Make what you will of it! At the World Science Fiction Convention you can attend concerts from the Worldcon Orchestra to The Doubleclicks; listen to academic comedians and Dance Across the Decades with author-turned-DJ John Scalzi; game or talk gaming; go to panels to discuss climate change, afrofuturism, or space travel; visit the booths of outstanding book publishers from the USA to Australia (Tachyon Publications! Twelfth Planet Press!); and attend readings, autograph sessions, and conversational meet-ups with your favorite authors and artists.
It’s also a chance to see friends from near, far, and social media in person and revel in your geek self in costume or your casual graphic tee best.
This year, Dublin 2019, An Irish Worldcon hosted the 77th World Science Fiction Convention. This meant there was also a chance to tour the sights, walk along the River Liffey, hoist a pint, and visit some great local comic shops (Sub-City! Forbidden Planet!).
I did a bit of all of those things, but for me this Worldcon was about the books and The Hugo Awards. It was a chance for redemption.
My first Worldcon was Sasquan, the 73rd convention, in Spokane, Washington. I was intrigued that the world science fiction convention was going to be held in such an unlikely, far flung place surrounded by wheat fields (and, that year, forest fires). Also, it was just a five-hour drive away over my birthday weekend.
Worldcon is where The Hugo Awards — fan-based and rocket-shaped — are given. If you buy a Worldcon membership, you can nominate and vote.
The Hugos had my attention because it seemed like more women and people of color were getting recognized for their works (debatable!). So, I was excited to attend my first Hugos.
Unfortunately, 2015 was a controversial year. A group created a voting bloc, to take over the awards. Fortunately, fans can also vote “no award” and that’s how I ended up gleefully yelling “No award!” over and over again while watching the Hugos from the overflow room with my writing group. It was still a great convention, but not the celebration I was expecting.
Eventually, the World Science Fiction Society changed the nominating process to prevent blocs from overshadowing the awards.
Before I decided to attend Dublin 2019, I was having a marvelous reading year. After purchasing my membership, I nominated some of my favorite books and was delighted to see a number of them become Hugo finalists.
As a writer, I’m admittedly not a harsh critic. If you wrote a book, got it published, and that book made it to the top of my reading list, I applaud you. If I read it through to the end and it did not piss me off in some way, I’m a fan. I give a lot of five-star reviews — no apologies.
However, if I took time to review a book and share it on social media, then that book made me swoon. Swoon-worthy books simultaneously make me think, “I don’t need to write because this beautiful story has been written” and “I have to write to join in this marvelous conversation.”
I swooned over some of the 2019 Hugo finalists including Brooke Bolander’s novelette The Only Harmless Great Thing and three Best Novels.
As a Worldcon member, I could vote for them all!
Before attending, I read Jo Walton’s An Informal History of the Hugos: A Personal Look Back at the Hugo Awards, 1953-2000 to learn more about the awards.
The morning before the Hugos, I went to “What I read when I was young,” a panel featuring five of the finalists for Best Novel: Mary Robinette Kowal, Becky Chambers, Catherynne Valente, Naomi Novik, and Yoon Ha Lee.
It was absolute fire.
The panelists recommended books that inspired them including: The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. Le Guin, The Dark is Rising and Seaward by Susan Cooper, and A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. They also talked about their passion for writing and their respective identities as innovative, female, bisexual, transgender, and gay authors. Inspiring!
That afternoon, I waited in line in the wind and rain to make sure, this time, I had a seat in the auditorium for the awards.
On Hugo night, I joined friends and we cheered the “Yes!” awards. Best New Writer award winner Jeanette Ng started the awards off with fire by using the mic to call attention to fascism and protests in Hong Kong. Elsa Sjunneson-Henry, Editor-in-Chief of the Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction Special Issue, accepted the Best Semiprozine award for Uncanny Magazine saying, “I am the first deaf-blind person to win a Hugo!” Becky Chambers author of Wayfarers won for Best Series. Finally, Mary Robinette Kowal accepted her Best Novel Hugo from astronaut Jeanette J. Epps for The Calculating Stars. I just finished the next book in the Lady Astronaut series, The Fated Sky, and it’s fantastic, too.
So many brilliant, sparkling moments! I cheered, cheered, and wanted to cheer more!
Now, it’s good to be critical about awards: 3097 fans voted for the 2019 Hugo Awards. The Tiptree Award (for science fiction or fantasy that expands or explores understanding of gender) is selected by a panel of five jurors and makes a great reading list. However, the books on award lists may or may not be the stories you need. Stories don’t need awards to be gems. Read what you love. Read what calls to you.
It was brilliant hearing author Catherynne Valente read from her swoon-worthy novel Space Opera at Worldcon and being able to say in person, “Muah! I love it!”.
But, certainly, you don’t have to go to Ireland (or New Zealand where the 78th Worldcon will be held) to celebrate great writing and writers. There are many wonderful conventions near you. I love Potlatch (which has a Book of Honor) and WisCon (the feminist science fiction convention).
Wherever you are, cheering the stories and authors you love, that’s worthwhile — and a hoot! So write those reviews. Share what makes you swoon. And, write your stories.
We’re writing the future together — that’s our star power! Hurrah!