Monday, May 28, 2012

Nebula Weekend – second part

When my sister picked me up Friday night, she said that plans had changed, and mom didn’t seem strong enough to travel. My mother is 81, and she would probably have to be feeling her best both mentally and emotionally to make the trip. After I saw her, I agree it was better for her to stay put. Although she is not feeble, she is not very strong either. My sister was nice enough to reimburse me for my mother’s plane ticket.
For Saturday, my sister drove me to the hotel in time for the SFWA business meeting at 11 a.m. While grabbing a snack beforehand I actually met Rachel Swirsky. The meeting itself was tame. John Scalzi said that despite appearances to the contrary he doesn’t intend to run for president next year, and he urged people to step forward in the next election. Which when you look at things is pretty stupid, because the current SFWA junta is a tight-knit bunch and like with any other inbred social organization, they will just swap jobs amongst each other. I’m sure Mary Kowal will be “asked” to be President next year – just like she asked Swirsky to be Vice-President this year - or maybe Swirsky herself will be asked to be President, or someone else from the usual suspects. Scalzi can just keep the job in perpetuity, I don’t think anyone cares any more. After the reception I received to my candidacy, I knew I didn’t want to play their rigged carny game, which is why I dropped my campaign for V-P and concentrated on organizing SASS. That way I have a speculative fiction group where I will feel at home.
The elections administrator, Lawrence Schoen, did announce the results – no surprise in the outcome. Scalzi had no opposition for President, and the rest of the establishment candidates all won, Swirsky for Vice-President Ann Leckie for Secretary, Bud Sparhawk for Treasurer and Jim Fiscus for West Coast rep. I’m not sure it would be fair to call Sparhawk and Fiscus truly establishment types – as older white males they really don’t fit the profile for the Khmer Rouge PC-politics that dominates the SFWA’s opinion leaders – but I suppose they’re tolerated as tokens. Swirsky and Leckie were no brainers in this crowd.
Schoen did not offer any election totals, but did report that 395 ballots were cast (out of 1,314 active members who are eligible to vote, or about 30 percent). Strangely enough, of those ballots, 110 were “spoiled” meaning they were cast improperly. One member of the audience asked what the reason was. Schoen said most of the spoiled ballots were caused because people didn’t follow the directions and seal the ballot ALONE in its envelope, they also sealed the cover sheet in the ballot envelope The ballot was supposed to be sealed separately so as to be anonymous, and accompanied by the cover sheet in the return envelope.
I really don’t know why so many people made this mistake. I can only suppose that contested elections are so uncommon in SFWA that people are not familiar with the process.
Before the meeting I had told both Scalzi and Schoen that I expected to get 30 votes. After the business meeting I buttonholed Schoen and asked for the totals in my race. I am somewhat proud I was close with my estimate, I got 40. Swirsky got 240, and there was a write-in vote for Lee Martindale. No other results have been announced or posted any place, I really don’t think anyone cares.
Schoen said he had tried to call me beforehand with the outcome, but when he told me what his area code was, I realized I had seen the phone number but didn’t answer it because, like so many people, I use the caller ID to screen calls, and there was no name on his caller ID.
The rest of the business meeting involved a report on finances, and the notice that dues will be going up next year. There was also a long discussion on an outfit called Tekno books, and also Night Shade Books. The gist is that Tekno is a company that’s gone on a long downhill slide for the past decade, especially since its key man, Martin Greenberg, died last year, and the lines of financial responsibility have become very confused. Night Shade was on probation with SFWA for a year, is now off probation, but is struggling like so many other small presses. Everyone seems to have nothing but sympathy for Night Shade.
There was no new business or really much discussion at the meeting. I think there were maybe fifty active members there.
After catching a light lunch in the con suite, I attended the panel on infectious diseases at 1 p.m. It was moderated by Anatoly Belilovsky and the panelists included Danielle Friedman, David W. Goldman, Marianne Porter, and Sam Scheiner. Everyone has some kind of background in medicine and/or epidemiology. Anatoly actually prepared a handout with a list of web resources for people who want to keep up on the subject, and the slides were very informative. Prior to the weekend, I had agreed to be interviewed by Jim Freund with Hour of the Wolf, who was doing a radio workshop that afternoon. I forgot to write down the time, but I thought I remembered it correctly as 2:30, and I left the panel on infectious diseases early to go to the workshop. As it happened, I was an hour off, it was supposed to be 3:30, but I stayed and enjoyed what of the workshop I attended. Many years ago, in the early 1980s, when I was the swing shift manager at the Columbia University student center, Ferris Booth Hall, I met Jim because of WBAI’s holiday crafts festival. He was the festival’s security manager. I don’t think I had seen him in person since 1983, but he was still instantly recognizable. We got caught up, and after he was done with the students in his workshop, we had the radio interview. Some of the students in the workshop included Tom Doyle, Alethia Kontis – who was prepping for a book tour – and Siobhan Carroll. There was at least one other person there, but I didn’t catch her name. We were done about 4 p.m., I believe. In my next post, I will cover the actual Nebula awards banquet.

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