Crawford Award Announced

The winner and runners up of this year’s Crawford Award have been announced. I’m delighted to see that the winner is one of my favourite books of the year: The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo.

The Crawford doesn’t have a jury as such. Instead a group of people make recommendations to Gary K Wolfe and he decides on a winner based on what the group says, and on his own reading. What that means is that no one has to read every debut fantasy novel for the year. Many of them are very long. That way lies madness.

Usually I am one of the group of advisors, and that was the case this year. I have linked to my reviews of the winners and runners up below. I hope to catch up with the others soon. I have also provided links for UK readers to buy via Bookshop.org (they might work in the US as well). I have no idea why the Jennings isn’t available.

Winner: The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo (buy)

Runners up:

  • Night Roll, Michael DeLuca (buy)
  • Everyone on the Moon is Essential Personnel, Julian Jarboe (buy)
  • Flyaway, Kathleen Jennings
  • In Veritas, C.J. LaVigne (buy)
  • Beneath the Rising, Premee Mohamed (buy)

Purchases through Bookshop.org help to support independent bookstores and, if made via my links, Wizard’s Tower Press.

The List is Live

It being February, the Locus Recommended Reading List has been published. As usual, I had a part in selecting which long-form works appear on it. Also as usual, I am only one of a large number of people involved, so I am not solely to blame for anything you don’t like about it.

On the other hand if there are things that you think are missing, I’d be happy to hear from you. Liza guested on Coode Street the other day and they had an interesting conversation about known biases of the List. I think that things like the Nth volume on an ongoing series are always going to be at a disadvantage, because reviewers tend to shy away from such things. Getting people to notice books that are not easily available in the USA is also hard. But hopefully the list is getting more diverse.

Philip K Dick Award Finalists

Email has just landed in my inbox listing the finalists for this year’s Philip K Dick Award. That, you may recall, is for science fiction first published in paperback. Here they are:

  • Failed State by Christopher Brown (Harper Voyager)
  • The Book of Koli by M. R. Carey (Orbit)
  • Dance on Saturday by Elwin Cotman (Small Beer Press)
  • Bone Silence by Alastair Reynolds (Orbit)
  • Road out of Winter by Alison Stine (Mira)
  • The Doors of Eden by Adrian Tchaikovsky (Orbit)

It is a bit of a sausage-fest, but I’m not going to complain too much as three friends of mine are on the list. It’s great to see Adrian Tchaikovsky getting more attention across the Pond. Al Reynolds absolutely deserves recognition for his Revenger series. And best of all, a book that I had a small part in creating is up there. Well done, Mike. Fingers crossed!

That Time of Year

Everyone is doing their Award Eligibility posts, so I need to remind you that Salon Futura is a fanzine, and therefore eligible in that Hugo category. That makes me an eligible fan writer.

More importantly the excellent Cora Buhlert, whom you should totally vote for in Fan Writer, has decided to do a series of Fanzine Spolights featuring eligible zines that you might want to nominate. You can find the initial posts here, and they will be added to in the coming weeks.

Also, both The Green Man’s Silence by Juliet E. McKenna, and Unjust Cause by Tate Hallaway, are eligible wherever fine fantasy novels are awarded.

New Translation Awards

Earlier this year I was approached by the lovely people at the Future Affairs Administration in China. They were interested in starting up a new set of SF&F translation awards and they wanted me to be part of the jury. Gary Wolfe was also involved, and I still very much believe in having such awards, so I said yes.

I was not expecting to be asked to chair the long-form jury, but once they accepted my suggestion that no one should hold the post for more than two years I said yes to that as well. Basically Gary and I are providing continuity from the previous set of awards. After a couple of years the new awards should be able to fly free.

There’s still a but of talking to do internally about how things will work, but there will be awards, and there is now a website.

Rachel Cordasco does a superb job of keeping track of what gets published in the field, so hopefully we won’t miss anything, but we are very much interested in what other people think of published works, so do let us know.

World Fantasy Awards

The winners of this year’s World Fantasy Awards were announced last night. As the convention was virtual this year, I was able to “be there”. The full list of winners is available on the Locus website, but I want to focus on just two.

Firstly, the ridiculously titled Special Award – Non-Professional category was won by Fafnir – The Nordic Journal of Science Fiction and Fantasy Research. This is apparently the first time that the award has been won by an academic journal, and it is one founded by Finns.

I have to confess a certain amount of bias here. I am on the Advisory Board for the journal, but they haven’t actually needed any advising, so I can’t claim any credit there. I also have an article in the current issue, but that was published this year and therefore should not have been considered by the World Fantasy Jury.

There are lots of people who deserve congratulations. The current editors, Bodhisattva Chattopadhyay, Laura E. Goodin & Esko Suoranta, will get the trophies. But there are two other people I’d like to draw attention to. Firstly there is Merja Polvinen of University of Helsinki. She’s the Chair of the Advisory Board, and was very much a driving force in getting the journal started. The other is Irma Hirsjärvi, because the Journal is very much an outgrowth of the academic tracks that we run every year at Finncon, and Irma is one of the main instigators of those. (I just turn up to comment on the papers.)

Finally, we should note that while Fafnir is an academic journal, it is open source. That is exactly the sort of academic publication that the World Fantasy Awards should be honouring.

The other winner I want to mention is in the Novel category: Queen of the Conquered by Kacen Callender. Kacen is non-binary person of colour, using they/them pronouns. I’ve had the book on my Kindle for several months but haven’t got round to reading it yet. Given that it beat both The Ten Thousand Doors of January and Gideon the Ninth, it must be very impressive. And the fact that someone like Kacen can be voted the author of the best fantasy novel in this year, of all years, fills me with joy. I think you can work out why.

Eurocon – Day 2


Well, that’s a wrap. Many thanks to Fox, Igor and the crew, and special thanks to Nela for the beautiful artwork.

We used Zoom for my panel today, which was much better all round. Thanks to Aleksander and Mihaela for their input, and to everyone who tuned in to listen. Once again, the purchase links are: for Aleksandar’s book, and for Kontakt. Croatia has some great writers, and I’m honoured to be able to help bring them to an English-speaking audience.

The ESFS Awards took place last night after I had blogged. The Irish had a great evening, winning both the adult and YA fiction awards, the art award and the fanzine award, plus a few others as well. Good Omens won the dramatic presentation category. The full list of winners can be found here.

Many of the panels were pre-recorded, and the live ones were all recorded. I understand that there are plans to make them available, at least to registered members, at a later date. This is a real bonus of online conventions. There are several good panels that I missed because of scheduling clashes.

Next year’s Eurocon will be in Fiuggi near Rome. I very much hope I make that in person, partly because they have promised a focus on food, and partly because I will undoubtledly spend a few days in Rome peering at the archaeology as part of the trip.

Futuricon set new standards in brevity for the closing ceremonies. I think that my feed may have cut out slightly early, Fox, but I believe it was supposed to go a bit like this…

“David, press the button…”

Why Worldcons Go Wrong

There are lots of people on social media currently saying things like, “Worldcon is broken, it must be fixed” or “Worldcon is irredeemably broken, we must replace it with something new.” These are all entirely understandable sentiments, but in order to fix Worldcon, or to build a replacement, it helps to know how and why it goes wrong. In this post I want to talk about a couple of specific examples from CoNZealand.

I should start by noting that much of the problem here stems from the fact that fans all over the world, even if they have Worldcon memberships, have no sense of ownership of WSFS or the convention. They see WSFS as a nebulous “Them” rather than as “Us”. And if something goes wrong, “They” must be at fault. But who exactly “They” are, and what “They” could they have done better, is unclear.

In one sense it is absolutely true that the buck stops at the top. When you agree to chair a Worldcon you know this. There is a reason why “Friends Don’t Let Friend’s Run Worldcon” is a common fannish saying. So Kelly Buehler and Norm Cates have been spending a lot of time taking it on the chin and accepting responsibility. Sometimes they did indeed do things wrong, but knowing what to do right is not always easy.

Take the George Martin situation, for example. CoNZealand was selected as a site in 2018, and George was announced as Toastmaster at that time. The Game of Thrones TV series was hugely popular then, and George had a stellar reputation among Worldcon regulars because, unlike many famous authors, he always attended the convention, and put a lot of his own money into it. His work establishing alternative awards, The Alfies, in the midst of the Sad Puppy affair was widely praised. Few people thought CoNZealand’s choice was a mistake at the time.

Warning signs started to appear last year with the fiasco around Hugo Finalists being barred from the Hugo Losers’ Party because it was full, and being asked to stand out in the rain until there was room. George has done most of the work funding and organising these parties since the Puppy affair, and his response to what happened in Dublin was very disappointing.

There may well have been additional warning signs in the months that followed. I’m not privy to the internal discussions of the CoNZealand committee so I don’t know. So there may have been multiple points at which CoNZealand might have been tempted to disinvite George. I would certainly have considered pushing back on Robert Silverberg having any involvement in the Hugo Ceremony.

But what would have happened if they did push back? George might well have been very angry. He might have withdrawn from the convention entirely, which might have resulted in a number of people demanding membership refunds. He might have gone to the newspapers, which would have resulted in the convention being dragged through the mud all over the world. And George’s legion of fans would certainly have waged war against the convention on social media.

If you want an example of how much damage an author with a very high profile can do, take a look at what another successful fantasy author is currently doing to the trans community in the UK.

So as a con committee, what do you do if one of your Guests of Honour turns out to be a problem? If, like George, he is very high profile, you will probably keep him and hope that he won’t do anything too awful. And, if he does, that your staff can keep things under control. That’s easier said than done.

Yesterday Mary Robinette Kowal wrote a Twitter thread about her own part in the Hugo Ceremony. She’s President of SFWA, and the winner of last year’s Best Novel Hugo, so she’s not without power and prestige in the industry. She’d been asked to present the Best Novella category. This was all pre-recorded, and Mary says she’d noticed from the way George introduced her that something was up. In particular he had expanded SFWA as “The Science Fiction Writers of America” rather than “The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America”. That might have been a genuine mistake, but it is also a common Old Guard dog whistle. (There’s a whole complicated reason why SFWA is not called SFFWA). She says that she could have asked George to re-do the intro, but she didn’t want to seem difficult.

The point here is that if the President of SFWA didn’t feel confident enough to tell George he was getting it wrong, what chance did younger writers, or volunteers on the CoNZealand committee have? If I might be permitted a Railroad joke, there’s a train in motion here and it is very hard to stop. From a convention management point of view, the only thing you can do is to trust that your high profile Toastmaster does not behave too badly. In CoNZealand’s case that trust was badly betrayed.

The other issue I would like to look at is the case of panellist Edmund Schluessel who was twice asked to change his Zoom background because it was deemed “too political”. The full story, complete with an image of said background, is available on File 770 here (item 3) and here.

The first time this happened, Kelly Buehler issued an apology on behalf of the committee. She stated: “There is nothing wrong with your Zoom background, and I encourage you to use it as much as you like.” However, the staff member who had tried to censor Schluessel’s background resigned in protest. And the next time Schluessel was on panel he was once again asked to remove his background, for the same reason as before, but by a different person.

Clearly some of the ConZealand staff have gone rogue here, including ignoring a direct instruction from one of the Co-Chairs. There’s little that the convention can do at this point. All Worldcon staff are volunteers. You can’t discipline them in any effective way. If you fire someone you may find yourself with a major gap in your team, and the person that you fire may take several of his friends away with him. Possibly it was a mistake to recruit this person in the first place, but Worldcons are often desperate for staff and have little chance to vet people at lower levels.

There’s a tendency in certain quarters to sneer when people say that running Worldcon is hard, but it is, and unless you have actually done it you probably don’t understand just how hard it is. Which is not to say that people don’t make terrible mistakes, and should not be called to account for them. I can assure you that I have done that often enough in my time (ask people about TorCon 3 if you don’t believe me). However, I have always tried to do so in the hope that we can learn from our mistakes and make Worldcon better. I hope you can see from the above that fixing things, or creating an alternative, is not simply a matter of vowing to “do better”.

Behaving Badly at the Hugos

I would imagine that everyone has now seen the outrage that accompanied the CoNZealand Hugo Award Ceremony. If you haven’t, the short version is that a fabulous list of winners and some really great acceptance speeches were completely overshadowed by a couple of old men grandstanding.

Before I get into the detail, I want to mention one of the acceptance speeches. Neil Gaiman won a Hugo for the television version of Good Omens. In his acceptance speech (Farcebook link) Neil spoke about how he made the series as a favour for his friend, Terry Pratchett. Terry, despite being hugely loved by fans all over the world, never won a Hugo. He was a finalist once, but declined the honour. This was not, as Neil explained, because he didn’t care, but because he cared too much. Terry wanted a Hugo so badly, and was so convinced that he’d never win one, that the mere thought of being a finalist was too much for him. That’s how much Hugos mean to people in our field.

The theme for last night’s 3.5 hour marathon bore-fest was Hugo history. George Martin and Robert Silverberg regaled us with stories from Worldcons past. In that vein, I would like to take you back to LA Con IV in 2006. That convention too had chosen an aging writer to have an important role in the ceremony. The writer in question was Harlan Ellison, who had a far bigger reputation for shooting his mouth off than either Martin or Silverberg. By the end of the evening, the social media of the time was incandescent with fury over something that came to be known as Gropegate. Here’s what I wrote after the event.

It was clear right from the start that Harlan was planning to behave badly. It was just that no one quite realized that behaving badly would include trying to swallow the microphone and groping one of Connie’s breasts during the ceremony. Harlan, I suspect thought it would be funny.

That would have been Connie Willis, who was the Writer Guest of Honour and was also hosting the ceremony.

Fandom was incandescent with fury. And I went on to say the following:

What I do know for sure, however, is that every time Harlan’s name comes up in a convention committee discussion, any convention committee discussion, in the future, people will remember what he did in Anaheim and, if they have any sense at all, will not want anything to do with him.

At the time I had a fair amount of profile as a fan writer. I had nominations that year in Fan Writer and Semiprozine (I had taken Emerald City out of the Fanzine category). Consequently Harlan heard about what I’d written. We didn’t know each other, but he knew Neil Gaiman and Neil knew me. As a result, I got a phone call. We chatted for quite a long time, and I’m not sure that Harlan ever quite understood why what he had done was wrong. It was the sort of thing that men got away with routinely when he was younger. But one thing was very clear: Harlan, who had won eight Hugos himself, was mortified that his actions had damaged the reputation of the awards.

Contrast that with CoNZealand. What we seemed to have there was a couple of old men conspiring to take over the ceremony, disrespect many of the Finalists, and bore the audience to death, because they don’t like the sort of people, and the sort of works, that are winning Hugos these days. It was, it seemed, a deliberate attempt to cause controversy and drag the awards through the mud. Hosting the Hugo ceremony is an honour, and should be treated as such. Many other people, including high profile names such as Neil Gaiman, John Picacio and Garth Nix, have done the job, and taken it much more seriously.

It doesn’t just stop there either. There was the incident where the introduction to the Best Fancast category concentrated solely on podcasts, despite the fact that one of the Finalists, Claire Rousseau, uses video rather than audio. The CoNZealand Chairs said in their apology that this was an error, and the CNZ staffer responsible has apparently owned up and apologised. But equally I have been in Claire’s position where people were saying that I should have been disqualified because I was using the wrong sort of delivery system. And when people see such obvious disrespecting of Finalists elsewhere, the natural assumption is that every such incident is deliberate. Bad behaviour elsewhere poisons all other interactions, even when a genuine mistake has been made.

Of course people will claim that Hugo winners have taken to making their acceptance speeches political. They are winners; that gives them a lot of licence. And mostly it is their own reputation at risk. Jeannette Ng did so and got a Hugo for it, which I think shows that she hasn’t lost much over it.

But when you are hosting the ceremony, it is not just your reputation that you damage if you misbehave. You sully the reputation of the convention, of all the people who worked so hard to make it happen, and of the country that is hosting the convention. Most of all, you sully the reputation of the awards themselves. Harlan understood that. I’m not sure that Martin and Silverberg do.

CoNZealand – Day 2

First up, we had a very successful party. Huge thanks to all who attended, and to Kristen and her team running the CoNZealand parties.

A lot of yesterday was taken up with preparing for the party, but I did get some time to see programme. The Representing the Other panel was very good, and led to some very lively discussion on Discord afterwards. I also watched the Conventions in the Age of COVID-19 panel, and the The Future is Female panel.

The big event last night was the Retro Hugo and Sir Julius Vogel Awards panel. Unfortunately there were major bandwidth issues with the stream and I bailed early on so as to reduce the load. Kevin stuck with it so as to be able to tweet from the official Hugo Awards feed.

This year’s Retro Hugo Award trophy is gorgeous. You can find out more about it here.

The results of the 1945 Retros can be found here. I was very pleased with the recognition for Margaret Brundage and Leigh Brackett. There has been anger expressed about the awards going to Campbell and Lovecraft, but results like this are inevitable with the Retros because most people don’t take an interest in them. According to the official statistics, only 120 people participated at the Nominations stage, and only 521 in the final ballot. If Worldcons can’t drum up more interest in the Retros then they should stop doing them (they are optional, after all).

Locus Award Winners

Once again things have happened in America while I was asleep. You can find the full lists of finalists and winners here. I want to talk briefly about the winners.

Charlie Jane won two and Yoon Ha Lee one. That’s three of 17 awards going to people who are out as trans, one of them to a Korean-American. Seanan has always been a great ally and has written some great trans characters. Marlon is an ally too and has a strong interest in the history of gender diversity, not to mention being Jamaican and gay. Gideon the Ninth and This Is How You Lose the Time War are both books about lesbian couples. Not bad for starters. Who else have we got?

Ellen and John are both good friends. Ellen is Jewish, while John is Mexican-American and well known for his work promoting Latinx authors and artists. Ted is Asian-American. Nisi is African-American and gets that extra award for Writing the Other which is a project all about improving minority representation. Tempest gets a share in that one.

I don’t know much about the winners in the non-fiction and art catagories. Tor won both the corporate categories and is, of course, a corporation, not a person. But it is a corporation that has been very supportive of diversity.

And these are popular vote awards.

Don’t let anyone tell you that science fiction is a genre that is only by and for straight cis white men.

Clarke Award Shortlist

The Shortlist for this year’s Arthur C Clarke Award was announced today. Here they are, with links to my reviews where they exist:

Of the three I have read, I’d pick The Light Brigade as the clear winner. But Clarke juries are notoriously unpredictable. In any case, I have some reading to do.

Today on Ujima – Small Businesses in Lockdown, the Hugos

Today’s show mainly features small businesses talking about how they are coping with Lockdown.

I started with Tara from Talk to the Rainbow, a new psychotherapy service catering to members of marginalised communities. Understandably, they are in a lot of demand right now, but are having to learn to do therapy remotely.

Next up were Graham and Esmerelda from My Burrito, who seem to be doing OK on remote ordering, but are having a lot of trouble with Deliveroo. If you can order your food via a different delivery service then they, and many other restaurants, will be very grateful.

Finally I talked to Dan from Storysmith Books, who are finding that people’s interest in reading has not waned, and may even be increasing.

For the final segment of the show I had a chat with Kevin about this year’s Hugo finalists. We didn’t manage to cover all of the categories, but hopefully we will have generated some interest in the Awards. Plus it was a chance for me to point out how female-dominated they Hugos are these days.

You can find the show on the Ujima Listen Again service.

The playlist for today’s show was:

  • Andy Allo – Superconductor
  • Chaka Khan – Ain’t Nobody
  • Liane La Havas – Unstoppable
  • Janelle Monáe – Tightrope (Mouche & Big Remix)
  • Chic – Good Times
  • Prince – Alphabet Street
  • Jackie Shane – Money
  • Parliament – Mothership Connection

Otherwise Award Winner & Honor List


The results of this year’s Otherwise (formery Tiptree) Award have been announced. The winner is Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi. The Honor List is as follows:

  • “Dreamborn” by Kylie Ariel Bemis
  • The Book of Flora by Meg Elison
  • Pet by Akwaeke Emezi
  • Meet Me in the Future by Kameron Hurley
  • “Of Warps and Wefts” by Innocent Chizaram Ilo
  • The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal
  • The Elemental Logic series by Laurie J. Marks
  • The Lonesome Bodybuilder by Yukiko Motoya
  • The Deep by Rivers Solomon

I’m not familiar with Emezi’s work at all, but clearly I should be. Nor do I know much about the short fiction (the Hurley and Motoya are both collections). I have reviewed The Calculating Stars and The Deep. I reviewed Fire Logic and Earth Logic back in Emerald City and loved them both. Both books won the Gaylactic Spectrum Award. Now that all four books are out I have been meaning to re-read the entire series, but of course I have no time. Meg Elison won the Philip K Dick Award with The Book of the Unnamed Midwife, the first volume in the trilogy that The Book of Flora concludes. I have The Book of Flora on my TBR pile, and it has just got a boost up towards the top.

I am, of course, delighted to see so many works with trans themes on the list.

Coronavirus – Day #26

Today has been Publication Day for Unjust Cause, which means that you can now buy the ebook from our store. Our authors make more money if you buy direct. Also we give you both the ePub and Mobi, DRM free. Please buy from us rather than that big river place if you can.

There is going to be a new free short story going up tomorrow. This one is by me. I don’t normally push my own fiction, but I have good reason this time. All will be explained tomorrow.

Because I was busy I missed the Hugo Finalists announcement last night. I gather from Twitter that most people are very pleased, which is a relief. Personally I’m pleased to note that there are at least 6 trans people on the ballot. I’m also really pleased to see that all of the nominees for Fan Writer are first-timers. That shows that the field is really healthy.

Of course the big question will be whether a man manages to win a fiction award this year. It won’t happen in Novel because all six finalists are women. Ted Chiang, of course, has an excellent chance of winning. I will laugh myself silly if the only man who wins is Yoon Ha Lee.

Aside from pushing the new book, and the radio show, today has been more day job. I have no idea what is happening in the outside world, but I’m assuming that if the PM had died I would have heard about it.

Coronavirus – Day #25

Today has been mainly day job. Tomorrow probably will be as well, though I will be on the radio as well thanks to the magic of pre-records.

It is also Hugo Day. The announcement of the finalists is due to start in under an hour. I won’t be able to watch as I have work to do.

The outside world continues to be grim, and social media has descended into poltical point-scoring so I’m mostly avoiding it.

BSFA Awards News

As most of you will have heard by now, this year’s Eastercon has finally been cancelled. That must be a huge relief to the organisers who were potentially on the hook for the cost of the event if it hadn’t been possible for the hotel to claim on insurance for the cancellation. It is a risky business running a convention in the UK, because creating a corporate shield is much harder than it is in the USA.

However, this now raises the question of what happens with the BSFA Awards. Thankfully the folks at the BSFA are well on top of things. It is now possible to vote online, as long as you are a BSFA member or had an Eastercon membership. Full details here. Don’t forget to vote for Juliet. (What, biased, me?)

February Salon Futura

The latest issue of Salon Futura went online at the weekend. Here’s what you can find in it:

I guess I should remind you that Salon Futura is eligible for the Best Fanzine category in the Hugos. Not that I need another Hugo, but I do want you all to vote in the Fanzine category. If I do get on the ballot I suspect it will increase interest in the category.