A Few Brief Hugo Stat Comments

I haven’t had much time to wade through the numbers, but here are a few things I noticed.

As many people have already pointed out, Vox Day was beaten by No Award.

Six Gun Snow White and Wonderbook, both of which I loved, were very strong second places in their categories.

Hugo voters have no taste in movies.

People who vote for one Doctor Who episode do not always vote for all of the Doctor Who episodes above everything else. (And the world is full of people who don’t understand preferential balloting and talk nonsense about “splitting the vote”.)

Toni Weiskopf would have won on a first-past-the-post system, but came fourth in the preferential ballot system.

No Award got more first preferences than any of the finalists in Fancast. As Alisa noted on Twitter, if those 237 people voting against the category had not voted in it at all, the category would have failed the 25% test and would not have been awarded. When the Business Meeting comes to look at revising the 25% rule (which I think they should), they should bear this in mind.

The only person to win on first preferences was Sarah Webb in Fan Artist.

The short story that got the most nominations only had 79, which would not have made the ballot in several other categories. This is continuing evidence of just how flat the distribution of nominations for Short Story is.

The Ender’s Game movie came very close to being a finalist, and got more nominations than the latest Hobbit extravaganza.

Chris Hadfield missed being a finalist by 3 votes.

Joey Hi-Fi missed being a finalist by just 1 vote, while Ninni Alto, who does all of the art for the Helsinki bid, missed being a finalist by 3 votes. Next year for sure for these two.

Posted in Awards | 4 Comments

Poland – #WITMonth

Poland is a big country with a fine tradition of science fiction and fantasy writing stretching from Stanisław Lem to Andrzej Sapkowski. There must be women writers as well. Indeed, I featured Justyna Plichta-Jendzio last year. I also had a long chat to a Polish translator while I was at Worldcon — she was looking for a way to get books by a woman science fiction writer friend into the English-speaking market.

It is happens that there is a big Polish presence at this Eurocon. There will be a panel on Polish SF&F on Sunday, and I will be at that to see what I can learn. Also Sapkowski himself will be on the Mocking the Monoglots panel with me tomorrow, so I’m hoping he will recommend some great women writers. Finally I’m paging my friend Piotr Świetlik, who I am sure can help out here.

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Academics at Worldcon – What Went Wrong?

I spent much of my time at Worldcon in Capital Suite 6 where the academic track was taking place. Most of the panels I attended went very well. There were occasional moments of embarrassment, and future conventions please note that Ronald Meyers should never be allowed to moderate a panel again. His performance in the session featuring Maureen Kincaid Speller and Gillian Polack was a disgrace and deeply disrespectful to his panelists. From my point of view, however, the only real issue was the microphones.

Well actually microphone technique was a major issue throughout the convention. Far too many panelists either refused to use them, or forgot they were doing so, and were inaudible a lot of the time as a result. Academics were particularly bad in this respect because they are used to having to address a large room without use of a mic. It is matter of professional pride to them to not need one. But I’m a radio presenter, and if I don’t use the mic properly no one outside of the studio will hear me, so from my point of view good mic technique is essential. More convention panelists need to be aware of how to use a mic properly.

However, out there in Internet land I am seeing several people complaining about the academic track and saying how badly it worked. This surprised me. We have had such things at Worldcons many times before. If large numbers of audience members were unfamiliar with the format, and for example kept interrupting the papers, that must have been because they were new to the idea, not because academic tracks were new to Worldcon. There is, of course, an open question as to whether the three-paper plus questions at the end format is appropriate within a convention setting, especially if the papers don’t have a lot in common (and you can’t always guarantee that they will). But I’m really surprised to see people questioning whether an academic track has any place at Worldcon. We are planning to have one at Archipelacon, so feedback would be appreciated.

Posted in Academic, Conventions | 14 Comments

Eurocon Schedule Update

I have an update to my Eurocon schedule (meaning that they have given me another panel). The full schedule is below:

Friday August 22nd, 9:00pm – BOYCOTT!
Does boycotting a creator’s work or an event actually make an impact or just give them more publicity? Is there any point in boycotting dead creators?

Saturday August 23rd, 11:00am – Mocking the Monoglots: Untranslated Hidden Gems
While technology advances the universal translator is still dodgy at best, which means that so many stories are unavailable to those who only know one or two languages. The panel aims to discuss the best of hidden, single language stories and why you should definitely fire up DuoLingo to learn to read them.

Saturday August 23rd, 4:00pm – Guest of Honour Interview – Ylva Spångberg
Ylva Spångberg interviewed by me.

Sunday August 24th, 10:00am – “She wrote it, but…” – Invisible Women Creators
Women have been profoundly important and influential creators since the very foundation of Speculative Fiction, so why are they often left out of the academic texts, the awards lists and the reprint market? And what do the panel and the audience do to alter this trend?

Sunday August 24th, 11:00am – The Science Fiction from Beyond Seas and Mountains
Science Fiction is a many splendoured and the stories vary hugely from country to country. Our panellists will talk about SF from all across Asia and Latin America and introduce you to some new & wonderful tales.

I note that I had the pleasure of chatting to Ylva Spångberg at Worldcon and I think I can promise the attendees a fascinating conversation.

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Csilla Kleinheincz – #WITMonth

Hungarian is an unusual language. I gather that the closest thing to it is Finnish, and you should all know how weird that is. Like Finnish, it has no gendered pronouns. I look forward to seeing how both languages cope with Ancillary Justice.

I know of Csilla Kleinheincz because she was a finalist for the translation awards last year, for a story she had in the The Apex Book of World SF #2. I was also delighted to get to meet her at World Fantasy in Brighton (I think thanks to one of Charles Tan’s travel scholarships). You can find her online, though mostly not in English. I look forward to seeing more fiction from her soon.

Posted in Translations | 1 Comment

All Your Thrones R Belong To Us

Cat on the Throne
If you are going to have your picture taken on That Throne, you might has well ham it up.

My thanks to Pete Young for taking the picture.

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Trans Pride Podcasts

The last of the broadcast material from my Trans Pride coverage aired last Thursday so I am free to podcast the full, unedited version. This has the full interviews with Fox & Lewis, with Nicole Gibson, and with Bethany Black. It also has several more interviews, the whole of the opening address by Caroline Lucas, MP, and lots of vox pops. The magazine article mentioned by Sam towards the end of the show can be found at WHM Magazine.

Alice Denny’s poem, “Normal/Questions”, deserves a podcast all of its own. Alice only got one take, as is a little emotional towards the end. Also we got heckled by seagulls. However, there’s no mistaking the raw power of the words.

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Worldcon Wrap

I’m not going to do a full-blown report on this year’s Worldcon. I didn’t have the time to do all of the investigative journalist stuff, and anyway I’m sure that the angry white men of UK fandom will be busily telling us what a utter disaster the event was any day now. I wouldn’t want to confuse them with actual facts. However, a few brief comments and thanks are in order.

Registration – we know how to do this, Worldcons should not be messing up that badly on such a basic function.

Programme – by far the most interesting programme of any Worldcon I can remember. Some of the room assignments went badly wrong, but that’s really hard to get right.

Dealers – everyone I spoke to was very happy. I know I sold 9 of the 10 copies of Airship Shape that I brought, so I am really pleased.

Exhibits – this was magnificent. I’m sure much of it was down to Farah’s energy and enthusiasm, but I suspect it also shows that having someone in charge who has a high profile and respectable academic job makes a huge difference to the willingness of people to be involved.

Art Show – it looked good to me. I was pleased to see many artists from all over Europe.

Masquerade – I missed it, but I have heard good things about it and am eagerly awaiting the video.

Hugos – went very smoothly for the most part, and some excellent winners. I was so very relieved.

Fan Village – a highlight of the event for me. It was so much better than room parties. However, I note that being able to do something like this is dependent on having a venue prepared to allow it. I have no idea how a convention center in another country would react to a request to allow fan groups to serve alcohol independently of the official bars.

The venue – I got a lot of exercise, and ate surprisingly well. Special thanks are due to Mint Leaves for being open so long. The one thing that was an issue was the fact that the professionals tended to socialize at the Fox while the fans tended to socialize in the Fan Village, which resulted in far more separation than I’m used to at Worldcon. Special thanks are due to Mary Robinette Kowal for taking her Hugo straight to the Fan Village after the ceremony, and encouraging others to do the same.

The people – another highlight. There was a much more diverse membership this year than any Worldcon I can remember. (I note that I did not attend the Japanese event).

It makes me very happy to see lots of other folk going on about how diverse the membership was, but I have a feeling that it would have been even more diverse, and much younger, had Nine Worlds not lured a lot of people away.

I also note that next year will be very different. Even many of my American friends are saying that they won’t go to Spokane. I’ll be pleasantly surprised if they get more than 3500 attendees. Most of those people will be older Americans. So if you want the Hugo winners to be as good as this year, and in particular if you want another magnificently international Worldcon in Helsinki in 2017, you need to buy a supporting membership and vote in site selection. All of the good things about Loncon 3 could so easily be lost.

Posted in Conventions | 8 Comments

Fighting Airship Wins Battle

Bristol-based blogger, Joanna Papageorgiou, is running a “battle of the books” type event to find the best fiction set in Bristol. You may remember that Colinthology lost out to the excellent Heartman a few weeks back. In today’s post Joanna pitted Airship Shape & Bristol Fashion against Eye Contact, a thriller by Fergus McNeill that is published by Hodder & Stoughton. We won! I am very pleased.

You can read Joanna’s opinions of the two books here. And if you haven’t got a copy of Airship Shape & Bristol Fashion yet, you can buy the ebooks here. I will have paperback copies at Shamrokon. I’m not bringing many because I’m flying RyanAir, so if you want one let me know. I don’t want anyone to be disappointed.

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Kontakt – #WITMonth

I’ve been slacking a bit on the Women in Translation Month this week because I’ve been rushing around too much. I’m making up for it now with my first post on this week’s topic: Central & Eastern Europe. Not only do I have women writers to recommend, I have a book you can buy. Kontakt is an anthology of stories by Croatian writers that was published for the 2012 Eurocon in Zagreb. I was honored to be allowed to produce an ebook edition. It contains some wonderful stories, all of them translated into English. There are four women authors in the book: Milena Benini, Tatjana Jambrišak, Ivana Delač & Katarina Brbora. You can buy the book here.

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A Monster Hunters Review

On Twitter today Juliet McKenna posted a link to this review of her latest book, Challoner, Murray & Balfour: Monster Hunters at Law. Here are a few choice extracts:

I haven’t read any of her other books and am very excited to have been introduced to her in this way. Each story held my attention, and I even read a couple of them twice, just for the fun of it.


These are four very enjoyable stories from author Juliet E McKenna: Invisible men, beasts, secrets, and misconceptions. All of them are engrossing and suspenseful, and, with the addition of very good illustrations by Nancy Farmer, this is definitely a read you’ll want to pick up. I recommend it to readers of Victorian Era horror. Each story is enchanting and memorable.

If that sounds interesting to you, you can buy the book direct from Wizard’s Tower.

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The Eye Of The Storm

In the center of a hurricane there is a region where everything is quiet. That is today. I’d like to spend the entire day sleeping, but I do have a bit of catch-up to do, so here I am.

I spent yesterday in London, mainly because I needed to go and see a gender specialist to get declared sane again. The NHS does not believe that trans people are really serious about what they do with their lives. They think is just a phase we are going through, and that sooner or later we will be Overcome with REGRET, and will beg on bended knees to return to the gender we were assigned at birth. Therefore I am required to have an annual consultation with a gender specialist who can let them know whether there are any signs of the onset of this expected phase of my life, and the anticipated emotional trauma. I’m afraid I keep disappointing them.

Following my appointment I headed off to the British Museum to worship Ishtar and re-acquaint myself with the many fine pieces of loot therein. Though I continue to be embarrassed at my ancestors’ kleptomania, I am rather relieved about the amount of stuff they took from what is now Iraq, because so much of what remains has been destroyed or sold to private collectors by the invading armies.

While there I noticed that the BM is now selling bookends. These are, of course, irresistible to anyone with a sizable library. The even worse news for me is that the models for the bookends include the famous Egyptian cat statue (£30 for a pair) and the Assyrian winged bull — some of you will remember the term Shedu — (a whopping £55 each but a must have for me). A full list of the bookends they offer can be found here.

I was by no means the only person to visit the Museum yesterday. I ran into: Madeline Ashby & David Nickle; Ellen Kushner & Delia Sherman; the Foglio family; David Levine & Kate Yule. I’m sure there must have been others.

As I had been too busy to shop at Worldcon, I popped into Forbidden Planet to collect copies of Resistance by Samit Basu and Afterparty by Daryl Gregory.

I got home late last night. This morning was spent sleeping, paying the rent, topping up on Euros, and buying food. Tomorrow I will be off to Ireland, via Bristol where I need to collection more copies of Airship Shape & Bristol Fashion from Jo.

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Worldcon – Day 5

Monday’s panels were a bit of a let-down. We started with the Diversity in Criticism panel, which had been given only an hour but could have benefited from a lot longer. I also had one of those experiences where I could not work out whether someone really wanted to kill me with her mind-lasers, or was just very tired and desperately trying to focus.

One comment I would have made, had there been time, was in response to Aisha noting that a lone critic from another country often gets cast in the role of expert on her people and their literature. That does happen to me in the case of trans people, but just as often I get people assuming that I can’t possibly know what I’m talking about because I’m one of those crazy people who don’t know their own minds.

Which brings me to the Queering Anime panel. I was pleased to have some interesting recommendations of anime and manga with trans themes. However, I was a bit concerned that the panel was all white, and that three Japanese people in the audience stayed silent throughout. When interpreting the meaning of art from another culture you have to understand that culture really well. What the panel did make clear was that Japanese culture was changing significantly as a result of Western influences. However, I’m really not confident about Western interpretations of the meaning of gender-swapping story lines in Japanese fiction, especially because a lot of what was being said about trans people in general, especially by the audience, was considerably less than enlightened. I had this awful feeling that at times I was seeing the equivalent of a foreigner looking at UK culture and enthusing about how pantomime dames are a wonderful example of trans people in British theater.

Following that I did a couple of interviews from Ujima. One was with Glenda Larke, and is all about being an Australian woman who marries into a Muslim Malaysian family. The other was with Ann Leckie, whom I had not met before and who turned out to be utterly delightful and very smart (as you might guess from her book). We spent a bit of time (outside the interview) speculating on how we might film Ancillary Justice and still get the head-exploding effect that the use of female pronouns has in the written version. I’m now actually quite keen to see the book filmed (assuming we can get the production company to play ball).

In between those two interviews I had a long chat with Candas Jane Dorsey about what she’s doing these days. If there is anyone out there from a major publisher wanting a really great YA novel, you should chase her up.

I missed the BASFA Meeting due to interviewing Ann, but I gather it was suitably anarchic, even without Chris Garcia.

Most of the rest of the day was spent in the company of a group of Israelis who are delightful people (and utterly despairing of their government). This included a trip on the Emirates Air Line cable car service from the Excel across the river to the O2 Dome. I would not recommend taking the trip on a windy day, but having taken a cab back I can recommend it as a fast and cheap method of transport.

Posted in Conventions | 2 Comments

Worldcon – Day 4

Once again I have been stupidly busy. Here are some highlights:

  • Anne Sudworth winning Best Body of Work in the Art Show
  • Maurizio Manzieri winning Best Digital in the Art Show
  • The Fine Art panel laying into Damien Hirst
  • Interviewing Gili Bar-Hillel for Ujima
  • The Arabic SF panel and getting to meet Yasmin Khan at last
  • Being in on the start of a project to (finally) translate Dune into Arabic
  • Meeting Elias, Leticia and their fabulous friends from Spain
  • The SF&F Across Borders panel
  • All of the people wearing t-shirts showing the cover of this book
  • The Croatians saving samples of a huge variety of weird brandies for me
  • Archipelacon getting George R.R. Martin as a Guest of Honor
  • The kind comments about my Hugo ceremony dress
  • Ancillary Justice
  • Kevin
Posted in Awards, Conventions | 1 Comment

Worldcon – Day 3

It happened. I got back to the hotel just after midnight and had to be on my way fairly early to get my room mate to the airport. I was going to blog this morning from the convention, but people kept coming to talk to me and now it is too late. Here is the abridged version:

  • More panels on translation
  • Meeting a writer from Saudi Arabia
  • Interesting panel on Reading the Other
  • Really interesting panel on Representing Indigenous Cultures
  • Great reading by Rochita at which I learned something awesome about trans people in the history of the Philippines
  • John Picacio is as sweet and lovable and talented as ever
  • Italians (surprise) love good art
  • Kansas City will host the 2016 Worldcon

And now I’m going to see a panel with Judith Clute talking about fine art.

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Worldcon – Day 2

It is a measure of quite how busy I have been that when I was asked last night what I had been doing I couldn’t remember half of it.

The big disappointment yesterday was discovering that there are no copies of Girl at the End of the World here. However, that’s because Adele sold out of stock at Nine Worlds, so I can’t complain.

Checking my schedule I see that I attended a couple of panels on translation. They were both well attended, and the second one the majority of the audience were non-native-English-speakers, which says a lot for the international nature of the membership, though not much for the interest of English-speakers in translations. My Israeli friend, Gili, was very eloquent on both and I tweeted some of her best comments. I’ll try to write more about this issue in a day or two.

I also attended the Kaleidoscope launch and got to hang out with Alisa and Tansy. I’m reading the book at the moment. It has some great stories in it. I want to see Sofia Samatar’s Walkdog on award ballots next year.

John Clute’s Guest of Honor speech was brilliant as expected, though I really need a transcript so I can look up all of the words he used. Again I need to write more about his comments on reviewing, and in particular spoiler warnings (which he detests).

I had my photo taken for an article in an Israeli newspaper. Thanks Noa & Rani!

Also I met a bunch of Chinese writers, and introduced an Arabic writer to some UK editors.

I’m really liking what Eemeli & co. have constructed in the “fan village”. It has the feel of an arts festival in a town on a summer evening. It is in a huge hall, so you can see there are loads of people, but there is always enough room to move around. And because the parties are there it is buzzing all through the night. The nearest thing I can think of to it in past Worldcons is the pool deck in Anaheim. If you imagine that with the pool filled in and all of the hotel rooms just tents that will give you some idea of what it is like.

I was also delighted to discover last night that the volunteers group is being run by Croatians. This really is a European Worldcon.

Today I must try to see the exhibits and Art Show.

Posted in Conventions | 1 Comment

Sara Bergmark Elfgren – #WITMonth

I missed the official LGBT focus on Wednesday due to being stupidly busy, but today is the official kids & YA day so I’m taking you on a trip to Engelsfors. This small Swedish town is the setting for a trilogy by Sara B. Elfgren and Mats Strandberg. (They are not a couple.) The name of the town translates as Angel Falls, and the books tell the story of a group of teenagers who discover that they are witches. The books have sold in translation it many languages, and a movie is being made in Sweden. The Circle and Fire are available in English now, and The Key is published in Swedish so is presumably on the way. I’ve read the first book and really enjoyed it. I see the website has an enthusiastic endorsement from Liz Hand. The kids in the book represent a variety of lives, and the sexuality and gender issues seem very well handled as far as I’ve read. Also Sara & Mats are lovely people.

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The Trans Stuff at Worldcon

Today there was an academic program section that included a paper on trans characters in science fiction. It was given by Paul Ballard, and I went along to see what he had to say. I was completely floored when he opened up by recommending that people read this. It is a bit outdated now. I need to do a new version.

Paul works with a trans youth group in Kent so he knows his stuff. Like me, Paul is concerned that trans people are being misrepresented in fiction because of a desire by cis writers to use them for entertainment, or to make political points. He made an interesting point that for a character in a novel to count as trans that character should have a specific will to change in some way; it was not enough to have forced change, or change that is entirely natural of the character. I need to think a bit about this, in particular with reference to people who see themselves more as gender-fluid, but it could be a useful distinction.

Mention of characters that shift genders naturally brings us naturally to The Left Hand of Darkness. Paul noted that the Gethenians really aren’t trans people in a Terran sense. I noted, as I often do in such discussions, that it can be read as a book about Trans Panic; that is the discomfort (and sometimes murderous rage) that cis people can develop when confronted by a trans person whom they thoughts was cis. Also giving a paper in the session was Jason Bourget, whom I had previously met when we were on a trans issues panel together in Montréal. Jason is a Le Guin scholar (and presented a good paper on gender in The Dispossessed). He noted the debate over the fact that Le Guin had used male pronouns for the Gethenians, and said that the Trans Panic reading only works when male pronouns are used. If female pronouns had been used, Genly would need to be gender-swapped to female (and probably made a Radical Feminist) for the same reading to work.

By the way, trying to read a paper which talks about trans people and transhumanism, which are two very different things, is very difficult. We need new terminology.

Posted in Academic, Feminism, Gender, Science Fiction | 4 Comments

Worldcon – Day 1

I am so glad that I got registered last night. The queues this morning were horrendous. Worldcon registration is supposed to be a solved problem, but there always seems to be someone keen to re-invent the wheel.

There is, by the way, a practical issue with programme participants. If you give them a separate check-in line a lot of them won’t join it and will then get mad when they find they have been waiting in the wrong queue. If you don’t and queues are long then people may miss panels. You need to be flexible. Hopefully they were, because I was seeing tweets from panelists stuck in the queue.

Today I have been to panels talking about international comparisons of children’s SF&F literature; Nordic SF&F; and John Clute’s term “Fantastika”. I also heard some academic papers, one of which was about trans characters in SF, which I’ll talk more about in a separate post.

I have also seen a lot of people that I know, many of them from California, Australia, Finland, Sweden, Ireland and Croatia. I am sorry that mostly I haven’t had time to stop and talk. This is Worldcon. Everyone is crazy busy.

I have been to the Finnish bid party and drunk terva, as one does.

There are copies of Airship Shape & Bristol Fashion on sale at the Tachyon Publications table. I know we have sold at least one. Many thanks to Jacob & Rina for facilitating this.

And finally for today, someone asked me to sign a copy of Women Destroy Science Fiction, which made me very happy.

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Rochita Loenen-Ruiz & Eliza Victoria – #WITMonth

There’s a wealth of speculative fiction writers in The Philippines. Many of them are women. The ones I am familiar with all write in English, though I am sure there will be some who write in Tagalog, and quite possibly some who write in Spanish as well. As with Aliette, though their words may not need translating, they are very much presenting a non-white culture to the Anglophone world. I mention Rochita and Eliza because I’m familiar with their work and like it, but really you should seek out Alternative Alamat and the various other anthologies published by Flipside (the company Charles Tan works for) because there are lots of great people you can read.

I also recommend listening to the Small Blue Planet episode with Charles and Dean Alfar as guests as you’ll learn a lot more from them than you can from me.

Posted in Books, Translations | 2 Comments