27 September 2012

Forgive me, readers, I've been busy.

I know, all dozen of you on Google FriendConnect, and however many people follow the links from twitter or facebook...

The weekend after WorldCon, my cousin got married, so after I'd managed to catch up from that, I spent 12 hours in a car over 2 days and had to catch up again. Planning for ConTemporal has gone into full swing, so I've been spending a lot of time on that--inviting guests, making budgets, all that sort of thing.

I'm also taking an evening class at Durham Tech and a taiji sword class.

AND I'm applying for jobs, jobs, and more jobs, and hoping something works.

I read a book that I'd like to review, but I want to read it again first, probably, so I won't have a Monday book review for you all. Maybe next Thursday; we'll see.

10 September 2012

On WorldCon bids

I mentioned in my WorldCon wrap-up that I am supporting the bid for Spokane in 2015 over Orlando, despite one of these places being really close and the other on the opposite side of the country. Helsinki just announced their bid during WorldCon, and all they have right now is a twitter page and maybe facebook, so I can't really comment on their bid at this time.

Spokane's materials really impressed me. The people running the bid have a lot of experience running conventions, and it shows. The convention will (probably) be well run should they win.

I like their location, in the Spokane convention center, with four hotels close by. (Though I wonder if they have any way to give people with disabilities preferential booking for the closest hotel. Interesting question. Fandom isn't getting any younger...more on that later.)

Spokane has a ton of restaurants in close walking distance from the convention center, apparently, which can't really be said about Disney's Coronado Springs resort, where Orlando is proposing theirs.

A factor that weighs, well, not MOST heavily, but it's up there is that CJ Cherryh is supporting the Spokane bid. She'll be at the convention. (She lives out there.) She doesn't fly, so she doesn't do east-coast cons, or much she can't drive to readily. If they win, I'm going. The hard part will be deciding which of my 60 Cherryh novels to take with me to get signed. Without checked bags.

The Orlando bid appeals to my revolutionary Marxist nature. But I can't tell if anyone on the committee has any experience running a con. This comment says they do. Not knowing Florida fandom, I can't say I recognized any of the names on their list, and unlike Spokane, there aren't brief bios anywhere.

Disney's Coronado Springs Resort has a lot of restrictions, like not being able to bring your own food in, and rather limited vegetarian food options (at least when my fellow-vegetarian friend went to a work-related conference there a few years ago). Also, it's kind of in the middle of nowhere, with no way to get off the property without a car. Which, well, is kind of bad.

One person who approached the Spokane table while I was there said she didn't think the Orlando group "knows what a WorldCon is about." I can't say I agree. I think they do, but their idea is different than traditional fandom. See Thursday's post on the Hugos, where I talk about that some. Cheryl Morgan has an interesting post on the historical natures of fandom and those who want to keep it the Old Way.

Where I definitely agree with the Orlando group, and Chris Galvin Nguyen in this Mind Meld, is that WorldCon is too expensive for many, if not most, fans to attend.

Between airfare, a $200+ membership, and hotel, plus restaurant food for 5 days, young fans and international fans are being priced out of attending WorldCon. Even a non-attending supporting membership, which entitles you to vote on the Hugos and in site selection, is $60+. If you wonder why WorldCon-attending fandom is a mostly older and US-based crowd, well, there's one answer.

Though, of course, we can't forget that there are fans who are retired and living on a fixed income, so they're being priced out, too. (And the Hyatt Regency had some very interesting interpretations of the ADA as far as bathroom accessibility was concerned. Power chairs couldn't fit into the stalls, and the panel rooms were often tight.)

I think the World Science Fiction Convention should be out in the rest of the world more often than it is, and Nguyen's got data in the Mind Meld I linked above. Kind of depressing, really. So in theory I support Helsinki's bid, because, hey, a non-US bid. I'm skeptical they'll win, because 2014's going to be in London, and, let's be honest, US-based fandom's not going to want to go abroad two years in a row. Helsinki's a nice city, I hear, and I've never been to Finland. I'm still unemployed, though, so I can't really afford the airfare.

06 September 2012

Thoughts on the 2012 Hugos

I ranked a lot of the winners first in my voting, which I thought was pretty cool. And some of them I had second. (Instant runoff voting is fun.)

The novellas were the hardest for me to rank, because the four I ranked were all really good, really well-written pieces, and I would have been happy with any of them winning. (The two I didn't just didn't do anything for me.)

I was fairly pleased with the winners' list. I agree with Carrie's thoughts to an extent--of the people on the list for several of the categories, the obvious winners won: Neil Gaiman. George RR Martin. Sheila Williams. Locus. That isn't to say none of these people deserve their wins, just that they're very popular. To an extent, the Hugos are a popularity contest, kind of like being nerd prom king/queen.

And there's nothing wrong with that. (Also, best anything is always a very subjective matter.)

What I thought was good about the Hugo winners' list was that many of the winning pieces had a sort of newness to them. It wasn't the same old 1950s SF story told with less-flat characters and more-current story techniques. It was still a mostly-white list, but there was a majority of women.

(Also, it's about damn time Betsy Wollheim won. DAW has published a lot of good, popular books since the 70s. In her acceptance speech she said, "Dad, FINALLY there's a Hugo with the name Wollheim on it." He'd be chuffed.)

The place I was most pleased to see the winners were the fan writer and fan zine categories. I read Jim Hines' blog, and I enjoy it. I kind of agree with Carrie, in that he's a big name, people have heard of him, so maybe he had an unfair advantage, but I also disagree. He has a different type of fannish writing than the other people on the list.

I think there's a change in what people want to read about in fan writing. Personally, I like the meta stuff, the sociology of fandom, the picking apart of sexist or racist tropes in novels or comics, and lampooning the anatomically improbable drawings of women in comics or on book covers. I like book reviews, movie reviews, that sort of thing. I'm not really interested in reading stories about how one time someone I don't know hung out with some other people I don't know, which apparently is what fan writing has been about for the last 50 or whatever years.

If Jim had declined the nomination, I would have voted "no award." With the demise of metafandom, I don't know who's writing the type of fannish writing I like to read, so point me there, if you have anyone, so I can read and rec them when the time comes.

Look also at SF Signal and compare it to the other fanzine nominees, like File 770 or Banana Wings. SF Signal has book reviews, book discussions, and mind melds, where a bunch of people talk about the same subject--like this recent post on whether a non-Anglo presence is possible in the Hugo awards. File 770 has some interesting stats geekery about the Hugos, and their November 2011 issue had a good bit of "get off my lawn, you whippersnappers media and anime fans!"

Which, I gotta say, as an anime fan, that's a pretty huge turn-off.

I wasn't at the business meeting where the graphic story category was permanently ratified and the YA category once again denied, but apparently there's a contingent that fears change, that thought graphic novels were a fad, who thinks that YA is a fad. This says a lot about traditional fandom, really.

So, I wonder: are we looking at a sea-change as far as fan writing/zines are concerned, where we new fans who aren't interested in traditional fan writing and fan zines are starting to be heard more? Or is this an anomaly? How long will it take to get a YA category for the Hugos? Discuss.

04 September 2012

Back from WorldCon

This was my first WorldCon. It was about what I expected, based on what I've read about WorldCons in the past and other cons I've attended that are more literature focused.

The Hyatt Regency Chicago is downtown, which has some pluses and minuses. Like it's relatively convenient to a lot of places to eat, if you don't mind walking 15 minutes or so, but the really close food joints are closed evenings and weekends, since they're business-focused. One thing Dragon*Con has over this is that it's in the same place every year, so the restaurants in the attached office building food court know that 40000 hungry nerds are descending for the weekend, so if they're open, they'll make money, even if they pay their staff overtime.

I talked to a lot of people, picked up some cards, saw people I haven't seen in years, like Christie Yant, met internet friends-of-friends, and I even got to talk about stuff on panels.

I didn't buy many things. I bought a pin of the Grand Seal of Barrayar and a chapbook of "Movement," by Nancy Fulda (who I chatted with while she signed it). I gave London 2014 my $20 pre-support and voted in the site selection (unsurprisingly, London won). I bought a supporting membership in next year's WorldCon in San Antonio (which makes me eligible to vote for Hugos and 2015's site selection). I gave the bid for Spokane in 2015 $20 and left my card with a note on the back which reads "interested in helping with the bid," because they don't have much presence in the southeast. God help me, I volunteered for a thing.

I gave my card to a British man who said he really liked the bit of "Something There Is" I read on Friday at the Broad Universe reading. (Note to self: link that more prominently once you've recovered.)

There was a panel on the next H1N1 I was interested in Saturday afternoon, but it turns out it was a really popular subject, so by the time I got there, the room was packed. So I had a little sit in the chair outside the room, and I saw a couple people I know, who I didn't even know would be there. So we talked, and they abducted me for dinner then playing Apples to Apples in the hotel bar with Mur Lafferty, Ursula Vernon, Paul Cornell, Chuck Wendig, and some people whose names I didn't catch.

Sunday was awesome. I had 2 panels, one at 9 am on medical myths (which I didn't get much to talk about, because no one asked about nasty wound infections and this one brain trauma doc took all the questions himself, basically) and the anime fandom panel at 3. They were fun in different ways and for different reasons.

I bolted right after the 3 pm panel to go to Fado Irish Pub to wait for the fan/drunk bus to Toyota Park Stadium. I took a taxi, because I didn't trust that I could make it in time. My feet were pretty sore, and I was starting to get tired. The cab driver was weird and awesome.

The game, though! The Fire scored a minute into it, then again a bit later in the first half. Houston scored once, and right at the end, just before the final whistle, the Fire made it 3-1, and some dude standing a few rows back flung beer into the air when he threw his arms up in the "YEAH!!!" So I got beer in my hair and on my clothes. AND I WAS YARDS AWAY FROM ARNE FRIEDRICH YOU ALL OMG. I stood in the singing section. We sang and chanted and clapped the full 90+5 minutes. It was fun, even if I didn't get to actually WATCH much of the game.

Then I got back to the bus and obsessively checked twitter to find out who was winning the Hugos. I made it back to the hotel and into the Grand Ballroom during the Dramatic Presentation Short section, so I made it for all the "big" awards. I cheered and shouted "Ursula!" when she won for Best Graphic Story. (I ran into her and Kevin Monday morning on my way in from breakfast, and they were both so happy.)

I have thoughts on the Hugos (and I voted for a lot of the winners, which makes me happy), but they'll have to wait a bit. I have a lot of post-travel things to catch up on. I should also write up my thoughts on Spokane vs Orlando in 2015 (and Helsinki just threw in, so there are three bids for that year now). Those will be separate posts, most likely on my usual Monday/Thursday schedule.