I wasn’t going to go to Spokane for the World Science Fiction Convention. I have a lot of work on my plate, a number of other trips so adding in Sasquan seemed like just too much. Then Puppies happened and I knew I had to go. My friend David Gerrold (the man responsible for Tribbles and defeating the Klingons with said aforementioned tribbles) was the guest of honor, and it seemed like there was a very good chance his moment in the sun was going to be spoiled by a food fight in fandom.
For those of you not be seeped in the lore of fandom — it’s a great honor to be selected as a worldcon GoH. And the modern practice is that you only get one. In the old days Robert Heinlein was GoH four times, but that’s not how it’s done today. You have one bite at this apple. The unpleasantness that exploded when the slate of nominees was revealed meant that there was a good chance David’s moment was going to be scarred by “tension, apprehension and dissension” to quote Robert Silverberg quoting remarks from the 1968 Worldcon. That meant I was going to go attend Worldcon come hell or high water and try to be there for my friend.
I also have a number of friends among the hard working fans who put on Worldcons (no easy task). These are people who love our field and donate their time and energy to throw a party every year for all of us (normally) joyful nerds who love rocket ships and unicorns, fighting robots and spell flinging mages, dystopias and utopias. They also didn’t deserve to cope with all this tribulation without folks showing up who wanted to celebrate the field.
I was also privy to George’s plan to present Alfie’s to those folks who had been pushed off the ballot by the slate. You can find George’s remarks on how he did it and why he did it here — What’s It All About, Alfie? I wanted to show support for his laudable effort to honor folks who had been damaged by the “tension, apprehension and dissension” And it wasn’t all about the Hugos, it was also George reclaiming the Hugo Losers Party which has become a rather stuffy affair. Years ago I got to be a co-conspirator with George at one Losers party where I let George in an adjoining door so he could cover Gardner Dozois with silly string as he reclined on the bed in a hotel room. Gardner then rampaged through the party like the Creature of the Black Lagoon. Ah memories.
Anyway, I went to the Worldcon, and I had a great time. I got to meet Jim Wright who writes the amazing Stonekettle Station Blog. I got to interact with a lot of great people at my Kaffee Klatch and my reading. I hung out with the amazing Willis clan — Connie, Courtney and Cordelia. Michael Cassutt kept me laughing at his wit and cynicism. I had breakfast with the elegant and brilliant Kate Elliot. I was also there because my friends Emma and Peter Newman were up for a Hugo for best fancast with their charming, witty, interesting and all around delightful Tea & Jeopardy. Since they sadly couldn’t attend worldcon I had been tasked to accept the Hugo should they win and read the moving speech they had prepared.
So now it was Saturday night. Hundreds of thousands of words had been written and a thousand insults exchanged about the controversy of the Sad and Rabid Puppies and the battle they imagined they were having with the SJW (Social Justice Warriors). The moment of truth was at hand. Thousands of supporting memberships that had been purchased. By whom? Puppies? Gamergate fellows? Old line fans? New Fen? None of us knew and some of us were pessimistic. Me among them. But not David. He sensed that fandom would come galloping to the defense of the community and the award to say — “Look, we don’t object to you, your religious beliefs, your political philosophies, your love of military S.F. or Sword Swinging Barbarians, Mighty Thewed Heroes and Women in Chain Mail Bikinis Clinging to Said Heroes, in short Big Dumb Fun but we want you to not game the system. Nominate what you love like we’ve all done for decades, but don’t create a slate.
I slipped into my slinky blue cocktail dress complete with a rhinestone shoulder strap and went off to sit in the very front row and watch the Hugos. David Gerrold and his co-host Tananarive Due were brilliant. Tananarive was dressed in a red Star Trek uniform and channeled the the spirit, beauty and courage of Uhura. David was dressed as an homage to Dr. Who, but with the addition of a rainbow bow tie and rainbow suspenders to honor the historic extension of civil rights that had happened this summer. There were Daleks and Grim Reapers, Jim Wright, Robert Silverberg and Connie Willis. There were winners and there were No Awards. There were cheers for No Award which I regretted though from my vantage point it seemed more like the cheer was for rejecting the tactics of the slate rather than the nominees. It was probably not in the best of manners, but truthfully our tribe is a bit socially dyslexic. The one time people started to boo David immediately went off script and said that kind of behavior was out of bounds. It didn’t happen again. I was sorry that No Award took both editor categories. I had ranked the editors, and placed a certain Rabid Puppy below No Award, but that wasn’t how the majority voted. Hopefully this slate nonsense will stop and these talented editors will once again be on the ballot.
After the ceremony I stopped briefly by the Hugo Nominee Post Reception and then it was off to the Fun Party. George’s Hugo Losers Party at the Glover Mansion. There was a terrific band playing great music, and I danced until my legs were shaking. (David Hartwell can really cut a rug). There were delicious hors d’oeuvres, champagne and an amazing cake. The highlight of the evening was George and others presenting the Alfie’s named in honor of Alfred Bester winner of the first Hugo for novel. Annie Bellet and Marko Kloos were given Alfies for making the very hard choice to take themselves off the Hugo ballot because they had been placed there by the slate. When Kloos withdrew it allowed the Three Body Problem to be placed on the ballot and it eventually win “The Big One” as George would say. George also gave awards to Eric Flint who’s calm and rational writings on the controversy had been an oasis of civility in a sea of vitriol. The entire event was very moving, but I share George’s hope that he never has to do it again.
So now I have to address the boatload of idiotic conspiracy theories that have sprung up from the fervid brains of the Puppies both Sad and Rabid.
No, George did not know in advance who had won and who had lost. He had to wait for the pink sheet that detailed the Hugo nominations before he could figure out who was going to receive an Alfie. I know because I had to check in with him when thing were running late for presenting the awards, and he told me in harried tones that he had had to wait for the breakdown to come out and everything was running late.
No, George did not buy 3000 memberships and tell them how to vote. Has anyone looked at fandom? Herding cats wold be easier. And seriously — George is the guy who loves this award. He would never, ever game his beloved Hugos.
No, the Puppy votes were not “discounted”. It’s the Australian ballot. It’s confusing. Here’s a link where Ranked Voting is explained. Try to understand. So you don’t get your money back.
No, you can’t sue. You have to show harm before you can get into court, and you have to have standing to bring a lawsuit. If someone calls you a banana that might hurt you deeply, but the court will not provide a remedy for your pain. You voted/you lost. If your argument had merit I’d be suing over the 2000 election. Let it be noted that I didn’t.
Here is my final plea to the readers who might stop by. Please read and enjoy our genre. Buy a supporting membership to MidAmericon2 2016, nominate the books and stories and movies you love. Or buy an attending membership and I’ll see you all in Kansas City next August.