Denvention 3 Day 4: Essential Books; Hugos

By day 4 of a big convention like this, it all begins running together. Which day is this? Saturday? Already? I had breakfast at a funky market/cafe on Market St, then wandered down to the convention center for a while, doing a last round of the dealers room and hanging out at the Locus table for a while, until a group of us wandered up the street for lunch, ending up at Chipotle (a Mexican franchise familiar from home), with Kirsten and family, Graham, Gary, Karen, and others.

It was relatively hot in Denver today, at least while the sun was out, and I changed into shorts for the afternoon. At 2:30 was a panel on the “20 essential books of the past 20 years”, at which Charles Brown, Gary Wolfe, Cheryl Morgan, Graham Sleight, and Karen Burnham all brought their individual lists and, round-robin fashion, read them off five and three titles at a time with brief discussion. There were lots of titles mentioned, and Cheryl promised to post the complete lists on her site soon, though probably not for a few days (saving me the trouble — I’m blink her post when it’s up). Brief summary: panelists mentioned everybody from Kim Stanley Robinson to Iain Banks to Minister Faust; Neal Stephenson was mentioned by most everyone, but for different titles; the one title all five included was Ian McDonald’s River of Gods.

After that I hung out with Diana Gill in the Hyatt bar for a while, discussing Eos books and apartment/house renovations and respective vacation trips to the Rocky Mountains and South Africa, then went back to my room to change for the Hugo reception. I lucked out again; though not a nominee myself, I was one of the designated guests for the three Locus Magazine nominees (Charles, Liza, Kirsten), and so got admission into the pre-Hugo reception, with platters of finger food and a cash bar, and seating near the front of the vast auditorium, which was not all that full anyway.

The Hugo ceremony was OK, will master of ceremonies Wil McCarthy leading the event, a bit nervously, with an opening thesis concerning applause protocol. OK. The ceremony included a raft of preliminary awards — first fandom, big heart, and two special committee awards — though not the elaborate Seiun Awards presentation common to many previous Hugo events.

Personal reactions to the winners: I was actually surprised Chabon won, thinking Hugo voters might have been put off what might have been perceived as literary slumming; disappointed, but not surprised, that McDonald came in last–a dense, difficult book. I’d predicted perennial category nominee Stross would win. (Maybe *next* year.) Connie Willis, local hero, won for a relatively minor story in a relatively weak category. Chiang is a deserving winner among a strong set of nominees. I liked Stardust quite a lot, and was pleased that it won even though its win was probably in part just a Neil Gaiman fan effect. I’m disappointed Shaun Tan didn’t win something — but very pleased my favorite current artist, Stephan Martiniere, did win. As for nonfiction book, it’s understandable that Prucher’s Oxford Dictionary won, considering its debt to the many fans [voters] who helped compile the book, but a win for Barry Malzberg would have represented a higher cosmic justice. And Locus Magazine’s win for best semiprozine represented some sort of ironic justice, considering the movement to eliminate the category entirely, in a weird sort of backlash against the implications of the way the categories have been defined for years upon decades.

The Hugo Losers’ party was predictably crowded and hot; the SFWA suite less so, for a while. I ended up down in the Hyatt bar with Gary and Farah and Karen and Ellen and others, discussing plans for next year’s Worldcon, William Sanders, and other topics, while thinking that this con was just big enough, and spread out enough, to make finding any particular person problematic. But there’s always next time.

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