The Elusive Film Footage of the Very First Worldcon

Thursday, November 19th, 2015 | Posted by Doug Ellis

Photo From First Worldcon-small

Here’s a photo from the first Worldcon, taken by Bill Dellenback. In this one, Jack Darrow is signing something, while P. Schuyler Miller (holding a pipe), looks on. Forrest Ackerman — or 4SJ — looks a little bored. I think the guy standing to Darrow’s right, in the foreground, is his good friend Otto Binder, but I’m not certain on that.

I acquired this photo many years ago, along with a whole batch of other material, from the estate of Jack Darrow. In the 1930’s, Darrow was pretty much fan #2 behind Ackerman. Among the material in Darrow’s estate were a number of photos that had been taken by Bill Dellenback (later staff photographer for the Kinsey Institute) at the first World Con in NY in 1939, which both Darrow and Dellenback attended.

I have a carbon copy of a letter dated August 16, 1939 that Darrow wrote to his friend, Walt Dennis, concerning the first Worldcon. In part, it reads as follows.

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World Fantasy 2015: It’s the Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead of Convention Reports

Thursday, November 19th, 2015 | Posted by Sarah Avery

The Saratoga Hilton

The Saratoga Hilton, site of the 2015 World Fantasy Convention

Ask a literary agent how writers should pursue representation, and they almost always say, “Go to any convention, and we’ll all be in the hotel bar.”

In years past, I’ve tried agent/author speed dating at the Nebulas weekend, pitch sessions with agents at writing conferences, commenting on agents’ manuscript-wish-list blog posts — all the in-person variations but the bar, because the bar is not my natural habitat. Then again, in years past, I didn’t have an award in my pocket. Lots of people may be ambivalent about awards, but agents like them. This year I figured I might be out of my element, but I would no longer have that aura of desperation that surrounds unpublished novelists with no specific prospects. I finally had something an agent might want.

So I set my sights on the World Fantasy Convention, a con known for a base of attendees consisting almost entirely of professionals in the field. I love a good panel, I love a good reading, I love a good casual schmooze, but I had a mission. One that was certain to throw me into a wide variety of interactions that would range from the awkward to the absurd, with perhaps a little sweet spot of productivity in the middle.

When John O’Neill asked me to write a con report, I told him I had none of the kinds of impressions people record in them. What I had instead was my misadventures in agent hunting. John was laughing already, and urged me to post it.

If you want to know about the World Fantasy Awards and their banquet, memorable quotes from notable figures, the controversy over the toothless harassment policy, I’m not your girl. Not this time, anyway.

But you can time-travel back to the start of my most recent unfinished agent hunt and watch me indulge my hubris.

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Cixin Liu the Superstar: How Taking a Risk on a Chinese Author Paid Off Big For Tor

Friday, September 4th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Three-Body Problem-smallOne of the great things about science fiction conventions is getting to rub shoulders with your heroes.

Some years ago I received an advance proof of an upcoming fantasy from Bantam Spectra, just before heading to Archon in St. Louis. I threw it in my luggage, and brought it to the author’s reading. There were only seven people in the audience, so afterwards I got to have a nice chat with the author, and he graciously signed my book for me. The writer was George R.R. Martin, and the book was A Game of Thrones.

In fact, writers who will draw huge crowds in public can often be vastly more approachable at small conventions. Perhaps this is because seeing Neil Gaiman at your local library is a big deal, but hanging out with him at the bar at World Fantasy is just a lot more casual.

Of course, there are rare exceptions. There are a few writers treated like superstars, even among fellow professionals. I saw it happen when Stephen King came to my home town of Ottawa for the World Fantasy Convention in 1984, and autograph lines spontaneously formed whenever he sat down. I got in line an hour early just so I could be in the front row during his reading from The Talisman (and ended up giving up my seat anyway, just so Tabitha King wouldn’t have to stand in the back.)

And I saw it happen again in June of this year, when the hottest new writer in science fiction, Cixin Liu, author of the Three-Body trilogy (The Three-Body Problem, The Dark Forest, and Death’s End), arrived in Chicago for the Nebula Awards weekend.

Mr. Liu was in making his first trip to the United States as a published author to be on hand for the presentation of the awards. His first novel in English, The Three-Body Problem, published by Tor in November of last year, was up for Best Novel.

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Goth Chick News: Comics, Cosplay and Speed Dating — ComicCon Swings Into Chicago

Thursday, August 27th, 2015 | Posted by Sue Granquist

Cosplay at Chicago ComicCon 2015 3-smallFor one glorious weekend each summer, Chicago stops being The Windy City and instead becomes Metropolis. The urban crime rate takes a giddy plunge, not for lack of playing host to some fairly spectacular villains, but likely because the bad guys are too busy comparing breathable fabrics with their super hero arch-enemies.

Yes it’s August – ComicCon time in the city…

Wizard World Chicago, commonly known as the Chicago ComicCon, is the annual bacchanalia of pop culture held at the fairly ginormous Donald E. Stephens Convention Center near O’Hare airport. The four day event is among the largest comic book convention in the United States, in third place for overall attendance behind only the New York ComicCon, and the granddaddy of all entertainment cons; ComicCon International in San Diego.

Chicago ComicCon consumed nearly the entire 840,000 sq/ft facility and though at this time, attendance numbers for the 2015 event have not been officially stated, local media estimates the participants at well over 100,000.

Originally showcasing comic books and related popular arts, the convention has expanded over the years to include a larger range of pop culture elements, such as professional wrestling, science fiction/fantasy, film/television, horror and animation.

In addition to an impressive array of vendors, ComicCon played host to a large, daily offering of programming and events such as, “Advanced Costuming and Armor,” “Costumes + Playing = Cosplay,” and “Legal Basics for Game Developers.”

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Limestone Genre Expo, Kingston Ontario

Friday, July 31st, 2015 | Posted by Violette Malan

Limestone1Last weekend I took part in the first ever Limestone Genre Expo in Kingston, Ontario (which is known as the Limestone City, hence the name). I had a wonderful time, reconnecting with old friends and making new ones. There’s nothing like an event like this to remind you how many people among your friends and acquaintance are people you’ve never actually met face-to-face.

As I said, this was the first year for this event, and Liz Strange, Barry King and their minions did an excellent job of organization. For one, the event lived up to its billing, in that it was a genre expo. Most of the time there were three tracks, with full panels on Fantasy, SF, Mystery, Horror and Romance, along with readings and workshops

I’ve run small conferences myself, and people always find it strange when I tell them that often the most popular individual events are the workshops. Yes, they are primarily attended by people at one stage or another of a writing career, but a small percentage of attendees are people who are curious about some of the nuts and bolts of writing, and who are looking for insights into literary analysis. There was a wide variety in subject matter from “First Page Critiques” where people came prepared to share their first 250 words with editor and author Caro Soles, to “Building Tension” with Matt Moore, to “How to Market and Sell Short Fiction” with Douglas Smith, a man who knows. Author and editor Nancy Kilpatrick’s workshop was titled “Novel Idea Pitch” in the program, but she herself describes it as “a workshop on brain storming.” I like her version better.

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July 2015 Asimov’s Science Fiction Now on Sale

Tuesday, June 16th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Asimovs-Science-Fiction-July-2015-smallBlack Gate blogger Derek Künsken has a big novella in Asimov’s Science Fiction this month, and it’s already getting great reviews. Clancy Weeks at Tangent Online had this to say about it:

I love a good mystery, and “Pollen From a Future Harvest” by Derek Künsken is indeed a good mystery. Some of that mystery is in parsing the twists and turns related to time travel, along with the prose itself, but it is rewarding nonetheless. Major Okonkwo, of the Sixth Expeditionary Force of the Sub-Saharan Union, is a military auditor — a bookkeeper — and she has been given the open-ended task of auditing the entire base. There are layers, sub-plots, and twists here, but the main issue is dealing with a possible “grandfather paradox” associated with time travel… Something has happened up the line, and Okonkwo needs to find out why, and if it is related to the recent death (some would say murder) of her senior husband. There is an amazing amount of backstory we learn along the way, and rich, multi-layered world-building… a very good and entertaining read.

Derek made the cover this month, for the second time (the first was for his novelette “Schools of Clay” in the February 2014 issue.) I had the chance to meet Derek for the first time at the Nebula Awards weekend here in Chicago from June 4-June 7, where we talked space opera, writing, and conventions. He’s a remarkably astute observer of the field, and has a very keen eye on short fiction markets. He also brought me up-to-date on the state of fandom in my home town of Ottawa, which I greatly appreciated. His detailed summary of the Nebula weekend is here.

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Presenting the 2015 Nebula Awards

Sunday, June 7th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Presenting the 2015 Nebula Award for Best Novelette

Presenting the 2015 Nebula Award for Best Novelette. Photo by Keith Stokes

I don’t mean that title metaphorically. Like, “Here are the 2015 Nebula winners, so awesome!” I mean it literally. As in, presenting a Nebula Award on stage, in front of God and everybody, while wearing a suit and desperately hoping I pronounced all the names correctly. How’s that for awesome?

The 2015 Nebulas were presented by the Science Fiction Writers of America at the 50th Annual Nebula Awards Weekend on Saturday, June 4th, at the Palmer House in downtown Chicago. The event was attended by the brightest and most dazzling talents in the industry (plus, I was there too). I was invited to present the Nebula for Best Novelette, which was a fabulous honor that made me all giddy. If at any point on Saturday I shook your hand and tried to give you a Nebula Award, I hope you can understand — when I’m nervous, rehearsing make me feel better.

Please forgive me. Unless your name is Alaya Dawn Johnson, in which case, congratulations again on winning, and I’m very sorry I added three extra vowels to your first name. Ha ha ha, Alaya. It looked so damn easy on paper.

Anyways, the Nebulas. Super-big deal. The biggest names in the industry, gathered together to celebrate the very best writing of the year. And also to see and be seen, to socialize, discuss the big issues of the day, renew friendships, make new friends, gossip, catch up on all the news. Plus, to give out some Nebula Awards.

Derek Kunsken posted a fine summary of the weekend earlier today. After working with him for so many years, I was delighted to finally meet Derek for the first time, and he turned out to be just as articulate and entertaining in person. He wasn’t the only Black Gate writer to attend — I also caught up with Steven Silver, Jeremiah Tolbert, Tina Jens, and Beth Dawkins.

The highlight, of course, was the awards ceremony. And without any further ado, here’s a complete rundown on the winners.

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Blogging from the Nebulas Weekend

Sunday, June 7th, 2015 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

I’m in Chicago, at the 50th Annual Nebula Awards Weekend, and so far, it’s all pretty amazing. For Annihilation_by_jeff_vandermeerthose who don’t know, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America hold an annual Nebula Awards weekend that feels kind of like a very small fan con, except most of the attendees are SFWA members and networking and casual business discussion dominates.

My first Nebulas Weekend was in San José two years ago. Chicago is pretty impressive and the hotel, the Palmer House in downtown Chicago, is even moreso. And like at World Fantasy, attendees got loot bags upon arrival, provided by publishers. A small selection of by book bag contains: Tobias Buckell’s Sly Mongoose, an advance proof of Aliette de Bodard’s House of Shattered Wings, Daryl Gregory’s Afterparty, Ken Liu’s Grace of Kings, Nick Cutter’s The Acolyte and many more.

I don’t tend to go to as much programming as I used to at cons; I go more to meet editors, agents, publishers, and other writers, because hey, common interests. This weekend is an exception because the speakers are pretty uniformly the people who are steering the field itself.

I checked out a panel with Sheila Williams (Asimov’s) and Jacob Wiesman (Tachyon Press) about what editors are looking for. This is a bit in the same theme as Neil Clarke’s recent and excellent and data-based post about what he’s looking for at Clarkesworld. Based on the conversation, it struck me how much building Asimov’s each month is like building an anthology, where tone and editorial vision and story offering have to balance.

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Celebrating Pulp Fiction Magazines at Windy City Pulp & Paper

Monday, May 18th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

If you’ve been following Black Gate for any length of time, you’ve probably heard me mention the Windy City Pulp & Paper Show, my favorite local convention (my detailed report on the 2013 show is here).

It’s difficult to capture the scale and feel of a show like Windy City with a blog post, however. Fortunately, I was very pleased to discover an in-depth documentary on the show on YouTube. Created by Krovia TV and just released today, this twelve minute and 35 second video gives you a great sense of the scope of the show, and has some nice interviews with founder Doug Ellis, and several exhibitors and buyers, such as Tom Roberts of Black Dog Books, Steve Spilger, Tim Isaacson, Fred Taraba, and others. It’s a great way to get a taste of Windy City without leaving your comfy chair.

See the complete film here, or click on the clip above.

Goth Chick News: Super Heros, Zombies and Three Guys in Green Tights

Thursday, May 7th, 2015 | Posted by Sue Granquist

C2E2 Expo-smallIf you happened to be hanging out in downtown Chicago recently, perhaps enjoying the first wiff of a thaw in the air, then you also ran a fair chance of seeing Khaleesi riding the El train.

After all, April in the Windy City can only mean one thing.

It is once again time for the mother of all spandex parades, otherwise known as the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo (C2E2 for you cool kids).

Started back in 2010, C2E2 is a fan convention spanning the latest and greatest from the worlds of comics, movies, television, toys, anime, manga and video games. The 840K square foot show floor was packed light saber to body suit with literally hundreds of exhibitors, panels and autograph sessions. And though this year’s attendance has not yet been officially published, estimates place it at a record-breaking 60K plus.

As we have done for the prior four years, Black Gate photog Chris Z and I gleefully donned our official press passes (by far the coolest looking ones in the industry) and waded into the fray; in order to provide you a chance to peep at least a small portion of the sights too numerous to catalog.

Thanks to a pre-opening chat with perennial Goth Chick News fav, horror comic writer Dirk Manning, we were able to skirt the biblical-sized masses queued at the entrance and get an early look at show floor. The sheer number of booths dedicated to comics alone made me wonder (and later discover) the actual size of the domestic industry for comics and graphic novels, in dollars.

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