Loncon 3 Business Meeting resolution (proposed)

I intend to submit the following motion to the Loncon 3 Business Meeting. Polite discussion is welcomed, and I will do my best to address questions!

4.x.x Short Title: A Story by Any Other Name

Moved, to amend Article 3 of the WSFS Constitution to clarify that eligibility for the fiction categories should be based on content rather than the format of delivery, by amending as follows:

By inserting a new section after existing 3.2.5:

Section 3.2.6: the categories of Best Novel, Novella, Novelette, and Short Story shall be open to works in which the text is the primary form of communication, regardless of the publication medium, including but not limited to physical print, audiobook, and ebook.

And amending section 3.2.5:

Section 3.2.5: In the story written fiction categories, an author may withdraw a version of a work from consideration if the author feels that the version is not representative of what that author wrote.

Commentary: this motion is primarily intended to address the handling of audiobooks within the four written fiction categories, although it will also formalise the existing understanding that electronically published stories should be considered pari passu with those published in physical format.

  1. Online discussion has highlighted two distinct and opposing views on “simple” audiobooks (i.e. readings with no explicit dramatic element). Some feel strongly that audio is just another valid delivery mechanism for written words, while others feel that any reading is inherently dramatic and that audiobooks must automatically be placed in BDP.  Both views are valid expressions of individuals’ subjective experience - a democratic test is needed to establish the majority view.

  2. Some are concerned that this change will create a grey area between the written and BDP categories. We believe that voters can distinguish a dramatic interpretation from a simple reading, and that they will select the appropriate category according to whether they are voting for the text or for the performance.

  3. The Hugos have historically given significant weight to the views of the voters and nominees when considering category assignments within the hard category boundaries in the Constitution - examples include The Wheel of Time, Game of Thrones Season 1, and Wicked Girls.  Using this mechanism to resolve borderline cases in future (where an audiobook received votes in both BDP and story categories) would be in keeping with existing practice.

  4. Considering simple audiobooks as another valid way to publish a text will bring the Hugo Awards into line with other awards (e.g. the Locus and Bram Stoker Awards); and with the standard industry treatment of rights and first publication dates.

  5. The change to section 3.2.5 will extend this clause to cover Best Graphic Story (an anomaly at present) and remove the reference to the word “written” which some have interpreted as excluding audiobooks, and could hence appear to be in conflict with the new clause 3.2.6.

Proposed: Colin Harris
Seconded: Mary Robinette Kowal

Suggestions Please ...

I am doing a Boskone panel called "Cast It Yourself" where you have to suggest ideal castings for SF/F stories.

I just got added to the panel yesterday and I've gone pretty blank.

I thought I'd start with Discworld (ignoring the Sky adaptation casting, although I think they made some good choices with David Jason for Albert etc). And this is meant to be dream casting of course. Need some ideas for witches and City Watch ... any suggestions?

Or any ideas for other stories / books you like?


Dr Who Speculation

OK, this assumes that you have seen last week's Episode, The Rebel Flesh.

Now, I very much doubt this is what is actually going to happen, but this morning I did suddenly think of an awesomely crazy storyline they could use for the rest of this season. (If you don't want to know, don't read on).


... during the episode tonight we end up with two Doctors (real and flesh) - we know this is part of the story anyway, but what if they both survive

... what if, unbeknown to anyone, it's the flesh Doctor who goes off and lives the "real" Doctor's life for a bit.

... what if, in the Impossible Astronaut, what we saw was actually the "real" Doctor catching up with, and killing, the ganger who has lived his life for 200 years?

As I say, I'm sure this won't be the storyline ... but it would be kind of neat!

What I love about SF&F

In the midst of Dr Who, there was a moment that reminded me of what I love about SF&F. It's something that I think can only happen fully in a literature of ideas and imagination, and it's that moment when a writer can use language as a trigger to send your mind into another world. A reference made in passing, without too much detail, somehow connects directly to the brain and starts you fizzing, filling in the gaps ...

Of course there is a link between this and the old adage that filming books never works for the specific reason that the minute you create a physical image, it will fail to live up to your imagination. Take a simple line like "she was the most beautiful woman he'd ever seen". Of course no actress will match that, because noone is perfect. But in our mind it works, because we simply take a broad image and attach the description and the associated emotions to it - we don't actually work out what the person would look like.

Take one of my favourite lines from Blade Runner: "I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I've watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in the rain. Time to die." We don't know what a C-beam is, but we all insert an image there - or, more likely, if the magic is working, we get that little bit of sense of wonder that makes SF&F special.

I had the same response tonight when the Doctor described the last days of the Time War. We don't really understand what a Time War is of course, but I thought RTD chose some great language - and by not explaining it, just reeling them off, that little moment really worked for me.

Dr Who

Just some bits and pieces ... not about the meat of the episode (I know lots of others will comment on that) but minor things in passing.

Firstly I *really* wish the Lord President hadn't been called Rassilon. There is a lot of history around that character, and whilst Rassilon would have been Lord President, he was also long dead (for heaven's sake he had a tomb in a previous episode!)

Secondly, I'm interested in the immediate shifts the BBC (and Moffatt - I wonder which is driving it, showrunner / producer / corporation or all three) is making to draw a line between the Davies and Moffatt eras. The new logo for instance ... I have a feeling that although Moffatt won't do anything that will grate with what's happened since 2005, there WILL be a subtle shift in style, look etc which will make the changing of the guard.

(For those who haven't noticed yet, the BBC's released a bunch of material around the 2010 series now that the finale's out of the way - see here.)

Thirdly, on the big build-up to this being a tear-jerker. I thought it was OK, but I have to say I was less moved than by e.g. the last episode with Donna. Probably because we knew the Doctor would re-generate, and whatever he says about it being as bad as dying, it can't feel that way from our viewpoint. When Donna lost her memory, I thought there was a greater sense of something being lost.

Sometimes it's the little things ...

So, here's a thought. If I asked what the big changes were in our lifestyles in the last decade, I'm sure we'd end up with lots of pervasive communications things - Google, Youtube, Wikipedia, Mobile Internet, Wifi, iPhones, iPods etc.

But what about the LITTLE things. The things that whenever you look back at a TV show made 20 years later, date it? (Setting aside fashion and models of car, as they're a little too obvious). The 80s of course means mobiles the size of bricks for instance ...

I was just collecting some stuff for the local dump today (New Year clear-out) and came across my old work briefcase when this struck me.

When I started in IT in 87 a suit and a briefcase were the required equipment. And this stayed the same through the early 2000s or so. Why? Because you didn't have laptops (other than by rare exception). So what travelled around with you was mostly paper. And having a good leather briefcase was part of the uniform, certainly of working for any consultancy - and I remember the tubes were FULL of them in the rush hour.

And of course what has changed this is the laptop. Today I don't see even senior managers with briefcases in general - it's satchels, shoulder bags and other laptop carriers. And this is so pervasive but invisible a change that it was only on finding my old briefcase that I realised that in 10 years, it's gone from standard uniform to something that would attract odd looks if I arrived in the office with it!

What else is there like this? Suggestions / observations please?

(no subject)

Not sure if these exist in the US but in the UK there is a company called Haynes who publish detailed self-maintenance manuals for all the different makes of car. They also do a few more "fun" variants, including this
Owners Workshop Manual for Apollo 11 ...

Personally I like some of the user comments at Amazon, like this one ...

"Just what I had been looking for. I was having problems with my retro thrusters and the local Ford dealership just couldn't fix them. With this manual, some double sided tape and some sticky backed plastic I now have a fully functioning moon module once again. If you have the Apollo 11 at home you really must buy this. (N.B. This is no good for the Apollo 13 version which had the exploding side panels fitted)."



David Stewart auction update

As most of you know, David Stewart passed away in 2006 from Oesophageal Cancer. Since then, his family and friends have set out to raise money for a specific project relating to this disease.

It was my privilege to meet Terry Stewart, David's father, at Eastercon for the first time and to hear about the progress made. Prior to LX, collections and auctions had already raised 12,500 EURO, a figure which the family had doubled. The total of 25,000 EURO has paid for the first year of the project -the establishment of a register of people with a disease which is a common precursor of Oesophageal Cancer. The aim is that eventually this register will span all of Ireland.

A special auction was held at LX of some of the most valuable books from David's collection. I'm pleased to say that this raised another £1,000 towards the work.

I know there are many who still miss David - I know I do - for his great warmth and generosity as well as his contribution to running conventions. I was glad to have the opportunity to meet Terry and hear about the money raised, but also to join the many, many people who've told Terry what David meant to us all. I know that the family didn't know too much about this part of David's life until he died, and it's clear that it means a lot to them to discover how well he is thought of and how much he brought to the community.

You assume it will only happen to other people ... part 2

Another couple of hours and I'd been seen (eventually) by a doctor, given some heavy duty pain relief (Co-codomol 30/500, if you really want to know) and trolleyed around for a couple of chest X-rays.

To my relief they said nothing was broken, so they gave me a load more pills (Co-codomol 8/500) and let me go. Essentially they said it was deep internal bruising and they couldn't do anything much more, so I'd just have to let it heal.

Over the next 24 hours some of the secondary effects, like the breathing problems, went away, but I found that the core injury was really awkward if not carefully managed. Increasingly I found I could walk or sit OK (as those of you at the con would have noticed) - but anything using the abdominals puts pressure on the damaged area and is very painful. (Standing up especially was hard). In some ways the core injury got worse - presumably the internal bruise developing fully.

I made it back to Guildford yesterday (strangely, driving is a lot more comfortable than most other positions, probably because the seat gives full support and is well adjusted).

Today I had the problem that it took me an hour to get out of bed. I think I must have tried to sit up 20 or 30 times, using every technique / angle I could think of - but as soon as I got a few inches I just had a horrible wave of pain and had to lay down again. I'm sure that sleeping just lets everything seize up again (it seems better now I've been moving around for a few hours).

I've been signed off work for at least a week (with expectation that it may become two weeks, and a warning from the GP to expect soreness for 6-8 weeks in all). Plus I've now got Diclofenac (anti-inflammatory) as well as more Co-codomol). After the talk with the GP, it sounds like the two lowest ribs on the left were hit so hard that they pulled extremely hard on the cartilage at both ends. So I now have stretched and damaged cartilage as well as overall tissue bruising. Which explains why I have two pain centres, one down below the heart at the front, and one around the back ...

I guess I'm lucky to have gone this long without ever having a nasty injury, and of course you feel a bit of an idiot saying you slipped in the bath - but it's a nasty reminder of how easily these things can happen to any of us. Of course if this was the US I'd have my lawyer chatting to the Campanile by now, and I'm sure that I won't be the last person to have a similar accident with their new bathrooms, but I just want to forget it and get on with healing now ...

You assume it will only happen to other people ... part 1

So, Eastercon was great as a convention. Before I start on the personal travails, much kudos goes to the whole committee, all of whom did brilliantly. James Bacon in particular led from the front as only he can - his deep beliefs in what fandom is about shining through and inspiring the team and the con - and my long standing admiration for Vince went up another notch from the amazing and unique music programme.

The hotel was a real find, too; the lack of sleeping space was regrettable but the combination of good function space, social spaces, excellent onsite food options (choice, low price, good hours, decent quality) and really helpful staff really enabled everyone to get the best from the con.

It was therefore unfortunate that I picked this weekend to have my first really serious personal accident in 40 odd years. (Even when I wrote off my car a few years ago, I walked away without a scratch; and touch wood, I've yet to break any bones anywhere).

Staying in the refitted Campanile hotel, I went to take a shower. The shower head was over a (new, shiny) bathtub with fairly high sides; there was no anti-slip bottom to the tub, and no rubber mat. This didn't bother me especially, after thousands of showers over the years ...

I got the water going, put one foot in, then as I lifted the other one into the tub the first one just shot out from underneath me. I went straight up in the air and came down too fast to catch myself, dropping all my weight (about 230 lbs these days I think) onto the 3-inch-wide edge of the tub, landing sideways on my ribs.

Thankfully I didn't pass out but the immediate experience of being unable to shout or indeed breathe was one of the scariest of my life. Thankfully after what seemed like quite a few seconds I was able to focus and breathe a little, but only shallowly due to the huge pain I now had all down the left side.

Thankfully the immediate pain subsided enough to let me stand up after a few minutes (well, claw my way up) but I couldn't twist or bend without making it much worse. I managed to get dressed, walk to the lift (I found that walking very slowly in a straight line was OK) and get the hotel to order me a taxi. (I thought about an ambulance but this seemed unnecessary at that point - excepting that I could only breathe very lightly still, and any cough or attempt to talk immediately doubled me over in pain).

I reached Bradford Royal Infirmary to find a 3-hour waiting time in A&E, but they fast tracked me into Major Incidents for the breathing problems and level of pain. ...

(on to part 2)