The Editor’s Rant: Issue #25

by Michael D. Pederson

 

Sometimes I feel that I (and the rest of fandom) spend too much time looking back and not enough time looking forward. It’s easy to forget that science fiction should have us looking forward; instead we get lured into the warm embrace of the past. We speak longingly of conventions and fanzines past and sometimes forget that we’re carrying the torch forward for the next generation.

I’m often critical of fandom doing this but I know that I’m equally as guilty—we hate first in others that which we hate most in ourselves. Twelve years ago, I was in the foreground trying to persuade MarsCon to expand beyond its small, cozy relaxacon status and grow so that it didn’t shrink and go under the way many other conventions had in the late nineties and early oughts. Now that it’s grown, I find myself nostalgically missing the comfortable camaraderie of the early days. My own RavenCon has tripled in size in the last ten years and I find myself missing the days when I knew almost every attendee by name.

It’s comforting to look back, but as a community let’s all vow to save the fond recollections and minor regrets for the days when we’re no longer active participants and have passed the torch to another generation. We are currently experiencing an enormous growth spurt in fandom and, true, it might not be the fandom that we grew up with but darn it, let’s embrace it and make it the best new fandom that we can. Superhero movies, cosplay, anime, and video games have brought a whole new type of geek into fandom. I choose to believe that this is a good thing. It’s hard not to believe it when you see the energy and creativity that is bursting from this new generation.

And it swings both ways. I’m excited to see numerical gender equality and racial diversity at conventions now but in no way should we be ashamed of the “old white guys” that started fandom. I’m happy that so many of them are still active. Hell, I’m quickly becoming one of them myself. We’re fandom—we shouldn’t be breaking into competing camps of old versus young. We may look competitive in the online news feeds, but in the real world, I’m happy to say, that fandom is still a very welcoming entity. I can’t wait to see what we look like in another ten years!

 

The Editor’s Rant: Issue #24

by Michael D. Pederson

 

Recent events have turned me introspective. What function do I serve in fandom? Have I been successful?

After years of being told that I should make it to a CorFlu (the annual convention for science fiction fanzines), I was finally able to attend one. Not only was it in my home town, but it was in the same hotel that I host RavenCon at every year! How could I not attend?

The first night of the convention Warren Buff suggested that I join him and Curt Phillips as a panelist on the “Southern Fandom Classic” panel. Even though we were in Virginia, there were very few southern fans in attendance. I was happy to oblige and it turned out to be a fun and informative panel—we covered the history of southern fandom, it’s current state, and speculated about its future.

I spoke (rather eloquently, if I do say so myself) about how RavenCon has (simply because of it’s geographical location) served as a bridge between northern and southern fandoms—drawing fans equally from both the northeast and the southeast, something that would have been almost unheard of as recently as fifteen years ago. Later in the panel I mentioned that I feel obligated to act as a similar type of bridge between the generations of fandom.

We’re currently in the middle of the biggest growth spurt that fandom has ever experienced and most of that growth is coming from teens and young adults. Some old-school fans have lamented that as nice as it is to see this kind of growth, they’re afraid that it’s no longer “their fandom”. When we first started RavenCon, one of our main goals was to attract a younger crowd while still running a traditional SF convention. Our attendance passed 1100 this year so I think we’ve been successful at that.

The RavenCon staff puts on a convention that draws younger and younger crowds every year and hasn’t lost any of the appeal to the 40-and-up crowd. I’m proud to say that we’re one of the few conventions that Filthy Pierre attends every year; Filthy’s Con Calendar at the back of each issue of Asimov’s is what first drew fandom to my attention over thirty years ago.

Have I been as successful with Nth Degree? The jury’s still out on that but I expect that we’ll never be more than a footnote in the history of fanzines and SF literature. I just hope that people enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy putting it together. So, here it is…

 

The Editor’s Rant: Issue #23

by Michael D. Pederson

 

We’re changing. Again. Yep, many of you have probably already noticed that I’ve ditched the Nth Zine logo and have gone back to Nth Degree.

Why? Well, originally when I started the online zine (Nth Zine) it was intended to be a companion piece for the traditional printed zine (Nth Degree). The two were meant to co-exist, each complementing the other. Then there was a large increase in paper costs and postage rates that made it difficult to continue printing Nth Degree. The plan at that time was to keep the online version going and put out occasional “special” issues of the print zine. However, life tends to get in the way of plans.

Since the financial crash of 2008, it has been increasingly difficult to find work in my chosen field of graphic design which has, in turn, created my own financial crash. This has also coincided with the rise of online publishing. Together, the two factors have almost guaranteed that Nth Degree will exist solely as an online publication from now on.

In my heart of hearts I still think of the entire project as Nth Degree, so for the sake of tradition I have returned to the old and much-beloved original title. Perhaps one day we will return to print publication, and if we do we can revive the title of Nth Zine for online pubbing. But for now, I’m happy to announce that Nth Degree is back. I will, in fact, be going back and rebranding all of the old Nth Zines to fit into the Nth Degree numbering system.

On a more straight-forward note… We’d like to wish long-time contributor C.J. Henderson well. C.J.’s been dealing with medical issues and the accompanying financial burdens that go with them. I’m very happy to include a new Piers Knight story from C.J. Henderson in this issue, “This Memory of Happiness”. You can support C.J. at The Society for the Preservation of C.J. Henderson online at http://www.youcaring.com/medical-fundraiser/society-for-the-preservation-of-cj-henderson/87881.

 

The Editor’s Rant: Issue #22

by Michael D. Pederson

 

Last issue I discussed why we were classified as a semiprozine under the old classification system and why we were always just short of a Hugo nomination. And I promised to talk about the new and (hopefully) improved system this issue. So, here goes…

Here is the current definition of a semiprozine:

Any generally available non-professional periodical publication devoted to science fiction or fantasy, or related subjects which by the close of the previous calendar year has published four (4) or more issues (or the equivalent in other media), at least one (1) of which appeared in the previous calendar year, which does not qualify as a fancast, and which in the previous calendar year met at least one (1) of the following criteria: (1) paid its contributors and/or staff in other than copies of the publication, (2) was generally available only for paid purchase.

That goes a long way to clearing things up. We don’t generally pay contributors or staff (outside of ad trade) and the zine is available as a free download.

So, what is now considered a fanzine? Take a look:

Any generally available non-professional periodical publication devoted to science fiction or fantasy, or related subjects that by the close of the previous calendar year has published four (4) or more issues (or the equivalent in other media), at least one (1) of which appeared in the previous calendar year, that does not qualify as a semiprozine or a fancast, and that in the previous calendar year met neither of the following criteria: (1) paid its contributors and/or staff in other than copies of the publication, (2) was generally available only for paid purchase.

Seems pretty straight forward; we are officially a fanzine again. Now I just have to get myself back onto a regular publishing schedule.

Let’s get to the fiction! Last time I had a lot of fun with our first themed issue so I decided to give it another go. This time… Robots!

 

The Editor’s Rant: Issue #21

by Michael D. Pederson

 

The identity crisis continues. Or, just possibly, it’s finally been laid to rest. Since, the beginning of the zine—ten years now!—we’ve been plagued with the question of what type of publication we should be classified as.

My intention from the start was to publish a fanzine. The first issue of Nth Degree was sixteen pages with a beautiful four-color, glossy cover. People immediately said, “This doesn’t look like a fanzine.” I spent about a year insisting that modern design tools and cheap print co-ops meant that it was possible to print a professional looking zine for around the same costs as photocopying. Besides, I was a professional graphic designer, I wanted my zine to reflect that. Eventually, I caved and took a closer look at the Hugo rules concerning zines.

At the time, the definition of a semiprozine was:

Any generally available non-professional publication devoted to science fiction or fantasy which by the close of the previous calendar year has published four (4) or more issues (or the equivalent in other media), at least one (1) of which appeared in the previous calendar year, and which in the previous calendar year met at least two (2) of the following criteria: (1) had an average press run of at least one thousand (1000) copies per issue, (2) paid its contributors and/or staff in other than copies of the publication, (3) provided at least half the income of any one person, (4) had at least fifteen percent (15%) of its total space occupied by advertising, (5) announced itself to be a semiprozine.

We published four issues a year, had a minimum print run of 1000 copies, did not pay in other than copies, provided no income, and had around 15% advertising (much of it, though, in trade). We just barely qualified. The definition of a fanzine was basically, “Does not qualify as a semiprozine.” So we announced ourselves to be a semiprozine.

As a result, we ended missing out on the Hugo ballot year after year because our nominations were always split between semiprozine and fanzine. If you added them up, we usually had enough nominations to get on the ballot.

But that’s where we were. Next issue I’ll talk more about where we are now. Now, sit back and enjoy our very first themed issue… Superheroes!

 

The Editor’s Rant: Issue #20

by Michael D. Pederson

 

Sorry, sorry, sorry. It’s been way too long since the last issue of the zine. When last I ranted here I was going on about the joys of a nice relaxing summer. You’d think that by now I would have learned that what we receive usually turns out to be the exact opposite of what we hope for.

I’ve moved three times since the last issue.

About a month after settling in to my new apartment in Richmond (yes, I am very very happy to be back in Richmond) I suffered a catastrophic hard drive crash. Nothing was salvageable. Ironically, I had just pulled a back-up drive out of storage the week before but was holding off on installation because I was too busy working on the next issue of the zine—I was OCRing Margaret Yang’s “The Last Word” when I heard a horrible clicking sound. Sigh. I am irony’s bitch.

I have now replaced my hard drive, reinstalled quite a bit of software and completely recreated my Nth Degree templates from scratch. Oh yeah, and there were a couple of serious time-killing holidays in there as well. At times it feels like the fates are conspiring to keep this issue from being posted online. Ha! I laugh in the face of doom! We’re back now and we’re better than ever. Or, at the very least, we’re back and we’re exactly the same as before!

(Note: Shortly after writing that last paragraph Central Virginia was hit with an earthquake, a series of severe thunderstorms, and a hurricane—all in the span of five days—causing a week-long power outage. Further note: Never laugh in the face of doom.)

I feel it’s important to point out that I had chosen the stories for this issue prior to the events of the last year. The fact that death and loss play an important role in all three stories really had nothing to do with my state of mind. It’s just a happy coincidence.

So… Yes, I’m very excited to be finishing this issue up. And there is some good news: I’ve been trying to swindle multiple-AnLab-winner Bud Webster into giving me a story for years. And I finally succeeded!

 

The Editor’s Rant: Issue #19

by Michael D. Pederson

 

Ah, summer. As I finish production on this issue, I’m right in the middle of my end-of-spring convention rush. For me, March is StellarCon (one day I hope to try LunaCon instead) followed rapidly by a month of panic trying to get RavenCon up and running. Then the one-two punch of Balticon and ConCarolinas on sequential weekends. With Balticon running four days it makes the turnaround even more hectic.

And then… Summer.

I’m not a huge fan of summer (generally speaking). I prefer cool days to the hot muggy east coast summers we get around here. I’ve never seen the appeal of the beach, I’ve always preferred the mountains. When I was young I always found myself looking forward to school starting up again so that I could see my friends. Now though, I find myself enjoying the lazy days away from conventions. Yes, I love being a diehard con goer but even I need a break once in a while.

And there are plenty of summertime conventions that I could be attending. Most of these though would require extra travel and/or expense. By the time June rolls around I’ve pretty much exhausted my supply of local cons until October. I had originally been expecting to be co-chairing the NASFiC this summer but my schedule has since forced me to resign. So here I am, enjoying my summer!

But enough about me… How about some info on the zine? I’m very excited to have a story from Lawrence Schoen this issue. I don’t often run reprints but when Lawrence offered me a chance to reprint his Hugo-nominated short story “The Moment,” I jumped at it. We were lucky enough to have a Frank Wu cover the summer that he won his first Hugo; I’m hoping that Lawrence’s story gets the same kind of mojo.

In addition to a Hugo nominee, we’re also bringing back comics by Robert Kauffmann and finishing out the run of Rob Balder and Dan Fahs’ strip “BelchBurger.” Last issue we introduced new artist Denny Marshall. He’s back again this month and shows off some poetry chops as well. Enjoy!

 

The Editor’s Rant: Issue #18

by Michael D. Pederson

 

Wow. It’s only February and I’m already exhausted. Who would have thought that running an annual convention (RavenCon), a NASFiC (ReConStruction, the North American Science Fiction Convention) and publishing a semiprozine would be so much work? Apparently everyone but me because I’ve had innumerable people telling me that I was crazy to take so much on in one year. I may need to see if Chris Garcia has some kind of secret drug that helps him multi-task.

I’ve learned a lot though. The differences between running a mid-sized local convention and a large national convention are enormous. Although we’re predicting ReConStruction to only be between two to three times the size of an average RavenCon, the logistics and man-hours are proving to be about ten times more. I know that part of this is because we’re using a convention center and two hotels. However, I have to wonder if some of the extra baggage is the result of years and years of Worldcon “wisdom” being handed down as the “correct/only” way to do things. Does any convention really need a staff of nearly one hundred people? We’re pushing seventy now but I know that we’re still trying to fill several slots and will probably end up with nearly a hundred staffers when all is said and done.

That said though, everything is progressing nicely. We have a fantastic group of Division Heads that (for the most part) play nicely together and have a coherent vision of what the convention should look like. And, luckily for me, RavenCon is reaching the point where it practically runs itself. The only snag this year is being in a new hotel again.

As for the zine… Well, I’m glad that I have it up and running again but I really wish I had waited until NASFiC was behind me. I think I’m going to go take a nap now.

 

The Editor’s Rant: Issue #17

by Michael D. Pederson

 

The end of summer has been pretty good for me this year. Getting the first new issue of Nth Zine out felt amazing. And I’ve been hearing some very positive feedback on the new format. It all made me realize just how much I had been missing zining. Ah, it’s good to be back.

I’d like to start off by pointing out a new feature in this issue. Last month, Alan Welch offered up his art portfolio to me and told me I could use whatever I liked. Well, it’s tough to match pre-existing art to new stories so I decided to add an Art Gallery to the online version of the zine. You’ll get to see some of Alan’s incredible blend of digital and traditional art in an upcoming issue. This issue, we’ve decided to finally give our long-suffering staff artist, J. Andrew World, his day in the sun.

One thing I neglected to mention in last issue’s Rant… Back in August a little group I’m involved with won the bid to host next year’s North American Science Fiction Convention (NASFiC) in Raleigh, North Carolina. I will be co-chairing with Warren Buff.

The convention will be held August 5–8, 2010 in Raleigh’s brand new convention center. We’ll also be making use of the new downtown Marriott and the newly remodeled Sheraton, both right across the street from the convention center.

We’ve chosen the name ReConStruction to reflect our desires to build stronger connections between Southern fandom and, well, everyone else. Our Guests of Honor will be: Eric Flint–Writer, Brad Foster–Artist, Juanita Coulson–Fan, and Toni Weisskopf–Toastmaster. With Eric as one of our GoHs, we will (of course) be hosting a 1632 track of programming that is already generating a lot of interest.

This is my first time on staff for any kind of national-level convention, and it’s been a wild ride so far. Yes, I’ll be chairing RavenCon in April and then ReConStruction in August, just four months apart. But you know what they say… Whatever doesn’t kill us leaves us in a quivering pile of goo for someone else to clean up.

(The contents of this Rant may seem confusing now that I’ve done away with Nth Zine and converted all the old issues to the Nth Degree format. My apologies. MDP, Sept. 2014.)

 

The Editor’s Rant: Issue #16

by Michael D. Pederson

 

I’ve gotta admit, I’m excited to be working on a new issue of Nth Zine. I’m sure (at least, I hope) that there are a few people that have been wondering where Nth Degree and Nth Zine have been for the last few years. Let me fill you in…

The biggest occupier of my time since the last issue of Nth Degree has been another pet project of mine, RavenCon. Through my travels with Nth Degree I met writers Tee Morris and Tony Ruggiero. The three of us pooled our resources (great connections in fandom, good organizational skills, and first-hand knowledge of what does and doesn’t work at a con) and started RavenCon in April 2006. It’s been an unqualified success. Our Guests of Honor have included Terry Brooks, Tom Kidd, Robert Sawyer, Steve Stiles, C.S. Friedman, Steve Hickman, Jack McDevitt, and Alan Beck. I could not be happier with the guests we’ve had, the public’s reaction, and the wonderful group of friends that have joined me to help put it together. Now that we’re in our fifth year I feel that things are running well enough that I can set aside a little time to work on the project that made RavenCon possible, Nth Degree.

In today’s economy, it’s simply too difficult to produce a glossy print zine like I used to. Luckily, I already have Nth Zine, the e-zine version of Nth Degree, waiting in the wings to be restarted. For now, the plan is to publish Nth Zine bimonthly. An online version will be published at nthzine.com. There will also be print copies available at conventions and to subscribers. And, hopefully, if things go well, I will be able to put out an annual print version of Nth Degree. Cross your fingers and hope for the best!

For this, my first issue in too many years, I turned to several of my regular contributors from past issues and was overwhelmed by the response. I easily have enough material for the first three issues already. So, sit back, enjoy and, please, write to us and let us know what you think of the new Nth Zine.

(The contents of this Rant may seem confusing now that I’ve done away with Nth Zine and converted all the old issues back to the Nth Degree format. My apologies. MDP, Sept. 2014.)