This year’s Hugo Awards were not the efficient hour-long affair of last year’s event in Glasgow; they went on just about two hours, but were enjoyable and entertaining nonetheless. There were virtually no slack periods or screw-ups (well, one) or embarrassments. The overriding theme was the familiar but popular Connie Willis shtick of promising to avoid the tension-building delays of past ceremonies, which cause great agony among nominees waiting to learn whether or not they’ve won, and then causing such delays anyway, via apparently spontaneous interjections about events concerning the nominees or past ceremonies. This time the theme was expanded with the participation of Robert Silverberg, who came on stage at the very start, as the video screens displayed the caption “Connie Willis, Toastmaster”, and after Connie arrived (with two space opera security guard types) to take charge, re-appeared at intervals during the evening as if determined to sabotage the event, causing spotlights to go out, captions of “Willie Connis”, and so on.
I’ll not do a blow-by-blow description of the evening, but a few moments deserve recognition.
Elizabeth Bear, presenting the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, to, as it turned out (and everyone had predicted), John Scalzi, announced a new instant tradition, the bestowal of a tiara upon the new winner. Scalzi accepted it with grace, and went on in his acceptance speech to recommend works by the other nominees in impressive detail.
Andy Porter presented the award for Best Semiprozine, first relaying a history of the category and his own record of Hugo nominations and wins in various categories for Algol and Starship and SF Chronicle (including a win by one vote one year over Locus), before announcing the winner this year as… Locus. (It’s not my fault this time, he said.) Charles Brown abandoned his cane as he lept across the stage to embrace Porter and accept the award, and then called up, in addition to fellow winners Liza Groen Trombi and Kirsten Gong-Wong, all the other attending Locus staffers, including Karlyn Pratt, Amelia Beamer, Carolyn Cushman, Jonathan Strahan, and Gary K. Wolfe. Brown said it was getting so he could barely remember all the staff’s names, but that he was confident the magazine would remain in good hands.
Betty Ballantine presented the Best Professional Editor award to…. David G. Hartwell, by far the greatest and most pleasing surprise of the evening. Hartwell has held the record (see The Locus Index to SF Awards: Hugo Awards Records and Tallies, under “Hugo Never-Winners”) for most number of Hugo nominations ever without having won. Finally, he’s lost that record, and won a Hugo even without the impending category split (approved this year, though I haven’t followed the details) for separate categories for long-form editors and short-form editors.
Hartwell concluded his brief acceptance speech by saying, though he didn’t think he would have done the same for him, he’d like to recommend that next year’s Hugo be awarded to Jim Baen.
The Best Related Book category included the one screw-up that I noticed: as the nominees were read, with cover images and photos of the authors displayed on the large screens to either side of the stage, the slide for Soundings: Reviews 1992-1996 by [Locus reviewer] Gary K.Wolfe had a photo of the other Gary K. Wolfe, author of the book Who Framed Roger Rabbit, who is a different person than Locus reviewer and critic Gary K. Wolfe who was nominated for a Hugo. Judging from lack of audience reaction, alas, few seemed to notice.
The final four categories featured the appearance of presenter Harlan Ellison for the short story category, who led with an extended defense of the short story category as the pre-eminent form of SF, where writers establish their voices and learn their craft. After the Hugo was presented to David D. Levine, the announcement was made of the Special Committee Award (a plaque) to Harlan for 50 years of writing SF, an honor apparently not revealed in advance to the recipient (same for Betty Ballantine). Harlan took the opportunity to talk about the forthcoming TV series “Masters of Science Fiction”, which adapts one of his own stories and includes an appearance by him in a cameo role he wrote for himself — the first time in 40 years he’s managed to actually be cast in such a role. He went on and on in over-the-top Harlan style, and mentioned that this might be his last convention. Though the audience seemed entertained, it was hard not to detect the wish that this might be an actual promise.
James Patrick Kelly, presenting the novelette award, discussed the spelling of novelette/novelet and proposed that the existing set of category names go metric: novel, decinovel, centinovel, millinovel.
Robert Silverberg came out in serious mode to present the novella award, to… Connie Willis. Who was genuinely surprised and moved, to the point of becoming choked up, that the fantasies of her youth, of attending her first Worldcon among writer gods such as Robert Silverberg, had become so fulfilled.
And if there was a surprise to match Hartwell’s win for best editor, it was Robert Charles Wilson’s win for best novel (against predictions of Charles Stross or George R.R. Martin). It was a triumph for Tor and editors Patrick and Teresa Nielsen Hayden, who have been trumpeting the book against the apparent odds, and for Robert Charles Wilson, about whom commentators all weekend had been saying was one of those underappreciated writers whose books kept getting better and better, who would someday eventually win, even if he wouldn’t this weekend. But he did win, and everyone was very pleased.
As the evening ended, newssheets were passed out listing the complete voting breakdown as well as the lists of nominees including those below the cut on the final ballot. (It can now be revealed: Neil Gaiman withdrew Anansi Boys, though it had the third-highest number of nominations in the novel category.) These statistics don’t seem to have been posted on the convention’s website (unlike last year), so I will do my own summary of those results, discussing who came in second and third and last, in my next post here. Which, this evening’s time having run out, will be tomorrow morning.