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Hugo Awards

Started: 2019-09-01 21:28:45

Submitted: 2019-09-02 00:21:28

Visibility: World-readable

18th August 2019: In which the intrepid narrator takes his kids around Worldcon, builds a jet dragon costume, and attends the 2019 Hugo Awards ceremony

On Sunday at Worldcon, I took Calvin and Julian around the convention while Kiesa went off on her own.

Julian and Calvin ride Luas in Dublin
Julian and Calvin ride Luas in Dublin

Our first stop was the very end of the Luas red line tram, at the Odeon, a multiplex movie theater that the convention had rented during the day for presentations and talks. (Everything there was scheduled at half-hour offsets from the main convention centre, presumably to make it somewhat easier to get between the venues.)

We showed up for a screening of the new crowd-funded short film Troll Bridge, based on the Discworld short story by Terry Pratchett of the same name, featuring legendary (has-been) fighter Cohen the Barbarian trying to find and fight a troll under a bridge in an era when most trolls are modernizing and heading to the cities. Like much of Discworld, the short film presented the melancholy attachment to the way things used to be tempered with the realization that one must still adapt to the new world. The movie was shot and animated beautifully, with stunning mountain scenery mixing with CG trolls and a perfect talking horse.

But before we could watch the short film there were technical difficulties actually showing the movie on the projector. Despite being a movie theater, presumably with a robust projection setup, it proved difficult to show the movie on the big screen playing from a laptop at the front of the auditorium connected via HDMI. (There may have been extra difficulties associated with the audio codec: other videos, including a selfie video shot by the director to introduce the short film, played ok; but the projector refused to play the audio for Troll Bridge.) While we waited we watched another short film by the same production studio, an adaptation of Goldilocks and the Three Bears; then the laptop was moved to the projection booth where at length we were able to hear the audio along with the short film.

After Troll Bridge we looked around the Lego models on display. I was especially pleased to see the Lego model of the Convention Centre Dublin -- the same model I first saw in Helsinki two years ago (and, if I recall, it made an appearance in San Jose last year, though I don't have a picture if it did). The model, however, was not actually located inside the (real) convention centre, meaning we didn't have the opportunity to see a tiny model of the convention centre inside the convention centre model (which should obviously be recursive).

Convention Centre Dublin model in Lego
Convention Centre Dublin model in Lego

There was an impressive Lego diorama showing an invading army attacking a fortified castle; and the castle included an inner keep and various other details. (I immediately thought of the Lego castle Yanthor is building in his basement.)

Minifig armies face off in front of a Lego castle
Minifig armies face off in front of a Lego castle

Calvin and Julian were most interested in the Lego diorama of the first act of The Empire Strikes Back, covering most of the plot points in little scenes (to the point where Luke Skywalker appeared five or six different times).

Julian studies a Lego diaorama from The Empire Strikes Back
Julian studies a Lego diaorama from The Empire Strikes Back

After a brief excursion into the art show (Julian announced, "Daddy, I want to see art!", then he lost interest when I told him he couldn't touch the yarn sculptures on one of the tables) we ate falafel-wraps for lunch, then headed to the children's programming in the basement of the Spencer Hotel.

Calvin and Julian amused themselves with the car racing track until I took them to the children's science experiments presentation in the adjacent room. I helped Julian inflate a balloon by mixing vinegar and baking soda (releasing carbon dioxide under pressure, which inflated the balloon); and then I realized that the balloon was noticeably heavier than air because it held concentrated CO2 rather than mostly N2.

The children's program was putting on a children's masquerade in the evening, before the Hugo Awards ceremony, and had set up a craft project making dragon wings out of mylar-covered foam sheets. Julian wanted wings, so I cut out wings and taped them together to form the top and bottom of the wing. Then I decided to embellish the project by adding jet engines and mounting them under the wing. I completed the costume with a large section of mylar foam wrapped around Julian's torso, two additional sections around each arm, and a harness that held the wings to the torso. (The harness proved to be the least stable part of the costume: I only managed to attach it to the torso with painter's tape, which did not stick very well to the mylar, so it kept slipping off and I kept needing to reattach it.)

Julian dressed up as a jet airplane
Julian dressed up as a jet airplane

We didn't have enough time to attend the children's masquerade before we headed to supper and returned for the Hugo Awards; but we did have time to walk to the convention centre and promenade around the lobby. Multiple people noticed Julian's costume and complimented him on it; but Julian was shy and didn't appreciate the attention. We found Kiesa, who admired Julian's costume; then Julian was ready to retire the costume.

We ate supper at a nearby Indian restaurant, speculated whether any of the other guests were Hugo Award finalists, and caught the tram to our apartment. Kiesa and I changed into our finest clothes for the Hugo Awards; this is one of the few occasions where I have an excuse to dress up, so I wore a suit and a tie. My children reminded me how infrequently I dress up; as I was putting on my shoes Calvin said, "Whoa, dress shoes!" and Julian pointed to my tie and said, "What's that?"

Kiesa and Jaeger head to the Hugo Awards
Kiesa and Jaeger head to the Hugo Awards

We headed back to the convention and dropped the kids off at babysitting, then headed into the convention centre. This year, in an attempt to eliminate long queues (and because the mostly-vertical venue didn't have a good place to put long queues) the convention issued wristbands for the big evening events, so Kiesa picked up our wristbands in advance. This ended up working well for us: we arrived at the convention centre after our timed entry (according to our wristbands) at 19:30 and ended up with good seats in the balcony with a commanding view of the stage (and of the Hugo Award finalists in the front section immediately in front of the stage).

Hugo Awards underway inside the Convention Centre Dublin
Hugo Awards underway inside the Convention Centre Dublin

The ceremony started shortly after 20:00. After prepared remarks by various people, author Ada Palmer (a previous recipient of the Best New Writer award) stepped up to the podium to present this year's Best New Writer award. As she was delivering her remarks, the closed captioning projected on the screen behind her struggled to keep up, showing "dog magicians" in place of "dogmaticians". The audience chuckled, and Ms. Palmer faltered but kept speaking. The closed captioning made several other gratuitous mistakes, to the point where the entire audience was laughing and the only person in the entire room who wasn't in on the joke was the presenter herself. She finally turned around to see the dreadful translation of her words on the screen, and laughed herself.

The award for best new writer was given to Jeannette Ng. She started her acceptance speech with "John W. Campbell was a fucking fascist," and proceeded to excoriate the editor (for whom the best new writer award was named for) for his racist views and his legacy of holding back science fiction even at a time when his peers were facing the future. The audience cheered and applauded.

(In the weeks after her speech, the sponsor of the award announced that they would be changing its name to the "Astounding Award for Best New Writer" -- so using the platform provided by a major awards ceremony to speak out about proved worthwhile.)

The rest of the ceremony proved less explosive. Almost all of the works I voted for lost but all of the winners deserved their awards, representing the recognition of their peers and the community of fans.

As the award ceremony pressed on, working its way through the queue of rocket ship trophies laid out on a table on the side of the stage in front of a model of the Samuel Beckett Bridge (the bridge spanning the river Liffey immediately in front of the convention centre), I began to wonder precisely when the ceremony would finish -- and whether it would be after I had arranged to pick up the kids from babysitting at 22:00. In addition to the awards, the ceremony included musical interludes and other non-awards content. By 21:50 I decided I needed to leave to pick up the kids by 22:00; I left the auditorium during the presentation of Best Graphic Story, missing all of the big fiction awards announced after that. Kiesa texted me the winners after that, until I pointed out that I did have Twitter which gave me the same information.

I picked up Calvin and Julian from babysitting and took them back to the apartment via the tram. It was after 22:00, well past Julian's bedtime (in our home time zone he's in bed shortly after 19:30, which we managed to more-or-less honor when visiting other time zones); but he walked most of the way back to the apartment; he broke down on the bridge across the river Liffey, so I carried him the rest of the way.

By the time I got back to the apartment, and got Julian into bed, the awards ceremony was complete, and I had time to study the 2019 Hugo Awards stats packet to figure out who won in what order with how many votes, and who was on the long list that didn't make the nomination. I did manage to avoid the drama of the Hugo loser's party by virtue of not being sufficiently-well-connected to get an invite (though, I have to confess, I would have been thrilled to have gotten an invite to the best party in town that night).

There's no gossip jucier than what's on bitscape.org, so I don't really
have anything to say. In fact, I learned most of it there.
- Yanthor, Festing: The Gathering, 21 March 2003