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Posts Tagged ‘worldcon’

It has been a while since I posted, but it’s been a busy few weeks, and something had to give. There have been out-of-town guests, and Worldcon, and preparing for out-of-town guests, and recovering from Worldcon, and just trying to get back on track with my writing projects. And now it’s football season and there are all those games to watch…

Whew.

So, Brian, you went to Worldcon. How was that?

So glad you asked. I am happy to report that, unlike Comic-con, there were no dessert-related disasters. In fact, there were no disasters at all. I wouldn’t say this was the best Worldcon I’ve ever attended, but it was by far not the worst.

The main problem I had was that (like Comic-con) you couldn’t get into any panels. The rooms chosen for most events were just too darn small. Even when we could get a seat, the room was SRO, and often we couldn’t get in at all. Please concoms, I know this is a tough deal (I’ve done it), but it doesn’t do any good to present exciting programming if people can’t get into the room to see it!

The other problem was simply one inherent in large cons: I couldn’t see the people I wanted to see. Specifically, I had hoped to connect with GOH Spider Robinson, because he was GOH at a con I chaired a looooong time ago. But due to circumstances, some beyond my control, that didn’t happen. Ah, well.

On the other hand, I did connect with several old friends from Northern California I rarely see, and that was special. One friend, attending her first Worldcon, even volunteered and may have discovered an inner geek that she (or at least I) never knew existed. It will be interesting to see where this goes.

I also found the dealer’s room quite intriguing, with quite enough booksellers to satisfy even one such as I–and by waiting to the last day, I scored several books I’d been looking for at a bargain price! (Then I had to ship them home, which was another matter…)

The high point, though, had to be the exhibit and programming surrounding Ghost of Honor Bob Wilkins, the legendary host of Creature Features, which formed so much of my youth. Seeing clips of Bob from the old days brought back happy memories, and maybe I even shed a nostalgic tear.

All in all, it was an enjoyable, if exhausting, experience. It may have to last me a while, since the next two Worldcons are overseas, and absent a Hugo nomination, I may not be able to attend. (Note to self: Write a Hugo-worthy story tonight.)

Speaking of writing, I am roughly 15% of the way into my latest book, and plowing ahead. I also have a story awaiting first-round editing, so that’s exciting. (That’s the word I want, right, “exciting”? Because “terrifying” also suggests itself…)

Oh, and I almost forgot: The Stolen Future and Nemesis novels are still on sale for $.99 for a limited time! Early Christmas shopping, anyone?

Busy as a bee, that’s me. I can’t wait for the distant day I can retire and write full-time. Then I’ll have time to relax, right?

#SFWApro

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Codes of conduct are all the rage at conventions now–in more than one sense of the word. Not only are more conventions adopting them–and not by choice, but by the necessity of not being seen to be insensitive to various pressing issues–but they are also the cause of rage from various corners.

We’ve always had rules for conventions. Even back in the Stone Age, when I chaired a con, we had rules (such as no guns). But we didn’t have a code as such; our rules were simple: Aside from the “no guns” rule, you had to buy a membership to participate. That was pretty much it. I don’t mean to romanticize “the good old days,” but things are sure different now.

And they are evolving. Worldcon banned one person because he wrote about his plans upon attending, which were ostensibly considered threatening or potentially bothersome to others.* Now, another convention has announced that it is modifying its own code of conduct to include actions taken by potential members outside of the convention itself; in other words, you may be pre-banned for your behavior utterly unconnected to the convention you wish to attend.

How to feel about this? On the one hand, we all want to think that our cons are going to be fun; we don’t want to have to worry that some jerk is going to hijack the weekend for his own asocial purposes. On the other hand, should going to a con involve a virtual job interview? I don’t know of any con that has the volunteer mojo to check every attendees’ (applicants’) social media presence, but with technology improving, how long will it be? And while each concom certainly has the right to determine who it wants to have at its event (usually a real-time decision), what standards will each use? (See an analysis of the application of codes of conduct at Australian conventions here.)

For fans, conventions can be a highlight of their social life. For pros, conventions can be a marketing/networking/sales opportunity, particularly for newer authors who need the exposure. No question that to anyone, being denied entrance is damaging on some level.

The phrase “slippery slope” is overused, but it is applicable to many situations. Add to that the fact that SF fandom loves a controversy like ants love ice cream. Regardless of the fairness of the policy or its application, this is going to create a hurricane of disputation, and if it continues, it’s only going to grow over time. Look for more pros to be banned, and then fans. It starts with political viewpoints, but it will get uglier. The “race card” will be played (fairly or not), sooner rather than later. Today’s fissures today will be tomorrow’s chasms.

I hope that as I grow in stature as a writer, I will not have to maintain two lists: the cons which I would like to attend, and the cons at which I will be welcome. But we don’t always get what we hope for.

ETA: Origins gaming convention has announced the rescission of author Larry Correia’s invitation to be a guest of honor, for having “personal views that are specifically unaligned with the philosophy of our show and the organization.” Although this does not appear to be a code of conduct issue, I fear it is the shape of things to come.

 

*As this matter is in the process of being litigated, I specifically disavow any knowledge as to what any of the parties was thinking/thinking of doing. I’m just speculating here.

#SFWApro

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Back in my day, when dinosaurs roamed the Earth in steam-powered chariots and Venus was still considered potentially viable off-world real estate, running an SF convention was a relatively simple affair. (Note emphasis on “relatively.” That doesn’t mean it was easy. I helped on two, acting as the chair of the second. I had already decided that I would never do such a thing again long before the current crop of kerfuffles grew up. Now? Now I think you have to be insane to want to run a convention.

When I wanted my con to be forward-thinking, I invented the idea of a gun-free convention. Cosplay with guns (not that “cosplay” had been coined yet) was very popular, although there had been reports of some problems with too-realistic props that made the police nervous. For specific reasons that honestly escape me now, I decided that our convention would sport a “no-weapons” policy. No weapons, no how. We got some vague reports of complaints, but nobody tried to test our resolve by bringing in a contraband toy, and although I was far too busy to notice at the time, the after-action reports said that everyone had a good time.

Of course, that was before the Internet.

Now, anything you do is susceptible to being broadcast world-wide in seconds. Millions of people who would never even consider coming to your convention can comment on (or argue about) your choices. If we tried imposing that policy today, the roof would fly off.

But there are many other, new, considerations that we didn’t have: Codes of conduct (going beyond just not bringing a weapon), anti-harassment policies, safe spaces, accessibility issues (we had a one-story convention space)…and now, the piece de resistance, civil rights lawsuits. An author is suing Worldcon because he says he was banned solely for his political affiliations. It is not my intent to discuss the merits of that case here, merely to point out that we have crossed a line: If you want to put on a convention, your liability insurance now has to include coverage for legal fees. (Even back then we were smart enough to incorporate, but this suit seeks personal liability.)

I don’t know what it costs to put on even a small con these days, let alone a Worldcon, but I do know that every new wrinkle adds to the expense. And legal fees are a very large wrinkle. Not to mention what a lawsuit does to your credit rating and your precious free time.

Maybe this is an anomaly; I hope so. But in our society, I cannot believe it. So what’s going to happen? Fewer conventions? More overseas Worldcons? I’ll tell you what isn’t going to happen: More reasoned dialogue. More unity of purpose on issues that affect us fans. We’re supposed to be looking toward the future, people, and I don’t think this is the future we want.

Ironically, those who support this lawsuit claim they just want to bring “fun” back to science fiction. It may be that there is a valid reason to drag your fellow fans into court, but I can tell you, without fear of contradiction, it won’t be fun.

#SFWApro

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The Helsinki Worldcon has just announced that it will present, on a trial basis, a Hugo award for “Best Series,” in 2017. Personally, I would just as soon see the award stay in Finland and never get a visa, as it were.

Without going into the guidelines, what I see is an annual “Best Novel” Hugo not going to the best novel. In other words, series will be nominated either because their partisans just love it to pieces (and good for them) or because the latest installment sits head and shoulders above the standard previously set for that series. In the first case, you’re nominating a series that no one who hasn’t read it already is going to read before voting. Voting in the “Best Novel” category is already hard enough (no time, expensive hardcovers). This category will have a small voting pool. In the second case, well, there’s already a “Best Novel” Hugo.

It has been suggested (and I suspect the suggestion will prove popular), to limit each series to one win. On the surface, I agree. But there are only so many great series out there, and I fear we would quickly read the state of “American Idol disease,” where once the deserved winners are burned off, the selection becomes less about quality and more about filling slots.

If this must continue (as I predict it will), I would be less opposed if a negotiated settlement could be reached. How about we eliminate a category, like “Best Professional Editor-Long Form”? I appreciate the work that goes into editing books, but I don’t have the faintest notion how to vote that category. I’m sorry, but who pays attention to the editor? How do you even know? At the very least, change it to “Best Professional Publisher-Long Form” so all we have to do is check the imprint.

By the way, in the interests of full disclosure, I hope to finish my trilogy by the end of the year. It would be eligible. But since it would be disingenuous to seek nominations, I won’t. Really, don’t nominate me. I wasn’t even planning to go. Oh, all right, if you must…

#SFWApro

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I was very happy to (with the invaluable assistance of my better half) procure business cards before Worldcon. After all, I reasoned, if one is going to have business cards, and if the primary reason one has business cards is because people have asked for them at cons, then it makes sense to have business cards before one embarks for the biggest science fiction con one is going to attend all year.* And for one brief, shining moment, my logic (which only rarely matches with Spock’s), seemed sound.

Silly me. (And for that matter, silly Spock.)

Because I gave away three business cards the entire time I was in Kansas City, and only one did I give away at the con.

The first was to a friend, the second to a docent at the National World War I Museum, which we were visiting because I am planning a novel at some point which takes place during the Great War,** and the third on the plane home, to a stranger with whom we struck up a conversation when the subject of my writing came up.

Now, I think I deserve props for getting my card out to people whom one would not normally consider prime candidates, but when you consider that I did not give one out to any of the thousands of (unknown) SF fans at the con itself, I don’t think overall my marketing skills are yet up to snuff.***

But hey, it’s a start.

“Excuse me, buddy, would you like a business card?”

ETA: I am reminded that I did pass out one card to a fellow author at the con (and took hers in return). So now I am apparently so good at this I can’t keep my successes straight. Progress?

———-

*Or, as it turns out, next year, too, because Helsinki is not a likely destination.

**Not to mention that The Invisible City starts in WWI, and I took a picture of a map showing where my hero was when that book began.

***To be fair to myself, I did intend to give one to an editor I was supposed to meet, but it didn’t work out.

#SFWApro

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It is a comment upon current circumstances when I say that my limited participation in Hugo voting this year honestly does not proscribe my ability to air my feelings on the proceedings. In full disclosure, I only voted in one category because I lacked the time to survey the field in more depth, and in fact, I gave that one No Award. Oddly enough, it was not one of the categories pre-empted by Puppies of any stripe.

Nevertheless, the entire process is worthy of discussion. As was the case last year, the various Puppies tried to game the system, but this year voters were onto them and they had markedly less presence on the final ballot. Needless to say, that they had any effect at all disproportionate to their numbers was unfortunate. Not only does the presence of any kind of slate demean the voting, but it actively bars others’ choices from appearing. You can proclaim your candidates’ merits all you like, but if you have to resort to underhanded methods to gain their nomination (even if it isn’t technically cheating), then you forfeit the opportunity to persuade anyone to agree with you because you have eliminated free choice. In the end, you are limiting these works’ acceptance (and sales) because no one wants anything that’s being forced down their throats. Ask any child with a cold.

Now Mr. Beale, who’s behind all of this, would have you believe that “everything is going according to plan”–just like every supervillain cackles two seconds before Captain Justice bursts through the skylight and brings his little foray into world domination to a halt. As will happen here. Voting slates will never be completely erased, but their influence will wane to the point where no one will want to pay for a Worldcon membership simply in order to exercise what little destructive power they have left.

The question, of course, is why do this at all? What do they get from wantonly disrupting someone else’s fun? I have no answer, unless it’s because they lack the imagination to make up their own.

In the end, it doesn’t matter. This, too, will pass. Whether the Hugos themselves matter, that’s another discussion–one that perhaps we will have when the current crisis abates. I look forward to it.

 

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Well, that was interesting. First let me say that my first time in Kansas City will likely be my last, but not through any fault of KC’s. The beer is good and the barbecue is delicious–what else do you need to host a Worldcon? “A convention center”? Well, if you insist. But the first two are more important.

So what was the con like, you ask? Very nice. I don’t normally attend a con for the panels any more; I’ve been to too many of both that were much the same as their predecessors, but this time there were a surprising number that I thought sounded interesting, even if some did not turn out the way I had hoped…

And yes, I’m talking about that panel. The now-infamous “State of Short Fiction” panel that precipitated Dave Trousdale’s ejection from the con. Reportedly, there were other infractions other than hijacking the panel (which he did), grossly insulting fans and writers (which he did indirectly), and robbing the audience of the chance to hear the thoughts of some of the premier short-fiction editors in the business. I don’t know about anything that happened outside of the panel, but I do know that he made the statements about “special snowflakes” that are attributed to him, and he did dump a load of “pearl” necklaces on the table so that anyone offended by his remarks could wear them for clutching purposes. (What is it about pearls and SF and controversy?) He also began to read from a prepared statement about the decline of SF because of political correctness, but the other panel members cut him off. Although there was some shouting, it came from the audience. All in all, regardless of the full extent of his transgressions, from what I personally witnessed, Mr. Trousdale’s ejection was his own doing,

All in all, although exciting, it was pretty much a waste of time. Which was not the case in the other controversial panel.

I was also in attendance at the “Jane Austen and Mary Shelley” panel which eventuated Mary Robinette Kowal’s loss of membership. Yes, she did offer audience members alcohol, and they did take it, but she hardly hijacked the panel (quite the opposite). And she was scarcely acting as a bartender; it was friendly gesture to encourage questions (which it did), not a cheap gimmick to make a point. Nevertheless, she was censured, and she took it like an adult.

So two panels, one a circus, the other a Dorothy Parker roundtable. And I was present for both of them. Both resulted in the moderator being removed from the con, which only shows that the rules (regardless of the complaints of some who were not there) were administered evenly.

It also illustrates today’s lesson: Don’t let me into your panels if you want to stick around for the rest of the con.

Next: The Hugo Awards

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