My panels at Follycon

Easter is nearly here, and that means it’s also nearly Eastercon. This year, Eastercon is Follycon, being held in Harrogate (at the Majestic Hotel) for the first time in half a century. I’m lucky enough to be appearing on a few panels through the weekend, and I thought I’d list them here.

Games: Story Versus Mechanics

Boardgames (and RPGs) all have mechanics, and most of them have a story or theme. Which matters more to players’ enjoyment? When do they work well together? What happens when are they at cross purposes?
Esther MacCallum-Stewart (M), John Coxon, Kieron Gillen, David Tallerman, Adrian Tchaikovsky
Friday at 4pm

I suggested this panel after playing a few games with most excellent mechanics and a few games which dismally fail to capture the feel they’re going for. I’m excited by the bloody stellar panellists which are going to talk about it.

PhDs and How to Catch One

Work on a doctorate can vary widely depending on the discipline, the environment and the individual. Our panellists compare notes. Please do not ask if there’s a doctor in the house.
Edward James (M), John Coxon, Christina Lake, Rachael Livermore, Judith Mortimore
Saturday at noon

I got asked to be on this one, it sounds like an interesting topic and a good thing to discuss for members of the convention considering moving into academia.

The Revolution in Star Wars

The reinvigorated Star Wars franchise moves on with The Last Jedi, which reconsiders many of the traditions of Star Wars. Our panel compares the new direction with the old and tries to foresee the future. Midichlorians need not apply.
Fred Langridge (M), James Bacon, John Coxon, Fiona Moore, Jeannette Ng
Saturday at 4:30pm

I’ve been agitating for a Star Wars panel at Eastercon for ages now, so I’m very happy to see this on the programme! The Star Wars panel at Helsinki turned at least half the people queuing away, so there’s clearly demand for intelligent discussion on the topic.

GUFF and TAFF: Meet the Candidates

The Going Under / Get Up-and-over Fan Fund (GUFF) and Transatlantic Fan Fund (TAFF) fan travel funds both have races under way right now, to send delegates respectively to the Antipodes and North America. But who are the people competing (in the nicest possible way) to be those delegates, and what’s all this fan fundery about anyway? Find out who wants to go where, why, and how it all works in a combined candidate interview.
John Coxon (M), Johan Anglemark, Fia Karlsson, Marcin “Alqua” Klak, Alice and Steve Lawson, Helena
Saturday at 7pm

Fans of rhlstp will enjoy at least one of the questions I pose in this discussion.

Nominating podcasts for the Hugo Awards

Recently, I read a tweet that moved me to respond to the author.

The reason Jason tweeted to say that his podcast (The Incomparable) wasn’t eligible in the Fancast category was that he takes sponsorship. Both he and I thought that rendered him ineligible for any fannish category, due to the fact it represents a revenue stream.

A photograph showing previous Hugo Awards on display at a convention

I tweeted at Jason, and we discussed podcasts and their place in the list of Hugo Award categories. There are two categories in the last couple of years that have seen podcasts nominated. The first and most obvious is Best Fancast, in which a range of fannish podcasts have been nominated but which is specifically for non-professional ventures. The other is Best Related Work, in which Writing Excuses was nominated in both 2012 and 2013.

In which category would The Incomparable belong? Upon reading the WSFS Constitution1 we find:

A Professional Publication is one which meets at least one of the following two criteria: (1) it provided at least a quarter the income of any one person or, (2) was owned or published by any entity which provided at least a quarter the income of any of its staff and/or owner.

The definition of the Best Fancast category as expressed in the same document is — to preçis — any podcast that is “non-professional”, i.e. any podcast that does not meet either of the above criteria. I have been told that the reason that Writing Excuses is not eligible as Best Fancast is because it is published by Brandon Sanderson’s company, which qualifies it as a professional work.

What this does mean, however, is that any podcast with sponsorship and adverts can be nominated for Best Fancast, as long as that sponsorship does not make enough money to qualify the podcast as professional.

Podcast collectives

Where this becomes somewhat less clear is in the case of podcast collectives. The Incomparable is a part of the 5by5 network, which employs Dan Benjamin on a full-time basis, so anything published by or owned by 5by5 counts as a professional work. A podcast collective does not own the podcasts that belong to it, but I don’t know how a Hugo Awards administrator would rule on whether a collective counts as publishing the podcasts that belong to it. Jason argued that it wouldn’t in an email to me, writing:

I own my show (5by5 hosts it and sells some of the advertising, but I have all creative control as well as our separate site at theincomparable.com) so 5by5’s business status probably doesn’t connect.

I agree with Jason — it seems clear to me that podcast collectives are not publishers. Despite my opinion, however, the word ‘publish’ is not explicitly defined in the WSFS Constitution and so I can’t be sure of how an administrator would rule on the issue. I would argue that the fact that 5by5 has no editorial control over the podcast means that they don’t publish it, but I suspect there are arguments one could put forward to argue the reverse. I hope that future administrators would agree with me, but without a test case there’s no way to know.

Therefore, the only logical conclusion is to nominate The Incomparable as Best Fancast and watch what the administrators do! Go nominate it now, and I’ll write a follow-up blog post when it’s announced as a nominee at Satellite 4.

Thanks to Andrew Trembley and Warren Buff for discussing this subject with me!


  1. I apologise for linking to such a completely awful website, but unfortunately it’s the best way to link readers to the constitution. Hopefully one day it’ll get a fresh coat of paint. 

Worldcon and the cheapest way to support it

Worldcon is the shorthand for the World Science Fiction Convention and is held annually on behalf of the World Science Fiction Society, or WSFS. The convention has a long history, having run 70 times (at the time of writing) since 1939, and thousands of people from across the world attend and discuss science fiction every year. However, not everyone who is a member attends the convention; some people buy supporting http://www.mindanews.com/buy-accutane/ memberships, and that’s what I’m discussing here.

There are several reasons to support Worldcon. The first reason is simple: because you want to. Worldcons need money to be successful, and a supporting membership helps in that regard. If you are slightly less altruistic (or, like me, you simply can’t afford to support every cause of which you approve) here are a couple of tangible benefits to supporting Worldcon, and then I’ll let you in on the secret to supporting it in the cheapest way.

The Hugo Awards

The Hugo Awards are the premier award in the field of science fiction and fantasy. Works are nominated every year by the members of that year’s Worldcon, the previous year’s Worldcon, and the next year’s Worldcon.1 As a result, if you’re interested in having your voice heard being a member of a Worldcon is good, as you can influence which works make it onto the Hugo Award ballot.

In addition, members of a Worldcon get to vote in the Hugo Awards that are awarded at that convention. This not only means that you get to have a say in what is recognised by the award, but it means you get something called the Hugo Voter Packet, which consists of electronic versions of almost every nominated work.2 This is a lot of material for what you pay; a supporting membership costs $60 this year, and the packet is comfortably worth more than that.

Site Selection

The advertisement for the Helsinki in 2015 Worldcon bid.

Even if supporting membership is a good deal normally, we want to try to minimise the cost of acquiring one. So, onto the real business of the article — how does one support Worldcon for as little money as possible? The secret is to vote in site selection. Worldcon sites are voted on two years ahead of the convention, and everyone who votes in site selection becomes a supporting member of the Worldcon that is elected. This isn’t just people who vote for the bid that wins; it’s all fans who vote. Since the voting fee tends to be $40, this is the cheapest way to become a supporting member of the Worldcon, every year.

Thus, your next course of action is clear. Go and join LoneStarCon 3, paying the $60 to become a supporting member, and then pay the $40 on the Site Selection page to vote for a bid. (You should definitely vote for Helsinki in 2015, by the way….)

So go forth, and exercise your right to vote! Not only is it supporting Worldcon, it’s getting your supporting membership in the cheapest possible way. You’re two for two!


  1. So, the works that appear on the ballot at LoneStarCon 3 were nominated by members of that convention, Chicon 7 and Loncon 3. This is a new thing that’s only come in recently: before this year, it was only members of the current and previous years’ conventions, so Loncon 3 members would not have been eligible to nominate. 
  2. The nominees for Best Dramatic Presentation usually don’t appear in the packet, and some novels don’t appear in formats other than PDF.