Challenger Logo by Alan White   A Science Fiction Fanzine   Winter 2003


How the Hugo Was Won
(or Mary Kay shows the patience of Job with regard to flaky artist)

Sue Mason

I really wasn't expecting to win.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, everyone says that.

But I really, truly wasn't and besides, I had more pressing things to worry about than an awards ceremony half a world away.

I like Worldcons, and the more of them I go to, the more I enjoy them. It's as with any con, the more people you get to know, the more fun it is. I've been going to UK cons since 1982 and I met people at my first convention that I'm still friends with now; British fandom is a comparatively small and cozy group. Worldcons, of course, are a whole magnitude bigger, a whole new crowd to get to know, new stories to tell (or old ones to recycle with a fresh audience) all in all, Worldcons are fun.

But not this year.

I'd wanted to do Torcon, as I'd never been to Canada but REAL LIFE tm got in the way. More specifically, I moved house in August.

Now, I have friends and work colleges who move house as often as you change your socks. They are completely blasé about it (okay, as completely blasé as one can be about such an upheaval) and blithely tell me that this is their sixth house and how there is a knack to getting everything done on time, beating solicitors into shape and making scads of money by buying a pit and rebuilding it from the ground up.

Believe you me; I am not one of those people. In truth, I had never moved house before. Not in forty years. Which, I think, is sort of considered quite a long time to stay in the same place. I'd been wanting to move for a year or two but a couple of things were hampering me. Firstly, I was an artist, starving in the garret and secondly, I had forty years of my stuff, my Mum's stuff, my Gran's stuff, Great Auntie Nellie's stuff etc, etc, etc all cluttering up the place. I solved these twin hurdles by getting "A Proper Job" which at least promised a regular income and then by having the mother of all clearouts.

The clear out took months, complicated by the fact that everything in the house, according to Mum, was a treasure of great emotional/financial/historical value. The local charity shops think I walk on water, I gave them so much. I sold stuff, gave it away, became a regular at the local tip and gradually, the stuff mountain became a hill, then a hillock then a tumulus, then a grassy knoll and finally I found the floor.

It's very cathartic, getting rid of so much stuff; I heartily recommend it, sort of like dieting but without the unpleasantness of saying "no" to chocolate.

I didn't move very far, only 10 miles, but I saved 10k on the price of the house with each mile I moved out of Altrincham, so a house which would have cost me 165k in Alty, cost me 65k in pretty little Northwich, a Cheshire town famous for it's brine pumping since Roman times. So I was able to afford the house but it runs the risk of disappearing into a hole in the ground at any moment, such things add spice to life.

The unfortunate bit was that I moved house the same week as Torcon, a poor bit of planning, but unavoidable.

So I needed a designated acceptor for my Hugo nomination.



As well as saying "oh I didn't expect to win" it's also a terrible cliché to say "it's an honour just to be nominated" but with the Hugo, it * is * an honour just to be nominated - people who know your stuff think it's good enough to be up there, whether you go on to win or not, is in the lap of the gods (or Worldcon members, same difference). And pre-Hugo party is fun. So is the Hugo losers bash (at Philcon, I got rather squifffy on vodka and coke at the Hugo losers party, apparently this is not a common drink in the US, it's a standard in the UK, so I was the only person drinking it, which meant, even if I persuaded someone else to go to the bar for me, they still knew who the Guilty Party was).

I asked friends on Rasseff and Livejournal and Mary Kay Kare volunteered, selflessly, to be a stunt Sue for the evening.

Mary Kay emailed me several times to ask for an acceptance speech in case I won and I told her every time not to worry, she wasn't going to have to go on stage, I didn't have a cat in hell's chance of winning... Eventually, she managed to winkle a couple of lines out of me, just thanking the editors who pub my stuff and the fans who read it, nothing to bring the roof down (a la Mr Gaiman at ConJose).

And I got on with house moving.

Which is jolly hard work and I don't plan on doing it again for another 40 years, thank you very much. I had lots of help from friends, which is an advantage of not moving very far and Steve Davies, fellow Plokta Cabal member came up from Reading to help me with the manly tasks of putting up bookshelves and building flat pack furniture. In the time it took him to put up a wall of shelves and plumb in the washing machine and build a shelf for the DVD's, I managed to assemble one teeny tiny CD rack - which leans rather drunkenly against the wall. Power screwdrivers might be a good idea in the hands of those with DIY skills, but they just allow me to screw things together crooked with greater speed. And then it's harder to put them right again.

On the Saturday, while relaxing with a beer after a long day lifting boxes, I idly asked Steve what night the Hugo's were awarded on. Sunday, he assured me, as we opened another bottle and fought with the cat for space on the sofa and thought no more about it (not even those wistful 'wouldn't it be * nice *' sort of thoughts).

At about 3am, I was woken by my elderly, rather senile cat, Spookie, doing his banshee impression at high speed through out the house. He does this periodically, and was doing it all the more as a protest at me removing him from his territory of 18 years. It's a singularly disturbing sound, particularly as he getting more and more deaf so the wails are getting more and more loud and I swore at him somewhat for not only waking me but disturbing my guest too. Bloody cat, I mumbled and rolled over. *This is an important plot point, don't forget it.

Sunday, we went out for lunch at my local, a canal side pub. We fed the swans chips, which can't be good for them and is possibly illegal, them belonging to Her Majesty, of course and watched the canal boats drift past. Steve went home to sunny Reading and I was all moved into my first home.

Then the 'phone rang.

Now, the thing to remember at this point, is that I think the Hugo ceremony isn't until Sunday night (and I've confirmed this with Steve so I'm * sure * it wasn't on Saturday), so when I heard Mary Kay on the other end of the line, my immediate thought was "Oh, she's lost my little email with the speech in it!" So when she said, "Hello Sue, it's Mary Kay, you've won!" my immediate reaction was to tell her not to be silly, I couldn't possibly have won.

I am saying this to a kind lady who is A. telephoning me from several thousand miles away. B. is too nice to tease me about something like that. And, most importantly, C. has a Hugo with my name on it sat in front of her.

Bit of a giveaway, that last point.

After a few minutes of Mary Kay being very patient, I believed her.

Then I had to sit down.

I said I wouldn't believe it really until I had the Hugo in front of me. I now have it, and a beautiful thing it is too, but I still don't quite believe it.

If the house does sink into a brine pit, it's the first thing I grab!


* Important plot point. Of course, the cat was caterwauling about the house at 3am because Mary Kay had tried to call me and the telephone, being downstairs where the cat was sleeping, had woken him but not me – proving that he's not deaf, he's just not listening to me. But any seasoned cat owner would have realised this, of course.


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