Meet the Fan Writers: Cheryl Morgan

As I think most regular readers of Whatever are aware, in addition to having The Last Colony nominated for the Best Novel Hugo this year, I am also nominated for the Best Fan Writer Hugo, which is something I’m pretty pleased about. I wanted to give you all a chance to meet the other folks nominated for the Fan Writer Hugo this year, so I invited each of them — Cheryl Morgan, Chris Garcia, Dave Langford and Steven Silver — to pen a guest entry here, and introduce themselves to you if you’d not make their acquaintance before.

Cheryl Morgan is the first to take me up on the offer. I’ve known Cheryl for a few years now, and she’s a positive delight to chat with and to read, both on her own site and on the Science Fiction Awards Watch site, which has rapidly become one of the essential sites for SF lit fans.

Without further ado (except to note that, indeed, I have Welsh blood in me — the reason for noting this will become clear in a minute): Cheryl Morgan.


My thanks to John for allowing his fellow nominees a chance to post here. I guess I should start by introducing myself. I’m Cheryl Morgan, and my current fan writing can be found at my personal blog, Cheryl’s Mewsings. I’m also one of the people responsible for Science Fiction Awards Watch. I was a nominee in Best Fan Writer in 2004, 2005 and 2006. In each case I finished second to Dave Langford. I’ve also received 5 other Hugo nominations in Best Fanzine, Best Web Site and Best Semiprozine, winning once for my fanzine, Emerald City. From this you might deduce that I’d be one of the people keen to see the end of The Fanglord’s decades-long reign as Best Fan Writer, and also that I’m one of those “usual suspects” who might usefully be displaced to freshen up the category. I’d like to talk about those two things here.

Firstly I’d like to say that I have no complaints about Dave Langford. He was one of the first people I met when I started attending science fiction conventions, and he has remained a good friend throughout. While think I have occasionally written pieces as good as his, the consistent quality of his work continues to inspire me. I still have hopes that one day I’ll be as good as he is.

I should note also that having Dave and I finishing first and second in Best Fan Writer is merely proof that the category, much like the Six Nations Rugby Championship, is the natural property of the Welsh nation. If John really wants to win, the best thing he could do would be to search back in his family tree and find a Welsh ancestor. Then the stars would be aligned and his victory would be assured.

As for the “usual suspects” thing, I must admit that I thought my time was done. I ceased publishing Emerald City back in 2006, and I was astonished to get a nomination again this year. However, I wasn’t always one of the in-crowd. Back when I first started getting nominations there was a huge upset about it and I was accused of, you guessed it, not being fannish enough. Apparently the fact that I published Emerald City electronically rather than on paper meant that it wasn’t a proper fanzine, and the fact that I wrote mainly book reviews meant that I was too serious about SF to be a proper fan. (This is one reason why you sometimes see me describe myself as a “Menace to Fandom”.) Nevertheless, despite a lot of noise being made, I went on to get many other nominations and one win. And that, I think, tells us a lot about fandom as a community.

There are many different ways of understanding the word “community”. One is that it is a ghetto or small village in which outsiders, people who are “not like us”, are viewed with suspicion. But if fandom were really a community like that then the voices of protest raised against my nomination, and John’s, would have succeed in blocking us. Instead we were allowed to compete, and thus far we have done very well.

So fandom isn’t really a closed community at all. It is much more like a collection of people who have got together because of a common interest, and who are building something together because of that common interest. To become a Big Name Fan (whatever that means), all you have to do is get involved and contribute something to the community. If you do good work, people will start to recognize it.

We are all connected. Dave has been a friend of mine for over 20 years. Chris Garcia and I are members of the same science fiction club in the San Francisco Bay Area and I have written for The Drink Tank. I have also contributed articles for Steven H Silver’s fanzine, Argentus, and now here I am contributing to John’s blog. That’s what a community is all about.

These days, of course, we are all much more connected than ever before. Fanzines started because fans in different cities, and different countries, needed a means to keep in contact. Publishing a fanzine full of articles and letters was easier than everyone writing individually to everyone else. But nowadays we have the Internet, and we can communicate around the world almost instantaneously. In publishing Emerald City I found my work being read by people in India, Ghana and Brazil. I met fans from Russia and Japan. And I made friends with wonderful writers such as Johanna Sinisalo from Finland and Zoran Živkovi? from Serbia.

That’s the sort of community I think science fiction fandom should be. Not a closed group of “trufen” jealously guarding access to the hobby of fanzine writing; not a group of relatively wealthy and dedicated people who can afford to attend Worldcon every year; but rather an international community of people with a common interest in science fiction. I have attended conventions in North America, Europe and Australasia. I’ve seen the first ever Worldcon in Japan take place. I very much hope that I’ll live to see the first Worldcons in Africa and South America. And hopefully I will see some of you there.

Feel free to ask me questions. Simple ones I can answer in the comments below. More complex ones I’ll answer over at Cheryl’s Mewsings because it would be impolite of me to take up too much more of John’s virtual real estate.

10 Comments on “Meet the Fan Writers: Cheryl Morgan”

  1. I see the ugly pixel-stained technopeasant bias has reached far and wide. For my literary SF experience I read mostly paper-printed books but for my news of SF, I read electronically transmitted blogs and the like. I would peruse the occasional Locus that a friend had but never subscribed myself. I have enough paper to deal with in my life. I’m grateful that bloggers like John Scalzi and Cheryl Morgan keep me informed and entertained without the clutter (at least on my dining room table). To me, the medium of transmission doesn’t matter.

  2. “Back when I first started getting nominations there was a huge upset about it and I was accused of, you guessed it, not being fannish enough.”

    Really? By whom? Names and citations would be swell.

  3. Ulrika: Why gosh, yes, I don’t keep emails from years back from people who are being rude to me. How did you guess?

  4. I try not to keep e-mails I received today, from people I like. ;-) Too much clutter as it is….

    Anyway, I’m not a fan of this Hugo category, but IMHO, the line-up looks great so far. I’m familiar with John, Cheryl, and Dave; I look forward to finding out more about Chris and Steven when they post here. Thanks for doing this, John!

  5. Back when, before its demise, Emerald City was my ultimate source for all the quality upcoming titles in the genre. I probably would have never heard of K.J. Bishop or China Mieville or a host of other quality writers if not for her insightful reviews. Emcit is missed, as was Cheryl ’til she goes and pops up on my fave SF blogger’s site. Serendipity, indeed.

    All to say, hi Cheryl, nice to see you again. I’d been wondering what you’ve been up to, and congratulations on your nomination.

  6. “That’s the sort of community I think science fiction fandom should be[:] Not a closed group of “trufen” jealously guarding access to the hobby of fanzine writing”

  7. Hobbyns: Thank you. All a reviewer can really hope for is that she sometimes connects a keen reader with books he enjoys.

    And talking of reviews, Jacques @5 writes good ones, though has he’s Brazilian not all of his blog is in English.

  8. Ulrika:
    [chuckle] I think her point was that people who want to participate in “non-traditional ways” should be welcomed — and are, by many in the community — not that people who once criticized her nomination should be identified, have their credentials and words debated, attacked, revisited, etc.

    I proofread Emerald City (when I could spare the time, which I mostly did) for most of the years that Cheryl published it, and had many private conversations about the specific slings and arrows she was receiving. She’s not making it up, if that’s what you’re insinuating, though of course nasty comments loom huge in the mind of the person at the receiving end, compared to other more positive messages. It was hard sometimes to reassure her that she was a good and fannish writer whom many people wanted to keep writing.

    She has helped me discover many authors I wouldn’t have otherwise read, just like Hobbyns commented, and I have never regretted my first impulsive offer to review the ‘zine before she posted it, to clear it of typos. I miss it, sometimes, though I’m very excited about some of her and our new projects, as well.

  9. I should add here that Anne’s contribution to Emerald City was enormously valuable because my sloppy grammar and tendency to create typos wholesale are really quite lamentable. Thank you again, Anne!

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