Sasquan Report

Sasquan was my first Worldcon, which I was pleased to be able to attend, as the convention was in – not exactly my back yard, but fairly close (within a 5 hour drive). This year’s con, has, quite possibly, the most drama pre-WorldCon in a long time. When I drove there, I also got a taste of the other major factor that marks this WorldCon – the smoke. Right now, much eastern Washington state and part of eastern Oregon are currently on fire. This meant that the drive to Spokane was marked by a constant smoky haze, as was Spokane itself throughout the convention.

The levels of smoke escalated to a point on Friday where the exits to the convention buildings were marked by signs warning people against spending long periods of time outside, due to the health risk of the massive amount of smoke. This lead to Spokane getting the nickname of Smoke-ane, and the con getting nicknamed by some “SmokeCon”.

So, as for the con itself. I made it to a couple panels on Wednesday – including a panel on SF comfort reads, which featured Jo Walton, which was pretty interesting and got me a few book recommendations that I didn’t have before. The other panel of note I went to that day was one on the history of convention coordination.

I went to Opening Ceremonies – which were very well done. The organizers invited a Native American storyteller to open the con. Not one from the Spokane tribe – one from western Washington, but he did specifically tell stories from the Spokane tribe. It was a nice touch, and I do hope that future WorldCons give consideration to the indigenous people of their area, their histories and their stories. The other bit of major note from the opening ceremonies was a video from Kjell Lindgren, an absentee guest for the con, who is currently on the ISS – and who brought a Tribble onto the ISS with him – which caused writer guest of honor David Gerrold to crack up laughing.

This lead into First Night, a party held at the park adjacent to the convention center, featuring tables by some of the other WorldCon bids, along with food carts, a demo by the SCA, and in honor of fan guest of honor Leslie Turek, there was free scoops of ice cream provided by Ben and Jerry’s. My favorite bit of note from First Night was a performance by filk guest of honor Tom Smith, where Phil Foglio did sketches, and Smith performed filks he wrote on the fly inspired by the sketches.

Wrapping up my Day 1, I went to the Girl Genius Radio Theater production for the evening, where I auditioned for the role of one of the Othar Tryggvasens from the 8-part saga “Six of One, A Half-Dozen of the Othar”. Sadly, I did not get the role, but all things considered, the person who was chosen over me did an excellent job in the role, as did all the rest of the cast. Finally, I went to the party-er-Meet and Greet hotel, the Historic Davenport (as opposed to the Davenport Tower and the Davenport Grand – there are a lot of Davenport hotels in Spokane), where I hung out at the Fanzine lounge.

Starting day 2, I went to a panel on local restaurants, looking for recommendations for places to eat lunch. Rather than just echoing the recommendations, I’ll just give some of the places I liked. There are several good Mexican restaurants around the convention center – in particular, Mi Casa, is probably the best of the three, followed by Azteca (which is technically a chain, but a local PNW one), and Chili’s. Satellite is a good place for breakfast, and where I ate breakfast for most of the convention.

Next up was a panel with various stories by writers and editors about editors and writers. As the attendees weren’t sure if they wanted it recorded, I’m not going to say who told what stories about what.

During day 2, I got my dad’s copy of The Forever War signed for him by Joe Haldeman. I didn’t get the signature personalized, but I will say that Mr. Haldeman noticed that my dad’s copy was a first edition paperback.

I also attended a panel on SF & Fantasy fanzines for young adults – why they’re needed, and what form they should take. This panel had a very low turnout, which actually turned out well, as we got a real discussion done, and I think everyone in that panel left with an idea what form the magazine needs to take. The general vibe made was that any print magazine needs involvement from schools and libraries.

Alternatively, a viable option for an SF/Fantasy magazine for young adults would be something done online through an existing publisher, like Viz through Haikasoru, or by Tor, or by some of the publishers of Japanese SF & Fantasy light novels like Yen Press. This could be done sort of like the digital version of Weekly Shonen Jump put out by Viz, except with installments of serialized light novels, along with short stories by Japanese and American authors, with illustrations by Japanese and American artists, using similar styles. Doing this digitally gives the advantage of reducing some print costs, as YA readers really like art, and they like high-quality art, which would not be cheap to print.

I was also pleased to find out, a little before the panel started, that one of the panelists, Cassandra Rose Clarke, reads my fanzine.

This brings me to Day 3 – Friday. The day where the smog reached its absolute peak. I had the good fortune of having booked a room in the Davenport Grand – which was one of the two hotels that had a direct connection to the convention center, but unlike the other hotel, did not have the Con Suite, so there was no massive line for the elevators.

I spent my morning in the WSFS business meeting, where I was introduced to the two main plans for adjusting the Hugo nomination rules to deal with the slate problem. The first is the E Pluribus Hugo plan, and the second is the 4 of 6 plan – both of which are actually fairly compatible. E Pluribus Hugo is a little too complex to explain in brief – so I’m going to link to a description of the plan instead. 4 of 6 is a little easier. Each person has 4 nomination slots, and 6 works make it to the final ballot. Now, this doesn’t stop two different slates with limited overlap. However, the two plans are inter-compatible, so there’s that. The final voting on these, however, was pushed off to Sunday, so I was not able to take part in the voting on those.

There was also a great deal of debate on electronic absentee voting on amendments to the WorldCon constitution. There were arguments made that the supporters of slates could game voting the same way they gamed the Hugo nomination process, and that voters who did not attend the meeting could not be informed enough to be an informed voter, and that it would slow the responsiveness of Worldcon voters on issues even further.

I buy the third argument. The second, I’m not so sure about, due to how the Hugo Award voting came out. With the first, well, Oregon has done vote-by-mail for over 10 years, and voters have been informed through using voters’ pamphlets to inform voters on the issues (sample historical Voters’ Pamphlets can be read here).

After the board meeting, I went to see David Gerrold’s speech, which was, frankly, excellent and I can’t do it justice. Fortunately, I don’t have to – the web site for Krypton Radio received permission to reprint the text of his speech, which I’m going to link to here.

Next up was a panel I went to was “Chinese Myths and Traditions in Contemporary Literature of the Fantastic” – which had a fairly self-explanatory topic, but had a few structural problems. It felt like the moderator had predominantly done either solo panels or hadn’t moderated panels at all, as much of the time was spent trying to set up a display to show a PowerPoint presentation she brought. It was interesting, but it felt like something that one of the other panelists should have provided, not the moderator. That said, the other panelists did an excellent job covering for this, and I did learn a lot on this panel.

That evening I went to the Masquerade. I was not able to get any good pictures of the presentation (I have the wrong kind of camera for this). So, I defer to the official photos of the pictures, on the relevant Flickr page. You’ll need to scroll past the pictures from the Hugo Award ceremony.

In between the conclusion of the costume presentation, and the announcement of the winners, we got a halftime show, performed by Tom Smith. I’d heard some of his stuff before (including his short concert on Wednesday), but this was the first real concert of his I’d seen – and it was also at the largest audience he’d ever performed for. Tom was excellent live, with a lot of hilarious songs, and a few that hit me right in the feels – in particular, one song written from the perspective of Kermit, reacting to Jim Henson’s death, which was followed up by Rainbow Connection. Some smoke may have gotten into the theater at that time, as I couldn’t stop sniffling and tearing up.

Finally, I come to my last day of the convention – Saturday. The winds had shifted overnight, moving the smoke to the west – leaving the day clear and cool.

Upon attending the board meeting, I learned that the Nippon 2017 bid, which I supported, did not win, in favor of the Helsinki 2017 bid. I’d heard murmurings earlier in the con that voters were remembering how the Nippon 2007 Worldcon was mismanaged and went over budget, and they weren’t convinced that all the parties involved with messing up that con had been ousted. On the one hand, that felt like condemning the Nippon 2017 ConCom for the sins of their predecessors. On the other, considering how… incestuous Worldcon organizations in the US can become (in terms of people being organizers of multiple WorldCons in multiple states), I’m not too surprised over the concerns – I could see fans thinking that things work the same way in Japan.

In any case, Helsinki was the clear winner, with DC being a distant second. The official name of the Helsinki WorldCon is WorldCon 75. A few things got done – there were some textual adjustments to the constitution, but I wouldn’t call any of it the big stuff.

Next panel I went to was on New Space Opera, which featured Ann Leckie, Charles Stross, Jessie A. Carver, Doug Farren, and with Rich Horton as a moderator. There was some great discussion of why there was a backlash against Space Opera in the ‘60s and ‘70s and in turn what brought Space Opera back, along with what inspired their own books. I also got some great book recommendations from the panel – some of which I was aware of (like the Culture series), along with others (like C. J. Cherrih’s Merchant Union series) which I hadn’t heard of.

My Saturday wrapped up with me swinging by the Haikasoru booth, and picking up several books, including Taiyo Fujii’s book, Gene Mapper. Fujii-san was present at the convention, and he signed my book. I ended up attending the two panels that he was on after that, so I got to talk with him a bit. He’s a great guy, and I’m looking forward to settling down to read his book.

The two panels he was on after that (and which I attended), was the Sub-Genre Games, and a panel for the Seiun Awards.

The first panel was a competition where writers in various genres competed to see whose genre gets “promoted” to being a full genre. Sub-genres represented included Japanese SF, Urban Fae, Eldrich Horror, Supernatural Thrillers, Cyberpunk, Steampunk, and a couple other genres. There were a lot of word games in this, requiring the participants to think really fast on their feet, which kind of put Fujii-san at a disadvantage, as while he’s conversationally fluent in English, he’s not… wordsmith fluent in English. I’d say he can’t think in English fast enough to compete with native speakers like his opponents.

The Seiun awards panel had two awards given out – one to Pat Cadigan, for her short story “The Girl-Thing Who Went Out For Sushi”, and the other to Andy Weir for The Martian. Cadigan was present and was able to accept the award in person. Andy Weir was unable to make it and submitted a video acceptance speech. After the award(s) were handed out, there was a discussion of the Cyberpunk genre, and Cadigan’s part in the formation of the genre, and how Fujii-san’s book fits in as well. After the panel, before I headed off for a nap prior to the Hugo Awards ceremony, I talked a little more to Fujii-san, and recommended Richard Morgan’s Altered Carbon, to him, as he hadn’t read it.

With the Hugo Awards ceremony itself – it was a pleasure to see the repudiation of the Puppies. More than that, David Gerrold and Tananarive Due were excellent masters of ceremonies for the awards, with some great interludes from Robert Silverberg (with a comparison to the 1968 WorldCon), and Connie Willis (where she discusses the myriad things that can go wrong with a Hugo Awards ceremony).

I left early the next day, missing out on the Sunday board meeting. A live-blogging of the meeting can be found on File770. However, I will warn you that the comments thread has, as of this writing, exceeded 1,000 posts, much of which have come after the actual meeting.

8 replies on “Sasquan Report”

  1. Regarding your report, I give it: No Award

    This fight for what is and is not “correct” in fandom makes my soul hurt.

    As a Christian the lack of compassion understanding and tolerance shown by both sides in this is stunningly disheartening.

    This “event” increased participation and visibility of both WorldCon and the Hugos it could have been turned (by either side, or hell maybe both) into something of value (even if no one could agree), then an ugly spectacle was put on.

      • Frankly, I’d have recommended giving out awards based on the nominees.

        I find the line “there were no quality entries” to be a cop out.

        Had they given out awards in every category, I believe they would have expanded and enhanced the Hugos and gained notice of many more Science Fiction fans.

        Now there is open warfare in fandom, with (as reported in this story) moves underway to limit what fans (who pay for the privilege) can do with respect to nominations and voting. Those moves may be interpreted many ways by many people, but the one thing these actions (and the “No Award” actions) are NOT is INCLUSIVE.

        I have no time and no respect for people who SAY they are inclusive and represent all fans putting out caveats like “but not THOSE fans”.

        • Shouldn’t the voters have the right to decide, as well, if they don’t feel anything nominated is worthwhile? And individuals won’t be prevented from buying memberships and voting. As near as I can tell, the Puppies ‘lost’ (I know, there are problems into buying into the win-or-lose. conflict metaphor) according to their own rules.

          For those who completely ignored the controversy, google around if you want to know more. A good (though hardly unbiased) piece appears at Wired.

          • Yes the voters have the right to decide. By voting and supporting “No Award” they are saying “your kind aren’t wanted here”. They are also completely within their rights to do that.

            But do NOT then go on and on claiming how TOLERANT and INCLUSIVE you are.

            There are a great number of people out there who do not know what the hell tolerance and inclusion even mean anymore.

            I do agree think that Wired piece is one of the most balanced reports on this whole story out there.

            • Or, they felt the works nominated in that category weren’t good, and to be blunt, most of them weren’t. I’d say the few that were legitimately good were either nominated in the Best Dramatic Presentation categories, or was Jim Butcher’s Dresden File novel, and even in that case, I’d say Three Body Problem was better.

  2. Thank you, Alex, for breaking it all down for us (or, at least, your experience of it). We can’t all get to WorldCon every year, and I’ve always found it a fascinating and fun, if occasionally bewildering, event.

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