Trip Report: Preservation Park and the Locus Awards

No blog post yesterday; I was busy from about 2pm to around 8pm attending one day of the Locus Awards Weekend (this link might expire soon) in downtown Oakland, about 10 miles down the hills from our house.

The Locus Awards, given since 1971, are analogous to the Hugo and Nebula Awards, in terms of categories — novels, short fiction, nonfiction books, etc. — and voting (ranked, from a set of nominees) — but are the result of votes from the readers of Locus Magazine, rather than members of a convention or a writers’ organization. For years the ceremony to announce the winners was held at a hotel in Seattle, with a modest crowd of 50 or 75 or 100, until the pandemic set in and ceremonies were held virtually, via YouTube or some other app, for three years. They returned to in-person this year, in Oakland just a few yards from the offices of Locus Magazine, in a venue near downtown Oakland called Preservation Park.

Preservation Park is a two block neighborhood of Victorian homes near the center of downtown Oakland. A few of those Victorian homes were built there in the 1870s, while some 11 of the 16 home on the site were moved there from other parts of Oakland in the 1970s to preserve them lest they be demolished. The area is now a popular wedding venue and (small) conference host. Here’s one of numerous photos on this page

This page some some of the indoor settings, including the stage in Nile Hall, where the Locus event was. The stage is shown at the top of the page.

The afternoon was like a mini-convention, with three panels from 1:00 to 4:30 on various topics, then a “reception” with a table of serve-yourself Cuban food for an hour and half, then presentation of the awards beginning at 6pm.

I knew the winners already; they’re being published in the July issue of Locus Magazine, which I had gotten an advance PDF copy of earlier in the week.

The main reason I attended (at $95 a pop, for me and Y) was to see Connie Willis, whom I used to chat with once or twice a year at large conventions, back in the days when I attended three or four events a year. (Among Nebula Weekend, Westercon, Locus Awards, World SF Convention, World Fantasy Convention.) She was one of the first professionals who was very nice to me when I began writing reviews for Locus Magazine, way back in 1988, and then would go to these conventions to introduce myself to writers whose stories I’d especially liked. Most years Connie and I would chat about movies, just standing in the concourse of the convention center for 5 or 10 minutes, or trading sympathetic barbs about what the politicians were up to. I mentioned her recently in this post, with this link to her hosting last year’s Locus Awards. She’s a master at stand-up monologue comedy. She knows about timing.

This year we talked about getting older and our health problems, and also about traveling and politics and family. Neither of us are seeing many current movies.

I also hoped to run into Robert Silverberg and wife Karen Haber, not even sure if they would be there. They were, if a bit belatedly, during the reception. My partner and I have gotten together with the Silverbergs for dinner maybe once a year since we moved to Oakland in 2015, up until when the pandemic set in, in early 2020; since then, what with my health issues and everyone’s general unwillingness to go out, we hadn’t been in touch.

Now, we chatted a bit, to hear about Silverberg’s latest sale, a three-line story (which I’d already read about in Fictionmags); his disinclination to any more traveling (here’s nearly 90 years old); and an agreement to get together for dinner again soon. And our cats. Ours seem to get along better together than his.

As I get older and more remote from the average demographic of convention attendees, there are fewer and fewer people I recognize, let alone know, or would approach, at events like these. We sat with Locus part-time employee (“assistant editor” actually) Bob Blough throughout the awards, updating our personal stories, and occasionally exchanging snarks about the winners, whom we both already knew.

Earlier, during the the panel we saw about comedy in Sf/F, with Connie Willis, Charlie Jane Anders, Gail Carriger, and Maggie Tokuda-Hall, I didn’t recognize Maggie Tokuda-Hall at all, even though later in the evening she turned out to be a very capable MC for the Locus Awards. Charlie Jane, I’ve met once or twice to say hello to; Gail Carriger I know of her works that I’ve never read and whom I have never met.

As always, I listen to Connie, who had savvy points to make about how to write comedy (“tricks” like repeating a joke multiple times in ways that make it funnier every time; and the importance of framing). And her reliance on Shakespeare, and her recommendation to read P.G. Wodehouse.

We said hello to Fran (who took our picture) and to Kirsten and Aaron, and one or two others. I was able to tell Bob Blough about my essay invitation from Gary Westfahl, but only after I established that he knew who Gary Westfahl was. He was impressed. But I wouldn’t have mentioned this to Connie or Bob S, or the other Locus staff; it would be very small potatoes to them.

The venue was very stylish, and I would expect Locus to host the awards there again.

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