Losing a Hugo in Five Easy Lessons
THE fans blew into Melbourne like the dust off a thousand pairs of sandals. They drank all the beer, chased the women and roasted pigeons over the Jeff Kennett memorial barbecue and casino. So what did we do? Bar, party, bar, party, bar, collapse into bed, bar (repeat until sober). To differentiate this convention from any other, insert some of the following paragraphs into the preceding sentence as required.
As befits our elevated status as Hugo nominees, we're staying at the expensive Aussiecon Hotel (the Savoy Park Plaza). After all it's not likely we're ever going to be able to use this excuse again. Unfortunately, nobody else seems to be there and it's a good half kilometre from all the others. At least we're getting lots of exercise. Perhaps this is our penance for our cynical and shameless hard-sell Hugo campaign.
Perry Middlemiss tells Tom Whitmore the terrible secret of the Worldcon chair
Melbourne is a bit wet and chilly, something like a nice English spring day really. We explore. Fans appear from behind trees, lamp-posts, hotel lobbies and from the depths of Slow Glass Books. You'd almost think there was a convention in town. Everyone we see tells us about Pat McMurray and his infeasibly large book-buying habit. We visit the Italian quarter of Lygon Street and run into the Bruce Gillespie tour of Melbourne's bookshops. Tagging along are such rare and exotic specimens as Mark'n'Claire, Dave Langford, all the people we see every month. They've all seen Pat, usually for a few seconds as he whirls through a bookshop clutching the Yellow Pages, packs its entire contents into a handy container truck and zooms on. We never see him ourselves, but the evidence of his passing is everywhere, like Cherenkov radiation. We start a sweepstake on when we'd run into him.
Meanwhile, the floating Worldcon revolutionary committee has seized control of Aussiecon, put certain unspecified members of Melbourne fandom up against the wall, and the con begins pre-registration on Wednesday. This is despite the head of Registration vociferously protesting that he can't see any point in it and it's all going to work perfectly. I approach the desk in a confident fashion. "Hello, I'm Steve Davies, I have a membership, I'm a Hugo nominee, I've got a program participant letter..." "That's Steve Davis of California?" "No." "Sorry, you're not in our database, go away." We go and drown our sorrows in the bar.
The bar, the only bar for an entire Worldcon, is jam-packed full of Brits desperately trying to find something palatable to drink. Fortunately for Mark Plummer, this isn't a problem for him, though he seems terribly embarrassed by being the only Britfan to actually enjoy drinking over-priced crap lager. The Australians and Americans sort of hover around in vague embarrassment at this excessive display of zymurphilic fever. It stays this way for the entire con or at least until we finally drink them out of both Coopers sparkling ale and Redback.
Pat McMurray suddenly appears, with a grin on his face like a fox eating shit through a wire brush, clutching a bottle of best British Airways champagne. It turns out to be his prize for successfully destroying his seat on the plane. If I'd known how easy it was, I might have flown BA.
I try Registration again. "Look, if you'll stop bothering us we'll give you a badge, OK?" Consumed with pride at our success, we go out to eat at a Swedish restaurant called Akvavit. We drink lots of vodka and I have hot gravlax which turns out to be barely cooked sea-trout with mustardy sauce. It's utterly wonderful, like the fabled ambrosia of Norse gourmet gods. Giulia has Swedish meatballs with lingonberry sauce. It's obviously their signature dish. It's good. The waiter sidles up and asks with a certain air of pride how she found it. "Well, it was better than IKEA..." He reels back and almost collapses into a potted plant. Giulia doesn't notice because she has her nose in the dessert menu. Eventually he comes back with "Well, maybe you should try our flatpack bookshelves" before scurrying back to the kitchen, tail between his legs.
Along the River Yarra, fireballs are shooting up into the night sky from the casino. We watch this display of the power of tourism over taste with Noel Collyer and try to work out whether they're using propane, gasoline or just baked beans to power them. Noel vows to experiment. We vow to avoid Croydon in future. Since it apparently costs $30,000 a night to put on this display, perhaps they're just burning money. Certainly puts Le Petomane in the shade.
Outside the bar, Donna Heenan (head of programming, prior to being sacrificed for the good of the proletariat) sees my badge, grabs me and starts muttering excitedly in my ear... "special program item... secret... guest of honour... want you to come on, make introductions, crack a few jokes... hear you have a great sense of humour..." This last statement rings all sorts of alarm bells. "Stop! I'm quite happy to do whatever you want but I think you need to explain a bit more, this doesn't quite seem to make sense." "Well, you are Steve Davies?" "Yes." "Famous biochemist from California, genetic engineering expert, humorist and friend of Greg Benford?" "No." "Oh! Look, you won't tell anybody will you?" "Mumble mumble." "Phew!"
"Are there Vegemite flavoured condoms in Australia?"
Rumour has it that there are a few backstage catastrophes of almost Conspiracy proportions. The con is handing out "Hero of the con" medals to anyone who manages to untie the Gordian knot that the database has got itself into. Janice Gelb, Tim Illingworth and (guess who!) Pat McMurray take up the challenge and manage to restore at least a semblance of order to the chaos. This still doesn't stop them from missing the fact that 7 Hugo-award winning authors are on a panel in a broom cupboard opposite an almost unattended costume panel in the main function room. They also fail to notice that the masquerade isn't in the database, something that causes quite a bit of confusion later on.
Dave Langford horrifies Janice Gelb with his tales of just what all those Hugos are good for
I find myself in a panel on DUFF, discussing with Maureen how best to wear one's Hugo nominee pin. Fortunately, my ears aren't pierced so I can't try out that method. Mike Resnick's bandolier of them seems best, but it does rely on having lots and lots of nominations.
Caroline Mullan's 21st anniversary party on Friday turns out to be the most successful of the night, possibly because ConJose have blown their entire party budget the previous night and been forced to scratch. More probably because all the fun people are there. Marcia Illingworth and Tom Whitmore are reliving the Sixties together. Perry Middlemiss is spreading advice in all directions. Damien Warman and Roman Orzanski remark on the fact that this expensive suite is roofed with corrugated iron (or 'galvo') and begin to discuss the significance of galvo in the Australian psyche. Dave Langford and Joyce Scrivner discuss guillemots on the couch. Claire demonstrates how to smuggle booze into hotels by concealing it in your cleavage. Meanwhile, Mark explains how potaroos rip each other's goolies off and Pat licks beer from Alyson Abramowitz's feet. You know, that sort of party.
"Rev Jim's got his nipples pierced and is thinking of getting his dick done. I can't understand why. Who's going to see it?" I start to scribble down Noel's musings and am promptly rebuked. "You're going to put me in Plokta aren't you? I'm not a character, I'm me!" says Noel. "You see what we mean?" says Claire, "He can't open his mouth without saying something quotable."
"We can't go shopping tomorrow; it's Good Friday" says Giulia, getting her conventions a little bit mixed up.
Saturday evening and it's the Hugos. At the pre-Hugo reception I talk to KPG, Teddy Harvia, Dave Langford, Paul and Maureen while we wait for Giulia to show up. Caroline gets in through having been appointed virtual Alison. Someone who looks less like Alison it would be hard to imagine, but you have to do the best you can. This being Australia, the canapés consist of miniature meat pies, for some reason they seem to have omitted the canonical pea soup for them to float in.
I've never been to a Hugo ceremony before, there never seemed much point previously. I'm told this was pretty good (and short) and at least we got to see Tom Veal collecting the art Hugo for Bob Eggleton "Wow! This so cool!" and Karen Pender-Gunn picking up Ian's Fan Artist Hugo. We didn't win the fanzine Hugo, though. Whimper.
Can I stroke your Hugo, little girl?
(KPG and Teddy Harvia)
Well, it's back to the bar. We're discussing whether or not Dave Angus has pulled. We reckon he thinks he has, she thinks he hasn't. Especially when her boyfriend shows up. It's all go at Worldcon....
Meanwhile, inside the bar, Noel is showing off his tool to Barbara Stewart -- I wonder vaguely whether it has a ring in it -- and the first person of the convention to lose their badge is sheepishly trying to find it (no, not Noel's tool). Unfortunately, the individual in question is Greg Turkich, Head of Aussiecon Security, which tends to detract a bit from his moral high ground. Not as much as finding Noel's tool would have, though.
The masquerade is not distinguished as Worldcon masquerades go. The half-time demonstration of how to play didjeridoo, on the other hand, is unexpectedly entertaining. It's greatly enlivened by the sight of US fan and open source software advocate, Eric Raymond, hopping across the stage and generally pretending to be a kangaroo to the drone of assorted didjes.
I thought we weren't going to split up the Dramatic Presentation Hugo?
Back in the bar, they're striking the convention and we watch the Hugo awards being dismantled and heading off into the sunset. Sipping our beer, we reflect on the ephemeral nature of success, the meaninglessness of popularity contests and how we can get even with all the bastards who voted for somebody else. Still, we'd never have managed to fit one of those into our baggage allowance.