Monday, September 03, 2018


Writing for Twin Cities Geek

Hey. This is still here!

I haven't written here much, but I've started to write for Twin Cities Geek.  The articles that I've written are listed on my staff page

Sunday, August 20, 2017


Worldcon 75 WSFS Division Post-Con Report

Photo of Michael with Hugo by Fia Karlsson
It has been a long five year journey since I was one of a number that gave Eemeli Aro $20 at the Chicago Worldcon. I’ve been to Helsinki four times, made countless friends, had some relationships strengthened and others strained. I suppose this is to be expected for my most involved Worldcon convention volunteer experience, but overall it was a positive experience.

I was WSFS (World Science Fiction Society) Division Head for Worldcon 75. After being a part of the bid leadership I felt a natural obligation to participate as a DH for the con, and after many years working a large convention at home on CONvergence I wanted to work on something that would be unique for Worldcon, but also one that would work just as well based in America as in Europe. I’d also run Site Selection the year prior in Kansas City, so had some opportunity to gain experience going in, and learned much more through the process.

Because Worldcon 75 was filled with people that had never worked - and in many cases never even attended - a Worldcon before, WSFS Division served as a bit more institutional knowledge than I imagine it normally would. I hardly consider myself a Worldcon expert; many many people have attended or worked more - but for a variety of reasons we didn’t have others with much more knowledge on our committee so we managed the best we could. I wanted this to truly be a Finnish and Nordic Worldcon, and I think we achieved that goal, but figuring out how to get there was sometimes tricky.

I broke my leg two months before the convention. Fortunately I had healed up enough to be mostly mobile, but I was nowhere near 100%, and would occasionally just hit the wall with exhaustion. That meant things fell to others at times that I could not pick up, and I underestimated my own abilities. We should have planned for that with more assistance on site to help with some gopher talks.

Hugo Award Administration

I knew when I went for the WSFS DH that Nicholas Whyte was quite likely willing to be the Hugo Administrator, and given my previous experience with him at Loncon I was excited to work with him, and that was true throughout the entire time. The people that he chose all did an incredible job, and seeing Colette Fozard move on to become a Vice Chair stabilized the top of our organization and generally reduced my own stress about the convention.

Having the Hugo ceremony on night 3 instead of night 4 made night 3 busy with Site Selection counting and the Hugo ceremony, but it had a positive impact on the business meeting, as Hugo related business was handled after the award ceremony but not on the last day when people wanted to get out of town. I’m hopeful that the business meeting won’t need to spend as much time in post-Hugo deliberations in future needs, and I think there are valid reasons for both night three and night four depending on the tastes of each staff and the particular circumstances year to year.

One hiccup was that instead of printing more copies of the embargoed Hugo Results for after the ceremony, we had a bunch of additional Business Meeting agendas.  Printing extra copies of massive documents like that proved impossible on site by the time this was discovered, and provided for an unnecessary amount of stress. This might have been easier back home in the US.  We had sufficient copies for the business meeting and the results were swiftly posted online, so this wasn’t as poor as it could have been, and I know that not everyone likes to have all of the detailed results thrust upon them while leaving the ceremony.

Our partnership with events was good, and with what I saw they produced an outstanding ceremony. We could have prepared a little bit better for shipping Hugo Awards home, and I think some of the Award logistics (as opposed to the ceremony and reception) could have been a little easier. I’m not sure we have a great accounting of what needs to be produced for finalists or their expectations. We should have had one additional staffer available on Hugo night as Kate was unable to fully enjoy being a Hugo Acceptor because of a bunch of emergencies that sprung up at the last minute (such as the photo copy of results).


We delegated the selection of the base to the Chairs, as it was our strong opinion that the base be Finnish. I’m pleased with the result there.

Nicholas Whyte has done his own writeup, and I highly recommend that as well. [Part 1] [Part 2] [Hugo Packet Debrief]

Site Selection

We had done Site Selection for the Kansas City Worldcon, and we knew Dublin was unopposed, so much was easier there. I was happy that Johan Anglemark signed on as a Site Selection admin as I wanted to see someone Nordic in the division, and he did an outstanding job.

Despite some mild trolling I participated in of some people opposed to electronic site selection, we never seriously considered it. I’m convinced that generally the current method works for now, and given the political opposition I think there are  other ways to improve the process. Note that emailing signed scanned ballots to someone else to print out and hand carry is allowed.

Electronic validation of voters against the registration database is something that worked and can be improved for future Worldcon site selection. Carrying around all of that Personally Identifiable Information on paper at Kansas City was nerve wracking, and something that could be improved without changing the overall traditions of a paper based site selection. I gather we didn’t save Dublin as much time after receiving the data as we hoped, but that may be something that future Worldcons could improve.

We accepted Dublin’s Advance Supporting Membership rate without sufficient consideration; which had differing amounts in Euro and USD. This was an error, as people would want to shop for the rate that was cheaper when they mailed items in, and our credit card banking was in Euro. Currency rates are complicated, especially for mail in ballots.

WSFS Business Meeting

I suggest that the deadline for new business get pushed back two weeks. The current deadline was difficult due to travel arrangements, and it also means that items get added at the last minute without the opportunity to discuss before the convention.

We had a great deal of anxiety about the room size when we realized more people were going to show up to the convention than when we had chosen the room over a year ago. Fortunately, those concerns weren’t warranted and the room was ideal. Note that the Business Meeting is one that can’t turn people away due to WSFS constitutional requirements, and it’d been a disaster if we had been forced to swap with larger rooms.  (I pretty much lost a night of sleep in fear.)

We struggled a bit with our local tech team due to cultural and communication issues. They did their job well - but the Business Meeting is a strange and particular beast. The tech team did an outstanding job of which I am grateful - but I think it was more difficult for all of us than it should have been.

Having both online streaming (as provided by W75) and the official videographer provided by Lisa Hayes was useful. I think we need the truly permanent record to be provided by someone in the room, and as the Hugo ceremony demonstrated, streaming is still not always reliable (or viable!). There was some confusion and tension by having two teams, but I think recognizing two different sets of requirements and having a backup was good there. This was a meeting that had some potentially important moments in WSFS history so keeping a record is good.

The online CART translation worked reasonably well; I think it’s slightly more effective if you can have the CART transcriber in the room, but when finances or logistics do not allow it, it’s a good alternative to be aware of. I don’t think CART should be optional; accessibility demands something there.

In retrospect, we should have had a local person as part of the Business Meeting team as a liaison to handle all of the logistics of the room. They wouldn't have needed to be a Business Meeting expert ahead of time, but could have assisted with some of the mechanical tasks.

All of our top table staff were experts in their positions; I think it’d be good for future Worldcons to provide opportunities for new people to take on all the roles.

Having a printer in the room was a major win, as it could print one or two page additional reports effectively without needing to go elsewhere.

I am pleased we were able to have coffee. We had forgotten that we might need to explicitly order water, but they were able to provide that when we requested.


I am overall pleased with how things turned out. This took a greater emotional toll than I had expected, but in the end I feel mostly positive that our division worked well, and that the convention as a whole was successful.

I could not have done this at all without Kate Secor as my deputy DH, and it would be much more accurate to describe her as a co-head.  I believe every position in a convention committee should have at least one back up, and this was especially true here.

I also thank all of the people that were on the WSFS team at some point during our journey: Nicholas Whyte, Kathryn Duval, Colette Fozard, Brent Smart, Jo Van Ekeren, Johan Anglemark, Michael Pargman, Mark Linneman, Kevin Standlee, Don Eastlake, Linda Deneroff, Paul Dormer, and Lisa Hayes. 

I’d also like to thank honorary WSFS Division Members Hugo Ceremony Head Joshua Beatty, Con Office Head Phil Davies, DevOps DH Eemeli Aro and DevOps Project Manager Daria Medved.

We also had support from a variety of people that were on the Chairs team at some point during the two years before the convention, usually by staying out of our way. Thanks to Saija Aro, Colette Fozard, Jukka Halme, Crystal Huff, and Karoliina Leikomaa.

Also thanks to everyone in Design, Exhibits, Facilities, Finance, Programme, Social Media, Tech, and Web Team. If you think I forgot you, forgive me.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014


Really Early Registrations available!

We've just started to collect memberships for next year's JOFCon.

You can register at JOFCon Minneapolis 2015 Registration.  We have a limited supply of Really Early Registrations available (at the time of writing only twelve left!) -- and they'll only be at the $40 rate until they're all gone or we announce a hotel (which will be soon!).  

Saturday, September 27, 2014


JOFCon Minneapolis/St Paul October 9-11, 2015.

I'm now planning the second JOFCon to be held in the Twin Cities area on October 9-11, 2015. After six years on the CONvergence board of directors I wanted to have an event to discuss the various issues involved in helping to run SF and other geeky conventions. Interested in learning more? I've got a website all set up, and more information will be posted there.

Sunday, January 27, 2013



I'm headed to Capricon in a little less than two weeks and I'm on a bunch of panels.  A couple of them are outside of my traditional comfort zone, but I'm excited about that.  

It should be fun!

I Like Big Books and I Cannot Lie - Friday, 02-08-2013 - 4:00 pm to 5:30 pm - Botanic Garden B (Special Events - Programming)
Long novels are often reviled, but they give the author a change to build an extremely in depth world for readers to lose themselves in, as well as more time and space to develop realistic characters. Who makes the best use of all those words and pages? Why is longer better?
Michael Lee, Marah Searle-KovacevicJoy Ward (M)

Fandom a-GoGo: Fannish Productions - Saturday, 02-09-2013 - 10:00 am to 11:30 am - Botanic Garden B (Special Events - Programming)
For generations, fans have expressed their love of SF/F by making things like fanzines, fanart, fanfic, and fancasts that celebrate our genres and communities. These fans discuss their productions and others that you might want to check out.
James Bacon, Michael Lee (M), Lynne M. ThomasBen Yalow

The Obligatory 50th Anniversary Doctor Who Panel - Saturday, 02-09-2013 - 4:00 pm to 5:30 pm - Botanic Garden B (Special Events - Programming)
After 50 years, 11 Doctors, and 47 companions, what is there left to say about Doctor Who? Believe it or not, quite a lot, as our panelists will demonstrate.
Tonya Foust, Michael Lee (M), Rich Lukes, Jody Lynn NyeMichael D. Thomas

A Hard Hobbit to Break - Saturday, 02-09-2013 - 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm - Botanic Garden A (Special Events - Programming)
We've all seen a third of the movie: Bilbo! Gandalf!! Hot Singing Dwarves (with beards, not a euphemism)!!! Gollum!!!! Peter Jackson's J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle Earth is back! It's time to speculate about the forthcoming two thirds of the trilogy.
David Abzug, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Lee (M), Susan Stoltze, Tom Trumpinski - 

So Awful, It's Awesome: Guilty Pleasures - Saturday, 02-09-2013 - 8:30 pm to 10:00 pm - Birch A
Do you love mega sharks battling giant octopuses? Was Richard Grieco your favorite Loki? Is Sherlock Holmes better when he battles unbelievable CGI dinosaurs? These panelists talk about their favorite so bad it's awesome things from the past few years.
David Abzug, Tere de la Torre, Michael Lee, Dave McCarty (M), Leane Verhulst 

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Tuesday, January 08, 2013


My Arisia Schedule

For the second time, I'm going to Arisia out in Boston at the end of next week (January 18 - 21, 2013). I had a fantastic time last year, and this year I made sure I knew I was going long enough ahead of time to get on panels. I'm on a couple of panels:

Sunday 8:30pm
Doctor Who: The Dissertation of the Daleks — Media, Panel — 1hr 15min — Revere (2)
We continue our celebration of all things Who with a look at the Daleks, one of the Doctor's oldest and most persistent adversaries. Why are they so popular? When will they return? And how can they be stopped now that they don't need to climb stairs?
Samantha Dings, Forest Handford, Victoria Janssen, Michael Lee, Adam Lipkin (m)

Monday 10:00am
How Fans Hurt and Help Public Faces of Fandom — Fan Interest, Panel — 1hr 15min — Burroughs (3E)
Last year, Stephen King said Stephenie Meyer "can't write," and the "Twi-hards" came to defend her. Twilight boards were filled with reasonable discussions of the criticism, while sites like the Entertainment Weekly blog were filled with ill-informed attacks on King. Many fans have said they would never read the Twilight books because of the public image of Meyer's fanbase. How does the public face of fans help or hurt an author? Can fans do anything to change the perception of their fandom?
Randee Dawn, Shana Fuqua, Michael Lee, Paula Lieberman, Suzanne Reynolds-Alpert

I'm not throwing a party for CONvergence (or anything else) this year (I'm taking the year off of doing that) -- but I'm sure to be around the convention, volunteering (because you do), and finding ways to keep myself busy.

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Tuesday, September 04, 2012


Chicon 7 - Back from the Worldcon

I'm slowly recovering from my trip to Chicago over the weekend for Chicon 7, the 70th Worldcon. This was one of those conventions where most of the items of programming I got to were ones that I was participating in. All of the panels went well, though a few of them were in smaller rooms than they should have been; I was astonished that the Brit SF TV panel would be SRO at 9:00 AM, and of course a Doctor Who panel will frequently fill the room. The Star Wars panel I was on was quite possibly the best Star Wars panel I've been on, and one of my favorite panels at the con. First of all, I sat next to James Kahn, who wrote the Return of the Jedi novelization. When that novel first came out, I got it for my birthday, and so I read it before the film -- perhaps giving me my first experience with spoilers. My other favorite point on that panel was my realization when we discussed the impact of Star Wars on the world, that I said that without Star Wars, we would have had no ILM. Without ILM, we would not have had Pixar. No Pixar, Steve Jobs doesn't have had a second act after he leaves Apple for the first time, so he doesn't return to Apple. And therefore, without Star Wars, we would have no iPhones. Our other big endeavor of the weekend was the Minnesota Magpie room. We had GREAT help from Joel Philips, Jody Wurl, Eric Heideman, Matt Strait, Joe Pregracke, Matthew Gress and Missy Hayes, George Richard and Andy Murphy, and others as well. The parties went fantastically well in the evening, but I don't think any of our plans during the day were as successful. I'm OK with that, and I think much of that had to do with being on the top floor, but it will be worth considering for the future. It was also exciting to have multiple friends, previous CONvergence guests of honor, and future guests of honor visit our party, including several shortly after they had won the Hugo. We were frequently the last party going every night. One of the other real highlights for me as well was that I was able to talk to conrunners and fans from around the world -- they are becoming better friends and colleagues each time I see them, and I am very excited about the future of fandom. One of the things I like about the Worldcon is that it's been going on for nearly 75 years -- it's really the FIRST convention. I think there are some real challenges -- and I'm probably going to Dragon*Con next year instead of Texas for some of those reasons -- but I'll be in London in 2014, and I'm very excited to see Worldcon go to Kansas City in 2016.

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