I’m back home now from Chicon 7, this year’s Worldcon. Some thoughts on it, in no particular order.
1. As the absolutely ridiculous .gif to the right might suggest, I had a massive amount of fun at the convention, and that’s something that was not necessarily a given for me, because I was the Toastmaster of the convention, i.e., the one Guest of Honor who works like a dog rather than being feted. In particular I was responsible for MCing both the Opening Ceremonies (which this year took on a talk show format, and at which the .gif was taken) and the Hugo Awards themselves. So no pressure there. I was also at Chicon 7 in my capacity as President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, which meant that in addition to my duties entertaining the fans, I chaired several hours of board meetings and the SFWA Business meeting for our organization’s members. Between the two of those, almost all of my time was spoken for; this was the busiest Worldcon I’ve ever had, bar none. As a piece of advice for folks:If you can avoid being both SFWA President and the Worldcon Toastmaster at the same time, I heartily suggest it.
So if I was incredibly busy and basically worked like a dog for the entire convention, how did I have a massive amount of fun? Primarily through the incredible competence of others. On the SFWA front, I have for the third year running been blessed with a board comprised of smart, engaged people who are able both to manage SFWA’s business and to civilly and constructively discuss the issues the organization faces. So although the meetings were long, we got a substantial amount of work done, and such work is pleasant when you have good people on it. So thank you, my fellow SFWA board members. You rock yet again.
On the Toastmaster front, I got to take advantage of the entire support structure of Chicon 7, so when I was on stage, the only thing I had to worry about was myself; every other technical and logistical issue was dealt with long before I showed up. As someone whose job was essentially to be the public face of Chicon 7 itself, this is incredibly freeing, particularly for events that have as many moving parts as the Opening Ceremonies and the Hugo Ceremony have. The staff and crew of Chicon 7, from my point of view at least, flawlessly pulled off everything I was involved in, which made what I did look good, or at least better than it would have otherwise been. Which made what I was doing a whole lot more fun. So to the good people who ran Chicon 7 and the divisions I engaged with, and to the staff who put together the shows and events I was part of, you have my unending gratefulness for being so good at what you did.
2. As noted earlier, my primary responsibilities for Chicon 7 were hosting the Opening Ceremonies and the Hugo Ceremonies, and I was also called on to interview Story Musgrave, Chicon 7’s astronaut Guest of Honor. How did each of these go? Well —
Opening Ceremonies: I think this one went very smoothly. It was done in a talk show format, right down to the talk show host desk, the long couch for the interviewees (the other Guests of Honor) and the house band (Toyboat) which allowed did musical stings at the behest of the host, i.e., me. That’s what that silly .gif is all about, incidentally: Me testing Toyboat’s musical reflexes by wildly swinging about and seeing how they did. They performed flawlessly. And then I got to do an opening monologue WHICH IS SOMETHING I ALWAYS WANTED TO DO AND NOW I HAVE DONE IT AH HA HA HA HA HAH HA HA and then it was me interviewing my guests, all of whom were interesting, so all I really had to do was give them soft lobs and watch them spike them into the audience. Well, at one point I did also sensually rub Mike Resnick’s leg. There was context, I promise.
Story Musgrave Interview: I’ve been a journalist off and on for two decades now, and have interviewed hundreds of people, and the interview I did of Story Musgrave was one of the easiest I ever did, because all one really has to do to have a fascinating event with him is put him near a microphone and get out of his way. Musgrave is incredibly interesting — hard early life, overachieving career as astronaut/surgeon/scientist (seriously, the dude has got seven advanced degrees), and a “retirement” schedule that would make most 20somethings exhausted. So the smart play is just to let the man talk, and that’s what I did, with only the occasional prompt or two to get at something I wanted to know. Again: One of the easiest interviews I ever did, and at the end of it, I got a hug. Because apparently Story Musgrave’s a hugger. And that’s just fine.
Hugo Ceremony: Look, I’m not gonna lie to you. If I had screwed up the Hugo ceremony, it would be me getting seventeen layers of crap about it on Twitter and not UStream. I do not appear to have screwed it up. My philosophy for the Hugos going in was pretty simple: I needed to be funny and I needed to keep things short, and if I could only do one of those things, I should go with “short” rather than “funny.” Fortunately I think I managed both — we started the ceremony a bit after 8pm and finished it at about 10:25, and a quorum of people laughed everytime I attempted a joke — so that was a huge relief. Aside from that, you know what? Being the guy who gets to give Hugos to people who are creators you admire and/or people who are your friends is one of the coolest gigs ever, and I recommend everyone try it at least once in their life. Giving away each of them was excellent, but I will say I was particularly pleased to give a Hugo to John Picacio, for whom it was a long time coming. In short, really delighted to have gotten the gig, and immensely relieved to have not messed it up.
3. Yes, I was nominated for a Hugo as well, and no, I didn’t win it, a state of affairs that surprised me not in the least. As I had no expectation of winning, I spent almost no time worrying about it, and was very happy for Ken Liu when he walked off with his extraordinarily well-deserved award. My only regret about the nomination, in fact, was that because I was nominated in the same category as Ken, we had someone else give away the award (Gardner Dozois), and so I was not on stage when he won and wasn’t able to congratulate him. And then afterwards I didn’t catch up with him either. So, Ken Liu, if you happen to be reading this: Congratulations, man. You wrote an excellent story, and I am happy the Hugo is yours.
4. When I wasn’t on duty, I spent most of my time with friends and family. My wife, child and mother-in-law were in attendance with me, and it was nice to be able to get back with them and depressurize after a long stretch of toastmastering/presidenting. I was also happy to spend quality time with my friend Jared Cloud, whom I knew from UofC days, and with his family; the chances we have to see each other are few and far between, so I was happy to get that chance this time around. As for the rest of it, there were so many people to see that I worry I didn’t get to see any of them as much as either they or I would like, including some of my very dearest friends in the SFF world. But again, this is what I get for having responsibilities. Next year? In San Antonio? I’m gonna plant my ass in the hotel bar and stay there for five days. That should fix the problem nicely.
5. As a final note, I am really so very happy that when I got the Worldcon Toastmastering gig, that it was in Chicago. Chicago is an extraordinarily important city in my personal history; it was important in making me who I am today and will always be a part of who I am. I am also fond of Chicago fandom and have been grateful that they have always been kind to me and supportive of my work. I am also so very happy to have been a part of this Worldcon, working with the people who put it together, and being a public face of it for the thousands who attended. It was a lot of work, I am very tired, and I wouldn’t have missed any part of it for anything. Thank you, Chicon 7, for letting me be a part of this. It was everything I had hoped it would be. And a lot more, too.
And now I’m going to sleep for the next three days.