The highlight of the Hugo Losers Party was our midnight madness: the presentation of this year’s Alfie Awards.
Those who came in late may be wondering — what the hell are the Alfie Awards?
Well, to understand that, it helps to know a bit about Hugo history. The first Hugo Awards were presented in 1953 at the 11th worldcon, in Philadelphia. Alfred Bester won for Best Novel (the big one, then as now) with his soon-to-be-classic THE DEMOLISHED MAN. Fannish legend tells us the first awards were made from Oldsmobile hood ornaments… but that’s not quite true, as it turns out. Maryland fan Jack McKnight made those first awards himself in his machine shop, working all through the con and finishing just in time for the presentation. Which is not to say that the ‘hood ornament’ legend is entirely wrong. Just the date is off. It was the 1956 Hugos that are actually Oldsmobile hood ornaments. Dave Kyle made the awards that year. Kyle presumably lacked McKnight’s machine shop and metal-working skills, so he raided some junkyards for hood ornaments from the 1950 or 1951 Oldsmobile Rocket 88, and screwed them to an upright wooden stand.
Fast forward to 1976, and that first Hugo Loser Party in Kansas City. I have written, below, of how Gardner Dozois acted as a herald/ doorman at that bash, loudly announcing each guest who attempted to enter, and proclaiming them either a winner or a loser. Losers were cheered and welcomed, winners booed and pelted with peanuts, etc. Which leads me to the moment when Alfred Bester himself appeared in the door. “ALFIE BESTER,” Gargoo roared. “You won the FIRST Hugo!!!” Alfie was undeterred. “Yes,” he shouted back, “but it was an Oldsmobile hood ornament, and it’s all pitted and rusted and corroded now!” And the boos changed to cheers, and Alfie entered the party and proceeded to drink us all under the table.
When I decided last year to give some tokens to the writers, fans, and stories who were pushed off the Hugo ballot by the Puppy slates, I decided to call them “Alfies” in Bester’s honor, and of course they had to be made out of old hood ornaments.
Herewith, the Alfie trophies for 2016:
((The old car buffs among you may have some fun figuring out what makes and models supplied the rockets for each of those Alfie trophies. Have at it)).
This was the second time I’ve given out Alfies, which supposedly makes them an ancient and hallowed fannish tradition… though it’s a tradition I would gladly put to rest, if peace, good will, and normalcy should ever return to the Hugo Awards. (We can hope).
Hugo night was a lot less fraught in Kansas City than at Spokane. There were some great and worthy winners, no boos, no walkouts, and only two categories that went to No Award… which is not as good as none, but is certainly better than five. Sad Puppies 4 produced a recommendation list, not a slate, and I applaud them for that. But the Rabids continued to slate, and there were still good people and great work pushed off the ballot by VD and his followers.
Awards… all awards… are at heart no more than a slap on the back, a way of telling someone, “You did good! Great work! Hurrah!” The trophies, however handsome or ugly or controversial, may look nice on a mantle, but they have little intrinsic worth in and of themselves, and the supposed financial gains and career boosts that go to award winners are largely legendary (there are a lot of Oscar-winning actors out there looking for work, boys and girls). Nonetheless, it is nice to win an award. And yes, it’s even nice to be nominated and lose, though it may sting for a moment; that’s what the Hugo Losers Party is all about. Awards should be about joy and celebration, a community applauding its own. That’s certainly what the Hugo Awards were all about, until Puppygate.
Aside from two ‘committee awards’ (I am the ‘committee’), I do not choose the Alfie winners. The fans do, with their nominations. The Alfies go to those who produced outstanding work in 2015, but were denied a spot on the ballot, and thus the chance to compete for the Hugo, by slating.
BEST FANCAST was the first Alfie awarded at the Midland. The award went to TEA AND JEOPARDY, by Emma and Peter Newman, which garnered 212 nominations.
One of my special ‘committee awards’ went to BLACK GATE, which had 461 nominations in the Fanzine category, second among all nominees and good for a place on the ballot. But Black Gate turned down the nomination, just as they did last year, to disassociate themselves from the slates. Turning down one Hugo nomination is hard, turning down two must be agony. Integrity like that deserves recognition, as does Black Gate itself. Editor John O’Neill was on hand to accept the Alfie.
Our Alfie for BEST FAN WRITER went to ALEXANDRA ERIN, whose 213 nominations led all non-slate nominees in this category. (I note that I myself got 103 nominations in the category, good for thirteenth place. What the hell, guys, really? I thank you, but… I know professionals have won in this category before, but I’m really more comfortable leaving the Fan Writer awards for fans).
JOURNEY PLANET, by James Bacon and Christopher J. Garcia, had 108 nominations for BEST FANZINE, and took the Alfie in that category. Have to say, I loved Bacon’s enthusiasm (and he’s the calm, quiet, shy one of the two).
We had a couple of distinguished guest presenters in the next categories. Hugo and Chesley award-winning artist John Picacio joined me on stage to present the Alfie for BEST GRAPHIC STORY to BITCH PLANET VOL 1: EXTRAORDINARY MACHINE, from Kelly Sue DeConnick, Valentine De Landro, Taki Soma, and Robert Wilson, which racked up 271 nominations. And Irene Gallo, the distinguished award-winning art director from Tor Books came up to announce our BEST PROFESSIONAL ARTIST, JULIE DILLON. Julie has won the last two Hugo Awards in this category, and her 244 nominations suggest that she would have had an excellent shot at making it three in a row, if slating had not kept her off the ballot. Instead she gets an Alfie to keep her two Hugos company.
The winner of my second special ‘committee award’ was Liza Groen Trombi and the staff of LOCUS. Once upon a time, LOCUS won the fanzine Hugo almost every year, until the rules were changed to make it ineligible. A new category, Semiprozine, was created. Thereafter LOCUS won that category almost every year… until, once more, the rules were jiggered to make it ineligible. Rules change, but one thing does not: the continued excellence of LOCUS, which remains required reading for anyone who loves science fiction and fantasy.
Of all the categories in this year’s Hugo, the one most adversely affected by the slating was BEST RELATED WORK, where the Hugo finalists consisted of a critical study of the works of Gene Wolfe and some truly reprehensible stuff. A pity, since there was some terrific related works published in 2015, including Adam Whitehead’s history of epic fantasy, Felicia Day’s delightful memoir, and the Alfie winner, with 359 nominations: LETTERS TO TIPTREE, from Alisa Krasnostein and Alexandra Pierce.
The last Alfie of the evening was in the category of BEST SHORT STORY. To present that, the only fiction award, I called upon the winner of one of last year’s special ‘committee’ Alfies, ROBERT SILVERBERG, the only man to have attended every Hugo Awards ceremony… and now, every Alfie ceremony as well.
I had to debate whether to give an Alfie in this category, since the Hugo for Best Short Story had gone to a legitimate nominee, Naomi Kritzer’s delightful “Cat Pictures Please.” (Naomi was sitting next to me during the Hugos, and her excitement when her name was read out reminded me of what these awards are all supposed to be about). “Cat Pictures” was only on the ballot because one of the slated nominees refused his nomination (Thomas Mays, who deserves recognition for that), and lots of other good strong short stories were denied a shot at the ballot. I could not rectify all of that, but I could recognize at least one story that ‘shoulda been a contender.’
The last Alfie of the evening went to ALYSSA WONG, for “Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers,” which had 253 nominations. Alyssa was there herself to accept.
Congratulations to all the Alfie winners… and to the Hugo winners too, of course.
You did good work, guys and girls.
And that’s what it’s all about, Alfie.