WorldCon and the Hugos – A Convention Report

LONCON3_logo_270wIt’s 10.45am on Monday the 18th of August as I write this – the last day of LonCon3 – the 72 World Science Fiction Convention. Every year I seem to find something that makes that particular WorldCon my favourite, so far –

  • Montreal 2009 was my first WorldCon
  • I didn’t do 2010
  • Reno in 2011 was my first ever trip to the good ol’ US of A
  • During Chicago 2012 I discovered my favourite city in the world.
  • San Antonio 2013 was the best one socially and
  • London 2014 I attended as the senior editor of a new imprint for Tor.com, and also as a frickin’ Hugo nominee! (More on that, later).

Spokane 2015 has a lot to live up to!

I’m currently the Chair of this year’s FantasyCon, so I know the amount of work that goes into running a relatively small (400+) convention. This year, WorldCon had over 10,000 members, and I understand that around 7,500 of them attended the convention. With those numbers, it was pretty inevitable that there would be some hiccups.

I got to my hotel on Wednesday – the day before the event started – and decided to register for the convention early. I had a 2.30 meeting elsewhere, but there was just enough time to register, as registration was due to open at noon. I got there at 11.50, and was delighted to discover that I was one of the first 10 people in line! Woohoo! Unfortunately, Registration was not yet ready to open, and we were informed it would be open 30-45 minutes late. This  would have made me late for my appointment, so I left, and returned at 6.30. The queue was a bit longer, but not too bad, and it didn’t take me long to register.

Unfortunately, there was an additional registration area for programme participants (those of us on panels) and this registration kept different opening hours. This meant I had to come back the following morning to continue my registration. I got back to Registration the following morning (around 10.00am) to find that the lines to register were about a mile long. Luckily, I only needed Programme Participation reg, but the people managing the main registration queue didn’t know where that was. So I queued for the Information Desk. They knew, and directed me. I went and picked up my pack (my third visit to Registration, so far) and walked away, a relatively happy bunny.

My pack contained information on which panels I was on (I knew these), instructions on how to moderate a panel (I know this, but it’s certainly useful for newbies) and a folded piece of card with my name on it (not needed, as every panel I was on had this on the table, already). What it didn’t have (and what I had been told it would) was my Hugo pin and ribbon. As a virgin Hugo nominee, these are very important to me. So I headed back to the Registration (for the fourth time) to query this. They handed me a second pack, which had been misfiled, and I checked it. There was a certificate, my pin (yay) and a couple of Hugo Party invitations (one for the pre-ceremony party, one for the post-). The ribbon was missing, and I was told they hadn’t been delivered, yet. I managed to pick mine up a couple of days later on my fifth visit, so all was finally resolved.

My hotel was the Ibis Styles (nicknamed the Abyss by Adrian Tchaikovsky) – the worst hotel I have ever stayed in (and I’ve stayed in Britannias!). Nice to see mock wooden flooring in carpet form, though – I’ve never experienced that. It was special.

Thursday night saw our first panel. I hosted a game of I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue, with Paul Cornell and Emma Newman playing against Catherynne M Valente and Seanan McGuire. It probably took me 16-20 hours worth of prep to get everything ready for this, and I was fully expecting an audience of 20-30 as it was on at 10.00 at night on a Thursday – the first night of the convention. Not only was it full (500? 600? 700 people?) the door staff were having to turn people away. And it worked! The audience laughed where they were supposed to, they anticipated the regular gags and cheered, and there were a few rows of Americans who had never heard the show, looking suitably mystified at Mornington Crescent. I predicted – correctly – that it would be the highlight of the convention for me. The panelists were all brilliant, and a special shout-out goes to Seanan, who had been pretty ill the previous couple of days, and who still made the panel (and was hilarious). Knowing she was poorly, she even lined up a replacement and rehearsed with him. He wasn’t needed, but thanks for being there, Heath!

A Literary Beer the following day went well, and I moderated a panel on what it’s like to be an editor – the audience were quieter than usual at this one, which worried me, but I had a few people come up to me afterwards to say how much they enjoyed it, so that  was nice.

And all through the week/weekend, I had meeting after meeting after meeting, talking about the new novella imprint I’m setting up for Tor.com. There’s a lot of excitement around for this.

And then, on Sunday, we had the Hugos!

I always enjoy the Hugo ceremony. I go whenever I’m at a WorldCon. I love the pomp and pageantry, the celebration of our genre. And I called a lot of the winners, correctly, including the winner of the category in which I was nominated – Best Editor (Long Form). From the instant the nominees were announced, I’d named Ginjer Buchanan as the winner – the woman is a genuine legend in the industry, and anyone would have been foolish to bet against her. Because of my unwavering conviction that Ginjer would win, it really took the pressure off, and I found that I wasn’t nervous. I wondered if I would become a little nervous as they announced my category during the ceremony, but I wasn’t – not even a little. My wife (who had travelled down from York for the night to support me) found her heart beating that much faster as the nominees’ names were called out, but I surprised myself by being calm, even then. And who could possibly argue with the result? As we were walking back to the hotel I asked my wife if it was odd that I wasn’t even disappointed not to win.  As it turned out, I came 5 out of the 5 nominees, but I’m the only British editor to ever be shortlisted in any Hugo editing category – that’s a big enough win for me! (And I’ll probably post my speech here, soon).

Alt-Universe Wesley Chu, collecting his Campbell Award.

Alt-Universe Wesley Chu, collecting his Campbell Award.

I was a little disappointed that neither of my Campbell-nominated authors (Wesley Chu and Ramez Naam) won their category, but the Campbell this year was the hardest category to call, and again – no-one could argue against the winner; any of the nominees would have been appropriate. I was delighted by Kameron Hurley winning 2 Hugos for her fan writing (Best Novel Nominee (at least) prediction for next year for The Mirror Empire) and I jumped to my feet when Ann Leckie was announced as the winner of Best Novel for Ancillary Justice. It was a fabulous year for diversity, and for the middle finger of justice to be presented to the small number of small-minded bigots who try to derail the ongoing progression that the genre is largely achieving.

It’s odd to think that – even though I no longer edit novels – because of the books I’ve worked on recently, I’ll still be eligible for the Long Form Editor award for the next 2 years, but I really hope that we’ll start to see some more Brits appear on this list in future – folk like Julie Crisp, Gillian Redfearn, Marc Gascoigne and Jo Fletcher (among many, many others).

GinaLeeThe pre-ceremony party and the losers’ party were nice – folk had dressed up for them, and the writers of Game of Thrones and one of the Orphan Black writers had flown over. Doctors 5 and 10 (Davidson and Tennant) were there, too, which was nice, and I got to shake Tennant’s hand and tell him I enjoyed his work. Luckily, someone had informed the bar/restaurant staff at both parties, how dangerous we genre folk can be, and so they put away anything that would conceivably be used as a weapon – glasses, crockery, metal cutlery – and replaced it with flimsy plastic versions (including plastic wine bottles!). I don’t see that as being tacky and insulting to us, at all, no – it was no doubt a tragedy well-averted. And if it was all-but impossible to cut the cheese with a plastic knife the thickness of a paperback cover, well that’s just the price you have to pay to stay safe.

Looking forward to the next one (in Spokane, USA, next year), and to all the great cons in between, but most of all looking forward to getting home and seeing the kids after being away from them for 9 days.

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