Chinese Worldcon

So a few days ago a friend discovered information about a bid to run a World con in Beijing in 2016. Here is the website, it is in Chinese, But a translate program is interesting.

People who have friends in Chinese fandom have identified the parties, and where the idea came from. Without going into too much detail, it is unlikely that such a bid would win at the site selection this year. However i think a Chinese World con would be a very interesting thing to have happen.

While there may be issues around how much control the Chinese government might have over programme, these are questions that we should wait until we have an actual bid team around to ask questions of.

For me, i would love a Chinese Worldcon as I would love to visit Beijing and the surrounding area. There is also a chance to meet some Chinese fans and see how Chinese fandom works.

of course this then leaves us wondering when would be best for them to bid?

If you look at the bid years that are around, there are no open years for a long time (There is a declared intention to bid for every year out until 2022)

So doing some analysis on the best year for such a bid, I think we can ignore 2017, as four bids is already more than enough, and I don’t think we want the War of the Five Bids.

2018 has two US bids, and China might have a chance there, However this is a case where the voters for two US bids would be more likely to Stay in the US.  At the Site selection in 2013 votes transferred from Orlando at a rate of approximately 2 to 1 to the other US Bidder. So avoiding 2018 is probably a good idea.

For obvious reasons I would prefer not to have them enter the 2019 bid race. Though this is the first year without a US bidder in the Race. The same can be said for 2020, for which New Zealand declared an interest in a long time ago. No one is bidding against them as yet and they have a lot of popular support among regular Worldcon attendees/voters.

the bids in 2021 and 2022 only have a single bidder each, Texas and Chicago, who hosted the 2013 and 2012 world cons. Which means they are also good places to bid.

I think the earliest that a Chinese bid would have a chance would be 2019. However as people who have not had much of a presence at a worldcon, it might be better for them to spend a few years running small parties and introducing themselves around, with a target to bid for 2021 or later.

Seven years sounds like a lot, but it means they have two years to introduce themselves at London and Spokane, then three years of bidding, with a vote in 2019. That is of course if they can actually get entrance Visas to the US…

Grey Days

It is yet another drab, wet grey day.

This of course is perfect weather to curl up and read books. I have been working my way through a pile of books I got myself as a little birthday present just before Christmas. So I thought I would throw up some short reviews

Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson

This is the first book in a new series from this great writer. The basic premise is that something has caused people to manifest superpowers, however so far only evil people seem to have gained powers. The book is set in a Chicago that has been taken over and controlled by one of these villains.

A really good book, with a story that moves along nicely, but that still has time to set up a great world and also throw in a few twists. I highly recommend this one.

Boneshaker by Cherie Priest

A story set in an alternate history Seattle. In this world the US civil war is still ongoing after 20 years.  Seattle is a city completely changed by the “Boneshaker” which was a tunnelling device that dug a tunnel under Seattle that released a heavy gas that effectively causes zombism. The authroies built a big wall around the old core of Seattle, and people don’t go there anymore.

At least that’s what the main protagonist of the story believes, until her son goes into the walled town to prove his fathers innocence in the Bone Shaker incident. She has to follow, and learns all about the hidden community that still exists inside the walls.

An interesting read, with a very different world. It has a very strong Steam punk vibe and a very good set of characterisation of its main characters.

The Prince of Lies by Anne Lyle

This is the third and final volume in the Nights Masque trilogy. The trilogy is based around a set of characters mainly focused on an alternate Elizabethan England, though the second volume is set in Venice, where the characters have travelled.

This book is the climax of the trilogy, and ties up a lot of loose ends that have been introduced in earlier books. The book itself covers a large period of time as the various antagonist forces plots progress until a quite stunning climax.

I do recommend the entire series, as a good fun read.

The Shambling guide to New York City by Mur Lafferty

I was unable to find a physical copy of this book, and so i got myself the audio book version, read by Mur Lafferty. The book focuses on a woman who finds herself working for a company producing a tourist guide to New York city for the mystical community.

This book is a great mix of funny, scary, and weird. I don’t want to go into it too much as the book is so good, and anything i say would probably ruin a couple of surprises! i will say that i loved the concept of the Welsh Death Goddess who had to start working as a writer because all the followers of her religion had switched to other religions.

A new Something or other

So we are here, the first Monday of 2014.  Work was very busy just before Christmas, and I expect it to take off again very shortly. So i shall take some of this time, where nothing is happening to write some thoughts.

This is a rest year for conventions for me. By which I mean I am working on conventions, but in positions of lower stress. Having been a chair of a convention every year since 2010, a break where other people have final responsibility is nice.

At the moment my main focus is Shamrokon, where I am currently in charge of Membership. This has been busy over the last while, as we had a price increase on New Years Day. This is probably a bad time for a price increase, but there are also worse. People are aware of key dates, and New years day stands out.

After the price increase we were expecting a complete drop off of memberships, however it has been not at all that bad. no where near the rush it was, but still higher than it was in previous months. At this point, as people begin booking there travel plans, it makes more sense to get a membership.

I am still trying to work out what to do with the Historical Stuff i have for Irish Scifi, however I think I will probably create an archive site off of the main Domain, as that seems logical. I will be thinking some more on this, and of course will continue scanning, Though will need better software than the in built stuff.

Other things, Convention list for this year is much much smaller than I hoped. I will be limited to two International events, Eastercon and Worldcon. Ireland wise, will probably make it to most Dublin based gaming conventions, and of course will be at Shamrokon! I may make an appearance at a couple of the other Dublin cons (Anime and Animation) in an effort to advertise or at least see  if there are things I can learn.

[History] First Contact – May 1993

So before Christmas I got a large collection of various documents that are related to the now defunct Irish Science Fiction Association. So I have selected one document to scan and am putting it up on dropbox.

I am hoping to put together a proper archive document and share more of these later.

Panel parity

Every so often I share a link on Facebook about panel parity, with a focus on gender. What usually happens is someone comes along and says that quotas are bad and can’t we just get the best people on panels.

In the recent past, a number of conventions have said things like “We plan to put the best people on panels”. What usually happens is that you get a majority of panels with 4-5 men sitting around talking.  I think we can agree that there might be something wrong with this.

Here is a Truth that is often missed out by a lot of people against panel parity. Panel parity is the aim to have the best people on panels.

However we can’t just magically have that, despite what some people think we still have a society that is filled with bias.

Whenever I try to put together a panel, I usually think about who I know might be good for the panel. I think about who I have seen previously is a good speaker, who I know has written relevant works.

This seems a reasonable step; the problem is that because women don’t get to be on many panels, I don’t immediately think about women to put on panels. Yes, this is my bias, but I think that it might be a bit more wide-spread.

So I set myself a target of at least having 40% of my participant slots having women in them. I also want to have a similar target for each panel, while knowing it may not be possible; this is what I have called “soft quotas”.

The 40% is the least that any convention that wants to draw in more attendance from women should be doing.

The point, for me at least, of ‘soft quotas’ is that it forces me outside my comfort zone, it forces me to justify why I have four men on a panel with no women. Sometimes that might be justified, but I had better know why I have done it.

I am looking forward to the day when people will do stuff like gender balance without having to think about it, but until then I am going to do my hardest to make sure that any event I am involved in is at least getting parity at the convention level if not at the panel level.

Irish Fandom – Where to next

After my look back at Octocon, and the previous ones yesterday, I wanted to put out some thoughts I have had about Irish Fandom as we get ready for Running things like Shamrokon, and putting a bid together to host a World con in Dublin.

One of the problems  is that we get together nowhere near enough. Back when I first got involved, there were monthly meetings of the Irish Science Fiction Association. However attendance of those meeting fell, and in the end the organisation was wound up.

This left a gap of places for fans to get together, and looking around Dublin there does not seem to be much more than a couple of Science Fiction Book clubs and other small gatherings.

When I think about it, I come up with four distinct points

  1. I think I would like a regular meeting.
  2. It should be as cheap as possible to attend.
  3. It should be centrally located.
  4. It should have a definite purpose.

1. I have thought about this, and feel that about once a month is a good idea, and it should be a set day of the month, something like the second Tuesday, or similar means that people will know when it is as they start planning things. Making it easier for them to decide if it is worth there while to attend. I know other events have shorter and longer gaps, I just feel that this is a time line that might work better.

2. I would like this to be free, however it can be hard to ensure a good central location without some charge. While a place could be found that might meet a lot of these requirements, keeping it month to month for free could be difficult.  It may start out as free, with possible requests for people to donate to supporting the event on a voluntary basis.

3. In this case it should be near to the majority of bus routes, such that a single bus or Luas would get you into the area where the event is happening. Of course because of train station locations the same cannot be said for Trains.

4. Having a meeting that is just for meeting up with friends is useful, it however does not really encourage the arrival of new people, and in truth this about getting to meet new people. So each meeting should have a purpose of sorts. A reason that people might come along. Whether it be a talk from an author, a table quiz, or a presentation of some sort. Something to differentiate each meeting from the last.

I am going to investigate this and try and find some place to host a meeting, and maybe some form of talk for the first meeting. The question is does anyone else want to get involved in helping me out with this?


Octocon 2013 – Stakeholders Report

Since I got involved with Octocon I have tried to give a breakdown of the convention and where we are going next, maybe some aims and similar. This is what i have taken to call my Stakeholders Report. It is for those who are interested in Octocon.

This started in 2010, and continued in both 2011 and 2012. All of those are over on my Live journal, however I decided to continue here on my own Space to see where we go next.

Since I took over after 2010 I have been working with 3 strategic goals.

1. To grow the committee, and non committee helpers.
2. To grow the attendance by 50%.
3. To maintain, or improve, the quality of the convention.

Point 1: Grade F.

This year we explicitly asked people who were not going to attend to come and help us. Unlike how things were done normally, we did not charge them for memberships, and then worked them really hard. This opened the rest of the committee up to actually been able to relax. However we still need to look at growing the committee pool, coming out of 2012 we had a committee of about 5 people, and went into 2013 with a pool of four, however that was down two and up one. I am not sure if all four will remain on board until 2015, so a lot of this is in flux.

Point 2: Grade B-.

Since setting that goal our membership numbers took a dip, we had a major Bump from having George RR Martin as our GOH, a bump that we did not maintain. Over the next few years we grew membership, and I am hoping that while we will get a bump from any GOH, our base level will stay more constant. I think our base membership has probably grown by about 33% since 2010, but it is only a guess. at the end of last year, I made a comment about growing membership to above 200, this we did this year, with actual membership at approximately 210, now not all members made it for various reasons, and so our through the door was about 195. This is progress, but my target is around 250-300.

Point 3: Grade A-.

I know giving myself an A on this is a bit of an ego thing, however this is based on general on reviews of the convention on-line.  We have grown the number of program items, and also the number of program participants. We had a gender balance of about 56-44. There could be some variance from program to actual on weekend numbers. We still have a lot of work in getting in additional participants, as I want the average to to be around 3-4 panels per person, with a maximum of six. This year we had one person on eleven panels! This is at a two day con! The complaint that I have heard from some places is that the convention program was a little bit too serious, and maybe a fun track could be brought back. This is partly my fault, and I hope to be able to change in 2015.

So I still need to work on our strategic goals. However some progress has been made.

2013 was the first year that we decided to have two Professional Guests of Honour. We had two Guests of Honour in 2009, a professional and a fan. This lead to some interesting program things, and i feel it worked really well and is something that I hope we continue to do.

This was the year were we brought in a big US name, to see if it could work. However I do not think Octocon at its current level can actually afford that full cost. This caused a lot of stares at bank balances this year, and join rates, and generally hoping our at the door numbers would be enough. However in the end on a financial level we broke mostly even, though that is because of receipts not handed in.

The convention is taking a break for 2014, for a number of reasons, the main one been ShamroKon, however that break gives us a chance to sit down and fix some of our underlying structures, things like Website and so on. There are also some ideas that we would like to try, but need to get some idea of how to do it, and how to get buy-in from various places.

I think that this year was probably the best Octocon I was involved in, and hope to keep it going a little longer. I had hoped to do a reshuffle, move things around, and while that may still happen, i suspect that the committee will not change position that much over the next two years. So I will likely be in charge when we come back in 2015, though hopefully with someone looking and ready to take over in 2016.