I’ve just got back from the Worldcon. A few rather scattergunned observations:
Garth Nix was a very suave Hugo host. Expect him to be picked up for next year’s Oscars.
- Great Hugo Moment #1: Shaun Tan winning the Best Professional Artist award and having the trophy presented to him by Nick Stathopoulos — who designed the trophy base.
- Great Hugo Moments #2: Frederick Pohl winning best Fan Writer. The award was accepted on Pohl’s behalf by Robert Silverberg, a close friend of his for fifty years. Silverberg said, quite appropriately if you know of Pohl’s extraordinary professional career, “Of all the strange interactions we have had, this is by far the strangest.”
- Great Hugo Moment #3: Cheryl Morgan accepting the award for Best Semiprozine (for Clarkesworld). She was liveblogging the awards and brought her iPad onto the stage and continued updating while she accepted the trophy and gave her speech. Now that’s embedded journalism.
- Great Hugo Moment #4: Stan Robinson proudly enunciating the word “palimpsest.”
- Great Hugo Moment #5: Peter Watts winning for Best Novella and, having assumed he hadn’t a chance in hades, joining the stage wearing jeans and a T-shirt whilst besieged on all sides by an army of tuxes and frocks. It is easy, at times, to become cynical about awards. But when Watts won the Hugo, and knowing what it meant to him after his horror year, it was impossible to stay cynical. I found it unexpectedly affecting, actually.
I did not get to many panels. Mostly I socialised at the expense of my liver. I think I blew my annual budget of quality time with friends: I won’t burden readers with the details, as they are probably of interest only to me, but I took particular pleasure in bumping into Steven Poulsen, whom I had not seen for over ten years, and his now-adult daughter (god I feel old) and learning that he is writing again; talking to Paul Haines about living with cancer and the joys of making faces in the audience blanche during readings; being introduced to Alison Croggon, who as it turns it is something of a secret cultural hero of mine (by secret I mean I had no idea of her role in defending artistic expression in the Bill Henson photography controversy until it was pointed out to me and then I remembered that it had been her byline on those pieces all along); and finally, spending an evening with Shaun Tan and Nick Stathopoulos and developing a parlour game in which Nick would attempt to tell an amusing anecdote while Shaun and I would attempt to derail the story with small but highly disruptive observations (we won convincingly, by the way; Nick needs to work on his game plan).
I discovered a previously undescribed force, for want of a better term, that I call conversational gravity (alternatively, weight of cliche). The force of conversational gravity pulls panel discussions away from the original theme and onto topics that are somewhat related but far less interesting. For instance, a panel I attended on the limits of scientific knowledge (a really fascinating issue) was repeatedly diverted by audience questions onto the subject of Technology Can Be Dangerous — an important concern, to be sure, but hardly one that has gone unexplored in the field of science fiction. Good panellists will still make interesting comments, but given the time limitations, even an excellent, pithy statement will have stolen valuable time from the subject at hand. (I do not claim to be above the force of conversational gravity myself, by the way.)
Final observation: for some reason, readers of science fiction and fantasy have each amassed an astonishing knowledge of military history — even those who can’t stand military SF.
Executive summary: I enjoyed myself enormously.