So, we1 made a little mini-vlog comedy YouTube thing. It’s called
Not The Actor You Are Looking For…
and as you can probably tell from the title, it’s inspired by Star Wars. More accurately, the convention scene.
The UK has gone crazy for conventions recently, mostly in the gate-show2 ‘Comic-Con’ style. This tends to mean that you get lots of older actors from classic sci-fi and fantasy movies doing signings and if you’re lucky, the odd panel or two.
I’ve spent a good chunk of 2015 going to these things, and also going to more traditional3 style fantasy/sci-fi conventions, which are also on the rise thanks to the popularity of all things geeky. Anyway, we were inspired to make this short movie. I hope you enjoy it.
1 – And by we, I mean myself and Anne-Louise. We have a very small (bijou, even) production company called Truly Outrageous. This will be our first film project.
2 – Gate Show style ‘comic cons’ tend to be for profit and ‘pay on the day’ affairs. (Hence the name ‘Gate Show’, as in pay on the gate’. They have famous people as attractions and lots of stalls, cosplayers and loads of people. They’re a lot of fun, and MCM and SciFi Scarbs are great examples of the type.
3- Traditional conventions tend to more about the fans than fame. The attraction is catching up with like minded types first. You tend to buy the ticket in advance and there’s usually a schedule of talks and lectures over a few days. More a conference than a convention, but with cosplayers, stalls and the odd famous person. NineWorlds is my favourite traditional event.
Okay, so if you listen to Starburst’s BookWorm Podcast, or if you follow genre-related book news in general, you may have heard that 2015’s list of Hugo Nominations were a bit unusual. You may have even heard some wailing and gnashing of teeth, or some crowing and bragging, depending on what parts of the web you spend time on.
You may also have no idea what this is all about. I’ll try and break it down into steps, to give you an idea of what’s going on.
The Hugo Awards are an international award, presented at an event called Worldcon, an fan-run Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention. They’re grand affairs, but are more about fans talking to fans than anything else, and revolve around the literary side of things mostly. Worldcon’s have been happening for over 70 years, and the Hugo Ceremony is the cool thing that happens at the end of convention. The Hugo Awards are voted for by their members.
Worldcon Membership is split (broadly) into two types: Attending and supporting. Attending membership lets you attend the event. It also lets you nominate and vote in the Hugo Awards. Supporting membership does all that, except you can’t attend the event. Because Worldcon changes venue every year, supporting memberships allow fans to remain part of the event without spending huge sums of money to go to around the world.
The 2014 Hugo Awards were notable for their progressive and interesting content. Prizes went to a wide spread of creators from diverse backgrounds. It’s also worth noting that the bulk of the winners were already quite successful and quite popular, both in critical and commercial terms.
John Scalzi is an outspoken science fiction author who is also very well regarded and very successful. He (and I quote here) believes that “women are entitled to the same rights and privileges as men, with everything that implies in terms of access to education, economic opportunity and personal liberty.” He is also credited by some for helping raise awareness about less known but interesting authors, and some say the 2014 awards list is his doing. Many disagree.
Vox Day aka Theodore Beale is an outspoken science fiction author, who describes himself as a “Christian libertarian opinion columnist” and creationist. He was expelled from the organisation the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA). If you want to go down that rabbit hole, the reasons why can be found here.
GamerGate is the name of a campaign about sexism in video games. It’s more complex than that, but for our purposes; they are a large number of sexist, misogynistic, anti-liberal, right-wing types in the GamerGate movement. It’s a loose organisation, so for every GamerGater who knows and is acting on the Hugos, they are many who have never heard of it and aren’t acting on it. (I have little idea as to how you’d get exact figures.)
The Sad Puppies is the name of a Hugo Awards campaign organised by Brad R. Torgersen, Larry Correia. They felt that they weren’t being represented by the Hugo Awards. They arranged a Hugo Slate (which can be found here). It was mostly composed of stuff they or their friends produced. It is a very narrow slice of the broader world of Science Fiction lit. The Sad Puppies recruited friends and members of GamerGate to vote in the Hugos. The name, by the way, comes from a rant that can be found here.
The Rabid Puppies is the Vox Day’s version of the Sad Puppies slate. They’re very, very similar. Gamer Gaters were also involved in the Rabid Puppies slate.
The 2015 Hugo Shortlist (a version of which can be found here) is very similar to the Sad Puppies Slate. The Sad Puppies and their right wings allies are currently declaring victory.
No Award is an option on the Hugo Ballot. It’s a run-off voting system. A running gag is to refer to the hot tipped 2015 Hugo Winner as Noah Ward.
Sir Terry Pratchett was a well loved science fiction and fantasy author who passed away recently. Upon the announcement of the 2015 Hugo Nominees, Sad Puppy supporters claimed that Pratchett never got nominated for a Hugo. This isn’t true; he was nominated for Going Postal in 2005. (If you want to read more on that, you can read it here.) It’s worth noting that Sir Terry was a regular at Worldcon events, and well loved by that niche.
George RR Martin is also a well known and well loved science fiction and fantasy author. He’s been to many, many Worldcons, and is well known figure in that community, and is also a regular at the Hugo Awards ceremony. He has blogged extensively about the whole affair, and you can read more here.
Trufan is the unofficial term for a fan of Worldcon and similar conventions. A JOF is a trufan who organises Worldcon and similar events, a SMOF is a trufan who organises the JOF’s and the events themselves. (Don’t assume there’s a hierarchy here, there really isn’t.) All these terms come from the in-jokey humour common in the community.
I’ve probably missed a tonne of nuance here, but those are the footnotes.
The report I did for Starburst Magazine on Loncon3 can be found at Starburst Magazine.
If you do go via iTunes, don’t forget to comment/like/subscribe. If you want to, that is.
I’ve already written a report on NineWorlds GeekFest for my wise masters at the venerable and ancient Starburst Magazine but of course a formal report for the press is a different sort of beast to a blog post.
This is the bimbling, slightly personal account of events that no one asked for, but I’m going to give you anyway.
Nine Worlds is an event that Anne (my lovely wife) and I had planned to go last year. It was actually going to be our mini-honeymoon of sorts. Sadly it was on the weekend directly after the wedding and it become pretty obvious after that special occasion that we weren’t going to make it, simply due to exhaustion and excitement.
So it was with some anticipation and keen that we planned to do NineWorlds this year. The plan was pretty simple; I’d turn up with my various recording devices and shorthand notepad to do the words and interviews, and Anne would take photos. 1
We arrived late Thursday at the hotel just up the road from the venue. The Radisson doesn’t have a pool but our hotel did and we took full advantage. This mean we missed registration, which was a little bit annoying; we expected it to be running till quite late, surmising that people from across the country probably planned to come in after work. This meant we spent the Thursday evening without our event badges, which felt oddly distancing. We caught up with a handful of friends and had a nose round the venue itself.
We weren’t the only ones to do so and interrupted a rather drunken couple who we’re pretty sure weren’t event attendees themselves.2 We humoured the idiots until they went away, let an organiser know and then continued to explore.
At conventions, we both make a point of trying to stand apart from the crowd in terms of dress. Anne was in a natty waistcoat and I myself in business casual. I like dressing that way because in theory, I am at work and a shirt and tie are my work clothes.3 Sadly, without a convention badge we really do just look like everyone else; which meant we did keep getting challenged by other attendees. Luckily, friendliness and mutual geekiness is worth much more than any badge, and we were able to work out where we needed to be for the various panels we’d been invited too and the other events we want to be at.
On the Friday, things went very smoothly indeed. Registration was quite quick and I got a very nice goodie bag with the usual sort of tat including a programmed and some free books4.
Highlights for me included:
– The BookWorm Podcast. We did a live show at the event. We had a nerve wracking moment in which we thought no one was going to turn up and thankfully, fellow podcasters arrived to provide some moral support. Lots of thanks to James Simms, Marguerite Kenner and Alasdair Stuart; they rocked and indeed, continue to rock. You can hear it online via iTunes or direct download here.
– The Podcasting Track in general was deeply awesome. We learned a lot and met some thoroughly lovely people. Hugo nominated podcaster Emma Newman was especially kind and very informative, but the entire experience was great and we met some brilliant people.
– Moderating a panel for All The Books. I think I did a good job; certainly very few people left5, everyone had questions and the panellists had fun. The subject was likeable villains, and there was someone dressed as Deadpool in the front row. I think that says it all.
– Meeting people. Writing and reporting is a distancing exercise and it was very, very pleasant to actually put names to faces. Far too many people to name check without missing someone, but it was bloody lovely.
– Call Of Cthullhu as a spectator game. A very good team, and Scott Lynch was particularly entertaining.
– The Small Gods and Theology talk. Only at Nine Worlds. Very well done.
– At a cutting edge tech lecture, suddenly unveiling (to a crowd of people) my super villain style thinking, and being appropiately applauded for a very carefully phrased question.
– Si Spurrier and Kieron Gillen’s talk. Si’s lectures are always entertaining and I have always come away having learned something, or at least with substantial food for thought. Kieron’s talk on The Watchmen was hastily arranged and inspirational; more akin to a good solid pub rant than anything else. I’m afraid I caught up with Kieron later and talked some guff at him and B-Theory and Eternalism. Sorry about that.
I do have some niggles. The entire event does feel as if they’ve drawn a lot of their guests from London only, leading to what felt like some small cliques. As the event gains a reputation I’m sure this will change and it didn’t effect most of the panels. It did damage a couple of the streams a bit though; everyone seemed to know each other and everyone also appeared to be roughly of the same age and mindset. Though that makes for a cracking coffee morning, it makes for dull panels and I was itching for some truly diverse and different perspectives, especially the ones that crossed over into comics.
I am so going again next year, in fact I’m already booked.
1: I gather we achieved those things quite well, which is nice.
2: Seriously; not only did they both had the facial expressions of naughty school children but they talked utter cobblers about why they were there. Also no convention badges, but we didn’t have any either. We didn’t say anything, they just talked at us and left. It was funny in a slightly alarming way and I feel a little guilty that we probably interrupted some planned drunken snogging, but that’s what hotel rooms are for.
3: Of course, a black jacket, white shirt and red tie are right out; that would be cosplay.
4: Yay! Books!
5: People come in and out of talks at these things all the time. It’s how they’re meant to work.
When the Guardians of The Galaxy movie was announced, I was quite hesistant; as I’ve said before I’m a fan1 of both the old school and re-imagined comics. My mantra for the new movie can be best summarised as “Please, please don’t be rubbish”.
Went to see the huge summer block-buster as part of the treats myself and my lovely other half gave ourselves for our paper wedding anniversary. Because ‘cinema tickets’ totally counts as paper.
It is a very good movie. The right mix of action, humour, cool looking aliens and cheese. I adore space opera and I was in a very happy place. I suspect everyone will rave about Rocket and Groot (as well they should) but I really want to see Drax get his own movie3.
I must admit I made a little happy sound when they got to certain key intergalactic locations, both for the pun and because one particular hive of scum and villainy is really cool. I do hope we see more of it (and it’s traditional caretaker) in more movies.
Slightly disappointed that the cameo at the end didn’t hint at any greater arc plot (at least I hope it doesn’t), but apart from that, I am a very, very happy geek.
1: As a kid, comic books came in bundles. You could get a big pile of them for pocket money from a shop near the docks. Rom The Spaceknight, Guardians of The Galaxy and Doctor Strange were all mis-matched treasures in the that bundle.
2: That mantra will start again in the run-up to the Doctor Strange movie, if it ever happens.
3: Namely one based on his own mini-series. He picks up a plucky kid called Cammi along the way and it works on the page. As a friend pointed out, a “Hound & Arya” style movie with Drax and Cammi sounds like fun.
So, Starburst Magazine has made it to issue 400. That’s a grand old age for a monthly magazine, especially one filled with sci-fi, fantasy and horror content. It’s a bit of honour to be involved and it’s still a thrill to walk into the offices of Starburst Towers, which is a bizarre and wonderful haven of all things geek. (One of these days I’ll get someone to draw up a proper schematic of the building to give you an idea of what the place looks like. Might need a fold out bit to accommodate all the rocket planes and quantum flange generators though.1)
This issue is filled with the usual goodies (including a column from myself), and some background and history on the magazine itself, as well as a spot of Star Wars news (just like the first ever issue). It also has a bit of my short fiction, which I’m absurdly proud of. I’ve had short fiction published before of course, but it feels a bit liked I’ve joined some sort of club with this one.
This post is a little late in coming, so issue 401 will be out very soon as well. You may want to hurry to your local newsagents.
1: What ever happened to Tharg’s spaceship after 2000AD moved out of King’s Reach Tower?
I was listening to the Reservoir Dogs Soundtrack recently, a collection of music that many people who happened to be teenagers in the 90’s happen to own, partially because Reservoir Dogs was the coolest movie ever back in the 90’s and mostly because it’s a really good collection of songs. Anyway, after I’d finished my dive into nostalgia by jumping up and down around the room to Blue Swede’s Hooked On A Feeling, I started to ponder the question of my generation.
What the hell is Harry Nilsson’s song Coconut all about?
It doesn’t mean anything1. There’s no subtle message to the song, no hidden meaning. The simple truth is that both coconuts and limes are things that people eat when they’re feeling a little bit ill. Both bits of food are packed full of stuff that’s good for you (apparently) and the words have nice feel to them. The lyrics are sung in a very specific way and it’s fun to wrap your laughing gear round co-co-nut, preferably whilst shaking your bum and having fun.
That hasn’t stopped people from endlessly deciding that it must mean something. There’s something about humanity’s ability to take a simple song about nothing of real consequence and decide that it must contain the wisdom of the ages. For some of us it’s not enough to simply wiggle our bodies about and have a giggle, everything has to mean something. This makes everything terribly serious, even having fun becomes an academic endeavour.
“It means nothing” is as a valid and important meaning as any other.2 Sometimes simple is good. The world is filled with meaning and context after all, not everything needs layers. If you really need a meaning, try this one on for size; Coconut is a request to shut up and dance. Stop your jaw from flapping and your chin from pondering and have a little jiggle.
1: Okay, we could make a serious argument between Authorial Intent and Critical Response, but honestly if you’re critical response to a silly song about fruit is to turn it into something dark and mysterious then you’ve pretty much left the realms of valid criticism and moved into the mystical land of pulling stuff out of your arse.
2: As a response, it’s almost as important as that great and powerful answer “No one knows”, though the response to that should always be “well let’s find out”, even if the answer turns out to be a cosmic shrug of the shoulders.