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HUGO VOTE FIX

SciFi Wire posted an entry to day that has got a few folks into an uproar.

They basically suggested that it was possible to fix the vote, and then ran down the list of ways and means, concluding with a rated list of options (best bribe, best deal, etc).

I have to take some responsibility for this; last year we were discussing the diminishing number of voters in the LIST THAT SHALL NOT BE NAMED (in fact, the response to my post on the subject is why I now refer to the SMOFS list as the LTSNBN) and I offered a few theoretical suggestions on ways that WSFS might go about attracting greater participation.

The original posts are here –

Info Dump

Banished From the Breakfast Table (again)

More SMOF Secrets (which includes links to SFAwards Watch and IO9 commentary on the subject)

One of the things I covered was the possibility that a small voting membership made the awards vulnerable to a fix by the simple expedient of ‘buying the vote’.

What SciFi Wire in their seemingly hasty quest to out IO9 IO9 didn’t realize is that we were essentially speaking about one of the Hugo Award categories that frequently receives the least amount of voting participation.

If they’d gone and done their homework, they’d have realized that their dastardly scheme is not nearly as simple as it might first appear to be.

In order to vote for a Hugo Awars, one must be a member of the Worldcon convention, early enough to be eligible to vote.

If one wants to have the privilege of nominating something for an award, early membership is required – or membership in the previous years Worldcon is required.

What this basically means is that if you really want to insure that you are in a position to ‘fix’ the vote – you need to join WSFS a full year BEFORE the thing you want to nominate becomes eligible. Whatever you’re planning on voting for might not even exist yet at that point.

Furthermore – while it is possible for someone with deep enough pockets and the silly, ridiculous desire to fix the awards to plan two years ahead, they’re still going to be up shit creek when it comes to the final ballot – because there is NO WAY that our conspirators will be able to know HOW MANY MEMBERSHIPS THEY NEEDED TO BUY two years ago.

Let me try and ‘splain a little clearer.

You have oodles and oodles of money and, rather than spending it on mason jars for your urine collection (gold labels, natch) you decide to fix the Hugo awards.

You take a look at the votes this year, and notice that only 200 people (total) voted for the ‘best cell-phone based science fiction art’ category.

You find an obscure artist, commission them to turn out a piece of SF art for cell phones and then HOLD ON TO IT FOR A YEAR.

This year’s Worldcon – 2024 – is coming up. You buy 300 memberships to the convention, thus obtaining 300 possible nominating ballots for the 2025 convention.

You lock 300 people up for a year to make sure that they can’t change their minds about participating in your nefarious scheme.

You publish the cell phone art in time to be eligible for the 2025 nominating ballot.

Your minions vote for it on the 2025 nominating ballot and it receives enough nominations to make it onto the final ballot.

You purchase ANOTHER 300 memberships for the 2025 convention, early enough so that your minions are eligible to vote on the final 2025 ballot.

Meanwhile – there has been a HUGE upsurge in cell-based SF art and – unknown to you, the 2025 convention receives an enormous boost to voting membership.

Nearly 1000 people vote for the Cell Phone Art category, with 401 of them voting for something other than your chosen piece of art.

Because of the nominating, voting and membership process, no matter what you do, you’ll ALWAYS be playing catch-up with the numbers. Sure, you might get lucky, on an under-represented award – but look how much money you’d have to spend – not to mention over two years of planning and organizing.

Besides – if enough new people suddenly joined WSFS, sent in nominations AND voted for the awards, it would be such an unusual occurrence that we’d know something was up.

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HUGO VOTE FIX

SciFi Wire posted an entry to day that has got a few folks into an uproar.

They basically suggested that it was possible to fix the vote, and then ran down the list of ways and means, concluding with a rated list of options (best bribe, best deal, etc).

I have to take some responsibility for this; last year we were discussing the diminishing number of voters in the LIST THAT SHALL NOT BE NAMED (in fact, the response to my post on the subject is why I now refer to the SMOFS list as the LTSNBN) and I offered a few theoretical suggestions on ways that WSFS might go about attracting greater participation.

The original posts are here –

Info Dump

Banished From the Breakfast Table (again)

More SMOF Secrets (which includes links to SFAwards Watch and IO9 commentary on the subject)

One of the things I covered was the possibility that a small voting membership made the awards vulnerable to a fix by the simple expedient of ‘buying the vote’.

What SciFi Wire in their seemingly hasty quest to out IO9 IO9 is that we were essentially speaking about one of the Hugo Award categories that frequently receives the least amount of voting participation – one of the ‘media’ awards.

If they’d gone and done their homework, they’d have realized that their dastardly scheme is not nearly as simple as it might first appear to be.

In order to vote for a Hugo Awars, one must be a member of the Worldcon convention, early enough to be eligible to vote.

If one wants to have the privilege of nominating something for an award, early membership is required – or membership in the previous years Worldcon is required.

What this basically means is that if you really want to insure that you are in a position to ‘fix’ the vote – you need to join WSFS a full year BEFORE the thing you want to nominate becomes eligible. Whatever you’re planning on voting for might not even exist yet at that point.

Furthermore – while it is possible for someone with deep enough pockets and the silly, ridiculous desire to fix the awards to plan two years ahead, they’re still going to be up shit creek when it comes to the final ballot – because there is NO WAY that our conspirators will be able to know HOW MANY MEMBERSHIPS THEY NEEDED TO BUY two years ago.

Let me try and ‘splain a little clearer.

You have oodles and oodles of money and, rather than spending it on mason jars for your urine collection (gold labels, natch) you decide to fix the Hugo awards.

You take a look at the votes this year, and notice that only 200 people (total) voted for the ‘best cell-phone based science fiction art’ category.

You find an obscure artist, commission them to turn out a piece of SF art for cell phones and then HOLD ON TO IT FOR A YEAR.

This year’s Worldcon – 2024 – is coming up. You buy 300 memberships to the convention, thus obtaining 300 possible nominating ballots for the 2025 convention.

You lock 300 people up for a year to make sure that they can’t change their minds about participating in your nefarious scheme.

You publish the cell phone art in time to be eligible for the 2025 nominating ballot.

Your minions vote for it on the 2025 nominating ballot and it receives enough nominations to make it onto the final ballot.

You purchase ANOTHER 300 memberships for the 2025 convention, early enough so that your minions are eligible to vote on the final 2025 ballot.

Meanwhile – there has been a HUGE upsurge in cell-based SF art and – unknown to you, the 2025 convention receives an enormous boost to voting membership.

Nearly 1000 people vote for the Cell Phone Art category, with 401 of them voting for something other than your chosen piece of art.

Because of the nominating, voting and membership process, no matter what you do, you’ll ALWAYS be playing catch-up with the numbers. Sure, you might get lucky, on an under-represented award – but look how much money you’d have to spend – not to mention over two years of planning and organizing.

Besides – if enough new people suddenly joined WSFS, sent in nominations AND voted for the awards, it would be such an unusual occurrence that we’d know something was up.

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Life takes interesting turns. Like this one, for example.

This morning I awoke with a blistering headache and a mood that found me stubbornly fighting it off without the aid of my customary 3 x 500 mg of Tylenol (or generic substitute). The dog was barking skull-splitting hypersonic pleas directly into my left ear (he needed to go out but I knew the snow on the ground would deter him the moment I opened the door) and I was settling into one of those days where I’d be going through the motions but not really enjoying myself all that much when

I paid a visit to my blog stats and found an interesting and unfamiliar referrer. A link to a blog called SharingwithWriters. I always visit the referrers, especially those from writers, publishers, editors and reviewers. (You never know, right?)

I read down through the current post and didn’t find anything even remotely connected to COF. Usually I’m either right in the post or over on the blogroll. I almost put it off to some random linking and then, for some reason, decided to read further.

And discovered that Carolyn Howard-Johnson had passed the Premio Dardis Award on to my webpage/blog.

!

Carolyn is the author of the multi-award winning series of How To Do It Frugally series of books. Her website has been named to the Writer’s Digest 101 Best Websites. And she gave ME one of 15 Premio Dardis Awards it was her privilege to pass on.

I still have my headache – but who the hell cares!?! I sure as heck don’t.

As Carolyn notes in her write up, the Premio Dardis is given for –

“The Prémio Dardos is given for recognition of cultural, ethical, literary, and personal values transmitted in the form of creative and original writing.”

Huh. I wrote something original that’s worthy of recognition for its cultural, ethical, literary or personal value? I hope Carolyn gets in touch so I know what it was that caught her attention.

There’s also a nifty ‘stamp’ that goes along with it. I’m supposed to stick it somewhere on my page so that others can revel in the honor and wonderfulness that is me (or my writing, or something…) – so here that is:

premios dardo 2008 best blog darts thinker bordered

The caption says “Best Blog Darts Thinker”.

Pretty cool, huh? I mean – WAY COOL!. I’ve gotten a few cudos over the years for this and that, but this beats the pants off of being a member of the team that won one of the first ever IICS Golden Disc Awards and thrills me to exactly the same level that being voted a ‘Top 100 Player of All Time’ (for paintball) did.

I think that has something to do with the fact that both are peer awards. For someone who was told by his creative writing professor that I ought to quit the class, well – take THAT! unnamed (no talent) creative writing professor!

My exuberance is aggravating the headache. So I’ll come back down to Earth now and fill you in on the other requirements for this award. After I take that 1500 mg of acetominophen.

Vivian Zabel, publisher, passed the award on to Carolyn, who passed it on to me. Making that statement is one of the requirements, but I’m not doing it just because I’m supposed to. I’m doing it because I’m genuinely thankful to Carloyn – someone who I don’t know and have (to the best of my recollection) never corresponded with.

The other requirement is that I pass the award on to 15 other writers. Carolyn states that the origins of the Premio Dardis are lost in the mists of time, but that its intent is to – “(promote) fraternization between bloggers, a way of showing affection and gratitude for work that adds value to the Web.”

So – once again, thank YOU Carolyn Howard-Johnson and here are my 15 nominees: (in no particular order)

http://theeternalgoldenbraid.blogspot.com/ (Lensman’s Children)

http://www.file770.com

http://entertheoctopus.wordpress.com/

http://www.scalzi.com

http://scifistandpoint.wordpress.com/

http://other-worlds-cafe.com/news/blog

http://writtenweird.blogspot.com/

http://wilwheaton.typepad.com/

http://billwardwriter.com/

http://sf-fantasy-books.blogspot.com/

http://scifisongs.blogspot.com/

http://www.sfsignal.com/

http://www.tor.com/

http://writeblack.com/

http://kevin-standlee.livejournal.com/

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Via the email list that SHALL NOT BE NAMED – the DragonCon Parade video, courtesy of  Isaac Alexander.

Also Pac*Fen’s Denvention interviews are now up.

Gotta make my wife’s lunch before we leave for work, so I can’t critique right now – but – comparing the two – I’d much rather have been at Denvention this year.

***

Lunch is made (more on ‘stupid’ sandwiches later): turkey and cheese on pumpernickel with spicy mustard.

Brian Richards (I think) announces and does some crowd interviews at the beginning of the annual geek parade at DragonCon.

He starts out well but – dude. When you’re interviewing, like, have your questions ready. And have MORE questions than you have airtime for cause, you know, some people are camera shy and others sometimes give really short, annoying, unresponsive answers and you might just have to fill a few seconds.

As for the parade?  Can’t watch it. Seriously.  Yes, I’m an SF fan and have grown used to seeing people in strange costumes walking the streets in daylight, but…

I’m sorry, but the whole thing just makes me laugh and reminds me of the days when people used to have to hide their science fiction magazines inside brown paper bags or textbooks in order to avoid public ostracism.

Look, I know that costumery is a big thing with some fans and represents an ‘ultimate’ expression of their love for and immersion in a particular fantasy world, but every time I see this kind of thing, one and only one image pops into my head:

I was attending a Star Trek con in 1976, sitting quietly in the hotel lobby pouring over my recent ascquisitions from the Huckster’s room, when not one but TWO ‘Captain Kirks’ went running by (mustard yellow command shirts emblazoned with embroidered medals), shooting each other with water pistol phasers and each declaring themselves individually to be the ‘real’ Captain Kirk.

I’d estimate they were both in their mid-thirties. The thinning hair and pot bellies kind of, sort of, lent the lie to their declarations.

I packed my stuff up and headed for home. The following month I attended my first REAL Science Fiction convention.

***

Speaking of REAL cons (you know, the ones where the work is more important than the actors, where someone isn’t trying to make a buck off of your geekdom, where the average age is ‘mature’ and the average intelligence of the participants actually shows up on a graph), J.C. of Pac*Fen finally posted various interviews conducted at Denvention 3, the 2008 Worldcon (where they give out the important awards called Hugos and Campbells and…).

He’s got bits with Harry Turtledove, Kevin Standlee (WSFS IP Poobah and master of all things statistical *breathe* and co-creator of the SFAwardsWatch website), Phil Foglio (hi Phil! – I’m still keeping watch over the Keeber Factory), Francis Hamit, Jim Strickland, David Boop and Marc Zicree.

Zicree’s interview (who? – TV writer/director/Hugo nominee) is actually kind of interesting, as are the others.  Give em a listen.

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I like to make my opinions known (duh – blog).  I also like a good argument. Judging from commentary received here and in emails (not many, just a few, from folks who I wish would comment here instead), the position offered by Ian Sales (don’t use classic sf to introduce people to the genre) and my position against that position IS a good argument.

However. I’d like it to be an argument where the word is used to denote position, rather than heightened emotionality.  One where our different positions illuminate the middle ground (the place where the real truth often lies).

I used some language and presented my statements in a way that was over the top and provacative (I think mostly justifiably so – I was trying to strike the same tone that Ian used in his own piece) – not to make an emotionally charged attack on Ian, but by way of illustrating one aspect of his argument.

Such methods of argumentation can be easily misconstrued and quickly spiral out of control.  So, before returning to the discussion, I’d like anyone reading or participating to know this:

I don’t know Ian (well, now I do, sorta, kinda).  I am not familiar with his work (as I pointed out in the first piece) and my default position on authors with whom I’m not familiar is to assume that their work wouldn’t be out there unless some people called editors who know what they’re doing thought it was pretty darned good stuff.

I am not judging Ian the man based on this exchange (I hope he isn’t judging Steve the man on this exchange either) – only this particular position vis-a-vis old/classic/ancient/whatever SF. 

Nor am I suggesting by writing these few paragraphs that Ian is descending into emotional argument while I am maintaining the high road.  Not at all.  I’m just trying to make sure that the rhetoric we both have been using isn’t misconstrued as some kind of flame war.

And to apologize to Ian if he felt that I stepped on his toes or handled my response in a way that he felt was a personal attack.  Ian, if you did feel such, it wasn’t intended that way.  If you didn’t feel that way, then please ignore all this blather and just skip down a bit.

***

 “In 1968, the Science Fiction Writers of America voted Nightfall the best science fiction short story ever written prior to the establishment of the Nebula Awards in 1965 and included it in The Science Fiction Hall of Fame Volume One, 1929-1964.” (Wikipedia, but accurate in this particular case.)

Okay, so they didn’t hand Isaac a plaque or something.  I’d still refer to the above as an award.

Ian said (in the comments) “For the record, I’ve been reading sf for around 30 years, and that includes pretty much all the classics. I’ve no idea why you decided I hadn’t read them”.  Well, because of this: “Readers new to the genre are not served well by recommendations to read Isaac Asimov, EE ‘Doc’ Smith, Robert Heinlein, or the like. Such fiction is no longer relevant,”  You were clearly encompassing the entire classic era and it is absolutely beyond me how anyone who has read ‘all’ of the classics can’t find a single work that they’d use as introductory material.  Yes, it was hyperbole.

Paul Raven: “Especially considering that, towards the end, you say that recommending books to new readers of sf is “a highly individualistic enterprise” (so, best not to blanket-recommend Asimov/Heinlein/Clarke, then, surely) and that “those who don’t know history are condemned to repeat it in writing” (which might be why Sales suggests that sf writers should certainly be well-read in the classics of the genre, perhaps).”

Paul, I did cover that at the end: “Ian does try to redeem himself a bit at the end by saying “I don’t think we should refuse to read old classic works, but we must recognise that they’re historical documents. And add that caveat to any such recommendations or commentary. Further, modern sf readers shouldn’t need to be aware of everything which has gone before, but modern sf writers certainly ought to.”

This is all I have to say about that: “Here’s this really old, out of date, badly written, idea-based historical document, Billy.  Not only must you read it, but you MUST hate it. Later, we’ll have milk and cookies while I read you a modern SF tale with wonderfully written sentences in it.”

I recognized Ian’s caveat, didn’t ignore it.  I then went on to point out that presenting the classics in such a manner is just like one of those push polls: would you prefer to read this old piece of trash or this shiny new relevant and exciting piece?

Look.  It’s ALL science fiction.  It is a continuum and the present can not be divorced from its past.  If Ian believes that we can place all of literary SF into two distinct historical periods and only make recommendations to new readers from one of those periods – he at least has to recognize that the bar moves inexorably forward each and every day.  I guess the real question to be asking Ian at this point is – where’s the cut off?  Is it strictly based on the calendar (remove everything with a copyright date of 1983 or older from the shelves immediately!), is it based on the author (ooops!  This guy was born in the 1920s – strike him from the lists!) or is it based on the individual work.

Ian’s argument would seem to be based on either the calendar or the author, while I base it on the individual work (and think everyone else ought to also).

Oh, and Paul – this blog is devoted to Crotchety Oldness, so I need not explain why you must get off my lawn; use the path and knock on the front door.  Defense of the old guard and a belief that the OLD stuff is just as valid as the new stuff are givens over here.

Yes Ian, I did read your whole piece.  And I’m pretty sure I understood the thrust of your argument.  If we reduce it to its core, you are (my words) dismissing everything written prior to say, 1990, as an inappropriate vehicle for introducing new readers to the genre.

Obviously I disagree.  My point is: if you remain open to the entire genre as source material, you probably stand a better chance of finding the perfect work for introductory purposes.  One perfect example is Bradbury. In my experience, a lot of “I don’t read that SF stuff” people were captured by Bradbury and surprised to discover that he is considered an SF/Fantasy genre author.

Another way of looking at is the treatment that old works not of the SF genre receive: are the circumstances in Hamlet still ‘relevant’?  Yet it is still widely taught, revered and read – despite the fact that when it comes to writing, it’s hard to find anything more archaic (Chaucer of course, but who the hell reads him now?).  That Bill guy sure takes a lot of words to say some simple stuff.  Seriously off-putting to the new reader.

But we’re only talking genre-specific here, so mentioning the above is probably outside the argument.

Ian, your commentary went back over the same points – relevance (not every work was about the cold war, the cold war IS relevant as the headlines will attest) and perhaps I have more faith in the average readers ability to handle this historical perspective inherent in such works.

Offensive to modern readers – so we should pull Mark Twain from the shelves – or just not recommend Huckleberry Finn to readers we want to introduce to Twain?  Oooops, I’m slipping out of genre again. I’m sorry, I just don’t buy this argument at all.  SF readers are supposed to be a cut above – drawn to the genre because it plays with ideas and presents perspectives that are (often) way outside of the mainstream. If they can’t handle the concept that society was different when the author was writing, I find it difficult to see how they would be able to handle the general idea of what SF is all about.

And that last bit about Scalzi liking Asimov.  I wasn’t suggesting that Scalzi’s appreciation for Asimov denied your entire argument. I was using that quote to illustrate that DESPITE his acknowledged criticism of Asmiov’s writing style, he still liked the man’s stories and ideas.  This demonstrates that there is at least one contemporary (and highly acclaimed) SF author who has managed to find something redeemable in one ancient author’s works. Would he recommend Asimov to a new reader?  I don’t know – maybe, depending on the reader.

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Hell, it would be great if some large media conglomerate decided to sue me in Federal Court – that’s BIG pr, man.

Lacking that avenue of promotional greatness, I’m forced to simply tell you that Chapter 8 of Pulp Comic Story (which has now been retitled Pulp Comic Fairy Tale – something I said I might do a while ago) is now available here.

***

A few other things while I’m thinking about it:

Fred Kiesche had to take a sledgehammer to my head to make me realize that his blog – which used to be called The Eternal Golden Braid is now called –

THE LENSMAN’S CHILDREN

***

I’ve been thinking about this for a bit: what would entice someone to read the classics if they weren’t already inclined to do so.

I’ve spent a fair number of words exlaining the ‘whys’ here already (do your homework you lazy, good-for-nothing) so let’s just assume (momentarily or otherwise) that they’re valid reasons.

Of course I don’t mean at the expense of contemporary SF.  I mean in addition to.  As a means of obtaining some grounding, some history, some appreciation, some respect for the people who all the awards are named after (yes dear, there are real people behind those award names and good reasons for naming those awards after them – The Hugo for Hugo Gernsback, father of popularizing the genre – the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, because JWC had a nack for finding and developing new talent within the pages of Astounding SF (and the other award of the same name for best novel, given out by SFRA) – Andre Norton for YA lit, given by SFWA because she wrote so many tales that introduced young-uns to SF – Arthur C. Clarke for Best UK SF, because he helped found the UK SF dynasty and because he was, you know, British – Cordwainer Smith, for rediscovering overlooked authors of merit – Damon Knight, SFWA Grandmaster award because Damon founded the org – James Tiptree – for works that explore gender, because SHE did just that – Philp K. Dick, for having so much of his original work published in paperback – Robert A. Heinlein, for so much excellence – Theodore Sturgeon, for excellent short stories – if it weren’t for those folks we’d be giving out awards named for something stupid like The Spaceship Award or The Raygun Award.

Many of those people worked very hard at what they did and (should) leave a lasting, honored memory. And they deserve to be read, along with all of their brethren and sisteren.

So what I thought was – how about if we poll the contemporary favorites and compile a referral list like they do at BMG for music (if you liked so-and-so, you ought to like whosiswhatsis too).

I mean, we already know that If you like John Scalzi, you’ll probably like Robert A. Heinlein too and If you like David Weber, you’ll probably like A. Bertram Chandler, but who else?

So let’s ask some contemporary authors the following questions:

1. Did you read SF before you were a writer?

2. Who were your favorites?

3. Who do you think influenced you the most?

4. Which of the classic authors do you think your work most resembles?

Maybe if we tell the kids this, they’ll give those classics a try.

Maybe John at SFSignal will ask this one…

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Hey – maybe SFAwards Watch and IO9 will want to pick up on this one:

Glyer reveals in File 770 that the Secret Masters of Fandom have been talking about something called SCOOTERS.

I haven’t puzzled out the entire acronym, but I’m pretty sure that the first two letters stand for Secret Code.

Mike cleverly conceals whatever hidden message there is to be found in his entry by placing SCOOTERS into the context of a supposed conversation about handicap access at conventions. Of course, we have no real idea of what he’s talking about because the message itself can only be found on the SMOFs reading list which is, you know, kind of SECRET.

I’d really like to know what this passage is code for –

“So the problem for the Worldcon is not the expense, but having to front the money…”

Could this have anything to do with Hugo voting restrictions? Front the money from whom, to whom and for what?  It’s further illuminated by this later passage –

Denconvention seems to have given that help to fans who planned in advance. The question really is what future Worldcons should provide for these last-minute needs, if anything.”

Fronting money?  ‘Help’ to fans? Could Worldcon be paying fans to join so that they’ll “vote the right way” come Hugo Awards time? 

I’m thinking that the ‘advanced planning’ referenced in the above means ‘smart enough and connected enough’ to get on the SMOFs list. So that you can request a payout.

Don’t believe me when I say something is up? Check this out:

“The best suggestion I saw in the recent discussion on the Smofs list was Sharon Sbarsky’s idea…

(Sharon) “…If the idea catches on, then more spare scooters could be rented.”

‘Spare Scooters’ indeed.  Don’t need the code book for that one! But in case you do – ‘spare scooters’ is obviously the insider’s outlandishly punny name for ‘non-worldcon-attending fans’ and ‘renting’ is the stand-in for buying their vote…

You could check me on all of this, but you’d need to be a SMOF to get at the source material, and we’re all sworn to secrecy…

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