Debarkle Chapter 29: Dramatis Personae — Mike Glyer & File 770

Our story begins before our protagonists do. In 1951, two years before Worldcon would host the first Hugo Awards, a party in a hotel room during the ninth Worldcon was sufficiently rowdy to attract the attention of the hotel detective. The party decamped to room 770 and carried on and on to apparently mythic levels fueled by gin and creme-de-menthe[1]. Aside from an unstoppable party, this New Orleans based con, also managed to snag the world premiers of The Day the Earth Stood Still and When World’s Collide[2] which overall sounds like an interesting Worldcon to visit with a time machine. The numbers ‘770’ took on an added meaning in fannish circles to indicate fan fun.

In the 1970s a young Los Angeles based fan, Mike Glyer, began writing for and editing multiple fanzines. His own fanzines either focused on the news (e.g. Organlegger, Sylmarrilion)[3] or on longer articles including reviews and opinion pieces (e.g. Prehensile)[4]. Produced variously from mimeographed copies to offset-printed, the fanzines mixed text and cartoons with fannish humour, reviews, gossip and the inner workings of fandom.

By the late 70s, Mike Glyer was becoming widely recognised as a fan writer and fanzine editor with fan award nominations and a role as a toastmaster at conventions. His longer-form fanzine Scientifriction[5] would win the FAAN Award for Best Fanzine Single issue in 1980 [6]. That particular edition (#11) opens with lots of comical one sentence examples of what the term “scientifriction” could mean. I was particularly struck by the prescience of one of the possible sources of fiction:

“It’s what occurs when you have a Westercon and a John Birch Society convention simultaneously, at the same hotel.”

Scientifriction #11 ed. Mike Glyer July 1979 https://fanac.org/fanzines/Scientifriction/Scientifriction11.pdf

That is not literally would happen in the events of the Debarkle but perhaps an apt metaphor for the events in the more virtual setting of the 2010s.

However, Glyer’s longest-running fanzine grew out of the earlier news focused fanzines. Entitled File 770 after the eponymous party room, the mimeographed newszine promised to cover events in fandom while noting that the ‘act of reporting on fandom is certain to offend a number of people.’ With that in mind the first issue outlined an editorial approach:

“As to FILE 770’s manner of presenting information, an editor is no better than his/her source. News will be attributed to its source. If I blow it, bitch at me. If my source blows it, just send me the facts and save your bitching for him. Those who wish to comment to me on a DNQ/DNP basis, mark the material accordingly. I will tend to regard everything else as permissable to print, if newsworthy. Concerning the objectivity of FILE 770, when you are riled up by its presentation, or by any opinion published therein, I’ll seldom refuse an interesting rebuttal. Boring rebuttors will be out of luck, but I feel that given the newszines opinion-influencing nature, my opinion should be just one of several available to you. (As this zine deveIops, I hope to find a group of commentators to take turns discussing the matters in fandom that affect them, and give them free rein — short of libel, of course…)”

Mike Glyer File 770 #1 January 6 1978 https://www.fanac.org/fanzines/File770/File77001-06.html?

The fanzine also offered some differences from other fan news coverage:

“The other changes in F770 from the usual, here you’ll find some premeditated effort to supply basic data. It won’t always be of general interest, I suspect, but it will be something you can use to formulate your own ideas about how fandom interacts, and how it is changing. On the side of graphics, I am soliciting photos for publishing — events at cons, close-ups of various fans.”

ibid

In later years Glyer would cite the fifth issue of File 770 as one of his favourite ones[7]. Among other topics, that issue carried a column by Dan Goodman critical of Harlan Ellison’s using his Guest of Honour spot at that years Worldcon to in Phoenix, to protest Arizona not ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment. The issue also carried dual columns by Victoria Vayne and Jeanne Gomoll arguing against and for the need for women-specific places in fandom. Glyer introduced the columns stating:

“If you are one of the fans who is not in the least curious about the progress of feminism in fandom you’re certainly not reading this. The rest of you will have noted in passing that one of the jobs I’ve had to take on as newzine editor is to dispell my own ignorance in this area. I had a lot of pointed questions based on the appearance of events in AWApa, Ellison ‘s ERA activities, and things like A Room of Our Own. I corresponded with several people on the topic, and asked the two of them to express their points of view for FILE 770. Victoria Vayne does so in the guise of her running column, while Jeanne Gomoll’s thoughts were specifically generated in reply to a letter of mine, but phrased for general reading, a point mentioned to explain the’direction of the essay she provided. They are presented in this order because it seems the way the finished pieces naturally fit.”

Mike Glyer File 770 #5 https://www.fanac.org/fanzines/File770/File77005.pdf

The point is not that the fanzine was a paragon of feminism or even progressive politics but rather that a newszine had a responsibility to engage with issues of the day and in the process, the editor had to get to grips with those issues also.

By 1980 File 770 had its first appearance as a Hugo Award finalist for Best Fanzine, competing against Locus magazine which had already won the Hugo in that category four times in the 1970s. Mike Glyer was also a finalist in the Best Fan Writer category. Over the next few years, both the fanzine and Glyer would be finalists in these categories. In 1984 File 770 won its first Hugo Award beating David Langford’s Ansible as well as Izzard, the fanzine created by Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden. File 770 would go on to be a repeat finalist and winner in multiple decades and Glyer a multi-award winning fan writer.

The challenge for a fanzine to continue to stay relevant across the changing generations of fandom was substantial. By the 20th anniversary edition of File 770, the typed layout had shifted to fully justified word-processed columns and next to the traditional fanzine postal address was a Compuserve email address. The format had changed in 1991 to a proper desktop publishing approach to take advantage of cheap photocopying rates[8].

The 20th-anniversary edition contained a guest editorial by E Michael Blake which considers the seismic shift in the medium of fan writing:

“A couple decades ago, there was some grumbling over technology changes that seemed to make fanzine publishing too easy, in the eyes of some — as though one had to master the arcana of mimeo, ditto or hecto in order to make a real fanzine. But photo-copying brought pubbing within the reach of a great many more people, and generally made it possible to use a wider variety of graphics. To me, as a sometime-reader of fanzines, it didn’t seem to make any end-user difference in what made a fanzine: the content and delivery systems were the same.
Does this mean that the controversy over paper-versus- website zines will similarly blow over? I don’t think so. Now, it appears, there is a radical difference in the delivery system and the potential for quite a lot of difference in content. From the end-user standpoint, this is probably terrific, if the end-user happens to be online — and, qualms over elitism notwithstanding, it seems likely that a great many end-users are, or eventually will be. Still, even if the trend ultimately favors web publishing, the fannish community should not actively encourage this byallowing webzines and paperzines to compete for the same award. There’s just too great a difference in kind.”

E Michael Blake File 770 #122 https://www.fanac.org/fanzines/File770/File770122-08.html?

The issue wasn’t a new one. In issue #116 in 1997, File 770 had been discussing the status of Sci-Fi Weekly a popular website that didn’t fit neatly into Hugo Award categories for magazines.[9]

File770 would gain its first webpage via Compuserve and an archive version dating back to the year 2000 is still available[10]. The website was essentially secondary to the fanzine and was there as a means to promote the fanzine. In 2004 Mike Glyer began contributing at Victor Gonzalez’s Truefen.net, a blog-like site dedicated to shorter fandom news with occasional longer features. The approach with truefen.net was to have a faster-moving approach than the format of traditional newszines. Glyer describes the symbiotic relationship between writing for both this blog format and File 770:

“Eventually Trufen.net may be universally read, but for now it still makes sense to run in File 770 things I already posted there. They will be new (if not “news”) to most of you. Having Trufen as an outlet, and Victor’s encouragement has definitely given new impetus to my fanwriting. I hope this will translate into several issues of File 770 in 2005. “

Mike Glyer File 770 #144 February 2005 https://efanzines.com/File770/File770-144.pdf

By File 770’s 30th anniversary edition, the fanzine had acquired a blog-style WordPress website with its own domain name [11] Yet, while technology and formats had changed, Glyer’s original mission with the fanzine had stayed consistent. Well sourced news, basic data, fan art and photos, along with occasional longer pieces. Consistent topics from the early days up to (and beyond) its shift towards a blog-style fanzine included Worldcon and the Hugo Awards, fan disputes, other fanzines, fannish disputes, popular culture, essays about Ray Bradbury, as well as the more sombre topic of fan obituaries. The fanzine had also always encouraged an active letters page. In the older versions, the fanzine would carry the postal addresses of contributors and in the era of email, the email addresses. In the age of blogs, the stories posted gained comment sections but the site also continued the tradition of publishing guest responses to previous stories. While the volume of content at the blog version of File 770 was variable for some time, from mid-2010 the number of posts per month would (with some wobbles) increase and increase.

Among those common topics, the Hugo Awards have a special place within File 770’s repertoire of topics. Aside from the number of times both the fanzine and its editor have been a finalist or have won Hugos, the longevity of the fanzine and its consistent coverage of the awards, the associated data, as well as the various events and controversies surrounding them and Worldcon, made the fanzine a key place for Hugo news over the years. In turn, the Hugo Awards as an expression of trends and cultural changes within science fiction helped shape File 770 as a fanzine.

The milestone 150th issue in June 2007 illustrates those connections. This was the year that Worldcon was hosted in Japan but to many people’s surprise, there was little impact on the set of finalists from Japanese fans. Also of concern was the surprising gender breakdown of the finalists that year:

“In fact, there are people all over the Web asking if the composition of the 2007 final ballot means democracy also has failed in domestic fandom. This year just one of 20 nominated works of fiction is by a woman, Her Majesty’s Dragon, a novel by Naomi Novik. What happened? “

Mike Glyer File 770 #150 June 2007 https://efanzines.com/File770/File770-150.pdf

The gender imbalance was not just some lingering impact of institutionalised sexism. As Glyer noted the result was notable for how male-skewed it was compared to past results:

“I would expect there to be some relation between gender and what people think is the best sf. But if male readers exclusively nominate women who write masculine adventures, how did it come to pass that in 1993 literally half the fiction nominated for the Hugo — 10 of 20 works — was by women? Or that fiction by women earned 72 Hugo nominations between 1993 and 2006? Or that five especially successful women accounted for 35 of the nominations — Lois McMaster Bujold, Nancy Kress, Maureen McHugh, Ursula K. LeGuin and Connie Willis – and not always for “masculine adventures.” i

ibid

The 2007 Hugo Awards had another contentious finalist: John Scalzi. As a high profile professional author, his nomination for Best Fan Writer. This was the same year that he had made a bid to be SFWA President as a write-in candidate. When other fan writers had taken exception to him appearing as a finalist, many had felt the pushback online from many of Scalzi readers was unwarranted.

“This category has not been used to reward nonfiction by well-known sf writers since its earliest years. History shows the Best Fan Writer Hugo for many years now has been generally used to honor a segment of our community who are not “working professional writers.” Scalzi started trailing his coat for a Best Fan Writer nomination on February 7 when he argued, “Nominating well-known pros could make the category more competitive.” Why are we supposed to need his help? Because, said Scalzi, the Best Fan Writer category is “desperately moribund.” After all, it’s had the same winner every year since 1989.”

ibid [12]

The category did not become dominated by professional authors in later years, although the distinction between fan writer and professional writer also became blurred in other ways as people found new ways to earn money from writing online.

In that same issue Glyer pointed to a key aspect of how the Hugo Awards and voting for the Hugo Awards were changing:

“When I became a fan in the early 70s it was possible for someone willing to invest the time to read most of the fiction eligible for a Hugo. For one reason: nearly all short sf and many of the novels appeared in a few prozines. However, there was never a time when that kind of complete familiarity with the field was an implicit prerequisite for voting. By now, most of us have accommodated ourselves to a prolific genre that publishes so many works so widely distributed (online and well as in print), that we will never have the time and money to read more than a part of it.”

ibid

The curve of this history of a fanzine and its editor bends back towards the Debarkle. In 2013, File 770 naturally was covering events in what I have been calling the SFWA civil war (see proceeding chapters). Mike Glyer was not wholly impressed with Vox Day:

“Vox Day sounds just like one of those overly talky, self-congratulatory villains from a 1940s serial, and his flock of followers could profit from a dose of what Manly Wade Wellman used to write about.”

http://file770.com/behind-the-kefuffle-kurve/

A year later the site was covering Day’s expulsion having followed events in the preceding months[13].


It is time to start pulling the strands together.

Larry Correia’s Sad Puppy 2 campaign led to coverage of his attempts to win a Hugo at File 770 (see chapter 26) and some unhappiness from Correia about the subsequent attention. However, if I can pick one point where the various strands start to really coalesce in a way that presages 2015, a File 770 story in April 2014 helps illustrate the process.

Amid the multiple controversies around the SFWA, author John C. Wright announced in his signature style that he was leaving the organisation. File 770 had the story:

“Wright’s resignation prompted Brad R. Torgersen, a Hugo nominee in 2012 and a double-nominee in 2014 with an assist from Larry Coreia’s “Sad Puppies” campaign, to declare that he will be leaving SFWA too:”

http://file770.com/wright-quits-sfwa-torgersen-to-follow/

Mike Glyer was surprised to note a comment from former Former SFWA President Michael Capobianco telling Wright that recent events with the Hugo Awards had nothing to do with the SFWA. While true, Glyer was puzzled why Capobianco would think Wright wouldn’t know that.

However, the confusion was more widespread. At Larry Correia’s blog, commenters also were confusing the Hugo Awards with the Nebulas and seeing the events at the SFWA as inherently tied to the Correia’s Hugo Award campaign[13] In the comments at File 770, Wright turned up to defend stridently his use of ‘man’ as a generic term for people.

Of the internet arguments we have covered so far, they have all been spread across multiple places. However, each of them had a few places where the discussion was most intense. For RaceFail, the network of LiveJournal sites provided one of the more distributed examples. For Gamergate, the imageboard 4chan and 8chan as well as the subreddit KotakuInAction were major loci. For the SFWA its own forums and an older legacy forum were key sites.

However, the Hugo Awards with its lack of a single organising focus and quasi-anarchic structure didn’t have an obvious natural online home for discussion. In the past, this role had been played by the slower-speed process of fanzines carried physically by post. What would happen in the online decade of the 2010s if the Hugo Awards were to have its own online fight on the scale of the SFWA wars or at the scale of RaceFail, of (the gods of fandom forbid) on the scale of Gamergate? Where would that play out?

Time would tell.

Next Time: Meanwhile…Requires Only That You Hate


Footnotes

40 thoughts on “Debarkle Chapter 29: Dramatis Personae — Mike Glyer & File 770

  1. Note: with the other Dramatis Personae chapters you saw the first draft. I did share an incomplete draft with Mike Glyer (up to about 2000) because Wiki etc were short on facts and I wanted to confirm some details. That shouldn’t be taken to mean that this chapter was endorsed or authorised by Mike Glyer, just that this is more draft 1.5.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. When World’s Collide[2] which -> When Worlds Collide,[2] which

    Second sentence about Scalzi is a fragment. And it’s not wrong, but suggest you turn “favorite ones” into “favorites”.

    This is a lovely palate cleanser, thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Your sentence:

    As a high profile professional author, his nomination for Best Fan Writer.

    seems to be missing something.
    Sorry for the nitpick but it jumped out at me.

    Like

  4. “In that same issue Glyer pointed to a key aspect of how the Hugo Awards and voting for the Hugo Awards was chaning:”

    → “changing”

    Like

  5. [Prev attempt vanished?]

    In that same issue Glyer pointed to a key aspect of how the Hugo Awards and voting for the Hugo Awards was chaning:

    * “changing”

    Like

  6. Trying again, no idea where the first comment went.

    When World’s Collide[2] which -> When Worlds Collide,[2] which

    And it’s not wrong, but shortening “favourite ones” to favourites” might be a good idea.

    Great palate cleanser, thanks!

    Like

  7. I still can’t see fancyclopedia as anything other than fancy clopedia, no matter how many times you link to it.

    Every time I wonder why this la di da encyclopedia has so many entries on obscure SF fandom topics.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. I first saw Mike at Aussiecon in 2010 at a panel about fanzines which had a wideranging discussion about the forms of delivery (mimeograph, print, vs online) & their future, which I found fascinating. I was too chicken to go up to say hello, something I regret. But I didn’t become a regular File770 visitor until Sad Puppies & it has become a regular haunt ever since.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Well Scalzi did have a point. David Langford won Best Fan Writer from 1989-2007, 18 years, and he was a professional SFF author to boot. So that award was moribund and the stance about pro writers versus “real” fans was hypocritical. It simply isn’t possible to draw a sharp line between fans and professional authors selling their stuff who are also fans. The pro authors have an advantage in the Internet age of large platforms/followings but the advantage isn’t that different from ye old days when those who could afford to do the printed fanzines and distribute them among the regular convention crowd and SFF category media had the advantage of that.

    As for the 1970’s stuff on the ERA, etc., I know there were various well meaning bits at the time but I just look back at the whole thing with rage. To have your rights to be seen and treated as an equal human being debated — that’s the whole concept of marginalization and a host of bigoted evils. None of it should have been a debate and most of it wouldn’t have been if people didn’t cling to repression as security and status. That it’s still a debate (including the recent Puppies) remains enraging and scary.

    Anyway, I do totally agree that File 770 became the fandom home center of the discussion/debate of the Puppies. But unlike some of the other past forums for past battles where it just sort of happened, Glyer had to do an enormous amount of organization, coordination, fact checking, etc. simply to just cover what was going on. So kudos to him and the ones helping him. The 2016 Fan Writer Award was hard earned.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. I hope I’ll be able to look at the how & why of that. It’s interesting how Making Light was were a lot of the ‘action’ was initially but Mike’s consistent (& fair coverage – even Correia recognised that initially) meant that it was the natural place. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ve always found the interface at Making Light to be visually difficult to read. And rather than the posts there being a round-up of news and thoughts in the main post, that is scattered all through the comments and it’s hard to keep scrolling up and down to find the comment numbers referenced in later comments. I think the numbered Scroll items referenced in comments really help with that. ML also doesn’t do the comment notifications which help me stay up with a thread, and because of that it also doesn’t have the “Reply to comment” capability. Which is too bad, because I would keep up with the posts and comments there if it were as easy to do so as it is with File 770.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. People insist to me that those two words even sound different but my mind insists that they are a single word with two related meanings. Location is existence and temporality is location. It’s not that MY spelling is wrong, it’s everybody else’s view of reality.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I would have thought that the two words differed in the pronunciation of the initial consonant in some dialects (I was thinking Northumbrian, but Wikipedia says that the wine-whine merger hasn’t occurred in the English dialects of Scotland, Ireland, and a belt in the USA that looks as if it might correspond to Scots-Irish influence), but referring to a dictionary I find that the vowels (presumably in RP) are different; ‘were’ has a long unrounded open-mid central vowel (a short unrounded mid-central vowel when unstressed) and ‘where’ has an unrounded open-mid front to unrounded mid-central diphthong. Google’s not enthusiastic about informing about dialectal variation in the pronunciation of these words.

        Trying introspection, it seems as if I do articulate the initial consonant differently.

        Like

    1. Hhampus Heckerman from Sthockholm
      Whas feeling tired, bitther and rock oldh
      Sitting at his bhed
      While shakhing his head
      He remained silently staringh at a sock hhole

      Liked by 4 people

    2. Would you consider a double dactyl?

      Higgledy-piggledy,
      Hhampus-ey Heckerman
      Reviews that terrible
      Canine-ey stuff.

      Certainly his work is
      Scientifictional.
      Seems like the del Arroz
      Could take some notes.

      (100% extemporaneous, so hey, please give me a break. Double dactyls are hard.)

      Like

  10. > That is not literally would happen in the events of the Debarkle but perhaps an apt metaphor for the events in the more virtual setting of the 2010s.

    This sentence seems to be missing a word…

    but not a wohrd.

    Like

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