WorldCon Weekend and My Hugos Reactions

Now back from my first WorldCon, my sleep (somewhat) restored, I am finally able to sit down and reflect on the weekend and the Hugo winners. I did not get to do as many things as I usually get to during a convention, because I brought my 8 month old daughter to Chicago with me. (Am I crazy? Maybe.) A fair amount of time was spent in the hotel room so she could nap, but she did get a taste of the con as well. I was excited to get to go to the Hugo Awards Ceremony. Being a part of an award that I have followed for a number of years felt special.

Saturday morning, my friends and I all wanted to get to a panel titled “Midwest Gothic.” For the first part of the panel, Baby was quietly entertained, but then found that talking about local cryptids was very exciting and decided to screech her approval loudly. So she and I went into the empty hallway and danced together, instead.

Saturday afternoon, we spent a little time walking around the vendors’ room, I bought a book of Sarah Pinsker’s short stories and some themed chocolates and trinkets and got to see a display of former Hugo award statues with a model of this year’s award, which was actually very exciting for me.

The closest I’ll ever get to a Hugo

Saturday night was the Masquerade! Cosplayers of all levels crossed the stage or performed to music, followed by a performance by Raks Geek – a nerd-themed belly dancing group. Yep, you read that right. I had a lot of fun cheering for a belly-dancing Chewbacca. My favorite cosplay of the night – Post-Apocalyptic Plague Shaman (complete with 6-foot staff of social distancing!) received an award for workmanship and more awards went to other cosplays for workmanship, performance, and best in show at each of the levels.

Snail Scott, Post-Apocalyptic Plague Shaman credit: https://chicon.org/2022/09/04/masquerade-astounding-faces-on-parade/

Sunday morning I got to meet Joe Haldeman! He signed my copies of The Fovever War and Forever Peace. Gay (his wife) told me they were having a good time at the con and that they liked meeting people. After this I wandered around the Art Show for a while, then got in line to meet Catherynne M. Valente. At first I thought that I would rather check out another panel than stand in a line for an autograph, but I felt that I really wanted the chance to tell the author how much her book meant to me. I felt a little jittery in line (possibly a result of a sugary breakfast at The Doughnut Vault) and when I reached the table where she was sitting, the words came out in a rush: “I just wanted to tell you what this book means to me: I had a daughter recently, she’s 8 months old, and over the last year I have been scared about the future, and actually depressed at times wondering what kind of world she is going to grow up into. This book is the first time I’ve felt okay about the future – that I’ve realized there can still be beauty and love and hope even in a world that is falling apart.” She told me that she wrote the book when her son was a year old and she had been feeling much the same way. I started to tear up, which surprised me, and she came around the table to give me a hug while her assistant handed me a tissue. I asked her to sign my book to my daughter instead of to me, and she very sweetly did. I also asked her about how she felt about being nominated for the Ursula K. Le Guin Prize for Fiction – she told me about finding out that she was nominated and how it was amazing just to see her name on the same page as Le Guin’s! I was extremely happy with getting to meet Valente and continue to feel inspired by her.

Sunday afternoon my friends and I went to a panel called “One Hero to Save Them All” which broke down the tendency for our beloved main characters to do everything on their own, their friends reduced to sidekicks which doesn’t reflect the importance of collective action in defeating the evil that we encounter in our everyday lives. This may even have a negative effect on how people expect they should be facing problems in real life – via disappointment for “preppers” when a stockpile of guns is no use against a virus; or via the tendency of some people to feel they “showed up” that one time to a protest and now their job is done. The panel also noted how often evil is portrayed as a single monolithic entity that is easily defeated simply by taking out the Big Bad Guy or the Deathstar but again, the evil we actually face is often more cancerous than that. “Wouldn’t it be nice if we could punch global warming and defeat it once and for all?” someone joked. It was good food for thought.

Sunday evening was the big event! We went down to the ballroom for the Hugo Awards Ceremony. There are plenty of awards for best editor, best podcast, best graphic story, best dramatic presentation, etc, but I had only voted in the prose fiction categories. Some of the winners I predicted while others surprised me.

Short Story – “Where Oaken Hearts Do Gather” by Sarah Pinsker
Story I wanted to win: “Where Oaken Hearts Do Gather” by Sarah Pinsker
Story I thought would win: “Where Oaken Hearts Do Gather” by Sarah Pinsker
Thoughts on the winner: This story was just so well done, so interesting, captivating, creepy, creative, I had a hard time picturing any other story winning, even though there were some very good stories in the mix. It also won the Nebula Award for Best Short Story this year.

Novelette – “Bots of the Lost Ark” by Suzanne Palmer
Story I wanted to win: this was actually tough for me, I went back and forth so many times and I honestly don’t even remember what my final ballot looked like.
Story I thought would win: “That Story Isn’t the Story” by John Wiswell
Thoughts on the winner: I’m actually a little surprised the Bot story won; although it was fun, it was also a bit light and fluffy. That being said, it also probably had the least for other voters to find objectionable since some of the stories were a bit heavy which can sometimes be polarizing.

Novella – A Psalm for the Wild-Built, by Becky Chambers
Book I wanted to win: The Past Is Red, by Catherynne M. Valente
Book I thought would win: A Psalm for the Wild-Built, by Becky Chambers
Thoughts on the winner: In her acceptance speech (which was written ahead of time since she was unable to be present due to lasting fatigue while recovering from illness) Chambers acknowledged that over the last couple years we have all been seeking permission to care for ourselves, permission to relax, permission to love ourselves – and the fact that Hugo voters chose this particular book is a sign of how much we all need that. She also said, firmly, you don’t need permission!

Novel – A Desolation Called Peace, by Arkady Martine
Book I wanted to win: This was also hard for me – many of the books had things I really liked about them, but each also were balanced by flaws such that they all were more or less tied in my mind. I ended up voting for The Galaxy, and the Ground Within by Becky Chambers, but to be honest this was more based on the fact that I loved The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet in the same series even more.
Book I thought would win: I did not have a good prediction for this for the same reasons as above.
Thoughts on the winner: Well, it’s a space opera. Hugo voters love a good space opera. (And, apparently, Hugo voters love lesbians. Nine of twelve nominees in the novel and novella categories featured lesbian and/or nonbinary main characters. I don’t want to speculate on why, but I’m here for it.)

Overall, this was a great experience. I’m not sure I will want to read all the nominees for an award in one year again – I felt like my reading choices were too limited by needing to get through all of the books and stories. But we will see, maybe the temptation to be a part of the Hugo Awards will sway me…

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