The annual presentation of the Hugo Awards is always one of the high points of worldcon. I have been attending the Hugo ceremony since my very first worldcon in 1971. The awards were presented at a dinner back then, and I could not afford a ticket (they were priced outrageously, at something like seven bucks), so I watched the proceedings from a balcony, standing. Robert Silverberg presided, and it was all incredibly exciting.
Fast forward to this year’s Hugo Awards in Dublin. They had their own excitements, perhaps more than any year since 2015 in Spokane, the Year of the Puppies (and, more happily, the Alfies). Let’s just say they were… fraught, with some amazing high points and a few low ones. Of course, your view of which points were high and which were low may vary from mine.
There were many worthy winners, to be sure… and as ever, many losers that were also rocket-worthy. Since I feel more like Thumper than Alice Roosevelt Longworth today, let me focus on my favorite parts.
Like Charles Vess. The artist category had some amazing talents nominated this year, and I was seated right next to one, the incredible John Picacio. But John was applauding just as loudly as me when Vess won for Best Professional Artist. A very well deserved win for an artist not previously honored. And then, just moments later, Charles returned to the stage to collect the Hugo for Best Art Book as well, for his illustrated edition of Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea stories. A double win!!! Lots of people win Hugos every year, but winning two in a single night is a rare accomplishment (I did it myself in 1980, the second person to do so, and it remains one of the high points of my career). And with Charles Vess, it really could not have happened to a nicer guy. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Vess in the past… he illustrated the limited edition of A STORM OF SWORDS… and he really is as sweet, genial, and pleasant as he appears, in addition to being enormously gifted. Nice guys DON’T always finish last, kids. I am hoping to be able to work with Charles Vess again, soon… I have just the project in mind. But we shall see.
I will never be able to work with Gardner Dozois again, sadly… but Gardner’s victory as Best Professional Editor (Short Form) was the other highlight of the evening for me… and for many, many, many others who loved Gardner, had the privilege of being edited by him, or the simple joy of knowing him. I have edited a lot of anthologies of my own over the decades, but I’ve never enjoyed doing any of them so much as I enjoyed the ones I did with Gargy: SONGS OF THE DYING EARTH, WARRIORS, DANGEROUS WOMEN, ROGUES, SONGS OF LOVE & DEATH, DOWN THESE STRANGE STREETS, OLD MARS, OLD VENUS. We wanted to do more, but alas, it was not to be. Gardner left us all too soon, and a lot of laughter and love left the world when he did.
But on Hugo night, when his name was read out one last time, a bit of it returned, just for a moment. His son Christopher Casper was on hand to accept the award for him… and just as Gargy would have, he said the award really belonged to the writers. Gardner said pretty much the same thing every time he won a Hugo, and he won a lot of them… deservedly.
I am not a believer in any afterlife, and I don’t think that Gardner was either… so as nice as it would be to think that he was looking down on us from the Secret Pro Party in the Sky, I can’t. But the award certainly meant the world to Christopher, to me, to all of Gardner’s other friends, and to the myriads of writers, the generations of writers, who filled the pages of ASIMOV’S during Gardner’s tenure there, who learned from him at Clarion and other workshops, who were fished out of one slush pile or another by the pre-eminent editor of his times (I was one of those). No one knew our genre better, no one discovered more new talent, and no one had a better eye for a good story… or a better sense of how to make a flawed story work… than Gardner Dozois. And no award that was handed out in Dublin last month was more well deserved than Gardner’s last Hugo.
I also want to say a word or two in praise of Michael Scott and Afua Richardson, the hosts and presenters on Hugo night, who kept the ceremony moving at a nice pace under sometimes trying circumstances. Scott was eloquent and informative, and Richardson provided one of the most moving moments of the night when she spoke of the influence that Nichelle Nichols had upon her life and career. Afua also sang beautifully and played the flute.
All of which was tremendously intimidating. Next year worldcon is in New Zealand and I’m the Toastmaster, so it will be be my task to present the Hugos. Afua is a helluva hard act to follow. You really don’t want to hear me sing. Maybe I should start taking flute lessons….
Current Mood: contemplative