Historical Fiction at Bath Spa

I spent yesterday at Bath Spa University (the beautiful Newton Park campus) at a conference on writing historical fiction. This is a brief report on the event.

First up I should note that this conference differs from the Historical Fiction Research Network conferences in that it is primarily for students of creative writing, and for working writers. I think I was the only speaker presenting as an historian as opposed to a writer, literary critic or publishing industry expert. Both conferences have value in their own way.

I knew that it was going to be an interesting day right from the start when the opening speaker, Alan Bilton from Swansea University, started talking about postmodernism and whether we can ever know what really happened in the past. We largely managed to avoid going down any Alt-Right rabbit holes, but it did lead to someone asking about authenticity, own voices and so on. And straight down another rabbit hole we went.

When these discussions start (and particularly when they start on social media) they tend to devolve into an argument with people on one side saying that writers should be allowed to write whatever characters they want, and people on the other saying that only people with lived experience of certain types of characters should be allowed to write those characters.

Repeat after me, please: All binaries are false.

As it happens, I’m a big fan of own voices work. If I’m going to read a book set in, say, Mexico City, I would much rather read one written by someone who has lived there (e.g. Silvia Moreno Garcia) than by someone whose knowledge of the city comes entirely from Wikipedia. (And yes, that is another false binary.) But this isn’t the entirety of the disucssion. When it was my turn to get up to speak I made the point that if only trans people were allowed to write trans characters then only around 1% of fiction would contain trans characters, and this would be a bad thing because we desperately need positive portrayals of trans people in fiction right now.

One of the ways around this is to employ a sensitivity reader. Of course that term is a red rag to the more conservative end of the industry, but it shouldn’t be. There was a good example to hand, because Alan had been talking about his forthcoming novel which happens to be set in Russia. He mentioned that he’d relied heavily on a Russian-born colleague for advice. That’s using a sensitivity reader. Most science fiction readers would applaud an author who had worked with actual astronauts, or actual astrophysicists, to get scientific details right. That too is using a sensitivity reader. It is no different from asking for help to make sure that you get Polynesian culture, or non-binary identity, right in your book. Except that if you are asking for help from someone from a marginalised group for help you should probably be paying them, rather than offering a few beers or a favour in return.

My talk, by the way, was a slightly rushed and less interactive version of my workshop on writing queer characters from history. A few folks on Twitter expressed interest in it. I’d be very happy to run it at other events in the future.

The final session of the conference was an industry panel featuring literary agent, Kate Horden; novelist and publisher Lorna Gray; and the historical fiction reviewer for The Times, Antonia Senior. It turned out that Antonia is related by marriage to Amal El-Mohtar and can therefore talk knowledgeably about the difference between the SF&F and historical fiction communities. I found myself nodding along to pretty much everything she said because every book critic has the same issues with too many books and the foolishness of the publishing industry. She had also read and reviewed Shadows of Athens, which made me very happy.

Because the attendees of the conference were almost all women, there was some interest in questions of author identity, use of initials and so on. If anyone wants to follow up on that, I warmly recommend Juliet McKenna’s essay, “The Myth of Meritocracy”, in Gender Identity and Sexuality in Fantasy and Science Fiction, the British Fantasy Award Winning book from Luna Press. Juliet goes through the entire pipeline of the publishing and bookselling industry and shows, with data and references, how it is stacked in favour of straight, white men at every turn.

If it were up to me I’d make that essay required reading on all creative writing syllabi.

There were other great sessions as well. I enjoyed discussing theoretical approaches to writing historical fiction with Melissa Addy (I hope you enjoy Guy Gavriel Kay, Melissa). I was delighted to meet British-based Serbian writer, Senja Andrejevic-Bullock, who had really interesting things to say regarding writing about recent wars when you are from a people who are regarded as the bad guys. I learned a lot about women at sea from Sarah Tanburn, and about the hidden meanings in Pieter Bruegel’s paintings from Lisa Koning. I even met someone who has written feminist science fiction. Hello Lania Knight!

Huge thanks to Celia Brayfield and Bea Hitchman for organising the event. I understand that there are plans to run the conference again next year, and it will be at the University of Gloucester. I’ll let you know when I have more details.

October Salon Futura

In case you missed the announcements last week, the October issue of Salon Futura is now available. You can read it here.

I have a guest article this time — an update of Kevin’s legendary article on designing convention badges, because this is one con-running lesson that people never seem to learn. There’s also my report on FantasyCon, and an audio interview with Ellen Datlow. But as usual the main content is book reviews and in this issue we have:

  • The Warrior Moon by K Arsenault Rivera
  • FranKissStein by Jeanette Winterson
  • The Pleasant Profession of Robert A Heinlein by Farah Mendlesohn
  • Alice Payne Arrives by Kate Heartfield
  • Shadows of Athens by JM Alvey
  • David Mogo, Godhunter, by Suyi Davies Okungbowa
  • Brightfall by Jamie Lee Moyer

Steampunks in Space

I have email from the UK’s National Space Centre. Later this month (23rd/24th) they will be having a steampunk convention at their museum in Leicester. It looks like a pretty full on two days of events. Sadly I don’t have the time to arrange to go and sell books, but hopefully some of you will have the opportunity to attend. For more details, click here.

Well And Truly Launched


Photo by Donna Bond

BristolCon happened, and Airship Shape & Bristol Fashion II is now well and truly launched. Above you can see most of the crew posing at the launch event, and below there is a close up of the magnificent cake that the convention provided for us.

As is usual with conventions, not everything went entirely smoothly, but a great deal of frantic paddling ensured that it was almost all OK on the day. I will have more to say about the convention in the November issue of Salon Futura. For now all I really want to talk about is the fact that I sold 74 books on the day. I sold 50 at Worldcon, which was great, but 74 in one day at a much smaller convention is spectacular.

Of course I still want to sell more. Airship II won’t earn out just yet. I doubled everyone’s advances on the basis of how well the first book sold, and I’m pretty confident that there will be royalties eventually, but in the meantime you folks need to buy copies.

The book is in all of the major stores. You can find links here. Google will follow in due course. They are just a bit of a pain to deal with.

Paperback copies are available from Amazon, and from all good bookstores. Just quote the ISBN (978-1-908039-91-0) and ask them to order it. The hardcover isn’t available yet because Andy Bigwood is snowed under at work and hasn’t had time to do the cover for me, but we’ll get there eventually.

Bay Area people, I’ll be working with Kevin to get both this book and The Green Man’s Foe to you for next time he’s at BASFA. Look at for an email about orders on the BASFA mailing list. Or just get Borderlands to order it for you.

Australians, I know you are still sore about the rugby, but you can get Wizard’s Tower books in your country now, either from Amazon or from bookstores. We print in Australia so they only cost an arm, not an arm and a leg.

Why should you buy this one? Well there’s a whole load of reasons, but my favourite one is that we have three stories in it by trans women. Bogi, I’ll be sending you a copy to look over for the next Transcendent anthology.

FantasyCon – Days 2 & 3

I guess I have been busy. The Dealers’ Room was quite quiet, but I sold some books. Also my panels and workshop went well. I live-tweeted the awards. Juliet did not win, but my pals at Breaking the Glass Slipper and GV Anderson did, so I’m very happy.

I’d like to say a special hello to The Portal Bookshop who were in the Dealers’ Room here and will be opening for business in York next week. If you happen to be in or near York, please do give them some custom. Not only are they a specialist SF&F dealer, but they have a particular interest in books with queer and other marginalised characters. They are, as far as I know, the only bookstore in the UK that is currently willing to stock Wizard’s Tower books.

I will do a proper con report in the next Salon Futura.

Now I could do with some sleep.

FantasyCon – Day 1

Hello from Glasgow. I arrived here late yesterday afternoon and have done nothing much except socialise since I got here. The hotel is modern, comfortable and spacious. The restaurant is good and the bar is cheap. Programme, what programme?

Actually I did attend one item. The lovely people at Handheld Press are re-publishing Vonda McIntyre’s debut novel, The Exile Waiting. It is set in the same world as her Hugo-winning Dreamsnake. Well worth a look.

Off To FantasyCon

I will be spending the next few days at FantasyCon in Glasgow. The full schedule is available online here, but if you are just looking for me this is what I’m doing:

Saturday, 14:00 Panel Room 3 – Reviewing and Non-Fiction (with Rob Malan & Alasdair Stuart)

Saturday, 17:00 Panel Room 3 Panel Room 3 – Fantasy in Translation (with Ali Nouraei, Max Edwards & Tasha Shuri)

Sunday, 11:00 Panel Room 2 – Writing Queer Characters From History (a workshop, run by me)

Sunday 13:00 Waterhouse Room – British Fantasy Awards Banquet (cheering on Juliet)

The rest of the time I will either be a) at the Luna Press table in the Dealers’ Room or b) watching rugby, presumably in the bar. There will doubtless be some eating and sleeping as well. And showering because I am a good con-going-person.

Obviously I am very much hoping that Juliet wins the Rob Holdstock Award (for Best Fantasy Novel). But it is an incredible honour for a little press like mine to be a finalist so I really can’t complain if she doesn’t. It will be a great weekend regardless.

The BristolCon Programme is Live

The BristolCon programme went live today. There are things that I will be doing. Here they are.

Friday 20:00 Programme Room 1 Open Mic — I and a number of other authors will be doing 5 minute readings. Some of the readings will be from Airship Shape & Bristol Fashion II.

Saturday 12:00 Programme Room 2 Broader Horizons: Despite some sterling work in recent years, big commercial fantasy is still in thrall to the tropes of medieval Europe. How do we break out of that setting? (With Ian Millsted, Zoe Burgess-Foreman, Mark Lewis & Anna Stephens).

Saturday 14:00 Programme Room 1 Airship Shape & Bristol Fashion II Launch

Saturday 17:00 Programme Room 1 Opening the Door: The Panel share their experiences of discovering genre and the world beyond the everyday. A celebration of childhood imagination. (With Jo Hall, Steven Poore, Janet Edwards & Phil Gilvin).

At all other times you will be able to find me at the Wizard’s Tower stall in the Dealers’ Room.

Today on Ujima – LGBT+ History, Worldcon & Women’s Cricket

I was back in the Ujima studio today, and my first guest was friend and colleague, Dr. Jamie Lawson of the University of Bristol. Jamie has written a children’s book on LGBT+ history called Rainbow Revolutions. It is published tomorrow, and I’m very impressed with it. We had a great conversation about the use of the word “queer”, Section 28 and why people are worried it might come back, Ball Culture and the success of Pose, and so on.

Next up I dragged in Harriet Aston who roomed with me at Worldcon. It was her first big convention and understandably she was a bit overwhelmed, which makes her an ideal person to represent that first Worldcon experience. I was impressed that Harriet felt that she was swimming rather than drowning by day 4.

The rest of the show was devoted to women’s cricket and the triumph of Western Storm in the final year of the Kia Super League. I played my interview with Raf Nicholson, and passed on the latest news about the women’s part in the stupid new “The Hundred” series. It is possible that a new Western Storm might rise from the ashes of the KSL after all.

You can catch up on the show via the Listen Again service here.

The playlist for today’s show was as follows:

  • Gil Scott Heron – The Revolution Will Not Be Televised
  • Grace Jones – This Is
  • Thin Lizzy – The Boys Are Back In Town
  • Earth, Wind & Fire – September
  • Bob Dylan – Shelter from the Storm
  • Billie Holiday – Stormy Weather
  • The Impressions – We’re A Winner
  • Jim Steinman – The Storm

My next show will be on October 2nd and will feature an interview with Ellen Datlow that I recorded while we were in Ireland.

TitanCon – Day 3

It has been another quiet and relxing day at Eurocon. Francesco and I sold some more books. I did the panel on The Matrix. Kevin and I did our Kaffelklatsch, to which only 2 people turned up. There were closing ceremonies.

Some lovely people won awards, but I’ll save it until tomorrow to write about that because it is late.

Next year’s Eurocon will be in Rijeka, Croatia. It will be in early October. The only announced Guest of Honour thus far is Adrian Tchaikovsky. They will also have a Ghost of Honour, Robert Whitehead, who invented the torpedo.

Site selection for 2021 was won by Fiuggi in Italy. The bid for Romania was withdrawn at the last minute, apparently due to a dispute having broken out between some of the organisers. Fiuggi has a whole bunch of announced guests, including Ian McDonald, Lavie Tidhar and Rachel Cordasco. As Francesco is involved in the organisation, I expect there to be a heavy emphasis on translation.

TitanCon – Day 2

I spent much of today behind Francesco Verso’s dealer table. I’m pleased to see we are selling books. They are not moving in huge quantities, despite us being the only new book dealer at the convention. That’s partly because we have a really awful location, but mainly I think because a lot of the people at TitanCon were also in Dublin and have no room left in their luggage. Certainly that’s what several people told me today.

I did an interview with Ellen Datlow, which will appear on the radio show and Salon Futura in due course.

I also did my one panel for the day. This was on Writing Vulnerable Men. I was moderating, so I didn’t have a huge amount of input, but I hope we managed to establish the idea that, while men are often written as vulnerable in various ways, this is usually done along gender-stereotyped lines; they are not generally portrayed as vulnerable in the same way that women are portrayed as vulnerable.

Things got a little tetchy between the two panelists at one point and I elected not to take sides despite having firm opinions on the issue. At the time it was better to acknowledge a difference of opinion and move on. What I will say here is that it is never “unrealistic” to write about certain types of people if people of that type exist in the real world. It doesn’t matter if they are a small minority, they are still real.

This evening I attended a launch event for Distaff, an anthology of science fiction by women authors, including BristolCon’s Rosie Oliver. I’m always happy to support women’s writing, particularly in a field where the prejudices of the publishing industry can make it hard for them to thrive.

TitanCon – Day 1

In theory TitanCon is a 4-day convention. It started today and contines through to Sunday evening. However, the programming on Sunday consists entirely of a coach trip to Game of Thrones filming locations followed by a mediaeval banquet. Practically speaking, therefore, at least from my point of view, it is a 3-day convention followed by going out to dinner with a large group of friends.

Today was all about getting settled in. I did have one panel on small presses, but there was also getting registered and getting set up in the Dealers’ Room. My own books might be sold out, but I have a small number of Twelfth Planet books that I offered to take from Dublin to Belfast, and that I need to sell so that I don’t have to take them home and then to Glasgow for FantasyCon. Franceso Verso is once again giving me space on his table, and here we have more time to chat.

A lot of people have come from Dublin to Belfast, including a significant number of Americans. Goodness only knows what Ben Yalow will make of the ESFS Business Meeting. I’m kind of sad that he won’t get to experience Dave Lally chairing it.

Because I talk a lot about translations on panels, people occasionally give me books. Today I was given a copy of East of a Known Galaxy, an anthology of Romanian science fiction translated into English. My thanks are due to Darius Hupov who is the host of The Galactic Imaginarium, a science fiction podcast based in Romania.

Eurocon is very much a multi-cultural experience. Also today I got to chat with a French fan about translations from French to English, and to a couple of Estonian fans about my visit to their country this summer. I shared a dealer table with an Italian, and was on a panel with a publisher from Portugal. That sort of thing ought to happen at Worldcon, but it doesn’t. Eurocon is where that sort of inter-cultural mixing is commonplace.

The Race for 2023

There has been some discussion on Twitter today about potential future Worldcon sites. Washington DC has been awarded the 2021 convention. It is probably too late to do anything about 2022, for which Chicago is unopposed. That leaves us with 2023 as the next possible non-US Worldcon.

Prior to Dublin the extant bids for 2023 were Nice (France), Chengdu (China) and New Orleans (USA). The New Orleans bid has, I understand it, collapsed. However, some US fans were busily organising a bid for another city. Apparently they viewed this as essential to prevent yet another non-US Worldcon. I think they have settled on Memphis but it was a bit confused.

The Chengdu bid is controversial for two reasons, one of which is that it is very hard to get into China. Elizabeth Bear told me that she has been denied a visa because she is a writer. That could happen to a lot of us. My own view is that a Chinese Worldcon won’t happen without government approval, and if that approval exists then it should be possible to set up a system whereby visa applications can be expedited. This is China, after all. If bureaucrats are told to do something they will do it. It is only when they have no instructions that they are dangerous. I know this is rough on my Chinese friends, who very much want to extend the hospitality of their country to the world, but they need to show that they can get people to the convention.

The other issue is personal safety. Clearly a lot of Americans are terrified of going to China. I know a lot of people who have been. That includes my boss, Berkeley. His husband, Duncan, has been working in China for several months, and Berkeley has spent a lot of time out there. Given that he’s never had any job other than Gay Activist, and this should be obvious from his social media activity, I don’t think that China is that dangerous for LGBT+ folks.

It is, however, potentially dangerous to Muslims given what is happening to the Uighurs at the moment. It is also extremely dangerous for anyone who has friends or family involved in the current protests in Hong Kong. That is a very good reason for not voting for China. Things may be different in two years time, but political change in China does not happen easily, and I can’t see their government backing off while neither the USA nor the UK has any interest in asking them to, and the EU desperately needs allies against the Trump-Russia axis.

That leaves us with Nice. It is a lovely city, just down the road from Monaco, and easily accessible by train from much of Europe. It may even be accessible by train from the UK if the Channel Tunnel hasn’t been blocked up Brexit fanatics by then. It also has excellent air links. It is not far from Spain (well, Catalonia) and very close to Italy, which makes it a good site for a European event.

The downside is that the Nice bid committee are largely new to Worldcon. As far as I can see they don’t have much involvement from the folks who run Imaginales and Utopiales either. They don’t have fans from other European countries helping them out. And I don’t know of any tradition of con-running in Nice. Organisationally, they seem to be a weaker bid than Chengdu.

We have two years to turn that around. I know a bunch of French fans, and I plan to talk to any I find at Eurocon this weekend. Being of generous spirit, I also hereby volunteer to take a short holiday on the French Riviera so that I can inspect the site. I may be nagging the Nordic, Croatian and Italian fans to help out too.

Finally I note that in these times of increasingly difficulty of international travel, and of burgeoning climate crisis, it is absolutely essential that we look at ways of making more of Worldcon accessible over the Internet so that people can participate without having to travel. The New Zealand convention is an excellent point at which to start. But that’s a big enough subject for a whole new post and I need to talk to Norm and Kelly first.

Worldcon #77 – Day 5

I woke up from not enough sleep to discover that social media was aflame with drama at the Hugo Losers’ Party. I’m still not entirely sure what went on, but Twitter is full of ranting by people who know nothing of the history of the event so I will try to get to the bottom of it before I post a con report.

The Hugo Losers’ Party has traditionally been the ugly duckling of Worldcon. For reasons lost in the midst of time it has normally been run by the up-coming Worldcon, which in this case would mean New Zealand. The up-coming Worldcons hated this, because it was a major expense and trouble when they had no money and were exhausted from the bid campaign. It was always a terrible party with a minimal budget and too-small room that was ferociously gate-kept by SMOFs who felt it was their duty to police who was worthy of entry.

Then the Puppies happened, and GRRM decided to throw a big party for the convention to give out his Alfie Awards to people who should have won Hugos but didn’t because we’d had to No Award most of the categories. Although the Puppies have been well and truly routed, George holding the party has become a tradition. This is an example of Cheryl’s Second Law of Fandom in action: anything that has happened twice is a Sacred and Holy Tradition that must be retained at all costs.

In the old days, Hugo Loser Party nonsense wasn’t a big deal. If some snooty SMOF decided that you weren’t worthy of your place on the ballot and wouldn’t let you in, you could just move on to one of the other parties that would probably have more and better food and booze. But George runs his parties at off-site locations and if you can’t get in, which happened to a bunch of finalists last night, you are left outside in your award ceremony finery feeling cold and wet and miserable, with no choice but to get a cab back to your hotel.

Quite why so many finalists were turned away isn’t clear. It isn’t the fault of the Dublin committee, because they have nothing to do with the party other than pass on invitations to the finalists. It probably isn’t the fault of the NZ people because these days I understand that organisation of the event is passed on to people who work for George. People on Twitter inevitably blamed George personally (and doubtless complained that he should be writing books rather than running parties). The fault may lie with the staff at the venue. It is all a bit murky.

What is clear is that a whole lot of people who were not Hugo finalists had got into the party long before the Hugo Ceremony finished. This is the publishing industry in action. If there is a swank party going, publishing people will find a way to get into it. And the fact that they did led to the venue being (allegedly) overcrowded and people being turned away.

It is also clear that a whole lot of people who were Hugo finalists, many of them for the first time, had a really shitty experience.

I confess to being a little lacking in sympathy here. The year I won my first Hugo I had been blacklisted from programming at the convention because the head of Programming thought I wasn’t worthy of being on the ballot. And after I won a rant attacking me was posted on the convention’s website by convention staff. (Deb Geisler, who was the con chair, ordered it taken down as soon as she heard about it.) However, I too hate standing out in the cold and rain wearing party clothes so I can imagine what it must have been like.

I’ll have some more thoughts on how we fix this for subsequent years when I write the con report, but a core issue is that throwing a good party is really expensive and the number of finalists you have to cater for has been going up year-on-year.

Meanwhile there was still a day of convention to go. I sold the last copy of The Green Man’s Foe this afternoon so Wizard’s Tower officially sold out. That’s 45 paperbacks and 5 hardcovers in total. As I had an unexpected vacancy in my luggage I offered to take the remaining Twelfth Planet stock to Belfast with me to sell there. If you are going to be at Eurocon, do come to the Future Fiction table to see what I have.

The rest of the day was spent on things like wrangling luggage, saying goodbye to people I’m not going to see again for years, and listening to people say what a wonderful time they had at the convention.

I am now in Belfast. I will be here for a week. The next two days will be mainly sleep, work and tourism. The Eurocon starts on Thursday.

Worldcon #77 – Day 4

Today was mostly a do nothing day. I didn’t have any panels, and I knew I needed to save my energy for a long evening covering the Hugo Award Ceremony.

I did spend some time in the morning shopping for whiskey, which was very successful. I then spent quite a bit of time just being off my feet. That allowed me to have a chat with Roz & Jo about Airship 2, which is progressing nicely.

To the great relief of all concerned, the Tech team in Dublin had managed to acquire a dedicated wifi connection for Kevin, Susan and I to use for the live coverage of the ceremony. Special thanks are due to Rick Kovalcik for doing all of the leg work on this.

Aside from some rather dodgy speech-to-text conversion software, the ceremony went off very well. The winners seemed very popular except in the Puppyverse. A few of them were even things I had voted first. The full results, with a link to The Numbers, are available here. Kevin and I have been busy getting the official Hugos website updated, so we are not at any of this evening’s parties.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I am going to read those voting breakdowns.

Worldcon #77 – Day 3

This morning, after a bit of fruitless chasing of phone companies, I took myself off to The Point to meet Scott Edelman who was on a panel there. This is how I discovered that Dublin has a rule that the Green Room is only open to programme participants during the hour before their panels. I guess they are very short of space. Being me, I blagged my way in.

Once Scott’s panel was done we headed off to his restaurant of choice, Mr. Fox, and recorded a podcast for Eating the Fantastic. Scott will post details of what we ate along with the podcast, but he has released the above photo with me and the restaurant’s signature walnut whip confectionary. Scott’s ability to find superb restaurants is legendary in the SF&F community, and rightly so.

It was a very long lunch, but not alcoholic as I had to get back to The Point to give my talk on the Prehistory of Robotics. It seemed to go down well. I was also pleased to meet a long time friend, Paul Mason, whom I haven’t seen in decades as he’s been living in Japan.

The rest of the day was spent chatting to people back at the convention centre. I was very pleased to meet two talented young women who are starting to make a name for themselves in the business. The first was Molly Powell, who is the new editor at Jo Fletcher Books. She’s the person responsible for bringing This is How You Lose the Time War and Gods of Jade and Shadow to the UK. The other was Tamsyn Muir, author of Gideon the Ninth, which is by far the most talked about debut novel that I can remember. They are both lovely, and I look forward to watching their careers blossom.

I didn’t have enough energy left to go to the masquerade, so I came back to the apartment and crashed.

Tomorrow, I have nothing to do except the Hugos. Quite a lot of panels have had to turn people away, and I have taken a policy decision to give up my seat to newbies. I may go whiskey shopping.

Worldcon #77 – Day 2

Well that was eventful.

I was fortunate enough to be able to sleep in a bit this morning because the first thing I had to do was be at the convention centre for 11:00pm as Juliet McKenna was doing a signing. That went very well. We sold a whole bunch of books, both The Green Man’s Heir and The Green Man’s Foe. We were very happy.

Immediately after that I was moderating a panel on promoting translations. I was very pleased with that. I had a very knowledgeable panel, including Neil Clarke and Francesco Verso who are doing far more to promote translations than I am. We had an interesting discussion on how awards might help, what sort of awards were needed, and why the proposal for a Best Translated Novel Hugo is a bad idea.

While we were doing that, the Friday Business Meeting was in progress. While they rarely do Objection to Consideration any more, they can ask for a motion to be deferred for a year to allow more discussion to take place, and that’s what happened to the translation Hugo proposal. I do hope that the people who put it forward will listen to people in the translation community over the next 12 months rather than stubbornly bring back the same flawed proposal in Wellington.

During the panel, Julie Nováková said that she’d like someone to revive the SF&F Translation Awards (or something like them). The charitable organisation that we set up for them has been disbanded, but the website still exists and I’d be happy to talk to anyone who wants to take this on.

After the panel and a quick lunch I headed down to the other venue to check out the tech situation for tomorrow. I have to give my robotics talk in one of the Odeon rooms at The Point and I needed to make sure everything would work. These rooms are effectively overflow programming space, which is great because the con is much bigger than anyone initially expected. However, they are actually in an Odeon. The rooms are part of a multi-screen cinema. This means that the seating is great, but there isn’t much of it. Screen 4, where I will be, only seats about 80 people. What’s more, there is a queueing system. You can’t go and wait outside the room. If you don’t go through the official queueing process then you may not get in. Please bear this in mind if you are coming to listen to me tomorrow.

While I was at The Point I had a look around the Art Show which is very impressive. There are a lot of really good artists in there, the show itself is very big, and the large amount of natural lighting it gets is ideal. I have finally got to see some of Emma Newman’s art in the canvas, so to speak, and it is very pretty.

Unfortunately I also managed to lose my phone while I was down at The Point. I put this down to being very tired by that point and not thinking straight. Fortunately I was able to cadge favours of friends (thanks to Kevin & Andy and to Alan) and get the deivice disconnnected, and I didn’t have anything irreplaceable on it anyway, but it does mean that no one can phone me right now. I will go and talk to the phone company tomorrow, but I may not be able to get a new phone with my old number until I arrive in Belfast next week. If any of you are in the habit of contacting me on WhatsApp please bear this in mind.

Back at the Convention Centre, I inhaled a sandwich and headed off to moderate a panel marking the 50th anniversary of The Left Hand of Darkness. I was pleased with that, so thanks again to a great group of panelists. We all agreed that the book is very relevant, even if part of modern society are less hidebound in their attitudes to sex and gender than poor Genly Ai.

During the panel Nick Hubble mentioned Genly’s suspicion that the Gethenians were genetically engineered from baseline humans sometime far in the past. Genly thinks this was an experiment of some sort, but we only have his word for it and the details appear to be lost in the mists of Hainish history. I would love to see someone write a novel that tells the story of how the Gethenians came to be. Obviously there would be copyright issues, not to mention the jaw-dropping terror of trying to write a novel in one of Le Guin’s worlds, put I’m putting the idea out there just in case.

That was me done for the day. Thankfully I don’t have to go to the Business Meeting tomorrow to fight the translation Hugo proposal, so I have time to see about the phone situation. Over lunch I am being interviewed by Scott Edelman for his Eating the Fantastic podcast. Then it is off to The Point to give the Prehistory of Robotics talk.

We may have a solution to the issue of internet access for the Hugo Award Ceremony coverage, but there’s no guarantee that it will work. I must say that I am deeply disappointed at how successive Worldcons continue to not care in the slightest whether we are able to do this coverage. Despite Josh Beatty trying really hard for us, the Award Ceremony Director simply doesn’t have enough clout to make this happen. We have to get made an official part of the convention staff, with someone on the committee who can fight to get us what we need from the outset. I think WSFS Division is the only logical place for us, because we are an official WSFS function. I shall probably rant about this again after the convention.

Worldcon #77 – Day 1

Well that was full-on. Welcome to Worldcon!

This morning’s main job was to collect the copies of The Green Man’s Foe and get them on sale in the Dealers’s Room. Huge thanks to Catie Murphy for helping with delivery, and to Francesco Verso for giving me space on his table. If you are at Worldcon and want a copy you can find Francesco at the back of the room sandwiched between Luna Press and the people will the big line of black t-shirts.

I know at least a third of the copies have gone already, which is excellent news.

My next job was to find out where Kevin and I, and Susan de Guardiola, would be based for the Retro-Hugo coverage. There were only a couple of people on the convention staff with that knowledge, and it took a while to track them down. Huge thanks to Josh Beatty for giving us our own office.

In between all this I got to a few panels. The convention centre is lovely, and almost right-sized for the convention. One of my Finnish friends told me that she had queued for two panels and not been able to get in, but I got to all of the panels I wanted without much queueing. There’s a major issue with traffic flow on the Wicklow floor, but the convention is working hard to get something in place. Everything else seems to be working fine, though I haven’t got to the other venue yet.

I went to two panels on translation, which were interesting, and one very well attended panel for queer fans, which was heartwarming. I’ll be doing another translation panel tomorrow. It is good to see so much cross-cultural stuff happening.

This evening saw the Opening Ceremonies and Retro-Hugo Awards. Kevin and I made a decision to do live coverage of this as a trial run for Sunday. The software we normally use for these things is no longer available, and we wanted to give the replacement a run out before the Big Show. We are so glad that we did, because in the process we discovered that the Internet connection we had is terrible. We barely made it through the evening. On Sunday, when the auditorium will be full of people using their phones to do their own coverage, and thereby using up bandwidth, it will be impossible. So we have 2.5 days to find an alternative connection. I do hope the convention has something it can let us have.

Worldcon #77 – Day -1

Hello Dublin, thank you for having us!

I am safely arrived at my apartment for the week. It is a lovely little Air BnB near the Castle. The travel all went more or less according to plan, despite the best attempts of the West Country weather to have everyone phoning Mr. Noah to ask if he still has that big boat. I haven’t got to the convention centre yet, but I know how to get there and have bought a ticket for the Luas (the city tram network).

Dublin is teeming with fannish persons. When I arrived a flight from Helsinki had just disgored a legion of Finns. I knew three of my fellow passengers on my flight, and several others were clearly fans from their dress and hair color. I ran into John Picacio while I was out shopping for supplies.

The other thing I have been doing today is making sure that The Green Man’s Foe is available online tomorrow. Amazon and Kobo should go live at midnight. B&N and Google may take a little longer. And of course the ebooks will bbe available through the Wizard’s Tower shop.

The WSFS Agenda

With Worldcon almost upon us, it is time once more to descend into that pit of despair, the WSFS Business Meeting. What delights of Parliamentary Procedure are in store for us this year?

The Agenda for this year’s Business Meetin is available here. There doesn’t seem to be anything urgent to debate on Friday. The days when it was necessary to pack the Friday meeting to prevent conservative fans from squashing important motions with Objection to Consideration motions seem to be finally over. Besides, there’s nothing I’m desperate to see get discussed.

Much of the main business, which will be debated on Saturday morning, is either ratification of items passed in San José, or clean-up of the Constitution. The Nit-Picking & Fly-Specking Committee has been doing its usual fine job of spotting side effects of new regulations and quietly proposing simple ways of bringing everything into line. However, there are a couple of new proposals that will doubtless spark debate.

Motion D1: Clarification of Worldcon Powers, is a NP&FS Motion, but it is one that is personally important to me. What it does it make it clear than an individual Worldcon has no power over the Hugo Awards from previous years, administered by other Worldcons. For years after I won my first Hugo, people were saying that an “error” had been made, and that the award should be rescinded because I should never have been allowed on the ballot in the first place. I don’t want this to happen to other people.

Motion D7: Five and Five, would remove the system of having 6 finalists each year. This was put in place as one of the anti-Puppy measures. Those who study the voting figures claim that is has very little effect, and the EPH system is sufficient protection going forward. But why remove it? I have heard people saying that it is just to make life easier for Hugo Administrators. I don’t think that’s the argument being made. The main issues are the amount of reading that has to be done by voters, and the size of the pre-Hugo reception. In practice 6 finalists isn’t a huge problem for voters except in categories that involve novels. But with the Lodestar we have two novel categories, and we have Series which is a nightmare for voters to judge fairly. So there’s something of a point there. As to the reception, this has always been a nightmare for Worldcons, both in terms of the expense and finding a suitable venue that is both large enough and close enough to the auditorium. That nightmare will have been getting steadily worse as we have added more categories. I can quite see why those who run the event hate the 6 Finalists rule.

Motion D9: Non-transferability of Voting Rights, is one that I think will divide the meeting. I can see merits both ways. Personally I am generally in favour of anything that strengthens the bond between the member and WSFS. People buying a membership of Worldcon tend to see themselves as members of that Worldcon, not members of WSFS, when in fact they are both. Obviously there will be old time fans who will see this as creeping corporatisation of WSFS, but I think the time when a cry of, “To the Barricades! No WSFS Inc!!!”, could pack the meeting are long gone. Where I think this motion will attract opposition is from people who see it as taking away their right to re-sell their voting rights, which it does. But as long as membership of WSFS is relatively cheap I don’t have a problem with that. It will enlarge the voter pool, which is a good thing.

There may be some very convoluted arguments about whether Supporting Memberships and WSFS Memberships are, or should be, the same thing. It is complicated.

Motion D11: Clear Up the Definition of Public in the Artist Categories Forever, is all very well in theory, but is certainly not going to achieve what it says on the tin. There are always going to be new wrinkles in definitions as long as the pro/fan distinction exists. All we can hope for is that this reduces the number of issues. I have no idea whether it will.

Motion D12: Best Translated Novel, is one I’d like to speak to if I am still at the meeting (I have a 12:00 appointment elsewhere). No one I know in the translation community is in favor of this. Neil Clarke has laid into it here. Knowing how much the WSFS community hates the idea of a work being eligible in more than one Hugo category, I fully expect there to be an amendment to this proposal that would also bar translated novels from the Novel category, and possibly Series and the Lodestar as well. Even if such an amendment doesn’t get through, I think that the existence of this category will encourage people to think that translated works are not eligible for any other Hugo category. It is hard enough now to persuade people that they are eligible, even though they always have been. We don’t want to be stuck in a ghetto, so please don’t pass this.

Motion D13: Best Game or Interactive Experience, is something I think will have to happen at some stage in some form. I’m not a sufficient expert on the game industry to tell whether this is a good solution or not. Given that the last trial of a game category was 13 years ago, I’d like to see a trial category run before we make anything like this permanent.