Category Archives: Renovation

2011 in Review

I started this blog in late August 2011. My goal was to write at least 500 words a day, which I accomplished. Views of my blog have steadily increased, approximately doubling every month.

The most viewed posts were:

  1. Real Steel
  2. Fullmetal Alchemist
  3. Evangelion
  4. Batman: The Brave and The Bold
  5. Arthur Christmas
  6. The New 52: Nightwing, Red Hood and the Outlaws, and Batman and Robin

My favorite posts were:

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My favorite comics were:

My favorite novels were:

Initially, I didn’t think this was a great year for movies, but looking back on my favorites, there are actually quite a few good, if not necessarily great, ones on my list:

My favorite TV series were:

There were several novels published in 2011 that I’m looking forward to reading:

  • 11/22/63 by Stephen King
  • A Dance with Dragons by George R. R. Martin
  • Embassytown by China Miéville
  • Reamde by Neal Stephenson
  • Rule 34 by Charles Stross
  • The Children of the Sky by Vernor Vinge

2011 was a good year for conventions, too. I attended the San Diego Comic-Con, the World Science Fiction Convention (Renovation) in Reno, and a number of smaller, local conventions.

I’m looking forward to 2012.

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Hugo Awards: Best Fanzine and Best Semiprozine

The Best Fanzine award was first presented in 1955. Science fiction fandom is largely based on the amateur fan magazines that have been published since 1930. Fanzines predate the first science fiction conventions. Fanzines are forums for fans to write on all kinds of topics of interest to each other. Fanzines are labors of love, with editors typically not accepting any kind of paid subscriptions, instead trading letters of comment or postage with other fans. The earliest fanzines were generally mimeographed, then xerographed, and in the past few years websites and blogs have dominated. The podcast StarShipSofa won in 2010. This year’s winner, The Drink Tank, featured an amazingly heartfelt acceptance speech by its editor, Chris Garcia.

During the 1970s, Locus dominated the Best Fanzine award. Locus had clearly moved to a more professional level than typical fanzines, with paid subscriptions and providing its editors with a nontrivial income. At about the same time, other “semiprofessional” magazines, such as Interzone and Science Fiction Chronicle, were gaining popularity. As a result, the Best Semiprozine category was established in 1984 so that traditional fanzines could more fairly compete against each other. Locus has been nominated as a semiprozine every year since then, winning 21 times.

Because of the domination by Locus, an ad hoc committee was appointed by the Worldcon Business Meeting in 2009 to look at the rules governing semiprozines. Many people felt that Locus had become a wholly professional magazine and should no longer be qualified to compete in the semiprozine category, but that the rules as written weren’t specific enough to move Locus out of contention. A few fans just wanted to eliminate the category altogether.

The committee presented its findings and recommendations at the Business Meeting at Renovation. With some slight changes in wording, the Business Meeting approved the committee’s proposal. It now must be finalized at Chicon 7 to be implemented. The proposal will redefine several publications as professional magazines. Interzone, Lightspeed, Locus, and Weird Tales will no longer be considered semiprozines based on their employee’s income or their publisher’s owner/employee’s income. Clarkesworld will likely move out of the semiprozine category within a year or two.

In my mind this does not solve the problem, it just moves it elsewhere. There is no Best Professional Magazine category for these publications to move to. Best Editor is not the same thing as Best Magazine. An editor has a large part to play in defining a magazine, but by no means the only one. To maintain parity, there needs to be a Best Professional Magazine category—well actually, a Best Collection award might be a better definition so as to include original anthologies.

Moreover, semiprofessional is a wishy-washy definition at best. Publishers of semiprozines want to have their cake and eat it, too. If they are publishing professional articles and stories, it’s irrelevant to me as a reader whether they are making or losing money. If a publication sells subscriptions, is available for sale at newsstands, collects donations, or pays any of its staff or contributors, it is a professional publication. The semiprozine publishers claim they want to create a level playing field, but that is an idealistic dream. The awards don’t differentiate in other categories regarding financial support. Last year, the small film Moon won over behemoth Avatar. In fact, independent films have gone head to head with major studio productions many times. In the 1980s and 1990s digest magazines successfully competed with the well-financed magazine Omni. This year, Lightspeed and Clarkesworld had short stories nominated while longtime professional magazine Fantasy & Science Fiction had none. In addition, Lightspeed’s editor, John Joseph Adams was nominated as Best Editor, Short Form, and Neil Clarke of Clarkesworld and Ann VanderMeer of Weird Tales almost made the cut. So to say that semiprozines need a separate category is disingenuous. Good science fiction is good science fiction, no matter where it is published.

Another problem I have with the semiprozine definition is that it requires the semiprozine publishers to confirm that they are eligible before receiving the nominations (Yes/No answer). No other category is required to provide this kind of self-reported proof of eligibility. Do we trust the publishers to tell the truth about their finances without doing an audit? Would the Hugo Award Administrator be required to examine the publishers’ tax returns? I don’t think so. What if a publication is found to be fudging the truth after the nominations come out? After the final results are announced?

One good piece of news did come out of the Business Meeting this year. They passed a proposal to create a Best Fancast category, removing podcasts from Best Fanzine consideration, realizing that the printed word is different from audio and video broadcasts. Unfortunately, a parallel change to remove audio and video from the semiprozine category was defeated. Additionally, they didn’t define what constitutes a fancast, leaving open the possibility that a mixed-media publication could find itself in limbo. With the rise of Kindle and iPad apps, this is a significant possibility.

Renovation, Final Thoughts

I’ve been to a dozen Worldcons beginning with Iguanacon II in 1978. I’ve never been to a bad Worldcon, but I thought Renovation was one of the better ones I’ve been to. It was well organized and ran without obvious major glitches. The RSCC was a large, clean venue well suited to the con’s needs. The room layout took a bit to figure out, but was actually pretty logical. I suppose the days are over when everything can be fit under one roof. The enclosed walkway between RCSS and the Atlantis made moving back and forth relatively easy, although it was still a bit of a hike. The shuttle busses to the Peppermill seemed to be frequent, and luckily there were not very many functions there during the day. I heard reports that the shuttle service had some breakdowns.

There were 20-25 programming items every hour during most of the daytime hours. There were few hours that I didn’t feel torn between at least two and usually three or four conflicting sessions. This is a phenomenal accomplishment for the organizers, especially considering everything was planned and implemented by volunteers. This was a great bargain considering advance registration was $140. Even at-the-door registration was only $220. Compare that to another non-profit organization’s convention that was going on the same weekend in Las Vegas, run by a paid staff. Their advance registration was $575 with at-the-door registration of $725, for a 3-1/4 day convention. They had a total of about 20 programming items during this time period.

The final total attendance was for Renovation was reported to be between 4000 and 4100, which is more than in Denver in 2008, but fewer than most North American Worldcons. There is a noticeable “graying” of the attendees, with a gradual decline in average attendance over the years. Some effort has been made to bring in more young people, but for a convention that is based on books, it’s a somewhat hard sell. Mega-cons such as San Diego Comic-Con and Dragon*Con draw the media savvy Generations X, Y, and Z.

U.S. Worldcons are traditionally held over Labor Day weekend, so Renovation was somewhat of an aberration. I suspect that getting low cost facilities in Reno during Labor Day would have been difficult. I didn’t mind going a couple of weeks early, but I don’t know if this affected others’ attendance. Reno is the smallest U.S. city to host a Worldcon in many years, so that undoubtedly played a part, too.

It’s often said that a Worldcon is a five-day party. I certainly had a ton of fun at this one, and hope to be able to attend many more in the years ahead.

Renovation, Day 5

It’s been a fast and furious convention, but it’s not quite over! After one last stroll through the dealers’ room, it was time to learn what Brenda Cooper, Laura Frankos, Vylar Kaftan, and Jay Lake had to say about “How I Learned the Craft: Three of My Favorite Books on Writing.” The panel talked about more than a dozen good books on writing, everything from basic grammar to the psychology of writing. The Hugo-nominated The Business of Science Fiction: Two Insiders Discuss Writing and Publishing, by Mike Resnick and Barry N. Malzberg, was a top choice, as were two books by Nancy Kress: Elements of Fiction Writing – Beginnings, Middles & Ends and Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting Dynamic Characters and Effective Viewpoints.

The Wild Cards panel was at noon, with George R. R. Martin moderating about a dozen of the contributors to the series. You could tell they were still having fun with the series even after all these years, and that some of the newer writer were invigorating it with new ideas. A major announcement regarding some future Wild Cards projects was made, but since it was tentative, I’ll wait to say anything. If it comes to fruition, it will be HUGE!

Martin was scheduled to do another autograph session at 1:00, but there was another long line there already, so I decided to punt and go see Lisa Goldstein, Bob Kuhn, Tim Powers, and S. M. Sterling talk about “The Fisher King Legend.” They did their best to explain how Arthurian legends influence modern fantasy. Not being too knowledgeable about the Arthur legend in general, and the Fisher King story in particular, a lot of what they said went over my head. After about 40 minutes I snuck out, went back to the exhibition hall where Martin was just sitting there with absolutely no line! I got three books signed, as well as a promotional set of pins from the Game of Thrones TV series.

At 2:00, John Coxon, Inge Heyer, Eytan Kollin, and Steven York asked, “What Happened to Stargate Universe?” The consensus seemed to be that Stargate Universe was good SF, but not a good Stargate program. It seemed SyFy wanted a dark drama in the vein of Battlestar Galactica and the fans were expecting something lighter. All I can say, having only seen a couple of episodes of Stargate: SG-1 and none of Stargate: Atlantis, I enjoyed Stargate Universe for what it was, and stuck past the admittedly weak first few episodes to enjoy a well crafted series.

All good things must come to an end. The Closing Ceremony at 3:00 included a slideshow of some of the convention highlights and the obligatory thank-yous. Con Chair Patty Wells handed off the gavel to Chicon 7 Chair Dave McCarty who presented a time-lapse introduction to Chicago and the Hyatt Regency Hotel where it will be. I’ve got my attending membership already and can’t wait until Labor Day weekend next year.

Leslie was waiting for me outside the convention center, and the long drive home commenced. Due to a freeway closure, we had to make a bit of a detour, and got home around 1 am, tired and happy.

Renovation, Day 4 (Part 2)

The Iron Throne from HBO's Game of Thrones

I ditched Trailer Park as they got into upcoming Horror films, and caught the last half of “Still Fresh: Why Philip K. Dick is Still Relevant.” Panelists Grania Davis, Jim Frenkel, Caroline Mullan, Charles Oberndorf, and Tim Powers discussed the continuing influence of a writer who was under appreciated when he was alive, and is more popular now than ever. The numerous movie adaptations of his work don’t hurt, but it is Dick’s creativity and vision that keep his material relevant.

At 5:00 David Brin and Internet pioneer Brad Templeton discussed “Secrets and Privacy on the Internet.” Well, mostly it was Brin ranting about this and that. I got the sense that he was basically optimistic about the future of the Internet and of human society, and that the good the Internet can do is greater than the harm it can do. I think there are a number of things we can do to protect our privacy on the Internet, but we really do have to accept that the days of true privacy are gone, and act accordingly.

Leslie accompanied me to Wendy’s for a quick bite before the Hugo Award Ceremony at the Peppermill. It was nice to see her!

Masters of Ceremonies Jay Lake and Ken Scholes kept the evening running smoothly and entertainingly. Awards were presented in fifteen categories. Before the awards were announced, a short film showed the beautiful winning base design and how stained-glass artist Marina Gélineau crafted it. A big highlight was Best Fanzine editor Chris Garcia’s acceptance speech. His utter joy manifested in minutes of hugging everyone in sight and lots of sobbing. The best presenter of the evening was Robert Silverberg, for Best Novella, who has honed the art of stretching anticipation to a fine science. For all I know, he is still on stage! All results can be found here. I’ll have a longer analysis of the results in a few days.

After the Hugos, it was another difficult choice: see the special presentation of Radio Free Albemuth, based on Philip K. Dick’s book, or watch the antics of Match Game SF, hosted by Kevin Standlee. I can (hopefully) see the movie at some point, so Match Game SF it was. I had actually been a contestant on Match Game SF at LA Con IV in 2006. I didn’t get to repeat, but had a wonderful time anyway. The highlight was a 9-year-old girl who charmed the host, contestants, and audience with her energy and intelligence. One of the questions went something like this: “There’s been a transporter malfunction and Captain Kirk landed on the planet without his BLANK.” The girl blurted out “pants!” The contestant unfortunately didn’t say this obvious answer and lost, but the little girl had endeared herself. Then, coincidentally, both the girl and her mother were randomly selected as contestants for the final round. The girl continued to give excellent answers, more so than the panelists. Finally, the host said that if she could attend Westercon 66 in Sacramento in 2013, he would assign her as a panelist. Then, Convention Co-Chair Kevin Roche, who was one of the panelists, declared that he would comp the girl’s registration if she would attend Westercon 66. The girl’s mother eventually won their round, but the audience urged the two of them to team up for the final match, which was “BLANK Motel.” You wouldn’t expect a 9-year-old girl to know the obvious answer, but by golly, she matched with Bates Motel, and won a nice prize for her and her mother.

The end of another fun day!

Renovation, Day 4 (Part 1)

What day is it? Oh, I guess it’s Saturday!

I started the day at 10:00 with a screening of Song of the South (1946). I had never seen this film, which Disney has taken off the market. I had chances to see it many years ago, but I’m not a big fan of musicals, and not even the prospect of classic animation could get me to watch it. I’m not a big fan of “classic” Disney animation, to tell you the truth. But I’m more into historically significant films now, so decided to see it. I thought it was a reasonably entertaining family film with some nice moral lessons. Uncle Remus was not nearly as offensive as I expected. Yes, he seemed to be a layabout whose sole function was to tell stories to children, but what do you expect from an old man? My biggest objection was the unreal depiction of a white upper-class boy freely mingling with a poor black boy and a poor white-trash girl. But then this was Disney trying his best to foster racial harmony, I guess. I’d like to see this in a restored version without faded colors and in its original wide-screen format.

At noon I was off to see “The Craft of Writing Short Science Fiction and Fantasy” with Adam-Troy Castro, Jay Lake, Robert Reed, Michael Swanwick, and Connie Willis. From Willis’s meticulously crafted plots to Lake’s freestyle technique, and everything in between, the main message here was that every writer has a unique style. The only rule is to write a lot and see what works best.

Tropic Dalek in the Exhibition Hall

I wandered back to the exhibit hall, browsed through the dealers’ room a bit, chatted with a couple of people, and then it was back to see “The Big Bang Theory: The TV Show, not the Cosmological Theory.” Panelists Inge Heyer, Bob Kuhn, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, and Connie Willis spent an hour talking about their favorite episodes and characters from the hit sitcom. Much of the discussion centered around why a show about nerds is so popular with the general public, and the consensus was that these were really just typical sitcom characters done in a modern setting. Additionally, even though most of the characters are stereotypes, they are presented sympathetically, not as pure objects of derision. And it doesn’t hurt that the science on the show is reasonably accurate.

At 3:00, I was planning see Dr. Demento talk about Frank Zappa, but by the time I got to the room it was full, so I decided to head down to see the Trailer Park instead. I’d seen many of the trailers already, but it was fun to see them bunched together, and to hear the reactions from the other fans. The newest trailer for Reel Steel (or as I call it: Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots: The Movie) made it look like it might actually be an interesting movie; if anyone can save it, it’s Hugh Jackman. The remake of The Thing doesn’t look like it’s going to bring much new to the story. Probably the surprise of the afternoon was In Time, starring Justin Timberlake. Who knew he would turn into a reasonably good actor? The premise sounds a bit like Logan’s Run, with mandatory death at the age of 25. But in this world people can buy extra life, and of course organized crime gets into the act. Another winner should be Puss in Boots, a spin-off from the Shrek franchise, with Antonio Banderas reprising the title role. The question I have for Happy Feet 2 in 3D is, why? I was not impressed by the trailer, needless to say. But another kid-friendly movie, Hugo, directed by Martin Scorsese looks like it could succeed. There’s no telling what the director of Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, and The Departed will do with tamer fare. Arthur Christmas from Aardman Animation looks like it could either be a hit or a miss, but I’ll give anything Aardman puts outs a try. Brad Bird tries his hand at a live-action film with Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol. I’m not sure anyone can resurrect Tom Cruise’s acting career, but if anyone can do it, it’s Bird, who knows how to storyboard incredible action scenes. Rounding out the trailers was The Adventures of Tintin, directed by Steven Spielberg. This is a motion-capture adventure based on the internationally popular comic series. Whether American audiences take to it or not, I suspect this will be a smash hit around the world. I’m not much of a Spielberg fan, but I’m very much looking forward to this film.

Renovation, Day 3 (Part 2)

At 4:00 was “Failure to Launch: Film Franchises that Failed” with Chris Garcia, Forrest Hartman, Daniel Kimmel, and Gabe Marquez. The discussion ranged from promising attempts to start film franchises to film franchises that should have died to remakes that should or should not be made. There were a lot of films in each category, and it was fun to reminisce about those oldies but not so goodies that were or could have been.

Lauren Beukes, Cory Doctorow, Gary Ehrlich, and Kim Stanley Robinson then discussed “The Future of Cities.” What do the shanty towns of South Africa have in common with the megalopolises of Asia? How will climate and socio-economic changes affect cities? What are the roles of transportation and the economies of scale in the evolution of cities? Not a lot of concrete answers, but many thoughtful ideas.

Now, time for a decision. See the Masquerade or the Puppet Show? I chose the Puppet Show and I made the right decision. It turned out to be something titled Whatnot, and it was far more than just puppets. It was a showcase of short pieces featuring puppetry, masks, movement theater, and music. The cast consisted of Mary Robinette Kowal (winner the next evening of the Hugo Award for Best Short Story), Jodi Eichelberger, and Lance Woolen. The three were dressed in white leotards and used everything from toy xylophones to lawn ornaments to bring their scenes to life. The show began with an audience member pressing Play on a reel-to-reel tape player. The voice directed the audience to place a random item situated at the sides of the room, one at a time, on stage. The performers then used the item as a launching point for their vignette. When the scene was over, the voice commanded another item to be brought forward. Some scenes were brief and others were fairly long, so I suspect the voice was really someone in the troupe reading a script. But however it was done, the effect was enchanting, thought-provoking, and entertaining. This was a pleasant surprise, and I hope more productions like this will be featured at future Worldcons.

I hurried out to the car, stopped at Wendy’s for a quick bite, and arrived at the Peppermill’s Tuscany Ballroom in time to see the last half of the Masquerade. Most of the Master Class entries were in this half, so I didn’t feel like I missed too much. The Best in Show – Original Presentation, “Night at the Sci-Fi Museum” was definitely a highlight. The Best in Show – Re-creation, “Avatar Driver” had great workmanship and make-up, but lacked something in the presentation. Another favorite of mine was “Intergalactic Dating Game,” a mash-up of Doctor Who and the iconic game show. There were a couple of entries notable for their creative use of materials: “The Undine” and “Blue Meanie Blues.”

The “Half-time Entertainment,” while the judges deliberated, was a version of the long-running British radio quiz show, Just a Minute. The object of the game is for panelists to talk for sixty seconds on a given subject, “without repetition, hesitation, or deviation.” Comedy comes from attempts to keep within these rules, and the banter among the participants. (My uncle, who lived in Toronto, gave me a tape of Just a Minute some 20-25 years ago, and I have used its format a couple of times in my Toastmasters meetings.) Hosting tonight’s show was Paul Cornell, with contestants Seanan McGuire (aka Mira Grant), Lauren Beukes, Bill Willingham, and John Dowd. All of the topics were SF-related. After three rounds and a cell-phone call to her mother to quell a challenge for deviation, Seanan emerged victorious.

The day was not yet done. I wandered over to “Whose Line is it Anyway?” a fannish take on the Drew Carey imrov show (which was itself a copy of a British program). I only last about 45 minutes, due to tiredness and the fact that the performers really didn’t know what they were doing; the scenes went way too long and most weren’t particularly funny. Back to the Atlantis for a few hours of sleep.

Renovation, Day 3 (Part 1)

Friday morning started with a chance meeting at breakfast with an old friend of mine, Juanita Skillman. She was at the convention to help give away the 4000-book collection of the late Diana Ann Barbour, whose family did not want to keep her collection. During the next couple of days I stopped by their table in the exhibition hall and took some old SF magazines, Star Trek novelizations by James Blish, Perry Mason novels, and James Bond novels. I’m sure many fans were thankful to Barbour’s friends and family for sharing her legacy.

The Main Business Meeting, with Donald Eastlake presiding, started at 10:00. I had to admire his skill at handling the often chaotic action. There were a number of items that had been approved at last year’s Business Meeting that needed to be ratified to become “law,” and these for the most part, were handled quickly and without much opposition, although due to their number, it took over an hour to dispense with them. Then the fun began! The proposals to change the eligibility rules for the Fanzine and Semi-Prozine categories and to add a Fancast category were, as expected, met with a lot of discussion. They were still deliberating them when I got bored and left to see a panel with David Brin at noon. Later, I saw in the daily convention newsletter that all of the proposals had passed and that they would be considered at next year’s Business Meeting for final ratification.

“SIGMA–The Science Fiction Think Tank” with David Brin, Charles Gannon, John Hemry, and Larry Niven went from noon until 2:00. SIGMA is a non-profit group started by Brin to bring science fiction and science writers to the attention of industry and governmental agencies, working to provide ideas and provide feedback on possible new technologies. Brin and Niven are both very opinionated and entertaining, although it was evident that Niven was not quite as quick as he once was. Topics during the discussion ranged far and wide, from how to get young people more interested in science and science fiction to anecdotes about how some military leaders behave. The panel probably would have been better if it had only been one hour, as the second half started to ramble into less interesting territory.

Tim Powers

At 2:00, I went to the Guest of Honor Speech by Tim Powers in the auditorium. Powers gave an insightful and humorous look at his career and life. One of his best anecdotes was the time a Christian evangelist came to his door and they got into a religious debate. It didn’t matter that Powers was a Catholic; to the evangelist that was perhaps worse than being an atheist. Powers wanted to show the evangelist some scripture, but asked to use the evangelist’s own Bible since his own Catholic Bible would be suspect. They were outside on Powers’ sunny porch, and Powers took out his reading magnifier. Well, somehow, the Bible just started burning! The evangelist left without even taking back his Bible. Powers could only imagine what the evangelist said to his group when he got home.

As I was leaving Powers’ presentation, I ran into another old friend, Lyle Wiedeman. It turned out that Lyle is trying to become a science fiction writer and has been going to workshops and conventions the past couple of years. Who knew? I also had a nice chat with Lyle the following day.

“WTF? Truly Bizarre Anime” was next. Panelists John Hemry, Mari Kotani, Robert Luoma, and Tim Szczesuil discussed a number of anime series that just defy description. It was further complicated by Kotani’s less-than-fluent English. Nevertheless, Kotani brought a clip from one of the craziest cartoons I’ve ever seen, Tamala 2010: A Punk Cat in Space (2003), black-and-white adventures on a weird cat planet which harkened back to pioneering animators Dave Fleischer and Tex Avery. Many modern American animators have lost that sense of whimsy. Fortunately, not all American animators feel this way; that’s why I like Adventure Time so much!

Renovation, Day 2 (Part 2)

At 4:00 I went to the panel “Understanding Casino Gambling” with Dave Cantor, Susan Casper, Chris Garcia, Joan Slonczewski, and Connie Willis. I’m not a casino gambler, but I’m interested in the mathematics and psychology behind gambling. I did learn several tidbits about which games are better than others and other interesting facts about gambling.

Convention Guest of Honor Tim Powers did a signing at 5:00. I have been a big fan of his ever since reading one of his early novels, The Anubis Gates. Somewhat disappointingly, his line was not very long and it didn’t take long to see him. He signs his books upside down; I don’t know why. So then I had time to see the last half of “The Works of Tim Powers” with John Berlyne, David Cake, Ian Tregillis, Andrew Wheeler, and Gary Wolfe. The panel talked about how Powers researches and writes his wildly convoluted yet engaging historical fantasies.

After that I went to the Wondermark presentation by writer/artist Dave Malki. Malki gave the audience a real-time demonstration of how he creates his web comic. The strip repurposes photoshopped 19th-Century book illustrations into silly and surreal comics. I was amazed at how quickly Malki was able to compose a tableau and figure out a punch line; perhaps he had preplanned some of it, but he was certainly a whiz at manipulating the images to suit his purposes. The final comic can be found here.

At 7:00 I went to see “Many Ways to Tell a Story: Narrative and the Visual Arts.” George R. R. Martin was originally scheduled to participate, but he dropped out for some reason. But because of his anticipated appearance, the panel was scheduled for the large auditorium where the Opening Ceremony had been held. So the smallish audience that stayed was dwarfed by a lot of empty seats. That’s too bad, because the two panelists who did participate, Paul Cornell and Bill Willingham, were very entertaining and informative. Cornell has written for theDoctor Who TV series and is a noted comics writer. Willingham is the writer for the award-winning Fables comic.

My final panel of the day was the Liars’ Panel with James Patrick Kelly, Jay Lake, Bill Mills, and Connie Willis. Basically, this was just a chance for these talented folks to riff on whatever they felt like, true or made up. They didn’t disappoint; this was a hilarious hour.

By the time I got back to the hotel, it was after 9 pm and I hadn’t eaten anything substantial since breakfast. Remarkably, I hadn’t felt hungry with all the stimulation of the day. Leslie and I went to Wendy’s down the street. Then it was back to the hotel to check out the parties. All the parties were on the 15th and 16th floors of the Atlantis, so at least they were convenient to get to. There were parties for Texas in 2013London in 2014, and a few others, but none of them were really that exciting, so we got our badge stickers to show we had been there, and didn’t hang around very long. The Texas party featured what looked like some good BBQ, so in retrospect we could have gotten a good dinner there.

All in all, a very good day.

Renovation, Day 2 (Part 1)

Thursday started with the Preliminary Business Meeting at 10:00 am. The World Science Fiction Society (WSFS) is a curious organization in that there is no Board of Directors or executive staff. Everything is organized by volunteers for each year’s convention by the host committee. This makes the business meeting an interesting exercise in parliamentary procedure. For example, a quorum is whoever shows up. I estimated fewer than 100 people at the business meeting. These are the ones who control the WSFS constitution and the rules by which the conventions are run and the Hugo Awards are administered. But things are kept in check because important business can only be ratified if it is approved by two consecutive Business Meetings.

The preliminary meeting mainly dealt with procedural issues, such as what and in which order items would appear on the agenda for the main meeting on Friday. There were a couple of issues brewing that I wanted to see discussed, and I wasn’t disappointed. The main item of interest was a proposal to revamp the semi-prozine Hugo rules. There was also supposed to be a proposal to add a Young Adult Novel category to the Hugos, but the originators apparently dropped this, at least for this year. The discussion regarding the semi-prozine award was quite contentious. A related, but separate proposal was introduced to add a “Fancast” category, defined as a non-professional audio or video production, i.e., podcast.

Around 11:30 I got bored and headed out to the Art Show. There were some very nice pieces. I was particularly impressed by a couple of sculptors: Vincent Villafranca and Johnna Y. Klukas. There was also a special art exhibit featuring the extraordinary collection of the late Ken Moore. This show included works by most of the top SF artists of all time: including Chesley Bonestell, Richard Powers, Ed Emshwiller, Paul Lehr, John Schoenherr, Vincent Di Fate, Ed Valigursky, Ron Miller, and many more.

At 1:00 I popped in to “And the Debate Rages On: The Fanzine and Semi-Prozine Hugo Categories” with Neil Clarke, Chris Garcia, David Hartwell, and Stephen Segal. The panelists did their best to clarify what was wrong with the current Hugo rules concerning these categories and why they did or did not like the proposals to modify the rules. Some of their arguments made sense, but I just felt like I was watching a bunch of whiney children fight over their toys. I will write a separate article on this topic.

Around 2:30 I got in the long line for George R. R. Martin’s autograph session at 3:00. After getting my three books signed I was pausing to put the books back in my bag when a strange young woman came up to me. She was probably in her 20s. She just kind of stared at me, so I didn’t quite know what to do. I was wearing one of my bright Aloha shirts, so I thought maybe she was just admiring that. I finally said something to her, which started a long, rambling conversation about how great Mr. Martin is. I pointed out that he had taken 30+ years to become an overnight sensation due to the success of the Game of Thrones TV series. She just looked at me blankly. I realized she had no idea what I was talking about. How could a George R. R. Martin fan not know about that series! She explained that she didn’t watch TV. I tried to explain what the show was, and that it was on HBO. She didn’t seem to even know what HBO was! Finally, she asked if HBO was like Showtime. Yes! you’ve got it! Oh, she didn’t watch channels like that; too much sex. I replied, then why are you reading Martin’s books: they’re filled with sex and violence. She replied that she hadn’t read his books, either. She was just a fan because he knows how to party. She then saw the camera strapped around my shoulder and started asking if I was “the photographer.” I was thankfully interrupted by someone who wanted to take a picture of my shirt and she silently walked away. I am convinced that she either had a mental problem or was “medicated” in some manner. Her lack of focus and wandering thoughts left me very amused.