Spokane will be the center of science fiction and fantasy next week. The World Science Fiction Convention comes to Spokane for its annual event Wednesday through Sunday. While the city welcomes guests, it also plays host to a controversy among insiders.
People call the SciFi Convention Worldcon, or this year in Spokane, ‘Sasquan’. It’s the largest convention since the Davenport Grand convention-style hotel open. Organizers say upwards of 5,000 science fiction writers and fans will attend the Spokane event.
Whitmore: “We have a dealers room where people will… we have program items where people talk about science fiction and fantasy… we have the Hugo Awards which are science fiction’s oldest continuous award series. Carries a great deal of prestige.”
Tom Whitmore, head of publicity, spoke to me over Skype and explained the twist in this year’s awards. Normally their 10,000 members nominate freely, but this year two writers groups formed a coalition to lobby for certain scifi works.
Whitmore: “And they were very successful in getting the nominations out there. This was not against any of the rules, it’s just not what’s been done in the past, it was against social norms.”
And, he says, it has upset a lot of other members. Critics say these writer groups want to make the nominees more homogenous like the genre used to be, ie: winners would be less diverse.
That doesn’t sit well with one very-well known, award winning female writer. Vonda McIntyre will be a guest author at the convention.
McIntyre: “The most amazing writer going when I first started was Samuel R. Delaney…”
A science fiction writer who’s black, and gay.
McIntyre: “He’s still an amazing writer, but he just burst on the scene with just amazing stuff that was completely different from a lot of things… But I don’t think SF has ever been as homogenous as some folks are saying.”
McIntyre started writing in the 1970’s, following the small wave of the first female science fiction writers to write openly. She has won the Hugo award and several Nebula awards, earning both for her 1979 novel Dreamsnake.
Sasquan also features guests like David Gerrold who wrote episodes of Twilight Zone and Star Trek, and visits through video from NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren who is aboard the international space station.
Worldcon, or Sasquan, tickets are sold by the day, with events at the Spokane Convention Center. Hugo awards are announced on Saturday the 22nd.
Copyright 2015 Spokane Public Radio