TAFF News

The Trans Atlantic Fan Fund has published its latest newsletter. It includes a brief report on Nina Horvath’s adventures in the USA. It also has the announcement of the 2016 race. Unusually the administrators have taken the decision to hold another Europe – North America race next year. That will allow a European fan to attend Worldcon 74 in Kansas City, and a North American fan to attend Worldcon 75 in Helsinki in 2017.

By the way, the Kansas folks have announced their Hugo Award Base competition, so if you are up for designing one you need to check out the submission guidelines here. The deadline is January 18th.

It’s Not Your Lawn

On Friday Kevin got a bit grumpy with old-time fans who assume that announcements about Worldcon should cater only to Worldcon regulars. Quite right too. If you want a community — any community — to grow and prosper, then you have to encourage new people to get involved. And you won’t get that if all of your communications assume a high level of insider knowledge. The Helsinki Worldcon campaign was a breath of fresh air in the way that it has encouraged new people to become part of the WSFS community. I very much hope that the San José bid continues that process.

Funds for Rochita Appeal

Many of you will know Rochita Loenen-Ruiz. She’s a lovely, generous person as well as a great writer. A few days ago her partner suffered a heart attack, and late last night the doctors gave up hope and turned off life support. Aliette de Bodard has set up an appeal on GoFundMe to raise money for Rochita to help her and her young sons through this difficult time. Many of Rochita’s friends from around the SF&F community have donated books to be used as rewards, all of which will go into a draw for donors at the end of the appeal. There are currently a couple of ebook bundles from Wizard’s Tower in there, and there may be more added once I have had a chance to talk to the authors. Please do consider donating if you can. Rochita’s blog explaining the situation and giving thanks for the support received thus far is here.

Last Day for GUFF Ballot

Today is the final day of voting for this year’s GUFF ballot. There is only one candidate, Jukka Halme. However, it is important that people do vote because voting is the only way that GUFF gets any money. Without votes, there will be much less money for to send Jukka on his trip around Australia and New Zealand, and he might have to miss out on some places. This would be sad, because Jukka is a lovely person and I want all of my Aussie and Kiwi pals to meet him.

Oh, stop laughing. Wales haven’t played Australia or New Zealand in the World Cup yet, so I can’t be wanting revenge for anything. I’ll actually be cheering for the Wallabies on Saturday.

No, seriously, Jukka will be a great GUFF delegate. Plus he’ll be able to enthuse everyone Down Under about making the trip to Helsinki in 2017. Please vote. Details of how to do so can be found here.

Webs of Mistrust

Most of you by now will have heard that a group of Really Real Fans have decided to set up some Really Real Awards that will be voted on by Really Real Fans. And the way that we’ll know if someone is a Really Real Fan or not is via a Trust system in which Really Real Fans can vouch for their friends and denounce their enemies. A lot of popcorn is getting eaten as a result.

It’s kind of sweet that people still believe that there are Really Real Fans who like the same sort of things that they do, and Fake Fans who don’t. Me, I’ve always been proud of being a Fake Fan. So to make sure that I will have a Trust Level approaching negative infinity, here are some of the reasons for which I have been told that I am “Not Part of Our Community”.

– Because I am a newbie who has not been raised in fannish culture.
– Because I am one of the Old White Men who need to be kicked out of fandom so that it can be a safe space for others.
– Because I am an SJW.
– Because I only pretend to support Social Justice.
– Because I am a woman.
– Because I am “really” a man.
– Because I haven’t read enough of the Classics.
– Because I don’t read enough YA.
– Because I distributed my fanzine electronically, thereby destroying fanzine fandom.
– Because I am one of the leaders of those horrible old fanzine fans.
– Because I attend the Masquerade at Worldcons.
– Because I attend the Business Meeting at Worldcons.
– Because I like sports.
– Because I don’t hate Americans.
– Because I am a filthy pro.
– Because authors all hate me.

I could go on, but I think you get the idea. I’d like to state now that any Really Real Awards that allow me to vote are clearly not Really Really Real, and should be viewed with deep suspicion by all Really Real Fans. Do not be fooled by Fake Really Real Awards. Really Real Fans should only participate in Real Really Real Awards. Accept no substitutes. Or I may have to denounce you. OK?

What’s In A Name?

So, the Helsinki Worldcon is now a reality. The vote tally was officially confirmed at the WSFS Business Meeting yesterday, and the newly seated convention has launched its website.

Very quickly long-time Worldcon attendees noticed something different about it. The name of the convention is Worldcon 75. That’s it. No silly fannish name. No local focus. Just Worldcon. I love it.

Partly that’s because Worldcon has a long history of conventions that have seem themselves as far more important than the fact that they are Worldcons. It is, in a way, an artifact of the resolutely anti-authoritarian stance of WSFS, but it is also a result of jingoism by committees (and not just nationalist jingoism either, city and state pride comes into it too). Helsinki has, in effect, made a statement that it sees being a Worldcon as important, not as an annoying inconvenience. However, they also put out this tweet:

That made me really happy. Looking at what went on in Spokane on Saturday night, and much of the reaction on social media afterwards, I got a very strong impression of a community drawing in on itself. That’s a very natural reaction of a community that is under attack, which it very much was, but it is also a lost opportunity. Thanks to our Morose Mongrel “friends”, we have had an explosion of interest in the Hugo Awards and Worldcon this year. (Over 48 Gb of web traffic yesterday, over 81,000 visitors to the website, lots of interest from mainstream media outlets.) This is a golden opportunity to reach out to new people and welcome them in, not a time for bristling against anyone seen as “not part of our community”. Helsinki appears to be determined to try to grasp that opportunity.

Finally, look at their Guests of Honor:

  • John-Henri Holmberg – Swedish, male; fan and publisher
  • Nalo Hopkinson – Jamaican, queer female; author
  • Johanna Sinisalo – Finnish, female; author
  • Claire Wendling – French, female; comics artist
  • Walter Jon Williams – White male American writer of thrilling space adventures, with Finnish ancestry

They could so easily have had a mostly-Finnish or mostly-Nordic guest list, and I do hope that the convention will also make a big fuss of the likes of Petri Hiltunen, Toni Jerrman and Irma Hirsjärvi. But that is a brilliant set of Guests of Honor. Someone thought very hard about those choices. Well done, Helsinki. Let’s continue putting the world in Worldcon.

Hugos and Business Meeting Update

I have been having a very interesting email discussion with my friend Neil Clarke about my post from yesterday on the issues for debate at this year’s WSFS Business Meeting. Neil has made a very clever point that I am convinced by, and I think will save a lot of time this year.

Right now one of the problems with deciding what to do about the Puppies is that we have very little data to go on. We don’t know what effect either of the proposed anti-Puppy techniques would have had, had they been in place this year. Nor do we know what effect the vastly greater interest in the Hugos that Puppygate has caused will have on future years’ Award ballots.

However, all amendments to the WSFS Constitution take two years to pass. Anything that is passed for the first time at Sasquan cannot take effect until it is ratified at next year’s Worldcon, MidAmeriCon II in Kansas City. Therefore, we can pass both 4 and 6 and E Pluribus Hugo this year, and decide which one of them would work best next year when we have more data. We don’t even need to waste time debating their relative merits now, we just get the ball rolling on both so that action can be taken as swiftly as the deliberately pedestrian WSFS Constitution allows.

The spanner in all this is, of course, popular ratification. If that passes with the wrecking amendment added in London intact then it could take three years to do something about the Puppies rather than two years. Personally I think it would be a very good thing if whatever technique we adopted to combat the Puppies was subject to popular ratification, because then democracy would be seen to be done. However if, as some people fear, the Puppy vote will be able to flood the nomination ballot in all future years, the sooner something gets done the better.

I haven’t had a chance to ask Kevin whether the wrecking amendment can be removed again at Sasquan, but if the price of having popular ratification is that it will take another year to do something about the Puppies then I’m pretty sure it will get voted down.

By the way, this does raise another interesting constitutional question. If we had popular ratification, and both anti-Puppy proposals passed this year, would that leave us with the possibility of the popular vote passing two mutually incompatible next year? I’m not sure if this is the sort of thing that will get Kevin excited or keep him awake at night, but I’m very glad that I have him to think about such things so that I don’t have to.

Fixing the Hugos

As I can’t travel to the USA I won’t be able to attend this year’s WSFS Business Meeting. That means I don’t get to have a direct say in what gets done about Puppygate. So I am going to write about what I think needs to be done here in the hope that it might sway some people who do have a vote.

Before I get onto the actual Puppy-related motions, however, there are a bunch of other pieces of business that also deserve attention. The full text of all motions can be found on the Sasquan website.

Business Passed On from Loncon 3

A.1 Popular Ratification

I still believe that the 3-year timescale that was forced into this motion at Loncon 3 is a bad thing, but overall the idea of popular ratification is a good thing. The vast majority of fans cannot afford to go to every Worldcon. Giving those who can’t attend a stake in the convention’s governance is a something we need to work towards, and small steps are better than no steps at all.

Also all of the material about electronic voting is a Very Good Thing. I know Sasquan tried to make site selection available online, but the process was unnecessarily complicated and needs to change.

A.2 A Story By Any Other Name

Pass it. This is an amendment designed to ensure that things like the unfair exclusion of Mary Robinette Kowal’s “The Lady Astronaut of Mars” never happen again. (The whole affair should also serve as a warning against activist Hugo Administrators. You may well think they’d be great for combatting Puppies, but what happens when they use their powers to do things you don’t like?)

A.3 Hugo Finalists

Pass it. This is a sad but necessary change in terminology brought on by people who describe themselves as “Hugo nominees” because they have sent in a ballot nominating their work.

A.4 WSFS Membership Types and Rates

Kick it out. This is an attempt to prevent Worldcons from offering a cheap “Voting Membership” in order to encourage participation in the Hugos. We need to do everything we can to encourage participation. It may be that voting memberships are a bad thing, but they have never been tried and I take a dim view of anything that tries to ban an innovation before it can be tested.

New Resolutions

B.2.1 I Remember the Future & B.2.2 Hugo Eligibility Extension for Predestination

These are both requests to extend the availability of works due to limited distribution. I know nothing about either work, but generally films that do well on the festival circuit and then go on to do well in DVD sales ought to get a second chance. WSFS members generally do not attend film festivals, and so don’t see the works premiered there.

B.2.3 Hugo Nominating Data Request

This is a request for some (anonymized) data from this year’s Hugos to help people decide what to do about Puppygate. I have no objection, but the Hugo Administrators might.

B.2.4 Open Source Software

On the face of it, this is a fairly reasonable request. It is asking that any software used by a Worldcon (excluding anything that is a commercial product and legally protected) have its source code be made available for inspection. Obviously we want Worldcons to use good quality software, but this Resolution is a disaster waiting to happen.

Two of the less good things about fandom are the tendency to busybodying and the habit of fans to believe that they know far more about any subject than anyone else. If this Resolution passes then it will be possible for anyone who wants to make a nuisance of themselves to demand access to code developed by Worldcons, to suggest amendments to that code, and to demand that the Worldcon in question either incorporate those changes or justify not doing so. It will be a nightmare for the people actually doing the work.

In the past I have helped build the website for a Worldcon. I wouldn’t do it under the conditions of this resolution. Everything you put on a website is effectively code, even if it is just a blog post. I do not want to have countless arguments with concerned fans about religious issues in HTML and CSS.

There are better ways of improving the software that Worldcons use. The first is that if you have real development skills then you can get involved with Worldcon committees and help write the software that they use. The second is that Worldcons should make a point of developing code that can be re-used every year. There should be no more of this re-inventing everything from scratch each year because someone on the committee is a software nerd who insists that everything ever written by any previous Worldcon is useless and he has to write his own versions. That’s largely a matter for Worldcon chairs to enforce, but IT policy is a question that can be put to bids, and the Business Meeting can set up a Software Development Committee to help pass on code from one year to the next.

B.2.5 MPC Funding

The better known the Hugos and Worldcon become, the more people trying to monetize fandom try to steal our service marks. If people want those marks to be defended, it will cost money. In terms of the overall Worldcon budget, the amounts being discussed are very small, and haven’t changed since the 1980s. This Resolution basically puts a little bit more money into the defense fund. Please support it. It will make Kevin’s life much easier.

Constitutional Amendments

I’m going to take these mostly from the bottom up, leaving the serious anti-Puppy stuff until last.

B.1.8 Electronic Signatures

This seeks to remove one of the excuses that the forces of conservatism might seek to use in order to prevent online voting. That sounds like a good thing.

B.1.7 Two-Year Eligibility

This is daft, and discriminatory. Please kick it out.

To start with the whole notion is stupid. The proposers of the motion effectively say that the science fiction field is too big for anyone to get a grasp of it all in one year, so Hugo eligibility must be extended to two years to give us all time to read everything. Have they any idea how many books get published each year? Let alone short stories. And fanzines. And…

Not to mention the fact that in the second year a whole lot more material gets published, which you also have to read.

In addition the proposal wrecks one of the basic principles of Hugo Award Internationalism. Worldcon has always recognized that the majority of voters come from the USA, and that therefore a work not published in English, and/or not published in the USA, is at a disadvantage. Also US voters would be prevented from nominating works they may love if they don’t find out about them until they get US publication and the work was no longer eligible.

So, the way things work at the moment is that works get up to three shots at eligibility: on first publication; on first publication in English; and on first publication in the USA. Obviously for some works two of those, or all three, are in the same year, but for others they can all be different years.

This proposal would change that. All works in English would get two years of eligibility, but those would be consecutive, regardless of country of publication.

What does this mean? Consider a work published in English in Australia in 2015, and again in the USA in 2018. Under the existing rules it gets two years of eligibility: 2016 and 2019. Under the new rules it also gets two years, but 2016 and 2017. By the time the book appears in the US market its eligibility will have been burned.

To repeat, this is a bad proposal. Please kick it out.

B.1.6 Nominee Diversity

This is what you might call the anti-Doctor Who motion. The idea is to prevent the Dramatic Presentation: Short Form category being filled up with episodes all taken from the same series. The motion would limit any such dominant series to two finalist slots. It would also prevent any given author from having more than two stories in any of the fiction categories, which may make it partly an anti-Puppy measure.

I have a certain amount of sympathy with this, but for reasons I shall explain in detail later I am generally opposed to rules which try to kick specific works off the final ballot when they have received enough votes to get there. It gives people the excuse to claim that the system is rigged against them. So I think I’d vote No on this one.

B.1.5 Multiple Nominations

Despite the title, this is not the same thing as B.1.6. Rather this proposal seeks to prevent a single work from being a finalist in more than one category. The commentary suggests that under the current rules a work could be a finalist in, for example, Related Work and Fancast. This is traditionally something that we have relied on Administrators to be activist about, but they may be less inclined to be so these days. Also having this rule explicitly stated removes one of the more common objections to a YA category. Part of me says that this rule is only needed because categories are badly specified, but perfection is never easy. On balance I think I’d vote for this.

B.1.3 Best Series

Now that the Trojan Horse langauge for getting rid of Novelette has been removed, this proposal is far less odious. I’m still not convinced that we need a Hugo category for ongoing series, though. When it was first proposed I saw a number of authors suggesting that it was a bad thing even without the Novelette nonsense. I’d want to hear the debate on this, but my instinct is to vote against.

B.1.2 The Five Percent Solution

This would get rid of the rule that requires that a work get at least 5% of the votes in order to make the final ballot. That rule is the reason why there have been fewer than five finalists in Short Story a number of times recently.

It is possible that if this rule were put in place we’d end up with 10 or more finalists in Short Story. However, the restriction causes a lot of upset amongst people who feel that they or their friends have been unfairly left off the ballot. Let’s give this a try for a while, and see what happens. If people get even more upset about large numbers of finalists than they did about works being excluded we can always revert. This may be a case for a sunset clause (that is, adding an amendment that says the change goes away after x years unless a Business Meeting votes to make it permanent).

B.1.1 4 and 6 and B.1.4 E Pluribus Hugo (Out of the Many, a Hugo)

I have lumped these two proposals together because they are both aimed at reducing the effectiveness of so-called Slate Voting, in which an organized group all put exactly the same works on their ballot. As such, these are both anti-Puppy measures.

4 and 6 simply adds an extra finalist slot to each category, while simultaneously restricting voters to nominating four works instead of 5. This would make it much more difficult for a slate to work. A simple slate could only get 4 works out of 6 onto each finalist list. Of course it is possible for a well-organized and well-supported slate to distribute votes in such a way as to gain all six finalist places, but that would require more work by the slate organizer and more supporters of the slate.

E Pluribus Hugo is a much more sophisticated approach, relying on a mathematical algorithm to detect slate voting patterns and disqualify works deemed to have benefited from slate voting. I have no doubt that it is a more robust solution to the Puppy problem. I also urge you to vote against it, and for 4 and 6 instead. Here’s why.

Many of the problems that afflict the Hugos are situations that large numbers of people deem “unfair”. Any time the Award rules get complicated you can bet that someone will call them “unfair”, especially if the rule leads to a work missing out on a finalist slot when it got enough votes to be there. So, for example, the 5% Rule is widely deemed “unfair” because it means that short stories that might otherwise have been finalists are denied that honor. You can bet that if an episode of Doctor Who were kicked off the final ballot because the Nominee Diversity proposal got passed then Who fans would be furious about how “unfair” this was.

Even the instant runoff system of vote counting in the final ballot is deemed “unfair” by some people. I have sat through far too many Chris Garcia rants about how instant runoff is unfair and un-American and the Hugo should always go the work that gets the most first preference votes like in proper elections.

So my concern is that if we adopt E Pluribus Hugo what will happen in the future is that whenever a work gets disqualified under that rule there will be a huge fuss about how the Hugos are fixed in favor of some special interest group. Because most people won’t be able to understand the theory on which E Pluribus Hugo is based (and for sure I don’t), this accusation of unfairness will be widely believed, even though it is correctly defending against slate voting.

If you think I’m over-reacting here, consider that Open Source Software resolution. You might wonder why it is there. Surely people aren’t actually worried about websites, or registration software. Nope. My guess is that it is there precisely because people don’t trust the code that will be used to implement E Pluribus Hugo and want to be able to check it.

In contrast, the 4 and 6 proposal is simple, straightforward, and easy to understand. Crucially it will never result in a work that otherwise had sufficient votes to become a finalist being disqualified. Therefore it will not result in future dramas that will have people sympathizing with a slate voting campaign.

If that doesn’t convince you, consider this. The Hugos are often criticized for being snobby and elitist (particularly by the Puppies). In response to that, what sort of idiot proposes a Constitutional Amendment with a Latin title? It is the very epitome of saying, “we are smarter than you, go away”. I don’t think that WSFS should behave like that.

Update: I have further thoughts about the two anti-Puppy motions here. As I explain, I now favor passing both of them this year.

Finally I’d like to note that the only real defense against the Puppies and groups like them is to get more people to participate in the Hugos, especially at the nominations stage. We’ve had a huge increase in participation this year. Let’s do everything we can to keep those people involved, and to get more people voting. This will probably mean that it is even less likely that works I like will become finalists, let alone win, but I’ll take that. If you want to have a high profile, international, fan-voted award then you have to accept a wide degree of participation; you can’t restrict the process to “people like us”.

Ignorance On Display

Today SF Signal put up a post titled, “Where Are All The People of Color in Sci-Fi/Fantasy?”. It’s a crappy title, but a decent article that has some good stats on just how badly people of color are excluded by the genre publishing industry.

The comments, on the other hand, produced an absolute classic of pompous, ignorant nonsense. If you don’t want to click through and read the whole thing, here’s a taster:

Based on what I’ve said, other cultures/races, seem primitive as they tend to be “grounded” on Earth. That mixed with the tendency for many ethnic groups being associated with crime, low tech living, and a lack of interesting folk history makes white people dismiss their existence and see it as a “primitive” remnant of Earth. Thus, they don’t tend to have evolved into the future in countless stories, but likely died out somewhere in the distant past.

You could probably write an entire thesis on racism just based on that comment, but I don’t have time to do that. I’m even going to be generous and note that lots of Americans are ignorant about countries beyond their borders, so the commenter isn’t that unusual in that respect. But he claims to be an expert on African-American culture, and he claims that African-American people have no interest in science fiction or fantasy.

Space is the Place

Mothership Connection

Thriller

The Archandroid

I rest my case.

Silly Season Approaches

Worldcon is now less than two weeks away, so all of fandom is busy limbering up ready to take to the Internet and explain how everything about the convention, and the Hugos, is WRONG, WRONG, WRONG!!!

As regular readers will know, Kevin and I are a key part of the secret cabal of Old White Men who conspire to oppress women, queer folk, people of color, young people, and, well, just about everyone really. We use our powers to ensure that the Hugos only ever go to old-fashioned, deeply conservative works, thereby assuring that they are totally out of touch with what the majority of fans are reading.

Of course we have been part of that conspiracy for a long time. This year, however, we have Puppies. And that means a whole new conspiracy. Now we are also a key part of a secret cabal of Commie Pinko Feminazi Faggots who conspire to oppress straight cis white men who live in their parents’ basements. We use our powers to ensure that the Hugos only ever go to politically correct nonsense, thereby assuring that they are totally out of touch with what the majority of fans are reading.

Both sides are busy crafting their spin so that they can respond immediately to the inevitable outrage. Or claim victory. Or both. I suspect that we will see the following.

– Regardless of the actual results of the Hugos, Little Teddy will claim that what happened was what he had planned all along, and that he has WON! Ha! That will show all of the people who laughed at him and didn’t acknowledge his genius.

– Someone will write a more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger article for The Guardian explaining how a mere 5,950 votes in the final ballot proves that the Hugos have lost relevance and are being abandoned by fandom.

– Requires Spite will find some older women writers to bully.

Kevin, Mur Lafferty and I will be doing the text-based live reporting of the Hugo Award Ceremony as usual. (I will be up in the middle of the night in a hotel in Liverpool.) I expect we will be be accused of bias by both sides. In fact I think the Puppies may have pre-emptively accused us of bias somewhere along the way.

Of course we wouldn’t do these things unless we were getting stupidly well paid. The Old White Men cabal pays very well. You may recall that I have been able to buy a holiday home on the proceeds of my involvement with the Hugos.

However, the Commie Pinko Feminazi Faggots are fairly new to this game and haven’t really got their act together yet. I understand that they are run by John Scalzi and Cory Doctorow (a fact that was discovered by brilliant sleuthing on the part of some Puppy supporters who deduced it from the facts that Scalzi and Doctorow are a) leftists and b) friends). Being leftists, they don’t pay very well.

Of course Kevin and I are reasonable people. We know that start-up cabals don’t have a lot of money, and probably have venture capitalists breathing down their necks. On the other hand, fixing the Hugos is hard, especially when you are expected to fix them to produce two diametrically opposite results simultaneously. There’s only so much stupidity, blinkeredness and persecution complex on the part of fandom that you can rely upon. So we have decided to take a stand. We would like Mr. Scalzi and Mr. Doctorow to raise our wages, otherwise we may be unable to fix the Hugos as they want. A simple doubling of our current remuneration would suffice. I’m sure they can afford it.

Sentence Jukka to Transportation

Yes folks, this is your chance to have Jukka Halme sent to Australia. And probably New Zealand as well. I can’t promise that he won’t come back, but you never know.

The reason for this is that Jukka is standing for GUFF, the fan fund that sends fans from Europe to the other end of the world. To find out how to vote for him to go, check out this fine web page put together by this year’s Administrator, Mihaela Marija Perkovic.

It appears that Jukka is the only candidate this year, but you do still need to vote if you want him to go. The other option is for the funds from this year’s race to be held over to a later date. Some people may think that the Aussies and Kiwis are better than everyone else at enough sports already, without Jukka teaching them to play ice hockey. And the Aussie authorities might be concerned about their people becoming addicted to Strange Finnish Food as a result of his visit. Who can tell?

Anyway, good luck, Jukka, mate. I expect you to come back able to play cricket.

Hugos – Don’t Give Up

I cast my Hugo ballot today. I figured I should get in before the last minute rush, because it is always a strain on the host Worldcon’s servers and this year is going to be much worse. I suggest that you get your ballot in well before the deadline too.

Also today I saw this article by Sarah Lotz on the Guardian Books Blog. It will, I suspect, make Little Teddy very happy indeed, because it is basically saying that he has already won.

Look, there will be some weird stuff in the results this year. There may well be a few No Awards given out, and possibly some really bad works winning awards. It is not as if that hasn’t happened before, though perhaps not in the same quantities. On the other hand, people are talking about the Hugos much more this year than they ever have before, and in many more high profile places. In addition vastly more people have bought supporting memberships, and we are looking at a record number of people participating in the final ballot. All of those people will be eligible to nominate next year. This isn’t the way I would have liked to get that result, but it is a result all the same.

Anyone who tells you that the Hugos are irrevocably damaged doesn’t have the awards’ best interests at heart. They, like Little Teddy, want the Hugos to go away, and presumably be replaced by awards that they, and people like them, can control. If you want awards controlled by, and voted on by, fans, then you need to support those awards, and believe that the vast majority of fans are not going to support narrow political campaigns.

Sure, I could be wrong. We could be seeing the start of years of slate voting. But we haven’t seen it yet. What is clear is that if we listen to people like Ms. Lotz and take the view that we have already lost that battle, then we most certainly have lost.

Don’t give up. Vote.

Archipelacon – Day 2

As I predicted, I spent most of the morning in my hotel room doing panel prep of various sorts. I think my academic paper is now more or less done. I have one panel still to prepare for, which I’ll get done tonight.

Today I saw a couple of panels about fandom. Firstly George, Parris and Gary talked about their life in fandom. Also Parris was joined by Edward James, Crystal Huff and Michael Lee to talk about Anglo-American fandom. Much apologizing for Puppies was done. Personally I feel that a bit of apologizing for other people might have been appropriate as well. I have spent a great deal of time being told that I’m “not part of our community”. Because I have a stubborn streak, and Kevin’s support, I stuck it out and finally won a Hugo or two. Torgersen and Correia claim to have suffered a small amount of rudeness, as a result of which they are now making like professional soccer players rolling around on the ground clutching various tender parts of their anatomy and screaming for an ambulance. Them I have no sympathy for, but while few people are as thin-skinned as them I don’t think that everyone is as thick-skinned as me either.

The bottom line is that we have won the Culture War. Everyone is a fan now, and we have to accept that, or get left behind.

Today also saw Johanna Sinisalo’s Guest of Honour speech. She certainly seems to have been a precocious child. She could read well at 2.5 years old, and at five, having discovered that books were written by people, resolved to become an author. One of the first SF-related books she read was Comet in Moominland. Being a smart kid, she worried that comets might actually strike the Earth, and asked her father if this was possible. As she tells it, “Then he made a very serious mistake”. Her father, perhaps hoping to reassure her, told her that this Tove Jansson person was a woman, and that women knew nothing about such things. Little Johanna immediately resolved to prove him wrong, and to see to it that women were never again told that there were things they could not do.

Johanna also read us a short passage from the novel she currently has in translation. It is set in a near future Finland where an authoritarian government has banned all “dangerous” drugs except chilis. Naturally everyone turns to the burn to get their endorphin rush. Apparently she and her husband had a lot of fun researching this book.

Today’s first piece of really good news is that the Finnish government has awarded Johanna a five-year arts grant to allow her to write more books. She now earns more than I do just for being an author, quite independent of any money she might get from publishers. I am absolutely delighted for her.

The other piece of really good news was, of course, the Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage. We celebrated by having a Diversity in YA presentation from Suzanne von Rooyen, and an LGBT panel featuring Suzanne, Dirk Weger and myself. More on those shortly.

WSFS is not FIFA

One of the plus points of Puppygate is that we’ve had a brief respite from people yelling about how the Evil Right Wing Hugo Committee is fixing the awards to favor right-wing authors. Thankfully people have realized that VD does not run WSFS.

Nevertheless, there are an awful lot of new people taking note of what happens in WSFS these years, and most of them seem to assume that it is run by a shadowy cabal of well-paid administrators who control everything that happens at Worldcon. I mean, VD says it is so, so it must be true, right?

Well no. There is no Hugo Committee, just a bunch of people who count the votes and who change each year. There is no WSFS Board, everything is decided by popular vote at the Business Meeting. Anyone can propose business to be discussed, and this year it seems like everyone is doing so.

The agenda for this year’s Business Meeting is filling up fast. Motions are being posted to the Sasquan website as they are submitted. You can find them here. Each of these proposals has been submitted by an independent group of people. None of them are “official”.

Nevertheless, last night on Twitter I found people complaining that the Evil WSFS People were using Puppygate as an excuse to oppress short fiction writers.

What has actually happened is that a group of individual fans have proposed the creation of a new Hugo category, the Saga, which will be for extended series of books. This would be for things like a multi-volume story such as A Song of Ice and Fire, an open-ended series such as Seanan McGuire’s October Daye books, and indeed The Culture were Iain still writing books. The idea is that the Saga will be newly eligible each time a new volume is published.

The idea has some merit, in that books of this type tend to do poorly in Best Novel. However, the originators of the motion have also proposed to delete the Novelette category so as not to increase the total number of categories.

Whether you think that is a good idea or not is debatable. As Kevin notes here, the removal of Novelette can be debated separately. There’s no need for it to be passed in order to create the Saga category.

However, getting rid of Novelette is not an official WSFS policy. It was not put forward by the WSFS Board because there is no WSFS Board. If there was, I can assure you that the proposal would not get submitted until the last minute. I’ve attended the National Union of Students conference so I have seen political skulduggery close up (and I see from this year’s goings on that the National Organisation of Labour Students is just as vile as it was when I was a student). Proposed changes to the WSFS Constitution are posted to the Worldcon website to warn people that the proposal has been made, allow people to debate the issue beforehand, and give those affected by any chances a chance to organize a defense.

Update: By the way, if you are interested in the merits, or lack thereof, of the Saga proposal, John Scalzi has a debate going.

The Wages of Sin

Yesterday Sasquan, the 2015 Worldcon, announced that they now have 9,000 members. Fannish mathematics thus makes it the first billion dollar Worldcon1.

On the back of this unexpected windfall the Commie Pinko Faggot Feminazi Cabal that controls Worldcon via Tor Books has announced the 10-year, $3.4 million deal for its primary gamma rabbit author, John Scalzi.

John Scalzi
John Scalzi (author photo by Kyle Cassidy)

Scalzi’s editor at Tor, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, explained the rationale behind this move. “It was a tough decision,” he said, especially as none of Scalzi’s books have sold more than a dozen or so copies, mostly to his friends and family. The convention revenue simply doesn’t cover the shortfall.”

Patrick Nielsen Hayden
Patrick Nielsen Hayden

“Fortunately,” continued Nielsen Hayden, “we are holding Brad Torgersen and Larry Correia in the dungeons of the Flatiron Building. The price of man tears is currently very favorable, thanks in part to the infamous bath at this year’s Wiscon. We believe that we will achieve sufficient production to more than cover the cost of Scalzi’s contract.”

Man Tears Bath
Wiscon members bathe in man tears

Industry commentator, Cheryl Morgan, questioned the level of remuneration that Scalzi is receiving. “As I understand it,” she said, “the contract guarantees that Scalzi will win the Best Novel Hugo for all of the next ten years. As everyone knows, winning a Hugo is a very lucrative proposition, but the contract stipulates that 80% of such revenue will go to Tor. I only won a few fan Hugos and I was able to buy myself a small cottage in the Welsh mountains from the proceeds. Best Novel is worth a lot more and I think Scalzi is being cheated. I hope that SFWA will look into this.”

Cheryl Morgan's Welsh Holiday Home
Cheryl Morgan’s Welsh Holiday Home

Scalzi, whose libertine lifestyle and Coke Zero addiction are legendary, has responded to the news by selling his wife and daughter into slavery.

Krissy and Athena Scalzi
Krissy and Athena Scalzi

1. The rules of fannish mathematics require that several zeros be added to the end of all convention income figures, and all costs be assumed to be zero.

Puppygate – Winners and Losers

What a big HugoThat image is from issue #70 of Doom Patrol, published by Vertigo in 1993 and written by Rachel Pollack. The woman in the frog mask is Kate Godwin, a.k.a. Coagula, a trans woman superhero. The words are, of course, mine. If you’d like to know more about the villain, Codpiece, or indeed Coagula, that issue is available on Comixology.

I’m using that as an illustration to remind people that angry, entitled white men are by no means new. Indeed, if you want an even better illustration of the type, go and read Chip Delany’s Triton. Bron is possibly the ur-MRA character, though he does come up with a far more inventive solution to his inability to get laid.

As to this Puppygate thing, let’s see if I have understood it properly.

Postulate: for the past two decades the Hugo Awards have been controlled by an evil cabal of commie, pinko, faggot feminists led by Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden. They use their power over the SF&F industry to ensure that the commie, pinko, faggot feminist writers they publish via Tor Books dominate the Hugos.

Fact: John C. Wright is published by Tor Books.

Fact: This year John C. Wright has five works as Hugo finalists.

Q.E.D..

Or maybe not. I don’t want to go through the whole Puppy 101 here. If you want details, Mike Glyer has them (and he deserves to be a finalist for the Fan Writer Hugo again next year for the sterling work he is doing keeping up with the torrent of comment).

Actually the whole thing is a bit of a mystery to me, because for the past five years or so I’ve heard little save how the Hugos are a conspiracy run by an evil right wing cabal headed by Old White Men such as Kevin and myself. It is actually a bit of a relief to be told that we are commie, pinko, faggot feminists after all.

By the way, please do remember those accusations. Lots of people are weighing in on the Puppygate issue. They all seem to have advice as to what you, the voters, should do about it. Before taking their advice, do bear in mind what they have said about the Hugos in the past. If they are the sort of person who has dissed the Hugos at every possible opportunity, and they are now telling you that the only thing to do is adopt a scorched earth policy and kill off the awards completely, you might want to be a bit suspicious about their advice.

For most of us, however, the Hugos are a thing that we have some affection for, and Puppygate has clearly got people riled up. I must admit that from my point of view the constant carping, not to mention outright greed, of some people claiming to push a diversity agenda had totally put me off. I simply couldn’t be bothered with all of that nonsense anymore. Puppygate, however, has awoken something interesting in fandom. Right now I am more optimistic about the Hugos than I have been for a long time. Let me explain.

The title of this post was inspired by a podcast that Kevin guested on. One of the hosts of the show was complaining that, no matter what fandom did in response to Puppygate, VD was bound to win. I thought that was wrong, so I started thinking about who the winners and losers were in all of this.

The most obvious losers are, of course, Correia and Torgersen. Firstly they have been portrayed in large numbers of articles all over the mainstream media as a couple of bad losers who, when they didn’t get the share of the Hugo cake they felt they were entitled to, invited a bunch of thugs (VD and GamerGate) to come and piss all over the cake so that no one could have it. Secondly, as has been pointed out by many people, they have been totally pwned by VD. And they daren’t try to dissociate themselves from him too strongly because if they do he’ll come after them next.

Some other authors are losers, of course. There are some fine works that could have been finalists for this year’s Hugos had not the Puppies intervened. But then again every year there are far more fine works that are not finalists than fine works that are. The Hugos are a very tough contest, especially in the fiction categories. Doing good work is not a guarantee of a rocket. That, of course, is a point that appears to have escaped the Puppies. It must be so sad when someone takes the silver spoon of patriarchy out of your mouth and forces you to compete with everyone else, no matter how brown, female or queer they might be.

Has fandom lost? Well obviously if VD and his pals win a bunch of Hugos then we will have done this year. But the final ballot hasn’t happened yet. I understand that Sasquan took an additional 1350 supporting memberships in the two days after the Hugo finalists were announced. I suspect that more memberships are still being bought. Sasquan is on course to be the first Worldcon ever to have more supporting memberships than attending, and probably the third largest Worldcon ever. Some people, I know, are convinced that all of those new members are VD loyalists who will vote as he directs. Personally I’m not so sure.

It’s not just those 1350 or so new members (presumably all voters) that we need to think about either. Given the way that nominating eligibility works (members of last year, this year and next year’s Worldcon), there must have been at least 12,000 people eligible to nominate. Only 2,122 people actually did so. And in the Puppy-dominated short fiction categories the largest number of nominating ballots was 1,174.

What would have happened if all 12,000 eligible WSFS members had cast nominating ballots? Well in Novel, where there were 1,827 ballots cast, three non-Puppy works became finalists.

It is certainly true that a small number of people voting for a slate has far more influence on the nominating ballot than a larger number of people voting independently. But there is a limit. With enough people voting, even a slate becomes less effective.

So my first point is this: VD didn’t win the Hugos, we (collectively) gave them to him by failing to use our votes. Obviously there are good reasons why people don’t participate even though they have the right to do so, but if we want to fix the Puppy problem one of our main priorities ought to be to increase the level of participation in Hugo voting. I do, as you might expect, have ideas about how to do that, which I’ll address in a later post. For now, however, fannish outrage at Puppygate is doing a fine job of encouraging people to vote.

My second point, of course, is that if enough of us vote in the final ballot then he won’t win that either.

I understand that VD has threatened that if he doesn’t win the Hugos this year he’ll come back harder next year. Well, let him try. How many loyal followers does he have? A few hundred, at most, I suspect. There are lots more people who enjoy conservative-themed fiction, but I’m pretty sure that most of them have discerning taste.

There is, I understand, a great deal of debate about how to vote in the final ballot. Do we vote as normal? Do we put known Puppies below No Award? Do we put everyone on the Puppy slates below No Award? Or do we vote No Award for everything?

Well, your vote belongs to you. How you use it is up to you, not to anyone claiming to be an arbiter of fannish morality. All I can say is what I’m intending to do.

I’ll start by noting that there is one category (Fan Artist) for which the puppies didn’t put up a single candidate. There is the possibility of the first ever Finnish winner of a Hugo Award. There are other deserving candidates too (hi Spring!). I’m certainly voting in this one.

There are some really good works in Novel and Graphic Novel too, and anyone who thinks I am forgoing the opportunity to vote for Groot and Rocket has got another think coming (though actually I’ll probably put Winter Soldier first because it is a seriously good film). In Fancast I’m torn between my Aussie pals, Alex, Alisa & Tansy, and Bristol’s local heroes, Emma & Pete.

I’m not going to go through all of the categories in detail, but I do want to note that just because something was on a Puppy slate it doesn’t mean that it didn’t deserve a nomination in its own right. Guardians of the Galaxy was a Puppy nominee, despite the fact that the principal villain, Ronan the Accuser, is a right-wing religious fanatic who wants to kill off everyone he deems morally inferior. I have been constantly surprised that Jim Butcher hasn’t appeared on Hugo ballots, given how many books he sells, and he was a Guest of Honour at this year’s Eastercon.

Ronan judges the Hugos

Then again, No Award is available as an option if you think that a work is genuinely not Hugo material, or doesn’t deserve to be on the Hugo ballot for some other reason. I may well be using it. John C. Wright, sadly, has not got better through his career. Some of you might remember what I thought of him in the days when he was the Great White Hope of Libertarian SF.

I understand that VD claims he will have won if he is beaten by No Award because that will “prove” that the results are fixed. The believability of such a claim will depend a lot on how many people vote.

By the way, Puppies, when I first started getting nominated for Hugos, a whole bunch of angry people from Fanzine Fandom started going on about how I had cheated by using immoral campaigning tactics, how I should have been ruled ineligible anyway, and that there should be a campaign to place me below No Award. I was even officially blacklisted from programming at the 2004 Worldcon. I won Fanzine that year, and a rant denouncing my win was put on the Worldcon’s official website1. Some of them, I think, are still demanding that the “Hugo Committee” correct the results and remove my wins from the record. Frankly, you Puppies are amateurs when it comes to being hated by people who think they own fandom.

I like to think that I won because the voters liked what I was doing. However, I have learned from the latest Galactic Suburbia that, according to Puppy supporters, an Evil Feminist can only win a Hugo if she has a “glittery hoo ha”. A little Googling revealed this means that the poor male members of Worldcon were so desperate to have sex with me that they voted me four Hugos even though I didn’t deserve them. I must admit that I hadn’t noticed this level of general lust, but my ego has benefitted significantly from the discovery.

Given the number of people voting, I am fairly confident that there will be some very fine winners of Hugo Awards this year. There will also be some results I disagree with, but then again the works I nominate rarely become finalists so I am used to that. People need to remember that if some Hugos are won by very popular works that they don’t particularly like, that does not mean that the awards are “broken”.

The real winners of Puppygate, however, are science fiction, and the Hugo Awards themselves.

Why? Well to start with look at all of the press coverage we have got. It is still going on now, more than two weeks after the finalists were announced. No amount of money could have bought that level of attention.

What’s more, most of the coverage is broadly sympathetic. The message has been that there are awards for science fiction that are deeply loved by fans and authors alike, and that those awards have been hijacked by a group of right wing fanatics. A lot of the coverage has explained that diversity has been increasing in the SF&F community, and that this is why a bunch of bigots are so angry.

If that wasn’t enough, we have a whole bunch of top authors writing about their support for the Hugos, and we have hundreds, possibly thousands, of fans signing up to vote.

Thanks Puppies, there’s no way we could have managed all of this without you.

Finally, lots of people have been talking about the need for major change in how the Hugos are run. Normally the WSFS Business Meeting is viewed as a massive snore-fest. This year the eyes of the world will be upon it. Obviously Kevin has a huge responsibility as Chair of the meeting, but I have every confidence in his ability to do a brilliant job. The end result could be a number of really valuable changes that will make the awards much more relevant.

What those changes should be will be the subject of a later post.

I’m closing comments on this, mainly because I don’t have the time to deal with the war that is likely to erupt in the comments if I don’t. There are plenty of other places where partisans can throw insults at each other. If you have genuine questions for me, I’m not that hard to find.

(1) Thanks again to con chair, Deb Geisler, for ordering the web team to take it down, though the matter should never have got that far up the chain of command.

Canaries and Communities

Canary


I found this image via Briannu Wu’s Twitter feed. I’m not sure who originally created it, but it is absolutely spot on. There’s absolutely no point in bringing more women, or more of any minority group, into tech if those people are just going to get marginalized and bullied, and are going to leave again very quickly.

Of course the same applies to all sorts of communities. Also today I saw this post from Rochita Loenen-Ruiz about her nervousness over attending Eastercon.

The bottom line is that if people find the atmosphere in communities toxic, then they will stop wanting to be a part of those communities. Insistence on ideological purity will make a community toxic just as surely as racist or sexist abuse.

Moving to yet anther community, I’ll leave the last word to CN Lester.

TAFF Goes European

I am delighted to see that this year’s contest for the Transatlantic Fan Fund (TAFF) has two candidates from Central Europe.

Nina Horvath is an Austrian fan who is well known for writing convention reports and the like in English. She has provided a rare window on the German-speaking fan scene for us. One of her nominators is my Croatian friend, Mihaela Marija Perković. You can see what Mihaela has to say in support of Nina here.

Wolf von Witting is also German-speaking, but his ancestry includes some Swedish and Scottish. He’s been around the European fan scene somewhat longer than Nina, and even wrote a few articles for Emerald City back in the day.

The online voting form, complete with each candidate’s manifesto, can be found here. It should be a great race and, whichever way it turns out, this year’s Worldcon will be getting a little taste of Europe.

Big Donation for Eaton Collection

A local paper in Riverside reports a major donation of $3.5m to the Eaton Collection. The money comes from the estate of a long-time fan, Jay Kay Klein, who died in 2012. This is apparently the largest donation ever made to the UC Riverside Library, and hopefully it will help secure the future of the Eaton, which is one of the world’s largest repositories of material relating to science fiction and fantasy. Of course there is still the issue, reported a few weeks ago, of the new Library Administration being unconvinced of the value of the Eaton. I’m hoping that the donation causes them to have a change of mind.

Eurocon – Day 1

The first day of Shamrokon has come and gone. Thus far I am still upright. This is progress.

There are copies of Airship Shape & Bristol Fashion in the dealers’ room if anyone wants them. They are on the Swan River table.

There are Jim Fitzpatrick prints in the Art Show. I want all of them. I suspect I cannot afford any of them.

I went to two panels yesterday. The first was on Mediaeval Women and had some expert panelists. I need to sit down with Gillian Polack and get some leads to follow up on. The other was on Celtic Gods and was more playing to the tourist market. There are basically only two ways such a panel can go: either you say, “we know nothing, Jon Snow”, which is basically true; or you run headlong into von Daniken territory, which is fun. Thankfully we managed to avoid any mention of the Irish Potato Goddess (Google it, it is a real thing).

Later in the evening I was on a panel about boycotts. No, not Sir Geoffrey, though I did come prepared with a list of his career statistics. The erstwhile subject was fannish boycotts of particular creators works, for example refusing to go to see the Ender’s Game movie because, so I learned last night, Orson Scott Card has promised to donate some of the proceeds to the fight against marriage equality.

Right at the start I tried to establish that there is a difference between some people not wanting to support certain creators, and the work of those creators being banned. Sadly there was one person in the audience who made comments about “witch hunts” and boycotts being “undemocratic”. I object strongly to being told that I have a moral duty to listen to all instances of people abusing me, otherwise I am guilty of “censorship”. (And, yes, I see this pretty much every day on Twitter from white feminists who think that trans people have a moral duty to submit humbly to any abuse aimed at them.)

Having said that, the whole issue is immensely complicated. What I tried to get across on the panel is that what is offensive to one person may not be offensive to another, and there are no hard and fast rules that can be drawn as to when it is, or is not, legitimate to take offense. Just because you are not offended by X, it doesn’t mean that no one has has a right to be offended by it. Equally, if you are offended by X, you can’t expect everyone else to share your objections. All you can ask is that they acknowledge and respect your views.

One thing I mentioned in the panel is this post on How to be a Fan of Problematic Things. I recommend it here as well.