Archive for August, 2015

oh hey look electrons

We had a pretty bad windstorm up here at the Lair; we didn’t even plan this one, or any part of it. For once. We’re back online now, but I spent a bunch of time Sunday evening getting webservices back together – don’t ask – after the power and network outages, so I’m my post on E Pluribus Hugo will have to wait another day.

What won’t wait are thanks to the people who came out to the shows in Tacoma on Saturday, despite the storms that pummelled Portland, smacked around Seattle, lashed the Lair, and vitiated Vancouver to the point where they had to pull an emergency evacuation of their zoo because the grizzlies’ pen got blown open and things were about to go all Jurassic Park on their clientele. Hilarious, but not good for repeat business.

Somehow, through all this, Tacoma was sunny and fine. I don’t think it even sprinkled. I don’t understand it either. We even did a short encore outside, when the festival had to shut down the stage because time, because we decided that we were not done. I’d link to a picture of that, but the only one I know of is friendslocked to the poster on Facebook.

I may have some video. I hope so, anyway. We’ll see. Right now, we seem to have a little break; next up is VCON, the first weekend of October! I’m looking forward to it already. 😀

on the business meeting, part 1

So, let’s talk about the business meeting of the World Science Fiction Society at Sasquan, the 73rd Worldcon.

As I mentioned previously, there was no organised action to disrupt the meeting, or, indeed, any part of Worldcon. There were a few minor things, like a fairly vile stack of flyers left on the flyer rack, but nothing important.

So what did happen?

The business meeting was far larger than usual – some days may’ve been the largest ever. We had a huge room, and needed it. Everybody there showed up to be serious – including, I will say, some self-identified Puppies – about the various reform proposals, as well as to debate the other amendments, resolution, and business.

There were a few genuinely fun moments, as hard as that may be to imagine in four days of marathon business meeting. And one really just nice moment, to wit:

The day after Ben Yalow won the Big Heart Award for service to fandom, he was recognised to speak in opposition to E Pluribus Hugo, one of the reform amendments. While he was on the way up to the microphone, Chair Kevin Standlee introduced him as, “Mr. Yalow, or, I should say more correctly, Mr. Big Heart,” and everybody just rose up and cheered.

And then Mr. Standlee ruled that the applause (and his embarrassed thank you to the attendees ^_^ ) did not count against his debate time, as applause normally would, which was just funny and nice.

But let’s talk the first of the two voting reform proposals.

4 and 6 – so-called because it reduces the nominees per members to four, while expanding the total shortlist to six nominees. It changes nothing else. Amusingly, during the preliminary meeting, the specific numbers were replaced with blanks to be filled in during debate, and the result of that debate three days later during consideration was… putting it back to 4 and 6.

That was pretty hilarious, in a punch-drunk kind of way.

Regardless of the numbers, I think this is a very bad proposal for three reasons. First, even in the optimal case, it still lets a single similar slate (less than 15%) take four of six positions on the final ballot. That’s less terrible, but it’s still terrible.

Second, as a system, it’s trivially gameable. Tell your slate voters, “okay, last names A-L vote this subset, everyone else vote this subset,” and you still capture all six positions with a smallish fraction of the popular vote.

And third – and this is the big one – it rewards politicisation of the process, insuring the rise of multiple “slate” parties. That is a catastrophic outcome, but inevitable.

See, in pretty much every open election system, you have parties. That’s because one party vs. unorganised independents means the party always wins, every time. That’s what the Puppies tried to do set up; they came close to success. Only “No Award” kept that from happening, and now we’re seeing some of their reactions to that. (Spoiler: it’s hilarious.)

So given these facts, the inevitable reaction to single-party success is the creation of opposition parties. Possibly one, possibly two, it doesn’t matter, because as I said way back at the beginning of this thing, making this into yet another goddamn political football makes the whole award meaningless.

“4 and 6” doesn’t prevent that outcome. “4 and 6” outright encourages it, as an unintended side-effect. I asked the people who wrote it whether they’d considered what happens in the case of an opposition slate; they said they knew two slates would split all six shortlist slots, but didn’t think that would happen, despite the fact that this is the result every time in every polity ever.

I’m willing to consider the idea that It’ll Be Different In Fandom, but it’s an extraordinary claim, and will require extraordinary evidence.

Despite that, 4 and 6 passed, on a slim margin. It now goes to next year’s meeting for ratification. I am hoping they will defeat it, but we’ll see.

The other reform proposal is called E Pluribus Hugo, or EPH for short. Because this is getting long and I need more rehearsal time for this weekend’s show, I’m going to leave EPH for the next post. But I’ll say this now: the math is wonderful. The math scares some people because they think it’s “too complicated,” but it’s not, really; it’s no more complicated than what we already do for Worldcon site selection. And once you get it – and it doesn’t take that long, I was explaining it in person in 30 seconds – the elegance is self-evident. I really have to congratulate the election math wonks who spent several months this year figuring it out.

But for now, I’m off to rehearse. See you at the show tomorrow, I hope!

Saturday, August 29th, Tacoma


This part of a series of posts on the Sad/Rabid Puppy candidate slate-based capture of the Hugo Awards, and resulting fallout.

this is some serious street-preacher stupid right here

I mentioned elsewhere, recently, that I’ve spent my share of time arguing with street preachers and the like. There’s a special kind of determined antagonism towards reality they carry with them – I call it street-preacher stupid – and the best you can do at any point is to argue for the crowd, and let the preachers make themselves look like… themselves, really.

In that spirit, I present the following:

Sci-Fi Pundant insists that Worldcon defrauded its membership via the “asterisk” joke/charitable fundraiser, declaring the asterisks to be awards given outside the rules.

And, on the Puppies losing their captured categories to No Award:

And again, on the Puppies losing to No Award:

There is not a big enough facepalming gif in the world for this, so I will not bother appending one. h/t to Jim C. Hines for the unicorn-iconed claimant. Enjoy.

eta: Wait, on second thought, I came up with something:

There we go.

eta2: I’ve added a rather long quote in comments here. You may find it worthy as a fourth example.


This part of a series of posts on the Sad/Rabid Puppy candidate slate-based capture of the Hugo Awards, and resulting fallout.

do this instead

I’m too sleepy to write up a big Business Meeting post tonight – I caught up on about two weeks of email and worked on harmonies all day, that’s a bit on the side of brain-eating – so I’m going to point to this instead:

A collection of local fire relief funds in North Central Washington

All that smoke and all those strange skies we saw at Sasquan? They were mostly due to these fires. There are other fires as well, but those are the biggest ones. It wouldn’t hurt to see about throwing them a little dosh.

i guess all that changes practice helped

Rehearsal last night for the shows in Tacoma this weekend; we’re going to have two more, one as Leannan Sidhe, and one as Crime and the Forces of Evil, probably on different days since rehearsing two bands’ worth of material in one day is a wee bit of a pain in the ass.

(I say that particularly since Leannan Sidhe gave me like nine new songs like two and a half weeks in advance, one of those weeks to be spent at Worldcon. But she only does things like that because she knows I’ll do it.)

So I spent a lot of that Worldcon week repeatedly listening to the new material and working on some of the more amusing chord changes. I rather suspect power-A to G#m to F#m to C#m in beat succession is easier on guitar than on zouk. But! I can be taught. And I was able to charge right through it just fine each time in rehearsal today. So, yeah, go me.

Now I just need to get a better grip on a couple of these new harmonies…

oh no

Taken from Pretty Terrible’s post on the Hugos, and a puppy-slate-free alternate-universe ballot, built from the real-world voting data, released after the awards were given out:

That last section? It’s a picture of the sound of my heart breaking, just a little bit.

other than that, how did you like the play?

So, other than that whole Hugo thing, yeah, there was a convention! And I went to it. This is the post where I talk mostly about that.

On the way there, we took Route 2, which I don’t usually do when heading east. It’s a more interesting drive than I-90, at least until you hit the 150 Minutes Of Driving In A Straight Line, with occasional five-building towns off to the side where they won’t distract you. Seriously, that part is like Desert Bus. But before that part, the geology is amazing and worth it.

We stopped at Leavenworth for food. Now, Leavenworth is a weird little town, because it decided some decades ago that it was going to be German. Before World War II, lots of little Cascadian towns were a little like that – North Bend was Norwegian, and Norwegian was the common tongue, and so on. But Leavenworth decided to go all out after the war, and some of the fans who had flown in via Seattle saw it and were more than a little fruck out. So just to share that experience, here’s Leavenworth for you:

Even things like Wells Fargo and Safeway are this style.

We could already smell the fires, though. That was a portent of things to come. As was this hazy sky on the way east, and, well, the evidence of earlier fires, no longer active.

As you can imagine from the previous post, I spent a lot of time in the business meetings. Normally there are three, and they’re not incredibly long; this year, there were four, and they were all very long. I’ll talk more about those in another post, but since it was such a large part of my convention experience this time, I couldn’t leave it out entirely.

I think the short form is that yes, they are dull, in a way? But in a way they are also not dull. Kevin Standlee is a good parliamentarian, and kept things moving and in good order. The way we were able to get through acres of other business on Sunday when it looked like we’d end up being there until 5pm or so was pretty impressive.

This was not the biggest turnout.

Opening ceremonies was pretty entertaining – you had a native tribes storyteller talking about the meaning of story and truth, and telling some good stories. Plus, Fishy finally got to unveil the Hugo base he’d designed for this year’s Worldcon! I found it evocative of some of the geology that Anna and I had just driven through, compressed and attenuated basalt columns, also evocative of rocket exhaust – a really nice job:

I like the Spokane convention centre complex. Parts of it were built back in 1974, but there are significant additions and renovations since then. We kind of had another hint about the smoke that was to come, though, that first night. I mean, when you can take pictures of the sun with a cellphone camera, it’s dark.

Then, of course, on Thursday you got the Broken Sky, which I posted photos of already.

Anna spent a huge chunk of the convention in the Dealer/Exhibit Hall, helping run the NIWA booth, so it wasn’t a programming-heavy convention for us. I did a little daytime performing and some playing in the evenings, of which I of course lack any photos because I was kind of busy with the actual playing. But I ran into a lot of people I’ve known via fandom for a long time (hi Rod! Hi Cheryl! Hi Jay! Hi Alec! Hi WOW I TALKED TO LOTS OF YOU!) and finally met TJ Burnside-Clapp in person, who I’ll be GoH-ing with at Conflikt this coming January.

And I’m gonna say it: seeing your own name on one of those flyers in that way? More than a little weird. There’s a little moment of “…but you want people to come to your event, how is that going to help?”

Like I said: weird.

But! Back on track. I did get to a little other programming. I quite liked David Gerrold’s GoH speech. A bit on the old-school side, but, well, he’s a bit on the old-school side himself. And the Match Game SF game show went off well, like usual:

Plus, since I wasn’t officially working this show, I got to go to a masquerade again! It had been a while, and this was a fantastic one to come back to see. I went wearing Earth Kingdom Korra (just as a hall costume) and there were … 46 entries? An awful lot, with a really high standard of overall workmanship.

Torrey finally entered her Amidala costume – the one she did all the hand dye work on – at the Worldcon level, and picked up a couple of prizes for it. (All her kata practice really stood out – her lightsabre moves were just super-fluid and nice.) There was a gigantic Drider costume that was part of a larger set, and which may have been the largest costume effect I’ve seen put on an amateur stage. And I got to look at the Best-in-Show’s backpack time machine later, just wandering around – so much more detail to it than you could see from the audience. It was just a lovely piece of mechanics on top of everything else.

Tom Smith’s concert following masq was apparently the largest room he’s ever played – but you wouldn’t’ve known it from his performance. It’s one of the few times I’ve seen a masquerade halftime show that really entertained the crowd, which I’m just going to say is difficult to do.

I took a couple of hall costume photos, but not many. First, a No-Face:

And second, a couple of really nicely done Vault 101 wastelanders from Fallout 3. Check out the Pip Boy! It overexposed a little in my picture and I couldn’t bring it back in, but I promise you, it didn’t look blown out like that in real life.

Now, funny(?) thing about that outdoor shot – notice how much the light looks like the light in the actual Fallout game? That’s not good to be in. I didn’t know how bad it was, while I was out there for 45 minutes helping them get costume shots while the light was right. Here’s a view from the consuite:


And here’s the notice they posted while we were out in pretty much the very worst of it. That’s not “Dangerous for people with respiratory issues,” that’s DANGEROUS FOR ANYONE THAT BREATHES AIR, DO NOT GO OUTSIDE. It hasn’t been this bad since Mount St. Helens blew in 1980. That’s how bad the fires are. Heck, the business meeting’s Sergeant at Arms had to leave early because her horse farm got Class 1 fire alert and she had to evacuate her horses.

The biggest restaurant find had to be the Suki Yaki Inn. We were actually on our way to a different restaurant (about which I had my doubts) and stumbled across it. It’s one of those clearly-built-in-1962-and-untouched-since places, with that terrible “oriental” script that’s somehow supposed to be evocative of brush strokes but isn’t even a little bit. And Anna – bless her – said – “let’s try that!”

Now, she’s not normally the sort of person to go for dives of that sort, but I thought “oh, what the hell, why not?” And wow, was that the right decision.

And here’s the thing: it was fantastic. I mean, the first clue we’d had that something was up were the mixed drinks; they served them in beer glasses. We were like Merry and Pippin.

Fishy wasn’t even sure drinks that big were legal, because they were not skimping on the alcohol, either. But even aside from that – they were good! And the sukiyaki was correct – basically, they had all their broths and sauces right, and once you do that, you’re well on your way in Japanese cooking. Okay, sure, the second time we went, the room we were in had apparently suffered some damage caused by somebody putting someone else’s head through the wall. But I’m pretty sure that’s ancient history at this point, so don’t let that stop you. So tasty.

Helsinki winning the 2017 Worldcon did not overly surprise me. It might’ve, a little, going in – I’ve been out of that whole conversation for a while, and Finland is very far from here – but once at the convention, the party flow made it pretty obvious. I voted for Japan and bought a pre-support (in that order, because sure, that’s how you do it) just to help them cover their bid costs. The only shot DC had was if they’d had a huge bloc of pre-convention voters, and, whelp, turns out no. Anna became a supporter of Dublin in 2019 and New Zealand in 2020 bids, and I’m considering pre-supporting New Orleans in 2018.

On the parties – well, going to the early-morning business meetings, I didn’t do as much party as I would normally have done. But I liked New Orleans (see above), Japan’s bid party, and most of all, the Babylon 5 party, in no small part just because it was there. B5 STILL HAS A POSSE, apparently, and that is a good thing.

Oh, and check out this PARKADE, about 10 minutes from the convention centre. Does this look like a Captain Scarlet set piece or what? It looks even more like one in person.

so awesome

It’s right at that perfect stage of mid-modernism when they still expected everyone to come downtown, park, and then walk around like they did before cars. It’s brutalist in the right ways, it has this totally epic spiral ramp on the back of it with a huge cylinder in the middle that demands to be some sort of launch facility for an underground rocket base. Plus the in-and-out ramps are also in that era of we-aren’t-quite-sure-how-to-do-this-yet-but-this’ll-work that I love. I took more pictures but none of them really get it right. Plus: elevated retail level. MID-CENTURY AWESOMENESS ENGAGED!

I’ll have extra photos up on Flickr, like usual.

So, yeah, that’s not all, but it’s all I’m writing for now – this is too long already. I’ll post about the business meetings later – I didn’t want this week to be all about Hugo awards and politics. There was in fact also a convention, and a good bit of fun was had, by most, if not necessarily all. If I left you out, I’m sorry – pop in in comments and say hi!

and there was NO AWARDing

So. Where do we start?

It is far too late to start at the beginning, so let’s start where we last left off.

Those of us who have been calling for a NO AWARD vote above any slate nominee for the Hugo have, I am told, won. We have doubled the number of NO AWARDs given throughout the previous history of the awards, and blocked the meaningful slate candidates pretty much in their entirety. We are being congratulated, and for that, I thank you.

But I cannot consider this winning. I consider it… oh, let’s call it the least bad possible disaster given the position in which their machinations put us. That’s important. It shows that the large influx of supporting members who voted were not a Puppy rush. It shows that World Science Fiction Society fandom cares about the Hugo awards quite a bit, in fact, and thank you very much. It shows that gaming the system and violating decades of voting tradition will not be rewarded. Well done, fandom.

But it is not a “win.” It is not even a victory, because it does not end anything.

There are many who have said that a resounding defeat for political slates on this order would discourage them, and they would not return again. They say that any changes to the Hugo voting system are premature, even though any such changes would require at least two years – and two rounds of endorsement by WSFS fandom – to take effect.

That assertion has consistently struck me as naive at best. Movements driven by ressentiment are actually fuelled by defeat, at least in the short term. It merely proves to them that what they rightfully own and deserve has been stolen, unjustly, by the undeserving – which was in fact the line on Twitter from slate supporters on the night of the Hugos.

And further, as you can see in the tweet above, Rabid leader Vox Day has already promised another run at it, telling Wired that his intent has been to destroy the Hugo awards altogether – to, and I quote, “leave a big smoking hole where the Hugo Awards were.” Again in his words, “All this has ever been is a giant Fuck You — one massive gesture of contempt.”

He also claims to have an army of people who are not fans at all, and are “very anti-SJW [and] said, ‘Okay, we want to get in on this.'” And recruitment into the GamerGate misogynist crowd was certainly ramped up that night.

I don’t know that this continuing activism and agitation will convince the honest naysayers – those against reform for non-slate-related reasons, who are convinced this is an anomaly – that this problem is ongoing. I hope it will, but… I have my doubts.


My big worry was that there would be a large and organised Rabid presence at Worldcon, and/or at the business meeting. I actually did not think it was likely – though signing in to the first meeting immediately after Lou “Let’s Set the Cops on a Guest of Honour” Antonelli didn’t make me feel any better.

But a distinguishing characteristic of the GamerGate phenomenon has been an unwillingness to appear in person. It’s not completely unknown – a GamerGate faction lied their way into a booth at a gaming convention last year, and disrupted several panels before they were ejected – but it’s rare.

And in one of those cases where no news really is good news, there was no organised disruption. There were a couple of very minor incidents – such as a really nasty flyer left anonymously on the flyer rack, claiming to be from SFWA – but nothing on a genuinely large scale.

And there were self-identified members of the Puppies present. But they were of the Sad faction, at least some of whom are actual fans – regardless of their actions regarding these Hugos – and had every right to be there. And they behaved, for the most part. One did leap to accuse me of slander during the Business Meeting, but sat down when told he was both wrong by definition and that his motion was Not Well Taken by the Chair. There were a couple of dramatic Storming Outs – including one by Lou Antonelli someone unidentified (see comments) at the Hugo awards ceremony – but that’s all well within the range of ordinary fannishness. I’ve seen bigger drama over points of canon in Tolkien.

So as is the history with these things, when it comes to taking action in person… you don’t tend to see these people showing up so much. Will that continue? We can’t know, but we can hope.

And so, while the business meetings may’ve run very long, and spanned four days instead of three, we got a lot done. In particular, there are two voting reform proposals which passed first reading and were passed on for final ratification next year, one of which I support strongly, the other of which I oppose just as strongly. And I will talk about both, later this week.

This part of a series of posts on the Sad/Rabid Puppy candidate slate-based capture of the Hugo Awards, and resulting fallout.

a heads up on worldcon and the hugos

After being an active participant at the World Science Fiction Society Business Meeting all five days of this worldcon, I will be posting a fair bit of commentary. However, probably not today, and tomorrow is a travel day. But it will be coming. Until then, the entire meeting is on youtube or will be very soon, and you can watch it there.

eta: Two posts going up tomorrow, Tuesday. First one on Sasquan in general, around 8:30 Pacific time. Second on the Hugo awards themselves a little later.

a broken sky

I wasn’t going to post from Sasquan, the Worldcon, but I kind of had to, the sky is just… broken. It’s nuts.

I had to do some colour manipulation to try to get these skies in these photos at least closer to the colours I was seeing. They’re still not right, but they’re at least in the neighbourhood. Keep in mind this is like 4pm, not sunset or anywhere near it.

a broken sky

a broken star

It’s because of all the brush fires in the Cascadian east right now – it’s really bad. In the north central part of Washington State, they’re evacuating entire towns. On the way here, we took route 2, and we saw several areas where fires had come right up to the road this summer.

Separately, the geology along the west-central part of Route 2 is really, really neat. Hopefully I’ll have some photos of that, later. I haven’t had a chance to go through those, I’ve been busy playing! But more on that later.

If you’re here, say hi!

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