Monday 25 March 2024

Call for submissions - Journey Planet "Workers' Rights In SFF" Fanzine

If science fiction has siblings, one of them would be the labour union movement. Both are children of the industrial revolution, when technological progress was creating new types of work and new types of workers, forcing people to confront what that meant. Both are focused on the impacts of change and how we adapt.

We're pleased to be guest editing the
fanzine Journey Planet.

From William Morris' News From Nowhere to Ursula K. le Guin's The Dispossessed, the genre has played with what work means and how humans collaborate in times of change.

We invite people to explore the (sometimes troubled) relationship between labour and science fiction in an upcoming edition of the fanzine Journey Planet.

We are interested in a range of topics in various formats, from broad issues such as the depiction of the management class in space opera, to more narrowly focused analysis such as how Star Trek: Deep Space Nine can offer a model for collective action, as well as the real-world practicalities of exploitative labour practices in fandom-related employment. Reviews, short essays, fiction, art — it's all welcome.

With an anticipated publication date set for American Labour Day (September 2, 2024), we need to have your proposals submitted by May 30, with final copy to the editors due by July 15.

Yours in solidarity,
Olav & Amanda 
Send us your article and art pitches at

Thursday 21 March 2024

A Tribute To Vernor Vinge

Even if you haven't read anything that Vernor Vinge wrote, you've likely read something that was inspired by his work. He was a titan in his field and his work spoke to fans around the globe.
This blog would likely not exist
without Vernor Vinge’s novel
A Deepness In The Sky.
(Photo by Olav Rokne)

When he died yesterday, his influence could be found in almost every corner of science fiction.

Vinge began writing science fiction when he was a teenager, penning the story “Bookworm Run!” while a senior in high school in 1962. It’s a story that appeared in print four years later, about the machine-human interface and the creation of a cyborg. Interestingly, it foreshadows much of Vinge’s career.

Cyborgs had, of course, been a science fiction staple for almost four decades by the time “Bookworm Run!” was written. Up to this point, cybernetic augmentation was depicted as either improving the physical abilities of the human, or challenging their self-identity (as in “No Woman Born” by CL Moore). In contrast, and as he would do often throughout his career, Vinge tried to imagine what it would be like for a human to think better.

“I had tried a straightforward extrapolation of technology, and found myself precipitated over an abyss,” he said about the story four decades after he’d written it. “It’s a problem writers face every time we consider the creation of intelligences greater than our own.”

In an era of punch-card readers and memory measured in dozens of bits, Vinge recognized the potential of computers in a way that most of his peers did not.

He earned his PhD in computer science at the University of California San Diego in 1971, studying conformal maps (functions that locally preserve angles, but not necessarily lengths), writing a thesis on Solutions to Extremal Problems in E^p Spaces. He began teaching computer science at San Diego State University later that year, which became the focus of his academic career.

Over the decades, Vinge became known for stories about enhanced cognition through consciousness uploading (“True Names”), machine-human cooperation (The Peace War), alternate-architecture group consciousness (Amdi in Fire Upon The Deep), virally-altered brain chemistry (Deepness In The Sky), and many more.

 In 1962 when Vinge started writing about computers,
the most powerful computer on Earth was the
Atlas 2 in Manchester UK. It had a 48-bit core memory.
(Image via Chilton Computers)
These ideas of altered and elevated consciousness dovetailed nicely with another of Vinge’s other major themes: the technological singularity, or the idea that more intelligent computers will drive the creation of even faster computers until progress advances so quickly it can no longer be understood.

“Singularity is the point at which our old models will have to be discarded, where a new reality will reign,” Vinge wrote. “This is a world whose outlines will become clearer, approaching modern humanity, until this new reality obscures surrounding reality, becoming commonplace.”

One of these forays into singularitarianism helped launch an entire subgenre of science fiction. First appearing in a Dell paperback alongside George R.R. Martin’s Nightflyers, the story True Names offered a blueprint for cyberpunk that would influence and inspire everything from blockbuster movies to role playing games and television series.

Perhaps just as prescient are passages like the scene at the end of A Deepness In The Sky, when Trixia Bonsol asserts the value of neurodiversity, and the right of individuals to have differing experiences of consciousness. Bonsol is one of a number of characters whose consciousnesses become chained by the villainous Emergents; her will subsumed by neurochemical conditioning such that her brain becomes a living computer. Because her brain has become “focused” on the task that she’s best at (translation), she is no longer neurotypical.

Trixia’s decision at the end of the novel to remain focused is quietly a revolutionary act that can be read as celebrating the value, independence, and agency of those on the autism spectrum.

Vinge is often praised for his wide-ranging imagination and for exploring weird, wonderful, and unique science fictional concepts. He should also be recognized for being ahead of his time on some political matters and his centering the better natures of humanity. He was critical of South Africa’s apartheid regime when many looked the other way. And he was never as reactionary as some right-wing fans wanted him to be.

Vinge accepted the Hugo for Best Novel in
Chicago in 2000 for Deepness In The Sky.
(Image via Midamericon)
“Every anarchical scheme has some set of assumptions for why people will cooperate (you can usually spot the assumption in the names: anarcho-communism, anarcho-capitalism…),” he once wrote. “There’s a fundamental problem all such plans must face: how to prevent the formation of power groups large enough to in fact be the government.”

Vinge’s last Hugo-winning novel Rainbows End is set next year. Published in 2006, the book correctly predicted Uber-like micro-transactions, and widely-available wireless broadband, and the ability for hackers to track everyone via the signals emitted by their devices. Sadly, the ubiquitous use of augmented reality goggles, driverless cars, and a cure for Alzheimer’s all remain on the horizon.

Despite his influence, Vinge was never going to be a household name outside of the genre. His writing was inescapably fannish, he was one of us, and he will be missed. 

Monday 4 March 2024

Open Discussion — What's worth considering for the ballot in 2025?

The following list will be updated over the next few months as we read, watch, and listen to Hugo-eligible works for 2025. These are not necessarily what we plan to nominate, but rather works that at least one member of the Edmonton Hugo Book Club has enjoyed and believes to be worth consideration. We appreciate any additional suggestions in the comments.

Updated on April 12, 2024 

Items marked with a “*” are ones for which there was significant disagreement within the book club. 

Womb City — Tlotlo Tsamaase
The Siege of Burning Grass — Premee Mohamed
Service Model — Adrian Tchaikovsky

Saturation Point — Adrian Tchaikovsky
The Tusks of Extinction — Ray Nayler
The Practice, the Horizon, and the Chain — Sofia Samatar


Short Story
Rail Meat — Marie Vibbert
Nigerian Dreams — Wole Talabi

The Trials of Empire — Richard Swan
The Tyrant Philosophers — Adrian Tchaikovsky

Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) 
Monarch: Legacy of Monsters S01E10 "Beyond Logic"
Halo S2E4 "Reach"
Fallout S1E8 "The Beginning"

Dramatic Presentation (Long Form) 
Dune Part 2*
Civil War

Best Game or Interactive Work
Helldivers 2 — Arrowhead Game Studios

Best Editor

Fan Writer
Ann Michelle Harris
Arturo Serrano
Paul Weimer
Phoebe Wagner
Mikkel Snyder
Brian Collins
Alasdair Stuart
RiverFlow 河流
Bonnie McDaniel
Jason Sanford

Fan Artist
Dante Luiz

Unofficial Hugo Book Club Blog
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