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Worst Hugo Award Ceremony – Ever

August 1, 2020 3 comments

If you were a British teenager back in the 1980s, there’s a fair chance that you’ll remember the 1989 Brit Awards. Presented by Mick Fleetwood and Sam Fox, it’s gone down in award ceremony history as how not to do the thing. Plagued by technical difficulties, presenters who had no empathy with the audience and a general lack of scripting and planning, I was pretty sure it was the worst awards presentation I’d ever see.

SamFoxBritsJPG

The 1989 Brit Awards are still painful to watch

All that changed when I made the mistake of tuning in to watch the 2020 Hugo Award ceremony, presented by George RR Martin.  The Hugo Award ceremony is never the most slickly produced thing. And this year, the convention organisers 1 had to do the whole thing via the internet.

And just before we get into it: The speeches were amazing. The technical achievement was incredible. The team did very well on short notice (Worldcons take years to plan) and the things the winners said were important and deserving of respect.  A super-cut, shorter version of the ceremony, can be found here:

You’ll note it’s shorter than the full ceremony. That’s because they cut out all the bits from Toastmaster, George RR Martin. The edited version is two hours shorter.

That’s right; the full ceremony was three and a half hours long. Two hours of this was George RR Martin reminiscing on his youth, whilst throwing shade at the new generation of Hugo Nominees and fans. Now had George been a gracious host, that might have been charming. But instead it was an old fan using his platform to lecture and bore his community, whilst disapproving of the community he claims to love.

For example, the award for new voices in sci-fi fandom got changed last year from being called ‘The John W Campbell Award’ to ‘The Astounding Award’.  This is mostly because Jeanette Ng pointed out that John W Campbell was a “fucking fascist” and a racist, during her acceptance speech last year for that award.

As Ng acknowledged later; the fans have been trying to get the award changed for years, it’s just that Ng took a stand, risked her career and made the point at a critical time. It prompted the name change.

Martin used his platform to not only mock the way the award had been changed, but to repeatedly talk about Campbell, the noted fascist and racist. Martin would go on to mis-pronounce names (despite given clear guidance to the contrary.) It was a 210 minute dis-fest, punctuated by actually relevant members of the community popping on to accept their awards and say important things about the state of the world.

Worse, Martin changed the narrative of the ceremony.  Most of the speeches mentioned the state of the world right now, which is correct for a science fiction awards ceremony.  Winners talked about the harassment and bigotry they had to cope with from within the publishing world. They talked about the state of Hong Kong and Hungary. They made impassioned speeches that acknowledged the poor state of our planet right now. It was strong stuff. It was stuff that should be said.

And yet, here we are complaining about Martin and his attempt to sweep that all under the table and talk about himself.

This is not the first time George has been rude to those nominated for a Hugo Award. Back before the days of inside toilets and wifi, Martin invented a thing called the Loser’s Party; a silly name for the Hugo Awards Ceremony after-party.  Over the years it’s become a bit of a legend, with talented types from the world of SciFi and Fantasy having fun. It’s become more than what it once was, much like the SciFi community itself.

Last year, at Dublin 2019– An Irish Worldcon,  it was held at the spacious Guinness Storehouse. Martin later admitted that he had under-estimated the number of guests attending and it’s clear that certain cliques got in over others.  You would assume that a Hugo Losers party would prioritise those nominated for a Hugo Award but didn’t win.  Instead, the venue hit capacity and a number of the ‘losers’ couldn’t get in. They were left, outside in the rain. For hours. Waiting to get in to their own party

Just let that sink in; the Hugo Losers party didn’t prioritise the Hugo Losers on the guest list. Though of course George and friends did get in.  George RR Martin, a man who cannot organise a piss-up in a brewery.

The seemingly deliberate disrespect Martin gave to Hugo Nominees last night puts that incident in a fresh light: Martin does not care about the younger, more diverse people who now get nominated for a Hugo award. He can’t be bothered to get their names right and to him, the past is more important than the future. This is unsustainable for an organisation that is all about speculating on what tomorrow brings.

Worldcon and The Hugo Awards need to change. Future Worldcons will not only need to be accessible to those who can only access things online, or who choose not to attend a particular location, but it also needs to acknowledge that this is a world that no longer trusts its elders.  Condescending and elite events like the ‘Loser’s Party’ need to go, replaced with something that respects the hard work of those involved with the awards.

The Brit Awards are a slick, well presented show these days. The Hugos need to learn this lesson – the conventions that host it need to spend the money, hire professional hosts and produce something worthy of those the world science fiction community wants to give its highest praise to. That means spending some actual money on the ceremony.

This should have been a celebration of New Zealand’s unique contribution to world of Science Fiction and Fantasy. This should have been a rallying call and an inspiration to the world. Instead it was an ageing white American millionaire rambling on endlessly about the last century, alienating his peers and throwing us back into the past.

Let’s do better in future.


1:  Worldcons are volunteer ran. It’s not a monolithic organisation – those in charge change from convention to convention. It’s a feature, not a bug. It’s incredibly hard work and all of the volunteers and technical teams involved have done an amazing job under difficult circumstances.

Categories: Books, Rants, Writing Tags:

Remember, Remember

November 5, 2011 1 comment

Sydney hated having to work weekends, but the Department of the Environment had tight deadlines, and no else would do it. Sydney was always doing the things no one else wanted to do. Part of the problem was that they were short-staffed. Sydney had learned not to describe the problem in those terms, mention the word “short” and someone would snigger to themselves about his stature. At 4 foot nothing, he was the shortest adult in the building and people’s tendency to treat him like some sort of mascot was irritating in the extreme. He twitched at the thought of it, wrinkling his nose in disgust.

The filing cabinet had become over-filled long ago, and the teetering stack of paperwork was so tall that Sydney had to use the extra long step-ladder. Stretching across to get that vital file, he over reached and lost his balance, causing a small avalanche of paperwork to flood the tiny office. Sydney tumbled gracefully, avoiding the worst of the disaster. As he stood amongst the debris, he looked down and uttered the mildest of oaths in frustration. In the storm of paperwork, the battered old transistor radio had become dislodged again, and had smashed against the floor, breaking into many pieces.

Ignoring the mess of paperwork for the time being, Sydney picked up the broken device with great care, dutifully sweeping up the broken pieces into his arms. Plonking the bits on his desk, he set to work; the radio was an old friend, having been brought back to life many times thanks to Sydney’s diligence, hard work and technical know-how. In a matter of minutes, it was whole again, and taking a moment to take a deep breath, Sydney turned it on.

The radio leant a tinny quality to the music it played, but it was still good. An old tune blurted out, and the song was one that Sydney was not expecting. It was a novelty song, and it took Sydney back a great many years. Remember, it said, remember. And in Sydney’s mind, a great flood of suppressed memories came flooding back.

He recalled the days, so many years ago, when the bright eyed men in the red coats came for his home. They came with shovels and hounds, and they didn’t seem to care that he and his brothers where people, with a language, a culture and loved ones. The strange men only saw the fur and the long noses. They wanted something to hunt and his kind were simply in the way. It was illegal, of course, but no one much cared. In desperation, his Uncle had gathered the clan around him, and begun to read the words from an ancient book, one long ago discarded from the libraries of man.

Sydney remembered; he recalled how his paws turned into hands and how his legs became slightly longer. He could still see the look on the faces of his brothers and sisters as they all transformed. He remembered the task he was set; to change the world, carefully and steadily, to make mankind care more about where he stood. And then, and only then, he and his kind could return to the world.

Categories: Original Fiction, Writing

Writing about Writing. Well I never.

November 1, 2011 2 comments

Well, National Novel Writing Month started today, and good luck to anyone who’s using it as an excuse to give their writing aspirations a kick-start.

Now, I’m sort of participating, in the sense that I’ve a been taking this writing business seriously for a while now and I’ve a bucket load of work to do. The way I currently work is shockingly wasteful, mostly because I’m self-employed and thus have most of the day to myself. This, alas, does not mean I can sit around playing video games and reading books. Y’see, the more non-writing things I have to do in a day, the more efficient I become with the actual discipline of applying my arse to the chair, my fingers to keyboard and my brain to creating a story.

My method, such as it is, can be easily broken down into three ‘P’s. Plodding, Planning and Panicking.

(c) The Rut @ http://bigeyedeer.wordpress.com/

I've actually had this conversation, sort of.

Plodding is essentially where I do anything but writing. Usually, this is doing something that has nothing to do with writing, but, if I’m lucky, happens to pay well. I keep a notepad handy while I either procrastinate or do something useful, and slowly accrue a sense of what I need to write today.

Planning is more useful. It’s either editing previous work, or making extensive notes as to what needs to be done. Finally, Panicking is where I realise I’ve not done my 500 words for the day, and rush to get them done. Typically, I get much more than 500 words done, but still, it’s the panicking that’s the key. Someday, I’ll develop a more disciplined process. Promise.

So, what am I writing about? Well, in case you really want to know, here’s my next few months, roughly sketched out.

Rockets, Rayguns and Really Nice Tea is a LARP project I’m running and I’ve a lovely team of very talented writers, and we’ve reams of plot to create and write, as well as a whole world to fill in and expand. With larp, the more background detail you can throw at the players, the better, because it means the players are more likely to find something they can run with. It’s already turning out to be lashings and lashing of fun, and should occupy my spare moments well into the new year and beyond.

I’m also working on a submission for Circalit’s Immersive Writing Lab Competition. It’s an exercise in world building, which is something I love to do, and do anyway. I do like to write to a brief, as it gives me a structure and a deadline, and that helps me move from the plodding to panicking stages of the process pretty swiftly. So when I see a competition like this one, I go for it.

I’m also working on a variety of Steampunk based short stories. Partially because it’s excellent practice for Victoriana1 , partially because more than a few small press publishers want Steampunk shorts to sell to the e-reader market, but mostly because writing alternate history fiction is an awful lot of fun.

Oh, and I’m writing a book. It’s a slow beast, and it’s initial incarnation was rubbish, so much so that I scrapped it and started again (same world, better story.) It’s a decidedly English piece of modern fantasy, and I’ll not bore you with the details until it’s ready, which should be sooner rather than later.


1: Victoriana is yet another LARP I’m involved with, though thankfully only as one of the writers this time. The lovely lunatic in charge of Victoriana is Mike Smith, of Ruin Mikey’s Life fame.

Categories: Writing

The hardest part…

October 1, 2011 1 comment

This weekend, I should find out if I’ve been commissioned for some writing work. (It’s not just one thing, it’s a handful of jobs). In any case, I should find out more over the weekend.

I came back to writing professionally because I missed the regular creative challenge, and the validation of being published. I came into to with no illusions as to how hard it was. The reason I write is because it’s part of who I am. The reason I try to get published is because I crave an audience.

What I’d forgotten about was the waiting. The seemingly endless waiting. You work, you sweat, you spend days changing words on a page into something that people want to read, and then you send it out into the world. And wait. And wait some more. It’s not easy.

Rejection, in this case, is almost as good as a commission. A rejection letter means that the people you’ve sent it to have at least acknowledged your existence. This isn’t being needy, this is part of how it all works.

A rejection letter is a sign you’re on the right track, because it’s far more likely that if your work is no good, you’ll simply be ignored. It’s nothing personal, of course, but it never feels like that. It feels like you’ve taken something you’ve created and then sent it out into the world to be eaten by wolves. Novellist and script-writer James Swallow once described the typical response from a publisher as a crushing maw of nothingness, and I agree with him very strongly on this. But of course, it’s nothing personal. And every failure is simply fuel to the marvellous engine called “Being Better”.

So as well as writing, I’m waiting. Patiently. And trying hard not to check my inbox every five minutes.

Categories: Writing

New Blog, Same old nonsense

August 14, 2011 Leave a comment

After years of blogging on Livejournal, I’ve finally made the leap to WordPress. Partially because LJ has become unreliable, mostly because I want this blog to focus on fresh things, so I may as well start a new blog as I change my lifestyle.

I’ll still be posting links to this blog via LJ, and I may mine the old journal for some stand out articles.

So welcome to my new blog. Expect the usual reviews, commentary, bat-shit ideas and the odd bit of fiction. And I mean odd.

 

Categories: Writing