Monthly Archives: August 2006

2006 Anaheim Worldcon — Odds and Ends

My editor here at Views from Medina Road — that would be myself, reading my own posts the next morning — has raised a few issues that need follow-up response.

Did Russell Letson and wife Cezarija Abartis ever show up? No. I’d thought, the last time I saw Russell (when was that?) that he’d reminisced about Anaheim a decade ago and expressed his plans to be there this year. Apparently he changed his mind, or my memory is mistaken. On the other hand, Locus senior editor Tim Pratt and his wife Heather Shaw arrived over the weekend, having held the fort at Locus HQ in Oakland during the preceding work week. I saw them in passing two or three times, though alas they did not attend the Hugo ceremony, when CNB brought all the attending magazine staff and reviewers up on to stage with him. Tim’s online journal has more.

What was Michael’s reaction? Michael, my partner’s smart, good-looking 15-year-old son, exposed to the hardcore world of SF fandom for the first time Friday night after dinner and Saturday during the Hugo ceremony. Well, he was amused by the antics of the Hugo presenters and recipients, as far as I could tell during the event (I only saw him text-messaging his friends a couple times). He’d never heard of the books or stories or fans, but knew the film and TV nominees; and Connie and Harlan and Robert and others commanded his attention. According to my partner, his reaction later to wandering through the room parties was…. well, this is why I didn’t mention it before… amazement at how many fat, nerdy people there seemed to be there. And how I didn’t seem to fit that pattern. Which indicates how little he knows me, perhaps…

What was my reaction to Harlan’s infamous grope? I didn’t see it. We were sitting in the 6th row but way over on the left side, glancing back and forth between the direct live view of the stage and the screen projection above us, and somehow I didn’t actually see Harlan groping Connie. I did see him mouth the mic. It was gross and embarrassing for Harlan, but I’ve long ago stopped taking Harlan seriously, and my impression was that Connie did her best to handle the situation.

On another note, I should mention that the buzz about next year’s Worldcon in Japan is that the professionals, especially the US publishers and editors, sound disinclined to go. For expense reasons. The buzz is that the hardcore fans will go, to maintain their clannish annual connection, but that the US pro and semipro community will likely choose the ’07 World Fantasy Con, scheduled for upstate New York, to hold their annual convocation.

Myself, I haven’t decided. I’ve attended every Worldcon since New Orleans in ’88, and next year’s event sounds like a good excuse to go to Japan, a place I’ve never been. But I haven’t decided.

2006 Anaheim Worldcon — Day 3/4/5 — Wrap-Up

Friday evening (day 3) was the Eos party, this year held poolside at a Hyatt hotel about a mile south of the Convention Center/Hilton/Marriott complex. The whole Locus gang carpooled there, then wended our way through a ‘Junior American Miss’ pageant of some sort (reminding more than one of us of JonBenét Ramsey, again in the news) to reach the outside party area. I’d run into David Marusek in the Hilton lobby just as we were leaving, and was inclined to bring him along, but neither of us was confident of the feasibility of his showing up there uninvited… I think it wouldn’t have been a problem. Some parties are strictly invitation only, with guards checking at the door; others, like Eos’, seem open to anyone who knows about it, and certainly there were many SF celebrities there who weren’t directly associated with HarperCollins or Eos. I sat at a table chatting with Gardner Dozois and Susan Casper and Andrew Wheeler, as the setting sun glared in my eyes. There wasn’t much food, but the bar was open. Over in a corner was Gordon Van Gelder and Julie Phillips (author of the Tiptree bio), experiencing her first SF convention; Gary Wolfe took me over to meet her.

Later that evening my partner, his work week over, met me at the Hilton with his 15-year-old son Michael. After dinner we wandered through the 5th floor parties, giving Michael — a goodlooking, popular student at a prestigious private high school, Junior Olympics swimmer and soccer player, smart but no more familiar with SF than via the occasional Flowers for Algernon read for class or superhero movie seen with friends — a glimpse into the hardcore world of SF fandom. We pushed our way through the Asimov’s/Analog party in the SFWA suite, saying hi to Ellen Datlow, and around through the hallway maze, but it wasn’t long before partner and son called it a night. But they both came back on Saturday for the Hugos (see a couple posts ago).

After the Hugos on Saturday (day 4), partner driving son back home, I stopped by my room to post the winners. I’d had the page ready, needing only to delete all the non-winners from the listing, though as it turned out, I’d guessed every one of the fiction category winners (to mention in the homepage headline) wrong, and had to rewrite that. Still, I made it up to the 19th floor in the Marriott for the Hugo-Losers party just as the Locus gang arrived, which was good since this party was closely guarded by officials checking paper invitations, and I’d not received any such invitation. I coat-tailed in with the Locus gang. The party was hosted by a Japanese contingent associated with next year’s Worldcon, and they provided plum wine, sake, sushi rolls, and various crackers and tofu slices whose tastes belied their appearances. I passed Craig Engler for about the third time that day, who said again that we’ve got to get that website category back!, and chatted with Jonathan and Geoff and Mary and Rick and others.

Sunday morning (day 5) partner and I met Mark Budz and Marina Fitch for breakfast. They’d driven down from Santa Cruz just for the weekend, having come part-way Friday night and the rest of the way by early Saturday. After breakfeast we ducked into the convention center to grab the latest newsletter and say goodbye to the Locus table folks (Bill and Amelia), then met Diana Gill for brunch at the Hilton, talking about the convention and what’s to see in SoCal and what HarperCollins is planning for their website. Then — the close timing of events the past couple days being almost uncannily successful — I checked out of the hotel just before noon, rendezvoused with Mark & Marina, and departed Anaheim to drive home, about an hour’s north of Anaheim, with Mark and Marina stopping by for a couple hours before they headed on north to home.

Convention Over.

2006 Anaheim Worldcon — Hugo Voting Comments

I see via links on other sites that the complete Hugo Awards voting breakdown, along with the list of nominees and honorable mentions, are available online. (I understand these files were provided on CD ROM by the con committee to members of the press, but apparently Locus Online was not on their list.) Thus there’s no need to describe the results in detail; I’ll just point out a few things that strike me as significant.

Novel– Despite predictions that Martin might win the award, as a sort of cumulative honor for his series to date, his book came in last. Many people predicted Stross would win, and he came in second, but Wilson’s lead was solid from the first round. It’s interesting, tracking the ‘no award’ totals in each round, that while 17 voted for ‘no award’ as first place, and 18 others ranked it ahead of the second, third, and fourth placing novels, some 43 others ranked ‘no award’ ahead of Martin’s novel.

Novella– Link tied with Willis in the first round of counting, then dropped behind as second-place votes from eliminated nominees were added to the totals. Several commentators said that, however much they liked reading Link’s story, it was difficult afterwards to say just what it was about, whether it was SF or fantasy or what. That may have turned off some voters, but I would guess that Willis’ story benefited from her personal popularity to win, as more than one good but not great previous Willis story has done.

Novelette– I thought Doctorow’s online and personal popularity would swing the result his way, even though I liked Beagle’s story better. As in the novel voting, there were a chunk of voters who chose ‘no award’ ahead of the nominee that eventually placed last, the story by Michael A. Burstein.

Short story– Lanagan led in the initial count of first place votes, then dropped behind as others were eliminated. In this category the jump in ‘no award’ votes came ahead of the Resnick and Burstein stories. I’d actually thought Resnick would win — it’s the sort of sentimental story Hugo voters have gone for in the past, and Resnick is a popular presence at conventions, and nothing else on the ballot seemed really strong (except for Lanagan’s story, but it was non-sf/f).

Related Book– Gary Wolfe’s book, interestingly, had the most nominations (29) in the category; Wilhelm’s had only 19. I have no explanation for Wilhelm’s win, except to wonder if the number of Clarion students who’ve learned from her, or perhaps simply the general availability of her book (compared to Wolfe’s or Ashley’s), tipped the votes her way.

Editor– Hartwell led all the way. Why did voters finally come around his way this year and not before? Perhaps Dozois’ absence from the ballot (he did place 7th in number of nominations) made the category more of a mix-up than it has been in many years. Or perhaps, to give voters a bit more credit, the repeated observations year after year that the same candidates win in certain categories year and year, despite other worthies, finally sunk in. [Update: Or more likely the ongoing debate about splitting the category raised awareness of who should win; see Patrick Nielsen Hayden's comment below.]

Semiprozine– Almost the same candidates as last year (with Emerald City replacing The Third Alternative). Ansible’s win last year was due to the local UK vote, then, presumably? This year Locus led all the way.

Campbell Award– As everyone predicted, Scalzi won, and he led commandingly from the first round. A better writer than Roberson or Monette or Swainston or Bishop or Sanderson? Maybe, maybe not, but none of them write popular blogs.

Interactive Video Game– This year’s special category on the nomination ballot, deleted from the final ballot for ‘lack of interest’, drew no more than 13 nominations for any particular item. (The next lowest category was 28, for Resnick’s short story.) The 13 were for ‘World of Warcraft’. The only thing I nominated, ‘Myst V: End of Ages’ got only one other nomination.

2006 Anaheim Worldcon — Day 4 — Saturday evening — Hugo Awards

This year’s Hugo Awards were not the efficient hour-long affair of last year’s event in Glasgow; they went on just about two hours, but were enjoyable and entertaining nonetheless. There were virtually no slack periods or screw-ups (well, one) or embarrassments. The overriding theme was the familiar but popular Connie Willis shtick of promising to avoid the tension-building delays of past ceremonies, which cause great agony among nominees waiting to learn whether or not they’ve won, and then causing such delays anyway, via apparently spontaneous interjections about events concerning the nominees or past ceremonies. This time the theme was expanded with the participation of Robert Silverberg, who came on stage at the very start, as the video screens displayed the caption “Connie Willis, Toastmaster”, and after Connie arrived (with two space opera security guard types) to take charge, re-appeared at intervals during the evening as if determined to sabotage the event, causing spotlights to go out, captions of “Willie Connis”, and so on.

I’ll not do a blow-by-blow description of the evening, but a few moments deserve recognition.

Elizabeth Bear, presenting the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, to, as it turned out (and everyone had predicted), John Scalzi, announced a new instant tradition, the bestowal of a tiara upon the new winner. Scalzi accepted it with grace, and went on in his acceptance speech to recommend works by the other nominees in impressive detail.

Andy Porter presented the award for Best Semiprozine, first relaying a history of the category and his own record of Hugo nominations and wins in various categories for Algol and Starship and SF Chronicle (including a win by one vote one year over Locus), before announcing the winner this year as… Locus. (It’s not my fault this time, he said.) Charles Brown abandoned his cane as he lept across the stage to embrace Porter and accept the award, and then called up, in addition to fellow winners Liza Groen Trombi and Kirsten Gong-Wong, all the other attending Locus staffers, including Karlyn Pratt, Amelia Beamer, Carolyn Cushman, Jonathan Strahan, and Gary K. Wolfe. Brown said it was getting so he could barely remember all the staff’s names, but that he was confident the magazine would remain in good hands.

Betty Ballantine presented the Best Professional Editor award to…. David G. Hartwell, by far the greatest and most pleasing surprise of the evening. Hartwell has held the record (see The Locus Index to SF Awards: Hugo Awards Records and Tallies, under “Hugo Never-Winners”) for most number of Hugo nominations ever without having won. Finally, he’s lost that record, and won a Hugo even without the impending category split (approved this year, though I haven’t followed the details) for separate categories for long-form editors and short-form editors.

Hartwell concluded his brief acceptance speech by saying, though he didn’t think he would have done the same for him, he’d like to recommend that next year’s Hugo be awarded to Jim Baen.

The Best Related Book category included the one screw-up that I noticed: as the nominees were read, with cover images and photos of the authors displayed on the large screens to either side of the stage, the slide for Soundings: Reviews 1992-1996 by [Locus reviewer] Gary K.Wolfe had a photo of the other Gary K. Wolfe, author of the book Who Framed Roger Rabbit, who is a different person than Locus reviewer and critic Gary K. Wolfe who was nominated for a Hugo. Judging from lack of audience reaction, alas, few seemed to notice.

The final four categories featured the appearance of presenter Harlan Ellison for the short story category, who led with an extended defense of the short story category as the pre-eminent form of SF, where writers establish their voices and learn their craft. After the Hugo was presented to David D. Levine, the announcement was made of the Special Committee Award (a plaque) to Harlan for 50 years of writing SF, an honor apparently not revealed in advance to the recipient (same for Betty Ballantine). Harlan took the opportunity to talk about the forthcoming TV series “Masters of Science Fiction”, which adapts one of his own stories and includes an appearance by him in a cameo role he wrote for himself — the first time in 40 years he’s managed to actually be cast in such a role. He went on and on in over-the-top Harlan style, and mentioned that this might be his last convention. Though the audience seemed entertained, it was hard not to detect the wish that this might be an actual promise.

James Patrick Kelly, presenting the novelette award, discussed the spelling of novelette/novelet and proposed that the existing set of category names go metric: novel, decinovel, centinovel, millinovel.

Robert Silverberg came out in serious mode to present the novella award, to… Connie Willis. Who was genuinely surprised and moved, to the point of becoming choked up, that the fantasies of her youth, of attending her first Worldcon among writer gods such as Robert Silverberg, had become so fulfilled.

And if there was a surprise to match Hartwell’s win for best editor, it was Robert Charles Wilson’s win for best novel (against predictions of Charles Stross or George R.R. Martin). It was a triumph for Tor and editors Patrick and Teresa Nielsen Hayden, who have been trumpeting the book against the apparent odds, and for Robert Charles Wilson, about whom commentators all weekend had been saying was one of those underappreciated writers whose books kept getting better and better, who would someday eventually win, even if he wouldn’t this weekend. But he did win, and everyone was very pleased.

As the evening ended, newssheets were passed out listing the complete voting breakdown as well as the lists of nominees including those below the cut on the final ballot. (It can now be revealed: Neil Gaiman withdrew Anansi Boys, though it had the third-highest number of nominations in the novel category.) These statistics don’t seem to have been posted on the convention’s website (unlike last year), so I will do my own summary of those results, discussing who came in second and third and last, in my next post here. Which, this evening’s time having run out, will be tomorrow morning.

2006 Anaheim Worldcon — Day 4 — Saturday

There were a number of interesting panels I’d thought about attending on Saturday, but the only one I got to was at 11:30 a.m., called “Convergence in Post-Modern Fiction”, with John Barnes, John Kessel, Gary K. Wolfe, Takayuki Tatsumi, and Kathleen Ann Goonan. The subject, if not apparent from the title, was about the apparent break-down of genre boundaries, e.g. the way ‘mainstream’ writers casually use genre tropes when it suits them (as in Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go) without attempting the rigorous extrapolation that genre readers expect; the way insider genre guardians are less concerned these days with defining what is or is not science fiction (the way Kurt Vonnegut was at one time controversial). Among notable points was Barnes’ discussion of modernism’s preoccupation with mediation, analogous to theatrical directors or critical authorities; the idea of canonical lists of works by dead white European males (dwems) was a modernist idea. Kessel expressed a pendulum tug back: if there are no boundaries, is excellence just a matter of what one likes or doesn’t like? The problem is perhaps an issue of reading protocols; Margaret Atwood didn’t object to her books being considered SF so much as she feared offending her regular readers. Wolfe wondered if a trendless literature could exist, and realized one does, in Analog. And Barnes described the concept of ‘dip and flip’ reading, the way some younger readers are more interested in cool moments rather than sustained narrative.

Events I did not get to included an extended appearance by Harlan Ellison, who had lines of fans waiting for hours; a panel on the works of Connie Willis, with (at least according to the program; actual results at panels tended to vary) Nancy Kress, Robert Silverberg, Kim Stanley Robinson, Gardner Dozois, and Pat Cadigan; a panel on the Renaissance of Hard SF, with Sawyer, Barnes, Reynolds, Benford, and Steele; one on the ‘future we didn’t expect’, with Vinge, Niven, Willis, and others; and one on writing non-fiction sf, with Person, Guran, Westfahl, and others. Even being very selective from the Worldcon program, it’s difficult to cover everything one would like to.

Aside from panel surfing the balance of the day included a final inspection of book dealers, for various vintage paperbacks or freebie editions to list on the website (and running into Gary Westfahl and Art Cover), and hanging out at the Locus table, chatting with a succession of folks who came by, including Drew Morse (Rhysling anthology editor), Rob Sawyer, Sharon Sbarsky, Paul Fischer (of Balticon podcasts), Julia Ree (of the Eaton Collection), and Michael Cassutt.

Saturday was Hugos night, with the traditional pre-Hugos reception for nominees and their guests preceding. With three nominees for the magazine (Charles, Liza, and Kirsten), Gary Wolfe for related book, and Jonathan Strahan standing in as acceptor for Margo Lanagan should she win, virtually every other Locussociate in attendance was able to attend the reception as the guest of one of them. I was Liza’s guest. The drinks were expensive but the food was OK — sushi rolls, cheese and crackers, and varieties of eggrolls. I finally met John Scalzi and Irene Gallo, and chatted with Harlan and Cheryl and John Picacio and Brian and Trevor. As the reception ended, I went outside to meet my partner and his son, who drove over from nearby Brea to attend the event. We didn’t get back into the reserved seating for the nominees and guests, but we were only a few rows back, and had a fine time. It was 15-year-old Michael’s second exposure to the weird world of Worldcons. More on the Hugo event in next post.

2006 Anaheim Worldcon — Day 3 — Friday

Today’s first panel was an assessment of the best books of 2006 by Charles N. Brown, Jonathan Strahan, Gary K. Wolfe, Paula Guran, and Ellen Datlow. Though they said at the start that the intent wasn’t to just read lists of titles, but rather to discuss why each panelist liked the titles they read, by the end of the hour the result was, pretty much, a list of titles, in round-robin sequence:

Gary: James Morrow’s The Last Witchfinder;
Paula: Gene Wolfe’s Soldier of Sidon;
Jonathan: Shaun Tan’s The Arrival (an art book initially being published in Australia);
Ellen: Terry Dowling’s collection Basic Black;
Charles: Paul Park’s The Tourmaline and The White Tyger (sequels to A Princess of Roumania);
Gary: Jeffrey Ford’s collection The Empire of Ice Cream;
Ellen: M. Rickert’s forthcoming collection, including 2 recent novelettes in F&SF;
Paula: a new novel by Kit Whitfield, Benighted;
Jonathan: Charles Stross’ The Jennifer Morgue;
Ellen: Margo Lanagan’s upcoming third collection, Red Spikes;
Charles: Jon Courtenay Grimwood’s latest, The End of the World Blues, his best book yet;
Ellen: Joel Lane’s collection The Lost District (dark and depressing but worth it);
Gary: M. John Harrison’s upcoming Nova Swing (though CNB didn’t like it);
Jonathan: Peter S. Beagle’s new collection The Line Between;
Paula: a new American SF novel by David Louis Edelman, Infoquake;
Charles: John Barnes latest, The Armies of Memory, fourth in a series that shows a remarkable maturity from the society portrayed in the first book;
Ellen, seconded thirded and fourthed by others: the Tiptree biography by Julie Phillips;
Jonathan: Justina Robson’s Keeping it Real, light and smart;
Paul: Keith Donohue’s The Stolen Child, a haunting literary fantasy;
Gary: Elizabeth Hand’s upcoming collection Saffron & Brimstone, with a suite of 4 new stories marking a return to SF themes;
Ellen: Gene Wolfe’s chapbook Strange Birds, with two original stories;
Jonathan: Sharyn November’s anthology Firebirds Rising, though uneven, it has 4 really good stories;
Charles: Vernor Vinge’s Rainbows End, awarded good reviews in SF and rave reviews from geek magazines;
Gary: Neil Gaiman’s Fragile Things, with 6 really good stories out of 22 items;
Ellen: Susanna Clarke’s upcoming collection;
Charles: the new Tim Powers and Stross’ Glasshouse

Paula finished by advising the audience to avoid Scott Smith’s The Ruins and Frank Beddor’s The Looking Glass Wars, both of which she threw across the room.

A later panel addressed bloggers as the new public intellectuals, with Cory Doctorow efficiently moderating Patrick and Teresa Nielsen Hayden, MaryAnn Johnson, Kevin Drum, and ‘Bad Astronomer’ Phil Plait. Though they never got around to discussing SF blogs in particular, the panel did discuss various ways in which blogs have affected public discourse: headlines of posts must be unambiguous and direct; a 10 minute posting lag can short-circuit a flame war; a hierarchical posting scheme — title then post then link to full article — facilitates reader efficiency; sparseness of posts will cause readers to lose interest; in scientific circles blog posts with responses by circles of associates and immediate corrections have virtually obviated traditional peer-reviewed journal publications; how blogs are personality driven; how writing has become performance.

Today was also the 40th anniversary Locus panel, at which everyone associated with Locus made a statement to the audience about the importance of the magazine and the history of their involvement… Charles, Gary, Jonathan, Liza, and then from the audience Kirsten, Amelia, Karlyn, AAron, and me, and then Cheryl Morgan and Beth Gwinn. Audience members only slightly outnumbered Locussociates; from them Eileen Gunn and Alastair Reynolds were brought up to make additional statements. It was a celebration. The highlight was Jonathan performing impromptu interviews with 6-year-old Teddy (daughter of Kirsten and AAron), who spoke charmingly about Locus and books and naps and having drinks on the balcony.

During the remaining intervals I perused the dealers room and did a certain amount of panel surfing, ducking in and out of panels just to get a taste of the discussions (and sometimes to see (oh so that’s what she looks like) and hear (oh so that’s what he sounds like) various panelists I’d never met). Science and religion, with Tim Powers defending the rational process that leads to Catholicism; the putative withering away of the magazines, with Gordon Van Gelder challenging the self-fulfilling prophecies of inevitably declining sales; a starship smackdown; the promise of world government; slush pile horror stories. The one panel I looked in on that was overflowed to the door was “The Killer B’s & a V”, with Bear, Benford, Brin, and Vinge discussing “The Bullets You Don’t Hear”, i.e. the dangers to society and civilization that no one anticipates… but from the doorway, with intermittent use of microphones, there was no way to follow the discussion.

2006 Anaheim Worldcon — Day 2 — Thursday

There were more people in evidence today at Worldcon, though the enormous Anaheim Convention Center still seemed rather sparsely populated. The size of the convention is nevertheless indicated by the extent of the program; at 10 a.m. Thursday, there were no less than 26 panels and presentations, ranging from G. David Nordley on interstellar travel to the WSFS Preliminary Business Meeting, blogger Phil Plait on Bad Astronomy and Rick Sternbach on the “Look” of Star Trek, to panels on SF’s generation gap, Tarot and writing, alternate histories, fanzines, and Ed Wood. And there were five additional programming slots later in the day, equally busy. (One innovation at this con that seems to work well is scheduling such program items for 1 hour, with 1/2 hour intervals between slots, giving everyone a chance to take a break, cruise the dealers room, etc., before having to rush to get to the next panel.)

I missed all the 10 a.m. events, attending instead the annual Locus Foundation board meeting, where the various attending board members meet to discuss progress on Locus’ master plan to control every aspect of the SF field — we’re up to something like 93.4%. Seriously, we generally each year rehash ideas to keep the magazine alive (Locus‘ subscription base has been steadily shrinking, like those of the SF fiction magazines) by way of attracting more subscribers, offering alternative subscription options, or pursuing additional Locus Press projects. In attendance were the Charles, Gary Wolfe, Connie Willis, Kirsten Gong-Wong, Jonathan Strahan, and myself. This year’s meeting struck me as somewhat more successful than previous years’, with firmer resolves by various parties to actually pursue implementation of ideas (one or two of them originally mine) that have been bandied about for several years. To avoid jinxing anything, I’ll refrain from further details for now.

After that I did a more thorough patrol of the dealers room, noting books I should or might want to buy, and actually buying a couple of them, including one of the con’s special books, an anthology of original ‘space cadet’ stories edited by Mike Resnick.

I attended two panels. The first had Charles Brown, Gardner Dozois, Randy Smith, and Perianne Lurie rating the fiction Hugo nominees — how each of them voted and why, what they thought should win, and what they thought would win. There was general consensus on the weakness of the short story category this year, and general consensus on the weakness of a couple nominated writers in particular. The panel prefers that Paolo Bacigalupi *should* win in the novelette category, but supposed that Peter S. Beagle or Cory Doctorow *will* win. Novella preferences were for Kelly Link and Ian McDonald; novel preferences were for Charles Stross or Robert Charles Wilson, though the panel gave George R.R. Martin a fair chance of actually winning for best novel, based on the continued popularity of the series, even though this particular book isn’t complete in itself. John Scalzi, they predicted, will win the Campbell for best new writer, but probably not the Hugo for best novel.

The next panel was a debate about the ‘Space Opera Renaissance’, subject of a recent anthology by David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer, with panelists Hartwell, Charles Brown, Wil McCarthy, Mike Shepherd [Mike Moscoe], Gardner Dozois, Al Reynolds, and Toni Weiskopf. There was less dissension among panelists than I expected, though the result was like the joke about blind men describing an elephant; each panelist talking about the same ostensible subject, but each saying something completely different from what the others said. Brown established that ‘space opera’ has to have spaceships and be in space (as opposed to ‘planetary romance’), and described its history as rooted in the manifest destiny theme of US history; Dozois discussed its origin in the ‘super science’ stories of the 1930s and ’40s, with pendulum swings since then on the acceptability among young writers of writing in the form, and the quality of flamboyance that’s essential to make something space opera; McCarthy claimed the ‘renaissance’ has involved traditional space opera’s incorporation of first relativity, then chaos theory, biotech, and all the rest; Reynolds noted that this ‘renaisssance’ actually began 10 years ago, and cited Cordwainer Smith as the earliest of the new space opera writers; Weiskopf talked about sincerity and Honor Harrington; Shepherd talked about space opera’s renaissance as the corrective to all those downer ’70s stories, and stressed that space opera should by fun, fast-paced adventures with happy endings, as his own (prominently displayed) books are; and Hartwell explored the distinctions between space opera and hard SF and the evident overlap of the two from writers like McCarthy, Reynolds, and Stephen Baxter. Other writers mentioned were Scott Westerfeld, John C. Wright, Iain M. Banks, Walter Jon Williams, Vernor Vinge, John Clute, and M. John Harrison. If there was a consensus among the panelists, it might have been that the coolness of space opera has waxed and waned over the decades, but the form hasn’t gone away, nor will it in the future.

Later the various Locussociates gathered in the suite, along with the Australian contingent from the night before, but then split into subgroups as Armagnac was drunk and dinner plans were negotiated. Some had dinner dates with high-powered agents; some retired downstairs for bar-fare; the last group of us ate burgers and lettuce wraps in the hotel cafe. Afterward I caught up with Beth Gwinn, who’d attended the Chesley Awards ceremony, for the list of winners, duly posted. Then it was patroling the bid-parties for drinks and munchies and ribbons until too late, before returning to my room to check e-mail, skim and delete spam, and post this notice.

2006 Anaheim Worldcon — Day 1 — Wednesday

Addendum to previous post: other Locusts (Locusoids?) at or expected to be at the Worldcon this year are Ed Bryant (who’s here), Gary K. Wolfe (who’s here), Tim Pratt and wife Heather Shaw (expected Friday evening), and Russell Letson and wife Cezarija Abartis (unconfirmed). This convention could see the largest gathering of Locus folks in many years; perhaps Beth will get a photo.

I live about 60 miles north of Anaheim, and so after finishing posts to the Locus Online website this morning, I left home and drove south on I-5 past downtown LA and into Orange County. (I hate the I-5, especially the narrow, congested part that runs for 10 miles or so south of downtown LA to just past the border into Orange County, where it blissfully widens. Local politics.) I thought that traffic mid-day on a weekday wouldn’t be so bad; I was wrong.

I arrived around 2 p.m., parked and checked in to the Marriott, and walked over to the (much-expanded, since 1996, the last time Worldcon was sited here) Convention Center, where I checked in with registration to get my badge and program items, then sought out the dealers room and found the Locus table in a far corner. I attended most of one panel, about future trends in SF, with Gary K. Wolfe, James Patrick Kelly, Lou Anders, and others. Quotable quotes and discussion points:

What’s the new trend in SF? Fantasy. (Jim Kelly citing a response to this question from an Asimov’s/Analog associate editor.)

Gary Wolfe: Virtually all fantasy is entry-level; little significant SF is (think Stross, Appleseed, Egan).

Franchise SF [Star Wars, Star Trek novels] will never go away… it’s the only entry-level SF around.

Do most SF writers believe their futures will come true? Surely Sheckley and Dick didn’t. But some hard SF writers do. And in simpler times, probably Heinlein and Clarke and Asimov assumed their imagined futures would come true, in some sense.

The Dealers Room is decent-sized, with a fair number of book dealers among those selling costumes, CDs, DVDs, and games, though I realized after it closed that I don’t think I saw any dealer selling new UK books (perhaps the cost and/or inconvenience of shipping into the US was prohibitive?).

As the Dealers Room closed, I tagged along with the Locus table folks up to the official Locus suite in the Hilton, where Jim Kelly and John Kessel, John Picacio, an Australian contingent of Simon Brown, Sean Williams, Garth Nix, and Jonathan Strahan, and assorted other Locusoids were holding forth, while The Charles sat in a back room away from the crowd where he could hear. Eventually most of the group embarked downstairs to the rather pricey Italian restaurant in the lobby where we split across two tables and conversed loudly while drinking wine and eating manicotti and lamb and scampi. I chatted with Sean Williams about Lost, John Kessel about his creative writing students, and Jonathan and Jim and the others about editorial philosophies and Best of the Year anthologies. After dinner we all retired outside to the bar area, for further discussion of Locus cover photos and so forth, as Nancy and Ellen and Cynthia and Andrew and others came by. But by 9 p.m. or so people began to drift off, to a Writers’ Workshop social and other events, and I took the opportunity to depart, return to my room, skim and delete the day’s 10,000 spam e-mails, and write this post. More tomorrow.

Convergence to Locus

It’s been a busy week, and Worldcon hasn’t even started yet. For the past week Beth Gwinn, Locus photographer extraordinaire, has been staying at my place in Woodland Hills while visiting relatives and making professional contacts in the SoCal area. (I need to update her blog link, which is, on the Links Portal page.) Then just this evening a caravan of Locusites (Locusoids?) — Kirsten and her husband AAron, Amelia, Karlyn, Bill, and Carolyn — driving to Anaheim from the Bay Area stopped by for dinner and a layover to avoid rush-hour traffic through LA and Orange counties along the way (my place is about an hour north of Anaheim). (Needless to say, Charles, Jonathan, and Liza had more urgent business to attend to, and flew rather than drove to Anaheim today.) I will be driving down to Anaheim tomorrow morning sometime, staying at the Marriott; before then I’ll be finishing the weekly bestsellers, and a couple posts about this year’s Locus Poll and Survey. I’ll try to blog regularly about the con from my room each night.

Notes on The Ruins

Not a review, but a report: I spent several hours last week (when I might have been doing more productive things) reading Scott Smith’s The Ruins, partly because I was in the mood to just kick back and read something relatively unchallenging, partly because some nice publicist at Knopf was kind enough to send me a copy (this kind of thing doesn’t happen enough), and partly because I was curious based on the early reviews to find out to what extent the book was SF or fantasy as opposed to a ‘mundane’ horror thriller.

So I’m pleased to report that the book is indeed engaging reading, in the sense that it is suspenseful and hard to put down, and it is better written and with more complex character relationships than one might expect from a routine beach-read.

That said, I’d also like to report (*mild spoiler alerts*) that it is not SF or fantasy in any fundamental way, though it’s certainly horror and a thriller. There’s a fine line here perhaps, which is why I thought it interesting to bring up. Four Americans and a couple others become trapped on a hill in Yucatan Mexico, confined on the hill by local Mayan villagers because they have become ‘infected’ by something growing on the hill that, it seems, has killed all others who’ve reached the hill before them. The book might approach SF if the author gave any consideration to *how* this something came to exist, plausibly — or fantasy, if that explanation involved, for instance, Mayan legends or the legacy of horrors past. But there is no ‘explanation’; a scene late in the book explicitly dismisses the concern to provide any such thing. Thus it’s a horror novel of affect, following the fates of a set of victims, without offering any perspective on what this ‘means’ in or about the outer world. It’s certainly *effective* in doing that (cf. rules for reviewing), but the result is (why this is a report, not a review), I found the book less rewarding than I had hoped.

Two other notes– First, the story from the perspective of the Mayan villagers would be an interesting one; they’re protecting a dark secret, playing out a ritual of sort so that some might survive, though they perhaps do not understand their role in the larger scheme of things. And Second, the story does not concern visiting or being trapped in any Mayan ruins, as some reviewers seem not to have noticed.