thankfully, about half way through the show, Kevin and Mur finally managed to get online. Things ran much more smoothly from then on. Also Pat Cadigan and Jan Siegel, who hosted the ceremony, kept things moving quickly so we finished in good time. Thanks to having the data in advance, I was able to get the Hugo Awards website updated fairly quickly after the ceremony, which is just as well as Kevin still had next to no bandwidth. I finally got to bed around 5:00am.

However, practical issues aside it was a pretty good evening. I’m very pleased with most of the results, and not unhappy with any of them. The only real “victory” that the Puppies can claim is, I think, pushing Fury Road into second place behind The Martian. Mostly their picks were either things that lots of other people liked, or they got pushed below No Award.

It is a shame that Fancast and Related Work got thumped with a No Award, but I gather that George Martin did his thing and awarded Alfies to Letters to Tiptree and Tea and Jeopardy. Emma and Pete will hopefully get another shot at a rocket next year.

In the meantime the Business Meeting is busily discussing the various anti-Puppy motions. Next year we should have something worth voting for in every category, though we probably won’t get Puppy-free finalist lists. More on that tomorrow.

Posted in Awards, Conventions | 6 Comments

Congratulations, San José and San Juan

Preliminary site selection results have been announced from Worldcon. These do need to be ratified at today’s Business Meeting, but I’ve never yet seen any issues with that.

Next year’s NASFiC will be in San Juan, Puerto Rico. I know a few people involved with that and am very happy for them.

And the 2018 Worldcon will be in San José, California. That’s my team. I’m absolutely delighted for them.

Kevin Roche and other members of the convention committee will be at the Business Meeting later today to announce the convention name, Guests of Honor and so on. I’ll do a new post when it is all public.

The vote was apparently 675-594. As usual there were a whole bunch of write-ins and I understand that 651 votes were needed for a first round victory.

Our thanks are of course due to the New Orleans bid for a fine and fun contest. Do visit their city. It has some of the best food and music anywhere in the world. But don’t go in August, the weather is terrible.

Some of are no doubt wondering whether I have any plans to be in San José. I would certainly love to go. However, one thing that has been very clear from my interactions with US immigration is that the State Department (who issue visas) and the TSA (who manage border control) do not recognize each other’s authority. Having a visa is not a guarantee of entry. I have no intention of spending a lot of time, money and emotional energy on getting a visa only to find that I get turned back at the airport.

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1941 Hugo Envy


That’s the 1941 Retro Hugo trophy. Isn’t it gorgeous? Sadly even I am not old enough to have been in the running for one of those.

The trophy base was designed by Brent Simmons and the photo is by Fred Teifeld (permission for non-commercial and journalistic uses with attribution granted. All other rights reserved.).

The full results of the 1941 Retro Hugos are available here. I’m pleased with quite a few of those, especially Fantasia, but cringed over the Novel result. I have nothing against the book itself, but Slan has become a byword for fannish elitism.

The 2016 Hugos will be presented tonight. You should be able to follow all of the action via text-based commentary from Kevin, Mur and myself here. There should be video via UStream as well, but there will be the usual bandwidth issues and probably an un-moderated comment feed.

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At the London Metropolitan Archives

Photo by Laila El-Metoui

Here’s me last night doing my stand up and be mouthy routine at the London Metropolitan Archives. I was talking about an app I’m writing for the Twilight People project. It will be a while yet before it is ready for the public. That’s partly because there’s a bit of a learning curve in going from writing solely for Windows to writing for Android and iOS as well, and partly because there will be a lengthy consultation process for determining exactly what material from the project we use. However, I am quite pleased with how it is doing. Software skillz: I haz them.

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