Mon
Aug 11 2008 9:43am
The Dying Earth

Reporting on this year's Hugos, Nicholas Whyte observed that Elizabeth Bear is only the second person born in the 1970s to win a Hugo Award for fiction. (Tim Pratt was the first, winning the short-story award last year.) I found this stunning. This means that of the 94 people who have ever won fiction Hugo Awards, only two are under 38 years old. When I was a young SF reader, Hugos were regularly won by people in their twenties and early thirties. It's one thing to murmur about the aging of SF; it's another to look at the numbers.

Curiosity sent me to Nick Whyte's reference page about Hugo winners, which includes birth years for all of them. I idly wondered how many of them are younger than me. I was born on January 2, 1959, and the answer turns out to be sixteen--but if you move the bar just three years forward, eliminating the notable clump of writers born in 1959 (Susanna Clarke, Maureen F. McHugh, and Neal Stephenson), 1960 (Neil Gaiman, Ian McDonald, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, and Robert J. Sawyer), and 1961 (Greg Egan and David Levine), you are left with only seven: Michael Chabon, 1963; Charles Stross, 1964; J. K. Rowling, 1965; Ted Chiang, 1967; Kelly Link, 1969; Elizabeth Bear, 1971; and Tim Pratt, 1976. Imagine that: in 2008, only seven people under the age of 45 have won a Hugo for fiction.

Whyte also observes that no Nebula Award has gone to anyone born since 1969.

In the comments to this Tor.com post by John Klima, I argued a bit with Elizabeth Bear's assertion of a generation gap in modern SF, but I'm beginning to think she may have a point. There's plenty of SF and fantasy being written by younger people, but evidently the people who vote on the Hugos and Nebulas aren't among its readers. If the SF subculture really is “one big family” (as Jim Frenkel's Worldcon memoir below cheerfully asserts), it would appear to be an increasingly dysfunctional one, resembling Cold Comfort Farm more than the happy creative bohemia we imagine ourselves to be.
 

219 comments
Joe Sherry
1. jsherry
Wow. That really is kind of astounding and since I generally don't know how old a given writer is when I read a book or a story, I didn't realize how few winners were that close to my age (29).

Not sure what I think about that.

Whyte's assertion about the Nebula is slightly flawed, though. Ted Chiang was born in 1967, but won a Nebula in 1990 for "Tower of Babylon". If Chiang is 41 now, he would have been 23 when he won that Nebula (give or take a year).

Kelly Link, if she is 39, won her first Nebula when she was 32 ("Louise's Ghost", 2001) and kind of went crazy in 2005 when still in her mid thirties (two Nebulas and a Hugo)

Not saying the overall point is incorrect, but the numbers can be misleading.
Paul Weimer
2. PrinceJvstin
I think Bear does have a point. I've noticed that my tastes have shifted over time, with reduced time to read, more toward writers that my social circle reads, or would read (or in the case of Bear herself, that they *write*)
ebear
3. ebear
I've been observing for a while that there's a Wiscon crowd and a Worldcon crowd, and they don't overlap all that much.

(What follows is a flip oversimplification, and generalize beyond belief:)

The Wiscon crowd is younger, queerer, more radical, more female, and more chromatically and culturally diverse. They read and publish in Strange Horizons and Interzone, and they complain that they can't get any major award recognition or a novel contract, despite all their Pushcart Prize nominations.

The Worldcon crowd is older, straighter, whiter, more conservative, and more invested in Fandom As A Way of Life. They read and publish in Asimov's and F&SF, and they like to complain that there just don't seem to be any SFF writers under the age of 35. (This is mostly, I think, because they only notice Us Kids after we've been publishing off and on for ten years, and break into one of the digest zines or a novel publication.)
ebear
4. Anna Lawrence
Are we allowing for birth date: date of Hugo ceremony? Maybe authors born in the 50s are 'old' now (I would dispute this), but if they had won awards in the 70s and 80s they would have been Young Turks (and, if in the 60s, child prodigies).
R O T
5. rogerothornhill
I wonder if the results are more skewed if one restricts oneself to print. The film and tv results further on down in the ballot are still pretty straight (except for Gaiman/Vaughn/DeNiro's gay pirate in Stardust), but my offhand guess is that those nominated creators are slightly younger than their print brethren. This is similar to a point that has been made in the theatre for at least two decades now: that younger talents almost inevitably gravitate to screens rather than the boards. Similar points been made on other threads here about the possible death of print as a cutting-edge medium.

Ebear's point about Wiscon, though, is extremely well-taken. I'd love hearing about the sorts of good, young writers who didn't make the Worldcon ballot. Back in the 80s, when many readers felt "mainstream' fiction was similarly timebound, several major presses took a chance on publishing "30 under 30" anthologies, and these ended up paying off very well for both the presses in question and the featured authors. If any "Best of the New Wave" anthologies like that exist for current scifi, I for one would love to know about them.
ebear
6. affreca
jsherry, it isn't that younger people haven't won Hugos in the past, but this generation of younger people aren't winning now. The age of the winners has been getting older, as shown by 2 winners born in the 70s.

And the younger people are getting published, just not winning Hugos. And that might be because those who follow those authors aren't invested in the Hugo/Worldcon system. We have different, cheaper cons full to go to.
dave t
7. dave_t
Seems to me that the cost of voting in the Hugos -- either pay a couple of hundred dollars to attend Worldcon (plus travel costs) or buy a supporting membership -- will tend to skew the voting demographic older.
ebear
8. Jacob Lefton
At LA Con IV, there was a panel with a bunch of older fans and authors all talking about the 'generation gap.' Basically, they were all convinced that SF fandom was dying out. There were a couple of reasons.

They cited the lack of common canonical works. "There's just too much," they said, "for the younger generations to read. No one is unified by literary background anymore."

Another reason they put forward is that according to some observation somewhere, certain types of social groups tend to last for three generations. They said, maybe fandom is one of these social groups, and its death was inevitable.

"I mean," said a panelist, "all these newfangled things like comic books and star trek and role-playing games are taking over and you get things like ComiCon and Dragon Con attracting tens of thousands of people. People just don't like the Book any more."

Disappointingly there was very little talk about what could be done to attract younger people to fandom again. It was sort of an elderly gripe session. "When I was their age..."

As a fandom native, I've definitely noticed an awkward imbalance between young people and not-young people. First it was in high school and then college. When my friend described a con as "where fandom goes to die," I looked around and realized that most of the people at all conventions I frequented were much older than me. At fifteen, this was perhaps a bit unfair, but things haven't changed much. I've gotten older, and everyone else has too. What's striking is that the number of people my age attending the conventions isn't growing very fast.

Yet, I grew up with stories of my parents and their friends finding SF fandom while in college or late high school. It sounded like there were droves of younger folks back then — and the numbers certainly seem to suggest that. The numbers suggest that younger people were voting for and were winning Hugos. It's probably the same groups and generations that are still winning the Hugos.

Clearly, there are two separate issues here. One is the perceived lack of youth in SF fandom, the other is that the Hugos that used to be won by young authors are now being won by older authors. There's probably a lot of correlation — Bear suggested that maybe people of a certain generation read only mainly their generation. And the Hugo voter pool is age-restricted for a number of reasons.

What disappoints me is that there seem to be very little marketing of SF as a viable professional choice or a viable fandom specifically directed toward college students.

Let's talk more numbers for a moment. This may reveal one aspect of the Hugo generation gap.

The price of a WorldCon ticket is over $200 at the door. How many 20-somethings do you know with the foresight to buy a membership two years in advance? No, I think WorldCon used to attract people by coming to town and being really awesome and relatively cheap. Now, one day passes cost around $100. I know very few young folks that are going to put that much money down on something completely new.

I've been to very few conventions with student rates at the door. My friends balk at a weekend that costs more than $25, including food and lodging. How many of you remember packing a dozen people into a two-bed hotel room? People will only do that if it makes things cheap, but the cost of the ticket is still prohibitive.

I know of no conventions that approach undergraduate literature, writing, and art departments and say, "We have this writing/art contest that's going to be judged by industry professionals. The contest is specifically for college students to give them an introduction and possibly a leg up in this field."

If you gave a few students a 'gallery showing' next to some of the industry pros, they would spread the good word. If you made it cheap enough for their friends to come too, and then told them that, I think business would be booming.

(Yes, I know there are art shows, and anyone can put up their work. But you really only know that if you're already involved. Where's the advertising? Where's the incentive?)

It's no surprise to me that there's a distinct generation gap in fandom and among writers. There seems to be very little effort to really reach out to youth. I'm glad these discussions are finally happening.
CE Petit
9. Jaws
One side note that bears some consideration:

The slow demise of the print magazines is narrowing the markets available for short fiction (3/4 of the written-work Hugos; I'm discounting the Dramatic Presentation Hugos as non-comparable because they haven't been around for the full span, and because they're really team efforts). To use that awful phrase so beloved of pollsters, many younger writers are not getting a chance to break in among "likely voters" simply because the magazines' own demographics among subscribers, writers, and editors is trending older.

Yes, Gordon, I know you're still a spring chicken, but that's only one third of the story. Pun intended.

In turn, that means that "younger" writers, in order to get noticed — beyond the notice necessary to get commercially published — generally must do so at novel length. (And consolidation has reared its ugly head in the book-length market, too, although to a much lesser extent than in short fiction.) There's nothing wrong with this at all; novel-writing is not the same thing as short-fiction writing, particularly as the publishing industry demands greater and greater continuity between/among a writer's novels, and not just in speculative fiction. However, it does reduce the chances for a younger author to garner that elusive Hugo.
ebear
10. Jonquil
Let go of the antibodies and *listen*. The younger, queerer, female-dominated crowd at WisCon can and do spend money travelling from long distances, paying for hotels and food, to attend WisCon; those costs dwarf the attendance fee. I've been there; it's a passionate SF-reading, media-watching, content-critiquing community. Attendees often comment that it's the only place in the fannish community they can relax. It is irrelevant whether they *should* feel that way; this is about emotions, not about debatable facts.

And those readers and writers are complaining that their work isn't showing up in the Hugos. Right now, people who are under 40 aren't winning.

As PNH suggests, there is a visible generational divide. I don't know what's repelling the people outside WisCon's audience; it would be interesting to hear their answers.
Joe Sherry
11. jsherry
Affreca: Point, and Link and Chiang are kind of bad examples anyway, what with their freakish talent and all.

I wonder, does it take longer now for writers to break into the pro zines?

Seems like if you want a Hugo nomination you better get published in Asimov's or at worst F&SF (as a generalization). If the younger writers are writing some exciting stories that don't quite fit the mold of what Sheila Williams or Gordon Van Gelder are looking to buy, they won't get published in those two markets. They're going elsewhere to sell their stories but in that lack of sales to Asimov's of F&SF, with a couple of exceptions they won't even get a nomination.

Can't speak for the Nebulas as much as what I've noticed on the Hugos.

So, like the generation gap Bear noted above: If the Worldcon crowd skews older and more conservative / traditional than the Wiscon crowd, and the twain doesn't meet, it also means that things are not likely to change in the major awards until, in Bear's case, she got published in Asimov's and oh look, now she can be recognized for her stories.

Do we need to wait until the younger crowd gets older, takes over, and just recognizes the people who were once young and now aren't...will the young / exciting writers STILL get overlooked or will the fact that online venues MAY get represented change the whole game? And how long do we wait for that?
ebear
12. Tim Pratt
Wow, I had no idea I was the first -- that's rather astonishing!

I think Bear has a point (I'm also a long-time Wiscon attendee, but usually only go to Worldcons if they're close to my home). I think it's demographically telling that both Bear and I got our Hugo nominations/wins with stories published in Asimov's, though we both publish a lot in other (smaller, online, etc.) magazines.
Jeffrey Richard
13. neutronjockey
Are "our" perceptions perhaps limited more by current marketing conventions that we realize?

YA SFF (mostly the F of SFF) seems to be following a trend of younger mid-20 to 30 something writers, predominately female that are dominating the field. What few YA targeted novels that have made the Hugo list (and I've only had the opportunity to go back a few years so far) seem to be the ones that have managed mainstream cross-over.

Paranormal Romance is dominated by younger female writers. I've met them, they are an incredibly fun bunch. The RITA GH awards represents the trend strongly. The Hugos (again, from the lists I've had my hands on so far), not representative of the PR community. Is not PR fantasy at its core ---dominated by the Urban Fantasy sub-genre?

Are all parties involved and invited? The Hugo FAQ says yes. The Hugo nomination list says,"No."

Part of the problem (perhaps) is within the marketing of World Fantasy Con and the Hugos themselves. Who are they targeting? Who are they inviting to become voting members of?

The second part is probably just economically driven factors --- how many young 18-late-20-somethings have the spare change to become a full participating member, pay for travel and lodging and drinks at the bar? The economics of the Hugo Awards makes it limiting to the audience it's intended for to some extent.

The third part is bringing across the message and importance of why the Hugos are significant. Why should any reader, fan, or contemporary care if so-and-so is a Hugo Award winning author? "It's the most prestigious award in SFF since 1955."

Right, but what's in it for me (the reader/fan)? ---It's simply not explained or marketed well enough to be important.
James Nicoll
14. James Davis Nicoll
Not to be Mr. Negativity here but the Big Three have news-stand sales that are lower than the attendence for the Kitchener Rangers (Curse your black heart, Spokane). While in a sense it might be sad if younger writers can't break into the Big Three, in another sense I don't think the magazines are the heart of the genre anymore.

I had the impression that the average age of winners of the Locus Poll Best First Novel was slowly creeping up as well but when someone else actually ran the numbers, it turned out that I was wrong. I'd really like to see someone else run the numbers for ages of Hugo winners. I say this because I am very curious about this but also lazy.

It would be interesting if it turned out some catagories did in fact show that winners were getting older while others did not.
James Nicoll
15. James Davis Nicoll
8: "The price of a WorldCon ticket is over $200 at the door."

I'm curious what Worldcon prices look like once we put them in constant dollars but while I am willing to sit down and do the conversions, I don't have handy a list of Worldcon membership costs. Can someone direct me to a source?

1: For example, 200 2008 US dollars are very roughly equal to 35 1970 US dollars.
Madeline Ferwerda
16. MadelineF
I went to the "Forecasting the Hugo 2009" panel at Denvention and listened to David Hartwell read a list of several dozen authors he suggested, of which two (Ekaterina Sedia and, as prophecied above, a YA author Ysabeau Wilce) were people I hadn't heard of before again and again and again. He talked about how he reads thousands of stories a year, but he's somehow not seeing anything new.

I left when he went into a tedious rant about how we shouldn't be voting for John Scalzi as best fan writer... His words were along the lines of "pure old-quill mimeotyped" but it sounded like "you kids get off of my lawn".
Margaret ONeill
17. prettymuchpeggy
About ten plus years back the folk music community started noticing the aging of its acts and audiences. In this community there was a concerted effort to draw in a new generation. There were awards offered for young artists/songwriters under the age of 25. Discounts and programming offered to get the same age group in the door of conferences and festivals. I have to say it is beginning to pay off.

The downside is the generation that it missed -mine. Sigh...
James Nicoll
18. James Davis Nicoll
One possible complication is that the recent decline in the relative value of the American Dollar has the effect of cutting the cost of attending US worldcons for non-Americans even as costs rise for Americans. I have a feeling this actually hasn't changed the ratio of US/non-US attendees of US worldcons much, based on the way the declining US dollar has not done all that much for the American tourist trade.
eric orchard
19. orchard
@ Nuetronjockey, excellent point about the YA market. It's not that the print market is dead it's just shifted and diversified. YA and comic books are big markets that are easy to overlook.
Jeffrey Richard
20. neutronjockey
Orchard, just to further emphasize my point the LJ Fangs, Fur, and Fey community and the FFF main site were so excited about the Hugos they um....well, you find a post mentioning the Awards.

I think our marketing conventions have created this perceived gap and as your (orchard) are saying we have diversified and ghettoized (and sub-ghettoized) so much that the Hugo Awards are taking on a more market-specific range than say in earlier history.
ebear
21. jonquil
Prettymuchpeggy has a good point. One of our local theater companies, Berkeley Rep, has noticed the same problem of an aging audience, and is offering special matinees with benefits and half-price tickets for people under thirty.

30-BELOW
There are a lot of reasons it’s great to be under 30. Less wrinkles, more sleep and higher metabolism, to name a few. But there are also a lot of reasons it sucks to be in your 20s—and tight finances tops the list. Need a pick-me-up? Come to Berkeley Rep. If you’re less than 30 years old, you enjoy half-price tickets for nearly every performance.
And, if you select any of the below performances, you’ll also get to attend 30-Below, the coolest theatre after-party for people in their 20s. Free food and drinks, live music and more. It’s a great place to hang out with friends—or maybe make a few new ones. And better yet, it’s free with your ticket.
Joe Sherry
22. jsherry
James @15:

I'm not sure a historical comparison is the way to go, but rather a more contemporary comparison. Excluding travel / hotel (which would be an issue for any con)

Wiscon: $35 (pre-register)
Minicon: $40 (pre), $50 (door)
Readercon: $60 (door)
Tuscon: $45 (door)

The exception:
World Fantasy: $150

Now, I'll grant that I've only been to one con and may be missing some that more reflect the pricing of Worldcon, but it seems like most conventions are around the $50 range except for World Fantasy and Worldcon. That's a major investment compared to the other cons out there.
eric orchard
23. orchard
Nuetronjockey, I have to say, Tor creating a social networking style site is a great start. I wonder what the demographics are on this site's community? I think SF is as good or better than ever, it just requires some original thinking as far as marketing goes. We either see very little marketing or an ARG, which is a bit of a waste of energy, I think.
ebear
24. JoSelle Vanderhooft
I'm wondering when someone from my decade (the 80s) will carry home a Hugo trophy, especially as those of us born earlier in the decade are now within leaping rage of 30.

To echo comments about the lack of 20 somethings at Worldcon and our abundance at WisCon, I think it's definitely the economy. The $200 registration price for a World Con just isn't feasible for me, especially when you add hotel and air fare into the deal. WisCon, on the other hand, is more acceptable. Even though it's a pain to travel there from Utah (you wouldn't believe how hard it is to get a flight from Salt Lake City to Madison!), the registration fee is $65, which helps significantly.
Torie Atkinson
25. Torie
@ Jacob Lefton & neutronjockey

Great points.

I'd argue that young people just don't experience fandom the same way that the older generations have.

Convention-going and magazine-reading are not necessarily part of being in fandom anymore. The internet has become the new meeting place. I know plenty of younger fans who flat-out avoid conventions (due to money and the preponderance of moderately creepy, older fan types), or attend cheaper, younger college conventions like Vericon and ConBust. The only fans I know that subscribe to magazines are aspiring writers.

Nowadays there's also a broader definition of "genre," one that includes comics, anime, television, movies, technology, and things that book-centric conventions and convention-goers tend to scoff at or simply aren't interested in.

And perhaps most significantly, young people don't necessarily consider themselves to be "in fandom," and being in fandom is no longer the major part of one's social identity. It may barely factor in at all! A lot more people are, simply, fans. They buy books and movies, read webcomics, they may go to the occasional con, but it's not a huge identity touchstone the way it used to be.

All of these aspects alienate older fans who either aren't interested in or simply aren't exposed to internet-based, more mainstream fandom. It seems that this has been reflected professionally for quite some time.
Jeffrey Richard
26. neutronjockey
orchard, I'm only guessing that most of Tor's demographics come from the Making Light community, the LJ community and the reader-writers that follow those --- viral outflow. For now.

This will change. Rapidly.

My Google-Fu shows however the because of Tor's presence continues to climb for rankings. A Google of the Hugo Awards shows Tor.com on the second page --- which is pretty mighty considering the longevity and popularity (and Google ranking) of the sites it is competing with.

A Google of Tor.com is also revealing as it shows who/what is talking about the site (no surprise to see Scalzi's v.v.v. popular blog Whatever @ 5th).

So yes, this site will have an impact in SFF trends--- if played right. ;) Web 2.0.
James Nicoll
27. James Davis Nicoll
22: I'm not sure a historical comparison is the way to go, but rather a more contemporary comparison

I think in fact you are right.
Arachne Jericho
28. arachnejericho
This all amuses me, because I was below 30 when I voted in this year's Hugos, and am just 30 now. And:

- I got interested in SF because of the fan-writer-who-shouldn't-be-a-fan-writer John Scalzi, and was more than a little dismayed about some of the "he shouldn't win 'cause he ain't got no real zine" sentiment going on.

- Ditto fantasy/Neil Gaiman.

- I did get interested in comics a while back, but that was because of Warren Ellis, who I think did a lot for driving new interest back a few years ago with the Warren Ellis Forum. The internet is definitely the new medium for creating fans.

- I definitely did NOT get interested in SF because of the older generation. I didn't even know who these people were.

- Some of the Hugo struggles in the votes seemed to show something like a generation gap going on, with excessive votes on one side or another of "traditional" versus "new" that show up in the final-result.pdf. I'm thinking about Best Novel, Novelette, and Story mostly.

- When I was in my early 20s, even though I did have some amount of foresight so that I could splurge every few months, Worldcon would definitely be something I'd have to prioritize highly. And I didn't have any motivation to at the time (see above). I could afford to go in my mid-20s, because I'm insanely lucky professionally, but again---"who are these people?" Only... er... in the last 365 days or so did I know about a) SF b) Worldcon c) people I really wanted to win at Worldcon....

And even so I could only realistically have a supporting membership---bought a house, you see. Kind of makes everything very difficult again.

That is some barrier to entry there.

Nevertheless, I think it's getting to the point that the new generation *is* going to change the Hugos. And I think it already started with the 2008 Hugos.
ebear
29. Angelle
How much investment would it take for WisCon to have its own awards? Not to "compete" with the Hugos, but to reflect and reinforce the interests and concerns of that particular fan community.

The Octavias, maybe? Then, when somebody won the Nebula, the Hugo AND the Octavia, you'd know they'd truly arrived.

Yes, yes, I know this would likely rapidly degenerate into some ugly GenX/Millenials whippersnappers vs. Baby Boomer old timer slapfight, but I can dream, can't I?
Torie Atkinson
30. Torie
@ Angelle

They do have their own award. The Tiptree Award.
ebear
31. Angelle
@ Torrie:

Oops. Mea culpa.

What's really sad is that I knew that, somewhere in the back of my skull.

This is what comes of posting from vacation, folks. Don't do it.
Jeffrey Richard
32. neutronjockey
@Torie, If we weren't arguing SFF specifics I'd say that younger fandom is just as "weird" and creepy as ever. (Some of the Furry fandom links NSFW).

I might have to sit back and think about how the internet and the proliferation of SFF has changed fandom. Inarguably it has. More so, the day-to-day contact that fans can have with their favorite authors (or other media producers). I have Scalzi-Con, Mary Robinette Kowal-Con and eBear-Con provided daily via blogs.

If only Charles Scribner's Sons had Twitter at the turn of the century...

If you look at the above links (with brain bleach handy) I think you'll see that where youth fandom has gone is by way of more visual and hybrid media. Thanks to technology and the (now) lack of physical barriers the proliferation of visual and digital media is huge and ever expanding. (@orchard --- I would consider Tor.com to be hybrid media: print, visual, digital and highly interactive).

I would take an educated wager (a Google actually) that J.K.Rowling's movies outsold her books in actual revenue earned. It's not that print is dead --- it's that our cave paintings have come to life finally.
ebear
33. Jacob Lefton
For the past few years, Arisia has been freezing their valid-college-ID price at $25, while a regular membership has hit $60 at the door. That's the only way I was able to convince a lot of people to go.

Maybe three years back, they had an awesome deal --- if you registered four or more members of your college's SF club, you got a free room. For some reason they haven't done it again, but I don't know why.


As for the broadening of genre, when is there going to be a Hugo for something like the Best Computer Game writing and design? I could see games getting recognized for their amazing sf stories (Fallout 1 & 2, Bioshock) or speculative innovation (Spore).

Is it a SF award or a literary award? Some good solid writing goes into games.
R O T
34. rogerothornhill
Torie, for those of us interested but marginally in the "community," thank you for posting the link to the Tiptree page.
eric orchard
35. orchard
To me, one of the greatest indications that fandom is shifting away from conventions is the fact that Forrest J. Ackerman now has a Facebook account.
ebear
36. Mary Anne Mohanraj
The Tiptree award, while fabulous (I was on the jury one year), is a topic-specific award, much like the Kindred Award and the Parallax Award, recent additions which also grew out of WisCon.

WisCon doesn't do a general best-of award, and I think it's probably better that it doesn't, given the proliferation of awards. It seems more likely that either:

a) in the coming years, as they get a bit older and more financially stable, more of the WisCon crowd will be buying at least supporting WorldCon memberships so they can vote, if they care, or

b) the Hugos will stop being relevant to what's exciting in new genre fiction -- some other process will evolve to reflect that, perhaps in the form of the Locus poll or some other online evaluative method

I'm just glad that Strange Horizons is doing what I hoped it would do when we founded it -- publish lots of exciting new writers, and live at the forefront of what's exciting in the genre. Yay, us. :-)
Abigail Sutherland
37. evilrooster
Crunching the numbers a little from Patrick's link (which does not include 2008 winners):

Best Novel
Most recent winner under:
30: 1968
35: 1987
40: 2001
45: 2007

Best Novelette
Most recent winner under:
30: 1990
35: 2001
40: 2005
45: 2007

Best Novella:
Most recent winner under:
30: 1977
35: 1999
40: 2005
45: 2005
50: 2005
55: 2007

Best Short Fiction/Short Story
Most recent winner under:
30: 1981
35: 2007

Or, cut another way:

Best Novel
Average age of winner:
1950's: 42.63
1960's: 41.06
1970's: 45.8
1980's: 40.15
1990's: 45.86
2000's: 51.73

Best Novelette
Average age of winner:
1950's: 41.4
1960's: 44.25
1970's: 42.28
1980's: 41.75
1990's: 49.85
2000's: 46.46

Best Novella
Average age of winner:
1950's: 38
1960's: 38
1970's: 42.87
1980's: 43.32
1990's: 45.7
2000's: 55.8

Best Short Fiction/Short Story
Average age of winner:
1950's: 38.5
1960's: 36.07
1970's: 44
1980's: 42.8
1990's: 46.4
2000's: 54

So the perception that the awards are greying as a whole is correct. And it looks like short stories give the widest age range.
Abigail Sutherland
38. evilrooster
I'm sure everyone has ideas about how to make the Hugos more relevant (assuming that the arguments above don't conclude with, "The Hugos are irrelevant.") Here are my two, both slightly bats, for the fun of it:

1. Many of the best works, particularly novels, don't seem to win Hugos. If my house burned down and I had to replace my library, my first 20 books would not all be winners.

Authors who write their best work at the start of their careers don't often win for that early brilliance. And there have been times where I've felt that a lesser work by such an author has been honored to make up for that gap.

So what if there were "gold" and "silver" (think wedding anniversaries, not Olympic medals) Undiscovered Trifle Hugos? The "gold" one would be for the best novel from 50 years ago which did not win at the time. The "silver" would be for the best one from 25 years ago that did not.

That would give voters a second and third bite at the cherry, which might convince them to overlook a lesser work because "It's time X won." X could wait till their great work came up for second and third eligibility instead.

2. Make the Hugo categories more fluid. In addition to voting for the specific works from the past year, the Worldcon voters could vote on what categories will be awarded in five years' time. So the 2009 ballot includes not only the eligible books, but also "What categories will be awarded in 2014?"

That way, if Best Editor of A Medium-Length Piece of Fiction is no longer a relevant award, the fans can delete it. And if there should be a Best Virtual Reality Simulation award, it can be created.

It would play hell with statistics gathering, of course, but it would recognize the changes in priorities and formats within the genre.
ebear
39. The numbers don't lie.
I'm 25, and this game is terrifying (and beyond frustrating, at times) for me. And perhaps it should be. Frustration and terror and anxiety help one pay one's dues. But the above comments suggest a polarized world of fandom, and that's not the way it should be. At least, not if anyone wants to make any money.

We're a huge market, guys. We could be learning about new books, but we're busy watching anime and BSG and Dr. Horrible. We're going to media cons. I had no idea what Locus or Worldcon was until people twice my age told me. I picked my first SF off my dad's shelf, and all he kept were bestsellers like Asimov and Herbert. No magazines. No zines, period. I have so much homework to do, and this whole polarization thing doesn't help.

Yes, being online has changed us. We're different. The stuff that's mentioned above as "scary"? The furries? Yeah, well, those fans are our friends. We met them online. And if people want our money, or our votes, then they'd better be ready to shake some paws and press some costumed flesh.
Arachne Jericho
40. arachnejericho
@Abi,

I think that option 1 is a great and feasible idea.

And option 2, while also great, is much harder to work into the existing framework. It would have helped bring about a Best Graphic Story category long before the proposal for the 2009 awards. (And in time for The Arrival too.)
ebear
41. Nicholas Whyte
@evilrooster - brilliant number-crunching! Sorry for the delay in including the 2008 winners on my site - minor connectivity problems from here...
Jeffrey Richard
42. neutronjockey
@39 The numbers don't lie.

People polarize themselves into communities. Markets follow community trends. Markets don't make communities.

It's the tribe mind, human nature to identify with others that are "same" not SFF polarizing intentionally.

There will never be One World SFF Order/Award to rule them all. Diversity = niche = revenue. Not homogeneous markets... diverse markets. And you can't cater to all markets. Not anymore.

I was the one who mentioned furries as being 'scary.' I have friends that are furs too (granted, on the milder side of the furry-fandom spectrum). Even furs have fur sub-tribes and creepy furs.

I'm not sure what 'game' you're referring to as being scary and calling for anxiety and frustration? Very vague.

You mentioned BSG and Dr. Horrible--- you'd find a large percentage of the people here fans of at least one (if not both).

If you're looking for all shades of fandom to find acceptance at every venue you're probably only going to find mild toleration at best. I don't picture the Hugo Awards turning into a fursuit convention anytime soon.
Soon Lee
43. SoonLee
To grossly generalise again, if there is a 'Wiscon' crowd and a 'Worldcon' crowd with little overlap, then surely a site like this, that is of interest to diverse folk and provides opportunities for greater overlap, is a big step in the right direction.
Joe Sherry
44. jsherry
Evilrooster @37 Nice work on the numbers...it's kind of telling.
Margaret ONeill
45. prettymuchpeggy
"Authors who write their best work at the start of their careers don't often win for that early brilliance."

Perhaps instead of looking at age at all, a focus on Best work of an immerging author or best indie work or even best web published work would be good categories.
Eric Tolle
46. ErictheTolle
There will never be One World SFF Order/Award to rule them all. Diversity = niche = revenue. Not homogeneous markets... diverse markets. And you can't cater to all markets. Not anymore.


That's true. Of course one of the ideals of SF Conventions was to supposedly provide a common venue different kinds of interests could share close quarters. Thus people with multiple interests could find things they were interested in easily, and people could be introduced to new fannish things.

I think a lot of the good things from fandom comes out of the simple impulse to show somebody something and say "hey! Isn't this neat?" and organized fandom ought to be able to nuture that feeling.
ebear
47. Diane Turnshek
The numbers are telling. (Thanks evilrooster.)

I thought I could change the world, or at least stop the greying of fandom. For years, I moderated a teen genre writing forum (Inkspot), then founded Alpha, the SF/F/H Workshop for Young Writers. For seven years now, I've taken 20 teen writers to Confluence. The students don't take advantage of what the conference has to offer, nor do the many Alpha alumni who show up for the con each year. They get what they need online (mainly networking connections). Confluence membership consists of perhaps 20% teenagers now, but with hardly a change of programming to cater to this younger audience. The programming people are all new for next year--we'll see what happens.

Jacob had good questions: "when is there going to be a Hugo for something like the Best Computer Game writing and design? I could see games getting recognized for their amazing sf stories (Fallout 1 & 2, Bioshock) or speculative innovation (Spore)."

Don't know about Hugos, but Nebulas? As someone who was on the SFWA BoD and listened to the membership committee discussion for years, not any time soon. A crying shame, that. Fabulous writing--inspirational!

The science fiction writing community has been wonderfully welcoming to my young writers. I'm thrilled at how many established authors have donated to the scholarship fund for the workshop. Alphans have now sold to Boys' Life, Realms of Fantasy, Writers of the Future, Fantasy Magazine, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, Fantastic Stories, Corpse Blossoms, Aberrant Dreams, Fantastical Visions and other publications. It's not that the Millenial generation is not out there writing and selling, it's just that they don't have the established network to win Hugo Awards. Given time, I predict the power and connectivity of the Internet will beat the popularity and targeted marketing that goes into Worldcon attendees choosing major awards.

Hey, I'm still trying to change the world.

(I'm on vacation in Florida--should I really be posting?)
Leiah Gerling
48. LianaBrooks
Hmmm, well, I'm 26 on Saturday and I've never attended a con. But I write and I'm working on getting published so I suppose I ought to aim for a Hugo in the next 4 years, just to balance things out. :o)

Personally (and please don't hate me for this), I read down the Hugo list and only recognized one name. I've only read one of the authors listed and not for the piece that had won. I love sci-fi. My shelves are packed with science fiction novels and art about the novels, and the science behind the stories... but the Hugo winners aren't who I read. They tell good stories, but they aren't as gripping or interesting to me as the younger writers out there.

There is a love for sci-fi out there. We just have to make sure that the awards don't become an elitist, ageist, rebuke against people who are living in a different age and with a different set of interests and outlooks. The awards are meant to be for the best. They aren't supposed to be a treat withheld to punish someone for being too young or too liberal or too female.

Looking through the comments there's a lot of good advice.... now somebody needs to grab the con organizers and the awards panel, sit them down, and hit them over the head by a clue-by-four.
R O T
49. rogerothornhill
Wow. This thread alone makes the existence of this site a marvelous thing. Congratulations to all who worked so hard to set it up. Cordial, intelligent, maybe even productive disagreement is such a precious thing these days. Mostly, people just stay in their cliques.

If the problem is that people from different groups aren't talking, well the last four dozen comments have solved that. We have the attention of a major press in the field. Now what?
Arachne Jericho
50. arachnejericho
@LianaBrooks,

Not everyone on the Hugo lists are "old", and even though I suppose I'm young or at least, on my part, naive, I don't want to throw out everybody who's older (or, really, anybody).

I like Neil Gaiman, and I like Gene Wolfe. I like RAH, and I like John Scalzi. I like Charles Stross and I like Ted Chiang and I like Scott Westerfield and I like MRK. I like Swanwick and David Anthony Durham, etc etc etc.

Probably the last way to get people to cooperate is to say "you all need to be hit by a clue-by-four" because it's not like the Hugos had *intentionally* chosen older just to punish people for being young and liberal.

And John Scalzi won for Fan Writer despite some grumblings and misgivings---which says many things. Like: things change.

@R O T: profit!
ebear
51. Lon Prater
@neutronjockey 32 and others: I'm glad to see I'm not the only one who thinks the House of Genre needs an extension built on. There has been a whole lot of great work done in SFF computer games, graphic novels and diverse other story-delivering media. Much as I hate to say it (because I like books full of words so much), I think the biggest anti-progress thing going on in our genres has been the focus on books and nothing else. Other media are telling darn good stories and in a way that--for numerous reasons--is more accessible to the rising generation of fans. Pretending there's no other worthwhile way to tell a story than prose is like refusing to get on the internet "on principle."

@evilrooster 38: I really like your idea, but I wouldn't go so far back. Or at least I would focus on only going back 5 and ten years. My biggest beef with literary awards of any kind is that most often they are given when hardly anyone has read them (relative to the true lifespan and influence of the book.) If there was an award for the best novel of five years ago, or ten, then there would be some evidence of its lasting power and importance to the field. As opposed to the self-fulfilling prophecy of a book winning an award AND THEN a bunch of readers pick up the subsequent paperback with ____- Award winner on the cover. But of course awards for books that people have had a decent amount of time to read and digest would be a bit too post-capitalist just yet.
Arachne Jericho
52. arachnejericho
@Lon Prater,

The Hugos have categories for movies and TV shows (the dramatic presentations, long and short). It has never ignored other media; new categories for other media would be nice, but the Hugos aren't at all "die you non-paper media!"

Also, the Hugos are always a year late. E.g., eligible candidates are those that were published the previous year. So the 2008 Hugos cover 2007 work, and not any 2008 work.

I think a year is enough time for a work to sink in.

Plus the Hugos are not just fan-voted (for whatever age demographic you want to put "fan" in) but also fan-nominated. So technically all these books have been pretty read.
ebear
53. Lon Prater
@arachnejericho Oh I know they do, and I didn't mean for my post to sound like there was an adversarial thing going on from the Hugos versus anything besides print. I was thinking there of graphic novels, computer games, etc as mentioned just before. But it does seem like Worldcon (and other genre heavyweights) have been a tad reluctant about catching up with the times and welcoming new ways of writing in the genres. Maybe afraid of award proliferation and devaluing? I mean, The Hugos didn't even start splitting up TV shows and Movies till just a few years ago and it took even longer than that to recognize the value of editors, yanno?

Also, the Hugos are always a year late....
...I think a year is enough time for a work to sink in.
...Plus the Hugos are not just fan-voted (for whatever age demographic you want to put "fan" in) but also fan-nominated. So technically all these books have been pretty read.


You and I'll have to disagree on that one. It might have been enough for a work to sink in the past, but I think the number of people who read enough work published in a given year to actually nominate something and vote for it with a good knowledge of the year's body of published work has been shrinking steadily for at least the last 20 years.

I think "fan-voted and fan-nominated" is accurate, but unfortunately in kind of a "Dubya" sort of way. The fans who pay to be members of Worldcon decide, and except in those infrequent cases where a voting member has taken in every single item in every category (And bless their hearts for doing so!) most votes would seem to be based upon something other than an independent review of the merits of all the works nominated.

But I'm not trying to crash anyone's party. I'm glad we have the Hugos, even while I think I see some ways they could serve SFF better. (In general, I am a big-tent advocate for the genre as a whole, and that is where most of my dissatisfactions and random grumblings come from.)

A pretty good system beats no system any day, and no matter how many people you please, somebody out there will still have a gripe or two! :)
ebear
54. Lon Prater
@Torie #25:

I wanted to underline that whole post by the way. It's a strange world where the genre geeks have won so completely that SF&F are like water in the fishbowl.
Abigail Sutherland
55. evilrooster
@Nicholas:

Thank you for maintaining the site. I didn't do much more than feed it into a spreadsheet and turn the crank a few times.

And the comment about not having 2008 data was just a pedantic footnote, not a criticism.
Charlie Stross
56. cstross
Parenthetically speaking: I've been meaning to dip a toe in the Wiscon waters for a while, and my excuse for not doing so in 2009 is simply that I was invited to be GoH at Balticon, which is the same weekend, dammit.

Knowing there's an alternative authorial culture out there, and it's about as generation-gapped as the divide between the pre-1960 writers and the new wave ... well, I know which side of that barricade I belong on, even if I'm turning grey and wrinkly.

Leading off at a tangent: in light of the age profile of Hugo nominees/winners, has anyone done anything similar about SFWA and the Nebulas? What's the average age of SFWA members, and what's the average age of Hugo voters? Could the perceived loss of relevance of the Nebulas over the past decade possibly be a harbinger of the same trend -- age-related conservativism -- hitting the Hugos?

(Apologies if this is a little incoherent; I'm sitting in a departure lounge, jet-lagged a third of the way round the planet, and my soul hasn't caught up yet.)
ebear
57. MFitz
Although blessed with good genes so I don't have any actual gray hair, I guess I'm on the gray end of things having been born about halfway through 1959, but I came to SF fandom late and this year's Worldcon in Denver was my first Worldcon.

I'm Midwestern, middle aged, and middle of the road in my politics and my impression of Fandom, starting with the very first con I attended in 2002, was that most people were stuck reading and talking about stuff I had read back in middle school or high school and had not moved on to what was being published and sold today. For example, they would say over and over that there aren't many women writing SFF, an argument a trip to the SFF section of any bookstore negates. (My local B & N had 52% female authors in the SFF section the last time I checked) Just a general impression of my first Worldcon. On the panels were a lot of people there who knew that they knew and weren't going to change opinions regardless of facts placed before them. Not really a criticism, since you find this type in and Fan/Hobby group, but I think it might account for the slow rate of new writers and trends getting acknowledgment they deserve.

My husband is active in the mineral collecting, as I'v been going to Gem & Mineral shows for years. There is a group that make SF Con goers look like young whippersnappers, and what hit me wasn't how gray most of the Worldcon crowd was, but how fat they were, and how many seemed to have weight related health issues. I'm not saying this to be mean, just saying it was my first impression of most every crowd saw all weekend. I 'm not skinny and never have been, but I'm betting I was in the lower 33% by height/weight rate of people to the con. I sort of got the impression weight is the 500 pound gorilla that people in Fandom don't talk about. Maybe if more Fans started getting their short fiction from listening to pod-casts while they did half an hour on a treadmill or elliptical walker after work everyday they would be both more familiar with the work of younger writers, and in better health

Liz B
58. despotliz
Average age of Nebula winners per decade:
1960s = 37
1970s = 41
1980s = 40
1990s = 47
2000s = 53

Or to put it another way, number of winners in their twenties and thirties per decade:
1970s = 22
1980s = 27
1990s = 8
2000s = 4
Blue Tyson
59. BlueTyson
Just a thought, but if there is an increasing emphasis on good writing, does it get harder to do that as a young, err... Pratt, now - get that good at an early age that is?

The super keen spreadsheet types could look at the fantasy, horror, crime and romance awards for examples, as well as the nebulas.

People of course live longer now (and hence presumably write for longer) than those that were old enough to be 50s headliners).
eric orchard
61. orchard
Some general thoughts..

It's funny, I do have a sense that I would be deeply surprised if a 23 year old won the Hugo, I think I assume someone that young couldn't write something that good. I'm sure I'm wrong in that assumption.

Also, I wonder if there are different cultural currents in different areas. Continental Europe and Asia still seems to retain a very young group of genre fans. I have nothing to back this up, just appearances.

An finally, genre art is really young. The majority seem to be under forty. I won't average out the ages of Spectrum artists but many of them I know are quite young. I wonder if there is a conscious decision in genre art to seek new, young talent?
ebear
62. Judith Tabron
I disagree with the folks who are falling back on the cost of WorldCon as a reason why the younger generation doesn't go.

In my youth I dropped everything and spent a wad of cash I didn't have to go to a WorldCon far away. The reason was simple: community, and a chance to participate in The World of The Best. Some of my peeps were going, invited me and mine to come crash on the floor, and a trip was born. We all ASPIRED to go to WorldCon.

It isn't only cost that keeps the young away from events. (For the most part, people under 30, less worried about salvaging their retirement funds in a bear market, have HEAPS of disposable income to part with.) It's whether or not they think there's anything in the event for them, and whether or not their friends are going.

In other words, it's not the cost, it's the value proposition. If they felt like they were going to meet up with their friends and participate in something that really showcased The Best In Science Fiction Right Now As The World Sees It, the entry fee would be a bargain. But for a con where the material doesn't really interest them? Why would they shell out luxury-product cash for that? Especially if their friends have also decided not to go.

Sounds like WorldCon has dropped below some sort of minimum recommended daily allowance of younger people.
ebear
63. Kat Goodwin
How much does it cost to go to ComicCon in San Diego or New York? If Hugos are given out to film, t.v. and Net video projects, do the people who do them show up to collect? Does the media come with them to cover it? If we want to give Joss Whedon a Hugo for Dr. Horrible's Blog, can we get him on a WorldCon panel and have him bring some of his actor posse with him? Have him preview some of the DVD extras? Ditto for Kevin Smith, somehow. Are the SFF publishers, like Tor, setting up spectacular booths for WorldCon like they do for ComicCon?

Sometimes this happens, but it doesn't happen enough, it seems to me. And so young people are much more willing to pony up the cash to go to ComicCon, where there are special effect shows, collectibles, teaser previews, massive giveaways, etc. Not every SFF con needs to be a circus, but our big ones probably should be. If George Martin, Charlaine Harris, and Terry Goodkind are having t.v. series made of their works and Dan Simmons' Hyperion is being made into movies, etc., then the stuff Hollywood is doing at ComicCons should be happening at the same level at WorldCon, where they are courting the readers of the books to be viewers, domestically and internationally.

So I agree with folk here that the fan base is not aging away, but that the marketing pressures have changed, because the market is bigger. Print isn't gone; it's part of something bigger, including the "old" authors. And we need to make sure the world is more aware of that, even if it takes dangling Eva Mendes and Felicia Day in front of them to do it.
ebear
64. MFitz
@Torie

Thought this tread was on why young people are avoiding SF fandom in droves. I gave a few impressions I, as someone new to the whole SF con scene, had about why this might be.

I think the large number of vocal strongly opinionated Fans, and the large number of overweight people are both things that would make young first timers uncomfortable at a con.

I didn't say anything about specific individuals.
Torie Atkinson
65. Torie
@ 64 MFitz: I understand what you're saying, but I really don't see how that has anything to do with whether or not people are reading and rewarding younger writers.

Judith Tabron has an excellent point about value proposition. More young people would undoubtedly be buying Worldcon memberships and voting on the Hugos if Worldcon programmed events and activities appealing to young people. However $200 is steep, whether for WorldCon or ComicCon.
Liz B
66. despotliz
@Judith #62: I think you've hit the nail on the head. I have been to one Worldcon, and one Wiscon and I enjoyed the Worldcon more, and I think part of it was because the Worldcon had more of my friends attending, and I found it easier to meet new people than at Wiscon. I can afford to go to conventions, but it's a sizeable chunk of my disposable income weighed up against all the other things I could be doing with that money.

@MFitz #64: Why do you think seeing overweight people at a con is going to discourage young people?
Patrick Shepherd
67. hyperpat
The first Worldcon I bought a supporting membership for was the 1965 London, which if I remember right cost me $20. At that time, that was a lot of money (I was earning $1.25 an hour). But I was motivated to purchase same because I saw so many award-deserving works out there: think Zelazny, Delany, Herbert, Heinlein, Ellison, Brunner, etc, etc - and many of these were young writers then who had new and different ways of telling a tale. The idea that I could have an influence on which of these would be singled out as the best of year was invigorating. It's also true that back then I could keep up with almost everything published in the field - I subscribed to all the big mags, scoured the book racks for new novels, read all the book reviews for good things to turn my attention to. So when it came time for voting, I had already read darn near everything on the nomination list.

That is not true today. When the nominee list comes out, I look down the list and am lucky to have read more than a couple of the entries. Part of this is due to the sheer number of new works being published each year (I think it's far higher now than back in the sixties). The other part of this is the fracturing of the publishing market, from original anthologies to lots of online mags with a proliferation of various sub-genres while only a small (and declining) percentage of stories are still being published in the traditional mags. This certainly has an effect on Hugo voting - often people are voting for those names they recognize, those that have been around long enough to have been published in enough markets to catch the eyes of most of the voters (and are therefore more likely to have been picked up and read), while newer writers simply haven't gotten enough exposure across enough of a base to get the necessary votes. In this regard I think this year's availability online of all of the short fiction nominees and all but one of the novels was an absolutely positive idea, and helped give all the nominees a more equal chance. Trouble is, this doesn't help get works nominated in first place. What does (and hopefully will continue to do so) help in this regard are online sites like SF Signal, which constantly gives links to new fiction, and sites like this one, where it seems there (in the short time it's been around) is a pretty free-wheeling discussion of both classic and new entries to the field with comments by members of all age groups.

The idea of a new category to recognize good writing in the gaming field is also, I think, a good one. I see the effect in my own home: getting my two sons to read something (anything) is often a big and frequently unsuccessful chore, but give them a new video game and they will immediately subsume themselves into its quirks and flavors (and they are very quick to notice inconsistencies in plot lines or boring, seen-it-before ideas). Clearly, this is an area younger people are being grabbed by, and recognition should be given to those game writers who are producing incredible, immersible worlds on that video screen. If some of that younger generation would start seeing games with "Hugo Award Winner" plastered on them, it might help cause some to find out just what a Hugo is. And that can't hurt.
Dru Miller
68. Dru
I wonder what the age break down for awards is at ComicCon?

If you look at things like PAX and ComicCon, which are both also very much about the fans as well, you start to wonder what they're doing that WorldCon is not. At least I do.

I understand some level of institutional foot-dragging, but the fact there's almost no new media representation in the Hugos is kind of telling. What about game writing, podcasts, interactive fiction, storyblogs?

Where are the nominations for new 'zines and publishers?

It would be very interesting to find out the average age of who voted for the Hugos.
ebear
69. Mfitz
$200 is steep no matter what your age group.

Between two con membership, hotel room, cost of airfare, and eating out for five days, my husband and I spent more to spend five days at Worldcon than we have spent on any other vacation trip. It was fun, and I would like to go to Worldcon again, but I can go to a local con for about 1/4 what I spent on Worldcon and other than the Masquerade, which I thought was amazing, I don't know that Worldcon was 3/4 bigger bang for my bucks. Sure there was more programming, but since I could only be one place at a time, I didn't get to really go to any more panels/events than I would have at a smaller con. There wasn't the hoopla, the give-a-ways, sneak peeks, and stuff that you see at ComicCon or even at the Star Wars celebration events, so looking in from the outside, if you have not gone to a con before, it might be hard to see exactly what bang you get for your $200.00

I think partly because there is so much more for them to spend their money on young people in their 20's are going to really look at that bang for the buck thing more than I did at their age. They are going to want more guaranteed return on their $200 investment.
ebear
70. Mfitz
despotliz - I think people today, specially young people are conditioned by society to think overweight people are losers who are lazy and possible unstable. They are told by our culture that being fat is a sure way to not get ahead at work, or in social circles and society says discriminating against, and making fun of overweight people, is completely acceptable even in the most PC circles. I think all that makes younger people think overweigh people undesireable to be around.
eric orchard
71. orchard
@mfitz I disagree. I think SFF fans are a more tolerant lot than that.
Kevin Maroney
72. womzilla
"Are the SFF publishers, like Tor, setting up spectacular booths for WorldCon like they do for ComicCon?"

No, and that question is orthogonal to the age gap question. Publishers don't "set up booths" at WisCon, either.

That question points directly to the difference between conventions-which-are-like-sf-conventions and conventions-which-are-like-media/comics-conventions.

The idea of a publisher "putting up a spectacular booth" is from the performer-audience model of conventions, which Worldcon mostly endeavors to avoid. And I think that if Worldcon tried to move to that model, it would of necessity be judged a cheap counterfeit of ComicCon International.

They're different things, each serving different needs.

I also note that the last Worldcon I attended (in 2001), I was on three panel items--one on computer gaming, one on comics, and one on adaptations between art forms. It's not like those newfangled media are absent from programming or excluded from the guest list at Worldcons.
Arachne Jericho
73. arachnejericho
Dauuude there are a lot of responses. Which is way cool.

@Lon Prater - Ah, okay. I understand now. I agree that the graphic story category has been a looong time in coming, and should have been present about five years ago at least. And the fans choosing for the Hugos are apparently among the older set---I paid for voting in the Hugos too, though I'm not the older set by any means.

@Mfitz - ComicCon is a lot worse with the "weight" respect. And GenCon. And etc. And many, many people go there---yes, young people, my generation, and the whippersnappers younger than my generation. I think your argument doesn't really hold, as it were, weight.

Plus in America, overweight is getting to be a fact of life. If everyone my age did freak out about it, we would never go anywhere/do anything. And certainly we wouldn't go to ComicCon/GenCon/any amount of conventions.

But hey. I'm part of the younger set. What the heck do I know about how we think?
Arachne Jericho
74. arachnejericho
I agree with womzilla---ComicCon and WorldCon are two different beasts. I like the idea of a convention that is not crazy and does not require running booths that exhaust you and grind you into the ground. A convention where most of the folks involved behind the scenes can relax.

ComicCon is crazy.
eric orchard
75. orchard
I'm with womzilla and arachnejeicho, I don't think the point is to make worldcon a comicon clone to get "the young people" I think the problem of the generational gap is a lot more complex than that. I think it's about diversity and allowing everyone to contribute.
Martin Sutherland
76. sunpig
Excuse a little bit of cynicism here, but looking at the numbers for the nominations and votes in this year's Hugo awards, it's becoming increasingly hard to see them as a meaningful and popular award. There were fewer than 400 nominating ballots cast for best novel this year, and fewer than 900 (valid) final ballots. For other categories, the numbers are even smaller. Yet attendance at Comic Con this year was well over 100,000. Genre activity is thriving in all kinds of other areas: comics, TV, cinema, gaming. Why is Worldcon turning into such a sad little backwater?

(Here's a little thought experiment: how much would it cost to buy the Hugo for best novel? Supporting membership at next year's Worldcon in Montréal costs USD 55 right now. Assuming the voting numbers stay roughly the same, an unscrupulous person could easily buy their way onto the shortlist for about $20,000, and probably win it for less than twice that. How much of a sales boost does the Hugo provide for a book?

Sure, the fannish community would be up in arms, but so what? 900 people cared enough to vote this year. Is the book-buying public going to listen to them, or just be swayed by the shiny "Hugo award winner" sticker on the front cover?)

If we want to make the Hugo, and by association Worldcon and old-skool fandom, more relevant to a larger and younger public, how about this: separate the administration and awards ceremony from the voting. Open up voting to attendees and members of other conventions, such as WisCon, Comic Con, EasterCon, PAX, et al.

It could/should be WSFS business to decide on a list of qualifying conventions each year, whose members get to vote. The Hugos could/should still be presented at Worldcon, but the fact that more people have a stake in the vote might get more people to be interested in attending the outcome.

In order to make the voting more interesting to a wider public, I imagine that new award categories would have to be created, and some old categories would probably disappear. Controversial, but change is necessary, because the current system sure isn't doing it for the younger audience.

Not sure how the nominating process would work, though... Hmmm.
ebear
77. Mfitz
Question - for the Hugos are SF related Podcasts, say Adventures in SF Publishing or EscapePod considered at all?

I've gotten guite hooked on the author inteviews in AISFP and had never been a fan of short stories until I stumbled across EscapePod and now I'm addicted to listing to short fiction while I grocery shop and do my loathed 45 min every other day on the treadmill.

Is the Hugo process skipping over podcasting?
Dru Miller
78. Dru
I guess I framed that poorly.

I don't see that being able to have both panels and publisher/media booths (large and small) as inimical to a good convention, but fair enough.

How about: "What are other sf-conventions (if you don't like the choices of two wildly youth-popular conventions) that are growing and have less of a gen/diversity gap doing that WorldCon might want to adopt, going forward?"
ebear
79. Stephen Frug
"Authors who write their best work at the start of their careers don't often win for that early brilliance."

What about a special Hugo for first novels? Lots of other awards have these (don't the Locus awards e.g.), and I think it's not really the same thing as the Best New Writer awards (which, anyway, are Not Hugos as is always being said).
Margaret ONeill
80. prettymuchpeggy
All cons are going to be different as they reflect their region, media focus and the people running them. Some promote discourse, some promote a "party" atmosphere, some promote for promoting sake and some do all of the above.

Thank you to arachnejericho for addressing the "weight" issue with far more aplomb and tact than I ever could (even after counting to thousand). The reason I continued going to cons from my mid-twenties was a sense that I was accepted as I am.
Lance Weber
81. LanceWeber
Denvention was my first SF con and throughout the Hugo ceremony I was snarking to a friend about how old everyone on stage was. It's a strange juxtaposition for me, because I'm in my 40's and pretty much at the peak of my career now.
ebear
82. Lon Prater
@orchard #71: I agree with you that fans at cons seem to be much more accepting and hold fewer negative sterotypes across a broad spectrum of diversity categories. But I think MFitz's point was that there's much less of that sense of tolerance out in the non-con world (where these young fans live the other 97% of their lives) and that the negative stereotypes around obesity make a certain slice of the new blood want to keep away. {I'm tempted to say here "Who needs 'em if they are so prone to buy into the stereotype and be all tacitly judgemental?", but I suppose the whole gist of this conversation has been about how WE need them. Hopefully continued exposure to the wonderfulness that is fandom in any size & style of meatsuit will help to kill off the prejudice in time....}

More people are shallow and petty about things like that than are not, unfortunately. Which is part of what makes con-going and hanging out with others who "get it" so much of a relief and re-energizer for me, a person who has bounced between Obese and Morbidly Obese far too many times in my adult life. :(

@arachnejericho #73: You make a good point about there being more obese people present at Gencon and ComicCon. I wonder if it just becomes more visible at smaller cons because there are so many fewer people overall?
But as to the younger generation not caring about weight issues, I'll toss a few links out and then surrender the weight issue to some other discussion, some other time, so this one can get back to the Hugos. :)

http://www.nutrition.cornell.edu/news/w97/sobalob.html
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/10807526/
ebear
83. Jonquil
@evilrooster: That was awesome. Thank you so much; it made a big difference to the discussion.

To add to what arachnejericho said, there were plenty of non-thin attendees at the young-skewed WisCon.

sunpig@76: Opening up voting to members of a specified set of cons is a great idea. Apart from the organizational resistance you'd get, how do you guard against the same person attending many different cons under different names, thus getting multiple votes?

hyperpat@67: "When the nominee list comes out, I look down the list and am lucky to have read more than a couple of the entries. "

What he said.

When I look at my daughter, almost 18, she is enormously fannish -- but all of her fandom occurs online. She gets recommendations on what to read online. She has passionate discussions about manga on both the concrete and the meta levels with a set of friends selected from larger groups. Those conversations don't occur in person. In fact, when she visited Reed College, one of her comments was "It's like being on the Internet all the time!" Which was not a compliment.
eric orchard
84. orchard
@Lon Prater#82, thanks for clarifying MFitz's point. It does make sense. In junior high and high school I was so grateful to meet like minded people that things like size didn't matter. Things might be different now.
William S. Higgins
85. higgins
As a related matter, last year at this time I crunched numbers on Worldcon professional Guests of Honor to see:

1. What were the years of their births?
2. How many years had they been in the SF business?
3. At what age did they make their first sales?

And I made graphs of all these quantities against the year of their Worldcons.

To take an example, Neil Gaiman is quite young, compared to the ages of Pro GoHs at recent Worldcons, but in length of career, he's right in the middle.

Del Cotter made a fine info-graphic out of my numbers, which you may find here.
Joyce Reynolds-Ward
86. joycemocha
Here's another data point:

How many older writers have older careers? That is, how many were actually doing something else when they were in their 20s and 30s but are only now able to start writing in their 40s and 50s?

As an older writer breaking into the field, I kinda feel like I'm somewhat lesser than the Young New People because I am just getting started, due to the choices I made about work and parenting when I was younger.
Patrick Shepherd
87. hyperpat
Well, a couple of data points: Le Guin was 39 when she published the first of the Earthsea novels, Heinlein was 32 when he published his first short story. It would seem there's a fair number who start in mid-to-late thirties, as opposed to the young whipper-snappers like Delany who was, I think, 19 at time of first publication.
ebear
88. Mfitz
@Lon Prater

Thank you very much for articulating what I was trying to say so much better than I could myself.

@orchard

Yes, I think as a whole fans don't care what you weigh or what you look like. I think that is a good thing. We should always be judged by what is on the inside not the outside. I think the outside world cares to much about weight, and that difference may work against some people being comfortable in fandom.


Back to the original topic - An aging population base is not exclusively a problem of SF Fandom. I hear all the time from friends involved in volunteer and hobby groups from community theater to zoo education that it is harder and harder to get young people involved in their organizations on a management level. I don't think this is because today's young people are slackers, I think it's because the average young person today is working more, and also expected to be involved in more, sports, extra credit academics, career prep activities, etc than young people a generation ago. They are overbooked with less unused time to put into hobby activities.
C.D. Thomas
89. cdthomas
@MFitz 70: As stated above, if fatness were a drawback for going to a con, SFF/comic cons would have failed decades ago.

If I wanted to go to cons where solely pretty people attended -- because that's what you're implying, that attractive people need to attend cons to attract young people -- I would have crashed the marketing con happening at the same time at the Grand Hyatt, or seen the hunky guys at the International Association of Fire Chiefs con. Lots of fit people wanting to sell me something or for me to get out of their way, just like on the sidewalks and public places everywhere else I go.

SFF cons are one of the rare places where I don't feel I'm going to be openly insulted for my looks, and where *I* have to do a bit of work separating how a person looks with what they have to say about fiction and life. In short, I hope I and others have some learning to do about books and covers, so to speak.
ebear
90. tavella
I'm not exactly young, but I feel rather out of place in formal worldcon/classic fandom, and found anime and gaming conventions a lot more comfortable. When you feel young and out of place at *40*, there's definitely a problem.

This may be because my social group trends younger, but they are still mostly in their 30s, with a few outliers.

What is interesting to me is that it's gotten worse over the years. In the 80s when I was a young fan, I felt quite comfortable at Worldcon when it was in Baltimore, and the various local SF cons. It's as if the fandom has aged faster than I have.
Charlie Stross
91. cstross
I would just like to note (before I collapse back into a post-jet-lag bed) that the aging of the Nebulas seems to have kicked in around the time of the great restructuring of the awards process, and that the award seems to be aging by close to ten years per decade. Is there any way to view this other than as a catastrophic decline in relevance to the future of our field?

I'd have loved to be able to go to worldcons when I was younger. Alas, I only got to two before I turned 30. (Might have been three -- I missed '89 in Brighton due to having started a new job the week before.)
Arachne Jericho
92. arachnejericho
@higgins - That's an interesting graph. It'd be interesting to do for the Hugos as well.

@Lon Prater - I don't hang out with fans, but I do hang out with tech geeks. Probably as a whole we're also more tolerant---but the people I know aren't fans (much as people like to equate geek with fan, which is kind of like equating Asian with valedictorian) and there's a good distribution from skinny to fat, and a lot of them are way too young.

Mostly my point is that there are a lot of people who *are* tolerant but who are not fans and who could be fans. Or at least more involved. Or something.

We do like video games, however. Seeing Halo up for a Hugo would make more of us pay attention, certainly....
ebear
93. libwitch
I have read through this comments, and wow - I have to say as an avid SFF reader (an avid reader, period - I have logged 105 books since last July, not bad for someone who works two jobs and in grad school for the second time around) - and as a professional librarian and as someone who is friends with authors who go to WorldCon.

I have been sitting here shaking my head. It has never occurred to me ONCE to go to WorldCon because I have never, ever heard it marketed it as a fan convention. Its something for authors, for publishers, for booksellers - and thats about it. Its all about the business, its not about the enjoyment of the genre!

But ComicCon? WisCon? Oh yeah, I have thought about it. I am not even a con person, but it has crossed my mind to go to them, because those are all about the fans.

You want more people coming in your door who are younger? Start improving your marketing.

Same thing with the Hugo Award. I get people who come in and ask for the Newberry Award Winners at my bookstore job - I really do. I have never had anyone come in and ask me for the latest Hugo winner.

Its all in the spin.

As for the age of the Hugo winners, I think some of the best SFF stuff, is being done out of the "SFF genre" and being written by the younger authors in the other categories - young adult, romance, etc. But I never seem them nominated for the Hugo because they are not tradition SFF. Its a shame.
James Nicoll
94. James Davis Nicoll
The numbers seem to get worse beginning in the 1990s. What happened in the 1990s in SF?
ebear
95. OnALark
Others have noted it, but I'll throw in my two cents as someone who makes a living in the gaming industry: the genre is no longer just about books, and people need to accept that if they want to be accessible to the younger crowd.

The WorldCons I've gone to were pretty strongly focused on the literary crowd. Granted, the last one I attended was...a really long time ago, but it doesn't sound like much has changed.

It took the Nebulas years to acknowledge that movies and TV were valid places to award excellence in writing, and no one is acknowledging the writing in games outside of the game industry itself.

And yet there is good -- hell, great -- game writing, and it's not a fad. If anything, game writing has gotten better in the last five years, with games telling compelling stories that are at once wickedly funny (Portal), weird and funny (the Penny Arcade game, advertised on this site), and frighteningly compelling (Bioshock). Stop a teenager on the street and ask them if the "cake is a lie", and there's a 50/50 chance they'll laugh and know exactly what you're talking about. You can't say the same about the latest SF novel, or even the latest Stephen King bestseller.

But it's more than just the awards. One of the reasons I think conventions and awards are starting to fall by the wayside is because they are the emergent behavior of an older generation. We have blogs, forums, and polls now. Do I need to be told that a real-world community thinks Book X is awesome when my Livejournal community already condemned it and spawned a massive thread meme lampooning the scene where the heroine talks about the hero's enormous fishing rod? It used to be unique and awesome to corner an author in an elevator at WorldCon and trap them there for hours, talking about how you really think she shouldn't have killed off Madelaine in chapter twelve. Nowadays you can easily do that in email, or in comments on the author's blog. The drive to "see" authors in the "real world" is no longer what it used to be, because people are just more accessible now.

Finally, look at conventions like Dragon*Con, which continually draw in the geeks. Their non-exclusionary programming is part of what has made them successful, and will continue to guarantee their success as the years go by.

After typing all this, I'm realizing that I have not personally been to a big sf con in ages. And I'm remembering why. Aside from the politics, there just wasn't much "there" for me, as a writer and a fan, to experience or see. The Internet has sucked out a lot of the fun about going to a convention, which means that if concoms want to keep on keepin' on, they need to find new and better incentives for drawing in the crowds.
Evan Langlinais
96. Skwid
I came to this post literally moments after I had posted in my own LJ about how I felt like I stood astride an age gap when I was at Denvention. I was wondering, in fact, if perhaps the folks of my generation (I'm 32, and so on the cusp between X and Y) were off somewhere attending parties I just never found, but this thread somewhat reassures me that that wasn't the case.

There are so many other draws for young people of fannish inclination, particularly around the time of Worldcon. If I didn't pathologically loathe dusty desert climates, for example, I would almost certainly be attending Burning Man instead. If I didn't feel like I would be out of place as the only person there who doesn't own a DS, I'd be tempted to attend PAX instead. And ComicCon...well, that's pretty well covered by others above. The simple truth is that, given such a range of activities that might appeal to young fannish types all occurring in the same August/September time-frame...well, WorldCon is probably the least exciting of these to any but those of the most bookish inclinations, and the option of attending multiple events is monetarily out of the question for most of us.

I think a Hugo for videogames or interactive media is long overdue, and might help appeal to younger folks. I think Nerdcore Hip-hop artists and culture should be courted much as Filk artists have been; they are our people, too. I think the formal structure of Con parties, sponsored as they often are as fundraising events, might seem strange to younger attendees more used to being feted for their valuable demographic than solicited. I, for one, would have enjoyed somewhere with some background music, or maybe even a Rock Band setup...how awesome would it be to watch your favorite authors and editors collaborate to perform in the humorous-yet-accessible karaoke+ style that such games evoke?
Steph Shaver
97. onalark
I think Nerdcore Hip-hop artists and culture should be courted much as Filk artists have been; they are our people, too.

Yup. Filk is awesome (except when it's not), but it's just one segment of the sf/fantasy musical community.

Dragon*Con (I keep going back to that, my apologies) had a great music line-up the years I went, with bands I was actually interested in hearing. That was where I was introduced to the Changelings, and I am eternally grateful for that.
Margaret ONeill
98. prettymuchpeggy
Perhaps some changes could be made to the nomination process which might spark an increase in Worldcon attendance or supporting voting base.

Brainstorming Changes:
1)Website containing a list newly published SF & Fantasy books etc. with links to excerpts. This would be good as I only hear about new authors by word of mouth which can take more time than the year allotted.

2)Add two web nominations in each category. This should be done with a nominal fee ($5.00 or so) to non-supporting/attending members to help the organization maintain the website. Voting however would remain with Worldcon attendance/supporting membership voting base.

3)Add fan-sites/blogs as a new Hugo award category. {or is this already happening and I am not aware of it}

4)Change the year allotted from publication to two years. This would give new authors a chance to develop a buzz.

5)New writers contest – done much like new songwriters contests are done at folk festivals. Submit a short story within a certain interval. Stories are then blind evaluated by a group of peers, fans and/or industry specialists. This helps cull favoritism. The awards can then be awarded by this group -or- a selection can be voted on by the community at large.

Okay - so some of these have been mentioned in other posts, but I thought they were good ideas.
ebear
99. trifles
@76: "(Here's a little thought experiment: how much would it cost to buy the Hugo for best novel? Assuming the voting numbers stay roughly the same, an unscrupulous person could easily buy their way onto the shortlist for about $20,000 "

One could say that something like that happened with the Nebula Award, back in 1998. The author sent out a copy of his book to every single voting member of SFWA, and managed to get on the long ballot with a book that was... well, I wouldn't call it even long-ballot material. (As in, a paragraph of it showed up in the Kirk Poland Memorial Bad Prose Competition that year. "Bouncing breasts" were involved.)

On the upside, now _there_ was someone who knew the value of PR.
Bruce Baugh
100. BruceB
This is semi-random input into the question of whether first (and presumably other early) novels are likely to be good enough to attract attention. I went and looked at my shelves and thought about what I was buying in my late teens and early twenties - that's 1985, plus or minus a few years each way.

The single biggest-attention getter in sf novels, at least in my circle, in those years, was of course Neuromancer. I am startled to look it up and find that Gibson was already in his mid-30s when it came out. For some reason I a mental note of him being a decade younger than he actually is. (That would explain too why he always seemed prematurely aged to me in TV appearances.) Bruce Sterling was 31 when Schismatrix came out - his third novel, but the first to seem wholly successful to me in the way that his stories had been seeming.

Cap'n Howard was 28, if I'm counting right, when Them Bones came out, and had already built up a substantial reputation with his short fiction by then.

John Shirley was in his early to mid-30s when the Eclipse trilogy came out and grabbed my attention. (It wasn't until much later that I actually read City Come A-Walkin', but it was certainly an influence of the first of the gents enumerated here.)

Pat Cadigan was in her mid-30s when Mindplayers came out.

Karen Joy Fowler was in her mid-30s the year Gardner Dozois included "The Lake Was Full of Artificial Things" in his anthology and it made the top of my head screw off and explode in fireworks of fresh perspectives on my disabilities.

Vernor Vinge was a bit closer to 40 than 30 when "True Names" got published.

So, for this particular moment when cyberpunk and semi-related (or just plain independent) excellence flowered, it certainly was possible to make a creative slash with a first novel, or second or third, or body of short stories, and be relatively young while doing it.

(And for the contemporaneous evolution of a major trend in horror, I see that Anne Rice was 25 when Interview With A Vampire came out, and 34 when The Vampire Lestat did.)
James Nicoll
101. James Davis Nicoll
79: What about a special Hugo for first novels? Lots of other awards have these (don't the Locus awards e.g.), (...)

The Locus Locus Poll Best First Novel. Out of curiosity about how they functioned as a predictor of a successful career, I took a look at them back in June and July, starting here:

http://james-nicoll.livejournal.com/1296533.html

Unfortunately my inability to master tags is a drawback here but all of the posts include the term "Old Tea Leaf Reviews". Also, I would not describe my "reviews" as informative so much as "existing" or "generally spells the author's name correctly".

What I mostly learned was what I already knew, that most SF careers are short (especially if you take the Stanley G. Weinbaum, Robert Stallman and Tom Reamy approach of dying very early in an otherwise promising career). There did seem to be a serious die-back in SF careers around 2002, one that stood out against the usual extinction rate. This might be due to cultural effects of 9/11.
Stephanie Leary
102. sleary
... and over in James Nicoll's blog, despotliz has pointed out that 3 of the 4 post-2000, under-40 Nebulas belong to Kelly Link.
Kevin Maroney
103. womzilla
"I would just like to note (before I collapse back into a post-jet-lag bed) that the aging of the Nebulas seems to have kicked in around the time of the great restructuring of the awards process, and that the award seems to be aging by close to ten years per decade."

In the sense that 16 years of average aging over 44 years (.36) is "close to ten years per decade" (1.0), yes.

And I find it amusing that people here are discussing Worldcon as being too completely devoted to books, when I'm used to hearing exactly the opposite complaint. But then, the fannish circles in which I am encircled have always tended towards the bookish.
ebear
104. jonquil
"And I find it amusing that people here are discussing Worldcon as being too completely devoted to books, when I'm used to hearing exactly the opposite complaint."

In a sure sign of old-fogitude, I'll namecheck my 17-year-old again. In her world, characters transition smoothly between media: Pokemon is a video game character, a manga character, an animated movie character. She's way too old for Pokemon, but the pattern persists: Phoenix Wright has moved from video games to manga. Read or Die is a series of novels , a manga, a movie, a television series... And, of course, there are fanfic based on all three.

The point being, for her, there isn't a bright dividing line between media. They blur.
Steph Shaver
105. onalark
103: And I find it amusing that people here are discussing Worldcon as being too completely devoted to books, when I'm used to hearing exactly the opposite complaint.

There is a tendency for niche groups to get feisty when it's suggested that they open themselves up to new concepts and approaches.

If the goal of sf fandom is to create a pocket universe that is untouched and unchanged by the passage of time...well, then that's fine. But their base will never grow, only dwindle. And if that's what they want, that's fine, too. They just can't complain when kids choose to go to ComicCon or PAX instead.

I speak from a great deal of personal experience here. My company provides games that are considered highly outdated by the rest of the community (text-based, non-graphical, very literary, never won any writing awards, sorry). I have watched our community dwindle over the years, and I've been told by players that they don't like our plans for a new-fangled graphical MMO one bit.

And that's fine, we will have a place for them to come play for as long as we're able, but unless we find some magical pocket of text-based gamers just aching for a good game, we'll never be able to grow the community. Games like World of Warcraft and EVE have outstripped them, and the gaming community as a whole has moved on.
Sylvia Luxenburg
106. Mufi
This is really rather interesting to me, actually, having both gone to Worldcon for the first time this year and being quite on the young side of things. (Early 20s.)

It's interesting in part because I didn't feel out of place, or like I didn't fit in for being young. Rather the opposite, in fact; I loved being able to meet people with compatible experiences, and have conversations about fannish pursuits that didn't feel like I had to back up and explain everything from the beginning.

Certainly, there were a lot of people older than me, but I also ran into a number my own age; including those who were certainly stretching their available income to make it, but considered it well worthwhile.

One notable thing, at least to me, is that not only is there a difference between SF cons and comic/gaming cons as far as their relationship to the creators, there's also a difference in how old the existence of the cons themselves are. PAX started in 2004; Comic-Con International started in 1970.

Of course we'll see proportionately more younger fans at these sorts of events; they're new events, being founded around the new, hot fandoms. But that doesn't mean SF fandom doesn't have anything to say to a younger audience; or even that younger fans aren't also attending Worldcon and those sort of events. It's just that, proportionately, you're going to get more older fen at events that have been around for longer.

It's also true that cons do need to change as their community changes in order to stay relevant, but I don't think the answer is that it needs to be a con more like these newer comic and gaming ones; the ability to have a social environment instead of a consumerist one is something I consider very valuable.
Steven Brust
107. skzb
Nothing really to add, except that this trend disturbs me. It probably ties in to a more generalized fear of New Stuff; there's no need to point to the irony of SF fans being suspicious of New Stuff. Maybe it isn't ironic, maybe its dialectical. :-)
Evan Langlinais
108. Skwid
Steve@107, I'd say that the rate at which this thread is attracting comments from both directions gives me hope that it is dialectical. Like others have pointed out, I think Tor.com, with its social-networking bent and the immediacy of interaction between pro and fan, is a step in the right direction to rejuvenate fandom's relationships.
Felicity Shoulders
109. Felicity
I'm 27, which if you believe Wikipedia is the last year of Generation X. I was raised by parents who were sci-fi geeks but not sci-fi fans - entire walls of books, Asimov through Zelazny, and a tragically lost collection of magazines, but they never went to a con or read a fanzine. I'm a writer.

I've been to one con ever - a local one - and I am eager to go to more. For me, going to a con and attending the literary events made me feel engaged with the sci fi community. There are a lot of writers out there, a lot of books, and much as I spend half my life online, there can be too much raw data and too little relevance. At the con, I noticed people at panels who seemed interesting and attend their readings later. I looked some people up and now lurk on their blogs or buy a magazine when I see their name on the TOC. I was lucky enough to get introduced around, so that I still have faces and vivid impressions to put to a few names in the biz.

So for me, the appeal is hearing people read their work (one of my favorite ways to find books to buy), meeting people, feeling a part of a community. Hearing new things, stumbling onto new authors, being open and out of your comfort zone in a place where things are happening, instead of seeking things out you already know about from the comfort of your computer chair. And for me the major hurdle is travel cost, not flat ticket price, so I'm more likely to attend an event like Worldcon that might pop up near me than Wiscon which is always going to be far away. I don't know if I'm at all representative of other twenty-something fans, but there it is.
Jamie Grove
110. jamiegrove
Patrick, my 38th birthday is in two weeks and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for letting me be in the "younger" set. :)
ebear
111. rams 2830
At any rate, points for seeing something narsty on the hologram deck (and then thinking about it.)
Andrew Lambdin-Abraham
112. kd5mdk
Where did people get the idea that adding Hugos for books written 25 years ago would make WorldCon more attractive to young people?

I'm a little curious why there's some much discussion about Comic Con and less about Dragon*Con. Certainly among the people I know who could be our kind of fannish but aren't they are more likely to go to Dragon*Con than any other.
Lis Riba
113. lisriba
Judith @ 62: It isn't only cost that keeps the young away from events. ... It's whether or not they think there's anything in the event for them, and whether or not their friends are going.

In that vein, I just want to point out that Pennsic, Otakon, and Terminus (a major Harry Potter convention/conference) also took place last weekend.
Wesley Osam
114. Wesley
kd5mdk, #112: Where did people get the idea that adding Hugos for books written 25 years ago would make WorldCon more attractive to young people?

I think this was about getting more Hugo nominations for younger writers. The assumption behind it is that older writers might be nominated for lesser work on the strength of earlier, insufficiently honored writing; going back and giving 25-year old work a hindsight-enhanced second chance at a hugo would in this case free up current slots for newer writers.

(I'm not sure this is actually the problem. The awards are skewing older, as documented in comment #37. On the other hand... a quick look at the last few years of novel nominations shows a few, in my own opinion, questionable ones--for example, I totally do not get why everybody finds Robert J. Sawyer so exciting, and I also don't see the point of nominating isolated slices of A Song of Ice and Fire before it's finished--but they seem to be going mostly to writers whose careers are going strong right now. And categories aren't the problem, either; it's not like there aren't young people writing novels and short stories.)

Whether a greater age range for Hugo nominations, or anything else, would attract younger people to Worldcons is a separate issue.
ebear
115. NelC
Any experienced con-goers out there who went to Yokohama last year? What was your impression of the demographics of the attendees and the mix of interests there, compared to US WorldCons?
Lis Riba
116. lisriba
Given the multiple conversations in this thread, I wonder if it would be helpful to separate the discussion into two topics: (a) greying of congoers and (b) greying of award-winners.

I realize that the two are intertwined, particularly given how the Hugo voting pool relates to WorldCon attendees. But they also feel sufficiently different that I feel wary of raising issues that relate only to one.
ebear
117. John Fiala
A few notes from personal experience:

I know of at least three fans local to Denver who would have attended worldcon if it had cost $50 instead of $200. There may have been more - I spent a lot of time telling people that Worldcon was coming up in town (I live in Denver) who you would have thought might have found out somehow else, but didn't.

In the middle of the convention, when I was feeling on the young end of the crowd at 38, I took a break and went to my anime group, where I was in the midst of 30-35 folks and I was on the older side. Several of the members adore SF - one of them's joined my SF reader's group. But they're not likely to join a Worldcon that seems built to reject the sort of SF&F that they enjoy - Manga, Comics, Anime, and Gaming.

My suggestion would be to reach out to younger fen, drop the price to $50 - even though that will cause the con to lose money in the short term - and build the convention up from 3,700 warm bodies to 8,000-11,000 people.

After all, last weekend in Baltimore, there were 26,000 anime fans meeting at Otakon...
ebear
118. AndreaB
I am 20 years old, so my impressions of the past may be incorrect- but didn't the SF fandom used to recruit at colleges and the like? I know that our school Science Fiction club (which is based around books, primarily) used to get regular mail (sometimes in form of books) from TOR and SFWA. We haven't though, for years. We have started making contacts with the authors and the like again, but it is a bit slow and a bit awkward. It would be cool if there was some sort of an outreach program like that again - in the addition to looking at what is cool at the moment, trying to show everyone why SF books/cons/Hugos are awesome and be excited about them.

And yeah, the price of Worldcon is rather prohibitive. Even $50 is a lot for a convention and $200+airfare+etcetera is kind of...out of the question.
ebear
119. Claire Connelly
@94 -- what happened to SF in the 90s?

My recollection is that it kind of died out, or at least slowed way down. There had been much excitement about the whole cyberpunk/humanist movement (and fallout) in the late 80s (as discussed in comment 100). I was a Locus subscriber then, and it was clueing me into all sorts of great stuff. Then the reviews changed -- I was never sure whether it was the books changing or the reviewers' tastes, but it got so that the only reviewers I enjoyed reading were reviewing horror books I wasn't interested in (splatterpunk, et al.). The cyberpunks were slowing down, and whatever else there was just wasn't that appealing to me (and, presumably, to others, hence the shift to horror coverage).

I ended up taking a break, in part because of stuff happening in the rest of my life, but also because there didn't seem to be that much interesting material being produced. I still bought new books from my old favorite authors, but I wasn't really picking up any new SF authors. But a couple of years ago, I started reading Locus again and found that things had changed. They were covering a new generation of writers, including Tim Pratt and Elizabeth Bear, but also Stross, MacLeod, and lots more, and I found myself picking up lots of new SF writers for the first time in years.

I'm pretty happy with what Locus is covering these days (at least in the longer reviews). But I gather (from comments on the last Locus poll) that not everyone is as happy as I am, with some people annoyed by some of the coverage, and, yes, even some comments that sound a lot like the "Get off my lawn!" attitude some folks here have mentioned with regard to the Worldcon.
Jonathan Strahan
120. jstrahan
I've not researched this at all - I've just fallen off thirty hours of plan travel and am not that coherent either - but has anyone done any research into the number of eligible votes cast for the Hugos each year, and when the 'Australian' voting system was brought in?

The reason I ask is that the Australian system pretty much favors anyone with a widely established name because it relies on more than just getting the most first placed votes. I *speculate* that it's *possible* that nominees/winners got older after the Australian system came into effect because you had to be better known to win.

Also, is there any data on the age of WorldCon attendees/Hugo voters?

Just a thought.
Andy Leighton
121. andyl
I think the problem is mostly one of perception rather than reality. I'm not sure how easy that is to change.

However the culture is different. Worldcon (and SF cons in general) isn't built around a consumer model. If there isn't anime/manga/video game programme items, or not enough of them, it is probably due to disinterest rather than malice. It requires people who are into those things to suggest and appear on the programme items.

However the Hugos could be changed. Best Interactive Media and Best Graphic Novel are two categories which could be added without much of a bite being taken out of other categories. I'm not a fan of Best Web Site - it can overlap with short dramatic presentation, related work, fan writer, fanzine, and interactive media. Web sites are also ongoing projects not always easily broken down into a year bracket.

I'm not sure if new categories would get more people voting - especially in the traditional categories. I think that roughly about 1/5 of members vote. Are the other 4/5s disinterested in the books / films / TV episodes? Are they disinterested in the Hugos? Do they feel they have enough information? Don't understand the voting system? What would it take to get the members Worldcon does have to vote more?
ebear
122. larao
What are the odds of a category for "Mass Market Paperback Novel (which has not won another Hugo"?

One thing about the novel qualifications is that they favor Big Expensive Editions That Aren't In Your Library Yet. What BEETAIYLs I and my friends buy tend to be of old favorite authors who've been steadily producing work I want to re-read many times. That, frankly, favors the older authors.

Short fiction just seems to suffer from fiction by young authors being tucked away in a million obscure place. You won't find it on the newsrack, and what you do find on the newsrack has vanished before you can convince your friends that they need to read it too. Perhaps a better index of elligible works with links.

I also like the idea of a broader nominating (as opposed to voting) pool, or a modest nominating fee. Frankly, it's very rarely that I or my friends can pre-reg more than six-eight weeks in advance for Worldcon, and that was much worse when we were younger. Schedules, finances, family, health all make "next summer" a really distant horizon. I don't know that it would change the age of Hugo nominees, but by widening the pool of nominators beyond people with settled finances and lifestyle, we might get some interesting surprises.

As for the "greying of fandom" ... Humbug (at least compared to the late eighties and early nineties). The fans are out there, even at book panels - sometimes at the same convention, sometimes at other more youth friendly conventions. Sign of a youth friendly con - one that actively recruits and trains staff from among its young members. If the people running the show fear young'uns, the programming and atmosphere often reflects it.
Patrick Shepherd
123. hyperpat
andyl@121:

I think a fair amount of the reason why only a small portion of Worldcon members vote on the Hugos is the fact that many have simply not been able to read most of the nominees/have never seen the fanzines/would have trouble telling one SF artist from another/etc. Most people are chary of voting for something when they really don't know all the competitors or are really not familiar with what the 'rules' are for what makes a good fanzine, etc. And the number of people who subscribe to all the print mags plus peruse a large chunk of the online mags where all the short fiction appears is probably a small minority of all sf fans. Plus the fact that you have to get your votes in well before the con itself, which means you need to be continuously engaged with sf, not just during the con.

In this regard, having the nominees for the fiction awards all be available online as they did this year has to help. This could certainly be broadened to having examples of the artists work, the sf related category nominees, and at least links to fanzines (most of which are done in online format today) being made available. The drama awards are more problematic, due to copyright considerations, but this area probably has more people being aware of and having seen the shows than in any of the other categories anyway. If this were done, it should help alleviate that feeling of "I can't vote for this, I don't know enough about all the contenders" (which I myself have felt in prior years).

The complexity of the voting system is mainly in how the votes are counted, not in the balloting system itself. I think most people can handle ranking their choices, though the 'No Award' item does seem to throw some people. The advantages of this voting system are many (I've seen some mathematical analysis of this system which indicates it may be the best or nearly so in accurately determining 'the will of the people'), its problems few and mainly handleable by computers.
eric orchard
124. orchard
hyperpat@123 I think you hit a few nails on a few heads. I would really like to know some of the whys. Why haven't people read these books? Why aren't people buying the fanzines? Why can't people tell the artists apart?
Patrick Shepherd
125. hyperpat
Orchard:

A good chunk of this is the fractured market for publishing today. Used to be 90% of all the short fiction appeared in just three or four print mags which everybody knew of. Now it's scattered across about twenty different outlets. This also applies to the artists, as their work appears in many different places, unlike the days of Freas and Schoenherr, where their most dramatic artwork was usually readily visible in your local grocery store magazine rack.

The second item is just the sheer volume of what's being published. I normally read two-three books a week, plus magazines and on-line blogs, and I can't even come close to keeping up with what's out there. In this regard, I'm finding myself using various on-line sites such as Locus, SF Signal, this site, Scalzi's blog, etc, as guides to what is worthwhile reading, but even with all of this, I don't catch everything or even the majority of what ends up on the nomination list.

Fanzines have always been pretty much a niche thing; either you're into them and have a favorite, or you just don't see or even consider them as being part of 'serious' sf (I don't agree with that sentiment, as I think they've always been a pretty major part of what makes the sf community a community).
ebear
126. Ursula L
I like the idea of a prize for best (non-previously-winning) novel of five and ten years ago. I often don't read books until they've come out in paperback, due to the cost factor, so that eliminates access to many of the new releases. If you're trying to attract younger readers, who may be on a tighter, paperback only budget, or waiting on their public libraries, having a chance to vote on things they've had a chance to read would be attractive.

Also, for attracting people to Worldcon, it might help to have better descriptions of what is going on. I went to the Denvention website, and looked at the schedule. Very few of the items on the schedule had links to descriptions. You had to go to a separate section (programming) to get some descriptions, and I couldn't (on a quick look-over the site) find any descriptions of the panels.

If I've never been to a Worldcon, and am considering going, (and I've never been to a Worldcon, and am tempted by Montreal, which is fairly close to me) I'd like to know as much as possible about what is going on, so I can make an informed decision. When I look at "Masquerade", for example, it would help if it said "costume contest" somewhere near the top. Perhaps with pictures from previous Masquerades. If I know there will be panel discussions, I'd like to know who will be at the panels, and a bit about them (what they've written or what they're known for in the community. If there will be readings, I'd like to know who, and of what.

The website feels as if it was written for people who have been to several Worldcons, and know what is going on. Which is probably most people there - but if one goal is to attract new participants, then it's not the way to make the website that is the primary place for a new participant to go for information.

Making Worldcon more commercial in it's content probably wouldn't help. Being more commercially savvy in how Worldcon is presented to the public in advance might be helpful.
Torie Atkinson
127. Torie
@ 123 hyperpat

In this regard, having the nominees for the fiction awards all be available online as they did this year has to help.

This is crucial. Magazine subscribers represent a small fraction of fandom, as you said, and one can refer to Warren Ellis about the death of the magazine for more information about that. Scalzi noted that his story got more hits on this website than he would have in any of the print magazines today. The markets are changing.

@ 124 orchard

Exactly. Why? I think the conclusion that many have come to in this thread is that young people, who are far less likely to subscribe to magazines and far more likely to read younger authors, just aren't going to Worldcon (see X reasons elaborated above), and thus aren't voting on the nominees.

So either Worldcon is going to change (by attracting a younger demographic or encouraging its voting members to branch out in terms of what they're reading), or the awards are just going to become less and less relevant.
ebear
128. Kat Goodwin
I'm not suggesting that WorldCon turn itself into a pale imitation of ComicCon and away from the literary. But the big cons are not purely business cons like the Frankfurt Book Fair. They're run by fans for fans with fans voting for the big awards. They're a party. And we have those authors, many of them the "graying" ones, getting Hollywood ventures made of their stuff, and sometimes games and comic books.

So to celebrate the literary, having the clips from adaptations and the actors come in to do a panel with the author -- not such a bad thing. And it might bring media coverage that does not present SF fans and conventions as boring old white guys, fantasy fans as marginalized geeks, and genre fiction as irrelevant, which might help A)decrease the misperception that written SFF has few young fans; B)let younger fans know the cons exist; and C)not cause younger fans to think the con is too boring to go to. And more giveaways never hurt, if the price of admission is an issue.

I hate to think that Ms. Bear is right and there is a wide split growing between young and older fans and authors, because SFF has had this great tradition of mentoring and partnership between generations of authors, spats aside, and of welcoming in young fans and getting them to read both old and newer authors. Yes, the magazines are a smaller market now, no longer the backbone of the field, but if the Internet isn't making the fiction accessible to voters, then that's a problem. But maybe we're just in a transition period.
Andy Leighton
129. andyl
Quite a number of the short stories have been available online for the past 3 or 4 years. Novels are more problematic but more recently even some of those have been available online for free.

Also voting isn't compulsory in every category. If you have just read the novels just vote in the novel category and don't bother with the short work or fan or art or dramatic presentation categories.


@126 Ursula
I don't think they can give details very far in advance as they aren't known. However putting an Introduction to Conventions For Beginners link on the main page would be a good idea (and relatively easy to do). Different Worldcons put different amounts of information up on their website. Some have been much better than others. Which is another issue - organisational learning can sometimes be lower than desired due to handover from one committee to the next.
Patrick Shepherd
130. hyperpat
andyl:

Actually, I think that not having to vote on all categories or even all nominees in one category is one point that is not advertised enough, even though there's usually something in the directions for voting about it. Maybe a big blaring headline at the top of the form: YOU DON'T HAVE TO VOTE FOR EVERYTHING might help.
Kevin Maroney
131. womzilla
I, myself, belong to the Blank Generation--the gap between the end of the Baby Boom and the start of Generation X. And it's worth remembering that when I started fandom, the number of science fiction movies and television shows in a year worthy of consideration as science fiction could generally be counted on the fingers of one thumb. (I recently noticed a copy of the book Essential Science Fiction Television and my immediate, unrehearsed reaction was, "So, are all the pages before 1990 blank?")

We called them "bees" in those days. Get off my lawn.

There is a tendency for niche groups to get feisty when it's suggested that they open themselves up to new concepts and approaches.

Which is, you know, the type of reaction I tend to get when I points out to younger fans that there was fandom before the internet from which useful things might be learned and from older fans when I suggest that comic books and television might possibly have works of interest to people who like to think in science-fictiony ways. It's simply a wonderful experience, being a fringefan and getting it coming and going.
ebear
132. Jonquil
I was thinking about this in the morning as I dressed.

Let us assume that you're young and a reader/consumer of SF/fantasy in at least one medium.

From (say; dates almost certainly wrong) 1940-1990 that was a proud and lonely thing. You were by definition weird. Attending a convention gave you a chance to hang out with the other people who shared your weirdness, to reaffirm your common interest, to talk to people who got it.

In 2008, you can easily do that on the Internet. You think you're the only person in the world who believes that The Color of Her Panties is a coded allegory about the extinction of the pink dolphin? Set up a blog. Set up a subcommunity. Set up an interest. Before you know it, you'll be surrounded by co-believers. You can argue to your hearts' content. You can, eventually, hold "meetups" to share air.

A convention also serves the purpose of providing information and entertainment. Great authors give fantastic readings and presentations. Passionate fans argue with authors on panels.

If you're online, one or more people will be attending, liveblogging, and possibly posting recordings of one sort or another. (Yes, illegal.) You can free-ride on your friends. You can also hold online conferences of your own; see Bittercon. Finally, you can hang out on the authors' blogs and Wikis, as mentioned upthread. You have access to the information, if not all the excitement.

So. If you're a young, Internet-based fan, what is the value proposition offered by a science fiction convention? What motivates you to pony up the cash?
Martin Sutherland
133. sunpig
@Ursula L (126): Exactly right. I'm sure that the people who build them have put in a lot of effort, but compared to the rest of the web, Worldcon websites (sampling from 2007 - 2008) feel about 5 years out of date. The pages are visually uninteresting, the information architecture is primitive, the opportunities for interaction limited and safely tucked away in shy little corners. To bring in the generation thing again: they feel old.

Compare Worldcon sites with the site we're on right now. They are literally worlds apart.

There's a big difference between the two: each Worldcon is its own entity, with a limited lifespan, whereas (I presume) Tor.com is designed and built for the long term. The decisions about how much to spend on graphic design, software, customizations, hosting, are therefore quite different. Does it make sense for a Worldcon to spend a large chunk of money to make its web site look vibrant and enticing, when it will be mostly discarded and deserted after the con is over?

Well, yes, if you want to attract new people, who don't know what to expect, and who are looking to be excited about laying down $200 for attending membership. No, if you are content to just play to the in-crowd.

And why should the site be discarded after the con, anyway? For an annual event, it's commercially nonsensical to build out that kind of infrastructure from scratch every time. It's cute that every Worldcon has to have its own identity, but it might make more sense to use some kind of core brand and site (i.e. Worldcon.org) to provide a common design and social networking hub, with space and flexibility for each Con to customize it for a year.

I don't see this happening any time soon. To pull a brief quote from Jonquil's comment 83: "organisational resistance".

What's up with that, people? We're the science fiction fans. We're supposed to dig this whole shiny new future thing, not tut-tut it and hope it goes away.
ebear
134. Ursula L
Andyl @ 129:

If giving lots of notice for the upcoming Worldcon's events isn't feasable, then giving a good report of previous Worldcon(s) would be a useful alternative.

Say, each year puts up its schedule in a web page, with programming events linking to pages for that event, which includes various contributions about that event - photos, transcripts, copies of blog entries of participants reporting on the event, recordings, videos, bios of panel members, whatever is available.

This is a community that loves to write, to record things, and to communicate. Getting people to communicate about what Worldcon is, in a way that is inviting to potential new Worldcon participants, should be easy. Organizing that information doesn't have to be complex, it just needs to be done in a simple, understandable way.

And such an undertaking would probably be enjoyable for long time Worldcon goers, as well, creating a sort of community album for looking back on previous Worldcons, and as a way of learning about all of the events you weren't able to attend due to the limit of only being in one place at a time.

Perhaps a Wiki format, so people can add things as they have them?
ebear
135. Janni
Echoing others here, but I think thinking in terms of a Worldcon/Wiscon dichotomy is still kind of narrow, and that together they still only represent a small sliver of the SF/fantasy fan base. To get a realistic view of SF/fantasy writers/creators/fans one needs to include local and national anime and comiccons, RWA nationals, Harry Potter cons, Faerieworlds, early August's Twilight release parties, and a whole bunch of other things I'm no doubt leaving out. Not all of (few of) which are focused entirely on print, but all of which have a significant number of attendees who include print among the many ways they experience stories.

For all that the mean ages of their attendees may be somewhat different, Worldcon and Wiscon probably have more in common with each other than they do with most of the other places SF/fantasy fans hang out.
C.D. Thomas
136. cdthomas
There is no frakking reason why any of the audience members either taking notes, recording sessions or taking pictures could not be persuaded to shared their content -- edited, mind you, by moderators -- of many of the notable panels after getting permission from the participants, in exchange for that year's Worldcon t-shirt.

The only snags would be getting participants' permission ahead of the next Worldcon to let them know their words might be paraphrased, and to *involve* those participants after the con, in creating threads carrying on the discussions, so all those good ideas don't get lost from year to year.

I think the key to our frustrations is, yes, organizational memory, and how we devalue it if it exists outside the grand old fen who remember what went down with who, then. We've got the tools to capture, or at least link to blogs that capture, part of the Denvention experience -- and if fans don't know the names of who attended, nor lurk on their blogs, that knowledge might as well be unwritten and unphotographed.
ebear
137. David G. Hartwell
Way back at comment 16, it was mentioned that I read a list of names that were familiar at a Worldcon panel. I did. But none of you ought not to conclude that I am therefore unfamiliar with anyone else. I prefaced my remarks by saying that I had a list of a couple of hundred stories at home and that I was still reading for the next few months. I also mentioned that the list I was reading from was prepared by Locus, not me.

And just to turn the discussion of age on its head for a moment, the graph of ages is a bell curve. I am thirty years away from the older end of that , but look at the great older writers who have been producing notably relevant works, Fred Pohl, for instance, who is very old, and the recently deceased Jack Williamson, who won a Hugo in his 90s. And I wonder if we are paying enough attention to the older writers and fans. No one much over sixty gets nominated for the fiction awards. In the mainstream, such writers as a group often write masterpieces. Some, such as Gene Wolfe, do in F&SF. and I think that is relevant.
Lis Riba
138. lisriba
orchard@124 Why haven't people read these books?
Speaking only of my own experience:

I've attended two WorldCons. In each case, about half the nominees for best novel were parts of larger series, and not standalone works.

That means voters have to read not just the five nominees, but the previous books in each series in order to gain sufficient context to make comparisons. Because I had no way of reading all the series, I ended up not voting.

ebear
139. Lenny Bailes
94: The numbers seem to get worse beginning in the 1990s. What happened in the 1990s in SF?

Maybe the question should be "What happened in the 1990s to Worldcons?, since it's the Worldcon membership that hands out the awards.

What I said when you asked this question on your Livejournal:

"Might be interesting to correlate with one that shows the average age of Hugo voters over the same time period.

The price of the voting privilege has increased. Another, possibly relevant, cross-correlation might be to how many Hugo voters have bought full attending Worldcon memberships versus voters with supporting memberships over all those years. My guess, without statistics, is that the average age of Hugo voters may have increased starting in the '90s, in proportion to the ages of the winners."
Stephanie Leary
140. sleary
Ursula, you've hit on something important there. The WorldCon sites are clearly created by (and mostly for) SMOFs. The Masquerade is the least of it. I know newcomers have no idea what the hell a kaffeeklatsch is or why one buys a membership instead of a ticket -- and why you have to sell yours instead of asking for a refund if your travel plans change. Clearly the assumption is that the web visitor is conversant enough with fannish culture to know how WorldCons are not like commercial cons... and how often is that really the case?
ebear
141. Ctein
Dear folks,

I was just directed to this truly brilliant thread by Neil Rest, damn his eyes. Despite the pot being already full of gold, my ego can't resist tossing in its $.02 worth.

The threat has evolved into two distinct concerns: the graying of the Hugos and the graying of WorldCons. Addressing them separately...

Looking at evilrooster's (37) incredibly helpful data crunching of average age, I am not convinced that the Hugos are graying in quite the way people think they are. Putting aside the 2000's (which seem to be an outlier) there is a modest trend above the noise from 1950 through 2000, but it's very weak. In addition, I think there is a factor that people have not taken into account. That is the age range for the "productive adult life." It's a wobbly concept, to be sure, but it includes several factors.

One is the average age at which a middle-class American adult (that being our primary demographic) leaves school. That has been on the increase since the 1950s. I couldn't tell you by how much, precisely, but it's several years, minimum. (Does anyone here have detailed information? It would be great to roll it into the numbers.)

Another is the end of middle age, defined both medically and by typical retirement age (okay, okay, I know that we artists never get to retire, it's just a talking point). That's gone up by more than a decade over the last 50 years.

Third is the expected in-good-health lifespan, which has also gone up by more than a decade in the past 50 years.

Collectively, we're starting adulthood later, we're living longer, and we're living healthily and productively even longer than that. As a doddering old 58-year-old, in 1950 I would have been well into retirement and considered solidly in old age. By 2008 standards, I'm just into the second half of healthy, independent adult life.

Apply those factors in some combination as offsets to evil's averages, and I think the trend disappears. It may even disappear just by applying the start of independent adulthood. Perhaps the numbers will prove me wrong, but my intuition says that relative to "adulthood," the Hugos have not greyed at all.

Now WorldCons? That's a different matter. I think a clear-cut pattern is evident just from looking at old photos, and I think the trend has been a lot stronger than the shift in the adulthood range I talked about. It's been concerning me for some considerable time now. And I do think it's all about the money and the promotion as Judith (62) and Ursula (127) pointed out.

I 100% agree that we need to be pro-active about getting young newbies to come to WorldCon. I'd forcefully argue for a $40 membership, at any time, including at the door. We WANT the people who decide to come to WorldCon on an impulse. Definitely have this for students in school. If there would be a way to do it for 20-something's without running afoul of age discrimination laws, I'd be in favor of that ( SMOFs are good at hacking the system; maybe some of them can figure out how to constrain it legally if it isn't already).

I'd like to suggest a third category: "the first one's free little fan boy/girl..." First-time Worldcon attendees (with membership records computerized, few people would be able to game the system) get to attend once at the teaser rate, to give it a try even if they don't know if they'll like it or if their friends are going to be there.

The greying trend is not an iron wall. In the Arisia party at Denvention late one night, a 20-something fellow wandered in, sleep and food deprived and looking for the friends he was crashing with. It was his first WorldCon and he had hitchhiked to it! Damn, I'd not only give people like him a $40 membership, I'd practically pay them to come! We need motivated folks like that.

Total WorldCon cost is a much tougher nut. The only solution to that that I know of (which is politically infeasible) is a low cap on WorldCon attendance. There are lots of much less expensive venues if you can be positive you won't have any more warm bodies than Denvention did. "Old Minicon"/Convergence is nearing that size and they pull off a convention which costs people half as much as Denvention did, total.

I don't know, maybe it isn't infeasible. Someone would have to put together a bid and give it a try (don't look at me!); maybe folks would vote for it. I dunno, and I'm not really expecting anyone to try.

( Historical note -- Back in the mid-1970s, there were lots of serious discussions when it looked like WorldCons might be ballooning out of control. We rejected the idea of limiting WorldCon membership because we thought it would keep newbies out. The irony is that by being forced into ever more expensive facilities to handle the largest plausible WorldCon we priced the newbies out of the convention.)


~ pax \ Ctein

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-- Ctein's online Gallery http://ctein.com
-- Digital restorations http://photo-repair.com
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ebear
142. Lenny Bailes
#140: The problems you bring up are ones that a smart Worldcon committee might address by skillfully providing friendly content for newcomers--on the website and in the at-con Program Guide.

My radical thought for the day: instead of defining the Hugos as a set of awards given by a small ingroup of club members, what would happen if Worldcons decided to *spend money* to extend the franchise to a much wider population? I'm not just talking about setting up a $25 "Hugo Voting" membership, although that might be a step in the right direction, but about actually undertaking the task of vetting and sifting through ballots submitted by a much wider group of s-f fans who are not Worldcon members.

That wouldn't be an easy task, and it would cost Worldcon committees money and time. They'd have to give up other Worldcon features (maybe the right to exhibit the original Robbie the Robot? I'll admit to not having read enough Kevin Standlee to have an accurate knowledge of what the really steep yearly expenses tend to be). The argument against the idea of a more universal Hugo franchise generally runs along the lines of "If you care enough about who wins the Hugo, you should be willing to buy (at least) a supporting Worldcon membership to vote." I'm not sure I buy into that answer. But there's no doubt that it would take a lot of work from volunteers to process a larger Hugo poll that approached the scale of the Locus Awards. Would it be worth doing? I think it could be.
Torie Atkinson
143. Torie
@ 141 Ctein

The threat has evolved into two distinct concerns: the graying of the Hugos and the graying of WorldCons.

They're not really separate issues. Since Worldcon members are the voting members of the Hugos, their demographic directly affects what gets nominated and chosen.

Collectively, we're starting adulthood later, we're living longer, and we're living healthily and productively even longer than that.

This is arguable at best. In any case, it has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that plenty of young people are writing fantastic fiction right now. Sure there are people who don't find their voices until later in life, but irrespective of what middle-aged writers are up to there are plenty of young, brilliant people out there who don't feel that the Hugo voters are interested in what they're writing.

PNH is referring to people born since 1970, and thus under the age of 39. We're not even talking young whippersnappers out of college. Some of these people have led long, popular, and distinguished careers, and are still not able to break onto the Hugo ballot. That makes this whole phenomenon particularly anomalous.
ebear
144. ctein
Dear Torie,

Has anyone in this thread said there aren't brilliant young writers? Not so I've noticed, and certainly not me.

And I've known brilliant writers my whole life who didn't get the recognition their work deserved for years. This is not breaking news.

Your points seem self-evident, and I don't see how they bear one way or another on the claim that statistically (not anecdote\ly) that Hugos are increasingly, disproportionately ignoring young writers.

That claim might be true. Or it might not. I only raised some questions about how the baseline for those statistics is constructed.

The 'aging' of adulthood is not arguable; it's fact, not assumption. You can argue about the magnitude of the aging, which is why I asked if anyone had some precise numbers. But from 1950 to 2000, one can say, with 95% confidence, that the magnitude of the baseline shift that should be applied is not less than 2 years nor more than 20. That's not exactly a tight bracketing, is it! Hence, better data would be nice.

But what it is is something that is not ignorable, if you really want to determine if newer writers are themselves being increasingly ignored.

The greying of Worldcon attendees, in disproportion to any plausible adulthood baseline shift, is indisputable by direct and simple observation. The statistical argument for a greying of Hugos, disproportionate to that baseline, is highly disputable. That's what makes them distinct questions. One is certainly real, the other is unproven.

pax / Ctein
Torie Atkinson
145. Torie
@ 144 ctein

The 'aging' of adulthood is not arguable; it's fact, not assumption.

Since you're so keen on statistic rather than anecdotal evidence, I'd like to see your support for this statement. Facts are provable. And what exactly do you mean by "baseline for adult productivity" anyway? Let's say someone writes the highest quantity of great books (or even his best books) in his 50s--does that somehow discount or bear any relevance at all to a great book at 30?

Is the "statistical argument for the greying of the Hugos...unproven"? Sure. This is a conversation, not a scientific review board. I'm not sure what "proof" would constitute in this case anyway--we're not looking for repeatable experiments.

You're working on averages instead of the raw data. It's not just that the average age of winners is getting older--it's that young people are just not winning period. There are TWO winners born since 1970 that have won a fiction Hugo. Statistically speaking, is it really likely or even probable that someone younger than that wouldn't have won something by now? I mean historically this is just wild, because the Hugos used to regularly go to people in their 20s and 30s. Do you chalk that up entirely to "adulthood productivity" starting later? I just don't buy that such a huge jump could happen like that.

And @ sleary:

You're right, there's no attempt at all to "sell" it to new people who haven't already been exposed to it, or make an effort to include younger, inexperienced fans in the process. On the other hand, I wouldn't know that I would expect that from Worldcon anyway--that's what local conventions are best at. So I certainly see what you're saying, but I'm not sure Worldcon would be the place for it anyway.
Nate M
146. prophetman
Most of the people here seem to have a greater knowledge of this topic than little old me, but it's a very intriguing conversation.

I too am not totally convinced that the Hugos are "graying", particularly since I think the people winning the majority of the awards are well-deserving of them. However, I would say that the Worldcon membership has a tendency to vote in their favorite writers every year, while ignoring newer authors or those who stay on the fringes of the SF community.

The whole voting system seems archaic and almost deliberately confusing, as if it was designed to let only the most dedicated fans have any say. For people like me, who are more casual fans, the Hugos are a frustrating reminder that the "hardcore" part of the SF community still has the greater say in most cases.
ebear
147. Kathryn Cramer
I had the good fortune to be nominated for a World Fantasy Award with my first published book (an anthology) and win the first time out. But awards are something the field bestows, not an entitlement. If I had expected awards to continue, I would have been very disappointed.

I note that Gene Wolfe has never won a Hugo. Here is the list of awards he has won from the Locus Index to SF Awards:
Career Awards: World Fantasy Award life achievement, SF Hall of Fame Living Inductee, Skylark
Winner of 2 Nebulas, 3 World Fantasy Awards, 1 Campbell Memorial Award, 5 Locus Awards, 1 Apollo, 1 British Fantasy Award, 1 British SF Award, 1 Italia, 1 Rhysling, 1 Deathrealm, 3 Science Fiction Chronicle Reader Awards

If Gene Wolfe doesn't have a Hugo yet, why should it be reasonable for ambitious young writers to expect that by some aqe they ought to have a Hugo or a Nebula by now, or that ago cohorts are entitled to their share of such awards?
Adrianna Pinska
148. confluence
I'm 26 years old, and I've been an SF fan since my early teens. I live in South Africa -- this means that I'm too far removed from the prolific US conventions to even think about attending them just for fun.

It also means that my SF reading habits have largely been influenced by economic factors. New books are very expensive here (compared to people's spending power), both because they're imported from overseas and because of the exchange rate. So, before I had an income, I mostly bought second-hand books written between the 40s and the 70s. Second-hand books can be bought very, very cheaply, so there was little risk in trying new authors, and I rapidly accumulated a huge library and became familiar with a wide variety of "old" writers. I still buy a lot of "old" books, but I'm much more selective today because I have much less time to read.

I only bought new books on special occasions, and only when I was reasonably sure that I would like them (because they had been recommended by several people, or I had read a sample of the author's writing). Now I theoretically have more money to spend on new books, but I'm still very cautious about trying new people. The majority of my library still consists of "old" writers, and when I'm talking to someone about SF I'm more likely to get excited about something written thirty years ago than something written last year. There's also a big gap in my knowledge around the eighties and nineties, because those books were too old to find new and too new to find in second-hand. So I've always felt out-of-phase with everyone else when it came to appreciation of SF.

I'm an enthusiastic lurker in many fandoms on the internet, and some of these fandoms overlap with SF literature, but I have previously not been able to find other online communities that discuss predominantly the old-school SF that I love and am most familiar with.

My point is that not only do I not doubt that there are plenty of young SF fans (and writers) around, there may also be people like me, who like old SF as much as the older fans, but have never found a good forum for it online -- and for some people, who live on different continents, online is the only place where they have any chance of finding like-minded fans.

I've been excited to see some of the posts here discussing older fiction, and I'm hoping that this broad-interest SF fandom forum will help classic SF literature fans to find each other online, and hopefully lead to the establishment of more specific communities in the future. A well-known, centralised online location could close the gap between older and younger fandom -- but it depends on whether the older, pre-modern-internet fans would also be interested in participating.

I know about the newsgroups on USENET, but USENET is becoming increasingly abandoned and unusable.
Kevin Maroney
149. womzilla
Prophetman (@146) makes a valuable point:

However, I would say that the Worldcon membership has a tendency to vote in their favorite writers every year, while ignoring newer authors or those who stay on the fringes of the SF community.

I think this is a natural human tendency and thus not particularly surprising. However, it is also exacerbated by the vast ocean of science fiction being published today. It was much easier for Roger Zelazny or Samuel R. Delany to make a splash when there were five magazines "everyone" read, a couple hundred f&sf novels a year, and fewer than a hundred regular writers. SFWA currently has four thousand members, and Locus estimates that over 2500 f&sf books get published each year. It takes more time for authors to establish a reputation in the post-modern information explosion.

It's hard to realize, when you're a fan of hot new writer Joe Schablotnik, that the vast majority of f&sf readers have simply never heard of Joe Schablotnik--not out of malice but because there are so many other writers to have heard of. Hell, James Nicoll reads more books than anyone I've ever met--he reads f&sf professionally, two novels a day--and he's frequently mentioned how often he's surprised to discover apparently significant writers of whom he has never even heard, usually when they get nominated for an award.

(Incidentially, while I am acting all old-fogey, let me point out that the technology to gracefully allow threaded online conversation was a solved problem over twenty years ago, and are one of the top three reasons I mourn the withering away of Usenet in favor of web-based discussion boards.)
ebear
150. Kathryn Cramer
Regarding #147: "some aqe they ought to have a Hugo or a Nebula by now, or that ago cohorts " should read "some age they ought to have a Hugo or a Nebula by now, or that age cohorts". (I retyped my comment fast after losing it and having to start over.)
Torie Atkinson
151. Torie
@ 149 womzilla

You sum it up very nicely. The sheer volume of what's being published today compared to 30 years ago makes it that much easier to remain in obscurity well past age 38.

Your comment gets me wondering if this whole trend is really just the result of that incalculable asset known as name recognition.
Jeff Soules
152. DeepThought
@144, Ctein:

Suppose we grant that the Hugo winners are greying along with the WorldCon attendees: this doesn't eliminate the original problem, which is whether the Hugos, and the traditional convention scene, remain relevant to the next generation of fandom. Rising average age of award winners is just the symptom.
***
In fact, the underlying cause may just be the cliquishness of award cons; if Kelly Link has 75% of the under-40 Hugos, and John Scalzi just broke a FIFTEEN-YEAR streak for the Best Fan Writer Hugo, then that says something over and above the age of the winners.

Looking over the list of Best Novel Hugo winners, it would seem that most of the winners over the last 40 years have won twice. In fact, looking at just the last 13 years, 13 people won; excluding Chabon (who doesn't usually write genre) and Rowling (who is an entirely unique case), of the 11 remaining winners, 5 had won the Best Novel Hugo before.
It's also the same names that come up in the nominations, year after year -- are there really only 15 good novel-length SF authors out there??

But this isn't necessarily malicious or intentional--I think this is exactly the product of name recognition. Again, looking at the last 13 years (and excluding this time Chabon, and Gaiman and Rowling, who had huge name recognition already), half the remaining 10 were previous Best Novel Hugo winners; 3 of the 5 left over had been nominated in the preceding few years. Only 2 people won without getting a Hugo-related popularity bump before their win. I suspect new SF novelists are getting lost in the noise.

Related but different explanations probably account for other Hugo categories, e.g. the decline of the usual short fiction zines explaining the greying of short-fiction winners. Overall, though, I think that age is at most a proxy for the real explanations in all these cases; it's not necessarily the variable to focus on (even if there is a generation gap in SFF, which I don't claim to know about).

Jeff Soules
153. DeepThought
Er, under-40 Nebulas since 2000, not under-40 Hugos. See "hastily-recreated".
James Nicoll
154. James Davis Nicoll
Hell, James Nicoll reads more books than anyone I've ever met--he reads f&sf professionally, two novels a day

Usually closer to one. Two books in a day is my limit for new plot retention and it's oddly unrelated to book lengths. More than two in one ten hour reading period and I get the mental analogue of having eaten one donut too many.


--and he's frequently mentioned how often he's surprised to discover apparently significant writers of whom he has never even heard, usually when they get nominated for an award.

Mind you, I much prefer "Oh, cool, more good writers to read" over "what the hell were the nominators/voters thinking? Were they on crack? How the hell could they look at a list with 'Blue Champagne' and 'True Names' on it and then pick 'The Saturn Game'?"
ebear
155. NE SF geek
I'm 32, and would love to make a family trip to WorldCon next year. But I'm weighing that again Pennsic, which happens at the same time.

My wife really enjoyed Arisia, largely thanks to Arisia's strong media fandom track. She doesn't read a lot of English-language SF (it's not her native language), but she does love Firefly, BSG, and Doctor Who. And we both adored Arisia's showing of the Hog Father movie, which I hadn't even heard about.

One advantage of a mixed-media convention like Arisia is that there's something there for everybody, which makes it easier to hit a critical mass of friends. On the downside, Arisia's literature track is rather weak, presumably because of the Arisia/Boskone split.

(I also really enjoyed PenguiCon, the hybrid SF/Linux convention in Detroit. There's something about these eclectic conventions that pulls a younger and very diverse crowd.)
C.D. Thomas
156. cdthomas
@148 There's also a big gap in my knowledge around the eighties and nineties, because those books were too old to find new and too new to find in second-hand. So I've always felt out-of-phase with everyone else when it came to appreciation of SF.

yes yes yes yes yes -- if one doesn't have an aggressive public library with hep SF acquisition staff, then many of us cheep fen live in the gap between second-hand paperbacks and everybody-must-read hardcovers. Online publication can help, but that doesn't solve the *when* of reading if reading's done during a commute -- and I have a feeling that if/when I ever adopt an e-print thingamabob, I'll get motion sickness...
Angela Korra'ti
157. annathepiper
Hi all,

My partner Dara and I have been attending Worldcons as much as we can since the 90's, so I was quite interested to see this thread come up, and discussed it with Dara this morning. I wanted to chime in that we both quite liked the suggestion way earlier in this thread about opening up the Hugos to a broader swath of fandom.

In particular we batted around the idea of opening up at least the nomination phase to members of other conventions besides Worldcon. Some sort of qualification might be considered for conventions to be authorized to collect nominations, e.g., "any SF/F convention with at least X registered members is authorized to submit nominations". At the very least therefore you could get some potentially new and interesting nomination suggestions from parts of fandom who wouldn't otherwise be engaged. Such as, the younger folks.

Actual voting could perhaps be kept to Worldcon members--and it would be good to keep Worldcon as the place where the actual Hugos are awarded. But there's potential there to try to make it more interesting to the younger/less affluent set as well. Maybe the price of a supporting membership could be lowered? After all, just because you're in your thirties or older doesn't mean you're going to have a lot of discretionary income--especially these days given the bad state of the economy. If your family happens to be less affluent, and it comes down to 'I pony up for a supporting membership to Worldcon' vs. 'I get to feed my kids this week/I get to drive to or pay bus fare to get to my job/I get to pay the phone bill/etc.', not really much of a choice there. ;)

This is a wonderful discussion, everyone, and I'm thrilled to see it taking place. Kudos to the folks at Tor for setting this entire site up.
Marlin May
158. zentinal
I love this discussion.

@157 - Now, that's an intriguing notion. I really like the idea of opening up nominations to members of other conventions. I'm sure that doing so will require amendment of the WSFS bylaws, which would require discussion at the WSFS business meeting, which means that it can't be voted upon until Anticipation.

Continuing in this vein, has anyone considered other ways of opening up voting? What if having an active subscription to one of the "Big Three", plus some newer 'zines, plus various international 'zines, plus membership in the academy of sci-fi fantasy & horror films (http://www.saturnawards.org/), plus sfwa, plus asfa, allowed you to vote?

This would be along the lines of the various unions and associations which are allowed to vote for the academy awards.

Of course, this will also require a change to the WSFS bylaws. That's a business meeting I would attend. ;-)
C.D. Thomas
159. cdthomas
*That's* an intriguing idea... nominations, as in the Oscars, are opened up to everyone in the Academy; actual awards are voted on by branches corresponding with the sub-field honored, e.g. actors for actors, directors for directors, but *everyone* for Best Picture.

It would immediately open up the field to just about everything of note, and it would spur development of some secure and/or immediately perishable online access to nominated work. (And, it would give SFF media folk a reason to step up production of their DVD sets, knowing if they've done good work, that work would be eligible for awards that suddenly have a longer reach into pop culture, drawing on the body of SFF con attending fen to power them.)
Evan Langlinais
160. Skwid
Like Martin@133, I agree that the Denvention 3 website didn't make terribly good use of all that current tech has to offer. I remember thinking specifically when I walked up to the party board "Why isn't this a Wiki?" I remember taking a picture of the board with my phone and everybody else gathered around the board goggling at me like I had suddenly explained a concise Grand Unified Theory of Everything.

Anticipation, the 67th Worldcon in Montreal next year, looks to be remedying some of these shortcomings. They have an RSS-subscribable blog. They have an open-registration forum with some social networking features. They have a web-form for submitting programming ideas (I'd love to see this as a Wiki, too, personally). Go check it out, folks!
Angela Korra'ti
161. annathepiper
@158 - Thanks!

Basically, I feel that if we really want to make the Hugos interesting to all of fandom, *all* of fandom needs to be engaged, not just the set of people who are able to buy supporting memberships to Worldcon. "Members of other conventions" would be a good start. Appropriate criteria would have to be laid down for qualifying conventions, such as "at least X number of registered members" and/or "convention has been successfully running for X number of years"--since certainly, some of the best-regarded conventions aren't necessarily the largest. Orycon and Arisia both come to mind here.

And if you wanted to bring in PAX, I'd endorse the idea of a Hugo for excellence in gaming storytelling as well. Though I would submit for consideration that this should include non-video gaming as well as video.

I quite like the idea of "membership in notable organizations should get you a vote". At the very least it seems absolutely reasonable that members of SFWA or ASFA should be given a chance to send in nominations if not outright votes. 'Cause as I'm sure many writers and artists can attest, just because you may be a pro doesn't mean you're going to be able to set aside money for convention membership, either. ;)
ebear
162. Jonquil
Total tangent: Chabon (who doesn't usually write genre)

Are you sure about that? Of his seven novels, at least three are genre by my count. Kavalier and Klay, The Yiddish Policeman's Union (AU, big-time), Gentlemen of the Road (swashbuckler). Only the first two are SF genre, I think.
Kevin Maroney
163. womzilla
Anna asked:
Maybe the price of a supporting membership could be lowered?

Seconded. Or perhaps a nominations-only membership even cheaper. I realize that there's a cultural sense that nominating for the Hugos should be a commitment, but I think the barriers right now are too high, especially for nominations. When you have a convention with 3000 attendees, and only 10% of them nominate in the most popular category, that says to me that there are just too many obstacles in the nomination process.

I mean, yes, there need to be guards against nomination buying. But still.
Marlin May
164. zentinal
@133
...And why should the site be discarded after the con, anyway? For an annual event, it's commercially nonsensical to build out that kind of infrastructure from scratch every time...

That's another good point. A css based site would be easily customizable with the upcoming convention's logo, color scheme, etc. etc.

Plus, as new ideas, forms of interaction, etc. come up, they could be integrated.

On the downside, I don't want to imagine the drama that will be generated when, after a few years, it becomes clear that some pruning of the site is necessary to preserve navigability.
Stephanie Leary
165. sleary
@Swkid: Anticipation is doing a lot of things right. Any idea why actually buying a membership is about the only thing you CAN'T do online?
Evan Langlinais
166. Skwid
sleary@165, There's a post in the forum, somewhere, explaining that they're working on the database interface still. Apparently, an interface with the sophistication necessary to be acceptable to Canadian Privacy Law is rather more difficult than what we have to do down here.
Stephanie Leary
167. sleary
Good to know there's a reason for it! Thanks.
Marlin May
168. zentinal
@everyone

So, we seem to have generated a whole bunch of really good ideas, and I'm sure that many more are still to come as we all take breaks from our day jobs.

;-)

The questions I have are: Now that we have generated these ideas, how do we implement them? How do we submit those that need WSFS approval? Are these to be implemented by the folks running Anticipation?

What are the next steps????
ebear
169. Lois McMaster Bujold
@94. JamesDavisNicoll

The numbers seem to get worse beginning in the 1990s. What happened in the 1990s in SF?


Possible answer: the Internet.

It used to be cons were the *only* places one could go to get a hit of SF conversation. Now I can walk in to my office every morning and have an instant con-in-a-box by switching on my computer -- this very thread, ferex, being a virtual panel discussion. It's like a con that runs 24/7 and never stops. Which is a little nightmarish, actually.

A visit to a restaurant is naturally more exciting when you're starving than when you're already overfed.

Just a thought...

L. (Who wandered in at random today by following links -- where the devil am I, anyway?)
Martin Sutherland
170. sunpig
@164 Zentinal: You make a good point that there will be drama if (when) a hypothetical common Worldcon site has to be pruned. It's not impossible to build a site for the ages--it just takes a lot of work. The first point of call would be the top-level URL structure (see Tim Berners-Lee's 1998 essay "Cool URIs don't change"). This isn't the place to dive into the technical challenges; but they're not insurmountable.

@148 Confluence notes that availability of the novels eligible for the Hugo is much lower outside the US. This is important. Many bricks-and-mortar bookstores outside of non-english speaking countries stock a selection of English novels. But the proportion of SF novels in this mix is usually small, and is dominated by proven bestsellers and genre classics. If you want to get hold of hot new novels (published in 2008, eligible for nomination in 2009), you have to rely on Amazon or some other importer. And unless you're keeping your ear to the ground, most of the interesting new releases will pass you by - a point also made by Lon Prater (@51), PrettyMuchPeggy (@98), lisriba (@138) et al. earlier earlier in this discussion.

Novels seem to be a special case on the ballot. Best editor, best fan writer, best semiprozine at al. are (more or less) awards for ongoing continuous work. Short fiction can be judged quickly, with relatively little investment of time or money. (Especially as more short fiction is either published or "made available" online.) But novels have a slow burn. They have to be judged in one specific year, but their distribution mechanism is such that a book by a new (not young per se, but probably so) writer is unlikely to be noticed by significant numbers of people in the eligibility time frame.

It's not that novels take more time to read, because the typical videogame these days takes longer to play end-to-end than it takes to read a novel cover-to-cover, and year-end best-of gaming lists are ten a penny. Novels are also not expensive compared to a cinema ticket or a videogame. There's a bundle of factors involving the overwhelming volume of available material, slow speed of distribution and low market penetration, and (despite Amazon's best efforts) the inability of the best material to be noticed.

Opening up the Hugo voting to a wider audience is only part of the answer. (Though I'm not sure I remember that the question was...) Finding a reliable nominating process to populate the shortlist might be more important, and more tricky.
ebear
171. Jon Hendry
"It used to be cons were the *only* places one could go to get a hit of SF conversation."

Also, the net has probably reduced the utility of convention dealer rooms, making those less of a draw.
ebear
172. Jon Hendry
Speaking of getting them in young, I notice that the Montreal WorldCon seems to be charging $50 for kids 6-12.

In addition to keeping kids out, I'd have to think this expense could dissuade a fair number of young parents from attending at all.

Also, if this means kids 13 and up would pay the full $190, that's going to keep lots of bright teens away.
Sam Kelly
173. Eithin
For me, one of the big takeaways from this thread is that only 900 ballots got cast in the Hugo awards. That's a fairly negligible proportion of the "about 3750" members the con site quotes, and it's a totally invisible proportion of either Fandom or the much larger number of people who like, read, and/or watch SF.

Interestingly, almost half of the people who voted sent in a nomination too - that's an amazingly high percentage for this sort of thing generally.

At some point, someone is going to notice that as a barometer of the readers' opinion of new SF, the Hugo Award is so pants that it may as well have a little label on it saying 'St Michael'. It would be sort of nice to fix it before then.

As for how to fix it, I'd suggest opening up the field globally, and letting anyone who considers herself a fan submit a nominating ballot or a vote. (There are ballot-stuffing issues involved, but other kinds of vote manage this without a problem.) If the authorities responsible want to keep one of the two restricted to official convention-goers, I'd suggest that it should be the voting - allowing global nominations would be both less prone to box-stuffing and more likely to open it up to a wider field.
Colin Hinz
174. ColinHinz
Apparently, some folks have the misconception that the "Hugo SMOFs" are against the very notion of giving an award for game design.

Sorry, it just ain't so. Back in 2006, L.A.con IV included a "Best Interactive Video Game" on the nomination ballot:

Progress Report #3 (see p.28)

....and when the final voting ballot was distributed, it was announced that the category had been dropped due to lack of interest:

Progress Report #4 (see p.24)

But I think it's safe to guess that the number of Worldcon members who are passionate about games is pretty small. Is this likely to change anytime soon? Chicken. Egg. Etcetera.
ebear
175. Kathryn Cramer
Regarding #171, I had thought about remarking that WorldCons could be more family-friendly so as to cultivate a younger constituency, but didn't wish to seem to gerrymander the conversation in the direction of one of my convention hobby-horses. But indeed, the cost of taking kids to a WorldCon is an issue in the greying of fandom. Cultivating the young would be a good move in combatting the aging of fandom. The extent to which conventions cater to their child members is a complex subject.

Oddly, at some WorldCons kids with high-cost memberships can vote the Hugos, but somehow I don't think that giving suffrage to the elementary school set is a force for decreasing the average age of Hugo winners in the fiction categories, though I'm sure that when my kids voted in the Best Editor and Semiprozine categories, their votes were completely sincere.

One further thought on another facet of this: it's not just that there are more books out there than there used to be, making it harder for new writers to get recognition. It's worse than that: the print runs for first novels and the books of the lesser known are much smaller than they used to be. In the Best Novel category, that may be a key factor. Further, the circulation of the magazines is smaller as well. The audience exposure for this decade's writers is not equivalent to the exposure of last decade's writers. Life isn't fair.

Writers of 15 and 20 years ago didn't have the web to help them get recognized, but maybe having an extra 10,000 copies of their first novel distributed was more important.
Colin Hinz
176. ColinHinz
@96:
I think Nerdcore Hip-hop artists and culture should be courted much as Filk artists have been; they are our people, too.


I confess unfamiliarity with Nerdcore, but certainly it would be good to welcome forms of music which postdate good ol' Hugo Gernsback. Maybe even have a recently-invented musical instrument or two....Tenori-on, anyone?
ebear
177. Kathryn Cramer
Obsessive nut that I am, I have composed a list of over 100 good writers who have never won a Hugo.
eric orchard
178. orchard
@ Kathryn Cramer Wow! That list just floored me Kathryn! Blaylock? Bradbury? Charles DeLint! Diana Wynn Jones! I feel like I'm losing faith in our award system!
Torie Atkinson
179. Torie
That list is humbling indeed. Though I'd like to clarify that Patrick is talking about people under 40 (well, 38 to be precise). So not 20-somethings, but 30-somethings, many of whom appear on your list, actually.
Marlin May
180. zentinal
@178 & 179
Don't despair. Take a quick look at this list of great directors who have never won an Oscar.

But I digress... Back to the conversation at hand.
ebear
181. Kathryn Cramer
I used no particular age cut-off. Just my sense of who has an established enough career to be interesting in such a list.

Even if you average in the younger folk (Doctorow & Miéville et al.) and kick out the old guys like Bradbury, Moorcock, & Wolfe, the avergage age, # of books published, & years since 1st publication for that list are pretty high.
eric orchard
182. orchard
I wonder if the awarding of elder statespeoples has more to do with an increasing conservatism in SF rather than any sort of reverse ageism, which seems to be suggested. People nominate and vote for either what they're comfortable with or where they feel comfortable allowing SF to go. Familiar themes and tropes etc.Just a thought. Apologies if anyone's said anything close to this.
Arachne Jericho
183. arachnejericho
The fact that Gene Wolfe never won a Hugo is what made me think YPU and Brasyl wouldn't win this year.

Wrong on the first, so right on the second.
Evan Langlinais
184. Skwid
Colin@176, It's a bit hubristic, perhaps, but I think my review of the first 4 Rhymetorrents Nerdcore Hip-hop Compilation albums is a pretty good place to start. I also highly recommend the movie "Nerdcore Rising," if you can find a showing near you. And of course, MC Frontalot's Yellow Lasers holds the dubious honor of being the only rap song I know of actually set at a convention.

Orchard@182, there may be something there, but I think it's more than that. The previous two Hugo winners to this year both prominently feature life-extension and/or age-reversal... Had 10 more people voted for Scalzi, we would have had another to meet that criteria. That seems rather beyond coincidence to me. Meanwhile, looking at the books themselves, I see Chabon (not at all typical SF), Vinge (cutting edge futurism), Wilson (radically original)...these are not comfortably familiar books, any of them. They all challenge the reader in multiple ways.

It's a complex picture, no doubt.
Cassandra Phillips-Sears
185. cphillips-sears
I'm 26, and am vacationing in the SF area this week. I stopped by Other Change of Hobbit (a great bookstore, if a little hard to navigate through the stacks in the back). I picked up a few new novels and got my fiancee to read her second-ever SF book (Disch's "Camp Concentration").

I also, finally, picked up Locus. I've been meaning to read Locus for years--ever since I read about it in junior highschool--but never did. I picked up this month's Locus because a friend (Greer Gilman) was a featured interviewee.

I started thinking about why that was. I concluded that that the ways Locus (marketed as a reflection of the state of the genre) failed to connect with me may point to larger ways in which the fandom views itself, and why those ways might not connect with younger fans.

1.) "Who's that on the cover, and why should I care?" - Assumption that the fans read by author and author's canon rather than idea.

There is so much work out there that think that one of the most efficient ways of finding new authors is branching out from what you already know--most of my reading is authors recommended by friends, or book-cover blurbs. Book reviewing and recommendation is a social activity as much as it is an intellectual and critical discourse.

"Who's that?" Often, passing Locus, I would look at the featured author on the cover--and would either never have heard of them, or only heard of them in passing.
"Why should I care?" Sometimes, I would still pick up the magazine and try and read the article or interview, which would make passing reference to a half-dozen books I'd never read and wouldn't go into the plot or ideas of any of them. The interview wouldn't hold my interest--there wasn't anything there for me to latch onto, most of the time--and I would put it back on the rack. I felt like the entire thing was a closed dialog that you could only understand once you'd read the author's canon.

I feel like today's readers don't always read by canon or author. Sometimes they do--I've read a great deal of early Bradbury, and will pick up anything that Nix puts out, and finally started in on Pratchett--but you often have to have a reason to be introduced to the author's quality for that to take. Often, you won't get introduced unless the introduction is personal.

That's where reading for ideas comes in. A lot of fans I know are interested in an idea, or set of ideas: the march of history, for instance, or feminism, or gender, or cultural artefacts, or language, or retellings of myths, or robotics.

That's not new, but what I think is new is how people can find so many genre books that speak to the things they are interested in that they will rarely have an oppotunity to branch out into a book that deals with something else: robotics and genetics, maybe, or feminism and military history, and so it's harder to transition, to draw readers who read for ideas into new topics.

If you have social groups centered around themes--as on the modern internet, on livejournal or message boards or, heaven help us, usenet--then you're going to get fewer of those in-genre idea-crossings because the communities in which books are being read, dissected, and recommended often center around the singular idea or topic, and if that's what they're interested in or what their friends have been telling them to read they're more likely to pick it up. The last few things I read outside my own usual areas of interest were excellent, but were all recommended to me by friends who have different interests. I doubt I would have picked them up on my own.

Books have always been shared social reference points, but I think the way that process is now being structured explicity around topics and ideas is making it harder for people to want or need to go outside of topic boundaries for their reading.

2.) Books reviewed with reference to genre boundaries.

Occasionally, I would leaf through it and see that new book x or y was out and think, "cool, but why does this review care so much about genre boundaries?" The reviews always seemed to laud books for:
- transcending genre boundaries (for example, 'should appeal to SF, horror, and fantasy fans everywhere.')
- setting a new landmark within them (phrases such as 'breathes new life back into space opera,' 'a classic, timeless fantasy,' or 'the best hard SF book I've read this year').

I think that newer readers don't care so much about genre boundaries. The question is interesting, in an academic panel kind of way, but I don't think many people think of it as important.

If you are reading fiction for ideas, it might not always matter what genre those ideas come from, or if the genre is even classifiable.

I think younger fans today are more willing to have flexibility in genre, but are likely less knowledgable than they could be about the breadth of idea that good genre writing presents.
ebear
186. Daniel Abraham
This actually dovetails pretty well with another conversation I've been having about the greying of Worldcon (as opposed to the piercing, tattooing, and branding of Dragoncon and Comicon).

I've been interested to hear from my fellows that go to the media conventions that there is a wide and, more to the point, young audience that's very open to books and other such antiquated printed entertainments that just don't come to the (forgive the phrase) conventional conventions.

And I'm thinking that publishers are starting to agree with that assessment. I know a lot of publishers (Tor included) have started having a presence at San Diego.
eric orchard
187. orchard
This is at odds with the theme of the conversation, but I was recently talking to a well known fantasy artist and they told me that the entire fantasy and science fiction field right now is marketed solely at 13 to 20 year olds. And mostly to males. I really didn't want to believe this.
Cassandra Phillips-Sears
188. cphillips-sears
I'm 26, and am vacationing in the SF area this week. I stopped by Other Change of Hobbit (a great bookstore, if a little hard to navigate through the stacks in the back). I picked up a few new novels and got my fiancee to read her second-ever SF book (Disch's "Camp Concentration").

I also, finally, picked up Locus. I've been meaning to read Locus for years--ever since I read about it in junior highschool--but never did. I picked up this month's Locus because a friend (Greer Gilman) was a featured interviewee.

I started thinking about why that was. I concluded that that the ways Locus (marketed as a reflection of the state of the genre) failed to connect with me may point to larger ways in which the fandom views itself, and why those ways might not connect with younger fans.

1.) "Who's that on the cover, and why should I care?" - Assumption that the fans read by author and author's canon rather than idea.

There is so much work out there that think that one of the most efficient ways of finding new authors is branching out from what you already know--most of my reading is authors recommended by friends, or book-cover blurbs. Book reviewing and recommendation is a social activity as much as it is an intellectual and critical discourse.

"Who's that?" Often, passing Locus, I would look at the featured author on the cover--and would either never have heard of them, or only heard of them in passing.
"Why should I care?" Sometimes, I would still pick up the magazine and try and read the article or interview, which would make passing reference to a half-dozen books I'd never read and wouldn't go into the plot or ideas of any of them. The interview wouldn't hold my interest--there wasn't anything there for me to latch onto, most of the time--and I would put it back on the rack. I felt like the entire thing was a closed dialog that you could only understand once you'd read the author's canon.

I feel like today's readers don't always read by canon or author. Sometimes they do--I've read a great deal of early Bradbury, and will pick up anything that Nix puts out, and finally started in on Pratchett--but you often have to have a reason to be introduced to the author's quality for that to take. Often, you won't get introduced unless the introduction is personal.

That's where reading for ideas comes in. A lot of fans I know are interested in an idea, or set of ideas: the march of history, for instance, or feminism, or gender, or cultural artefacts, or language, or retellings of myths, or robotics.

That's not new, but what I think is new is how people can find so many genre books that speak to the things they are interested in that they will rarely have an oppotunity to branch out into a book that deals with something else: robotics and genetics, maybe, or feminism and military history, and so it's harder to transition, to draw readers who read for ideas into new topics.

If you have social groups centered around themes--as on the modern internet, on livejournal or message boards or, heaven help us, usenet--then you're going to get fewer of those in-genre idea-crossings because the communities in which books are being read, dissected, and recommended often center around the singular idea or topic, and if that's what they're interested in or what their friends have been telling them to read they're more likely to pick it up. The last few things I read outside my own usual areas of interest were excellent, but were all recommended to me by friends who have different interests. I doubt I would have picked them up on my own.

Books have always been shared social reference points, but I think the way that process is now being structured explicity around topics and ideas is making it harder for people to want or need to go outside of topic boundaries for their reading.

2.) Books reviewed with reference to genre boundaries.

Occasionally, I would leaf through it and see that new book x or y was out and think, "cool, but why does this review care so much about genre boundaries?" The reviews always seemed to laud books for:
- transcending genre boundaries (for example, 'should appeal to SF, horror, and fantasy fans everywhere.')
- setting a new landmark within them (phrases such as 'breathes new life back into space opera,' 'a classic, timeless fantasy,' or 'the best hard SF book I've read this year').

I think that newer readers don't care so much about genre boundaries. The question is interesting, in an academic panel kind of way, but I don't think many people think of it as important.

If you are reading fiction for ideas, it might not always matter what genre those ideas come from, or if the genre is even classifiable.

I think younger fans today are more willing to have flexibility in genre, but are likely less knowledgable than they could be about the breadth of idea that good genre writing presents.
Clifton Royston
189. CliftonR
@ 169. Lois McMaster Bujold

I can has squee??
Jonathan Hendry
190. JonHendry
Incidentally, before wishing traditional SF cons become more like San Diego Comic-Con, one should keep in mind the downside.

The guy who "assists" comic blogger Bully The Little Stuffed Bull has a well-done 'guest post' about some nasty incidents of sexual harassment at Comic-Con.

(Which is not to say there haven't been problems at traditional SF cons, but, well, have you seen the tawdry little girly sex-kitten figures they market to comics buyers?) (FIXED: scroll down till you see the cat-girl 'presenting')

There's something to be said for trying to maintain a higher-brow profile, even if it does result in a smaller con. I'm sure the Kalamazoo Medieval conference could attract bigger crowds if they catered to the titties 'n beer set, but that probably wouldn't serve the ends for which the conference was established in the first place.
Colin Hinz
191. ColinHinz
@190:

I get a "403 error - forbidden" when attempting to view your second link. Apropos, I guess.
Margaret ONeill
192. prettymuchpeggy
I have found out a great deal about the Hugos and Worldcon itself within all these posts. My parting thought to this conversation is - "and to think I could have voted for the Hugos a while back when they were in Winnipeg." {I am pretty sure I was a supporting member for that Worldcon.}

I will work on getting to one in the next couple of years. Thank you all.
Nicole Cardiff
193. NicoleCardiff
JonHendry: It seems like something similar seems to come up every year or so in regards to ComicCon. While it's certainly tragic, and it shouldn't happen or be condoned - let's keep in mind that if we picked 125,000 people at random off the streets, there'd be some undesirables in there. While I'm sure the con culture has something to do with it, I think it's mostly just a matter of numbers.

Moving on - as to WorldCon vs. ComicCon attendance, I know a lot of young professionals prefer to go to ComicCon because they'll waive the cost of the ticket if you're provably in one end or another of the many industries they promote. If WorldCon did the same, and dropped ticket prices, I bet they'd see attendance go up.

(They may already do this, and I'm just not in the loop, but I didn't think anyone had proposed this solution...)
ebear
194. smaur
I am 19 years old, an aspiring writer and a full-time university student. I love science fiction, I know almost every single name on the Hugos shortlist, and up until about ten minutes ago I was excitedly planning to go to Worldcon 2009.

And then I found out the price.

I pay rent. And groceries. And tuition, and for textbooks. I have cellphone, cable, and internet bills. My program racks up considerable "additional expenses". A public transit pass costs $100 a month. I am funding this through scholarships, loans, and wages from work.

I can't afford to spend $200 on the cost of the convention alone. I have to transport myself to Montreal (at least $200). I have to pay for a hotel, or a motel, or a hostel, or some kind of living arrangement for the time I am at Worldcon. Altogether, that's almost one month's rent for four days of fun. That's probably half a year's worth of grocery money. It would also buy most of my textbooks.

If WorldCon was $50, I would gladly go. It would still be a lot of money, but to see authors I love, to hear people opining on sci-fi for four days, it would totally be worth it.

I am still planning on looking into volunteer opportunities at WorldCon, because I really do want to go, and if there is some way I can sidestep the crazy $200 fee, I am still more than willing to shell out money to get there.

I should also mention that I live in Toronto, so for me, the convention is in the same country, and relatively close. For poor college students living in other countries ... I can't imagine what that would cost.

The tl;dr version of all of this is, whoa guys, Worldcon's fee is BATSHIT CRAZY for me.
ebear
195. Kevin Standlee
I've come very late to this discussion, and there are dozens of things I could add, but I'm going to pick out a couple of them, starting with membership price.

John Fiala@117 wrote:
My suggestion would be to reach out to younger fen, drop the price to $50 - even though that will cause the con to lose money in the short term - and build the convention up from 3,700 warm bodies to 8,000-11,000 people.
That's a reasonable suggestion for an ongoing event held in the same location every year. But Worldcon is not an ongoing organization run in the same place annually. It's a series of one-shot events. Every Worldcon is a stand-along, single event, with no financial connection to its predecessors or successors.

Let's just postulate that Denvention Three lowered the price of a membership to $50 this year. The organization would lose money. How would they pay for it? Next year's Worldcon in Montreal is a different organization. The Worldcon after that in Melbourne is yet another organization. It's actually quite similar to how the Olympics work. Individual Olympic Games must work on their own. The International Olympic Committee won't bail them out if they lose money, nor will they get money from the previous or subsequent Games to pay off their bills.

There is no central office of the World Science Fiction Society that can fund experiments like lowering costs and accepting a short-term loss in the hope that it would increase membership three years from now. Besides, next year's Worldcon is so far away from this year's convention that it seems pretty unlikely that the hypothetical Denver-area attendee who was put off by the cost to a convention s/he could attend by public transit would go to a convention in Montreal or Melbourne even if you charged zero.

The main reason that Worldcon memberships are so expensive is that attendance is at exactly the wrong size. It's large enough that it needs to use a convention center, which adds vast fixed costs. I don't know Denver's numbers, but I do know from ConJose in 2002 (which I co-chaired), that the cost of renting the convention center and paying for the decorator (chairs, tables, etc.) was around $250,000 -- a huge fixed cost that was more than a quarter of the entire cost of the convention.

There are two ways of lowering the cost of Worldcon membership -- increase the attendance or decrease it. Either the convention has to shrink back down (probably below 2000) until it can fit into less-expensive facilities, or it needs to grow substantially larger (up to around 10K attendees) so that it has enough members to cover those large fixed costs.

And while the idea of a "membership cap" mentioned by Ctein @141 is possibly attractive, I suggest that it would be self-defeating. Sure, the convention would be less expensive to operate, and you could order the convention to sell memberships for not more than $50, but demand for them would exceed the supply. Elementary economics would lead to the limited supply of cheap memberships being sold immediately to people who have attended previous events, and then the resale market would take over and the price would continue to be high. That seems so obvious to me as to hardly need to be explained. I don't see a membership cap on Worldcons being a good solution.

Charging less for the right to vote is possibly a good thing, but has its own challenges, which I will discuss in a separate message.
ebear
196. Kevin Standlee
The idea of establishing less-expensive voting-only membership classes for Worldcon has been kicked around repeatedly, including this post on SF Awards Watch. The practical objection to this is that it appears that the World Science Fiction Society's constitution prohibits Worldcons from selling such memberships. (I'm not completely certain on this; I can read the WSFS Constitution multiple ways on the subject.)

Of course, we could always modify the WSFS Constitution to not only allow, but even require, such voting-only memberships. But to do so would require that the Business Meetings of two consecutive Worldcons vote to amend the Constitution. As some, but not all, of you reading this know, any attending member of a Worldcon can attend the Business Meeting, propose changes, debate them, and vote on them; however, usually fewer than 150 of the thousands of eligible members actually do so.

There is no mysterious, secret, "them" who makes the rules. The only "secret" of the Secret Masters of Fandom is that they aren't secret. They're just the people who show up, buy memberships, and take the time to participate in the Town Meeting of Worldcon that eats up around six hours of their Worldcon spread over three days.

I'm chairman of next year's meeting in Montreal. Anyone who wants to propose changes to the WSFS Constitution should contact me and I'll help you word them in the proper format. But you'll need to come and defend them yourself. Nobody is going to do the messy work of participatory democracy for you. And the saying about laws and sausage applies.
eric orchard
197. orchard
@ Kevin Standlee Thank you so much for commenting on this, Mr. Standlee.
@everyone I was talking to Howard Picaizen at World Con as well, I asked him about the cost and he reminded me that its a five day event as opposed to the usual 1 or 2 of most conventions and he gave me these sites for break downs of the costs:http://www.anticipationsf.ca/English/Membership
and
http://www.tor.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=blog&id=3316#3740
Marlin May
198. zentinal
@194.

Interesting p.o.v.

$200 might seem BatCrapola crazy, but, has the cost of the at-the-door price of Worldcons matched inflation, lagged behind or surged ahead? I don't have the numbers, nor the head for number to figure it out.

I also wonder if we're looking at a cultural shift of the wider populace negatively affecting fandom. Americans in general save less than those in years past. I always save up for cons, but then I'm 47 and was taught to save for the things I want.

I also wonder if the younger fans we want to attract to worldcons have been taught about the whole pre-supporting mechanism and how it can lessen your cost of attending (except for Chicago, ugh!).
Jo Walton
199. bluejo
It was suggested to me in conversation recently that the huge slushpiles and long waits for first novels to be looked at by publishers might have something to do with this.

If _The Towers of Aptor_ had sat in Ace's slush for two years and then taken two years to work it's way through production, Delany would (obviously) not have been 19 when it was published, nor, if his career had been slowed by that, 25 when he won a Hugo. The same is true for other super-young writers like Silverberg. Today's young novelists just don't have that opportunity, unless the fact of their youth is useful marketing, like Paolini.
Marlin May
200. zentinal
I have no idea how ComiCon and DragonCon are organized. Are they fan run or run by companies for a profit? Do they get substantial revenue from Major Media companies and therefore can have lower at-the-door costs?

Would such an arrangement destroy Worlcon as we know it?
Marlin May
201. zentinal
@196. Kevin Standlee

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you for chiming in on this topic.
196 Kevin Standlee ...Of course, we could always modify the WSFS Constitution to not only allow, but even require, such voting-only memberships. But to do so would require that the Business Meetings of two consecutive Worldcons vote to amend the Constitution...

So, if a dedicated group of folks really wanted to alter the the nomination and voting process for Hugos, they'd have to be organized enough to carry the process through (at the very least) two successive Worldcons.

http://www.wsfs.org/bm/const-2007.html#article6

Let us say some folks reading this comment chain sift through the abundance of excellent suggestions and actually get a proposed amendment together for submission at Anticipation. Let us say it is passed. The next trick will be to get the same thing to happen again, in 2010.

In Australia.
ebear
202. Tom Galloway
Dragoncon is not a non-profit, but I believe they claim to operate like one in that organizers aren't receiving the profits made by the con (note that "non-profit" does not mean that something can't make money or pay people. It means that the "owners" of the thing don't get the profits, at least directly).

Comic-Con is a non-profit, and grew over the past 40 years from a 150 person or so convention to the 125,000 behemoth it is now.

The key things about both of them are 1) Same location every year. Local word-of-mouth "advertising" and the knowledge that you'll be able to go each year has built up a substantial number of local attendees. This is one reason I think the idea of moving Comic-Con to Vegas post-2012 is a bad one. They'd lose their very substantial day trip range attendees, and move from a 20 million or so metro area (yes, LA is effectively in Comic-Con's metro area as one can do a day trip) to a 1.5 million one.

2) Same concom each year. This allows each edition to build on the previous one and sink money from the previous con into the next. While there are folk who volunteer for multiple Worldcons at the Committee level, it's still the case that the core group for each Worldcon is different. And you can't count on money from previous year's Worldcons for this one.
Jonathan Hendry
203. JonHendry
smaur @194:"I should also mention that I live in Toronto, so for me, the convention is in the same country, and relatively close"

I suspect the transportation cost, at least, could be reduced by finding a rideshare to Montreal on Craigslist. You might even find some fellow congoers to ride with and split a room.
ebear
204. Kevin Standlee
zentinal @201:

So, if a dedicated group of folks really wanted to alter the the nomination and voting process for Hugos, they'd have to be organized enough to carry the process through (at the very least) two successive Worldcons.

That is correct. Of course, if the changes were sufficiently controversial, they'd have to work to make sure that weren't undone the moment their "backs were turned." And I'm pretty certain that the second year's vote for any really significant change would be much more active than the first. The entire constitutional amendment process is designed to make it difficult to amend the constitution (which is appropriate; constitutions aren't supposed to be easy to change). There are a whole bunch of people who don't regularly attend Business Meetings, but who pay attention to the results, and who will turn up the following year to vote down changes they don't like.
ebear
205. Kevin Standlee
zentinal @198
$200 might seem BatCrapola crazy, but, has the cost of the at-the-door price of Worldcons matched inflation, lagged behind or surged ahead? I don't have the numbers, nor the head for number to figure it out.

Relative to what year? The price of Worldcons tends to jump to a certain level and then stay there for several years in a row.

Relative to 1984, Worldcon membership prices have been increasing at approximately twice the rate of inflation. According to the Westegg Inflation Calculator, the cost of a Worldcon membership, which was $70 in 1984, should be about $155 today, rather than around $225-$250.

Another element affecting the price of a Worldcon membership that may not be that obvious to Americans is the exchange rate. The next two Worldcons will have to pay most of their expenses in Canadian or Australian dollars, respectively, while they will be receiving most of their income in US dollars. Those US dollars are now worth a whole lot less than they were a few years ago. Even I, a director of Anticipation's non-profit corporation, forgot about this when I was reminded that Torcon 3's at-the-door membership was CAD275 at the door, but only USD205. If it were held today, that would be USD275.
ebear
206. Kevin Standlee
smaur @194:
I am 19 years old, an aspiring writer and a full-time university student....

In 1984, you could have described me as very similar to you, although I did live at home and therefore my room and board expenses were substantially less. I had to travel about as far as you to attend my first Worldcon (from northern California to Anaheim -- an all-night bus ride on Greyhound).

A Worldcon membership at the door was USD75. I don't know what it would have been in CAD, but probably more than $75.

If WorldCon was $50, I would gladly go. It would still be a lot of money, but to see authors I love, to hear people opining on sci-fi for four days, it would totally be worth it.


Worldcon is five days long, not four. But if they charged only $50, it would only be about one day long, and most of those people you're interested in seeing/hearing wouldn't bother attending -- it wouldn't be worth their time.

I am still planning on looking into volunteer opportunities at WorldCon, because I really do want to go, and if there is some way I can sidestep the crazy $200 fee, I am still more than willing to shell out money to get there.


Note that Worldcons generally do require everyone to buy a membership except the guests of honor. I co-chaired the 2002 Worldcon, and I had to buy my membership. Now, many Worldcons do, if they have sufficient funds remaining, refund the membership to people who qualify as volunteers, staff, program participants, and committee, but that money is guaranteed. There are also sometimes reduced-price membership opportunities for volunteers under certain circumstances, but I'm not aware of anything Anticipation is doing on this subject, and therefore can't make any promises.

For poor college students living in other countries ... I can't imagine what that would cost.


And I didn't attend the 1985-88 Worldcons, although I did have at least supporting memberships in all of them, which allowed me to vote on the Hugo Awards and in site selection, thereby always guaranteeing myself the cheapest possible Worldcon membership. I was just out of college when I attended my second Worldcon, the 1989 Worldcon in Boston. I've not missed one since then.
Madeline Ferwerda
207. MadelineF
Kevin Standlee #196: That's a good thread, thanks for the link. I agree that a $20 Hugo Voting membership would be ideal, and very helpful in encouraging people to get a stake in the con eventually... Seeing how Hugos are made, after all these years, was a large reason I went to Denvention. I'd like to keep participating, but Canada and Australia are both way out of my budget, and $50 is hella steep.

In that thread you said "And it doesn’t even require WSFS approval; Worldcons are already authorized to create additional membership classes with various membership rights." Sounds pretty reasonable to me. Seems like now you're talking about changing the constitution... Is that just to make it inevitable that Worldcons add a Hugo Voting level, instead of just being something each Worldcon committee can choose to do or not?
David Goldfarb
208. David_Goldfarb
Bluejo@199: You mean The Jewels of Aptor, of course. (I guess you are conflating the title with The Towers of Toron.)
ebear
209. Kathryn Cramer
Does the idea of completely overhauling the structure and nature of the WorldCon in order to make it more possible for people under 38 to win the Hugo strike anyone else as a bit excessive? The Hugos are, to me anyway, a minor aspect of what WorldCons are for.

Though I have been a Hugo nominee for most years in the past 2 decades, I think I would attend the WorldCon just as frequently without the Hugos, but I doubt I would make much of an effort to travel to, say, a Hugo Weekend in some other city unless I was certain of winning or that David Hartwell (my husband) was going to win. (I rarely attend the Nebula weekend.)

The pomp and circumstance and nominees reception are nice, but in the overall context of a WorldCon, the Hugos are just not that important.

(I am looking around the house for crucifixes and garlic to repell anyone who would like WorldCon to by just like DragonCon. I have never attended a DragonCon and never will.)
ebear
210. G. Jules
@198: I always save up for cons, but then I'm 47 and was taught to save for the things I want.

I'm in my twenties, and I was also taught to save up for the things I want. I saved up for my shiny new Macbook, and I saved up for my attendance at Viable Paradise. And, more importantly, I fit those things into my budget. I made them priorities.

I'm not making Worldcon a priority. Like the commenter at #194 said, the cost of attending would be a hell of a lot of money for me. It's the kind of money that gets my car new tires and new struts, so I can keep it on the road for a few more months. It's nearly a year's payments on my school loans (although I will admit that my school loans are quite a bit lower than the loans of most people in my generation).

It isn't that I don't have savings, it's that I couldn't justify using them on Worldcon. I can go to Readercon for $60 at the door and maybe $40 in gas to drive up each day. That I can justify. Worldcon, not so much.

I wish I could go, but I don't wish it enough to prioritize it over keeping my car running. So it goes.
ebear
211. smaur
I suspect the transportation cost, at least, could be reduced by finding a rideshare to Montreal on Craigslist. You might even find some fellow congoers to ride with and split a room.


I appreciate the thought: I didn't even think of that, embarrassingly enough.

The truth is that I probably won't do this. I'm a relatively small-ish girl with little to no fighting skill and putting myself in a vulnerable position with strangers isn't something I am okay with doing. Even if those strangers share my love for everything nerd-themed.

But thanks.

@206, Kevin Standlee: I understand that reducing the cost of Worldcon to $50, or even $100 isn't a viable option. I understand that it wouldn't be worth the time of the people I want to hear/see.

But with the cost of attendance being so steep, it wouldn't be worth my time. I don't mean that in an obnoxious way: it just isn't financially viable for me. #62 said that "people under 30 have HEAPS of disposable income to part with". That's not true for me. That's also not true for the majority of people I know.

It isn't that I am incapable of saving up for things I want: it's that I'm too busy saving up for things I need. Food, lodging, et cetera. Going to a Worldcon, blowing over $500 for only five days, is just irresponsible for someone with my expenses and my bank balance.

Also, as Lois McMaster Bujold said at #169: we have the internet. Yes, I could go to a con to see and hear the people I respect/admire/sometimes vaguely worship.

I could also just go on the internet and find them there. Neil Gaiman is the guest of honour at Anticipation 2009: I can go to his blog and read years and years of his thoughts. Ditto John Scalzi. And Patrick Nielsen Hayden. On any given day, I can go on the internet and find heaps and heaps of intelligent discussions on writing, publishing, science fiction, and fantasy, from people who know what they are talking about and know how to say it.

And I can do all of this from my own home, without spending an enormous amount of money to do so.

Which makes WorldCon even less of a sell.

I don't know if any of these things can be rectified. I just wanted to throw my two cents in as one of those crazy young people who don't go to conventions for some strange reason.
William S. Higgins
212. higgins
Last week I heard Rusty Hevelin, Art Widner, and Earl Korshak speak about the first Denvention in 1941. Rusty hitchhiked across the country, and what with one difficulty or another, wound up in Denver with 17 cents in his pocket. But he had a great time. He was in a hotel surrounded by SF fans-- a rare thing to find in 1941.

Regarding Smaur's remarks at #194:

I'm fiftysomething, and have attended a whole bunch of Worldcons.

I hate that memberships are too high for 19-year-olds to afford. 19-year-olds belong at Worldcon. I don't know what I can do about this.

Here's a possible loophole for you, Smaur:

You still need to purchase a membership, somehow. But Worldcons are nonprofit events run with volunteer labor.

Volunteer.

Become a gopher. Help set up. Work on registration. Staff the Information table. Emplace name cards for Program Operations, and count heads in panel audiences. Check bags at the artshow. Check badges at the huckster room entrance. Peddle souvenirs. Help behind the scenes at the Masquerade. Usher at the Hugos. Prepare food in the consuite. Help in the Green Room. Help tear down.

As Kevin Standlee has described, Worldcons are very tight with their money before the con. But if they meet their expenses-- which usually happens-- reimbursing all or part of the membership of some volunteers is a high priority. (They keep track of the hours gophers put in during the con.)

Others are more familiar than I with the details. Perhaps another commenter will jump in and explain how reimbursement usually works.

My impression is that, a few months or a year after the Worldcon, when the committee has the finances sorted out, they will send money out to reimburse the membership cost to volunteers who put in enough hours.

This tends to be a LOT of hours-- dozens during the course of the con-- so it cuts into activities you would be choosing if cost were not a worry. On the other hand, you become part of a team, central to the fannish community, throwing the party, keeping a 70-year-old tradition alive. You'll work with interesting characters from all over the world. Many fans will tell you that the experience is well worth the sacrifice.

Financially, it's a pretty good bet. When your refund arrives, if you can spare it, maybe you can buy a membership in the next Worldcon...

Can anybody tell Smaur more about volunteering and possible reimbursement?

Sharing rooms, and sharing rides, can be another way to cut costs.

Smaur, one small thing: If I am attending the Worldcon too, get in touch. I'll buy you a meal.
ebear
213. Kevin Standlee
MadelineF @207 wrote:
In that thread you said "And it doesn’t even require WSFS approval; Worldcons are already authorized to create additional membership classes with various membership rights."
Yes, but since then I've had people make a sound argument that other wording elsewhere in the constitution prohibits selling a membership that includes voting rights for less than the cost of a supporting membership. I'm not convinced one way or the other yet. The WSFS Constitution doesn't answer every question, and there are times when you can get two different answers depending on which sections of the document you select to read. Interpretation is sometimes a difficult thing.
ebear
214. Kevin Standlee
higgins @212:
My impression is that, a few months or a year after the Worldcon, when the committee has the finances sorted out, they will send money out to reimburse the membership cost to volunteers who put in enough hours.
Unfortunately, I'm very sympathetic to the situation here, and from my own experiences with other Worldcons, I can already tell you the answer: "I can't afford the cash now." That is, people in such a tight spot can't afford to stump up more than $200 with the promise that "we may reimburse you months later."

We went through this with ConJose. Even offering a reduced price membership ($90) to recruited volunteers (not just anyone who turned up at the door saying "charge me less and maybe I'll work for you"), we still had difficulty.

For people spending thousands of dollars to travel to a Worldcon, the membership price is a trivial portion of the cost. For "commuters" or "day-trippers," it's almost the only thing that matters. Like you, I agree that we need the 19-year-olds attending as much as old fogeys with money like me. However, as I've observed elsewhere, the way we select Worldcons tends to lead to the people who are least price sensitive getting the lowest membership cost, because they are the ones who vote on the site selection two years in advance and therefore get the lowest possible membership rate. The people who buy later and make up their minds at the end pay the largest amount and have the least amount of influence on the process. That's not going to change as long as we continue to select our sites by popular vote.

And I don't want to suggest that I'm advocating such changes. You could make Worldcon Big and Cheap by making it a permanent event held in the same city (I suggest Anaheim) every year at the same time (I suggest midway between ComicCon and DragonCon) run by the same group every year. It would be big. It would be cheap. It just wouldn't be the Worldcon as we know it.
ebear
215. Kevin Standlee
Another thought, quoting something that is certainly not original to me: While it's a shame that there are many people who (if their comments are to be believed) are put off by having to pay $50 to join WSFS and vote on the Hugo Awards and who would do so if membership were only $20, it's a bigger shame that there are quite literally thousands of people who are already members of WSFS and do not nominate or vote. There are more people voting that who attend the Hugo Awards ceremony. What is it with these people? We only have anecdotal evidence; nobody has ever done a systematic survey of non-voting WSFS members to find out why they do not vote.
ebear
216. Rene Walling
Patrick says: "When I was a young SF reader, Hugos were regularly won by people in their twenties and early thirties."

Well, I've plotted the average age of Hugo winners for best Novel and Best Short Story, and I'm afraid it's simply not that accurate a statement.

You can see the resulting graph http://www.pixentral.com/hosted/1wdH6DQKmEPYBoYTY8ExstM7V9t6H_thumb.png

Best Novel is Blue-ish
Best Short Story in Red-ish

While there is a slight upward trend, it is not as marked as Patrick's comments would have us believe and the average age of Hugo nominees is between 40 and 50 and has pretty much always been there.

The dip in both categories about a quarter of the way is the late 60s. That Huge peak in the Best novel category two thirds of the way into it is 1983 when Asimov, Heinlein and Clarke all had novels in the running

The year with the youngest average age for the nominees was 1968 both for Best Novel (32) and Best Short Story (30)

The years with the oldest average age for the nominees was 1983 for Best Novel (58.67) and 2000 for Best Short Story (55.33)

A note on methodology: I simply averaged the years each nominee was born and substracted from the year of their Hugo wins so it's not super accurate, but it's close enough to get an idea.
Andrew Lambdin-Abraham
217. kd5mdk
It occurs to me that one thing to look at is how much of this could be attributed to the SAME PEOPLE winning Hugos over the years. For example, the average age of the Best Fan Writer winner was increasing by 1 per year for a long time.
Del C
218. del
I agree with Rene Walling and kd5mdk's remarks: there never were more than a handful of under-thirties winning Hugos (the very earliest Nebulas were better, but that quickly changed). Before the 1980s, there was a range of ages for both awards in all four length classes, with a median in the thirties or forties, and a lower quartile in the thirties.

In the 1980s, at some lengths, there was a striking catastrophic disappearance of older writers (and nobody wailed about that: I wonder if anyone even remarked on it). And from then until quite recently, the trend has been, as kd5mdk says, for the same writers in a fairly small age group to win. Nicholas Whyte has remarked on this group previously.

(more graphs
at my live journal)

I'm of the opinion that the disappearance of older writers in the 1980s is an edge effect of the establishment of the awards, and the absence of younger writers in the 2000s is an edge effect of our present-day snapshot, leaving that middle group looking strangely dominant. Perhaps, in the long run, science fiction award clusters are like galactic spiral arms, grouped into star-forming regions separated by relatively dark bands. If so, the Hugos look about due for a new one (the Nebulas have more serious questions to answer about their recent trends).
ebear
219. L. E. Modesitt
The "younger" writers have always had a problem... as I've noted on my latest blog .
ebear
220. Kathryn Cramer
Regarding the cost of convention attendance (never mind US WorldCons; if you really try you can sleep 19 to a room in shifts and live on ketchup, just not for 20 weekends a year): I am continually amazed at how many people I see weekend after weekend at con after con. Why do we do this? Why do people afford this? They do it because the sf convention circuit is a kind of moveable-feat Utopia. When I went to my first WorldCon in LA in 1984, just after attending Clarion West, that one could do this came as a kind of revelation: that rather than being stuck with the people you lived near, you could go somewhere and associate with the people you wanted to be with. The problem with that Utopia now (other than money, gas prices, no fly lists, and airports being the R&D lab for new forms of fascism) is that there can be four major cons on a weekend.

What is astonishing to me about convention economics is that people do it anyway and at all. And the collective we do it because we like to be with the collective you. We are affording our Utopia.

There are cons I haven't gone to because I couldn't afford to. I had the best set of panel I'd ever had for the most recent Glasgow Worldcon, and I couldn't afford it. And I was a big supporter of the Japanese WorldCon bid, but when it came down to money, it would have cost our family of four about 10% of the price of the house we just bought to go. So we didn't. (I have a seeking feeling I may never afford to get out of North America again; my last 3 trips have been cancelled because of airfares.)

It would be great if cons were cheaper, or even free, But the problem is that they are embedded in that other place, The Real World,

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