Sasquan Final Recap, with Hugo

This was a day that will be remembered in WorldCon history.

Unlike the previous recaps, I’m not going to go too much into the details of the day.  I want to focus on the experience of attending the Hugos.  These recap entries have been my way of recording my experience of the event.  Leading up to the Hugos, much of the day was like the previous, in terms of getting up, getting fed, and attending panels.

I was signed up for the Kaffee Klatche with John Berlyne, the same man I spoke about in yesterday’s post.  I wound up not going.  For one thing, I’d just sat with him for one-on-one time.  I admire and respect him, but I don’t want to come across as some kind of stalker, following him everywhere around the con.  For another thing, since I’d just had that one-on-one time with him, it didn’t seem fair for me to take up a limited slot at his table.  Also, breakfast with friends that morning went a little bit late.  I could have excused myself from the table, but given my other concerns, I decided it was better to stay and visit with my friends.

Melissa and I attended panels.  I took notes.  I’ll post the notes once I’m back in Sacramento.

Skipping ahead…

Melissa and I returned to the convention center all dressed up and ready for the Hugos.  This year they issued tickets with assigned seating.  I greatly appreciated this.  At ChiCon 7, I had to stand in the back the whole time, my feet aching.  With assigned seating, I knew that we’d sit down, and it would be less hassle getting to our seats.  We might even be able to see more than just the monitor.

We knew that they’d begin handing out tickets at 6PM.  The doors would open at 7PM, and the event would start at 8PM.  Our plan was to get our tickets, stroll to one of the local restaurants, have a nice dinner, then be in our seats just before the big event.

Things mostly worked out as planned.  We got to the ticket line before 6, but it already stretched long.  Melissa and I walked to the back of the line, which snaked through several halls.  Once they began handing out tickets, the line moved relatively fast, putting us on the street with tickets in hand around 6:15.

We walked to our first choice of restaurants and found it full, with a twenty minute wait.  We went on to the next choice and found the same thing.  We looked at the menu of a third, and fled because the prices were exorbitant.  I began to think we would just have to starve until after the Hugos.

It makes sense.  Everyone had the same idea.  With over 5,000 warm bodies at the convention, and a limited number of restaurants within walking distance, it was inevitable that there would be some waiting.

Fortunately, we were able to get a seat at Chili’s, right across the street.  The wait was still ten to fifteen minutes, but with the place being so close, we weren’t afraid of being late if service was slow.  Plus, we were able to pay at the table, so we didn’t need to wait for a server when it was time to leave.

We ate a mediocre dinner, then hurried to the performing arts center.  Staff efficiently guided us to our seats.  We sat in the orchestra section, with a view of the stage that was more than acceptable.

Before the award ceremony began, George R. R. Martin, John Scalzi, and a few others were interviewed.  The interview took place in another room, with the video projected on the big screen.  I did not catch the entire thing.  They were talking about the controversy around the nominations, and what could be done in future years.  I appreciated Martin’s stance the most, which was that we shouldn’t throw out the system and make broad, sweeping changes based on one anomalous year.  What we should do instead is be more active in the nomination process.

I read the program.  I noted the section that went into great detail about the “No Award” option.  The No Award option had been used five times in the history of the Hugos.  I considered the prominent placement of this message in the program as a sign of what was to come.

Finally, the award ceremony began.  A grim reaper rolled onto the stage, moving towards a Hugo in the middle of the stage.  Three women in red Star Trek outfits rushed out to stop the specter.  One of them was grabbed and taken off stage by the grim reaper’s assistant.  Another of the women drew a blaster, shouted something, and drove the grim reaper off.

I didn’t catch all of the words that she’d shouted.  She’s said something along the lines of, “You’re not going to destroy the Hugos!  You’ve already taken Terry Pratchett!” The woman that did the shouting and drove off death was Tananarive Due, one of the ceremony’s co-hosts.

The joke about Terry Pratchett earned groans all around me.  The whole message from the beginning, that someone was trying to destroy the Hugos by attacking women and people of color, was not perfectly executed or received.  With that opening, I had my doubts about how the evening would go.  I was afraid that it was going to be a very negative show.

Fortunately, it didn’t keep going that direction.  David Gerrold and Tananarive Due ran the evening, and they were witty.  Mistakes were made.  Parts of the presentation were done out of order, and several videos started at the wrong time.  The show was not perfectly executed.  However, I found David’s fumbling with the script to be authentic and endearing.  No show is perfect, and I do not believe the flubs in the show diminished the quality of it.

Specific highlights for me involved Robert Silverberg blessing the ceremony with a story, and singing Hari Krishna.  He shook a tambourine and got the audience to sing with him.

Connie Willis took the stage and spoke as well.  She was endearing and funny.  After she’d made a statement about how she would not be a presenter, I thought her presence elevated the evening, and dulled the knife edge of the conspiracy surrounding the Hugos this year.

Jay Lake was posthumously presented an award.  I found myself tearing up.  I had only met him briefly, but he was such a sweet man.  The presentation touched us all.  I hope that there is an award named for Jay Lake.

The names of those we’ve lost this year scrolled by, with familiar names like Leonard Nimoy, Terry Pratchett, and Christopher Lee.  So many names this year.  David Gerrold nearly cried afterwards.  Another deeply touching moment during the ceremony.

Then it was time for the awards.  The John W. Campbell award went to Wesley Chu.  He accepted it, said that he wasn’t going to “go political” at first, then by the end, said, “You know what?  I am going political.” Then he declared his candidacy as a Republican nominee for the presidency.  Too funny!

The Hugo awards were next, starting with all the fan categories, and the semiprozine.  Elizabeth Leggett won best fan artist, and she made a very passionate speech that ended with “BlackLivesMatter.” The rest of the award winners stuck to thanking those that supported them.

The ceremony progressed.  I don’t remember the order.  I know that best related work was the first to receive “No Award,” only because I texted the result to Michael.

The evening started with five No Awards in the history of the Hugos.  It ended with ten.

With each one, the crowd cheered, loud and strong.  Melissa sat next to me, stunned.  She said, “That’s not right.” She hadn’t followed the controversy as closely as the rest of us.  I appreciate her perspective on this matter.

History was made last night.  Not just with the number of No Awards.  The winner for the best novel is the first time a translated work has taken home a rocket.  It puts the world in WorldCon.

After the awards, Melissa and I changed clothes and joined our friends at one of the bars.  We visited, then went to bed.

As I write this, it is a little after 2PM.  Melissa and I are going to attend the closing ceremonies, then probably wander around and eat before getting on a plane this evening.  Sasquan is effectively over for us, and we had a fantastic time.  We’re looking forward to WorldCon next year in Kansas City.

Before I close this post, I want to talk about the Hugos, one last time.

The ceremony attempted to put a positive spin on the situation, and I think it succeeded.  Leading up to Sasquan, people talked about there being an asterisk with these Hugos.  That concept was embraced, even celebrated, with the creation of a wooden asterisk constructed by robots with lasers.  The ceremony had its low points, but it also had humor and laughter.  It still celebrated fandom and the fiction that we love.

The future of the Hugos looks brighter after last night.  We will not be so complacent with our nominations.  The system may change in the future.  Or perhaps we’ll change.  Perhaps we’ll be more active, making it that much harder for any individual to mess with our celebration.

We fans will go on, and the Hugos will go on.  What’s past is done, and the future is whatever we decide to make it.

But there were victims this year, and I want to acknowledge them.  For every person that made something that would have qualified for recognition this year, but your work was overshadowed or supplanted by the slates, you will be known.  I don’t know the names of every person that falls into this category.  I just know that what happened this year was not fair to you, and I hope that you will continue your work and receive the recognition that you deserve.

Melissa and I sat in at Jennifer Brozek’s Kaffee Klatche this morning.  She composed herself well, and with dignity.  But it was clear that she was still hurt by how things went last night.  It was her first Hugo nomination, but because of the one that started this controversy, her category received No Award.

When Jennifer was about to sign a card for me, she asked if she should sign it “Hugo loser or Hugo nominee?” She said it with a smile, but like I said, it’s clear that this has been rough on her.

The truth is that Jennifer Brozek is one of the hardest working individuals in the business.  She manages her time, setting herself a scheduled that stretches nine months into the future.  She doesn’t miss her deadlines.  She’s managing multiple projects at the same time, both editing and writing.  She’s methodical.  She’s knowledgeable, and dedicated to her craft.  She rarely takes vacations.

These are not the qualities of a loser.  Quite the opposite.  I have complete confidence that this will not be the last time we see her up for a Hugo.

We owe it to her and everyone like her to be involved.  We need to nominate our favorite artists and editors, and we need to vote.  If we do these things, then people like Jennifer will get the kind of recognition that they’ve earned.

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