[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.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/0ze6sszry5uwq6n/FirstContact_1_7_may_1993.pdf

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.

 

 

Irish Science Fiction Association Headed Paper

As i mentioned i am in the process of trying to put together an archive of Irish Fan history. Part of that is getting older documents scanned and put on to the Internet.Of course all such things take time and of course documents.

I recently got some documents from Pádraig Ó Méalóid. There is a lot in the bag and so it will take a lot to get it in.

The first of the things i have scanned are two blank documents which have the header for the Irish Science Fiction Association which was set up in 1976 to promote awareness of Science Fiction in Ireland.

ISFA_Header1

ISFA_Header2

Hopefully i will manage to get more these scanned and into a proper archive.

[Review] Homeworld (Odyssey One)

Homeworld is the third book in the Odyssey One series of books. This is a series i have enjoyed since the first book. The earlier books had some issues, and this continues. However the story makes up for a lot of that.

The series is an entry in the military Science Fiction Genre. It is based in a post WW3 era, when the war between China and America ended up with the formation of two large blocs, one centered on China, The eastern Block (Block), and one on the US, North American Confederation(NAC). In this post war era both sides have expanded out in the solar system in a way very similar to the cold war expansion.

in the first book of the series the NAC had developed a faster than light method for travel and so began exploring the galaxy. They found that there was a system of colonies very near to the earth that was made up of humans. These people had been quite peaceful, but where now been attacked by an Alien, and monstrous, Race called the Drasin. The earthlings, Terrans, who are very good at fighting give a hand.

In Homeworld, a BLOCK ship sets out to also explore the galaxy. However things go wrong, and they lead the Drasin to Earth. This leads to a Fantastic fight inside the SOL system, as all parties attempt to save Earth from the Monstrous Drasin.

If you have read any Military SF and enjoyed I would recommend this series. Though book one has some rough patches, the series is well worth reading as book two and three are a lot better.

Slow Updates

I know that updates have been infrequent. This is always the way for me on blogging sites.

I always feel like i have nothing to say. This is of course mainly because i don’t like sharing my inner feelings about things, and to do it on the internet for all to see and look back on in years to come!

Recently a Facebook friend referred to a letter she, and her class, had written in the first year of college. This letter was delivered to them recently, after they graduated from college. This had me thinking about how such a letter would have been for me.

I admit that i massively underachieved in college, i should have done better, at least a 2:1. So such a letter would just have highlighted how much i had disappointed myself.

I am not sure if i had done the required work, meet the minimum standards of what i could have achieved would i have ended up happier? I probably would have gone on to do some form of PHD. As that is where i thought i wanted to go.

I understand that our live hangs on turning points, and that where we end up can be completely different from where we started. The question is, would i have been happier following that path?

[Review] The Republic of Thieves

I was lucky enough to get my hands on a Manuscript proof of this book, and so I having read it I thought I would share some thoughts.

This is the Third Book of the Gentleman Bastard series, that started with the Lies of Locke Lamora. Without going into too much detail, if you have not read either of the two earlier books, I would suggest that you stop reading this review, go to the nearest bookstore and buy them now.

The series is written by Scott Lynch, and he has pretty much reached the point where I will get his book as soon after release as possible. The adventures of Locke Lamora and the other Gentleman Bastards are fun. They play the long con on the rich folks of the town that they live in.

At the end of the second book of the series there is a cliffhanger, a nasty one that kept many a person wondering when the next book would be out. This cliffhanger is not immediately resolved, indeed the first hundred pages are spent showing how desperate a situation our heroes are in, so that they are willing to accept help from the “Bonds magi” that have been their enemies.

The book is actually two stories, intermixed a chapter of each. This allows the author to throw us a cliffhanger every 20-30 pages!  We have a flashback set of stories, once again showing us the early life of the gentleman bastards and a current timeline story focusing on Locke and Jean.

We also finally meet the missing gentleman. Sabetha. She is visible in the earlier books only by the hole that is left by her not being there. She is often mentioned, but until this book has never appeared. From the first moment though, we can see what an impact she has had on Locke.

In the flashback storyline, we see the formation of the gentleman bastards, the first job they run as a crew, and where the name the “Thorn of Camorr” comes from. We see how they work together, and we also see the hints of the issues that meant that Sabetha vanished from their lives.

In the main story we see Locke and Jean try to win an election by any way possible, in the most corrupt of ways sometimes. however they are opposed by Sabetha. Who is their equal, who cares for them, like they care for her, but neither party wants to lose!

The two stories show us a lot about the relationships within the Gentlemen Bastards.

I loved this tale, there are some deep mysteries in the world around the main characters, but they are barely touched on. There is a real world here, that we are only seeing hints of. There is a real impression that there is so much more going on here. We get hints of the horribleness of some parts of the world, but also somehow that sometimes family working together can make a difference.

I won’t go into too much detail, as that would ruin a fantastic book that some people have been waiting a long time, however there are several twists in the book, and for the first time we start to learn more about the deeper mysteries that abound in the world.  These hint at where the series may be going, but who can be sure that it is not a false lead from the author.

I loved the beginning the middle and the end, and when it comes out in October i really hope you buy it.

Moving House

So, I have mentioned that I had to move. I am giving up a house, that while it had issues, i loved living in.

I have spent  a while trying to find somewhere new, and I will be signing the lease and getting keys over the next few hours, moving into the new place tonight and tomorrow.

The new place had no chance of living up to that, and to be honest it isn’t even close. However, it has the advantage that i will now be sharing with only one person, and secure underground parking for my car.

However it is large enough for my weekly game, large enough to have a small group of friends over, about ten – fifteen. On the plus side it is about ten minutes stroll to work, downhill in the morning. Also there is no easy bus to work. The only bus that passes by would take me further from work.

Once i get back from Texas and settled in I will post some more thoughts on the place.

What i am doing at Lone star Con 3

So, I have had a busy month. I have found a new place to live, sign contracts tomorrow, and then get keys and begin moving in.

Then on Wednesday i head to San Antonio for the 2013 Worldcon. I am pretty excited, though the travel is going to stretch me to my limits. I have a very long Layover!

I have panels at this years Worldcon, three of them.

What Would Happen If We Could Easily Publish Fanfic  

Friday 12:00 – 13:00   Politics and legalities of fanfic, now and in the future. How does it affect what we write? Does the new e-publishing fanfic imprints change the game and how?

New SF Communities in New Milieus

Saturday 12:00 – 13:00   SF/F is become more accepted and more integrated into more places every day. How has this come about? How can we nurture these communities? What can we learn from them?

Introduction to Eurocons  

Sunday 14:00 – 15:00   What is a Eurocon? With next year’s Eurocon following shortly after the Worldcon, we take a brief look at what they are.

This is a pretty good schedule, with some topic i am looking forward to getting into. Add in the various other panels I want to get to, and the Shamrokon Table that i will be managing. It shall be a busy time, filled with seeing friends and catching up with them.

Anyway, hope to see you some of you soon.