As you may have heard, over the summer there have been quite a lot of changes here at the British Science Fiction Association. One of these was the change of chairs at the AGM in June (see previous post), which has brought me, Allen Stroud in to replace outgoing (and brilliant) chair, Donna Bond.
With Donna also undergoing surgery just before the convention, a lot of plans had to be shifted around. That meant myself and my partner Karen Fishwick would be running the table for the convention. This is something we’ve done before for other organisations, but still, it would be a first for us at Worldcon for the BSFA.
The convention was held across two sites. The Covention Centre Dublin (CCD) and Point Square, a small leisure arcade just under a mile’s walk away.
There were plenty of hands to help out. The irrepressible Dave Lally acted as point of contact for the Thursday before we were able to arrive and during the rest of the weekend both he and Vector Editor, Jo Walton assisted Karen and I by taking over at times so everyone got to enjoy the convention.
Having the table in the exhibitors hall at the CCD also meant Karen and I had a good base from which to operate from before and after panels, events, and the like. It also meant we got to meet lots of really interesting people on the stands next to us. There’s some incredible work in SF going on everywhere and hopefully some of those discussions will turn into some interesting collaboration projects between the BSFA and other organisations.
Meanwhile BSFA photographer Chad Dixon roamed the convention taking plenty of excellent pictures of all that went on.
The dealers and exhibitors hall was the centerpiece of the CCD, on the ground floor of the main hall. As you walked in, right in front was a replica of the Back to the Future DeLorean, gull wing doors open and lights flashing as if it were ready to go.
A highlight over at Point Square was the art exhibition, with a huge room on the first floor devoted to displaying amazing artwork by painters, crafters, and other creatives working in science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Photography of this area was restricted, but some of the lego scene exhibits at the far end were also amazing.
Around the exhibitors hall there were plenty of stands and fan tables, showcasing some of the best SF available. The former are market stalls from publishers big and small, with Gollancz and Harper Voyager running their own tables. Forbidden Planet was also there, offering a selection of everything, right alongside some fantastic Irish small presses, bookshops and an assortment of other merchants promoting a variety of writing from across the world.
Throughout the weekend, the CCD and Point Square hosted an array of fascinating activities. The variety of events meant you were always going to miss out on a few things, which really, is the sign of a good convention. A whole host of people appeared on the programme with speakers on a veritable cornucopia of subjects. I managed to present a paper on some of my research, looking at themes for Future Civilisations, took part in a discussion on mythmaking in genre fiction with the brilliant Dr. Stewart Hotston and Dr. Anna Smith Spark and I lent an opinion or two to a writing in games panel on the Sunday.
The Hugo Awards
This year’s ceremony was an interesting mix of celebration and controversy. The John W. Campbell Award winner for best newcomer, Jeanette Ng, took the opportunity to (quite rightly) call out the deceased editor after whom the award was named as a fascist. After the convention, on August 27th, it was announced that the award would be renamed The Astounding Award for Best New Writer, honouring the Astounding Science Fiction magazine of which Campbell was once editor.
The complete list of Hugo Winners is here:
BEST NOVEL – The Calculating Stars, by Mary Robinette Kowal (Tor)
BEST NOVELLA – Artificial Condition, by Martha Wells (Tor.com Publishing)
BEST NOVELETTE – ‘If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again,’ by Zen Cho (B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog, 29 November 2018)
BEST SHORT STORY – ‘A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies,’ by Alix E. Harrow (Apex Magazine, February 2018)
BEST SERIES – Wayfarers, by Becky Chambers (Hodder & Stoughton / Harper Voyager)
BEST RELATED WORK – Archive of Our Own, a project of the Organization for Transformative Works
BEST GRAPHIC STORY – Monstress, Volume 3: Haven, written by Marjorie Liu, art by Sana Takeda (Image Comics)
BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION, LONG FORM – Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, screenplay by Phil Lord and Rodney Rothman, directed by Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey and Rodney Rothman (Sony)
BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION, SHORT FORM – The Good Place: ‘Janet(s),’ written by Josh Siegal & Dylan Morgan, directed by Morgan Sackett (NBC)
BEST EDITOR, SHORT FORM – Gardner Dozois
BEST EDITOR, LONG FORM – Navah Wolfe
BEST PROFESSIONAL ARTIST – Charles Vess
BEST SEMIPROZINE – Uncanny Magazine, publishers/editors-in-chief Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas, managing editor Michi Trota, podcast producers Erika Ensign and Steven Schapansky, Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction Special Issue editors-in-chief Elsa Sjunneson-Henry and Dominik Parisien
BEST FANZINE – Lady Business, editors Ira, Jodie, KJ, Renay & Susan
BEST FANCAST – Our Opinions Are Correct, hosted by Annalee Newitz and Charlie Jane Anders
BEST FAN WRITER – Foz Meadows
BEST FAN ARTIST – Likhain (Mia Sereno)
BEST ART BOOK – (A one-off category created as per WSFS rules by Dublin 2019)
The Books of Earthsea: The Complete Illustrated Edition, illustrated by Charles Vess, written by Ursula K. Le Guin (Saga Press /Gollancz)
The following awards which are administered by WSFS and voted on alongside the Hugo Awards were also included in the ceremony:
LODESTAR AWARD for BEST YOUNG ADULT BOOK – Children of Blood and Bone, by Tomi Adeyemi (Henry Holt / Macmillan Children’s Books)
JOHN W. CAMPBELL AWARD for BEST NEW WRITER – Jeannette Ng (2nd year of eligibility)
There were also some issues with the automated closed caption system provided for deaf and hard-of-hearing convention members. Again, the convention organisers did apologise for this after the awards ceremony had concluded, with the convention chair, James Bacon, taking full responsibility.
After Party Problems
The losers’ party at Worldcon 2019 was to be held at the Guinness Brewery. However, many of the Hugo award nominees found themselves shut out of the event owing to overcrowding. This was particularly hard on them, as — after not winning the award — the way in which the science fiction community traditionally embraces nominees is normally an encouraging and positive experience. However, being stranded on the pavement looking into a party you have an invite for is not cool. This was particularly traumatic for those refused admission who had disabilities and had difficulty standing for long periods. The social media accounts and comments in person the next day revealed a great deal of anger and hurt.
Monday morning saw the convention winding to a close. Some of the Hugo attendees were understandably sore over the previous evening’s events, but continued to fulfill their commitments to the convention – a testimony to their character. Hopefully lessons will be learned and the situation improved for future years.
After packing up our fan table we left the hall to return later for the Dead Dog’s party – an after-convention celebration. This was a good opportunity to get a drink and chat with people we hadn’t had time to spend time with all weekend.
We flew home on Tuesday evening having had a great time at the event. Despite the issues mentioned, Dublin 2019: An Irish Worldcon was an excellent event and credit to the organisers for pulling it off.
Credit to Chad Dixon, Dan Ofer and Karen Fishwick for the pictures.