Observation Log: The Great Conjunction

Tonight saw the closest conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn since July 1623, so of course I had to go out and see it for myself. As both planets are bright, easily observable objects, the conjunction was plainly visible from the light-polluted heart of Sunnyvale. My only worry was a cloud bank over the Santa Cruz Mountains, but this proved to be a non-factor. I found the best nearby view of the southwestern sky to be the Fair Oaks overpass above Central Expressway. Through my binoculars, while not good enough to clearly resolve the Jovian and Saturnian moons, the two planets were clearly visible close together in the same field of view, with Jupiter, significantly brighter, to the left and a bit below Saturn.

Observation Log: Comet NEOWISE

After observing Comet NEOWISE last night from home via binoculars, I wanted to see what it looked like from somewhere with a darker sky. I headed out to Highway 1 and parked near Bean Hollow State Beach, in a gap in the fog layer, around sunset (8:27pm). The first visible “star” in the sky was Jupiter, easily resolvable in my binoculars.

By around 9:00pm it finally became dark enough to view the comet through my binoculars, although at this time the view was reminiscent of that from my apartment. I passed the time by looking at the Milky Way through Sagittarius and Scorpius, including likely observations of M6 and M7 (although I am hesitant to declare this for sure since I failed to note them in advance).

Within half an hour it finally became dark enough to view Comet NEOWISE properly. The comet’s coma was a bit above the rough midpoint of a line between ι and κ Ursae Majoris, forming a visually pleasing triangle. The tail visibly stretched nearly to 15 Ursae Majoris. Comet NEOWISE was clearly and beautifully visible via binoculars; it was faintly but distinctly visible unaided, making it my first naked-eye comet since Hale-Bopp, the Great Comet of 1997. I suspect it would have been easier to observe from a site that did not feature frequent headlights.

A swiftly advancing oceanic fog cut off observation at about 9:50pm. I drove north and took one last look about ten minutes later, at the junction of Highways 1 and 85. This site is poorly situated for observing due to both a streetlight and a hill obstructing the western view, but I was able to walk just far enough south along Highway 1 to get one last view of the comet.

Grayback and Salmon Mountains

Independence Day Weekend marked my second three-day weekend of the year. Originally I had planned to be spending this weekend at Westercon in Seattle. However the COVID-19 pandemic postponed that Westercon to next year, so absent any social plans, and given the complete impossibility of making healthy social plans, it was time to head up into the mountains.

The highest points of Del Norte and Humboldt Counties have been on my to-do list for a while. The plan was to spend the first day of the three-day weekend driving up to Bear Mountain (the Del Norte County high point), the second day ascending it, and then the third day hiking up Salmon Mountain (the Humboldt County high point) and driving home. Bear was likely to take all day and as such would not be a good candidate to combine with extensive driving. An extra bonus: routing this way, instead of trying to do Salmon first (likely on Day 1) would mean driving north on US-101 and south on I-5, thereby avoiding bridge tolls.

With this in mind, I packed the usual for a car-camping long weekend and headed up Highway 101 on Friday, July 3. It’s a long drive, reasonably pretty, especially when you get to the redwood sections, but nothing ultra special. The most notable change since the last time I came this way was the Willits Bypass, which opened in 2016. If COVID-19 wasn’t a factor it would have been nice to stop in Eureka or Crescent City, maybe see if there’s any fun bookstores or library sales to check out, but not a good year for that. Past Crescent City I turned onto Highway 199, signed for Grants Pass, and soon turned off that to head into the Smith River National Recreation Area. And that’s where the fun began.

See, the normal driving route to access the trailhead for Bear Mountain involves turning off the highway onto paved forest road 17N05 toward Pierson Cabin. But 17N05 is currently washed out, so the current recommended route involves taking South Fork Road from the highway to Big Flat, then taking 16N02 to Pierson Cabin and proceeding as normal from there. Unfortunately the map I had showed the Big Flat area as a maze of twisty forest roads, all alike, and the route I identified to connect to 16N02 didn’t have the clear connection that I thought existed. As a result, I ended up taking the dirt road 16N03 much much further than I anticipated. The good news is that theoretically this would have actually worked—16N03 eventually terminates at 16N02. The bad news is that 12.5 miles in I was blocked by a large boulder in the middle of the road.

Carefully reversing down the hill until I was able to turn around, I retreated back to (gravel) Big Flat Road and, not seeing any better options, decided to take it north and see if anything else presented itself. Big Flat Road climbs nearly to the top of Gordon Mountain (4160+’) before reaching a junction with the dirt 17N04. I turned right here and eventually connected to 17N05, proceeding further on 17N05 in the hope that maybe I was past the washed-out section, or the washout had been fixed and the Forest Service’s website just hadn’t been updated yet.

Alas, no such luck. The road was closed and blocked a few miles from the trailhead. With night falling, it was time to figure out an alternate plan for the morrow as clearly Bear Mountain wasn’t in the cards for this weekend. (I didn’t have the right road maps on me to try to find yet another route to the trailhead, and adding the extra mileage to what I already expected to be an already grueling ascent just seemed like a recipe for failure.) Opening up the Peakbagger app, I noted that the highest point of Josephine County, Oregon, was a mere thirty air miles away; my vague memories of looking up Grayback Mountain a couple years ago suggested it wouldn’t be excessively difficult. But I was too deep in the forest to have any reception, so actually researching the peak would have to wait.

Saturday, July 4. I woke up at dawn, drove back to Highway 199—this time all on pavement, using 17N05—and proceeded to Grants Pass, passing on my way signs for Oregon Caves National Monument, which I’ll have to check out next time I’m in the area. I stopped for gas, noting with mild dismay that the gas station attendant wasn’t wearing a mask, and downloaded route information about Grayback Mountain. After reviewing it and verifying that it would indeed not be excessively difficult, I turned onto Highway 238 and was on my way.

The drive through rural southwestern Oregon was uneventful, although I did note a depressing number of “Trump/Pence 2020: Keep America Great!” signs. There were a good amount of deer, and after entering the Rogue River National Forest I briefly saw a bear off the side of the road who quickly vanished into the woods. I soon made it to the Lower O’Brien Creek Trailhead (3947′), where I parked—my information suggested that the road to the Upper Trailhead was passable, but unpleasantly rough—and headed up.

The road hike up to the Upper O’Brien Creek Trailhead was boringly monotonous, and the road would in fact have been clearly doable in my Forester. (It was probably nicer than 16N03.) Oh well. Fortunately things improved once I got on trail, and I hiked through (mostly) woods up to 6200′. Here I left the trail and proceeded cross-country up the slopes of the mountain through woods that had been subject to a controlled burn, keeping the bushwacking negligible. The final stretch featured some easy talus-hopping. I topped out on Grayback Mountain (7048′) shortly after noon, three and a half hours after parking; per the summit register, I was the fifteenth party to summit this year. [1]

Views from the summit were not quite 360° due to trees, but I could make out the Pacific to the west and Mounts Shasta and McLoughlin crowning the distance. In the nearer ground, ridges (that I mostly didn’t recognize, having really never been to this area before) stretched away in all directions.

After enjoying the views, I headed back down the mountain, passing one party of two on the trail, returned to my car, and drove back into California via Ashland, passing over Siskiyou Summit, at 4,310 feet the highest point on I-5. Soon, however, it was time to leave I-5 for the scenic beauty of Highway 96, which parallels the Klamath River. The challenge of this drive is not to get too distracted by the river and not stop too often for pictures. Just before Orleans, I turned off the highway to head back into the national forest, where I camped overnight, free from fireworks or noisy neighbors, at the trailhead for Salmon Mountain.

Salmon Mountain is a straightforward trail hike up to 6400′ feet, with maybe a bit more up-and-down than I’d strictly prefer once it reaches the ridgeline. Unfortunately the trail refuses to commit to staying on (or near) the ridge, forcing one to leave it and trek upwards cross-country. While not difficult, the forest floor is absolutely full of fallen branches that one has to crunch though. Fortunately the crunchiest section is brief. At 6520′ I got near the ridgeline and found a faint use trail that I was able to more or less (honestly, mostly less, but at this point the navigation was super easy) follow up to the 6956′ summit. I was the fourteenth party of the year to reach the top and sign the summit register.

There are views in all directions except for some tree-obstruction to the north, but the most striking views are to the east, with an immediate sharp drop, followed by ridges upon ridges crowned by a distant Shasta. Meanwhile, to the southeast lie the striking Trinity Alps, topped by Thompson Peak and its snowfield. [2]

On the way back I stopped to check out an interesting rock formation known as “Indian Rocks“. I thought about trying to climb it but after seeing the thick brush that surrounded it, quickly abandoned that idea in lieu of getting home at a somewhat reasonable hour. It didn’t help that while jumping over a trail-crossing log, a branch managed to tear a small rip in my pants.

After attaining my car, I drove back down the (mostly paved, but so potholed that it must be taken slowly) road to Orleans, where I filled my tank with gas from an old-school pump, that one has to manually reset between customers and everything, and headed back south on Highway 96. After an additional quick stop at Hoopa for refreshments (that’s where to fill your tank if you want a modern gas station), it was time to really just get on with driving home. Highway 96 ends at Willow Creek, and then it’s nearly a hundred miles along Highway 299—much of which parallels the Trinity River, but time constraints prevented me from doing much more than viewing it from my window—to Redding and I-5. And from there it’s just a matter of driving home.

 

[1] I think. Not sure how to count the page-sized dragon picture.

[2] Technically Salmon is just within the Trinity Alps Wilderness boundaries.

CoNZealand, Day -30: Nobody Expects the Fannish Inquisition

Normally, most people vote for Worldcon site selection on site. Normally, people have the opportunity to hear from the site selection bids in person. But we do not live in normal times, and with all site selection moving to remote this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic CoNZealand arranged a special early question-and-answer panel for the 2022 Worldcon bids about a month before the convention. What follows is a summary of the bid presentations, questions, and answers—while I have tried to stay true to what was said, I do not promise transcription-level accuracy.

Information about both 2022 bids, including both bid questionnaires, and how to vote in Site Selection can be found on the CoNZealand site.

Chicago in 2022

(Helen Montgomery, Dave McCarty; questionnaire)

Bidding for September 1–5, 2022 (Labor Day Weekend). Membership rates are to be determined, and they are planning to have installment plans be available right away, as well as a family membership plan of some sort.

The convention would be hosted by the Hyatt Regency Chicago:

  • Home to 4 prior Worldcons, more than any other venue
  • The entire convention would be held under one roof
  • It’s located in downtown Chicago
  • Changes to dining/drink options: the lobby has been redesigned since Chicon 7 (2012)
    • BIG Bar is still there
    • There’s a new bar called the Living Room
  • There are 2,032 sleeping rooms, including 123 suites and 98 ADA-accessible rooms. There are also numerous hotels nearby that can be used for overflow. Rooms are $160/night + tax. There are no additional fees; breakfast is not included but Internet is.
  • There is 240,000 square feet of conference space
  • The Riverside Exhibit Hall is 70,000 square feet.
  • The Grand Ballroom, which would be used to host large events, is 25,282 square feet.
  • Evening socializing will be in suites, not function space, with a corkage/forkage waiver.
  • Getting there is convenient via public transit.

Why Chicago?

  • There have been lots kudos for the city from various sources.
  • There are 77 unique, diverse neighborhoods with 2.6 million residents.
  • “Urbs in horto” (city in a garden): lots of parks and beaches. Highlights:
    • 1.25 mile Riverwalk (including a highly recommended tour)
    • 606/Bloomingdale Trail (2.7 miles elevated park)
  • Lots and lots of food options.
  • Parades, festivals (JazzFest would be during the Worldcon), theaters, sports (it’s baseball/soccer season)
  • 67 museums. Especially recommended: the Museum of Science and Industry and the Adler Planetarium.

Want to make sure that all aspects of Chicago’s fannish community are included, with reference to Capricon, Windycon, anime, furries, Doctor Who, gaming, comics, and WakandaCon.

This would be the eighth Chicago Worldcon. Would be chaired by Helen Montgomery, everything else is in progress. (Here there was a large list of prospective committee members in various divisions that was too long for me to write down.)

Thanks to the bid committee, CoNZealand, Choose Chicago, Hyatt Regency Chicago, OffWorld Designs, and Eek! Designs.

JeddiCon

(Yasser Bahjatt, Mohammed Albakri; questionnaire)

Except for 2007, Worldcon has always been held in the West: why not introduce it to a new culture?

Why Arabia? Lots of fantastic history: 1001 Nights, scholars and scientists side-by-side with wizards and alchemists, melting pot of cultures between east and west.

Why Saudi? You probably haven’t visited, except maybe for for business or religious reasons, but it’s opening up and becoming more welcoming to outsiders and changing lots of regulations. It’s the heart of Arabia; it has a lot of history and is moving forward rapidly.

Why Jeddah? The gateway to Mecca, Jeddah is a melting pot. The name refers to the biblical Eve, who is buried here. It’s surprisingly diverse and was the launching point of a big SF movement a few years ago. Other things to enjoy: art museum, world’s highest fountain, shopping in the souqs, brand new cinemas.

Venue: King Faisla Conference Center in the King Abdulaziz University Campus. The large auditorium can seat more than 2,000 people. The art show and dealer’s room would be in the SF-looking sports tent across the street.

Vision: Put the emphasis on the “World” in Worldcon by balancing cultural representation, having talks in both Arabic and English with live interpretation, and multiple guests of honor in every category to honor cultures from around the world.

Setup: Planning on having live feeds for all programming sessions and hopefully record all of them, with multilingual audio tracks.

The bid is working with the Ministries of Culture and Tourism to develop special tours for attendees to historical/cultural sites in Saudi Arabia before and after the con.

Jeddi High Council has experience in managing events of all sizes, but hasn’t been involved in any Worldcons apart from attending.

Dates: May 4–8, 2022.

Questions and Answers

Q: Will female members of the convention be treated differently than male members? Will particular members have to be clothed differently?

Chicago: There really shouldn’t be anything except that it’s a hotel in the middle of summer.

Jeddah: There isn’t really any difference but the Saudi Public Decency Law has a dress code requirement.

Q: Why May 4?

Jeddah: The Star Wars reference is the cherry on top, but (1) September will be too hot and (2) it’s during Eid al-Fitr, so it’s an official regional vacation: more people can come, and we will have better use of facilities that would otherwise be occupied

[I was a bit disappointed that my question regarding how a May convention date would impact the Hugo nominating and voting period was not asked.]

Q: How will JeddiCon impact SF/F in the area?

Jeddah: SF/F in the region kind of died off in the mid-80s, but the new generation has new movement to export culture through SF/F. Having a Worldcon in the region would bring more attention to the genre. There have been some movies shot in the region, but the first Arabic SF TV show was just released this year.

Q: How have issues with the Chicago Hyatt staff at Chicon 7 been resolved?

Chicago: We’ve had talks with the hotel about what worked and what didn’t work, and the hotel took ownership of what went wrong and explained it to our satisfaction (had poor relationship with our convention service manager). The new CSM (Matthew) is great and we’re excited to be working with him.

Q: Chicon 7 had numerous access issues. How have you fixed them?

Chicago: The hotel took the non-ADA accessible areas out of circulation and put new, accessible function rooms in. The big accessibility chokepoint is getting into the exhibit hall, and we’ll have to work this out. But everything else should be ADA-compliant. Also at least with the Hyatt we know what the likely problem points are and can plan for them. If you had specific pain points at Chicon 7, let us know.

Q: What is the availability of assistance for mobility access, including renting mobies?

Jeddah: A lot of the rooms have workarounds but they’re not officially recognized are fully accessible (about 10% are officially recognized as such). Already working with a few companies for chairs on-site but not sure if they’ll be available to be taken offsite.

Chicago: Will have rental options for mobies, wheelchairs, etc. Guessing that there will be a pre-rental period and then we’ll have extras on site.

Q: What online virtual content do you intend to include?

Chicago: Haven’t totally decided yet, but we expect to have a pretty strong virtual component. In 2012 we had coprogramming with Dragon*Con, so we’re used to doing that kind of virtual thing. So it’s on our radar but we don’t have specifics yet.

Jeddah: Want to broadcast everything live for all the members, with at least audio streaming and hopefully video streaming. Our platform for live interpretation incorporates a live feed for sessions in both languages. Everything will be recorded for all members and stay up for as long as the server does. We also plan on having live feeds for all public spaces (e.g. the art show and dealer’s room) so online attendees can interact with in-person attendees.

Q: Does either convention believe there will be any difficulty for any member to attend based on nationality, race, sexual preference, sexuality, or current relationship status?

Chicago: There shouldn’t be, but the results of the November election will have a big impact, as well as the pandemic.

Jeddah: The Public Decency Law requires a minimum dress code, but we don’t anticipate issues if compliant. Said law also limits public displays of affection. Saudi Arabia has opened up but certain modesty levels are still expected.

Q: I have a friend who’s a trans man and is dating a woman. Are they going to have a problem attending your Worldcon?

Jeddah: Nothing happens unless you “go out of your way to make a scene”. Hotels don’t ask about relationships between people staying in the same room.

Chicago: We’ve got everybody in Chicago, not an issue.

Q: If someone’s doing cosplay and wants to head into the city to get dinner, is that likely to be a problem?

Jeddah: As long as you’re adhering to the Public Decency Law, nobody will bother you if you’re dressed up funny.

Q: What happens if your own country bans you from entering Saudi Arabia?

Jeddah: We’re going to be broadcasting everything online so if you can’t go or can’t get a visa (see, e.g., people that couldn’t get a visa to Dublin last year) you can still participate virtually at a different membership level.

Jeddah (in response to a follow-up about cosplay): People in Saudi Arabia are getting used to the concept — we had Comic-Con in Jeddah about three years ago. But again, it’s an Islamic country and we have the Public Decency Law.

Q: How safe is it for single female-presenting people to enter restaurants and public places solo?

Chicago: I [Helen] go to restaurants routinely by myself.

Jeddah: Jeddah is a very safe place. Saudi Arabia crime rates are very low.

Q: What about mixed groups of people?

Jeddah: There used to be restrictions where there’d be one section that was the “family section” (women, or men accompanied by women) and then the “singles section” (only men), but those laws have been lifted. However some restaurants are still structured that way.

Q: Public transit?

Chicago: It’s super easy to get around. There’s lots of info on our FAQ.

Jeddah: There is little public transit. The main public transport is the Mecca-Medina train, which can be used to get from the airport to our venue. We would also have shuttles from hotels to the convention center, and are looking at special rates via apps (Uber, etc.).

Q: What issues around freedom of expression for LGBTQ+ attendees could people run into, and how can you assure people they won’t have to worry?

Chicago: There are no legal issues. Part of our Code of Conduct is about anti-harassment, including deliberate misgendering, and there will be a reporting process for anything that happens at the convention. We have a thriving LGBT community in Chicago. If you have a specific question, ping me.

Jeddah: Nobody is going to ask about whether people staying in the same room are in a relationship. Unless there is some kind of “actual fuss that happens” this should not be an issue. Regarding freedom of expression, LGBTQ are not recognized in Saudi Arabia, so we’d say “don’t show, don’t tell.” If you’re abiding by the Public Decency Law there should not be any issue.

Q: Will you be posting the public decency laws on your website?

Jeddah: We can send the link, it’s on the official website.

Q: What about public displays of affection?

Jeddah: That’s part of the Public Decency Law. Public shows of affection are not acceptable. Regardless of same-sex, opposite-sex.

Q: Going back to the national origin question from earlier: if I have an Israeli stamp in my passport, will that cause any difficulty on entrance?

Jeddah: I really don’t know, but I don’t expect it should.

Q: Are there any known national origins that could cause—

At this point the Zoom presentation was cut off due to somebody else using the same Zoom Webinar token.

Best Series Hugo: Reading Burden

There has been a lot of discussion about the amount of reading added for the scrupulous Hugo voter by the Best Series Hugo. So I decided to try to quantify it.

The problem, of course, is that “reading added” is subjective based on the voter. (If you’re up-to-date on a series and it shows up on the Best Series shortlist, then there’s obviously nothing new for you to read.) But I think we can use two primary classifications to get some idea of how many extra works are showing up on the Hugo ballot because of the Series category. First, there’s how long the series is in total at the time of nomination, less any parts of it that appear elsewhere on the ballot. Second, there’s the totality of the series minus any parts of it that have ever appeared on a Hugo ballot. (Including Campbell/Astounding nominations as well.) Obviously not all voters in a given year will have been members of previous Worldcons (especially relevant for the longest series—I was two years old when Falling Free showed up on the ballot), but again, we’re looking for a general sense of “how much of this series is new to Hugo voters.”

The best measurement would be word count, but I don’t have access to word counts for much of these series (having done my reading in hardcopy). Still, I think the counts I can provide are indicative.

2017

Series Total Length New to the Ballot
The Craft Sequence, by Max Gladstone 5 novels 3 novels
The Expanse, by James S.A. Corey 6 novels 5 novels
The October Daye Books, by Seanan McGuire 10 novels, 1 novella, 5 novelettes, 4 short stories 9 novels, 1 novella, 5 novelettes, 4 short stories
The Peter Grant / Rivers of London series, by Ben Aaronovitch 6 novels 6 novels
The Temeraire series, by Naomi Novik 9 novels 6 novels
The Vorkosigan Saga, by Lois McMaster Bujold 16 novels, 4 novellas, 1 short story 5 novels, 2 novellas, 1 short story
TOTALS 52 novels, 5 novellas, 5 novelettes, 5 short stories 34 novels, 3 novellas, 5 novelettes, 5 short stories

Notes:

  • My copy of the 2017 Hugo packet is currently inaccessible so please let me know if there is anything I missed with these!
  • The Craft Sequence nomination also included two interactive games.
  • The Vorkosigan “short story” is the interstitial matter in Borders of Infinity. I excluded “Weatherman” because it’s more-or-less the first part of The Vor Game.
  • The “new to the ballot” column is particularly silly for the Vorkosigan Saga because the only new work since Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance was a Best Novel finalist was Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen. Feel free to discount accordingly.

2018

Series Total Length New to the Ballot
The Books of the Raksura, by Martha Wells 5 novels, 4 novellas, 5 short stories 5 novels, 4 novellas, 5 short stories
The Divine Cities, by Robert Jackson Bennett 3 novels 3 novels
InCryptid, by Seanan McGuire 6 novels, 2 novellas, 18 novelettes, 11 short stories 6 novels, 2 novellas, 18 novelettes, 11 short stories
The Memoirs of Lady Trent, by Marie Brennan 5 novels, 1 short story 5 novels, 1 short story
The Stormlight Archive, by Brandon Sanderson 3 novels 3 novels
World of the Five Gods, by Lois McMaster Bujold 3 novels, 6 novellas 1 novel, 4 novellas
TOTALS 25 novels, 12 novellas, 18 novelettes, 17 short stories 23 novels, 10 novellas, 18 novelettes, 17 short stories

Notes:

  • This was a great year for the category in promoting works that mostly had been overlooked by the other Hugo categories. However this increased the total reading required by the typical Worldcon voter by a lot.
  • The Stormlight Archive‘s novels are all very long, so it’s probably more accurate to count them twice or thrice.
  • I excluded “Edgedancer” from the Stormlight count since it was not referenced in the series’s Hugo packet submission.

2019

Series Total Length New to the Ballot
The Centenal Cycle, by Malka Older 3 novels 2 novels
The Laundry Files, by Charles Stross 9 novels, 2 novellas, 2 novelettes 9 novels, 1 novelette
Machineries of Empire, by Yoon Ha Lee 2 novels n/a
The October Daye Series, by Seanan McGuire 10 novels, 3 novellas, 5 novelettes, 4 short stories 2 novels, 2 novellas
The Universe of Xuya, by Aliette de Bodard 2 novellas, 10 novelettes, 15 short stories 1 novella, 6 novelettes, 14 short stories
Wayfarers, by Becky Chambers 2 novels 1 novel
TOTALS 26 novels, 8 novellas, 17 novelettes, 19 short stories 14 novels, 3 novellas, 7 novelettes, 14 short stories

Notes:

  • Revenant Gun, Record of a Spaceborn Few, and The Tea Master and the Detective are excluded from this listing because they were already on the ballot in Novel and Novella.
  • The “new to the ballot” column is likely overstated to the extent that most readers will have read A Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet before A Closed and Common Orbit, and also that it is unlikely that readers will have only read short-fiction Laundry works.

2020

Series Total Length New to the Ballot
The Expanse, by James S. A. Corey 8 novels 2 novels
InCryptid, by Seanan McGuire 8 novels, 4 novellas, 21 novelettes, 11 short stories 2 novels, 2 novellas, 3 novelettes
Luna, by Ian McDonald 3 novels 3 novels
Planetfall series, by Emma Newman 4 novels 4 novels
Winternight Trilogy, by Katherine Arden 3 novels 1 novel
The Wormwood Trilogy, by Tade Thompson 3 novels 3 novels
TOTALS 29 novels, 4 novellas, 21 novelettes, 1 short stories 15 novels, 2 novellas, 3 novelettes

Notes:

  • You could argue for including additional short fiction for both The Expanse and Luna. I omitted them due to lack of reference thereto in the voter packet.

Strahan’s The Year’s Best SF, Volume 1 (2019)

Saga Press has revealed the cover and table of contents of their upcoming Year’s Best Science Fiction, Vol. 1, edited by Jonathan Strahan. Of the twenty-eight stories, eleven were originally published in original book anthologies, nine in online magazines, three in print magazines, two in an original online anthology, one in a collection, one in a newspaper, and one as a digital stand-alone.

  • “The Bookstore at the End of America” by Charlie Jane Anders. (A People’s Future of the United States, One World.)
  • “The Galactic Tourist Industrial Complex” by Tobias S. Buckell. (New Suns: Original Speculative Fiction by People of Color, Solaris.)
  • “Kali_Na” by Indrapramit Das. (The Mythic Dream, Saga Press.)
  • “Song of the Birds” by Saleem Haddad. (Palestine + 100: Stories from a Century After the Nakhba, Comma Press.)
  • The Painter of Trees” by Suzanne Palmer. (Clarkesworld, June 2019.)
  • The Last Voyage of Skidbladnir” by Karin Tidbeck. (Tor.com, 14 January 2019.)
  • Sturdy Ladders and Lanterns” by Malka Older. (Current Futures: A Sci-fi Ocean Anthology, XPRIZE.)
  • It’s 2059, and the Rich Kids Are Still Winning” by Ted Chiang. (The New York Times, 27 May 2019.)
  • “Contagion’s Eve at the House Noctambulous” by Rich Larson. (F&SF, March/April 2019.)
  • “Submarines” by Han Song. (Broken Stars: Contemporary Chinese Science Fiction in Translation, Tor.)
  • As the Last I May Know” by S.L. Huang. (Tor.com, 6 November 2019.)
  • A Catalog of Storms” by Fran Wilde. (Uncanny, January-February 2019.)
  • “The Robots of Eden” by Anil Menon. (New Suns: Original Speculative Fiction by People of Color, Solaris.)
  • Now Wait for This Week” by Alice Sola Kim. (A People’s Future of the United States, One World.)
  • “Cyclopterus” by Peter Watts. (Mission Critical, Solaris.)
  • Dune Song” by Suyi Davies Okungbowa. (Apex, 7 May 2019.)
  • The Work of Wolves” by Tegan Moore. (Asimov’s, July/August 2019.)
  • The Archronology of Love” by Caroline M. Yoachim. (Lightspeed, April 2019.)
  • Soft Edges” by Elizabeth Bear. (Current Futures: A Sci-fi Ocean Anthology, XPRIZE.)
  • “Emergency Skin” by N. K. Jemisin. (Amazon Original Stories.)
  • Thoughts and Prayers” by Ken Liu. (Slate, 26 January 2019.)
  • At the Fall” by Alec Nevala-Lee. (Analog, May/June 2019.)
  • “Reunion” by Vandana Singh. (The Gollancz Book of South Asian Science Fiction, Hachette India.)
  • “Green Glass: A Love Story” by E. Lily Yu. (If This Goes On, Parvus Press.)
  • “Secret Stories of Doors” by Sofia Rhei. (Everything is Made of Letters, Aqueduct Press.)
  • “This Is Not the Way Home” by Greg Egan. (Mission Critical, Solaris.)
  • What the Dead Man Said” by Chinelo Onwualu. (Slate, 24 August 2019.)
  • I (28M) Created a Deepfake Girlfriend and Now My Parents Think We’re Getting Married” by Fonda Lee. (MIT Technology Review, 27 December 2019.)

(via File 770)

 

2019 Highpointing, and What Comes Next

MartinPyne_CountyHighPoints
My current county high point completion map.

The limiting factor continues to be distance and vacation time. I was able to ascend White Mountain Peak without taking time off primarily due to Open Gate Day reducing the requisite hiking distance and still didn’t get home until pretty late Sunday night. Eagle Peak and Hat Mountain required pretty much the entirety of Labor Day Weekend just from the sheer amount of driving necessary to reach the Modoc National Forest.

Closer to home, Laveaga Peak and Long Ridge were made possible by the efforts of Coby King to obtain legal access to these private-property peaks.

Frustratingly I was unable to get anything done over Thanksgiving break due to bad weather up and down the state. While it’s possible that my plans for Hot Springs Mountain and Blue Angels Peak would have gone successfully despite the snow, that’s an awfully long drive that can be put off until there’s better weather.

My actual biggest peakbagging achievement of the year is finishing off the Nifty Ninety list of Bay Area peaks. I am not planning on going nearly as hard in the spring as this year’s effort to finish off the list on my birthday, especially as in hindsight that led to a bit of fatigue (and a desire to not burn even more gas) in trying to get much done in the Sierras in September/October this year. But I’m sure I can find something to do closer to home before the snow melts.

The other lesson learned was to not try to crowbar a non-trivial highpoint into a weekend where I’m already busy and tired—hiking is best done before the convention starts. I’m not currently planning on trying to work any highpointing into Westercon weekend. (Note also that July 4th weekend is still pretty early in the season for the Seattle area.)

So what’s next? It’s mostly a question of trying to work out vacation plans. I’m almost certainly not going to Worldcon this year (turns out flights to New Zealand are really expensive) so I am hoping to spend a week in the Sierra sometime in August. It would also be really nice to bump off both the Salmon/Bear duo (likely a Labor Day Weekend target) and the three I have left in SoCal next year, although this may be a tad ambitious given that the latter would likely have to be crowbarred into Memorial Day Weekend and I’m not sure that’s actually enough time considering the drive.

For summer weekend trips, there’s also a number of county prominences that I’m interested in—Granite Chief, Mt. Conness, South Yolla Bolly, Hull Mountain, and Babbitt Peak come to mind.

Longer term, I’m planning on combining my 2021 trip for the Tonopah Westercon with some county high points in southern / central Nevada, as well as a few easy pings in D.C. and environs in conjunction with the 2021 Worldcon.

2019 year-end statistics:

  • New county high points: 5 (59 total)
  • Home glob: 51 counties (+5), 138,183 square miles (+14,580)
  • New 2000′ prominence peaks: 3
  • New SF Bay Nifty Ninety peaks: 25
  • Highest and most prominent peak climbed: White Mountain Peak (14,246)
  • New peaks (min. 300′ prominence) climbed: 22
  • P-Index: 103

Eagle Peak and Hat Mountain

Eagle Peak (9892′) and Hat Mountain (8745′), the highest points of Modoc and Lassen Counties, respectively, are in the far northeastern part of California, an area that most people haven’t seen. I took I-80 and US-395 to get to the Modoc National Forest and it’s quite striking how the last hour or so of the drive (north of Susanville) is almost completely empty of people. It’s 7-8 hours from Sunnyvale depending on traffic. Some notes:

  • I didn’t see anybody on either Eagle Peak or Hat Mountain. There was one entry in the Eagle register from earlier on Saturday (noting the visible smoke from Burning Man), but I have to assume that he took a different route up.
  • There were a good number of others present at the Mill Creek campground on Saturday night. It’s accessible via paved roads and has bathrooms and running water. Luxurious (from a car-camping perspective) if a bit less quiet than I might have liked. (Special shout-out to the campers that kept managing to direct a bright light into my driver’s-side windows.)
  • The short stretch of trail past Clear Lake is absolutely infested with spiders. Seriously I don’t know how you can get through that section without taking at least one strand of silk to the face.
  • Eagle really puts the day in dayhike. It took me a bit over ten hours round-trip from Mill Creek Falls (about 5700′), not counting about half an hour on the summit. There are other routes that start higher but have a bit more mileage.
  • After getting back and taking a bit of a breather I drove further into the forest towards Hat Mountain, this time on gravel roads. The biggest surprise of the drive was the calf on the road.
  • The stars are absolutely amazing in the Modoc National Forest. Seriously, if you haven’t ever seen the stars from a really rural location like the Modoc, you owe it to yourself to find a moonless night and fix that. There are just so many stars! (And I really need to remember to actually bring my binoculars on one of my overnight peakbagging trips.)
  • Just as I was getting ready to sleep on Sunday night, I was surprised to find somebody driving up Forest Road 38N18. We chatted briefly and he confirmed that the road was in good shape.
  • The standard route up Hat Mountain involves a 600-foot descent through brush to Lost Lake. I got partway through this two years ago and turned around in disgust. (The rainstorm the previous night didn’t help.) This year, Kimberly St. Clair tipped me off about an improved route that involves driving a few miles down 38N18 and taking mostly roads/trails from there. This route is a huge improvement. There’s minimal bushwacking and only a 200-foot elevation gain on the way back, much of which could have been further reduced if I had driven a bit further. The first three miles of 38N18 past its junction with 38N18A are a somewhat rocky road but nothing a Subaru Forester can’t handle.
  • Amusingly there are actually two registers atop Hat Mountain because it’s not entirely clear where the exact highest point it. I of course tagged them both. (The better view is probably slightly lower.)
  • I didn’t get much (okay, any) reading done this weekend because I didn’t get to either trailhead until after sunset. Part of this was because I extended my trip to the area a bit by stopping at a couple Half Price Books locations to take advantage of their 20% weekend sale. I picked up five books, the highlight being a first edition copy of Iain M. Banks’s Inversions.

So that’s California county highpoints 42 and 43 done. Next up, in all likelihood: Thanksgiving weekend for the San Diego and Imperial high points. Plus Orange if I can figure a legal route up Santiago Peak post-Holy Fire.

Where To Find the 2019 Hugo Longlist For Free Online

 This is intended as a supplement to JJ’s File 770 post, Where To Find The 2019 Hugo Award Finalists For Free Online. If you want to read the actual Hugo finalists, that’s where to look.

If you are interested in reading works that were on this year’s Hugo longlist but did not make the final ballot, here’s a guide to find material which is available for free online. Where available in their entirety, works are linked. If not available for free, an Amazon link is provided and a free excerpt has been linked if I could find one online. I highly encourage you to purchase books via your local independent bookseller instead of Amazon if possible.

Works are provided in the order of longlist finish. No attempt has been made to verify eligibility or lack thereof.

Novel

Novella

Novelette

Short Story

Series

Related Work

Graphic Story

Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

Dramatic Presentation, Short Form

Professional Editor, Short Form

Professional Editor, Long Form

Professional Artist

Semiprozine

Fanzine

Fancast

Fan Writer

Fan Artist

Art Book

Young Adult Book (Lodestar)

New Writer (Campbell)

2019 Hugo Ramblings

The 2019 Hugo Awards were handed out on Sunday night in Dublin, Ireland, at the 77th World Science Fiction Convention. I was there, and now that I am home and have had a chance to review the detailed voting and nomination statistics, I have some thoughts.

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer

This was the first award, and was given to a rather strange mood in the room; Ada Palmer’s serious speech about the role of fantasy in challenging systems of government was constantly interrupted by audience chuckles induced by the automatic speech-to-text captioning, which provided such gems as “Bored of the Rings and Cream of Thrown”. Jeannette Ng was announced as the winner (beating Rivers Solomon by 43 votes) and began her speech by proclaiming that “John W. Campbell was a fucking fascist.” Her full speech can be read here, and if you click one link in this post it should be that one.

Since then there have been a lot of discussions in various places (see, e.g., this File 770 post) about whether the Campbell should be renamed. A few factors to consider:

  • The World Science Fiction Society doesn’t own the Campbell. While we administer it, it’s owned by Dell Magazines, publishers of Analog (the magazine that Campbell used to edit). Dell Magazines controls the name of the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer.
  • It is mechanically possible for WSFS to stop administering the Campbell and start administering their own award. This could be done either as either a new Not-a-Hugo or a Hugo for Best New Writer. My personal preference would be for the former as I don’t really like the idea of a Hugo with rolling two-year eligibility and I think there are some two-Hugo-for-the-same-work concerns. On the other hand the latter would avoid having to figure out a new award name. Also Analog could take the Campbell somewhere else and keep awarding it.
  • The other thing that I haven’t seen discussed is that we’re still actively honoring John W. Campbell. He won the 1944 Retro Hugo for Best Short Form Editor administered by this very convention. Now that’s a very silly award, and I’ll admit I didn’t bother to vote in it; only 425 people did. But this was the most overwhelming win of any category, with 56.8% of first preferences. If we are serious about no longer honoring Campbell, we shouldn’t overlook the Retro Hugos.

Best Related Work

Archive of Our Own beat Ursula K. Le Guin: Conversations on Writing by 174 votes. Last year 55.3% of Hugo voters voted in this category; this year that increased to 64.4%, easily the largest increase in any category. (And if I’m doing the math right there were 261 voters who just voted for AO3 in this category.)

I’m still not entirely sure I agree that AO3 was eligible here but I’m happy for its win as the existence of AO3 really is important for the fannish community and deserves recognition. (And it’s not like the more serious scholarly books I vote for do well anyway: Astounding came in sixth!) I was particularly moved by the donation of the Hugo trophy to the traveling exhibition, thereby quite literally giving the Hugo back to the fans that make AO3 possible.

Naomi Novik’s acceptance speech can be read here.

Best Art Book

A trial category for this year. I’m extremely “eh” on how the trial turned out, and I say this as somebody who is generally supportive of things that make Related Work a bit less of a grab bag. It got a rather low number of nominations (42 ballots and 13 nominees fewer than the next lowest categories) and two of the top eight were ruled ineligible. On the other hand, it got a very respectable number of final votes (1392, or 44.9% of ballots). The Books of Earthsea: The Complete Illustrated Edition won by 282 votes over Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse: The Art of the Movie.

It bears noting that this win both overlapped with the Professional Artist (Charles Vess) winner and appears to have been at least in part a “We Like Earthsea” vote. (Note that Earthsea was the first runner-up in Series nominations, as discussed below.) There were 128 fewer votes for second place in this category. However I’m not sure that it’s possible to have categories that contain professional art without overlapping a Professional Artist category; consider, for instance, Sana Takeda’s and Monstress‘s wins last year. And obviously an art book can contain art that would not be eligible for a given year’s Professional Artist award due to, say, being a retrospective.

Fan Categories

Best Fanzine

Lady Business beat Journey Planet by 132 votes. Their acceptance speech can be read here.

The Big Thing that people are talking about in this category is that Fanzine only got votes on 26.9% of Hugo ballots, leaving it dangerously close to an automatic No Award. (At least 25% of all of the valid final Hugo ballots must have a non-No Award first place vote in a category for it to be awarded.) Frustratingly, this category isn’t obviously broken from a definitional perspective. There might need to be a bit more voter education in terms of what’s eligible (as in, a lot of online stuff⁠—I think Acrophilia might be technically eligible even though I will laugh at anybody who nominates me) but Pro/Fan Artist this is not.

Even more interestingly, there’s a huge drop-off from last year. Here’s a look at the fan categories over the last decade:

Untitled

If you ignore the 2015-16 Puppy spike Fanzine has been chugging along fairly steadily until this year when it drops from 38.0% to 26.9%. In actual voter numbers, that’s 1075 voters last year to 833 this year. (Note that we picked up 269 additional Hugo voters this year.) The biggest change in the ballot this year is File 770 (permanently) declining nomination; File 770 was second in nominations anyway, with 52, and as best I can tell 252 people voted for File 770 last year on the final ballot and then left the rest of the category blank.

Again, I’m not really sure what the solution is here other than getting the word out about good fanzines that you should be reading. (Although my probably-unpopular opinion is that community sites such as AO3 or r/fantasy are a better fit here than in Related Work.) Aidan Moher suggested merging Fanzine and Fancast but I tend to agree with Claire Rousseau‘s and Renay‘s dissents that the two are actually quite different and should be considered separately.

Best Fancast

Our Opinions Are Correct was the only winner to break 50% in less than six rounds of voting, beating The Skiffy and Fanty Show by 220 votes.

I don’t vote in this category because I can’t focus on audio-only for any period of time without getting distracted. However I was pleased to note the appearance of BookTube on the longlist, represented by Kalanadi and Books and Pieces. Remember, folks, YouTube channels are eligible in this category!

Best Fan Writer

Foz Meadows beat Bogi Takács by 81 votes. Her acceptance speech can be read here.

Fan Writer is a good example of a category that used to be kind of stale and has more recently done a very good job of honoring a bunch of different, worthy people.

Best Fan Artist

Likhain (Mia Serrano) beat Grace P. Fong by 90 votes. Her acceptance speech can be read here.

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse beat Black Panther by 247 votes. Notably the top three places on the final ballot all went to Marvel Comics-related movies, which suggests that we’re not going to see an end to the superhero domination of this category any time soon. (I had Spider-Verse second on my ballot, voting first for Sorry to Bother You which placed sixth. They’re really, really different things and honestly kind of hard to compare.)

Of interest to the potential Games Hugo category, Black Mirror: Bandersnatch made the longlist with 53 nominations.

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form

The Good Place: “Janet(s)” beat The Expanse: “Abaddon’s Gate” by 144 votes, the second year in a row for a Good Place win in this category.

Dirty Computer placed sixth, which is a bit disappointing but honestly unsurprising. The last few years have seen one kind of off-beat (i.e. “not a television episode”) finalist that is kind of exciting but ultimately does poorly in the voting. The rest of the longlist is also TV episodes.

The Good Place sent a video acceptance and I’d just like to say that it was really exciting to actually have real acceptances from both Dramatic Presentation winners this year instead of the typical “the convention accepts this on behalf of Hollywood people who don’t know we exist”.

Best Professional Editor, Short Form

Gardner Dozois beat Neil Clarke by 98 votes. This was the first time that a finalist placed on the ballot by E Pluribus Hugo effects won the Hugo; under the old nomination system, he would have been displaced by Jonathan Strahan.

That being said, Didi Chanoch had a good Twitter thread about how this is really more of a lifetime achievement award for an editor who (very deservedly) had already been well-recognized by the Hugos.

Thought experiment: if we changed this category into Best Anthology and Best Magazine, would The Book of Magic have won for Anthology? (The Locus results actually suggest yes, although the Locus and Hugo electorates aren’t the same.)

Written Fiction Categories

Best Novel

Not particularly close, with The Calculating Stars beating Spinning Silver by 302 votes. It was pretty cool to see the award for a Lady Astronaut novel being presented by an actual lady astronaut. Mary Robinette Kowal’s acceptance speech can be read here.

I was pleased to see Blackfish City and Foundryside, which I nominated, on the longlist. There’s a pretty wide gap in terms of nomination count between the finalist novels and everything else.

Best Novella

This was actually slightly closer than the last couple years, although still not very: Artificial Condition beat The Tea Master and the Detective by 323 votes. The other two Murderbot novellas also received enough nominations to qualify for the final ballot, but Martha Wells graciously declined nomination for them. (The limit on how many works by the same author can appear in a category is two.)

I’m glad The Freeze-Frame Revolution and “Umbernight” both made the longlist although I’d have liked to see them a bit higher. One of the two main flaws that tends to afflict Hugo ballots is voters’ tendencies to read in their comfort zone and nominate accordingly; much of the longlist is series work.

“Umbernight” was also the only entry on the longlist that was published as part of a periodical, not as a separate book.

Best Novelette

One of the closest results on the ballot and the closest in this category since 2010: “If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again” beat “The Last Banquet of Temporal Confections” by 9 votes.

The other big issue that we’ve seen on recent Hugo ballots is the tendency to avoid nominating stories from the print magazines. This year’s longlist isn’t entirely fiction that’s available for free online; “An Agent of Utopia” is there and that’s from an anthology. But that’s it; everything else on that list is free online. Now, novelette was a strong category this year so it’s not obviously weakening the category but I can’t help but wonder what great stories we might be missing.

Best Short Story

This is one I thought would be closer, with “A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies” beating “The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington” by 342 votes. Alix E. Harrow’s acceptance speech can be read here.

The longlist follows the pattern I noted above of being predominantly from the free online magazines. “Mother Tongues” (which I nominated!) is the notable exception, being originally published in Asimov’s but then subsequently reprinted in Clarkesworld prior to the nomination deadline.

Best Series

Wayfarers beat The Laundry Files by 218 votes. I voted for Machineries of Empire, which is a completed trilogy (with some short-fiction add-ons) and likely won’t be eligible here again. However I will note that Wayfarers, as a “shared-setting” series, doesn’t really have any of the incompleteness problems I’ve complained about before. (On the other hand, to me that makes it a better fit in Best Novel than in Series, whereas the likes of Machineries of Empire is the reverse; you can jump into Record of a Spaceborn Few without having read anything else while you’d likely be totally lost if you just read Revenant Gun in isolation.)

The longlist shows that we’re still dealing with some eligibility issues in this category. The first non-finalist was Earthsea, which was very technically eligible due to a newly published short story; while Earthsea is of course great, to me it’s very hard to argue that we should be honoring it with an award for 2019 fiction. This award should be for current series, not classic series we all love that have technical hooks. The second non-finalist was The Murderbot Diaries, which was not eligible due to insufficient word count.

I was a bit disappointed in this year’s Series shortlist because I had read most of it already. Fortunately there are some series down in the longlist that I’m not particularly familiar with that I might have to check out.

Becky Chambers’s acceptance speech can be read here.

Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book

Children of Blood and Bone beat Dread Nation by 64 votes.

The main issue with this award is participation; only 34.3% of Hugo voters voted for the Lodestar, which is more in line with a fan category than a written fiction category. Otherwise it seems to be working well.

Best Graphic Story

Monstress, Volume 3 beat Black Panther: Long Live the King by 8 votes, the closest result on the ballot. My taste in comics is irreparably lowbrow so I tend not to vote in this category but I’m still a bit annoyed how much of it is dominated by the latest volume in series that have a regular finalist spot. This is the third year in a row that Monstress won.

Best Semiprozine

Uncanny Magazine beat Strange Horizons by 122 votes. This is Uncanny‘s fourth win in a row, although this year’s win includes the Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction special issue edited by Elsa Sjunneson-Henry and Dominik Parisien, who have not won Hugos before.

Best Professional Editor, Long Form

Navah Wolfe (Saga Press) beat Sheila E. Gilbert, last year’s winner, by 86 votes.

Best Professional Artist

Charles Vess beat Galen Dara by 50 votes. See above comments on the Art Book category.

 

This post has been updated on 23 August to include a link to Becky Chambers’s acceptance speech.