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 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.

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.

ESFS Awards Finalists

Those of you who are attending the Eurocon in Belfast after Worldcon will get to see the ESFS Awards in action. They are a very different beast from the Hugos, necessarily so because the members of the convention are unlikely to be familiar with most of the finalists because they don’t speak the necessary languages. Instead the ESFS Awards work on a system of national delegations, thereby ensuring equal representation for each member country. The full rules are available here.

The finalists for this year’s ESFS Awards have been announced, as reported by Europa SF. I don’t have a vote, but I am familiar with some of the finalists. Here are a few quick comments.

In Best Author, most people will be familiar with Charlie Stross. That may not count in his favour as delegates tend to mark down people who write in English precisely because they are so much more likely to be translated. I’m hoping for a win for Maria Turtschaninoff who has written some amazingly good feminist fantasies. I’d be happy with a win by Aleksandar Žiljak as well because he has a story in the anthology of Croatian SF that I published.

In Best Artist I’d love my friend Ninni Aalto to win, but it is a tough field with a bunch of professional illustrators, some of whom undoubtedly work internationally.

In Best Publisher I’m rooting for my pals Pete Crowther (PS Publishing) and Francesco Verso (Future Fiction). Pete has a huge track record, while Francesco deserves recognition for his commitment to translations.

In Best Promoter I note that Petra Bulić has worked tirelessly for Croatian fandom for decades (who remembes the Zagreb in ’99 Worldcon bid?), but Toni Jerrman absolutely deserves all of the awards for Tähtivaeltaja.

The only one of the Translator finalists that I know personally is Marko Fančović. Fingers crossed for him.

In Work of Fiction I’d like to highlight Mats Strandberg’s Slutet. Lots of people at Åcon were enthusing about this book. It has a 4-star rating from over 100 reviews on Goodreads. Mats tells me that an English translation has been made because there’s interest from TV companies. It needs an English language publisher.

If you happen to be a member of a national delegation, please take note.

Congratulations, Juliet!

Here’s a piece of news I have been sitting on excitedly for a few days now. The Green Man’s Heir is a finalist in the Best Fantasy Novel category at the British Fantasy Awards. Naturally I think this is thoroughly deserved. Juliet is a great writer. She was a finalist in the BSFA Awards last year in the Non-Fiction category (for an essay in Gender Identity and Sexuality in Current Fantasy and Science Fiction, a book which won Non-Fiction in the BFS Awards), but this is her first major fiction nod since 2000 when The Thief’s Gamble placed 5th in the Locus Award for First Novel. This has been way too long in coming.

Congratulations are also due to Ben Baldwin whose magnificent cover has played a huge part in the book’s success. And to editor, Toby Selwyn, because everyone needs an editor and Toby certainly made the book better.

I am, of course, irrationally pleased that a book that draws its inspiration from a legend of the wild wood is up for the Robert Holdstock Award.

This is the first time that any book I have published has been up for a major award. I am absolutely delighted about it. It shows that even the smallest presses can produce great fiction. And more importantly it shows that the original premise of Wizard’s Tower — the idea that previously successful writers whose sales have taken a dip are not over the hill and can produce great work again if properly supported — is indeed correct. Mainstream publishers please take note.

Obviously I will be in Glasgow for FantasyCon. This will involve a certain amount of rearranging schedules because I was supposed to be elsewhere that weekend. But somehow I have to be at that award banquet.

Congratulations, Tade

The winner of the 2019 Arthur C Clark Award was announced last night. I am absolutely delighted that the prize went to Tade Thompson. I’ve been telling people about Rosewater for over 2 years, and of course it won the Nommo in 2017. It was also a Campbell Award finalist in 2017 (that’s the SF novel award, not the new writer one). Sometimes it can take a book a while to break into the big time.

The upside of this is that I have a couple of interviews with Tade in which he talks about the book.

This one is from 2017. The sound quality is a bit poor, but there’s more about Rosewater in it.

This one is from FantasyCon last year.

Today on Ujima: Section 28, Masculinity, Hugos & Silence

It was a radio day for me today. I barely got the show together in time having been away over the weekend and had much of yesterday hijacked by the Hugos, but I got there in the end.

In the first half hour I played an interview I did over the weekend with Sue Sanders, the founder of Schools Out and LGBT History Month. There has been a lot of talk here in the media about the need for a return to something called Section 28, which attempted to ban the mention of anything to do with LGBT people in schools. Thankfully Parliament has refused to turn the clock back, but lots of the people I get in training courses have never heard of Section 28 so I figured that having Sue, who was in the forefront of the fight against it, explain what went down, would be useful.

Next up I had a studio guest, Elias Williams of ManDem, an arts organisation for young black men. Last week I had been on a panel on the future of feminism at UWE (along with the brilliant Finn McKay). Elias had been on it too, and having heard him speak I knew I wanted him on the radio. Young black men are routinely demonised in the media, and it is wonderful to have someone so articulate and sensible standing up for them.

In the third slot I rambled about the Hugos. There are loads of black writers on the ballot this year, and people of colour in general. In particular 3 of the 6 Lodestar finalists are written by black women, and the Campbell finalists are mostly women of color, and one non-binary person of color. This is very promising for the future.

And finally I played part of my interview with Rachel Rose Reid from the LGBT History Month event in Bristol. This was about the Arthuian legend, Le Roman de Silence, which is basically 13th Century French feminist fantasy. It really is remarkable how modern the themes of that book are. I note that Rachel will be in Bristol again with the show on April 28th. Sadly I’m teaching one of Cat Rambo’s writing courses that evening. She’s also in Frome on the 12th, but that’s sold out. Phooey.

You can listen to the whole show via the Ujima Listen Again service here.

The playlist for the show is as follows:

  • School Day – Chuck Berry
  • We Are Family – Sister Sledge
  • It’s a Man’s World – James Brown
  • Word Up – Cameo
  • Pynk – Janelle Monáe
  • Crazy, Classic Life – Janelle Monáe
  • Mirror in the Bathroom – The Beat
  • Ali Baba – Dreadzone

My thanks as always to Ben, my engineer, and to all of my guests.

Hugos Happened

As Twitter followers will know, I was in Belfast over the weekend for an LGBT History conference. When I got home on Monday night and checked my email I found a message to the Hugo Awards Marketing Committee telling us that the announcement of the winners would take place on Tuesday. The announcement was due to be made at 6:00am California time, and Kevin is sick, so it fell to me to get the details online. Thankfully I had a working from home day and was able to do so.

The full list of finalists is available here. As usual there is much that I am delighted about (especially Dirty Computer), and much that is entirely new to me.

Elsewhere I have seen a bunch of fans my age complaining that they haven’t read any of the finalists, and indeed may not have heard of them. This seems bizarre to me. I own 5 of the 6 Novel finalists, and have finished reading three of them. I also own all 6 Novella finalists and have finished 3. I have read at least some books in 5 of the 6 finalist series. Some of the books I nominated are finalists, though inevitably not all of them because there’s a lot of good stuff out there.

I will admit that the Novelette and Short Story ballots are full of works I haven’t read, but that’s because I don’t have time to read magazines and anthologies as well as novels. That’s always been the case.

There are a few works that I’m disappointed not to see on the ballot. In my humble opinion, The Mere Wife by Maria Dahvana Headley should be in the Novel list; Time Was by Ian McDonald should be in Novella (though he might have declined seeing as he’s a Guest of Honour); and She-Ra should be in BDP: Long. But really I can’t complain. There’s plenty to vote for. I’m looking forward to the ceremony.

It’s Nominatin’ Time

The deadline for submitting nominations for this year’s Hugos is on Friday. To help you on your way, here are a few things you might not have considered.

In the Lodestar, the brilliant Anna-Marie McLemore has a 2018 novel, Blanca & Roja.

In the Campbell I shall continue to keep my fingers crossed for K Arsenault Rivera. If she doesn’t win this year, Shefali & Shizuka may get a bit angry, and no one wants that.

For fan writer I want to put in a good word for Bogi Takács who has been doing a fine job in writing about fiction by trans authors. I’m also nominating Bogi in Editor: Short for Transcendent 3.

In Fancast I would suggest that you check out Breaking the Glass Slipper, which has done some very fine feminist work over the past year.

I am woefully out of touch with what is happening in fanzines, but when it comes to semiprozines I will always have a place on my ballot for Tähtivaeltaja.

I am equally clueless about art and art books. I see that there is a book of the art of Into the SpiderVerse, but artist friends tell me that such books generally have poor reproduction quality as they are intended to cash in on the movie, not sell to art lovers.

In Editor: Long I’m nominating Navah Wolfe who has done great work with writers such as Rebecca Roanhorse and Rivers Solomon.

Dramatic: Short will doubtless be full of Doctor Who episodes again, but I’m nominating “Man of Steel” from Supergirl, Season 4. It is a fine description of how circumstances can conspire to turn ordinary people into far-right extremists. Kara and the DEO are partly to blame, because they can’t be everwhere all the time.

Dramatic: Long is going to be a fabulous fight between Black Panther and Into the SpiderVerse, but please do’t forget Dirty Computer: The Emotion Picture. Also season 1 of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power is eligible. If it isn’t on your ballot, Catra and I will want to know why.

In Related Work I’d like to put in a good word for my pal Jason Heller’s Strange Stars, because we all need a book about the likes of David Bowie and Jimi Hendrix.

Series is a category that is still finding its feet. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for Emma Newman’s wonderful Planetfall books, and of course for Yoon Ha Lee’s Machineries of Empire.

I don’t read much short fiction at all, but I do want to put in a good word for GV Anderson. “Waterbirds” is available on Lightspeed.

Novellas are a different matter these days. They are available as books, I’m reading a lot, and it is a hugely competitive category. Much as I love Murderbot, my top pick this year is The Black God’s Drums by P. Djèlí Clark.

And finally, in Novel, I’m sure you are all nominating Space Opera and Blackfish City, but please don’t forget The Mere Wife. Also I’m going to be nominating The Green Man’s Heir, because any book that can sell over 8000 copies despite being published by me has to be a work of genius.

Congratulations, Neil!

I’ve tweeted about this last week, but I wanted to do a proper blog post as well. Neil Clarke, of Clarkesworld Magazine, is to be one of the recipients of the Kate Wilhelm Solstice Award at this year’s SFWA Nebula Conference. The Kate Wilhelm Solstice Award is given by SFWA for distinguished contributions to the science fiction and fantasy community, and his many years of editing Clarkesworld certainly qualifies Neil for that. Not only has he massively raised the profile of short fiction, he has also done wonderful things for SF in translation. I’m very pleased for him.

This year’s other Solstice recipient is Nisi Shawl who, as well as being a wonderful writer, has done great work through the Carl Brandon Society. I don’t know her as well as I know Neil, but she is a very worthy recipient.

Dirty Computer & The Hugos

Yes, it is that time of year again: Hugo neepery time. Over the past few days I have seen several people talking about nominating Janelle Monáe’s Dirty Computer. There has been much confusion over categories, so I’m here to explain.

As with the clipping material that was on the final ballot for the past two years, Monáe’s music belongs in the Dramatic Presentation categories.

The dividing line between Long Form and Short Form in these categories is 90 minutes (as stated here). So Dirty Computer is definitely Short Form, no matter which version you nominate.

Which version? Ah yes, here is the difficulty. “Dirty Computer” is the title of two different things. There is Dirty Computer the album, which is composed entirely of music, and there is Dirty Computer the Emotion Picture, which is a short film about an android called Jane 57821, and which features most of the songs from the album.

One of the things about the Hugos is that Hugo Administrators very rarely make public pronouncements about eligibility. That means we have to second guess them. I’m not privy to the inside of Nicholas Whyte’s brain, but I am fairly sure that he will view these two versions as separate works. One is solely a piece of music, the other is a film with a script and actors. They are both eligible in the same category.

Now of course you could always nominate both of them. You have six slots, after all. But if you are also filling your ballot up with episodes of Supergirl and a whole lot of lesser TV series (me, biased, surely not?) then you might not have space for both.

I’m going to ask you, if you only have space for one, to nominate Dirty Computer the Emotion Picture. Why? Because I think it has wider appeal than just the album. Fans of the music will love it regardless, and those who want something more substantial than a concept album will have the movie (starring Monáe and Tessa Thompson) to consider as well.

Your ballot entry should therefore be for: Dirty Computer the Emotion Picture; Janelle Monáe, Andrew Donoho & Chuck Lightning; Wondaland.

Donoho and Lightning are the directors, Monáe wrote all of the music and, as far as I know, the script as well.

On, and if you want to watch the film before making up your mind, you can find it on YouTube. It isn’t embeddable so you’ll need to click through. And you’ll need to log in to see it because it contains naughty words and sexy stuff.

Crawford Award 2019

In addition to the Locus Recommending Reading List, the other thing I do a lot of reading for each year is the Crawford Award. That is for a first fantasy book. This year it has been won by RF Kuang’s widely lauded The Poppy War. That’s hardly a surprising winner, but those of us involved in the process had many spirited discussions about other books, some of which have not had so much publicity. The short list is well worth checking out as well. Here it is:

  • The Black God’s Drums, P. Djèlí Clark (Tor.com Publishing)
  • The Breath of the Sun, Rachel Fellman (Aqueduct)
  • Armed in Her Fashion, Kate Heartfield (ChiZine)
  • Half-Witch, John Schoffstall (Big Mouth)
  • Trail of Lightning, Rebecca Roanhorse (Saga)

I should also add that it was an absolute pleasure to work with Mimi Mondal. I have learned so much about India and the Indian literary scene from her.

Awards Eligibility Post

As you may have noticed, the Hugo Award nominating period has opened for this year. Consequently everyone is making eligibility posts. I wasn’t too fussed about that until I discovered that Jim Fitzpatrick is designing this year’s trophy base. As he is one of my favorite artists, I can’t wait to see what it looks like. And obviously I would love to have one.

Unfortunately I haven’t done much award-worthy in the past year. I have been too busy doing trans stuff. Technically I am eligible for Fan Writer, but I have done so little that it would be wrong to nominate me. And anyway, I have one of those already.

I do have one published short story from last year. It is called “A Piece of the Puzzle” and it appeared in the anthology, The Hotwells Horror, which a bunch of us put together to celebrate the life of the late David J Rodger. The story is set in Prohibition-era New York and features a young woman called Sonia Greene who has ambitions to be a writer. All of the profits from the sale of the book go to the mental health charity, MIND, so you would be doing a good thing by buying a copy.

It also occurs to me that my keynote speech from Worlding SF is a Related Work of sorts. You can watch the whole thing for free here.

Most importantly, however, The Green Man’s Heir is an eligible novel. Competition in the Hugos is fierce, but I would love to see Juliet appear in the also-ran list. And if you happen to be a member of the British Fantasy Society, you know what you need to do.

Clarkesworld News – Award and Bristol Appearance

I don’t have the time to keep up with my former colleagues at Clarkesworld as much as I would like these days, but I do keep an eye open for what they are doing. Today I’m delighted to report that the 2018 Small Press Award, given by the Washington Science Fiction Association, has gone to Suzanne Palmer’s “The Secret Life of Bots”. The story did win the Hugo for Novelette as well, but that news tended to get lost in the excitement around Nora Jemisin’s historic hat trick. This time around the glory is all Suzanne’s.

Also another former non-fiction editor of Clarkesworld, Jason Heller, will be appearing in Bristol in October. He’s going to be at Bristol Library on the evening of Monday, October 22nd, to promote his new book, Strange Stars. This is about the symbiosis between pop music and science fiction in the 1970s. It makes a perfect start to BristolCon week. Tickets are available here.

Today on Ujima – Hugos, SF, Cricket, REWS & Aretha

Today’s show was centred around a tribute to Aretha Franklin. I played a lot of her music, and I’m sure you are familiar with much of it.

I did run through the list of Hugo winners, because with several of the major fiction awards going to black women that’s very much of interest to my listeners. And I had a woman science fiction writer on the show. That was Anne Corlett whose novel, The Space Between the Stars, I very much enjoyed.

The Listen Again system malfunctioned again for that hour. Apparently it is some sort of BT issue. But we have the archived audio and I have podcast the interview with Anne so you can listen to it.

My second guest was slightly late due to Bristol traffic so I kicked off with coverage of the Women’s cricket. That included my interview with Raf Nicholson which I did between the two matches on Finals Day.

Then I spent a happy half an hour talking to Shauna Tohill of the all-girl rock band, REWS. She was lovely, and I love their music.

Also there was more Aretha.

You can listen to the second hour of the show here. I will podcast the interviews with Shauna & Raf in due course.

The playlist for today was:

  • Aretha Franklin – Say a Little Prayer
  • Rumer – Aretha
  • Arthea Franklin – Eleanor Rigby
  • Arthea Franklin – Bridge over Troubled Water
  • Aretha Franklin – Rock Steady
  • Whitney Houston – My Love is Your Love
  • Tina Turner – One of the Living
  • REWS – Shake Shake
  • REWS – Miss You in the Dark
  • Aretha Franklin – Respect
  • Aretha Franklin – Spanish Harlem
  • Aretha Franklin – Wholy Holy

And, thanks to the magic of YouTube, here are the two REWS tracks that I played.

Hugo Participation Trends

Yeah, I know I said I was just doing a post on the Hugo Study Committee Report and then I’d be done. However, this morning I listened to the new episode of The Coode Street Podcast in which Gary and Jonathan talk to Jo Walton about her book, An Informal History of the Hugos. A couple of things Jo said had me sit up and take notice, so I thought I would write about them.

The first point is an object lesson in how easy it is to think that something is traditional and has always been the way things were done. Jo, Gary and Jonathan were lamenting the lack of success that Iain M. Banks had in the Hugos. Jo noted that Banks had not had the advantage of the extra year of eligibility for works initially published outside the USA. That’s a rule I know well, and I was slightly surprised, so I checked the history. It was in 2002 that we added a rule giving works in English published outside the UK a shot at an extra year, but you needed a 3/4 vote in the Business Meeting. It wasn’t until 2014 that the extra year became automatic. So Jo was right, Banks did not get to use this feature of the Hugo rules. It is much more recent than I rememered.

Jo also mentioned that Hugo participation, in terms of numbers of voters, was increasing, and noted the effect of the Puppies on this. Given that it is my job to worry about bandwidth limits on the Hugo Awards website, I figured that the story wasn’t that simple, and I was right.

The following chart shows the total number of Hugo voters in the Final Ballot stage, the numbers that nominated in Novel, and the number of Final Ballots that express a preference in the Novel and Best Dramatic Presentation: Long categories. These are the categories that traditionally get the most interest. I stopped my historical digging at 2009 because that year’s data did not give separate participation data for each category.

The level of participation is almost 3 times what it was in 2009, but it has dropped significantly since the peak of 2015 when all fandom came together to repell the Puppy Incursion. What’s more it appears to be still dropping. That’s not altogether surprising, but it is something we need to be concerned about.

There are some interesting pieces of data as well. 2016 is notable in being a year (probably the only year) in which the number of voters participating in the nominating stage is higher than the number participating in the final ballot. That’s becaue a lot of people joined the 2015 Worldcon to join the fight against the Puppies, and were eligible to nominate in 2016, but having seen that the Puppies were mostly beaten they opted not to join again.

2017 is notable for being a year where a lot of people who particpated in the final ballot did not vote in the Novel category. That’s why I checked BDP: Long. Sure enough, I found that a lot more people participated in that than in Novel, which is also unusual. The obvious reason is that a significant number of voters were not native English speakers. While most Finns have very good English, reading six whole novels must have seemed a bit daunting. Movies were quite likely subtitle or translated.