know, I didn't think about it at the time. I was just consumed
with getting the tape, getting the coverage. But when we got the
train to the SECC for the Hugo Ceremonies, that was out last trip
for the convention. Originally, we'd planned on poking about a
bit on Monday, but when we went to get train tickets to Hereford
from Glasgow, we heard a few dire predictions about how long such
a train trip would take. We were told that it might take like,
eight hours, perhaps ten. If that was the case, we didn't want
to end up in Hereford at 10 PM; we were only there for a couple
of days and wanted some daylight upon first arriving.
So on the way to the Hugos, we bought our train tickets, leaving
Glasgow bright and early at 6:58 AM and arriving at Hereford around
1 PM. We loved the Scotsrail passes they gave us, the little plastic
ticket holders that now double as debit-card holders. Having acquired
our tickets for the morrow, we headed downstairs to catch our final
train. Given that it was about six-thirty, seven PM on a Sunday night,
it was pretty quiet -- other than Con-bound traffic, most of us instantly
identifiable by the tags round our necks, if not our bags of books.
I'd set up via the press office to record the ceremonies on the same
handheld unit I'd used for the interviews, the Edirol R1. Manufactured
by a subsidiary of Roland, it's very nice and performed quite well,
so long as you gave it good batteries. Fortunately, the same people
who handled the sound for the opening ceremonies were doing so for
the Hugos. All I had to do was check in at the truck and follow
the total-pro sound man who was such a blessing. For that particular
portion of the gig, I'd been sort of unprepared, in that I hadn't
my usual connector cable, thinking I'd do it all via microphone.
But the sound folks had the cable, and actually wanted my sound file
as a backup. Claire and I ascended to the second level of the very
plush SECC, and I got patched in to the mixing board. I joined Claire
near the stratospheric heights of the auditorium, in what proved
to be the highest occupied row. But with the "stadium-style" seating
we could see quite well
and were very comfortable. All this goes a long way towards making
the event much nicer. In Toronto, I recalled sitting in folding chairs
on a flat floor in a booming room. This was luxurious.
nice bit of kit -- no flash photos in the Hugo room, alas.
Things got underway quite on time, and the presenters were Paul McAuley
and Kim Newman. These guys should always be the presenters. They
set up a rather brilliant conceit, stuck to it, explored it, and
it made the whole ceremony far more entertaining than it had any
right to be. What's more they brought in the shortest Hugo ceremony
I have to admit a flash of great embarrassment when I first saw what
McAuley and Newman were up to. Early in the history of this column,
shortly after firing up the site, I posted something about the Hugos
in which I made the mistake of thinking that the Hugo award was named
for Victor Hugo. About an hour after posting the damn thing, I realized
my error -- it's Hugo Gernsback -- and corrected it, but I was utterly
mortified. So when I saw that Newman and McAuley were basing their
entire Hugo presentation around the idea of an alternate history
in which Victor Hugo ended up as the father of the science fiction
genre, and indeed had the Hugo named after him -- well, I have to
admit that my first thought was "Omygod, I've been tumbled." Of
course my next thought was, "Nobody knows who the hell I am," a
sort-of comforting realization.
But McAuley and Newman carried this off brilliantly. They put in
all the necessary details to keep the joke alive and frankly made
the whole award ceremony a lot more interesting than it had any right
to be. Here we were, watching a ceremony for science fiction that
was itself science fiction and damn good science fiction at that.
The Hugo awards were preceded by the First Fandom Awards. These awards
give you an idea of how deep and complex the whole society on the
edges of science fiction really is. Now, myself, I'm here for the
literature, plain and simple. There's a lot of it and quite a bit
is very good indeed.
But there is also this deep, deep history of science fiction fans
who publish their own magazines, not unlike my website. This stuff
goes back sixty, seventy years. Just seeing these awards presented
is like glimpsing into a secret society, with a history as complex
as the literature upon which they opine. It does give you pause,
and if science fiction readers wonder why the extreme fandom gets
the coverage, well, it is a pretty interesting construct.
Given the spiffiness of the presentation, the awards themselves were
their usual mixed bag of insider trading and pleasant surprises.
Things started off on a positive note, to my mind as the Con committee
gave David Pringle, the retiring editor over at Interzone, a special
award for service. Given that Pringle helped make and shape the careers
of some of today's top writers, well, there's a reward that's richly
deserved. And it wasn't even a Hugo, just an off-the-cuff deal that
hit the mark.
Next up was the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, also "not
a Hugo award". This was a tough category for me; I knew and
really liked the work of many of these writers. I loved the debut
novel by Steph Swainston, 'The
Year of Our War'; it was her first
year of eligibility. I'd read a lot of work by Elizabeth Bear (in
her second year of eligibility), in Interzone and her novel 'Hammered'.
I enjoyed K. J. Bishop's 'The
Etched City' (in her second year of
eligibility). I think Chris Robberson is on a roll with his editorship
of 'Adventure 1' and his new novel 'Here There and Everywhere' from
Pyr. And in the usual scheme of things, I didn't know boo about David
Moles. I now know he has a very nice looking blog.
OK, so I feel a bit of vindication that Elizabeth Bear won because
I seem to remember long ago saying such a thing. And she does have
a story on this site. But mostly, like, she deserves it, and not
a little bit because, I think John W. Campbell would have really
loved her stuff. Now I have no concrete, arguable reason for thinking
this. But in my opinion, this was an award well done in a tough field
where pretty much everybody I knew would have been appropriate. Good
work all around.
Having stripped away everything else, we're left with...the Hugos.
So. Hmm. Where to start. You probably know the results by now, and
if not you can get them here. Take a gander, then come back. Then
take a look here at the vote totals. Shocking, I say, shocking.
So, for all the hoopla more people voted for the movie awards than
the book awards. Sigh. So, I get over it, I do, and go on to the
actual winners, as well as the field. Talk about all over the map!
For Best Fan Artist, once again we have that weird thing where people
I would regard as pros -- Frank Wu, whose wonderful stuff graced
some of Jay Lake's work -- end up in the fan category. Sue Mason
won, but refused to give us a cat story. We were the losers in that
Next up was Best Fanzine. Here, at least, the competition seemed
pretty even, though Plokta won again. I seem to remember that they
won before, so perhaps that's not surprising. But it was heartening
to see Cheryl Morgan's Emerald City included in the running.
Peter Weston presented the Hugo for Best David Langford, er Fan Writer.
I love Langford's work as much as anyone. I understand that when
one awards awards, one awards said awards to the best, in theory.
And given all that I was still a bit surprised. Oh the Hugos! One
must love them or go mad.
Next up was the Best Website award, still a bit in the developing
stages, shall we say. Thus you get SciFiction -- just one part of
a huge operation with shed-loads of money to burn for art and to
pay writers with -- competing against Emerald City, still pretty
much a one-woman operation under the guidance of Cheryl Morgan. Not
only are the sites disparate in size, they have entirely different
intents. SciFiction publishes fiction, though SciFi.com has a much
bigger interest, much of it supporting various SF TV shows. Emerald
City is mainly criticism and interviews. In what world do you pit
fiction against non-fiction? It just does not make a lot of sense.
Moreover, cherry picking SciFiction out of SciFi.com ignores most
of the content underSciFi.com which does neither SciFiction or Scifi.com
Clearly the Worldcon committee has a bit of work to do here. SciFiction
and Ellen Datlow won this time around. What a wonderful world it
It was nice to see Jon Courtenay Grimwood presenting the "Best
Semi-Prozine" award, into which Emerald City appears to be headed.
Now to this observer, none of the nominees were "semi-prozines".
David Langford -- who won again -- expressed I believe the feelings
of many when he said, "I can't believe how semi-professional
this makes me feel." Maybe they could just call the Fan/Semi-pro
awards the BackHands. I can imagine a great JK Potter statue for
Having dispensed with all the awkwardly-conceived Fan and semi-pro
awards, things got into the "Professional" realm. Here
at least, the competitors seem on an even keel and the categories
make a fair amount of sense.
China Miéville presented the award for Best Professional Artist
to the quite deserving Jim Burns. One of the things you get when
you see the Hugos is how much history there is in the genre. Burns
has been around for a lot longer than I ever realized -- "nearly
three decades," he told us, but his work is as strong as ever
and certainly sells me books. Though I have to say the latest Interzone
was a little, well, over the top, so to speak. While still being
entirely within the top. Again, so to speak.
With Best Professional Editor, Ellen Datlow once again took the stage
as winner, this time in a category that was entirely appropriate.
But once again, there is a bit of confusion here. There are clearly
two types of editors at work in the SF world; those who edit periodicals
and websites -- like Ellen -- and those who edit at the book publishing
level, like say, Simon Spanton or Patrick Nielsen-Hayden. The Best
Professional Editor makes no distinction. Now, on one hand, you have
category bloat, which could make the Hugos longer and that would
be a bad thing -- but on the other hand you have category confusion.
The presumption amongst voters seemed to be that Best Editor meant
best Fiction Periodical or Website editor. Yes, I'm happy to see
the "interweb" as the presenters called it get some notice.
I'd be a bit happier if book editors and magazine editors were separated
out. Or maybe not. But it does bear thinking when you're nominating.
Assuming of course, you PAID FOR THE PRIVILEGE and BOTHERED TO VOTE.
Ahem. What followed were the awards for Best Dramatic Presentation,
Short Form. "So that's an episode of a TV series, then?" Newman
quipped. "Not necessarily, My Preciousssssssss," McAuley
responded, just in case there was a rock video presentation that
had garnered a nomination. (Great presenters, these two, please bring
them back ad infinitum, resurrected if required.) Now, the Hugo audience
loves to watch these clips. But I have to say that the state of SF
TV is pretty sad. 'Battlestar Galactica' won. Now, I know that lots
of people love this TV show, but all those whizzing spaceships make
me dizzy and all the yelling in between just gives me a headache.
And I suspect that awards like this to shows like this cement most
of what people think about science fiction.
"Next up is the Hugo Award for Long For– Oh the hell with it,
Best Film!" Kim Newman was clearly having a bit too much fun
now, being something of a specialist in this particular field. Once
again, the spotty quality of science fiction glared in the choices.
'Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow'? I liked the imaginatively
titled 'Spider-Man 2', but only the Big Tent offered by SF gets this
film underneath. Still, that's one of the appeals of SF. The 'Harry
Potter' installment was clearly the best of the batch so far. 'The
Incredibles', which won, was one of those critical favorites that
I enjoyed, but not all that much. Perhaps I'd heard too much build-up.
To my mind, the best choice was 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless
Mind', but a science fiction movie without elaborate special effects
-- other than a good script -- was clearly doomed in a year when
a movie seemingly without a script but incredibly elaborate effects
-- 'Sky Captain' -- was also nominated. Sort of the two sides of
science fiction on the screen, right there for us to see. Interesting
to say the least.
Of course the fact that more people voted for Best Movie than for
Best Novel should send shockwaves through the systems. Consider yourself
shocked if you aren't already. We're talking the difference in impact
on a reader who picks up say 'Iron Council' versus the viewer who
watches 'Sky Captain'. For me, there's no comparison. We're talking
popcorn and caviar. But then, perhaps that's a decent summary of
the SF biz.
"The last five awards are to do with the written word, and as far
as I'm concerned, it’s the best art form yet invented," quipped
McAuley. Amen to that! Best Related Book included my favorite 'The
best of Xero' edited by Pat and Dick Lupoff from Tachyon Press; the
award went to the more scholarly (read defensible) choice, The Cambridge
Companion to Science Fiction, edited by Edward James and Farah Mendlesohn.
I can live with this, but my heart was with the Lupoffs.
liked this one best. Ah the power of sentiment.
While I enjoyed all the short stories nominated for a Hugo, my favorite
was James Patrick Kelly's 'The Best Christmas Ever'. With that said,
I found myself surprised that Mike Resnick -- a total veteran pro
(and a big fan of Joss Wheedon's Firefly SF TV series) -- won with
two nominations. I'd been told that the common wisdom was that
two nominations practically guaranteed no award; common wisdom that
this evening proved to be quite wrong. Here was an honorable category,
honorable candidates and a good competition. Presented by George
R. R. Martin ("For which task I have been selected because of
the extreme shortness of my own work"), it was an excellent
One of the odd things about science fiction is the presence of the "mid-length" categories, "novelette" and "novella".
But be that as it may, I like both categories and I liked just about
every entry in them to some degree. That said, in the novelette ("That's
French for 'quite a long short story," quipped McAuley) category,
I was pulling for Benjamin Rosenbaum's "Biographical Notes to
'A Discourse on the Nature of Causality, with Air-Planes' by Benjamin
Rosenbaum" from 'All-Star Zeppelin Adventure Stories'. John
Clute offered an erudite introduction before announcing the winner.
Not surprisingly, Kelly Link's 'The Faery Handbag' won. It was in
a Datlow-Windling anthology, typically a mark of both good quality
and good distribution. Link is certainly one of the great forces
for short fiction in the genre, and is justly mentioned as an example
of how science fiction makes it possible for writers who specialize
in short fiction to succeed.
As far as the novella was concerned, I have to admit that I was quite
pleased to see Charles Stross win for 'The Concrete Jungle', as published
Atrocity Archives' by Golden Gryphon. I loved Bradley Denton's
'Sergeant Chip' as well, and would have been happy there. Stross'
other story, 'Elector' became part of his novel 'Accelerando' and
to my mind did not stand as well by itself. Presented by Kim Stanley
Robinson, the award went to Stross, who must have heard the common
wisdom about the two awards and came unprepared with an acceptance
speech. He was prepared with a kilt, which he explained, he was wearing
because his wife backed him into a corner. No, we're not buying that
for a moment, Charlie.
The final award was presented by Guest of Honor and total cut-up
Christopher Priest. Now, I should have been prepared for this, having
seen him in action on the 'Room 101' panel, but he really tore it
up at the conclusion. He referred to 'The
Algebraist' as being by "the
man who makes so much money he's now known as the Royal Banks of
Scotland." I'd read every novel and enjoyed them all; 'Iron
Council' by China Miéville, 'Iron
Sunrise' by Charles Stross,
Gods' by Ian McDonald and 'Jonathan
Strange and Mr Norrell'
by Susanna Clarke.
When Clarke won, I have to admit to being totally surprised and totally
happy. To me, it seemed to indicate that maybe science fiction and
the bigger umbrella it lives under, speculative fiction, were not
growing up, but growing out -- getting bigger, more inclusive and
frankly more interesting. Now as I said, I enjoyed all the novels
chosen, but Clarke's struck me as being the least traditionally science
fictional, and the perverse fact that it won a Hugo was simply delightful.
Clarke's speech was delightful as well, making I believe a not-so-sly
reference to the recent supposed feud between Terry Pratchett and
J. K. Rowling vis a vis the supposed fantasy aspects of the Harry
Potter novels. She spoke of a man who told her, "'But I'm rather
worried by your tendency to call this a fantasy novel. Couldn't you
say it's a novel of the fantastic, but not a fantasy novel?' And
I said, it's got magicians and faeries in it. Of course it's a fantasy
And thus does the genre grow outwards, one notch at a time. It's
a fascinating process to watch, to read through and to live through.
Newman and McAuley finished up with a bang on their Victor Hugo and
FS (Fiction Scientifique) thread. They did an outstanding job, and
let me mention again that they should be brought back as often as
possible. They added a level of both science fiction and entertainment
to the proceedings that I found most enjoyable.
For my wife and I, it was back to the back stage --or in this case
the sound console on the second floor, run by some outstanding and
helpful technicians. It took some 18 minutes to transfer the audio
file to their PC, and by then the auditorium was mostly empty.
Claire and I walked to the train station and waited in the near-dark
for the train. Our second Worldcon was over, and we were rather sad
to see it go. It is a great damned vacation. It was dotted with the
party we'd attended, the dinners with friends and just the two of
us, rather outside the SF world. I love that SF world, especially
seen through the window as I see it. It's exotic and energetic, obsessed
and unself-conscious. We were already in our minds and hearts partway
to Hereford, for another literary adventure after Worldcon. We’d
not even been particularly connected to Worldcon, having spent a
day in Edinburgh, and hours outside the panels in interviews and
just walking about together. But that together thing, it goes a long