Monthly Archives: August 2008

Back Office Technical Notes

Part of the new design scheme is to never ever post an item with only an external link (which used to be flagged by a chevron, ») in the center main section of the homepage. Every post in that center section will be to a separate, independent page on the site. (The link to that page being the ‘permalink’.)

Any news short enough to not warrant creating a separate webpage will go under Blinks. The decision about warranting is mainly a matter of my own time management; I *could* have created a page about M.J. Engh’s Author Emerita award, for instance, and filled it out with an explanation, a list of previous winners, and so on, but I always have 15 other things I could be doing instead (such as explaining things in this blog!), and for tonight I’ve chosen to put that under Blinks, along with the news about Anticipation’s special Hugo category. (I even captured and linked their press release for that one.)

I think this will enhance news coverage on the site overall, as long as readers learn to spot news in the Blinks column as well as in the main center section. For instance, I never got around to posting anything about the vote for the 2010 WorldCon (in Melbourne), since it didn’t fit into any of the posted news pages, but under the new scheme, I’ll allow myself to post such an item as news under Blinks…

Further changes and enhancements are a’cooking.

New Skin

A note on the still-in-progress refinement of Locus Online’s look and structure — I’ve pretty much finished layout and graphics for the homepage, and for the template post page, which tonight I’ve used to set the latest New Books page. At the moment the new homepage is posted here, current as of tonight, and all I’d have to do is rename this page to ‘index.html’ to replace the oldstyle homepage (today’s capture now linked from the Site Map) to completely change over…

What’s left to do is create new archive pages that align with the newly imposed structure for organizing the site: news, reviews, resources, perspectives. Until now there’s been an alignment distinguishing material original to the website from material taken from Locus Magazine, and the new order ignores that, putting all news in one area, all reviews together, and so on. The traditional archive pages don’t quite align; and they should reflect the new homepage graphics. Should I post the new homepage even though the archive pages aren’t ready yet? Hmm…

Well, why not. I’ve invited comments to the in-progress redesign twice in the past month, and gotten only two or three; perhaps more will appear once everyone sees it.

Denvention 3 Day 5: Checking Out, Back Home

Not much to report as the con wrapped up. I had a flight out Sunday afternoon — had to be back at work Monday morning — and so wandered over to the convention center Sunday morning, to check for any breaking newsletters and to hang out at the Locus table in the dealers’ room for a while. But by 11:30 a.m. or so I headed back to my hotel to check out and find a SuperShuttle ($21 compared to $50 for a taxi) to the airport for my flight home.

The consensus among those people I chatted with was that Denvention 3 was an adequate convention, with nothing terribly wrong but nothing particularly special either. It was too spread out, perhaps, with the distances between the various hotels; I was at the Marriott, the Hyatt was the closest to the convention center, and the parties were at the Sheraton, and a couple three other hotels were further west, and commuting between these involved 10 or 15 minute walks, sometimes in muggy afternoon heat. Reminded me of the Philadelphia Worldcon in 2001, that way. I never did get to the 22nd floor of the Sheraton, where all the fan/bid parties were. But I had a good time, rewarding in various ways, anyway.

Earlier reports:
Day 4: Essential Books; Hugos
Day 3: Changing the Rules
Day 2: Mostly Locus Matters
Day 1: Checking In, Eventually; Very Prelim Best of ’08
Prelude: I’ve Seen It Raining Fire in the Sky
Checking In

Denvention 3 Day 4: Essential Books; Hugos

By day 4 of a big convention like this, it all begins running together. Which day is this? Saturday? Already? I had breakfast at a funky market/cafe on Market St, then wandered down to the convention center for a while, doing a last round of the dealers room and hanging out at the Locus table for a while, until a group of us wandered up the street for lunch, ending up at Chipotle (a Mexican franchise familiar from home), with Kirsten and family, Graham, Gary, Karen, and others.

It was relatively hot in Denver today, at least while the sun was out, and I changed into shorts for the afternoon. At 2:30 was a panel on the “20 essential books of the past 20 years”, at which Charles Brown, Gary Wolfe, Cheryl Morgan, Graham Sleight, and Karen Burnham all brought their individual lists and, round-robin fashion, read them off five and three titles at a time with brief discussion. There were lots of titles mentioned, and Cheryl promised to post the complete lists on her site soon, though probably not for a few days (saving me the trouble — I’m blink her post when it’s up). Brief summary: panelists mentioned everybody from Kim Stanley Robinson to Iain Banks to Minister Faust; Neal Stephenson was mentioned by most everyone, but for different titles; the one title all five included was Ian McDonald’s River of Gods.

After that I hung out with Diana Gill in the Hyatt bar for a while, discussing Eos books and apartment/house renovations and respective vacation trips to the Rocky Mountains and South Africa, then went back to my room to change for the Hugo reception. I lucked out again; though not a nominee myself, I was one of the designated guests for the three Locus Magazine nominees (Charles, Liza, Kirsten), and so got admission into the pre-Hugo reception, with platters of finger food and a cash bar, and seating near the front of the vast auditorium, which was not all that full anyway.

The Hugo ceremony was OK, will master of ceremonies Wil McCarthy leading the event, a bit nervously, with an opening thesis concerning applause protocol. OK. The ceremony included a raft of preliminary awards — first fandom, big heart, and two special committee awards — though not the elaborate Seiun Awards presentation common to many previous Hugo events.

Personal reactions to the winners: I was actually surprised Chabon won, thinking Hugo voters might have been put off what might have been perceived as literary slumming; disappointed, but not surprised, that McDonald came in last–a dense, difficult book. I’d predicted perennial category nominee Stross would win. (Maybe *next* year.) Connie Willis, local hero, won for a relatively minor story in a relatively weak category. Chiang is a deserving winner among a strong set of nominees. I liked Stardust quite a lot, and was pleased that it won even though its win was probably in part just a Neil Gaiman fan effect. I’m disappointed Shaun Tan didn’t win something — but very pleased my favorite current artist, Stephan Martiniere, did win. As for nonfiction book, it’s understandable that Prucher’s Oxford Dictionary won, considering its debt to the many fans [voters] who helped compile the book, but a win for Barry Malzberg would have represented a higher cosmic justice. And Locus Magazine’s win for best semiprozine represented some sort of ironic justice, considering the movement to eliminate the category entirely, in a weird sort of backlash against the implications of the way the categories have been defined for years upon decades.

The Hugo Losers’ party was predictably crowded and hot; the SFWA suite less so, for a while. I ended up down in the Hyatt bar with Gary and Farah and Karen and Ellen and others, discussing plans for next year’s Worldcon, William Sanders, and other topics, while thinking that this con was just big enough, and spread out enough, to make finding any particular person problematic. But there’s always next time.

Denvention 3 Day 3: Changing the Rules

This convention isn’t a big Worldcon; about 3500 attendees, I’ve heard, smaller than I’d expected considering that many usual members (including me) did not attend last year’s con in Japan and therefore might be inclined to catch up with this year’s con in Denver. Doesn’t seem to be so. Is Denver part of the problem? A nice enough, decent city, but no special attraction, unless one takes (as I did) the time for side trips to Rocky Mountain Park or (as Scott Edelman did) Pike’s Peak.

Controversy peaked today as the World Science Fiction Society held its annual business meeting, where one of the proposals was to eliminate the semi-prozine Hugo category, the category that Locus Magazine has won 20 times out of the 24 years the category has been in existence — a category created because prior to 1984, Locus had dominated fanzine category, with 8 wins in 13 years.

The proposal passed, by a vote of 40 to 28 (according to SF Awards Watch), though it requires ratification by *next* year’s Worldcon in Montreal before it becomes a permanent change. The proposal would disenfranchise *any* publication that qualifies under current semi-prozine rules, including Interzone and The New York Review of Science Fiction, from qualifying for any other category, such as fanzine.

Other proposals concerning a category for Best Graphic Story, and changes to the Best Related Work category that potentially would allow nominations for web sites, were passed, but these also would require ratification by next year’s convention before they would take effect (the following year).

Meanwhile, this morning I attended the annual meeting of the Locus Foundation, where we discussed various technical matters regarding the legal definition of the foundation, ideas for fundraising and garnering donations to the foundation, and potential new members of the foundation given legal requirements for interested vs. non-interested parties. (Don’t call us, we’ll call you.)

After that I dropped in on various panels throughout the day. A panel on “Looking Ahead, what to read and watch before you nominate for the 2009 Hugos” was largely a reprise of the “Year in SF” panel from two days earlier, with media mentions added. Despite my emphasis on the spaciousness of the convention center, I encountered two events today where the rooms were packed to overflowing: a “Timeless Stars: H.P. Lovecraft” panel with Charles Stross and others, in a too-small room; and Lois McMaster Bujold’s guest-of-honor speech, in a large room nevertheless so full that latecomers had to stand along the walls or sit on the floor. Bujold’s speech concerned the definition of ‘genre’, how despite the genre’s guardians who insists writers should push the boundaries of the genre, she has been comfortable with romance stories and Georgette Heyer, has firm opinions about fight scenes and politics, and has adopted lessons learned from shojo/manga comics. The audience was receptive. She concluded by answering the frequently asked question about where SF is ‘going’ — she doesn’t know; she’s not steering.

A 4 p.m. panel on “the ages of a writer’s life” was an entertaining presentation with Robert Silverberg, Connie Willis, Larry Niven, and Lois McMaster Bujold, moderated by a woman named Suford Lewis, who though I gathered must be a well-known old time fan, talked too much. Despite her, the guests on the panel described, each at length, their own careers and how they fit or did not fit into the paradigm of writing first just to get published, then to satisfy their fans, and finally for posterity; all were fascinating and informative, with Willis and to a lesser extent Silverberg providing comedy and wit.

I caught a few minutes of a panel on whether online magazines will replace print magazines, a topic whose currency was perhaps evidenced by the fact that 4 panelists presented to 5 audience members, including me. I ducked out of that to meet up with Gary and Francesca to trek over to this year’s Eos party, held at an off-site restaurant a mile or so from the conference center — the 16th Street free buses proving handy. There I chatted with Jonathan about real estate, Francesca about Terry Pratchett, and John Joseph about twittering, before the evening’s thunderstorm died down and we could return to the con hotels in relative dryness.

Then there was a Tor party in the Sheraton; the SFWA suite a couple floors down, where Asimov’s magazine celebrated its 30th anniversary with three cakes; and all the other fan and bid parties. Until late.

Denvention 3 Day 2: mostly Locus matters

Among panels Thursday morning was one on “New Trends in SF” moderated by Ken Scholes, with Jim Minz, Sheila Williams, Charles Brown, and Gary Wolfe, who talked about the usual suspects — dissolving genre boundaries, abundance of YA, rise of the small/independent presses — and the general principle that most ‘trends’ have been around before, and whatever the next one is, it will be over by the time we notice it.

I went to lunch with several of the Locus reviewers — Jonathan, Gary, Graham — along with Charles and Liza, where we spent half the time discussing various ways to jazz up the Locus website, perhaps a — well, perhaps I shouldn’t say just yet, since it depends on various others getting things set up. (Some website changes are already in work, as discussed in previous posts; since it was buried in a comment, I’ll repost this link to a still very-much-in-work modification of homepage graphics and drop-down menus. Comments welcome.) And the other half discussing magazine matters, in particular potential new reviewers.

I hung out more at the convention center, came back to my room for a mid-afternoon break, catching up on blinks, doing a quick workout in the hotel gym, then (deferring dinner since I’d had a largish late lunch) tracked down the Chesley Awards event at the convention center. I shouldn’t have been surprised, since the Chesley nominees were released barely a week ago, that despite the program book the Chesley winners were *not* being announced at this event… Apparently the administrators simply didn’t get things done in time for the winners to be voted by ASFA members in time to be announced at Worldcon. So it became a slide show presentation of nominees instead, a not uninteresting event, since many of the nominated cover paintings were quite striking when seen without the overlay of titles and other typography.

After that I finally made my way over to the Sheraton, the party hotel, and hung out at the SFWA suite for a while until it grew too hot in the room to be bearable. Then back to the Hyatt bar… Still haven’t hit the main party floors at the Sheraton; will do that tonight.

Denvention 3 Day 1: Checking In, Eventually; Very Prelim Best of ’08

This year’s World SF Convention is being held in downtown Denver, Colorado, at the Colorado Convention Center, a reasonably spectacular facility that this week is also hosting the 2008 Joint Statistical Meeting, i.e., a conference of statisticians. I actually chatted with a couple attendees to the JSM for a while this afternoon, as I grabbed a plastic-packaged tunafish sandwich while waiting for the hour-long check-in line for Worldcon to die down. Which is to say, this year’s Worldcon did not get off to a good start. At 12 noon the lines for pre-registrants to check in and get their badges and program books was an hour long — Scott Edelman told me so, having stood in line from 11:17 to 12:17. By the time I had lunch and went back, it was down to 15 minutes or so, 15 minutes of watching one of the con volunteers walking back and forth asking people in line, what’s your name? OK, go over there– Because there were long lines for the first and third quartiles of the alphabet, and incidental lines for the second and fourth, it seemed, and no visible signage to adjust available staff for the membership demand… But no point in belaboring this; every year con volunteers reinvent a few wheels.

But let’s focus on the positive: the pocket program ‘quick reference guide’ is nicely sized and readable. The 8 1/2 by 14 daily schedule grid not so much so; it’s stapled the wrong way and has no participant info, which is half the point. The facility is nicely sized and spacious. True, it’s at the far back corner of the con center from the direction members arrive from their various convention hotels, but never mind that. Maybe when JSM departs…

Anyway, it’s spacious. The dealers’ room and art show and exhibits area, very spacious.

I dipped in and out of a few panels, but sat through just one: a 2:30 panel on “2008: The Year in SF”, with Charles Brown, Jonathan Strahan, David Hartwell, and Gary Wolfe, handing out and discussing a *very* preliminary Locus Recommended Reading List of novels, collections, and anthologies. This is the list, the final version of which will appear in the February ’09 issue of Locus Magazine. This early version allowed the panelists to talk about the many novels they’ve read in advance of us ordinary readers who have to wait until the books are actually published… CNB chose five titles to especially recommend, out of what he described as an unusually great year for novels: Greg Bear’s City at the End of Time, Ken MacLeod’s The Night Sessions, Greg Egan’s Incandescence (he admitted it took two readings to fully appreciate), Alastair Reynolds’ House of Suns (the best space opera writer currently, he said), and Karl Schroeder’s Pirate Sun.

Gary Wolfe highlighted Paul McAuley’s The Quiet War, his best in years and like Bear’s novel, a return to big-scale SF; Stephen Baxter’s two novels this year, Weaver and Flood, which he perceived as having a connection linking one series to the next; Le Guin’s Lavinia; the upcoming YA novels by Neil Gaiman and Margo Lanagan and Ysabeau Wilce; and, the elephant in the room, Neal Stephenson’s Anathem

David Hartwell and Jonathan Strahan addressed some books but also addressed short fiction. Hartwell called Michael Flynn’s upcoming The January Dancer one of the great space operas, ever, and Gene Wolfe’s upcoming An Evil Guest perhaps the best book in any of the genres this year. Strahan talked about the strength of the SF magazines, especially F&SF and Asimov’s this year, along with certain SF anthologies; stories by Ian McDonald, Ian R. MacLeod, Greg Egan, Peter S. Beagle, etc.. They talked about Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother as perhaps the best SF novel of the year, perhaps an award winner next year. And about collections and anthologies and YA titles.

This evening Denver experienced a refreshing thunderstorm and I sat in my room most of the evening catching up on e-mail, posting the World Fantasy nominations, compiling the week’s bestsellers (a day late), and writing these blog entries. More tomorrow.

Denvention 3 Prelude: I’ve Seen It Raining Fire in the Sky

Yeong and I flew into Denver on Sunday, rented a car and drove northwest to Estes Park, the tourist town just outside the east entrance of Rocky Mountain National Park, where we checked into a bed & breakfast cabin alongside the babbling Big Thompson River. On Monday we drove into the park, up through the Old Fall River Road, to the Alpine Visitor Center, then further west and south down the west side of the Continental Divide to Grand Lake, where we parked at a trailhead and hiked 7 miles, round trip, to Cascade Falls — a fairly flat trail, though at elevation 8500 feet. A pleasant hike through the woods, to a rocky waterfall slippery with moss.

Then back through the park, north and eastward, this time across the Trail Ridge Road, an amazing route that runs 11 and 12 thousand feet along the top edge of a mountain ridge, above the timberline, with spectacular views of neighboring mountain ranges to the south and north… through alpine meadows, with elk wandering through them and occasionally alongside the roads and pullout parking lots…

– I’d been to Rocky Mountain Park once before, on a family camping trip when I was 15. We stayed then at the Moraine Park camping ground, and my most memorable image from that trip was that lodge at the top of the world that turned out to be that Alpine Visitor Center, perched on the ridge at nearly 12,000 feet, above the timberline, looking out over the mountains to the east and west and north. (It was some years later the setting for a story about aliens coming to Earth to impart vast wisdom to earthlings that I imagined in some detail but, not being a writer, never wrote.) –

On Monday we did the south end of the park, the road to Bear Lake, with several short little hikes to picturesque lakes that were, compared to sites along the previous day’s route, overrun by tourists. (I was bemused to see so many of these hikers obviously pooped-out by such modest exertions, even teenaged kids and twenty-something couples. I thought kids had all this energy…? Maybe not these days! It seems that even at my relatively advanced age, a teensy bit past the half-century mark, I’m in pretty good condition…)

On about our third short hike attempt, the clouds to the northwest grew darker, the thunder louder, the fire in the sky more frequent, and the fat splattery raindrops started to fall harder, and so we chose the better part of valor and withdrew to our rental car and lunch in Estes Park. It rained hard for an hour, then stopped, and sunny blue skies returned…

Denvention 3: Checking In

Have arrived at the Worldcon here in Denver, after spending a couple days driving and hiking around Rocky Mountain National Park… which is why email response and posts (e.g. Bestsellers) have lagged. Will catch up and post more about the first day at the con, later this evening.

Design Studies

There are links to two alternate design studies for the Locus Online homepage in the comments to the previous post. I will not leave them posted indefinitely… May even delete this post after a couple days (before I leave for Worldcon). Anyone reading this is invited to take a peek and let me know what you think.