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Out-of-this-world event hits town

Sci-fi juggernaut Worldcon likely to draw thousands, even amid Hugo controversy

Author George R.R. Martin is scheduled to appear at Sasquan on Aug 21 and 22. (Associated Press)
Author George R.R. Martin is scheduled to appear at Sasquan on Aug 21 and 22. (Associated Press)

Worldcon is an annual celebration of all things science fiction and fantasy, and that it’s beaming into the Inland Northwest next week is a pretty big deal. Each year’s Worldcon gets its own unique moniker, and this one has been dubbed Sasquan, an allusion to the mythical beast Sasquatch.

But the convention heads to Spokane with something of a controversy swirling about it. Worldcon is home to the Hugos, generally considered to be the most prestigious awards for sci-fi and fantasy literature, and its nomination process has recently come under fire.

A group of mostly conservative male writers known as the Sad Puppies have been accused of deliberately dominating this year’s ballots with works that its critics have deemed politically and socially retrograde. The Puppies have charged the Hugos with choosing authors through means of affirmative action, as opposed to rewarding the best work.

This uproar has resulted in a heated back-and-forth between genre traditionalists and those appealing for diversity. Even “Game of Thrones” writer George R.R. Martin weighed in on the situation.

“This is a nasty, nasty fight, and anyone who speaks up, on either side of this, risks being savaged,” Martin wrote on his blog. “I think the Sad Puppies have broken the Hugo Awards, and I am not sure they can ever be repaired.”

But there is a silver lining to all of the hostility: Martin is still scheduled to appear at Sasquan, and he’ll be hosting a discussion with author Robert Silverberg on Aug. 21 and signing autographs Aug. 22.

“From talking and emailing with various friends and colleagues, however, I know that some of them will not be going to Spokane,” Martin wrote. “Will this (Worldcon) be a celebration or a battleground? A family reunion or a family feud? … I’m hoping for ‘celebration’ and ‘family reunion,’ and I think that’s the best bet.”

Hopefully the camaraderie of the event and its participants will assuage some of the conflict. Past Worldcons have drawn huge crowds, with last year’s convention in London bringing out some 10,000 folks. Tickets – or “memberships,” as they’re referred to here – can be purchased for the entire five-day event or for individual days. Those who purchase memberships will be able to vote for both the Hugos and the site of upcoming Worldcons.

Over the course of Sasquan’s five days, the convention offers up a dizzying variety of events. There will be author and illustrator signings, readings, art shows, cosplay contests, film screenings, panel discussions, after parties and even a “prom.”

Some of the con’s guests of honor include illustrator Brad Foster, “Star Trek” and “Twilight Zone” writer David Gerrold and novelist Vonda N. McIntyre. NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren will also make an appearance, but not in person: He’ll be calling in from the International Space Station, which couldn’t be more appropriate.


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