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Sasquan and Beyond

A couple posts down, I posted about worldcon and what it means to me, and why I am going to be going to Sasquan and throwing a big party there (someone needs to make a big futile, stupid gesture, and it might as well be me).

From talking and emailing with various friends and colleagues, however, I know that some of them will NOT be going to Spokane, mainly because the Hugo Wars have left a bad taste in their mouths. Others will attend, but not without trepidation. They wonder how much of the acrimony of Puppygate will spill over into the con itself... to the panels, the parties, the hallways. Will this worldcon be a celebration or a battleground? A family reunion or a family feud?

I wish I could answer that question, but no one really knows. I'm hoping for "celebration" and "family reunion," and I think that's the best bet... but we won't know till the fat lady sings and the dead dogs howl.

There are a couple of questions that are key here.

Number one, how many Puppies are actually going to be coming to Spokane? Hundreds of people have bought Sasquan memberships in the last couple of months, presumably to vote on the awards and site selection, but the majority of those have been supporting memberships. Are any of the Puppies buying attending memberships?

I have no idea. We do know that none of the Puppy leaders will be in Spokane. Brad Torgersen is in the military, and on deployment. Larry Correia attended the Reno worldcon (and blogged about what a great time he had, though he changed his mind a few months ago and revised his trip report retroactively), but he has clearly stated a number of times that he finds Dragoncon and Gencon more congenial and does not plan to return to worldcon. And VD, we are told, cannot attend any worldcon held on US soil. (I do not know the truth of that, though it does appear true that Beale lives somewhere abroad).

Torgersen, Correia, and Beale are by no means the only Puppies, of course. What about the others? Wright, Kratman, Hoyt, Williamson, May, Paulk, the Tor Boycott guys? Any of them? If any of the slate nominees should win a Hugo, will they be there to accept? Sure, many of those on the slates will be there, folks like Mike Resnick and Toni Weisskopf and Jim Minz, but just as we must distinguish between the Sad Puppies and the Rabids, we need to distinguish between the actual Puppies and those they chose to nominate.

Will the Sad Puppies be sitting on panels, signing autographs in the dealer's room, attending the parties? Hell, will they be throwing parties? (The Furries sometimes have room parties at worldcon, what about the Puppies?) Will any of the Rabids turn up, without their rabid leader?

The fannish fears about Sasquan becoming a battleground are going to prove baseless if no Puppies actually come to Spokane. Which is entirely possible. Way back in one of my first posts on Puppygate, I said that the Puppies want to decide who gets the Ditmars, but they don't want to be Australians. That analogy still holds true; the Puppies want to decide who gets worldcon's award, but they don't seem to want to come to worldcon.

But maybe I am wrong.

If so, the second question arises. Assuming some Puppies do indeed come to Spokane -- a lot, a few, just one -- what will that do to the atmosphere of the con?

This of course is a two-sided question. Will the Puppies behave? How will the trufans behave toward them? Will people get along, agree to disagree, maintain some semblence of courtesy? Or will we have blood in the halls and the party suites?

Tor always throws a huge party at worldcon. Will the boycotters try to make their presence known there, or at the Tor table in the dealer's room? Baen Books often has a party too. Is that going to be a Puppy stronghold, or will writers from across the spectrum be welcome? If there is a panel on Puppygate, will it turn into a bloodbath?

And then there the two biggest potential flashpoints. The Business Meeting, and the Hugo ceremony itself. The Business Meeting takes place AFTER the Hugos, and I suspect that much of what happens there will be determined by what happened the night before. But it could get very contentious. The Hugo Awards... David Gerrold has stated several times that he wants to make the ceremony fun and non-political. I commend him for that. But there is only so much that a presenter can do. There's only one of him, and hundreds in the audience. David can set a tone, but he cannot control what will happen.

What happens at Sasquan, I believe, is going to be very important... because it will go a long way toward determining what happens after worldcon, next year and the year after and the year after that. "The culture war has come to science fiction," some of the headlines about this kerfuffle have read. True enough, I fear. The question is, is the culture war here to stay, or can we make a peace? Will Puppygate fade and be forgotten after Sasquan, or will we need to fight the same battles next year?

The answer to that lies with the Sad Puppies. The Rabids? Forget it. Beale has vowed to destroy the Hugos, to burn them to the ground, and I have no doubt he will try... this year, next year, the year after. There's no reconciliation possible there.

The Sads, though... as much as I have disagreed, and continue to disagree, with Correia and Torgersen, I have managed to have relatively civilized and courteous exchanges with them both, and I don't think either intended what has happened. Beale wants to wreck the Hugos; Correia and Torgersen just seem to have wanted to get themselves and their friends nominated. I don't like the way they went about it, but they are not the first to have that impulse. Neither one will be involved with Sad Puppies 4, we are told... and that's good. I can only hope that their chosen successor will go about things differently... recommendations rather than a slate, discussions of the virtues of the writers they like rather than attacks on the writers they don't like, an end to all the crap about SWJs and CHORFs, the endless name-calling.

I am old enough to remember 1974, when Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle published THE MOTE IN GOD'S EYE and Samuel R. Delany published DHALGREN. Both major works by major writers, both bestsellers, both instantly recognized as classics... but in what may have been the last great battle of the Old Wave and New Wave, the fans who loved MOTE hated DHALGREN, and vice versa. (I loved them both myself, but I think I was almost alone in that). At every con I went to that year, fans and writers alike debated the virtues of those two important novels. The arguments were impassionated, endless, often heated, sometimes derisive... but underneath it all was always the sense that we are all still fans together, united by a common love for our genre.

It was not a culture war. It was a literary debate.

That's what we need to return to, if we are ever to get beyond Puppygate.

Can we? I hope so. One of the things that gives me hope is -- surprise -- one of the Puppies, a writer named Kary English. She will be up for two awards on Hugo night. Both the Sad Puppies and the Rabids had her on their slate for the Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and she's on the ballot there. And both slates also pushed her story "Totaled," which is on the ballot for Best Short Story. English did not refuse the nominations or ask to be removed from the ballot, like Marko Kloos and Annie Bellet and (later) Edmund Schubert, for which sin some of those on "my side" of this fight will not forgive her. But she did later make two blog posts about Puppygate -- you can read them here http://karyenglish.com/2015/06/dear-puppies-please-talk-about-what-you-love/ and here http://karyenglish.com/2015/06/an-open-letter-to-puppies-and-everyone/-- calling for the Puppies to talk about the work and why they liked it (which none of them were doing, all the actual literary debate and reviews were coming from the other side) and then asking me to left out of any future Puppy slates. For that sin, she got on the Rabid shitlist too, and Beale dropped her from his slate.

I don't know Kary English. (It is possible I have met her or been in the same room with her at some previous con, but if so I don't remember. I meet a lot of people). Until Puppygate and her double nomination, I had never read any of her work. But I agree with much of what she had to say in those posts, and I applaud her for saying it, knowing (as surely she must have) that by breaking ranks with "her side," aka the Puppies, she would face the wroth of some of those who had previously championed her. I know that there are some on "my side" who have slammed English despite these posts, insisting that she spoke up too late in the game, that she was trying "to have it both ways." No, sorry, that's idiocy. Like Kloos and Bellet and Schubert before her, she's opting out of the kennel and the slates. I will not fault her for not doing so sooner. This thing has been hard for all concerned, and these choices are painful... especially for a young writer who has just received his or her first Hugo nomination.

If there is any hope for reconciliation post-Puppygate, it lies with voices of moderation and forgiveness on both sides, not with the extremists and the haters. It lies with Marko Kloos and Annie Bellet and Edmund Schubert. I hope they are all at worldcon. I would like to meet them, buy them a drink, shake their hands, and argue about books with them.

And Kary English too. The chances are good that, come Hugo night, she will be losing a Hugo Award and a Campbell Award both (maybe not, upsets happen, no one knows, I get surprised every year, but that's my best guess). If so, I'll have a Hugo Loser ribbon for her badge, and she'll be welcome at my Hugo Loser Party.

Six Days Left

Less than a week remains to cast a vote for this year's Hugo Awards. Voting closes on July 31, but it would be wise not to wait until the last day. Sasquan has already warned that its servers may overload if there is too large a rush of last-minute ballots. Remember, you can vote NOW, even if you haven't finished reading, and return later to change your ballot once you've read more.

The ballot is here: http://sasquan.org/hugo-awards/voting/

And of course, you need to be a member of worldcon (Supporting or Attending, either will do) and secure a PIN to be able to vote.

You can join here: https://sasquan.swoc.us/sasquan/reg.php

Membership also allows you to vote for site selection for the 2017 worldcon. There are four contenders: Japan, Montreal, Washington DC, and Helsinki.

Parris and I are supporters of the Helsinki bid. I was GOH at Finncon a few years ago, and at Archipelacon more recently, and the Finnish fans are wonderful. Also, I favor making worldcon truly a global affair, which means going outside the US from time to time. Finland has never had a worldcon. Montreal and Japan are also outside the US, of course, but both have hosted worldcons in the recent past. I missed the Japanese worldcon, but I understand that it is still massively in debt, so going back there so soon seems unwise. I did attend the Montreal worldcon, and it was one of the worst-run in recent memory, with a truly horrendous hotel and party situation. On the other hand, Washington DC has not had a worldcon since 1974, and the Washington bid is a very strong one, with a great concom and great facilities. They are probably the favorite this year, and in any other year I'd be backing them too. This year, though... it's still Helsinki for us.

How you choose to vote is, of course, entirely up to you.

As for the Hugo Awards proper... I do not have the time or the space or the energy to share my own views on every story and book and writer on the ballot. This is by no means a normal Hugo year, however; Puppygate has plunged all fandom into war as never before. So I will recap a few of my own views from previous blog posts downstream.

I oppose the "nuclear option" of voting No Award down the board, to protest the hijacking of the ballot by the Sad and Rabid Puppies.

I favor reading the work, and voting for the stories, books, and writers you feel are worthy of a Hugo. Those you do NOT feel are worthy of the Hugo can and should be ranked below No Award or left off your ballot entirely.

This does not mean I am entirely opposed to voting No Award in all cases. Far from it. Having now finished most (not quite all) of my Hugo reading, I can say that I will probably be voting No Award myself in... hmmm... at least three categories, maybe four, maybe even five. These are categories where in my judgement none of the nominated work is worthy of a rocket.

But in those categories where I do find one or more nominees to be of sufficient quality, I will be voting for him or her or them, regardless of whether or not they were on a slate. And yes, this is true even if only one nominee is worthy. To throw out that one worthy nominee because they "had no real competition" (as some have suggested) seems wrong-headed to me. If it is worthy of a Hugo, give it a Hugo, that's what I say.

Let me be specific here. Short Form Editor, Long Form Editor are all slate, but there are nominees in both who deserve a Hugo, and I'll be voting for them. The Puppies liked a lot (though not all) of the nominees in the two Dramatic Presentation categories as well... but you know, so did I, so I'll be voting for those as well. Sorry, but IMNSHO, only an idiot would want to "no award" GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY or INTERSTELLAR because the Puppies slated them. I am not going to tell you which movie or TV show or editor or novel I am voting for. I've mentioned some that I liked in older blog posts. Your mileage may vary; read, watch, consider, vote.

I will, however, make one exception there, one "endorsement," if you will. I am voting for LAURA MIXON for Best Fan Writer, and I urge everyone reading this to do the same. (Hardly a surprise, I know, since I suggested that she be nominated in the first place). Having looked at the Hugo packet, I can say with a fair amount of certainty that Laura is plainly the best writer of the five nominees... but there's more to my choice than that. In this year of all years, with Puppygate turning so toxic and hatespeech spreading all over the internet, it behooves us more than ever to honor someone who spoke up AGAINST Hate and for healing, not by spewing vitriol in retaliation, but calmly, dispassionately, with clean hands and composure and... most of all... compassion. A victory for Mixon here would have huge symbolic value, I think; a vote for her is a vote for decency, and a vote against the trolls and haters of all stripes and persuasions, be they left-wing or right-wing or just loony.

Anyway...

FILE 770 reports that Sasquan membership has passed 10,000, and that more than 2900 Hugo ballots have already been cast. http://file770.com/?p=23985 The record was set last year at Loncon, when 3587 ballots were received. Given the Puppygate war, there's a good chance that Sasquan will break that record, since it seems memberships are still pouring in.

Six days left.

Let your voice be heard.

Direwolves On Staten Island

The boys of summer better take heed -- winter is coming to Staten Island on August 8. And where there is winter, there are direwolves.

So I'm headed east the first week of August... for a wedding, yes, and no, that's private, so you don't get to hear any more about it... but I am going to see my editors and publishers and agents while I am in town, and do some other fun stuff... including a ball game.

That's the night the Staten Island Direwolves will be playing the Lannister Lions.



Normally the home team is the Staten Island Yankees... but for one night only, they are changing their name to the Staten Island Direwolves, and will be wearing special jerseys. The visitors, normally the Hudson Valley Renegades, will be clad in gold and red jerseys emblazoned with the Lion of Lannister. So it will be Winterfell v. Casterly Rock once more.

The first 2500 attendees that night will get free baseball caps with the Direwolf logo (above). Also, we will be having a special fund-raising lottery on behalf of the Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary, and the winners will take home the actual Stark and Lannister game jerseys worn by the players.



I will be signing books for 400 lucky fans as well -- only 400, the line will be capped, so get there EARLY if you want a book signed -- and the good folks from Wild Spirit will also be on hand, with one of their wolves.

For more details, check out the team website at http://www.milb.com/index.jsp?sid=t586

If you're a baseball fan... or a Stark supporter... do drop by, and root, root, root for the home team. If the Direwolves lose, I may have to kill another Stark.

A Family Reunion

We are now less than a month away from worldcon. On Tuesday, August 18, Parris and I and some friends will be boarding a jet plane for Spokane, returning the following Tuesday. With the convention -- and the Hugo awards -- looming ever closer, I have been giving a lot of thought to what this worldcon might be like.

Sasquan will be the 73rd World Science Fiction Convention. For me, it will be the 41st (I just counted). That's a lot. My first was Noreascon I in Boston, in 1971. I've missed a few along the way, most recently the one in Japan in 2007, but for the most part I have been going ever since, and I imagine I will continue going until the year finally comes when my name and picture show up in the "In Memoriam" portion of the Hugo Awards. (Not this year, I trust. Even if my head did get bitten off by a shark. Not for many years to come, I hope).

Truth be told, six months ago I was seriously considering skipping Sasquan. Not something I do lightly, given my history, given how much I have loved worldcon over the years. But I've been to Spokane, and while it seemed a pleasant enough town I wasn't dying to see it again... and I do have a lot on my plate right now. But that was before Puppygate. Once that kerfuffle broke, I knew I could not possibly stay away. When your family is being attacked, lied about, and threatened that's not the time you want to skip the family reunion.

And fandom is a family to me, a family of friends that I love as much as I love the family I was born into back in Jersey. I realized that way back in 1971, at that first worldcon. "These are my people," I thought. "This is my world. I belong here. I want to be a part of it." And so I have been, lo these many years. Worldcon is the annual family reunion, the gathering of all the clans and tribes... and the Hugo Awards are our moveable feast.

The approach of Sasquan has got me thinking about worldcons (and awards ceremonies) past, so I thought I'd share a few pictures from my own family albums.

That picture up above of the goof in the yellow turtleneck is me at my second worldcon, Torcon 2 in Toronto, 1973. That was the first year of the John W. Campbell New Writer Award, and I was a nominee. I lost (so I have that in common with Larry Correia and Brad Torgersen). Here's the guy who won it, with his plaque:



Note the victory cigar; you could smoke at cons in those days. Also note the lack of the tiara. The Campbell tiara was decades in the future. Also, I pity the fool who tries to put a tiara on Jerry Pournelle, then or now. Vote totals were never released in those days, but it was a close race that year, so close that the Torcon people actually gave a runner-up plaque to the second-place finisher, Geo. Alec Effinger. Nothing for the other four nominees, of course, and Gardner Dozois wasn't sure that a Campbell Award loser even qualified for membership in his "Hugo Losers Club." We argued about it the rest of the con, and he finally said, okay, I could be a loser.

((Unlike other, more recent, losers I did not take my defeat as evidence that the system was broken, the vote was rigged, or I was the victim of prejudice against lapsed Catholics from New Jersey. I just told myself to write more, and write better, and maybe I'd win one of those rockets one day. Comes of growing up a Brooklyn Dodgers fan. "Wait till next year" is a saner, healthier response than "I lost, something must be rotten."))

Next year, 1974, I was nominated for a Hugo, as it happened... but I lost that too. Now, Gardner informed me, I was a real, full-fledged member of the Hugo Losers Club.

But in 1975 something truly strange happened. I was nominated again, and I won, for "A Song for Lya."



If I happen to look queerly like Ben Bova in that picture, that's because it's him. Worldcon was in Australia that year, and I couldn't afford to go. I was at home in Chicago in my underwear when the phone rang and they told me that I'd won. So Ben accepted for me, and stopped in Minneapolis on the way home to give my Hugo to Gordy Dickson. Who held it for a while, then passed it along to Joe Haldeman when Joe and Gay visited from Iowa. Joe kept it on his desk for a few months but finally brought it to the first Windycon, where I finally got it. (Gardner threw me out of the Hugo Losers Club when he heard).



The Hugo Awards have been an important part of worldcon for half a century... but there's a lot else that goes on at worldcons as well. Panels, readings, the masquerade, the huckster's room, filksinging, regency dances, dum-dums (well, not for a while), parties, parties, parties... and yes, romance too. Friendship, flirting, love, sex, skinny dipping (back then, not so much these days), one-night stands and lifelong love affairs. And marriages... including my own.

Here's me with my first wife, Gale Burnick, at Suncon. That was Miami Beach, 1977, and it rained cats and dogs the whole damn con.



I still have that hat, which I got in Orlando at Disney World on the way to the con. I no longer have that wife, however.

Here's me with Parris, a few years after my divorce, at LACon II in Anaheim, 1984 (note the rats). For me, the second time was the charm; I got it right.



I met both of my wives at science fiction conventions, as it happens. Love and romance and friendship are all easier when you have something in common, and for us, that was SF and fantasy and fandom. SF cons are a lot more than just the "professional conferences" that some neopros mistake them for; in fact, they are really not professional conferences at all (which is not to say you cannot do business there).

But back to those Hugo awards. Here's a blurry picture of one of the greatest nights of my life: Hugo night at Noreascon II in Boston, 1980, the night I became the first guy ever to win two Hugos for fiction in a single night (Jack Gaughan had done it earlier for artwork). I won Short Story and Novelette, for "The Way of Cross and Dragon" and "Sandkings."



I figured that, whatever else might happen, that two-in-one-night record would last a long long time. Hoo hah. Gordy Dickson duplicated the feat the very next year, at Denvention in 1981. I was the presenter who opened the envelope and gave him the first of his two, for Novelette, whereupon we both sat down, and he immediately bounced up again to win for Novella, defeating one of my own stories for the double. I was back to being a loser. But you know, I didn't really mind. Win some, lose some... then lose some more. The chant of the Hugo loser. But it is a rare and precious thing to be a Hugo Loser.

The night that Gordy won the double will always be legendary in worldcon lore. Edward Bryant was the toastmaster that year, and decided to present the Hugos on roller skates.



Ed's bit was very funny... though maybe less so for Ed, since the stage tilted a little and he was always rolling forward and threatening to go off the edge. Maybe he should have gone with his first notion, and made his entrance on the back of an elephant.

See, here's another secret about the Hugo Awards that the Puppies don't seem to get. They are supposed to be FUN. Win or lose, it is a celebration, not a war.

And sometimes the losers have the most fun. Which brings me, in a round-about way, to the Hugo Losers Party, a worldcon tradition since Big Mac in 1976.

Up above, I made mention of the Hugo Losers Club that Gardner Dozois had started. Until '76, this organization existed only in Gargy's fevered brain. But at Big Mac, four years before that magical night when I would win two Hugos, I lost two in a single night. One to Larry Niven, one to Roger Zelazny; I like to lose to the best. Afterward my friends patted me on the back and told me I'd been robbed, which is what friends do, and Gardner said he'd forgive me for winning that Hugo the previous year in Australia and let me back into the Hugo Losers Club.

And somewhere in there, between the third beer and the fourth, we decided the Hugo Losers should have a party. My hotel room was chosen as the venue, Monday night for the time (later the party would always be on Hugo night, but that first one was more of a dead dog). We scrounged our booze by going around to all the other parties and begging leftovers, so we had some box wine and a lot of Old Milwaukee beer and some smuggled Coors. Gardner took on the role of doorman, so only true losers could get in: winners who dared appear were pelted with cheese doodles and booed lustily. I got as drunk as I have ever gotten and ended up standing on the desk, leading the losers in a LOOOOOOOOOSE chant modeled on Bob Tucker's famous SMOOOOOOOOOTH. But Bob always passed around a bottle of Beam's Choice, and we were passing Boone's Farm, I think. (Good enough for losers).

Ah, that was an epic night. The stories I could tell. (And will, if you ply me with booze at Sasquan, but it had best not be Boone's Farm, I'm not as desperate as I was). LOCUS wrote us up as the best party of the convention. The Hugo Losers Party became a legend.

Then, of course, it became a tradition. Gardner and I ran another one at Suncon in 1977, and yet another at Iguanacon in 1978 (I lost my first novel Hugo that year). I don't think there was one in 1979, but don't know for sure... that year worldcon was in England, and I didn't have the money to go. But the Hugo Losers party came back big in 1980, at Noreascon II. That blurry picture up above? That's me, entering the Hugo Losers Party with two Hugos in my hands. Such hubris cannot go unpunished. Nor did it. Please note the man lurking behind me. That's Gardner, smiling innocently. A few moment later, when my back was turned, he produced a can of whipped cream and sprayed it all over my head. Sic Semper Victorius.

I was hoping to be sprayed again the following year, at Denvention... but damn it, I lost again, this time to Gordy, as related above, so once again I became a Loser in good standing. I did get to welcome my old friend Howard Waldrop to the club, since he lost his first Hugo that night, also to Gordy. (Howard has in fact never won a Hugo, so if he's not the current Bull Goose Loser, he is surely close). Here's me presenting a consolation prize to him at that year's Hugo Loser Party, a faux "special issue" F&SF cover (some of the stories illustrated there had not even been written yet, but would be). ((One of these years F&SF should do a real Howard Waldrop special issue, he surely deserves it)).

The Denvention Hugo Losers party was another of the legendary ones. Rusty Hevelin was Fan GOH and he let us use his suite, which was huge... but so many losers packed in that you could hardly move, so we had to pretend to close the party and throw half of them out. (The ones who left were the real losers, heh heh).



Sometime after Denver, the Hugo Losers Party passed into other hands. It continued to be held, but slowly, as years and decades passed, it changed. It became quasi-official, held every year immediately after the Hugos. Somehow the tradition developed that the party should be hosted by the next year's worldcon. The event got fancier and more upscale, sometimes held in suites, but more often in convention center or hotel function rooms, with hors d'oevres and cash bars and a list of who could be admitted and who could not. Some years only the current year's Hugo losers were allowed in, while past year losers were turned away... and... shudder... WINNERS were admitted with nary a boo, and nary a cheese doodle tossed in their direction.

People still did anything to get in. Look:



I don't know if the disguise worked. But I do know that in other years, even Gardner was turned away from the party he had founded. For shame, for shame.

Even more shamefully, a few years back some irony-impaired nominees decided that they did not like being called "losers," and to soothe their sensitivities the party was renamed "the Post-Hugo Nominees Reception," or something similarly lame. (Everyone but the terminally humorless still calls it the Hugo Losers Party, of course). And so it went and so it went, right up to LonCon, where Sasquan hosted what had to be the lamest, dreariest, more boring Hugo Losers Party of all time. Or should I say, the worst Post-Hugo Nominees Reception.

Which brings me back to Sasquan. Following the current tradition, next year's worldcon has to host a party... and I know the KC folks know how to throw a party, so I have no doubt their bash will be a lot better than the dreary one in London. But it will still be a Post-Hugo Nominees Reception.

Worldcon deserves better. Especially this year, after Puppygate and the deep wounds that Puppygate has inflicted on fandom, our genre, and the Hugos. So it's time for the trufans to do what we do best...



I am taking back the Hugo Losers Party. It's gonna be EPIC.

Fuck 1999. Let's party like it's 1976.

In the Wind

The sharks are coming.

Lots of them.

Tonight on SyFy... and next month at the Jean Cocteau.



Check it out. Next year's Hugo favorite, for sure.

Me and Ant-Man

Speaking of movies...

... I saw ANT-MAN last night at the Violet Crown down the street from the Cocteau, and loved it.

(It's not playing at the JCC, though I wish it was. Alas, we have only the one screen).

Now, I have to confess, as an old -- VERY old -- Marvel fanboy (I was once a member of the Merry Marvel Marching Society), I was a little disappointed going in when I heard that this would be the Scott Lang Ant-Man and not the original Hank Pym Ant-Man of my youth. Scott Lang came in just about the time when my regular comics reading was falling off, so I did not know the character very well, whereas I knew and loved Hank and Janet, Ant-Man and his winsome Wasp. I was there at the dawn of time when they first started adventuring through the pages of TALES TO ASTONISH, after all. They were never as popular as the other heroes that Stan Lee created back then -- Iron Man, Spider-Man, Thor, and such -- but Lee always seemed to have a soft spot for Ant-Man, and I did too. Ant-Man was the ultimate underdog, after all, the little guy in a very literal sense who somehow held his own with gods and monsters whose powers dwarfed his own. The ants were cool too, and gave him a definite edge in my mind over his rival itty-bitty hero over at DC, the Atom.

And I loved his partnership with the Wasp. At a time when every other comic was playing the endless "romantic tension" card, or the older and hoarier "I must hide my secret from my girlfriend" trope, here was a man and a woman who adventured together, who loved each other without question, who even helped found the Avengers together... that was revolutionary in the early 1960s, like much of what Stan Lee did... (and sad to say, it would even be sort of revolutionary today).



The original Ant-Man had a short run compared to the other first generation Marvel heroes like Thor and Iron Man. In an effort to make the character more popular, Lee and his successors began to fiddle with the concept, giving Hank Pym the power to grow as well as shrink. Ant-Man became Giant-Man became Goliath (same powers, different costumes) became Yellowjacket became "Hank Pym, Scientific Adventurer" (I did you not). Truth be told, I never liked any of those revamps half as well as I liked the original Ant-Man, and when the writers (not Lee, new people had come on board by then) decided to make Hank mentally unstable and then turned him into a wife-beater... well, I really hated that. (I did, however, like some of what happened subsequently, when the Wasp came into her own and became the leader of the Avengers). After that was the Scott Lang era, I guess... and then a couple more Ant-Men after him... none of which I followed, or gave a damn about.

Given all this history, I had a lot of trepidation when this movie was announced. Would they do it right, would they capture the original Ant-Man from TALES TO ASTONISH and AVENGERS #1, the character I'd loved... or would they fuck it up?? I was eager for the film, but apprehensive about it as well, especially when I heard it would be about Scott Lang, not Hank Pym.

I am relieved and delighted to report that they did it right.

Scott Lang is the featured Ant-Man, yes, and Paul Rudd makes him a sympathetic and engaging protagonist, but due honor is done to Hank and his own career as the first Ant-Man as well, with Michael Douglas turning in a fine performance as Pym. There's a lot of humor in this film, but it is not a farce, as I feared it might be. There's a lot of action too, but not so much that it overwhelms the plot and characters, which was my problem with the last AVENGERS film... and the one before it, to think of it. A superhero movie needs a fair share of smashing and bashing and stuff blowing up, of course, but IMNSHO that stuff works best when it is happening to people we actually know and care about, and if you jam in too many characters and don't take time to develop any of them properly, well...

ANT-MAN has a proper balance of story, character, humor, and action, I think. A couple reviewers are calling it the best Marvel movie ever. I won't go that far, but it's right up there, maybe second only to the second Sam Raimi/ Tobey McGuire Spider-Man film, the one with Doc Ock. I've liked most of the Marvel movies, to be sure, I'm still a Marvel fanboy at heart (Excelsior!), but I liked this one more than the first AVENGERS and a lot more than the second, more than either THOR, more than the second and third IRON MAN and maybe just a smidge more than the first (though I liked that one a lot too).

Oh, and I loved the ants!

Quibbles? Yeah, a few. Where was the Wasp? We got a few glimpses, and a set up for the next film. But I wanted more Wasp, and I loved the old original Hank/ Janet dynamic (before they got to the wife-beating stuff). Also, while Yellowjacket makes a decent villain here (in the comics, of course, he was actually one of Hank's later identities, after Giant-Man and Goliath), I am tired of this Marvel movie trope where the bad guy has the same powers as the hero. The Hulk fought the Abomination, who is just a bad Hulk. Spider-Man fights Venom, who is just a bad Spider-Man. Iron Man fights Ironmonger, a bad Iron Man. Yawn. I want more films where the hero and the villain have wildly different powers. That makes the action much more interesting).

But those are quibbles, as I said.

Overall, I had a swell time. For a few hours I was thirteen years old again.

And did I mention that I loved the ants?

Coming...

... to the Jean Cocteau.

Opening this Friday, July 24, we have PIXELS, for all of you who remember the videogames of your youth.



Adam Sandler. Peter Dinklage. PacMan. Looks like a hoot and a half.

See you at the movies.

Speaking of Awards...

The clock is ticking. Only two weeks remain to cast a ballot for this year's Hugo Awards, in what is proving to be the most controversial and hotly contested Hugo race in the award's long history. The Hugo, as regular readers of this Not A Blog know, is our field's oldest and most prestigious award. Named in honor of Hugo Gernsbach, the founder of the first SF magazine Amazing Stories, it has been given annually at every worldcon since 1953 (well, except for 1954). And this year, as never before, the voice and vote of every true fan is needed to help protect the integrity of the rocket.



You need to be a member of Sasquan, this year's worldcon, to vote on the Hugos... but even if you are unable to attend, Supporting Memberships are available that will allow you to vote. If you have not voted the Hugo Awards before, please note that it is an "Australian ballot," a preferential system whereby one ranks the nominees. You don't just vote for one. You can rank NO AWARD as if it were any other finalist; ahead of some nominees, behind others.

You can sign up to buy one at https://sasquan.swoc.us/sasquan/reg.php In addition to voting privileges, a Supporting Membership will get you the convention's program book (usually a handsome item, though it varies from year to year) and other publications.

The ballot is here: http://sasquan.org/hugo-awards/voting/



You can also sign up as an ATTENDING member and actually attend the convention, which is the course I strongly recommend for those who have the time and the money. Cons are fun, especially worldcon; that's what they are all about. Reading, panel discussions, the art show, the dealers' room, the masquerade, filksinging... all sorts of great stuff goes on. Something for all tastes. And EVERYONE is welcome, despite what you have heard. (Just don't be an asshole. Assholes get welcomed too, but the welcome wears out more quickly).

Both supporting and attending members get an electronic "Hugo packet" that will enable you to read many of the works nominated for this year's rockets.

FILE 770, which has been doing an exemplary job of reporting on Puppygate, reports that Sasquan memberships continue to climb, and that more than 2300 Hugo ballots have already come in:

http://file770.com/?p=23818

Who are all these new Supporting Members? Are they trufans rallying to the defense of one of our field's oldest and most cherished institutions? Are they Sad Puppies, Rabid Puppies, Happy Kittens, Gamergaters? Are those dreaded SJWs and ASPs and CHORFs turning out by the hundreds and the thousands? Are these the Neo-Nazis and right-wing reactionaries we have been warned of? The truth is... no one knows. We may get a clue when the ballots are opened and counted, but even then, the numbers may well just say, "Answer cloudy, ask again."



All I know for sure is that every vote will count.

Once again, balloting closes at midnight on July 31. And it would be best not to wait until the last day to vote, since there is a very real danger that Sasquan's servers could be overloaded. Even if you haven't finished all the reading -- and I do urge everyone to read the nominees -- you can cast a partial ballot today, and go back and revise, add, delete, and change as many times as you want between now and July 31. No votes will be counted until the deadline.

Let this be fandom's finest hour. Vote.

Emmy Likes Us

The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences announced this year's nominations for the Emmy Awards this morning, and HBO's GAME OF THRONES led the way with a whopping TWENTY-FOUR nominations. More than any other show this year, in any other category, be it drama, comedy, reality, talk, movie, miniseries, variety, documentary, what have you.



Congratulations are in order for David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, our showrunners, all our writers and directors and producers, our amazing cast and our incredible crew, and of course the good folks at Home Box Office, who made all this possible.

Here are this year's nominations for GOT:

Outstanding Drama Series

Outstanding Supporting Actor
Peter Dinklage – Tyrion Lannister

Outstanding Supporting Actress
Lena Headey – Cersei Lannister
Emilia Clarke – Daenerys Targaryen

Outstanding Guest Actress
Diana Rigg – Lady Olenna Tyrell, the Queen of Thorns

Outstanding Writing For A Drama Series
David Benioff and D.B. Weiss – Mother’s Mercy

Outstanding Directing For A Drama Series
David Nutter – "Mother’s Mercy"
Jeremy Podeswa – "Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken"

Outstanding Production Design For A Narrative Contemporary Or Fantasy
Program (One Hour Or More)
"High Sparrow"
"Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken"
"Hardhome"
Deborah Riley, Production Designer
Paul Ghirardani, Art Director
Rob Cameron, Set Decorator

Outstanding Casting For A Drama Series
Nina Gold, CSA, Casting Director
Robert Sterne, Casting Director
Carla Stronge, Casting Director

Outstanding Cinematography For A Single-Camera Series
"Hardhome" (Fabian Wagner, BSC, Director of Photography_
"Sons Of The Harpy" (Anette Haellmigk, Director of Photography)
"The Dance Of Dragons" (Rob McLachlan, ASC, CSC, Director of Photography)
"Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken" (Greg Middleton, CSC, Director of Photography)

Outstanding Costumes For A Period/Fantasy Series, Limited Series Or Movie
"The Dance Of Dragons"
Michele Clapton, Costume Designer

Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing For A Drama Series
"Hardhome" (Tim Porter, Editor)
"The Dance Of Dragons" (Katie Weiland, Editor)

Outstanding Hairstyling For A Single-Camera Series
"Mother’s Mercy"
Kevin Alexander, Department Head Hairstylist
Candice Banks, Department Head Hairstylist
Rosalia Culora, Hairstylist
Gary Machin, Hairstylist
Laura Pollock, Hairstylist
Nicola Mount, Hairstylist

Outstanding Makeup For A Single-Camera Series (Non-Prosthetic)
"Mother’s Mercy"
Jane Walker, Department Head Makeup Artist
Nicola Matthews, Makeup Artist

Outstanding Prosthetic Makeup For A Series, Limited Series, Movie Or A Special
"Hardhome"
Jane Walker, Department Head Makeup Artist
Barrie Gower, Special Makeup Effects Department Head
Sarah Gower, Special Makeup Effects Assistant
Department Head

Outstanding Sound Editing For A Series
"Hardhome"
Tim Kimmel, Supervising Sound Editor
Paula Fairfield, Sound Designer
Bradley C. Katona, Sound Effects Editor
Peter Bercovitch, Supervising Dialogue Editor
David Klotz, Music Editor
Jeffrey Wilhoit, Foley Artist
Dylan T. Wilhoit, Foley Artist

Outstanding Sound Mixing For A Comedy Or Drama Series (One Hour)
"Hardhome"
Ronan Hill, C.A.S., Production Mixer
Richard Dyer, Production Mixer
Onnalee Blank, C.A.S., Re-Recording Mixer
Mathew Waters, Re-Recording Mixer


Outstanding Special Visual Effects
"The Dance Of Dragons"
Steve Kullback, Visual Effects Producer
Joe Bauer, Visual Effects Supervisor
Adam Chazen, Visual Effects Associate Producer
Jabbar Raisani, Visual Effects Plate Supervisor
Eric Carney, Visual Effects Previs Lead
Stuart Brisdon, Special Effects Supervisor
Derek Spears, Lead CG Supervisor
James Kinnings, Lead Animator
Matthew Rouleau, CG Supervisor

Outstanding Stunt Coordination For A Drama Series, Limited Series Or Movie
Rowley Irlam, Stunt Coordinator

It's an incredible list, I applaud everyone on it... and all of those who didn't make it either. GAME OF THRONES is what it is because of the untiring efforts of the best cast and crew in television today. Many were recognized by the Academy today for their work... but others, equally dedicated and talented, were not. But the show would not the hit it is without their talent and dedication.

The 24 nominations garnered by GAME OF THRONES is not only the highest number of any show this year, but among the highest ever received by a single series for a single season in the entire history of television. (For numbers geeks, the record remains 27, garnered by NYPD BLUE in 1994).

Today is a day for celebrations and congratulations, for popping champagne corks and raising toasts and exchanging thanks... but before we do too many cartwheels, it would be wise to remember that GAME OF THRONES also led the Emmy nominations last year, with 19 nods, only to get skunked on the night of the televised awards. The same as the year before, and the year before that. Like many fantasy shows before us, GOT is often honored for our special effects, costumes, makeup, stuntwork, set design, and cinematography (this year, please note, we have four of five finalists for cinematography), but seldom for writing, directing, or acting. Peter Dinklage's Emmy as Best Supporting Actor for season one remains the ONLY award the show has ever won in those categories, in fact.

Will that change this year? One can hope, I suppose.

But no matter what happens on Emmy Night, let me say once again that it truly is an honor to be nominated, especially given the competition. This truly is The Golden Age of Television, especially for drama. GAME OF THRONES faces the usual formidable competition for the "Big One," the award for Best Dramatic Series... but as distinguished a list as that is, there are so many incredible shows that did NOT make the cut that it boggles the mind. It's great to see BETTER CALL SAUL and ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK on this list, but where is MASTERS OF SEX? THE KNICK? HALT AND CATCH FIRE? How about THE VIKINGS? I really thought JUSTIFIED might make it, for its final season. And OUTLANDER, how in the world did they overlook OUTLANDER, with its music and its costumes and its cinematography and the incredible performances of its three leads (especially Tobias Menzies in his double role)? Why is Nick Offermann not on the ballot for PARKS AND RECREATION? How could BIG BANG THEORY possibly fall off? Truly, the Academy (of which I am a member) moves in mysterious ways.

Even where GOT itself is concerned... I am thrilled to see both Emilia Clarke and Lena Headey among the nominees, but I wanted Maisie Williams and Sophie Turner and Natalie Dormer as well... it's great that two of our episodes got nominated for directing, but how did they overlook "Hardhome?"... and will Iain Glen and Conleth Hill and John Bradley West ever get any recognition, and...

Okay, okay, I know, I am being greedy, and every producer on every other show on television is probably saying the same things about his own cast just now. Let me just savor the moment.

GOT did good.

The Horrors on Pluto

Mordor is on Pluto! Who knew?

Okay, got to admit, I think it is really cool that some of the features New Horizons is finding on Pluto (our ninth planet, dammit!!!) and its moon Charon are being named Mordor and Cthulhu. Who says science fiction and fantasy haven't arrived? J.R.R. Tolkien and H.P. Lovecraft have entered realms previously reserved for Greek and Roman gods.

Those ice mountains they've found are very cool too, and clearly need to be named the Mountains of Madness. And of course when New Horizons sails on, deeper in the black realms beyond the solar system and finds a sinister tenth planet, we MUST name it Yuggoth. Especially if it is covered in fungus. (Which would be mind-blowing).

I am disappointed that no alien ruins or black monoliths have turned up yet, but I don't suppose you can have everything.

So hurrah for JRRT, hurrah for HPL, and hurrah for NASA and JPL. Nice to know they're fans.

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