Deadpool 2 Fashion Report

Unsurprisingly, Deadpool 2 is a steaming heap of dingo poo with far less self-awareness than the average Internet troll, at which market is it clearly aimed. It does have some good stuff. The DC joke was actually funny. Domino is awesome and clearly needs her own movie, though of course she is unlikely to get one. Also we have our first glimpse of Teenage Mutant Lesbians, neither of whom get killed off. Indeed, while the cis, white women in the film have life expectancies in nanoseconds, the other women escape unscathed. I’m assuming that the scriptwriters didn’t notice this. Otherwise the film is pretty much forgettable.

While I have little to say about the plot, I was intrigued by one small fashion choice. See above. Ellie (Negasonic Teenage Warhead, on the right) is wearing a green and black, metallic-look fluffy sweater. I recognised it instantly. Something very like that was in fashion back in the late 80s, and early 90s.

This being a Deadpool movie, it is pointless trying to fit it into X-Men chronology. We last saw our favorite mutants in the 1980s, but there are sufficient pop culture references in the film to date this one to at least the present day. Also Deadpool knows that Wolverine is dead, which doesn’t happen until around 2024. Besides, why would the film crew spend any time thinking about setting-appropriate fashion choices when they could be writing another dick joke?

I’m therefore forced to conclude that the sweater is there because Brianna Hildebrand owns it and thought it would suit Ellie’s style. But how? She wasn’t born when it was originally in fashion? Does she collect vintage clothing? Or has someone brought it back? If they have, please point me at it so that I can buy one.

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Fringe Tomorrow

It is that time of the month again. BristolCon Fringe will happen at The Gryphon on Colston Street from 7:30pm. The readers for this month are Chris Halliday and JL Probert. I don’t know much about them as yet because the fabulous Cavan Scott has offered to help out with hosting the event. This is his first event so please to turn up to support him, and our readers.

A reminder also that there is no Fringe in October because of BristolCon, but there will be the usual open mic reading session on the Friday before the covention.

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A Festival of Monsters

The University of Bristol’s autumn art lectures series will focus, this year, on monsters. It will cover Frankenstein, Gogmagog, dragons, and a lot more. The full programme is available here. I’m too busy to attend all of them, but I’m going to make sure I am available for Ronald Hutton’s lecture on dragons.

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Trans Rights at the WEP Conference

I spent the weekend at the Women’s Equality Party conference. There was lots of good feminist discussion and I made lots of lovely new friends. We debated a lot of policy issues, most notably adopting a motion calling for a People’s Vote on the final Brexit deal, and specifically asking for an option to remain in the EU. If I get time I will do a separate post about other policies, but the discussion I know that most people will be interested in is the one that took place around trans rights.

Before I start I would like to note that WEP is one of the best places in which to have such a discussion, because issues of gender are central to so much of what WE do. Also WE are the only party dedicated to Equality. On the other hand, WE are also one of the most difficult places to discuss trans rights, because so many of our members became feminist activists because of their experience of male violence. Those experiences cannot be ignored.

That said, here’s what went down as I understand it.

Prior to Conference, some well meaning cis members submitted a motion on the Gender Recognition Act. It was very simple, calling for an end to medicalisation, recognition for non-binary genders, and an end to the Spousal Veto.

Once the motions were published, Sophie Walker was deluged with emails complaining about the motion. While many were from the usual suspects, many were from ordinary members who were concerned about what WE were up to.

Sophie has been on a bit of a journey herself over the past year. That has included getting booed at an anti-trans meeting, and discovering the lovely people at TELI. So she could see that many of the concerns were based not in bigotry, but in confusion. She wanted to reach out to those members and try to bring some clarity to the discussion.

In the meantime, another member had proposed an amendment to the motion. To the untrained eye it looked fairly inocuous, but I could see that if we passed that amendment we would immediately lose the confidence of the trans community and its allies. Indeed, had the amendment been adopted as policy it would have been impossible for me to remain a member of the party.

So we had a situation where Sophie didn’t want a vote on the main motion, and I didn’t want a vote on the amendment. Both of us could see that a lot of members would probably end up voting without fully understanding the issues. Sophie came up with the idea that World Science Fiction Society members will recognise as a version of Committee of the Whole. Instead of debating the motion, we would simply have a discussion around the issue, with no vote. Unfortunately Sophie chose to call this a “Special Debate”, which lead some trans people to assume that she was calling for a debate on whether trans women are women. In fact she was doing just the opposite: saving us from voting on an amendment that would have been taken as decision on whether trans women are women.

Sophie and I chatted by phone before conference, and I offered to speak in support of having Special Debates in case anyone on the pro-trans side wanted to try to force a vote. Inevitably someone did, though she wasn’t part of the group that brought the original motion. Thankfully the Special Motion was passed, so when we got to discussing the GRA there would be no vote.

But I am getting ahead of myself. That didn’t happen until Sunday morning. On Saturday a lot went on. In particular the folks from TELI gave a great talk on the Gender Recognition Act consultation. Claire McCann was amazing: very clear and very authoritative. There was little opportunity for discussion, though it did throw up one very interesting point that deserves its own blog post.

Meanwhile the anti-trans lobby was busy having meetings and distributing leaflets. There appeared to be around 15 or 20 of them, which is relatively small in a conference with over 700 attendees. There were apparently several different leaflets — someone clearly put a lot of money into trying to influence WEP policy on trans people — so I didn’t see them all, but the one I was given was, in my opinion, very misleading. However, the anti- side did refrain from using the obnoxious penis stickers, and although some leaflets were apparently stuck in toilets there were no razor blades.

The leaflets did make the event feel very unwelcoming to trans people, but I think this was more of an issue for our supporters than myself and the other two trans women at the venue. We all agreed that we had seen far worse.

Thankfully we were able to forget our differences for the evening and enjoy the wonderful comedy night that Sandi Toksvig had put together for us.

On Sunday morning, then, we got to actual policy debate. In supporting Sophie’s call for a Special Debate I made the following points:

  • I wanted all trans members full involved in any discussion, not just those who could afford to go to conference;
  • I felt that the amendment was too coded for us to vote on safely;
  • I was concerned that most members had obtained too much of their knowledge of trans issues from dishonest newspaper articles; and
  • I wanted us to have a proper, feminist discussion of the issue, not an adversarial debate that could only have winners and losers.

When it came to the actual Special Debate it turned out that huge numbers of people wanted to speak. All sorts of views were expressed. Some, inevitably, were very anti-trans. Others were wonderfully supportive. Chris Paouros has posted her introductory speech on her Facebook feed, but that may not be public so I’m not linking to it at this point. Stella Duffy has posted the speech she wrote here. As she notes, she didn’t get to give all of it.

I’d also like to thank the following:

  • Toni for giving her personal perspective as someone in the process of applying for a GRC;
  • Tabitha for talking about her work ending violence again women and girls, and how this was not impacted by being trans inclusive; and
  • Madeline for pointing out that women in prison are in far more danger from male staff than from trans women.

There were other pro-trans speeches as well, but I can’t remember all of them, or the names of the people who made them. Bea from Exeter wanted to make a speech explaining that the UK has obligations under international human rights law that the GRA changes are, in part, required to address. But she was helping chair the session so was unable to speak.

The opposition were mostly respectful, sometimes confused, and on a couple of occasions flat out wrong. The only thing that really got me angry was when a speaker appeared to accuse a well-known athlete who was assigned female at birth, and identifies as female, of being a male cheat. Sadly I was so angry that I didn’t manage to raise a point of order in time.

Sophie’s speech was not what I was hoping for, but I understand where she is coming from. Too many members have attempted to engage with the issue on social media, said something unfortunate, and been dismissed as a transphobe. Sophie doesn’t like this happening, but there are reasons why it does.

These days my PoC friends on Twitter spend a lot of time complaining about about being expected to do the intellectual and emotional labour of explaining their oppression to white people. The same sort of fatigue affects trans people. We get very tired of people saying, “couldn’t you just be happy as a gay man?” We are fed up of explaining that our being trans is not the fault of our parents, and that no amount of more or less strict parenting would have made a difference. It is exhausting, and people tend to snap.

I’m in a somewhat different position. I’m a professional. I get paid for explaining trans people to a sometimes clueless audience. I give my labour to WEP for free because I believe in the party, but I have experience of dealing with this stuff. Other trans people may have less skill and/or resiliance.

This is probably the point at which I should talk about some of the confusion around the issue, and why it is so dangerous.

One of the points that people kept making is that there are biological differences between trans women your average cis woman. On the face of it, that is entirely true, and one speaker emphasised the importance of recognising those differences so that trans people can get the correct medical treatment. The problem is that as soon as you conceed that point it gets spun into being radically anti-trans. The existence of some biological differences is taken as proof that trans women are not, and never can be, women. The spin then goes on to claim that this means trans women should be excluded from all women’s spaces, that gender reassignment should be removed from the Equality Act, and that the Gender Recognition Act should be repealed.

That’s the situation for trans women. For trans men and non-binary people it is in many ways worse. Non-binary people get told biology proves that they cannot exist, while trans men are told that they must identify and present as women in order to access vital gynaecological treatments.

Most people citing “biological differences” in the debate had no intention of taking things so far, but because others use the “biological differences” argument as an excuse to completely deny trans rights, any trans person seeing that phrase is liable to jump to conclusions.

And this is why we should not have the discussion on social media, or in a short, adversarial debate.

So where do we go from here? WEP has promised that it will consult the membership, and that trans members will be fully involved in the process. I’m looking forward to that happening. I’m happy to give my time and expertise to help make it work.

But I think we need to address the PR issue as well. Trans people are still afraid of WEP. That’s partly because so much of the harrassment they suffer comes from people who identify as “feminists”, partly because of unfortunate public statements by party members, and partly because of stirring by members of other political parties. Anti-trans people are doubtless concerned about the party too, but that’s not something I can address as those people won’t be open to an approach from me. What I can do is address the trans side.

So if you are a trans person and a feminist, and have the time and energy to get involved, please reach out to WEP. We need more voices than just mine. You don’t have the join the party. Indeed, you can become a Supporter while still a member of another party. WE are different like that. If you are nervous about approaching people you don’t know, come to me, and I will find a supportive person that you can talk to first.

As for WEP branches, please reach out to your local trans community. Let us know that you care. Many branches already have trans members who can help. I have contacts around the country. And if there’s really no one local then someone like myself, Carol Steel (who is a member) or Christine Burns (who isn’t, yet) would be happy to come and talk to you.

I’m going to close comments on this because what went on on social media last night made it clear how many trans haters there are out there. Most of you know how to get in touch with me should you need to.

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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.

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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.

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The Green Man’s Reviews

As well as selling ridiculously well, The Green Man’s Heir is garnering some great reviews. I have just updated the page for the book over at the Wizard’s Tower Press website. For sheer sound bite brilliance I love K.J. Charles’s comment: “So far up my street it could be my house.” However, the thing that really warms my little publisher heart is getting a review in F&SF.

It is not just any review either. Firstly it is by the acknowledged master of contemporary fantasy, Charles de Lint. If you have a book in that genre, and Charles says it is good, you know you are onto a good thing. But he doesn’t just say it is good, he says, “It’s one of my favorite books so far this year.”

Naturally Juliet and I are delighted. On the one hand, of course, the sales of the book have so far outstripped our wildest dreams that something like this is just icing on the cake. On the othe hand, almost all of those sales have been in the UK. The book has yet to come to the attention of the US market. Sales have picked up a bit since the review came out, but they are not yet at the level they were in the UK prior to Amazon picking the book for the Daily Deal so there is a long way to go. So if you are in the US and have read the book, please talk about it. If you havent read it, you can get it for Kindle, or as an ePub.

I note that people are asking about a sequel. Certainly Juliet and I have talked about it, but she’s got a lot on her plate right now. What I am going to do is make a hardcover edition, if only because I can finally do that thing of adding a page or two saying, “Praise for this book.” So if anyone else out there would like to be included in that, please let me know.

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Priorities Askew

I spent today in Glastonbury as I had been asked to help out with an event being run by Feminist Archive South. It is part of a project called Hatpins to Hastags which charts the history of femimist activism. There’s a wonderful traveling exhibition of posters from women’s liberation activities over the decades, and two strands of workshops. Some of the workshops are on digital democracy, which I’m pleased to see is focusing more on communication tools and website building than on social media. Alison Bancroft has done a fabulous job building the website for the project so if you want to learn some of this stuff and are local do check out future workshop dates. There will be some in Weston in October as well.

The other stream of workshops is called Femimist Futures and it is intended to look at what feminism still needs to do, and where we go from here. This is what I was invited to help out with. There’s a lot that we could have talked about. I offer the WEP list of objectives as a starter. Unfortunately we didn’t get to talk much about any of that.

This being Glastonbury, we had a small group of people along from the Goddess Movement, and mostly what they wanted to do was complain about how words like “intersectional” and “non-binary” were too complicated, and how we had to simplify feminism by only doing the things they wanted us to do.

I think what offended me most about this was their ignorance of human spiritual traditions (I love Inanna/Ishtar precsely because her temple was always welcoming to queer folks of all types), and their insistence on imposing Western European notions of a strict gender binary on the rest of the world. If you are going to claim to tap into ancient spiritual traditions you can at least try to do a bit of research.

I’m also seriously unimpressed with their disingenuous approach. Rather than admit that they didn’t understand this stuff and ask to learn, they complained that we were making things too complicated for girls today. Given that the young feminists they were abusing had no trouble with being intersectional, but these older women clearly did, I think the problem lies elsewhere.

If any of you are worrying about me, please don’t. I’m mostly annoyed that an opportunity to have a useful conversation about the future of feminism was totally derailed by people whose only priority appears to be excluding trans people from feminism. When there is so much still to do, it infuriates me that we are wasting our time like this. Besides, they really didn’t care about me. Their main concern was telling off the young women who didn’t share their views. I might just as well not have been there for all they cared what I thought or felt.

I’m looking on it as good practice for next weekend, which I will be spending at the Women’s Equality Party conference. I expect that experience to be far more unpleasant.

Posted in Feminism, Gender, History | Comments Off on Priorities Askew

Now That’s What I Call A Queen

It is time for a little light relief from all of that Hugo stuff. How about some Assyrian history instead?

Today I got notification from of a new paper upload from a friend of mine (hi Omar!). It was mainly about King Sennacherib and representations of masculinity in his depiction. However, along the way it also touched on his relationship with women. There’s a theory that Sennacherib was a bit of a feminist, or at least was responsible for making Assyria somewhat less macho.

The poor chap came to the throne in very unfortunate circumstances. His father, Sargon II, had been campaigning against the Cimmerians who must have actually had Conan in their army because they thrashed the Assyrians, killing Sargon and making off with his body. Clearly the gods were unhappy with Assyria.

Sennacherib had a rather better time of things militarily, though he did rather famously fail to capture Jerusalem. The Prophet Isiah claims a massive victory for King Hezekiah, but Assyrian sources just say that Sennacherib accepted tribute and went away.

The most famous thing that Sennacherib did, however, was to move his capital to Nineveh where he built a wonderously beautiful palace complete with fabulous gardens irrigated by the use of a technique that later became known as the Archimedes Screw. Stephanie Dalley believes that this palace was the original inspiration for the legend of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. (Sennacherib had conquered Babylon and put one of his sons on the throne there.)

In part of the palace there are lion guardian figures leading to a separate wing. On them is an inscription which reads:

And for the queen Tašmetum-šarrat, my beloved wife, whose features Belet-ili has made more beautiful than all other women, I had a palace of love, joy and pleasure built. … By the order of Aššur, father of the gods, and queen Ištar may we both live long in health and happiness in this palace and enjoy well-being to the full!

This demonstration of uxoriousness is highly unusual for an Assyrian king. We have nothing to back it up, and everyone would doubtless take it at face value if not for future developments, of which more later.

I was reading about Tašmetum-šarrat because Omar had cited a paper by Karen Radner which looks at a particularly famous seal. It is mostly famous because it is one of the few seals where we have both the seal itself and documents onto which it was impressed. The seal shows Tašmetum-šarrat and Sennacherib approaching a goddess (whom I shall assume is Ishtar). It is known to be the queen’s seal because it also features an image of a scorpion.

Yes, the official symbol of the Assyrian queen was a scorpion. Why? Well the theory is that the primary function of the queen was to produce and raise a crown prince. The female scorpion is known to carry her young on her back for protection, and she is of course a fearsome warrior. This is entirely appropriate for the queen of Ishtar’s chosen people. (Also scorpions have 8 legs and Ishtar’s star has 8 points, but that’s just me going off at a mystical tangent.)

But the reason I looked up Radner’s paper to begin with was mention Omar made about Tašmetum-šarrat having her own army. As best we can make out, Sennacherib had a lot of trouble with palace intrigue, and he didn’t much trust his senior advisors. So he gave one of his armies to his queen to command instead.

You may now imagine Ishtar smiling down happily at all this.

Sadly for Sennacherib, this cunning plan did not work. In 681 BCE he was murdered in a palace coup apparently involving some of his own sons. The plot was unsuccessful because the throne was eventually siezed by another son, Esarhaddon, who was governor of Babylon when his father died. The interesting question is, whose sons did the plotting?

Assyrian kings, as was the fashion, had several official wives, one of whom would be the official queen. We do not know if Tašmetum-šarrat and her sons were involved in the assassination plot. However, nothing is heard of Tašmetum-šarrat from then on. Instead we hear much of another wife, Naqia. She played a prominent role in the reign of her son, Esarhaddon (who conquered Egypt), and of her grandson, Ashurbanipal (shortly to be the subject of a major exhibition at the British Museum).

Scorpions, they are dangerous creatures.

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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.

Posted in Awards, Podcasts, Science Fiction | Comments Off on Hugo Participation Trends

Digging the Hugo Data

For seasoned Hugo watchers there’s nothing better than poring over the vast pile of stats that gets released after the award ceremony. Because it was 6:30am and I’d had very little sleep I had to put that pleasure off for a while this year, but I have finally got around to digging into the data. Here are some observations.

The thing that jumped out at me is that not one single Finalist finished below No Award this year. Last year we were still dealing with the zombie tail of the Puppy Infestation and several Finalists, including VD himself, were hit with the Loving Mallet of No Award. This year the Mallet was not required. This is surely a good sign.

I’m also pleased to note that all of the categories were quite competitive. In previous years we have had categories that resulted in first round victories for one of the Finalists. The closest we came to that this year was in Fanzine where File 770 needed just one more round to secure the win.

Having said that, in most categories the Finalist with the most first round votes normally held the lead throughout. That wasn’t always the case, however. The Campbell was a thrilling race with the lead swapping back and fore between Rebecca Roanhorse and Vina Jie-Min Prasad. The began counting on 324 first preference votes each. At the end of the 5th round they were tied with 437 votes each. Redistributions from Rivers Solomon finally gave the win the Roanhorse. It makes you wish that the vote tallying had been televised (except that both Finalists might have had heart attacks in the process).

What does interest me is the contrast between nominations and first preference votes. In some categories everything proceeded as expected. For example in Novel, Nora Jemisin got easily the most nominations and easily the most first preference votes. Murderbot’s domination of Novella was even more pronounced. Not every category was like that. Possibly the most interesting was BDP: Short where, of the two episodes from The Good Place, “Michael’s Gambit” got more than twice as many nominations as “The Trolley Problem”, but the latter got a lot more first preferences and went on to win.

Incidentally, BDP: Short also gives the lie to the oft-repeated myth about “splitting the vote”. That’s important in the nomination stage, but once you get to the final ballot the vote redistribution works in your favor. It was precisely the huge chunk of preferences it got from “Michael’s Gambit” that allowed “The Trolley Problem” to pull ahead of the Black Mirror episode.

The lower rankings were mostly more or less as I expected. I was surprised that New York 2140 did so poorly, and diappointed that “The Deep” did the same. Philip Pullman finishing last in the Lodestar was also a bit of a surprise.

Finally a few notes on the also-rans. Kameron Hurley and Analee Newitz lost Finalist slots to John Scalzi and Kim Stanley Robinson in Novel thanks to the EPH voting system. That shows that a significant segment of the voters in Novel had similar tastes. It will doubtless be a source of great joy to Men’s Rights Activists everywhere that EPH kicked a couple of women off the ballot and gave one of those places to John Scalzi instead.

Liz Gorinsky (Editor Long) and Julie Dillon (Professional Artist) both declined nomination, as did Emma & Pete Newman for Tea & Jeopardy in Fancast. I’m sad that we didn’t have our local heroes to cheer for, but I’ve done the same thing so I can’t complain.

Of the other local candidates, Gemma Anderson finished 9th in the Campbell. That’s her second year of eligibility so her last chance, but given her talent I expect to see more fiction awards in her future. In Fancast, Breaking the Glass Slipper, featuring Exeter-based Lucy Hounsom, was 11th. It is a good, feminist podcast that I’m sure would have a wider appeal if more of you knew about it. With Dublin being so close to us, the mighty South West Block Vote might come into play next year.

I think that’s it for the numbers. There’s one more thing I want to talk about, which is the report of the Hugo Study Committee. We’ve had enough Hugos for now, though. I’ll leave that for another day.

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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.

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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.

Posted in Awards, Clothes, Conventions, Science Fiction | 1 Comment

Hugo Night

It has been a long night here in the UK. I went to bed at 9:00pm and had my alarm on for 3:00am so that I could help out with the Hugo Award ceremony coverage. I did manage to get a bit more sleep after it finished, but that’s not really a good way to run a night.

Thankfully the ceremony went off pretty much without a hitch. The only major problem that we have is that, shortly after the ceremony finished, the video coverage was blocked, allegedly because of a complaint by BBC Studios. I say “allegedly” because we source these clips from the companies that make the finalists and the chances of an actual human from the BBC doing something in the middle of the night (UK time) or late on Sunday (US time) are pretty low. I spoke to the BBC’s intellectual property department this morning and they confirmed that this was probably the result of a software system being run by YouTube. The BBC is a large company with offices on both sides of the Atlantic so it may take a little while to sort this out, but I expect the video to be available again soon.

As to the results, I was very happy. There are way too many of my friends on the ballot for me to be pleased about every winner, but the results were great. I have a few special shout outs to make.

Firstly huge congratulations to my friend Mur Lafferty. Some of you may remember that Mur used to be part of the ceremony coverage team. These days she has more important things to do. Mur works incredibly hard and I’m delighted to see her finally win a Hugo.

Secondly, as you probably know, I adore Murderbot. I first read Martha Wells with The Death of the Necromancer back in 1998 thanks to a recommendation by Roz Kaveney. I loved it. I also loved what she has done in creating a genuinely alien rae with the Raksura series. And I am delighted that she’s finally been a big hit with Murderbot. It just goes to show that careers can follow all sorts of trajectories.

Finally, of course, there’s The Big One. Hugo history was made this year.

Speaking personally, I can’t remember a better constructed trilogy. OK, maybe The Lord of the Rings, but not a lot else. Nora thoroughly deserves this. I’m also reminded that I’ve been hugely impressed with her since The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. Scarily she keeps getting better.

Posted in Awards, Science Fiction | 1 Comment

Fringe Tomorrow

The August BristolCon Fringe event will take place tomorrow evening. The readers are Ellen Crosháin and John Hawkes-Reed. As usual we will be in the Gryphon on Colston Street from 7:30pm. I will be hosting, though how awake I will be after having been up half the night helping with the Hugo Award ceremony coverage is another matter.

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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.

Posted in Awards, Conventions, Science Fiction | 2 Comments

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.

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The Green Man’s Heir at #Worldcon76

Hello Worldcon 76! If you would like a paper copy of The Green Man’s Heir, you can find it at the Cargo Cult table, or at the Larry Smith Books table, both in the Dealers’ Room.

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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.

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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.

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