An Irish Worldcon, Part 4: Sunday

This blog post deals with my Sunday at the recent. World Science Fiction Convention in Dublin. I have previously written about my experiences on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Sunday saw me arriving to the Convention Centre somewhat on the late side. The previous couple of days were taking their toll on me, both in terms of sleep deprivation and my body revolting against the lack of wholesome food to which it was being subjected. Some sporting event meant that the Luas between where I lived and the CCD was essentially unusable, so I had to walk.

Trophy wrangling meant that I had very little time for programme items, but I did make it to an interesting panel on Satire and the Fantastic, at which Heidi Goody, Ian Grant, Ju Honisch and Juliana Rew discussed this important topic. I liked the discussion of whether satire had to be funny or not. I was also interested by the question of whether allegorical satire is something of a cop-out, in that the satirist avoids directly engaging with the real world issues by instead dealing with their fictional world. I am a bit wary of satire myself on something like that basis, as it favours smartarse nihilism over any attempt to combat problems or dismantle malign power structures. Satire can nevertheless have its uses in shedding new light on issues that are being left unanalysed. One example here is the way District 9 (and the short film that preceded it) used imaginary prejudice against aliens to highlight xenophobic attitudes in South Africa, by using vox pops of people giving out about immigrants and then editing them so that the respondents appeared to be talking about the Prawns (see also the disturbing Irish report on prejudice against culchies).

Comments at panels (as opposed to questions) are much maligned. However my friend Sam made an interesting interjection from the floor about satire going wrong and bolstering the ego of its targets rather than deflating them. Her example was Spitting Image, which apparently Margaret Thatcher loved because it made her look dynamic and authoritative. I can well imagine that while other people disliked how they were portrayed on Spitting Image and similar programmes, they liked the fact that they were important enough to be featured.

Hero of Worldcon
The satire panel sadly was pretty much the only programme item I made it to on the Sunday. Those Hugo trophies weren’t wrangling themselves and I did also spend a bit of time loafing in the dealers area, finally meeting in real life one of my social media pals. I also had the terrifying experience in the afternoon of being summoned to meet James Bacon, the chair of Worldcon. I assumed that word about The Incident had finally percolated up to him and I was about to be removed from the Convention Centre with extreme prejudice. But before I could launch into an unconvincing attempt to explain myself, James revealed that he was actually presenting me with a Hero medal in recognition of my work for Worldcon both before and during the convention. This was something of a surprise and I was truly honoured to receive the medal, which I wore with pride for the rest of the convention.

The evening saw me involved with the Hugo Awards. As with the Retros on Thursday, I lurked off-stage and handed trophies out to be given to people who then presented them to the actual winners. What happened onstage was largely mysterious to me, as although there was monitor it was too small and far away from the trophies to see much in detail. I enjoyed the poignant music that accompanied the In Memoriam scroll, even though I was unable to read the names as they went by.

As someone who has never read a book in the year it came out, the Hugo winning works were all strangers to me, but I think the most memorable moment came near the ceremony’s start, when Jeanette Ng won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer (which is not technically a Hugo Award, the prize’s winner receiving a different trophy; however nominations for and the awarding of the prize work in the same way as with the Hugos, making the distinction a bit pedantic). As you know, the late John W. Campbell, editor of Astounding and Analog among other magazines was a giant of early science fiction and at the Retro Hugos he won the Retro Hugo for best editor, as I think he always does. Ng however began her speech by describing Campbell as a fascist, someone who actively strove to force science fiction down reactionary paths. That speech ignited a furore, and, while not everyone agreed with her assessment or the propriety of her making it, a few days later to Dell Magazines, the prize’s sponsor, changed the prize’s name to the Astounding Award for Best New Writer.

I had previously heard that Campbell’s political views were a bit unsavoury, though I have not delved into the subject sufficiently deeply to find out for myself whether the charge of fascism is warranted. I have seen people on the Internet saying that his more objectionable opinions are explicitly stated in many of his editorials; if readers have particular examples please let me know.

Ng also expressed her support for the pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong, the city of her birth.

Unmanned
From a trophy wrangling perspective the Hugo Awards ceremony went well. However, I myself experienced one untoward disaster. Somehow in all the unboxing and boxing of the trophies my ribbons got caught in all the bubble-wrap. At the end of the evening I discovered that they were gone. Sadface.

I had been invited to attend the Hugo Losers Party, in case any trophies ended up there by accident and needed wrangling. As the name suggests, this is an event for at which the Hugo losers drown their sorrows in the company of various other people, making fun of any Hugo winners who dare to show up (for the history of this event see this blog posts by Tammy Coxen). This took place in the Guinness Storehouse but the venue ran into capacity issues. By the time I arrived there were two queues of people waiting to be admitted, one for Hugo finalists and their plus ones/twos/threes, the other for lesser mortals. Rather than wait for an indefinite period, my plus one and I made our way home, which was probably the wisest course of action given how tired we were.

Popular author George R. R. Martin has in recent years generously funded and hosted the Hugo Losers Party. He has written his own account of what went wrong this year; not everyone agrees with his analysis or its tone. But the world has moved on and the event has receded into history.

Readers, this long road is nearly finished. There will be just one more short post in this account of my experiences at this Irish Worldcon.

image sources:

Master of the Hugos (File 770: 2019 Hugo Awards; photo by Olav Rokne)

Other pictures my own. See more of them here here.

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