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October 2001

Posted 1 November:

Posted 31 October:

Posted 28 October:

Posted 26 October:

Posted 24 October:

Posted 14 October:

Posted 9 October:

  • Andrew Wheeler defends the record of the Science Fiction Book Club
  • D Carr wonders if the Hugos need a children's fiction category

Posted 4 October:

Note: Return e-mail addresses will be posted only if you include it in your closing, or your subject matter specifically requests some sort of response; otherwise it will be omitted.

Dear Locus Online,
     I have nothing to complain about. Just thought I'd better write and tell you, since so many others are jumping in.

Derryl Murphy
31 October 2001

Dear Locus Online,
     I could rebut the first and second points of Mr. Gifford's latest missive in detail, but there are only a couple of things that I really need to correct.
     Firstly. "Progcomm?" I can't think of a single person who's calls it that—not in the last seventeen years, anyway. It is a lovely neologism, I must admit—all polished in Orwellian glory—but I digress.
     Secondly. Yes, I did enjoy the convention, and I know many others who did so as well. It was, by no means, a perfect convention—registration didn't run as smoothly as Chicon 2000 or Noreascon 3, the elevators weren't as exciting as Confederation, and there weren't quite as many excellent restaurants around as Nolacon—but it was very much an enjoyable convention to the great majority of the attendees. I'm very sorry that Mr. Gifford spent the entire five days in Philadelphia raging at the wrongs he saw around him. I hope he has a much more enjoyable time at future conventions.
     Finally, I note Mr. Gifford is still trying to link the convention committee's failure to host the blood drive in the convention center with the events of September 11th. It may be cathartic for him, personally, to give blood, but that's not a retraction of his disgusting imputation of guilt on the part of the good people who worked this convention. To imply, in any way, shape, or form, that the lack of a blood drive located smack dab in the center of the convention hall caused any loss of life in New York or Washington, as Mr. Gifford does in his first letter, is a repugnant tactic. Unfortunately, this is not the first false accusation that Mr. Gifford has chosen to level at the Millennium Philcon.
     The first time, he publicly accused the Hugo Award Administrators of fraud in the voting of the Best Related Work Hugo. That accusation has since been retracted. I strongly suggest he retract this second one as well. The people who worked long hours to put on the Worldcon do not deserve this sort of vile mudslinging—especially by a person whose only real complaint seems to be that the "progcomm" was inadequately impressed by his glory. Mr. Gifford's behavior reminds me less and less of a professional writer and careful researcher (which his work clearly shows him to be, I must add) and more and more of a child who has had his favorite toy-of-the-week taken away before dinner—and who then fails to notice the wonderful banquet laid before him.

Erik V. Olson
30 October 2001

Dear Locusfolk and Everyone,
     I am sincerely appalled at the amount of infantile whining and pathetic overall bitchiness found within the sf community.
     Honestly! So you didn't receive your God-granted rightful place upon a panel at a convention? Oh, lord, the world shall surely come crashing to an end now! That's one of the Signs of the Apocalypse, isn't it?
     And you've won a Hugo, but haven't been able to parlay said win into your own God-granted rightful place upon a panel at a convention? Cease function, world! Stop revolving now!
     The fragility of the writer's ego is a well-known fact. We are a wimpy bunch, we writers, with skins that are only molecule-thick. And yet, I cannot help but notice that within the sf community, this ego-bruising is taken to extremes. Writers across the board flare up at the slightest hint of a slight. They puff up in self-righteous anger at any hint of good 'ol healthy criticism or (God forbid!) outright disagreement. If there is any sign of a snub, writers everywhere hiss and spit and slither about. It is foolish. Silly. Childish.
     The only thing worse than the precious egos is the astounding amount of inter-office politico bullshit that rots away the core of the industry. Quick, quick, pick your sides and begin the backstabbing! Why is it that sf writers/editors/publishers/fans cannot seem to act any more cultured than your average trailer park inhabitants? Tell me, sirs and madams, how do you put your pants on in the morning?
     It seems a shame that the industry as a whole cannot set aside their petty disputes and foolish egos. We are all the same in the end; writer, reader, fan. So why not take some of that energy, that verve for conspiracy and politics, and focus that energy on affecting change within the industry? Why not focus your attentions not upon perceived snubs and criticisms, but upon drawing more readers into the genre? Why not destroy your petty squabbles, and concentrate upon getting kids to read?
     It's an asinine waste to worry about politics and imagined slights, when there are so many other things to do. So quit your bitching, folks, and pay attention to what's going on around you. Stop whining like little schoolgirls, and work on writing better novels and stories instead. Buck up, grow some thicker skins, for God's sake!
     The entire community will be better for it.

gabe chouinard
Dislocated Fictions @ SF Site
30 October 2001

Dear Locus Online,
     I know I've already commented once on this subject, and your letter column isn't a debating club; but James Gifford's apoplectic episodes on the subject of the 2001 Worldcon's program are becoming remarkable.
     It's primarily his "facts", not his opinions, I want to argue with. There's not a lot you can say to someone who takes it as an intolerable affront to his dignity, that in a year in which he was nominated for a Hugo, his invitation to be on some panels at the Worldcon got mailed to him a couple of weeks after the first wave of programming invitations had gone out.
     Heaven only knows how he would have reacted if his name and the title of his work had been consistently misspelled in convention publications, or mispronounced during the Hugo ceremony, or the wrong nominee entirely had been announced as the winner in his category—all of which have happened to Hugo nominees, some of them of many decades' standing in the field (and no, I don't mean me), who didn't kick up a twentieth of the fuss he's making.
     However, I do object to Gifford's claim that he was overlooked. He wasn't. His invitation was mailed out after the first lot of invitations had gone out. Programming was working off more than one database of participant addresses. As soon as they'd sorted out the problem, they mailed him his invitation, and made it clear that they were glad to have him on the program. If this is an affront, it's an utterly trivial one. What he also fails to mention is that the programming staff explained the reason for the slip-up to him at the time, and apologized for any inconvenience. One somehow feels he ought to have mentioned that.
     Onward. I'm afraid Gifford's made so many factual errors that I'm going to have to break some of his sentences into fragments in order to reply to them.
     He says the programming staff "are also holders of a certain trust—a bought and paid-for trust—"
     If there's one accusation you can't throw at a con committee, it's that they're bought and paid for. This is an error that crops up from time to time: the belief that buying a membership means you've paid for the services of the committee, so if for any reason you're dissatisfied with your convention experience, you're entitled to berate them as though you were John Cleese and they were an errant waiter. This is not actually true. SF conventions are a cooperative undertaking of the community, run entirely by volunteers. The price of a membership wouldn't cover more than a fraction of the actual cost of running a convention, if unpaid labor didn't make up the difference. Mr. Gifford has failed to understand the basically cooperative and communitarian nature of SF conventions.
     " accommodate as wide a spectrum of the members' interests and wishes as possible."
     Which they did. The Millennium Philcon program was broad and diverse. I don't see the problem.
     "They serve the membership, not vice versa."
     Neither side is in service to the other. A person who's committee this year may well be an attendee the next, and may or may not be on the program in either year. Program participants need the people who're organizing the program, and the organizers need the participants to be on their program; and if the results didn't please the convention membership in general, they wouldn't be there to listen and the whole thing would creak to a halt.
     "They are not free to set up and run the programming any damned way they please, which is what Mr. Olson seems to be implying."
     Erik Olson didn't imply that; he stated it. Furthermore, he's right. They are free to run programming any damned way they please, as long as they give out the Hugos, hold the Business Meeting, and oversee Site Selection—Mr. Gifford can look it up. It's a good thing that the programmers' actual tendency is to spend hundreds of hours trying to put together an entertaining and diverse program by and for the worldcon's entertaining and diverse membership.
     "The programming was a dismal mess by many—most?—attendee's accounts;"
     I've been to a lot of programming at a lot of conventions, I've helped run it at some, and by any measure I know the Millennium Philcon had a good program. That's the same reaction I heard from other attendees. None of us thought it was perfect, and there was the usual mixture of specific complaints and specific praises, but not one person I talked to had a completely negative opinion. And some program items got wildly enthusiastic responses. To mention just one example: the Junkyard Wars event run by Jeff delPapa and William "Crash" Yerazunis. That one makes my top five list of all-time great program items: fun, educational, inclusive, genre-related, and how else would we ever have found out that Michael Whelan's a hardcore bodger?
     It ran for hours and drew one of the biggest and happiest crowds I've ever seen at a convention. When I weigh my memories of it against the matter of Mr. Gifford's program invitation not going out in the first wave of mailings, I'm sorry, but he comes up short.
     "...clearly the progcomm should have been paying more attention to the wishes of the members."
     He means they should have been paying more attention to him. That's the point of this whole exercise.
     Onward to the question of the blood drive:
     "And third, there is always a shortage of blood—ask any of the three organizations that scramble frantically after every unit, even in ordinary times."
     I live in New York City. The Red Cross here said repeatedly that they had enough blood. I figure they knew what they were talking about.
     But assume the Red Cross was wrong and Mr. Gifford's assertion is correct. It's still just an argument for donating blood. Nothing says we have to do so at the worldcon. It's been repeatedly pointed out in various venues that a week during which fans are travelling great distances, going short on sleep, eating and drinking unfamiliar fare on irregular schedules, undergoing other stresses, and being exposed to the local microbial cultures of thousands of other fans from all over the world, may not be the best possible time for them to be donating blood.
     "It was enormously satisfying to donate blood, especially in Heinlein's memory, even back then in ordinary times."
     We all have our kinks.
     "That the concom's inexplicable boneheadedness kept more people from donating—and getting that satisfaction—is a tragedy. That the blood collected ended up in NYC after September 11 was deeply satisfying, a feeling I cannot adequately explain."
     If the knowledge that he'd given a pint of blood at the worldcon was the Happy Thought that got Mr. Gifford through the period following the WTC collapse, well, fine. It was a rough time, and we all got through it as best we could. That his particular pint of blood wound up in NYC weeks later is not the likeliest scenario; but he evidently likes to think so, and it's not completely impossible.
     But for him to call the worldcon's declining to feature his blood drive in a prominent central location a "tragedy"—in a context where the real tragedy is that we aren't short of blood, we're short of patients—is such a piece of thoughtless vanity that it's just plain indecent.
     "Whether the blood made any difference in the aftermath is not the point—it is that the concom's idiotic hostility to the blood drive deprived an unknown number of additional members from getting that cathartic satisfaction."
     If helping people isn't the point, then Gifford's quest for "cathartic satisfaction" is his own personal affair, and I really, really don't want to hear about it. (Or, for that matter, anyone else's quest for "cathartic satisfaction". Way too Late Heinlein for me.) Let him join a newsgroup or something if he wants to talk about it.
     And furthermore, if I want to serve my fellow human beings, I don't need James Gifford's intermediation.
     "Perhaps Mr. Olson feels that he got his $160 worth out of the con."
     Erik Olson's a knowledgeable fan and a conrunner, so I'm sure he wouldn't think of it in those terms, but for the record: Yes. He was having a good time whenever I saw him at MilPhil.
     The other thing I know Erik wouldn't do, if he'd had a bad time at a convention, is figure he hadn't gotten his money's worth until he'd taken the remaining balance out of the committee's hide.
     James Gifford got far more than his money's worth out of the convention. He's failed to understand that, like most of life only more so, the SF community doesn't run on a purely monetary economy.
     "He's alone on that side of my tally: I personally spoke with more than a hundred people who were deeply disappointed with the event."
     I always doubt people who claim there's some nameless silent majority that agrees with them and/or backs up their statistics. If Mr. Gifford kept count that closely, he must surely remember some names as well. If he does so, and names them, I'll publicly apologize for implying that he's a liar.

Teresa Nielsen Hayden
30 October 2001

Dear Locus Online,
     I tried very hard not to feel insulted by both "John Norman" and Jim Gifford, but Jim Gifford's second diatribe leaves me so infuriated that I feel the need to respond to him.
     Like over fifty other people I gave up many hours of my time during 1999-2001 to help create a programme at The Millennium Philcon that I thought would be interesting, fun and rewarding. I feel that, on the whole, we achieved this. I then gave up even more of my time during the convention to try and make sure that the programme ran as smoothly as possible, helping to cover those times when things go wrong despite the best of intentions and lots of planning. Fans and their activities are by their nature quite chaotic and this is part of the fun, but it does mean that someone has to try and make sure that things don't fall apart.
     In total, I would estimate that I spent over five hundred hours helping to discuss the programme, and run the programme for The Millennium Philcon. That was in addition to the time I spent being a panel member (and the preparation for it) on some items myself. As a University lecturer my hourly rate of consultancy pay is abou4 $40. I therefore donated about $20,000 worth of my time for free to The Millennium Philcon (and that's just on of the conventions and other fannish projects I've donated time to over the years). Has Mr Gifford done anywhere near as much for any convention? Has he ever even considered donating his time beyond the few hours of preparation and presentation to be on the programme.
     I know of no one who volunteered to help put the programme of The Millennium Philcon together who was denied the chance to take part in our discussions. If you don't like what's done, volunteer to help do it in a way that's more to your liking. When all's said and done, someone has to have the final say and Laurie and Jim Mann spent far more time than I did on this. They deserve far more than Mr Gifford's mean-spirited assertion that many/most of the attendees deserved something more and something better. The attitudes evinced by Mr Gifford and "John Norman" thankfully represent only a small proportion of the professional SF writing community. The vast majority of the writers, like the vast majority of the fans themselves, appreciate that Worldcon costs $160 because of those of us who donate our time to do this because otherwise it wouldn't happen. If people paid the $1000 memberships demanded by large trade conferences they might have the sort of "rights" to expect their wishes to be taken into consideration that Mr Gifford thinks his $160 gets him. It still would mean that you get what you pay for. The Millennium Philcon provided what was paid for. Contrary to your assertions, Mr Gifford, your $160 mostly pays for the location and incidentals such as the coffee and cakes in the Green Room. Everything else is a freely given donation and deserves thanks and only constructive well-thought out criticism (preferably sent with offers to help realise a better convention next time). It does not deserve the mealy-mouthed arrogance demonstrated by Mr Gifford, nor the over-blown polemic delivered by "John Norman".
     Try running a convention yourselves and see how difficult it is and what sort of public thanks you get before wading in with such public displays of temper tantrums, gentlemen.

Dr Andrew A. Adams
scientist, fan, conrunner
29 October 2001

Dear Locus Online,
     As to Harry Potter, John Norman and Con programming, I have nothing to add that has not been said and to better effect (save a bow to Pat Cadigan for saying what should be said about Rowling's Hugo win—Bravo, Ms. Cadigan). As to blood drives, however, I wish to make a salient point: by this date, any blood contributed in the first few days post September 11 that has not been transfused is now spoiled and has been discarded. Blood is like milk—it has a shelf life (of 42 days). I suspect much of it was wasted.
     Anyone who truly wants to honor Robert Heinlein's memory should not worry about blood drives being given space at Worldcons, but donate blood regularly, in the intervals allowed, or plasma if they prefer. Heinlein is probably bemused at the whole thing, shaking his head in between conversations with the Manana (sorry, I can't do accents) Club, most of whom have joined him in whatever afterlife suits your fancy. Thank you for your time.

Robert Reynolds
Tucson AZ
30 October 2001

Dear Locus Online,
     I have a positive suggestion to those who are concerned about the Hugo award going to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Rather than creating new restrictions that at best would be difficult to administer (and at worst would simply reduce the number of voters for each Hugo category), how about working to develop more fans of science fiction, who will grow up to nominate hard SF novels for the Hugo and vote for them too (and maybe go on to write them)?
     The good news is that there already is an active organization dedicated to that cause. It's called Reading for the Future/Developing the Young Reader. RFF/DYR includes teachers, writers, librarians, and fans, from all over the country. We promote the use of SF in the classroom in a variety of ways, give SF books to kids, and do workshops at willing conventions (like Millennium Philcon, where educators got a reduced rate for memberships and over a day's worth of activities for educators were programmed), and we're always eager for more help from people who are enthusiastic about SF.
     If you're interested in helping or just in finding out more, check out check out,, or my own page.

Andrew Love
30 October 2001

Dear Locus Online,
     I have been reading Locus a long time (you can check my subscription), and yes the Hugos were a disgrace. Not only was Harry Potter a shallow book with no characters as real or deep as the most trivial character in George R.R. Martin's A Storm of Swords. Also Crouching Dragon... was cinematically all right but to have Chicken Run beat out the miniseries Dune was a travesty. I no longer count myself as a fan of the genre/s. I am an old man but I remember an old Harlan Ellison quote that suggested we were settling for McDonald's burgers when there were gourmet feasts to be savored. It is even more fitting today. I am sure the Harry Potter movie will be more accepted than The Lord of the Rings. Probably why the December release, but please remember The Lord of the Rings has been called the best book of the last century—let's see if Harry Potter is remembered in 100 years from now.

Richard Johnson
28 October 2001

Dear Locus Online,
     I believe—insofar as I can make out what he's saying in his almost incoherent letter—that John Norman has entirely mistaken the reasons he was not asked to be on programming at the recent Worldcon in Philadelphia.
     He thinks he was excluded on some kind of ideological grounds. I can't speak for Jim and Laurie Mann, who put the program together, but I got a fairly close look while they were putting it together, and there was no ideological agenda to speak of—unless "The most important consideration is whether something contributes to making a better program" counts as ideology.
     Speaking strictly for myself (I haven't discussed this with anyone who worked in the MilPhil programming department), I wouldn't think John Norman is any great prize as a program participant. When I've seen him on panels he's been self-important, fairly dull, and a mediocre listener. If I had to put my finger on a single quality, it would be that he didn't seem to have a lot of interest in his fellow panelists. "Absence of authentic dialogue" is not a charge he should be throwing at other people.
     Nobody likes to think they're boring, though heaven knows we all are, once in a while. It's far more palatable to think you're somehow being excluded on ideological grounds. But I know writers who've written books that are far gamier than anything John Norman's ever written, and I know I've edited books that are, and over the years Jim and Laurie Mann have never hesitated to use any of us in their programming.
     Onward to James Gifford's literary offering. He's not even complaining that he wasn't on the program; he was. His complaint is that he didn't receive a sufficiently respectful special invitation. As he put it, "As a Hugo nominee, I should have been invited early on to appear in several panels. (That's my understanding of the usual courtesies.)"
     I'd love to know where he's getting his information. Between the two of us, Patrick and I have been nominated for the Hugo eleven times, and we don't recall ever getting a Special Hugo Nominees Program Invitation from any of the conventions involved.

Teresa Nielsen Hayden
26 October 2001

Greetings from North London—
     I've been observing/listening to the widespread outcry against J.K. Rowling's best novel Hugo win. I'm neutral on the Harry Potter books because I just haven't read them. But the tone of much of the negative commentary is disturbing. The Hugos are a popular vote award—any member of the pertinent worldcon can vote. This year, the popular vote gave the best-novel Hugo to J.K. Rowling. Didn't like the outcome? Welcome to the real world. Sometimes it happens like that.
     OK, so neither the publisher nor the author was present, nor did anyone send a designated accepter—I've never seen anything in the official rules to indicate that you must be present to win, or that if you didn't send a representative, you forfeit. Nor have I been able to find a clause that states the author of a nominated work must be one of "us"—i.e., someone who knows all about the Hugo and wouldn't mind winning one.
     It's actually rather sad to see (or hear, or read) people protesting Rowling's win on the basis that the rules were faulty in some way. Harry Potter won because more people who liked the book voted for it. The book was allowed to remain on the list as a finalist for the award with no public outcry about eligibility that I'm aware of. Thus, the subsequent squabbling about how it shouldn't have won because "it's a children's book," "it's not science fiction," "they didn't even send an accepter", etc., are, in my opinionated opinion, embarrassing and degrading to the award and to everyone who has ever won it.
     All of us, writers and readers, would do better to be gracious after the fact rather than to court the image of the classic sore loser. If you didn't like the outcome of this year's Hugo Awards in any category, the best thing you can do is vote next year, and every year after that. Making nitpicky changes in the rules to make them more and more particular is not going to guarantee future winners will be universally acceptable to all and sundry (especially sundry, who never seems to like anything). The 2001 Hugos are a historical fact. Not everyone gets to go home from the party with a prize—get over it. Better luck next time.

Pat Cadigan
26 October 2001

Dear Locus Online,
     I would like to rebut three points in Erik Olson's comments on my letter of 17 October.
     First, I have no illusions about the status of a Hugo nominee. I was told, by the programming committeeperson who answered my inquiry, that it is the practice to always include nominees on at least one panel if they so wish. My point was that, even having been on this short list and having filed a programming questionnaire, I was overlooked.
     Second, while the progcomm might be a body of artists creating a masterwork for the delectation of the members, they are also holders of a certain trust—a bought and paid-for trust—to accommodate as wide a spectrum of the members' interests and wishes as possible. They serve the membership, not vice versa. They are not free to set up and run the programming any damned way they please, which is what Mr. Olson seems to be implying. The programming was a dismal mess by many—most?—attendee's accounts; clearly the progcomm should have been paying more attention to the wishes of the members.
     And third, there is always a shortage of blood—ask any of the three organizations that scramble frantically after every unit, even in ordinary times. It was enormously satisfying to donate blood, especially in Heinlein's memory, even back then in ordinary times. That the concom's inexplicable boneheadedness kept more people from donating—and getting that satisfaction—is a tragedy. That the blood collected ended up in NYC after September 11 was deeply satisfying, a feeling I cannot adequately explain. Whether the blood made any difference in the aftermath is not the point—it is that the concom's idiotic hostility to the blood drive deprived an unknown number of additional members from getting that cathartic satisfaction.
     Perhaps Mr. Olson feels that he got his $160 worth out of the con. He's alone on that side of my tally: I personally spoke with more than a hundred people who were deeply disappointed with the event. I plan to actively oppose any future Philadelphia Worldcon bids, and I am not alone.

James Gifford
25 October 2001

Dear Locus Online,
     Gosh, I do love these "Acme Can o' Worms" discussions . . .
     "For Michael Walsh, here's my initial definition for a Children's Hugo: any novel first published in a line designated for under-18s. Wow, that took all of 30 seconds." - D Carr.
     Ok, here are a few questions/concerns I can lob back...
     "A line designated": Essentially leaves the definition in the hands of the publisher, if there is even a "line." And if the designation is by the publisher, what if the author objects? Or if the author and publisher engage in a plan to market a YA book as not a YA book? And if the line is a non-YA line, or lacking in any designation, and a novel with a YA protagonist is published such, is it YA? What of a YA novel serialized in an non-YA magazine, such as Citizen of the Galaxy. Whose designation wins? Author's choice for magazine publication or book publication?
     And why 18? Other than as a convenient "legal" age there is nothing magical about the number.
     For those who believe this is nitpicking, then they should go to a WSFS Business Meeting for real nitpicking.
     Yours in nitpickery . . .

Michael J. Walsh
25 October 2001

Dear Locus Folk,
     I read Mr. Norman's letter when it first appeared, and, assuming the facts are as he says (and, especially after reading Mr. Gifford's follow-up, I have no reason to doubt him), am properly appalled by the behavior of the concom.
     However (and didn't you just know that was coming?), Mr. Norman makes one statement which simply floors me. He says, and I quote, "I am a libertarian."
     Now, while I am not a libertarian myself I was quite surprised to find that a writer, upon whose works I gave up years ago because I couldn't cope with his paeans to the joys of slavery, claims to be a libertarian.
     The SF community, as is pretty well-known, has a libertarian contingent almost as strong and vocal as the PC contingent of which Mr. Norman rightly complains. (Gee, I'm going to honk just near 'bout everyone off today.) So I waited for a reply from some member of that contingent to say that libertarianism rejects slavery, and that they'd really rather that someone who glorifies same not publicly associate his name with libertarianism.
     I conclude that the libertarian movement, or at least the SF libertarian contingent, is intellectually challenged, ethically bankrupt, or both ... which is another reason I choose not to call myself a libertarian.
     Have a nice yuga,

Dan'l Danehy-Oakes
25 October 2001

Dear Locus Online,
     Regarding Mr. Gifford's response, and Mr. Norman's letter.
     I've made a careful study. I note, that in the United States Constitution, the Pennsylvania Constitution, the United Nations Declarations of Human Rights, the World Science Fiction Society Constitution, and the Bylaws of the Philadelphia Corporation, there is no mention of an absolute right to be on the program at the Worldcon—or any other convention for that matter.
     To repeat: no person has an absolute right to be on a convention program. Conventions are run by fans, for fans. We don't get paid for doing it. We put in a great deal of time. Sometimes we put in a great deal of money, and it doesn't always come back to us. We do it because we want to. The Worldcon is not the SFWA tradeshow. The fact that pros can do business, and perhaps write off the expenses of the convention, is great—but that doesn't mean we owe them anything.
     The people who put together convention programs have the same editorial privileges as anyone else who creates a public work. Mr. Norman's belief that his professional credentials entitle him to override the programming staff's choices is mistaken. The way he presents this opinion is repugnant. He may disagree with, or even be disappointed by, their choices, but no harm was done to Mr. Norman by the convention, and they don't deserve this kind of bad-tempered, self-serving denunciation. If he or anyone else wants to have control of a convention program, they can do it the way everyone else does: by running one. To imply that someone has managed to impinge on his freedoms by not using him on program would be comical, if it wasn't so ridiculously incorrect.
     At fan-run conventions, everyone is a member. Members get placed on the program because having them there will benefit the convention as a whole. That decision rests solely with the souls entrusted with the program. You might argue that their choices were poorly made, but you cannot argue with their right to make those choices.
     Mr. Gifford is somewhat less irritating, since he merely disagrees with the choices programming made. He obviously imagined that more tangible glory attaches to being a Hugo nominee, and so feels slighted; though for my taste he doesn't go into nearly enough detail about what exactly he thought would be done for him. (That could have been interesting.) He goes over the line, though, when he gripes that he should have been programmed "As a Hugo nominee." Well, sorry. There's still no right to be programmed, even for Hugo nominees. It's traditional, but that doesn't mean it's required.
     However, his histrionics in connecting the Millennium Philcon Convention Committee with the events of September 11th, 2001, go beyond the pale. They are in no way connected; the "loss" of blood suffered by the Red Cross did not in fact happen. Since anyone who gave at the Worldcon could not have given blood again for six weeks. Furthermore, the shortage of blood never occurred. No lives were lost because blood was not available. Mr. Gifford's imputations on this point are disgusting, and should be immediately retracted.

Erik V. Olson
25 October 2001

Dear Locus Online,
     Having read Mr. Gifford's letter criticizing the programming at Millennium Philcon, I feel the need to respond to some of the items in his letter:
     1. I would be interested in obtaining the names of the program participants who felt that that their experience was less than satisfactory, as many participants took the trouble to let me know that they had had a very enjoyable convention. While MilPhil isn't a regional convention where you can "fix it for next year", constructive criticism would be welcomed and can be discussed with future Worldcon committees.
     2. Mr. Gifford may not realize it, but the number of programming rooms we had available was limited. We had many more requests for program items that we could not accommodate due to space constraints.
     3. Panels were scheduled in general for one hour slots. Panelists were notified by Program Ops staffers (not stormtroopers) when the end of the hour was approaching. I was on panels that pushed the hour schedule to the limit. Had we extended the length of the programs, the number of items would have been cut by at least one-third. I'm thrilled that the panel Mr. Gifford saw continued in the hallway after the scheduled ending; I regard that as evidence of the quality of the items and the participants.
     4. It is my understanding that the Program Committee did ask every Hugo nominee to appear on the program. Those whose addresses were not immediately available, and Mr. Gifford probably falls into this category, were asked once the information was obtained. By his own admission, he was on two panels (plus I believe an autographing). He was on three panels at Westercon. He expected to be on "several". I don't think the differences are material, especially when we had many more requests to be on panels than we had room for, even with only one hour slots. There is also no numeric requirement for program participants, nor should there be.
     5. Again, I would appreciate names of the participants who supposedly were informed they were not important. Absent any other information, I can understand the tendency to select a "known" name over someone who is unknown. But every request I received was given to the Program Committee along with any information the person provided.
     6. I offer Mr. Gifford the opportunity to take our program and reorder it so that none of the over 4500 attendees would find themselves faced with two items held at the same time, both of which they want to attend. I freely admit that there were scheduling problems. Some items were in rooms that were too small; others had much more space than necessary. But none of those (well, maybe the Buffy panels) could have been known beforehand. The topic of the item may vary slightly from a similar item, the attendees may not want to be on their third panel in a row, or they may be unavailable any other time. Any program scheduler needs to recognize that there will be conflicts; we try to minimize them as much as possible.
     7. I would like the name of the committee member who informed Mr. Gifford that the blood drive was "not a enriching experience for con-goers". When we were contacted by the Heinlein Society regarding a blood drive, we decided that we did not have the space nor the committee available to supervise such an effort. In addition, with our location only a few blocks from two major hospitals, we did not view it as a necessary convention-sponsored activity. We informed the Society that they could set up offsite should they wish to do so, not that they needed our permission. As for being unable to hold the drive in one of the hotels, again, I'd like the names of the people who made those statements. If the Heinlein Society offered to pay for a room, we had no control over their activity. We did have much of the function space in the Marriott, but if there was a function room available and the request had been communicated to us, we would have had no reason (or right) to refuse. In any of the other hotels, we had even less control, as the only other function space we used was a small amount in the Loew's.
     To my knowledge, no flyers for any activity were removed unless they were in violation of the rules on locations for posting. I also resent Mr. Gifford's "suspicion" of a religious rationale for the denial of the location of the blood drive within the convention. That seems a convenient red herring to throw out without any support.
     I realize this has letter is long, but so was Mr. Gifford's criticism. I will note in passing that his previous complaint regarding the Hugo voting resulted in his issuing a retraction when it was pointed out that his assumptions were completely incorrect. I would hope he will be as gracious in this case.

Todd Dashoff
Chair, The Millennium Philcon
(59th World Science Fiction Convention)
25 October 2001

Dear Locus Online,
     Andrew Wheeler thoughtfully posted the actual definition of the Hugo Awards, which are for works of "science fiction and fantasy." ( Indeed, while the alternative name "Science Fiction Achievement Award" is still listed one time in the WSFS Constitution, and is mentioned on the WSFS web site at, the official name of the Hugo Award is "Hugo Award," and the name "Science Fiction Achievement Award" is no longer official—and it has not been for nearly ten years now. WSFS dropped SFAA as the nominally official name of the award when it became clear that it was so generic that it could not be registered as a service mark. That means that anyone can establish their own "science fiction achievement awards" for whatever they want, but only WSFS, through the Worldcon, can present a Hugo Award.
     John Clark writes "The Hugo supposed to go to an outstanding work of science fiction." While this may be his opinion, it is not true in the literal sense. I urge him to read the actual definition of the award. Presumably he wants administrators to declare works of "fantasy" as ineligible and keep them off of the ballot. As a past (1993, 1994) and future (2002) administrator of the Hugo Awards, I can tell you that no administrator with whom I've discussed the subject would ever want to have to decide between what was "fantasy" and what was "science fiction." We generally obey the principle of vox populi, vox dei ("the voice of the people is the voice of God") which in practical terms means that as long as the work gets enough nominations to be in the top five, is the right length, was published in the correct year, and the nomination was accepted by the author, we'll put it on the ballot. I also encourage people to read the material Cheryl Morgan wrote about the Hugo Awards in a slightly less technical manner at her web site:
     David Moles writes "If I'd been at Philcon I'd have voted against Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire." The election does not take place at Worldcon. Nominations and final ballot happen by mail and e-mail, many months prior to the Worldcon. Anyone can nominate and vote for the Hugo Awards, simply by joining the current Worldcon. You do not have to attend the convention to vote. A supporting membership, which includes voting rights, generally costs $35-$40. In effect, you have to pay annual dues to join the World Science Fiction Society in order to nominate and vote on the WSFS awards. The awards aren't decided by some secret committee; the administrators are merely that—administrators. We organize the Awards, count ballots, determine technical eligibility under the specific rules of the World Science Fiction Society (which are publicly available on the web at the WSFS site, We don't make literary judgements; it's up to the members of the Worldcon to do that by casting their ballots.
     D Carr writes that we should have a Hugo Award for Children's Fiction. Noreascon Three (1989 Worldcon) proposed using its authority to create a special one-time category for YA fiction, but there were so few nominees proposed for it that they dropped the idea. I think it rather likely that there still are not enough potential nominees to justify such a category. The category definitions are in the Constitution, and if you want to change them, you can do so by convincing the Business Meetings at two consecutive Worldcons to vote to change them. No, that's not easy—but it's not supposed to be easy. Those people advocating the splitting of the Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo Award into two categories—substantially television and theatrical movies—worked at the task for years before seeing the proposal get first passage this year in Philadelphia, and even then, it won't take effect until and unless next year's Business Meeting ratifies it. The WSFS rules are fundamentally conservative and difficult to change, but not impossible—provided enough people care deeply enough to change them.
     If anyone wants to introduce proposals to next year's WSFS Business Meeting, I encourage them to write to me. As Chairman of the 2002 WSFS Business Meeting at ConJose, part of my job is to help people cleanly draft proposals and present them to the meeting. Guidelines for submitting new business are available at

Kevin Standlee
Chairman, 2002 WSFS Business Meeting
Co-Administrator, 2002 Hugo Awards
25 October 2001

Dear Locus,
     I am interested in reprinting a short story of author Abe Merritt. Can you tell me how I can get in touch with the family, estate, or agents acting on behalf of his estate? Any information you have on contacting these entities would be appreciated.
     Thank you.

H. Krissoff
19 October 2001

Dear Locus Online,
     Mr. Norman is probably right that he should not have been excluded from Worldcon programming. But is he really so important that one decision of one fan organization affecting his participation in one convention is an indication of dry rot in the floor joists of the genre? Come on.
     Professor Lange: You've made your career on the exploitation of misogynist power fantasies. Surely it comes as no surprise to you that because of this some people aren't going to want you around.
     And your appeal to freedom of speech is ludicrous. You have, as you take pains to point out in the letter, sold millions of books, and no doubt will continue to do so; you have, again per your letter, appeared on numerous literary panels. So one convention says no thanks, and all of a sudden your right to free speech is abridged? Do you take yourself that seriously?
     The point about the literary focus of Worldcon is to my mind well-taken, and perhaps the only reasonably argued sentence in the letter. I too would like to see panels on 19th-century SF as well, by Poe, Hawthorne, Melville, et al.
     But if all of Professor Lange's appearances are as self-important and pompous as his letter to Locus, I think I'd just as soon not see him on those panels or any others.

Alex Irvine
18 October 2001

Dear Locus Online,
     I was relieved to see John Norman's letter of 14 October appear in Locus Online. While my disagreements differ considerably from his, I am not surprised to learn of his experiences. We seem to be in full agreement that the programming for Millennium Philcon was inept, mismanaged, extremely partisan and clueless. In addition to my own experiences, I collected complaints from many other panelists and attendees. Not one had a good thing to say about any aspect of the programming, and every one had at least one horror story of legendary proportions.
     I have no idea what the Programming Committee's goals were, but among them were not the presentation of interesting panelists, discussion of topics or the convenience of audience members. Despite no shortage of rooms or space, panels were limited to one hour, and ProgComm stormtroopers were on hand to shoo everyone out at the 45-minute mark. A 45-minute panel is a pointless waste of everyone's time. If the topic is dead or uninteresting, the panel will fold by the half-hour mark. If it's a good topic and an interested audience, 45 minutes is often the peak of debate and discussion. A panel less than a full hour to hour-fifteen—exclusive of room-clearing time—is a exercise in speed babble, concluded by frustrating and unsatisfying chatterus interruptus. I saw more than one panel continue ad hoc in the hallway for a half-hour or more.
     And now let's get to the meat of the matter: the selection of topics, panelists and scheduling. I have so much material on this point that I'll efficiently reduce it to a few bullet points.
     • As a Hugo nominee, I should have been invited early on to appear in several panels. (That's my understanding of the usual courtesies.) Despite this, and despite having filled out a programming questionnaire as soon as they were made available, the preliminary schedule came out without my name anywhere. When I contacted the Programming committee, they apologized for overlooking me and directed me to the "secret" questionnaire for nominees. I was shoehorned into two panels as a result. Since I was on three very-well-attended panels at Chicon (essentially as a nobody) and had just come from three more panels at Westercon (where my only real credential was my Hugo nomination), I felt just a bit slighted.
     • I shared a dinner and some airport waiting time with an author who's not Ursula Le Guin, but is well known in her own right. She was told by the ProgComm that she wasn't important enough to put on any panels. Several others, of varying note, said the same thing—they were told that they weren't important enough for anyone to come see. To hell with diversity—I guess the Killer B's will just have to do continuous shows from now on, with the various GoHs filling in during their rest breaks.
     • I met Hugh "SpaceBase" Gregory at Westercon. Hugh's multimedia presentations on the US and Russian space programs are unique, fascinating and have always been SRO, even in the largest auditoriums. The MilPhil ProgComm told him that they didn't think anyone wanted to see his stuff this year.
     • The ProgComm needed someone to sit them down and carefully explain the notion of "channels" or "tracks" to them. I can't count the number of panels that were scheduled up against panels of highly similar interest, meaning that the audience had to be split between them, with everyone losing.
     • And finally, the MilPhil concom as a whole decided that the Heinlein Society's request to stage the Robert Heinlein Memorial Blood Drive on site was—and I quote—"not an enriching experience for con goers." (Later, they were told there was no room—I guess all that vast, cavernous, empty space was necessary for ambiance.) Do I need to tell anyone in this venue what blood drives meant to Heinlein? What Heinlein meant to sf? How many very successful blood drives have been held at Worldcons and other major cons? And how important it is to hold the drive within the confines of the event? It didn't stop there, though. When the organizers tried to locate the drive in the hotels, they were told that they couldn't do it without con permission—EVEN IF THEY PAID FOR THE ROOM! The concom even threatened to remove blood drive flyers from con areas, and only accepted the program book ad at the last minute. Against these obstacles, the blood drive was held—two blocks away, at a church. How much this reduced the donations, we'll never know. I'm very, very proud of the Heinlein Society for persisting, and of the very big name authors (Benford, Sheffield, Kondo/Kotani, others) who donated books and kaffeeklatsch time as rewards for the donors, and of those donors who made the trek and waited patiently. Despite the stupid and illogical barriers thrown up by the MilPhil committee, almost seventy units of blood were collected.
     Oh, punchline: two weeks later that blood (mine included) went to New York City. I cried both tears of catharsis—my wife and I came to Philly from NYC, where we'd had dinner atop the WTC—and of rage, at the MilPhil committee. I don't know what they could have been thinking. (I suspect—just suspect, mind you—that someone on the concom of a particular religious stripe opposed to blood transfusion was enforcing his values. But maybe it was just more of the stupid shortsightedness that pervaded the whole con.)
     I don't want to leave the impression that the entire con was a disappointment and a failure. The post-Hugo reception was a superbly catered gathering and very much the high point of the entire weekend for my wife and myself. A number of the attendees said the same thing. Oh, wait... ConJose was responsible for that. Never mind. Yes, I do know the way to San Jose.
     A colleague of mine (who has Worldcon concom experience) told me that "in thirty years of con-going, I've never seen such clueless ineptitude—and you may quote me." My con experience falls short of his, but my understanding of the difficulties and the pitfalls is good and I can cut a well-intended but overwhelmed concom (and all of them are overwhelmed when the event starts) a lot of slack. I have no slack for the MilPhil committee, especially the Programming committee. Only a plethora of hard work and fanatical dedication to task could have produced such a godawful mess.
     "Never again in Philadelphia." Never.

James Gifford
17 October 2001

Dear Locus Online,
     I would have liked it more if another book had won the Hugo. The Harry Potter series is a fantasy series, not science fiction. Of course, I have a taste for hard science fiction rather than fantasy, although I do read the occasional fantasy novel.
     There is another facet to the Harry Potter story that I would like to comment on, however, that has nothing to do with the winning of the Hugo—it is the fact that the Potter books have become a target of religious groups. I was watching TV the other day for a few moments before I was due to report for work. On TV was this presentation by someone I don't know telling of the great danger to children posed by the Harry Potter series. That these stories were dangerous because they taught children that is was okay to try to get something for nothing, and that witchcraft was fun and not evil.
     Now, not having read any of the Potter books, I can't comment on the impression that the books would leave on children, but I did find it ironic that the rest of the program was devoted to asking for money. Talk about getting something for nothing! These TV preachers must create a crisis where none exists in order to stir up the faithful and to part them from their money. While I don't believe in witchcraft and will tell my children at a proper age that there is no such thing, I will also instruct them that sometimes wolves come in sheep's clothing, and that people who come across as being concerned about children may have ulterior motives. The Harry Potter novels have their supporters, and I would be interested in having someone tell me what the appeal is, and why the novels have become such a phenomenon.

Allen Smith
22 October 2001

Dear Locus Online,
     Just a slight correction to Mr. Norwood's letter of October 13th, concerning Heinlein's Starship Troopers. I have read for many years that Putnam issued that book as an adult novel, and from my perspective that simply isn't true. Proof may be found on the dustwrapper of the first edition, where the tell-tale letters "YA" appear on the lower right hand corner, just below the blurb. These letters stand for "Young Adult", as any librarian would be happy to tell you. And do you really think that Putnam wouldn't have capitalized on the success of Heinlein's long running series of juvenile novels published by Scribner's? This book was the successor to Have Spacesuit, Will Travel, and I'm certain was advertised in library journals simply as Mr. Heinlein's new book for the juvenile market. I can recall that it was also advertised in science fiction magazines of the time, but so was Podkayne of Mars, a few years later (and the same "YA" branding is on the dustwrapper of Podkayne, but of course it didn't appear on the adult novel Stranger in a Strange Land, which was published between Starship Troopers and Podkayne of Mars). However critics today may classify Starship Troopers, I believe it was initially written and published as a juvenile novel in the United States, and I've never heard or seen any proof to convince me otherwise.

John Lowrance
21 October 2001

Dear Locus Online,
     Rick Norwood quotes me thus; "And D Carr, who says Harry Potter is 'the first fantasy novel as well as the first YA novel to cop the Hugo', is forgetting history."
     Interesting quote, especially considering I never said it. My letter was a very short one in which the word "fantasy" did not appear at all, and to explicitly quote a sentence that never existed from such a short letter puzzles me.
     I don't hate the Potter book, far from it. I did say it was a good children's novel. Perhaps Rick missed that part while he was busy reading the sentence I never wrote.
     For Michael Walsh, here's my initial definition for a Children's Hugo: any novel first published in a line designated for under-18s. Wow, that took all of 30 seconds, including typing. What's in store for next year? Is fandom about to start voting for Buffy books?

D Carr
15 October 2001

Dear Locus Online,
     I would second Rick Norwood's response to D Carr with a codicil: arguably Robert A. Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land is a fantasy in the trappings of SF, with angels, reincarnation, and miracles at the forefront.
     Also, the Grand Master who won more Hugo novel awards than anyone thus far tried half a century ago to sell the notion that SF means speculative fiction.

JJ Brannon
15 October 2001

Dear Locus Online,
     The Hugo awards are decided by the people who do not nominate. Only 15% of Locus readers bothered to nominate for the Hugo, and the two best sf/fantasy novels of the year, In Green's Jungles by Gene Wolfe and The Telling by Ursula K. Le Guin, missed the final ballot by a handful of votes. I would have voted for either over Harry Potter, but I can't vote for what isn't on the ballot.
     And D Carr, who says Harry Potter is "the first fantasy novel as well as the first YA novel to cop the Hugo", is forgetting history. Robert A. Heinlein's Starship Troopers was written as a YA novel, the next in Heinlein's juvenile series for Scribners. They rejected it, and it was published as an adult novel by Putnam, but it was written as a YA novel, and that's what it is.

Rick Norwood
13 October 2001

Dear Locus Online,
     I'm not sure if you can help me or not, perhaps you can suggest a direction. I'm looking for a book that I read sometime in the last handful of years. I can't remember the title or the author (although I suspect the minute I hear it I'll hit myself). It is science fiction and I believe it was by a well known author.
     The plot involved a young man who is some kind of emerging AI genius. He is working late one night and the lab is broken into by a bunch of hired thieves. Many are killed and the young man is shot. Fortunately he falls backwards into a tape vault that shuts after he is inside. The thieves can't check to make sure he is dead because the vault has a time lock on it. He survives but has extensive brain damage. They place a new kind of computer chip in his brain in hopes that it will help him remember things. Over time he is able to access the chips directly and sets off with an AI robot he builds to find out who was behind the original break-in that almost killed him.
     Ring any bells? Any ideas who I could ask?

10 October 2001

Dear Locus Online,
     D Carr has an interesting suggesting about a Hugo for Kid Lit. Might I ask for a definition? Would the definition exclude Heinlein's Hugo winning "juvenile" novel Starship Troopers?
     And let us not forget these Heinlein juveniles: The Star Beast, serialized in F&SF (1954), Citizen of the Galaxy serialized in Astounding (1957), Have Space Suit, Will Travel serialized in F&SF (1958, a Hugo nominee!), and Podkayne of Mars serialized in Worlds of IF (1962-63).

Michael Walsh
9 October 2001

Dear Locus Online,
     An Open Letter to the Hugo Award Committee:
     The Hugo Award, also known as the "SCIENCE FICTION ACHIEVEMENT AWARD" (to quote your web site) is supposed to go to an outstanding work of science fiction.
     Hugo Gernsback was The Father of Magazine Science Fiction.
     The award has a rocket ship on it for crying out loud.
     It's stretching things to even allow fantasy novels to be nominated, but to award the premiere Hugo for best science-fiction novel of the year to a kiddie fantasy is madness.
     How can you possibly justify this?
     Please rescind this crazy decision immediately and make sure such lunacy never occurs again and restore the Hugos to what science fiction fandom intended them to be—a celebration of science fiction.

John Clark
VISION Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers Group
Brisbane, Australia
9 October 2001

[ There is, of course, a separate award for children's or YA science fiction: the Golden Duck Awards (though at this moment its website seems to be unavailable), as well as several awards—the World Fantasy Awards, the British Fantasy Awards, the Mythopoeic Awards—devoted specifically to fantasy works. Rather than prohibiting certain categories of works—fantasy, children's/YA fiction, etc.—from the Hugos, it seems to us entirely appropriate for the Hugos to be open to anything the nominators want to nominate, and let the best/most-popular nominee win. If you don't like the results, get involved next year and nominate and vote for what you think should win.
—Or does this philosophy presume that fantasy works are secondary to works of science fiction? Maybe a popular-vote fantasy award is needed, as we suggested below...?
--ed. ]

Dear Locus Online,
     I've so far stayed out of the Harry Potter brouhaha in the letters pages, mostly because Michael Walsh has been saying everything I would have—and probably saying it better, too. But one of the most recent correspondents took a sideswipe at my club in his letter, and I just can't let his utterly wrong assertion stand.
     George Akin wrote: "the Science Fiction Book Club (new Motto: your total Fantasy site and we have some Science Fiction laying around here, somewhere)." This is completely untrue, and anyone who actually looks at what we publish would know it. We have two Selections every month and at least one of them is always SF—occasionally two are, but we never have only Fantasy Selections. The rest of the new books are similarly split down the middle. We don't all have precisely identical definitions of SF and Fantasy, I'll admit, but no one could have such a rigid definition of SF as not to include such recent Selections as Kingdom of Cages by Sarah Zettel, The Secret of Life by Paul J. McAuley, American Empire: Blood & Iron by Harry Turtledove, The Year's Best Science Fiction, 18th Annual Collection edited by Gardner Dozois, and Hammerfall by C.J. Cherryh—and that's only going back three months.
     The most recent club magazine which I have in front of me has the following new books:

  • Ascending by James Alan Gardner (SF)
  • The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold (Fantasy)
  • Black Seas of Infinity by H.P. Lovecraft (I call it SF/Horror, not all agree)
  • The Chronoliths by Robert Charles Wilson (SF)
  • Look to Windward by Iain M. Banks (SF)
  • First Landing by Robert Zubrin (SF)
  • Illumination by Terry McGarry (Fantasy)
  • Dragon & Issola by Steven Brust (Fantasy)
  • Spider-Man: Revenge of the Sinister Six by Adam-Troy Castro (more SF than Fantasy, but not really either)
  • Batman Collected by Chip Kidd (Nonfiction)
  • Offerings: The Art of Brom by Brom (Art)

     We are The Science Fiction Book Club, we always have been The Science Fiction Book Club, and—as long as Ellen Asher and I have any say—we will remain The Science Fiction Book Club. In the "good old days" (up until about the early '80s) we had two books a month, total. Even if you assume that was all SF (and it wasn't always), we have twice as much SF as that now.
     As I keep repeating over and over, the sky is not falling. There is as much, if not more, new SF out there as there ever was. And a lot of it is good; I don't get to read everything I want to each year, and I do this for a living.
     Lastly, since no one else has, let me quote the WSFS Constitution, in the section on Hugo rules. This is the only place where the Hugo for Best Novel is officially defined.
3.3.1: Best Novel. A science fiction or fantasy story of forty thousand (40,000) words or more.

     There are two requirements only: that the story be 40,000 words or more, and that it be science fiction or fantasy. The Harry Potter-haters can quibble about what works they wanted to win (I do it most every year, myself—that's part of the fun of awards), but they cannot claim that it was ineligible or inappropriate.

Andrew Wheeler
Editor, The Science Fiction Book Club
4 October 2001

Dear Locus Online,
     I've just read the letters arguing for & against Joanne Rowling's Hugo. Good luck to her, but I find it astonishing that none of your correspondents seemed bothered by the fact that the Hugo Award for best science fiction novel of the year was won by a novel written for the children's book market, albeit a good children's novel.
     Isn't it time to create a new Hugo category for children's fiction? Should we give up even nominating anything written for adults? Is Harry Potter the most mature fare that the Worldcon's voters could handle? Or was the voting process taken over by 12-year-olds?
     For crying out loud, it's 2001. Surely fandom should have grown up by now.

D Carr
6 October 2001

Dear Locus Online,
     If I'd been at Philcon I'd have voted against Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
     Mainly because I don't think it's reasonable to give a "Best Novel" award to one book in a series, when it can't really stand on its own. (Though if the average Hugo voter agreed with me, we'd have seen different winners in half the Novel and Dramatic Presentation contests of the last ten years, so I'm used to this particular annoyance.)
     But after seeing the level of invective unleashed against J.K. Rowling by some people in the SF community, here and elsewhere (and I'm not just talking about this latest episode), I'm seriously considering voting for her books every time they're on the ballot.
     Maybe even registering for Worldcons I wouldn't otherwise have registered for, just so I can do that.
     Folks, what do you think the Hugos are, the Nobel Prize? It's a popularity contest, and it always has been. I'm sorry if the fen who voted at Philcon weren't fannish enough for you, but that's your problem, not theirs and not SF's. (Who do you think these people were? Ringers slipped in by the American Library Association? They're people who cared enough about SF to spend the time and money to go to Worldcon. You know... fans.)
     J.K. Rowling's written four pretty decent fantasy novels. Some of her characters may be flat and some of her world-building derivative, but for what's basically an extended first novel, the Potter books aren't bad. If you pay attention you'll find she's actually got some fairly deft plotting and characterization—well above average.
     (And if my saying that makes your blood boil, before you go off on me in the pages of Locus, e-ail me privately and I'll explain what I mean.)
     But—horror of horrors—on her first try, she wrote a book that people both inside and outside of fandom want to read. Is that what this is about? If Rowling had put in fifteen years on the midlist before finally getting a hit, would people still be complaining? Is the Hugo supposed to be about "paying your dues" and being "one of us"?
     I'm not saying I'd have voted for Goblet. I am saying it's pathetic that so many people apparently can't get over the fact that it won—and can't get over Rowling's success, in general.
     It always amuses me how some members of a community that prides itself on tolerance and openness to new ideas can be so intolerant and closed-minded.
     But in this case it isn't funny any more.

David Moles
2 October 2001

Dear Locus Online,
     I get the feeling I'm losing touch with Science Fiction readers. As I turn 51 years old, I wonder if it is just me?
     What started as a feeling of vague unease upon reading the nominee list for the 2000 Hugo Awards, blossomed into full-fledged dread with the recent announcement of the 2001 Hugos. I fear the reading populace had confused Fantasy with Science Fiction; that fear may be realized in the Hugo Award results.
     I've always considered the Hugo to be for the best "Science Fiction" novel/novella/novelette/etc. of the year (and I've read every winner). Last year a Harry Potter novel was nominated, hence my early unease. This year, a Harry Potter novel won the Hugo Award for the best Science Fiction Novel of the Year (the dread part). While the distinction between Science Fiction and Fantasy (what is Star Wars??) has been vociferously debated before, I have to say that Harry Potter is FANTASY. The fact that it is pretty good (and fun) fantasy makes no difference. (Another nominee this year, George R. R. Martin's A Storm of Swords, is also fantasy (two out of five nominees are fantasy) and is far superior to Harry). These stories should not be considered for a Science Fiction award.
     I must admit, A Storm of Swords was probably the best novel I read all year; but give it a Nebula or World Fantasy Award rather than a Hugo.
     Prior to the award announcement this year, two Hugo polls conducted by and the Science Fiction Book Club (new Motto: your total Fantasy site and we have some Science Fiction laying around here, somewhere) further contributed to my unease. Contributors to both polls selected the fantasy novels first and second place, Harry Potter coming in first. At least they picked Robert Sawyer's Calculating God third; it was the best of the three SF nominees, though Hopkinson's Midnight Robber is borderline Science Fiction.
     I've been reading Science Fiction for over 40 years; I was raised on Asimov, Clark, and Heinlein and have yet to be weaned. For years I compared up-and-coming authors with the "Big Three," as I have always thought of them. Over time, I've added Larry Niven (Niven/Pournelle too), Greg Bear, and Stephen Baxter, among others, to my list. A deserving Hugo Award winner should be comparable to their works. Though Baxter has yet to win a Hugo, his work is outstanding. Bear has won a couple of Nebulas and has consistently place high in the Locus Poll. Reviewing the list of Hugo Award winning novels, one finds almost all meet the criteria. There have been astonishingly good novels, Dune, Ringworld, Gateway, The Forever War, and Ender's Game to name a few. All combine good storytelling and plausible science. While many border on the fantastic, fantastic is not the same as fantasy.
     I guess it just bugs me that fantasy is threatening to take over the Science Fiction Awards in much the same way it has taken over the bookseller lists. If the trend continues, we're bound see many more of The Lost Frog of Shanana, the first book of a new epic trilogy of trilogies, and less of good, solid, hard Science Fiction.
     Maybe I would be less bugged some if separate Hugos were presented for SF and Fantasy in much the same way the Locus Poll Awards are given.
     I'm not sure where I'm going with all this, if anywhere. Maybe I'm just lamenting the fact that good, hard science fiction is getting harder to find and that the book reading public will latch on to anything that involves finding a lost artifact and using magic to vanquish the ultimate evil. The pursuit nowadays seems to be things you don't have to think about rather than those that require a little effort to see.
     To SF reading public, is it just me?

P.S. I should point out that I have voted in the last four WorldCons and am a supporting member of ConJose. I read every novel nominee prior to voting. I read as much short SF as I can.

George Akin
2 October 2001

[ The Hugos do not specifically exclude fantasy, or even mainstream works; voters can nominate anything they want to. In the late 1970s the Lin Carter-sponsored Gandalf Awards for fantasy were presented at Worldcons, in parallel with the Hugos, mostly to "Grand Masters" but also a couple years to best novel. Perhaps with the expansion of the fantasy genre in the past two decades a separate Hugo, or an analogous award, for fantasy would be appropriate? But to affect the Hugos would require presenting motions to the Worldcon committee, having the motions validated by the following year's Worldcon, and so on. Such motions do not pass lightly.
--ed. ]

Dear Locus Online,
     I nominated, voted for and attended the MilPhil Hugos.
     Twice over, since I was given carte blanche by my 16-year-old son to vote in any category which he did not specify on his ballots [this also applied to the Retro-Hugos].
     I selected Martin's Storm of Swords over my #2 Rowling. My son reversed that order.
     I purchased both books, two of the fifty-some titles I purchased last year. I don't read Sawyer, and the other two candidates simply were not among the 120+ books I read during the requisite nominating period. My nominee Declare [by Tim Powers] didn't make the final ballot.
     The success and bane of SF is grounded in its increasing narrow-casting, complacency, and multimedia diversification—games, TV, movies, & comics. Only some 10% of the attendees voted on books at what was originally a literary convention, while three times that attendance was partying down in Atlanta for the multimedia-centered, for-profit DragonCon.
     The fans who cared enough to pony up hard cash [twice] voted for Rowling, and the criticisms leveled by some about poorly written or plotted seem like sour grapes, echoing a decades-long battle in SF fandom between those who enjoy Good Storytelling and those who favor Exalted Mannered Prose [not necessarily mutually exclusive entities].
     From what I gathered time travel in the third Harry Potter novel obeyed the established Heinlein rules of no-interference: if you weren't there the first time around, you couldn't be there any other time either. Also, the spell was costly, localized and required special permission. Seems this is an example more of a poor reading than of poor writing by Rowling. Success certainly breeds envy.
     I was mildly disappointed in the outcome for Martin's sake, but thus are Hugos demonstrated to be democratic and bastions of diversity. Long may they reign!

JJ Brannon
28 September 2001

Dear Locus Online,
     The folks kvetching over the Potter book seemed to have missed something: just because what won did not meet their criteria of quality does not mean the system is broken.
     To Todd Teichel: Voting is a benefit of a membership in the World SF Convention. Currently a membership that allows nominating, voting, receiving all publications, but not attending is $35.00 (that's about 6 paperbacks). It is important to note these are not tickets to an event where one will be entertained. Members of the immediate previous Worldcon and the current Worldcon may nominate, only members of the current Worldcon may vote on the final ballot. The final ballot may be voted on electronically—but only by those individuals who are members of the current convention, and that one is Con Jose (see: for details. The last few worldcons have also enabled members—or anyone else for that matter—to check on their membership through the worldcon's respective website, just in case you want to make sure your payment arrived).
     As for opening the awards process to those who are not members I would suggest that would make the award even more of a "popularity contest" that you fear. Do you really want the hordes of Potter fans voting en mass?
     To Peter Crozier: in response to "If they can afford to pay to vote, they should be able to afford the time and money to read the books they are voting on" Just because the results do not match your desired outcome does not mean that the voters did not read the nominations. I would suggest that the members who voted liked the Potter book. Really, they did. The fact that you liked the Hopkinson book more is immaterial. If you had been a member of MilPhil your vote would have counted the same as the rest: one vote. As for attesting to having read X number of the nominees, well... try to enforce it. Utterly impractical. Pop quiz?

Michael Walsh
27 September 2001

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