Dublin Issues First Confirmed Program Participants

The Dublin Worldcon has issued a first batch of named program participants. They include the Guests of Honor (obviously) and a bunch of people who have already been accepted onto the program. This includes high profile writers like George RR Martin and Seanan McGuire, industry figures such as Ellen Datlow and Jonathan Strahan, and a whole bunch of fabulous women of colour such as Aliette de Bodard, Amal El-Mohtar and Sofia Samatar. I’m very pleased to see Emma Newman and Juliet McKenna on the list, and I’m on there too. You can see the full list here.

Someone, inevitably, is going to spot the fact that there’s a Jesuit priest on the list and start muttering about Catholic conspiracies. Us Worldcon regulars know that Brother Guy is the Pope’s official astronomer (as in Director of the Vatican Observatory) and a keen science fiction fan.

Lots more people will be added to that list in due course, but it is good to see the Dublin folks working hard on marketing the event in advance. Publising an early list like this is something I have been trying to get Worldcons to do for years, and most of them flat out refuse. Well it has been done now, so it has become traditional.

Worldcons in Smaller Countries

Most of the time Worldcon doesn’t cause much of a splash in the country where it is held. It is often as much as we can do to get the mayor of the host city to take notice. Who cares about a bunch of nerds, right?

Sometimes, however, it is different. Kevin has fond stories of Winnipeg, where I believe that Worldcon was the biggest event held in the city that year. Helsinki too sat up and took notice. And now we have two seated Worldcons that are again in quite small countries.

New Zealand has set a high bar. When they won their bid they unveiled this video by their Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, welcoming Worldcon to her country.

That’s pretty special. After all, Ms. Ardern has won an election while pregnant, and given birth while Prime Minister. She’s clearly a force to be reckoned with.

Not to be outdone, at Closing Ceremonies yesterday the Dublin folks presented a message from the President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins. The message includes the following:

Ireland is a land which celebrates stories and imagination, and our Irish heritage has always been imaginatively interwoven with new cultures and new traditions. This is aptly reflected in our deep appreciation and appetite for speculative fiction.

Of course, just because you are a small country, it doesn’t mean that you don’t have a great science fiction tradition. Both countries are rightly proud of their film industries. Wellington, New Zealand, is home to WETA, who produced the Lord of the Rings movies. Ireland is also a favorite location for SF&F filmmakers. For closing ceremonies the Dublin folks produced this video.

What struck me about that video, however, was the music. You can hear part of a song from the legendary Irish rock band, Horslips. It is this song.

Dearg Doom is a song from their album, The Tain, which is a rock version of the famous Irish legend, the Táin Bó Cúailnge (The Cattle Raid of Cooley). The title means The Red Destroyer and is one of many songs on the album devoted to the hero of that legend, Cú Chulainn.

Horslips did two albums based on Irish mythology. The other, The Book of Invasions, is based on the Lebor Gabála Érenn (The Book of the Taking of Ireland). These two, are, in my humble opinion, two of the best rock albums ever recorded. If the Dublin committee can work with Horslips, that’s Opening and Closing Ceremonies pretty much sorted. They can open with this music, which announces the arrival of the Tuatha Dé Danann in Ireland.

And end with their departure.

This is probably a good time to remind you all that my friends Dimitra Fimi and Alistair Sims are editing a book of academic essays on the use of Celtic mythology in science fiction and fantasy. That should be available at Worldcon next year. The essay I have submitted does mention Horslips, but it is mainly about Patricia Kennealy-Morrison’s Keltiad books.

Best Dressed at the Hugos

It is very difficult doing this when you are not actually at the ceremony, so huge thanks to Susan de Guardiola for taking pictures for me. All of the photos below are hers except where mentioned.

Even so I am missing things. In particular I wish I had a picture of the amazing makeup that Julia Rios was rocking. There were doubtless many spectacular outfits in the audience that I have missed.

Having said all that, this was a spectacular year. Having a master costumer as con chair doubtless helped a bit. Here’s Kevin Roche rocking an outfit previously worn by James Tiberius Kirk.

Johan Anglemark had a much more traditional male outfit, but if you look closely you’ll see that he’s wearing a Moomin tie to represent Swedish language fiction. (Photo by Fia Karlsson)

Zoe Quinn is always very elegant. Most photos don’t show shoes well, and I know there were some spectacular pairs around. At least we have Zoe’s. She has some great tatoos as well. (So does Sarah Gailey, but I don’t have a good photo.)

Sarah Felix proved the point that if you have some really great jewelry then you need something very plain to set it off.

One of the best ways to get noticed at an event is to wear a solid block of a bright color. The Queen is an expert at that technique. Seanan McGuire was the most noticeable in bright orange, but this photo of her with Kate Secor (green) and Sarah Kuhn (pink) gives us a lovely rainbow (albeit not in the right order).

Mosty these photos tend to be of women, but Dominic Rowney proves that men don’t have to be boring.

Ada Palmer always has wonderful historical outfits, but my eye here was drawn to Lauren Schiller. I love the dress, and I love the Ascot-style hat, but I’m not sure that they go together.

There being a lot of trans people around, we got a fair amount of messing with gender expectations. Non-binary people like JY Yang can wear whatever they like.

And here’s KM Szpara coming at it from the other direction. (Love that skirt!)

By far the most noticeable outfit of the night was that worn by Tehani Farr who I believe was at the convention as part of the Mexicanx Initiative. You couldn’t miss those horns.

The thing that got everyone talking was Nora Jemisin’s caponcho, which was entirely appropriate for the star of the show. (Photo by Tor-dot-Com)

But my personal favorite of the night was worn by SB Divya.

In addition to being a Nebula-finalist writer (in Novella last year) and a Hugo-finalist editor this year wth EscapePod, she also has degrees in Computational Neuroscience and Signal Processing. And she has great dress sense. I’m very impressed.

Update: Post corrected as SB Divya’s novella was a Nebula finalist, not a Hugo finalist.

Hugos Tonight

The 2018 Hugo Award winners will be announced tonight, California time, which means in the early hours of Monday morning for me. However, I will be up and online to help Kevin and Susan de Guardiola with the text-based coverage of the event. Full details of how to follow that are available here.

The convention has said that they will be providing live streaming of the ceremony. However, there is no link up as yet. Also, as we discovered in Helsinki, the tech can go wrong on the night. As and when I get details of where to watch I will let you know.

Update: Here’s the live video feed. I’m off to bed now. See you in a few hours.

Yesterday at the Circus

I didn’t get around to posting about the WSFS Business Meeting last night because there was some absorbing cricket going on. Western Storm fell agonisingly short of topping the league, but they are through to Finals Day. I’ll be there to follow the action.

The other reason I wasn’t paying much attention is that, for the first time in ages, the meeting was mostly quiet and routine.

All of the motions passed on from Helsinki were ratified quickly. That includes the official naming of the YA Award as the Lodestar.

The one potentially contentious new motion — the one about remote participation in the Business meeting — was referred to a committee very quickly. The other motions up for consideration were mostly passed swiftly. The only significant debate was around the exact cut-off point for the runners-up list of people who got close to being Hugo finalists. That probably only happened because it was the last motion and the Business Meeting regulars were bored with the lack of action.

There is still a contentious motion to be discussed. It is the one about redefining the division between Professional and Fan in the Artist categories of the Hugos. This one has been postponed to today so as not to clash with a meeting of the Association of Science Fiction Artists.

Possibly the biggest news of the day was that the Business Meeting was not chaired by a man for the first time in 60 years. Tim Illingworth, who is the official Chair for this year, recused himself during the debate on the YA Award because he was on the committee that set up that award. His place was taken by his deputy, Jesi Lipp, who uses they/them pronouns. Jesi will also be the main Chair for next year’s Business Meeting in Dublin.

Site Selection voting has concluded and, while the results are not official until ratified by today’s Business Meeting, there is very little doubt as both elections are uncontested. Congratulations are therefore in order for Layton, Utah, which will host next year’s NASFiC, and to Wellington, New Zealand, which will host the 2020 Worldcon.

Chengdu in 2023

Here’s an exciting piece of news from Worldcon. A group of Chinese fans are bidding for what would be the first ever Chinese Worldcon. They are currently aiming for 2023 which, according to the Worldcon bids list, already has bids for Nice (France) and New Orleans (USA). Neither of those have been hugely active, whereas Chinese fandom has been working very hard to be visible at Worldcons.

Chengdu has already been the site of four international conventions, and next year will host the first ever AsiaCon. Those people who have been to Chengdu conventions have spoken highly of them, though of course running a Worldcon is another matter entirely because of the weight of expectations.

File 770 has more on the Chengdu bid here, and Samovar has a report on the 2017 Chengdu convention here.

The Circus is Back in Town

Worldcon is happening in San José, and that means that the WSFS Business Meeting is back in session. The admirable Alex Acks has been reporting as usual. Here’s what went down during the Preliminary Meeting.

Understanding all of that probably needs reference to the Agenda, but for those of you whose eyes glazed over after the first paragraph or two I will attempt to summarise the key points.

Consitutional Amendments can’t be debated during the Prelminary Meeting, but changes to the Standing Rules can. This year there was particular concern that people needed to be given more notice about issues likely to be brought up. Also the Business Meeting staff need more time to get the increasingly full agenda written up and printed.

Consequently motions A1 and A2 were passed. A1 requires amendments to Constitutional Amendments to be submitted in advance, while A2 makes the deadline for submitting business 30 days rather than 14. Both of these rules can be suspended in the case of an emergency.

The rest of the meeting was devoted to setting time limits for debate tomorrow, but the Preliminary Meeting can also kill off motions entirely, which is why it is important to be there.

Motion D3, which is all about providing guidance to Hugo Administrators as to how they count nominations in Graphic Story, was “Postponed Indefinitely”, which essentially means it was killed off. There is a problem as to how nominations for comics are counted, in that some people may nominate an individual issue, whereas others may nominate the entire series. However, it was the sense of the Meeting that the proposals to fix this were poorly thought-out and should not be debated this year.

A similar fate befell motion D4 which was about redefining the Fancast category in the Hugos. This was expected, because the people who propsed the motion clearly had no idea how the word “podcast” is commonly understood.

I don’t think that many people will be upset at these two motions not being considered.

That does still leave several Constitutional Amendments to be debated tomorrow. The most interesting is D1, which opens the door to remote participation in the Business Meeting. It does not require it, but it does remove language which would prohibit it. If it can be made to work, this would be a very interesting innovation.

Motion D2 is an uncontentious fix proposed by the ever-watchful Nit-Picking & Fly-Specking Committee, whose job it is to clean up any typoes and bugs that creep into the Constitution.

D5 is all about redefining the distinction between Professional and Fan Artists. That may get contentious, but there are no easy answers here.

D6 is to change the Graphic Story Hugo category to “Graphic Story or Comic”, because apparently some people think that comics are not graphic stories.

D7 fixes an issue with the number of people listed in the runners-up listings for the Hugos. A side effect of the new counting system brought in to foil the Puppies was to reduce the number of people listed. This motion would fix that.

Yesterday on Ujima – Films, Muslim Women & Hugos

I ended up doing a bonus show yesterday. As I had to go into Bristol for the TV appearance, and I have nothing else urgent on that day, I figured I might as well spend some time in the studio. That meant putting together a show at short notice.

The easiest way to do that is with phone interviews, though it does mean using Skype which can mean very variable quality. I badly need an alternative means of doing phone interviews, especially as the latest versions of Skype actively prevent the use of third party call recorders. (Why anyone would produce a digital phone system and now allow call recording is a mystery to me.)

Anyway, there were people I could interview. In the first hour I talked to Jake Smith of Tusko Films. Jake was the directory for Talking LGBT+ Bristol, the film about the city’s LGBT+ community that we made for Bristol Pride. I figured that if Jake and I were going to be on TV for 3 minutes in the evening, we should have a longer chat about the film as well.

I also recorded an interview with Rivers Solomon because there has been some really exciting news about their next novel project. Getting to write a novel with clipping has to be a dream come true.

The Listen Again system appears to have been fixed, so you can listen to the first hour of the show here.

I did manage to arrange one live interview. On Tuesday there was a flash mob demonstration in the city protesting Boris Johnson’s appalling comments about Muslim women. I was very pleased to have Sahar from Muslim Engagement & Development (MEND) to explain about the different types of headgear that Muslim women wear, and why they wear them. She was joined in the studio by Lisa from Stand Up to Racism.

I had half an hour to fill so I rambled on a bit about the women’s cricket, and about this year’s Hugo finalists. You can listen to the second half of the show here.

While the show is available on Listen Again I won’t put it up on the podcast. But once it has fallen off those interviews will appear there (and in the case of Rivers on Salon Futura). I will try to get an old interview or two up on the podcast in the meantime. And if anyone would like to become a patron of the podcast I would be very grateful. We only need 8 more people at $1/month to cover costs.

If you would like to know more about the Jimi Hendrix album that I was playing tracks from, you can find some details here.

The full playlist for yesterday’s show is as follows:

  • Jimi Hendrix – Jungle
  • Jimi Hendrix – Woodstock
  • clipping – The Deep
  • Bootsy Collins – May the Force be With You
  • Bob Marley – Get Up, Stand Up
  • Santana – Riders on the Storm
  • Janelle Monae – Sally Ride
  • Jimi Hendrix – Georgia Blues

The Worldcon Runners’ Guide

The agenda for this year’s World Science Fiction Society Business Meeting was released last night. I’ll have more to say about this year’s business in due course, but I was surprised to see that I got a name check. Don’t worry, I don’t think I have done anything awful. I just happen to be one of the people responsible for updating the WSFS wesbites, and I got named in connection with a particular update that has just been made (because I did it).

The job in question was to upload a copy of the current version of the Worldcon Runners’ Guide.

“The what?” I hear you ask. After all, following the recent meltdown over programming at Worldcon 76, lots of people were asking on Twitter why there is no means of passing wisdom on from one Worldcon to the next. Well of course there is. It is just that people tend not to take any notice of it, or in some cases deliberately ignore it. But the Guide is also badly out of date, and work is in progress to update it.

As I understand that problem (and I haven’t been involved in the responsible committee so I may be wrong here), what happened in this. Back in the days when the Internet was a new and shiny thing, people came up with the bright idea of putting the Guide online as a wiki. However, they soon discovered that there was far more work involved in protecting it from spammers and trolls than might have been saved by having it editable online. So a bunch of people are in the process of editing it back down to an offline document, and hopefully updating it to include things like sections on diverse programming, use of the Grenadine programming software, and social media management.

In the meantime, a version of the existing material has been posted on the WSFS website. You can find it here. Please note that it has a bunch of formatting issues, and as I said it is out of date. If you want to be helpful, I’m sure that the people responsible for creating the new version would prefer you to wait until they have finished tidying it up before commenting. On the other hand, if you would like to offer your expertise and be part of the editing committee, they would probably be delighted to hear from you.

Dublin Wants YOU!

I have email from the programming team of the Dublin Worldcon. Due to restrictions caused by the GDPR legislation, they can’t get lists of programme particiants from other conventions and reach out to them. They have to wait for people to come to them. Therefore they are reaching out to the SF&F community and encouraging people to apply to be on programme.

You don’t have to be a published author to be on programme. And you defnitely don’t have to be an old, white man. If you think you have something interesting to say, please put your name forward.

You can find the application form here. And there is a Q&A about the process here.

Trans Pride Happened

I appear to have had one of those weeks in which I had lots of good intentions to blog about Trans Pride, but ended up too busy or too tired to actually do so. Certain issues with Worldcon might have had something to do with this, not to mention some UK politics.

Anyway, Trans Pride in Brighton (the original, and still the biggest) happened last weekend, and give the state of the world I went along to show solidarity. It was great. The march appears to have had between 4,000 and 5,000 people, and Brunswick Gardens was buzzing all afternoon.

My favorite stall in the park was one being run by a group of midives from the local NHS trust. They were keen to help any trans guys and non-binary folks who wanted to get pregnant, and even had advice for trans women on breastfeeding. The things that can be done these days are just amazing.

One important announcement came from Jane Fae. On September 8th there will be a conference in London called We’re Still Here. There will be workshops on all sorts of interesting things. It looks like it will be very interesting.

I, however, won’t be there, because the date clashes with the Women’s Equality Party conference, and someone has to be there to defend trans rights. WEP has been fairly heavily targetted by the anti-trans brigade in the past, and I’m sure they’ll see this conference as an opportunity to futher their attempts to turn all cis women against trans people.

Life, it keeps coming at you. But sometimes it is fun, as proof of which here is the My Genderation film from last weekend.

No Eurocon or Finncon for Me

Earlier this year I was looking forward to spending much of July in Europe. I very much wanted to go to the Eurocon in France, and the fabulous Lauren Beukes is a GoH at Finncon this year. Sadly there is so much politics going on in the UK at the moment, with the release of the Gender Recognition Act consultation, that I simply can’t afford to be away, even for the odd weekend. In particular I absolutely have to be around for Bristol Pride on the 14th.

Profuse apologies to anyone who was expecting to see me at one of those conventions, and to anyone who was hoping to buy a copy of The Green Man’s Heir from me.

Åcon Happened

I have spent the weekend at one of my favorite conventions: Åcon, which is held in Mariehamn in the Åland islands, half way between Finland and Sweden. The weather was magnificent, and as far as I can see a good time was had by all.

Because of the location, Åcon is a perfect meeting place for Finnish and Swedish fandom. The ferry service from Turku to Stockholm stops off at Mariehamn roughly half way along the route. So the convention is always international. However, perhaps thanks to the Helsinki Worldcon, this year was more international than most. We had fans from Norway, Denmark, The Czech Republic, Poland and Wales (me), plus a Guest of Honour from Cornwall and her husband who is (I think) English. And to cap it all we had Eurovision on the Saturday night.

Wales and Cornwall do not yet have their own Eurovision entries. We shall have to work on this. They are bound to be better than anything the BBC can come up with.

Emma Newman was fabulous, as she always is, and the convention got two writer guests in one because Pete is excellent value as well. The large stacks of their books all sold out so obviously they impressed the convention members.

I got to do two panels. The first was on novellas and featured Pete, Johan Jönsson, and Václav Pata. In it we roundly disagreed with just about everything in the panel description, and everything that Gary and Jonathan had said about novellas in the last Coode Street. Nevertheless we appeared to agree that we all liked reading novellas. Mostly I think we agreed that weird things happen in publising because publisher are weird. Václav made a good case for prefering novellas to novels because he’s a screenwriter and they are much easier to convert to a script.

My other panel was on audio and featured Emma and new Danish pal Sanna Bo. Emma terrified us by explaining just how much work, and how many skills, are required to narrate an audiobook. After that we mostly talked about making podcasts, which is so much less complicated. Of course Emma and Pete use a lot more technical tricks in making Tea & Jeopardy than most people use on podcasts, but that’s them, insanely talented people that they are. I explained about Ofcom rules for live radio, which led to some epic swearing because we can do so on convention panels without getting fined.

I believe that the panels were all recorded, so there may be podcasts of the discussion available at some point. Emma and I will have earned “explicit” tags.

Åcon has a lot of game-show type programming in the evening. Fia Karlsson ran The Match Game. Much to my surprise, she had not heard of Kevin doing so at Worldcons. Clearly the game appeals to fannish people.

I decided to pass on the chocolate tasting this year because I have a lot to do and needed time in my room, but Emma and Pete were suitably awed by Mercedes and her top quality wares. One of the problems with Åland is that there is just too much good food to be eaten.

There’s no news of the guest for next year yet, but Åcon will be happening again. As it is tied to the Ascension Day holiday it moves around in the calendar and next year will be right at the end of May. Hopefully I can make it.

Åland Bound

Tomorrow I will starting my journey to the Åland Islands for this year’s Åcon. I’m staying over in London tomorrow night as I have an early flight from Heathrow to Helsinki on Wednesday. Then, ridiculously early on Thursday, it is off to Tukru and the ferry to Mariehamn. Thankfully I’m not driving. I will doubtless activate my cat genes and sleep on the road.

This year’s Åcon Guest of Honour is Emma Newman, and the convention gets two writers for the price of one as Pete will be going too. It should be an excellent weekend.

And for those of you who are wondering about that little accent mark above the A, the name of the convention is pronounced (more or less) Awecon. Because it is awesome, obviously.

A Diana Wynne Jones Confernce in Bristol

Cathy Butler and Farah Mendlesohn will be running an academic conference dedicated to the work of Diana Wynne Jones next year in Bristol. The dates of 9-11 August have been chosen deliberately to allow people to attend both this conference and Worldcon in Dublin the following weekend. With the Eurocon in Belfast a week later I guess I need to take the whole of August 2019 as vacation.

For those not in the know, Bristol is a short hop across the sea from Dublin with frequent flights from the local airport. Or you can take the train to Holyhead and take the ferry.

Farah has been running a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for the deposit on the venue. That funded in less than a day, though there are still a few things left and there may be new rewards later, and you can still help out by ordering the ebook of the conference papers.

The conference will be at the Watershed. I’m not sure whether this means that there will be movies as well, but IMHO Watershed would be silly not to cash in on having a whole pile of DWJ experts on hand.

I haven’t told Jodi yet, but it makes a lot of sense to hold a BristolCon Fringe event on the 12th. That gives people a day to be tourists in Bristol and an additional SF event before heading to Ireland. We might event get an overseas reader or two, depending on who is in town.

International Women’s Day in Bristol

I have already posted about the film event on Saturday night, but I will be in Bristol all day because Bristol Women’s Voice has a huge International Women’s Day event happening at City Hall. You can find the full program here.

If you looked at that you will have noted that I am on a panel about women in the media from 2:15pm to 3:00pm. There are loads of other good things happening too. I am particularly looking forward to the Goddess in Prehistory talk. Also I have a radio show next week so I need to get some interviews. Hopefully I will see some of you there.

HFRN Day 1

Hello from sunny Stoke-on-Trent where I have been spending the weekend at the Historical Fiction Research Network conference. I am, of course, an academic conference junkie, but I think there have been some great talks thus far.

The two keynotes from Saturday were Jerome de Groot talking about bioarchaeology, and Caroline Sturdy Collis on genocide archaeology. Jermome’s talk was all about how being able to do DNA analysis is changing the way we understand history, and how we tell those stories. People like Cheddar Man and Richard III are poster children for the new movement. Caroline does archaeology at the sites of Nazi death camps, and also collects oral histories from the few survivors. It is horrific work, but very necessary and also dangerous given the amount of harassment she gets from holocaust deniers.

I chaired a panel of papers by ancient historians, though one was actually presenting out of period with a look at the various versions of The Woman in Black. Tony Keen was his usual entertaining self on the subject of film and TV portrayals of Celtic Britons. However, the paper of most interest to me was Lynn Fotheringham talking about Kieron Gillan’s graphic novel, Three, which is a response to Frank Miller’s 300 on behalf of the Helots, Spartan slaves. The Spartans are a much misunderstood people and I’m hoping to do a paper on their for next year’s LGBT History Month (which of course means that they were very gay).

Today I get to give a paper and chair a panel discussion. Should be fun. I’d better stop writing and get on with it.

Graz in December, Anyone?

Here’s a cat that is now out of the bag, so to speak.

This December (6-8) the University of Graz in Austria is putting on a major international conference on science fiction. You can find the Call for Papers here. The reason I am telling you about it is that there are three invited keynote speakers, one of whom is me.

I have been keeping this one quiet since before the Holidays so I am delighted it is now public and I can stop exploding. I’m very pleased to be sharing the platform with Mark Bould whom I am sure will give a great talk. I don’t think I have ever met the third keynote, Gerry Canavan, but he’s an expert on the work of Octavia Butler so I’m sure we’ll have lots to talk about.

Everyone else (well, those of you into academic conferences), I’d love to see you there. Graz sounds lovely. It has a funicular railway and a museum of medieval armor; and it is very close to the Lipizzaner ranch.

History at Bath Festival

Some details about events at this year’s Bath Festival have been released. There are a couple of interesting history talks.

On Monday May 21st David Olosuga will be talking about his book, Black and British: A Forgotten History. I’ve just watched episode 3 of his A House Through Time series on the BBC and continue to be impressed by his skill has a public historian. There ought to be a Fringe event on that date, but I am not certain yet whether that will happen, and if it does whether I will be involved in any way.

On Saturday May 26th Emily Wilson will be talking about her new translation of The Odyssey. It is the first ever translation of the Homerian epic by a woman, and it has been garnering a lot of praise for its fresh and innovative approach. I saw a post yesterday on Twitter where Wilson was talking about her work and noted, quite reasonably, that she decided not to read any other translations as guides. She worked directly from the original Greek. Then, to her surprise, she started seeing reviews mentioning how her presentation of the female characters was much more positive than in any of the translations by men. Gee, I wonder how that could have happened? This is a book I really want to read, and hopefully I will get to see Wilson talk about it.