WorldCon 2009, Sunday: The Hugos and The Community
This will be a brief post* and not very polished as blog posts go. I'm tired and attempting to make an early night of it. I know, I know--an early night at WorldCon? That's unpossible! Yet I shall try.
Tonight's big event was the awarding of the Hugos, when the World Science Fiction Society presents big heavy rocket-shaped trophies to people what done good. This is my second time attending the Hugos, and once again they made me both giggly and teary-eyed. The reason for that is why I wanted to blog a bit before I slept.
Towards the beginning of the presentation, we get the IN MEMORIAM list. Names of those members of ours community who have died since the last WorldCon are projected on the big screens. Charles N. Brown, founder of Locus Magazine. Forrest J. Ackerman, "Mr. Science Fiction." And, heartbreakingly, the list went on for pages. After each name was a word or two describing what their role had been: author, editor, artist, etc.
The list was a very inclusive list. Walter Cronkite was mentioned, though he was not someone you'd have thought of as being part of SF/F fandom. His tag was "space exploration enthusiast." Michael Jackson, too: "genre music video." Fandom is ecumenical and all-embracing. Many of the people we count as our own might be surprised to find themselves in that number.
So that's the easy answer to why I get teary. But it goes deeper. See, a lot of the names, they got tagged with just one word: "Fan."
Science fiction and fantasy has its celebrities. Dang straight it does--ask Neil Gaiman, who appears increasingly chagrined as the years go by at his rock star status. (He observed at the "Finding Fandom" panel that his power to create a roomful of applause with a single word--"Sandman"--was a dangerous one that ought only to be used for good. He has been heard to observe that his simply walking into a con party halts all conversation.) And yet in fandom, "celebrity" doesn't imply the same sort of separation between the celeb and pleb as it does in other entertainment industries (my parenthetical comments last sentence notwithstanding). The line between fan and pro blurs to the point that someone might get nominated for "Best Fan Writer" the same year they're nominated for "Best Novel." The line blurs because every pro started out a fan, many fans aspire to be pros, and every pro remains a fan. Thanks to cons, acquaintanceships and friendships form across that blurry line and grow strong.
Tonight, John Scalzi won a Hugo for Best Related Book. Last year, I sat down with six or seven other fans at Scalzi's kaffeeklatsch and we all enjoyed a rambling conversation with him about anything and everything. Tonight, Ellen Datlow won a Hugo for Best Editor, Short Form. Friday morning she and I and several other early risers all chatted beside the fountain while waiting for the daily walk around town to get under way. Tonight, Elizabeth Bear won a Hugo for Best Novelette. This morning, I sat in a small conference room with a handful of WorldCon attendees to hear Bear read us some excerpts from her upcoming novel.
And all of us have been passing each other in the hallways, nodding to and smiling to and greeting each other right across that pro/fan boundary line that isn't much of a boundary at all. "Fan." It's a title we all share here. It doesn't get replaced by other titles--it just gets augmented. "Fan." It's title enough to get you missed sorely by the rest of the community when you're no longer with us here on Earth. The inclusiveness of that is truly touching. It reminds me that "home" isn't just a place; it's people too.
So that's the second reason the Hugos make me teary. The third, which is also the reason I get giggly--well, you watch. Watch what happens when someone gets the award and comes up to accept it. Watch Frank Wu (Best Fan Artist sorry, got that wrong before) galumphing up onto the stage, tripping over his own feet up the stairs, out of breath with hurry and utter surprise. Watch him playing with his Hugo, zooming the rocket ship around in the air and making whooshing noises. Watch him bounding back to his seat, still wielding his Hugo in toy rocket position, while the next category gets underway. And this isn't even his first Hugo, either! It's heartwarming and funny and makes you want to go over and give him a hug. Because you'd be galumphing and bounding and whooshing, too! And listen to the recipients who can barely utter their thanks over the sudden lump in their throats. Or the ones who get punchy and start interrupting their own acceptance speech trains of thought by looking down at the trophy they're holding--as though they can't believe they actually have one in their hot little hands--and blurt out, "Fuck this thing is heavy!"
The Hugos event is full of those little human moments--those moments when you realize, with the force of epiphany, "We're all humans together, and I love these humans, they're funny and wonderful and just like me, really." You want to just encircle the entire auditorium in your arms and not let go.
So I'm a little weepy right now and full of smiles. And very, very sleepy. And now that I have said what I wanted to say, hot damn! I get to go to sleep now! G'night!
* or not. Brief, that is.