Noreascon IV in Boston – the Hugo Awards

September 9, 2004

Last Thursday kayleigh and I flew to Boston for Noreascon IV, the science fiction Worldcon. We stayed at the Marriott, a bit of a shock to our provincial sensibilities. The Marriot has shiny granite tiling on the floors and walls, about eight elevators, a double floored lobby, a sushi bar, a restaurant and a Starbucks which does gangbuster business. Housekeeping came every day and supplied new towels and made the beds and cleaned everything they could. The hotel is attached to a shop-filled skywalk (high and low ends, though to me they were mostly high-end shops, heh) and via the skywalk to the Hynes Convention Center abd Sheraton, the "party hotel" where the ConSuite, movie viewing, role play games and various publishing and genre-related parties were held.

Once we arrived at the Marriott the first order of business was to replace kayleigh's normal removable collar with the locking collar with the ring on front, which she wore the entire time we were there. It pleased both of us that she couldn't remove it, and the sexuality of her naked with nothing but her collar on in the hotel room was enormously arousing. When she showered or moved in bed, the ring tinkled against the collar. A source of pride was a question from a fellow in the ConSuite asking where we'd gotten her collar. kayleigh replied, "My master got it for me," and he didn't hesitate by responding, "Well I assumed that but where?" I directed him to the steeldesade site.

After marvelling at the hotel a bit, we went to Exhibition Hall first, checking out some of the exhibits which were open early, and then returned after a jaunt to the Commons and a bite to eat for the opening ceremonies. Dancing girls, a magician, SF author "elections" to president ("Verne for President! H.G. Wells for President!") and several tables from magazines and associations were laid out in the Concourse. The Dealer's Room opened the next day and it was all I'd heard it had been in reading Isacc Asimov's commentaries about the yearly Hugo conventions he'd attended — tables and shelves upon shelves of SF and fantasy books, artwork, t-shirts, related items.

The Guest of Honor was Terry Pratchett, author of the Discworld series. I've never read Discworld, and there were an enormous number of things related to his works there, but I've ordered a 4-volume omnibus of his first four books to see if I like his work. His work accounts for 6.8% of all books sold in the UK I read the other day. He seems a good-natured sort, put on trial and accused of "literature," signing hundreds of autographs, interviewed at the Retro-Hugo Awards for 1953, and so on.

Over the next several days we spent a great deal of time at the convention, hitting the dealer's room several times, buying a handful of shirts and a art print (but no books — too heavy to carry on the plane!), going to the Retro-Hugo Awards, the Hugo Awards themselves on Saturday, the Masquerade on Sunday, and a few of the discussion panels.

One which I went to was on the greatest living SF author, with the editor George Scither's opting for Arthur C. Clarke and John Clute, a reviewer, opting for Gene Wolfe. The other two panelists, one an assistant editor with Scither's and the moderator the owner of a bookstore in California, said nothing final could be arrived at. Brian Aldiss was in the audience and participated in the discussion, throwing the name of Kurt Vonnegut out though Vonnegut didn't claim to be a scieence fiction author. He said Vonnegut's work was satirical and full of social commentary, as it is. I thought that an interesting choice. Another person suggested Harlan Ellison, to which Scither's replied that if Harlan spent as much time writing as promoting himself, he may very well be, but that he also had to claim to be a SF author, something Harlan has adamantly denied (true, he calls himself a "speculative fiction" writer).

While I was there, kayleigh went to one on nanotechnology which she found very interesting, even if the fellow was unable to finish it in the time allotted. She was amazed at the questions the guy got from the audience. Apparently he was amazed too at the level of intelligence of the questions asked.

We caught part of one panel remembering John W. Campbell — Silverberg, Harry Harrison, William Tenn and someone who I can't remember at the moment), and we both sat in on one with Robert Silverberg and Harry Turtledove and two female authors I didn't know on the why authors had a fascination with Rome. Silverberg suggested that Rome was still with us in most everything but name, being that our laws, system of government, and several other things were based on things Roman. He seemed put out by the rambling responses of one of the women authors, even seeming to roll his eyes a few times.

It was very interesting to hear Aldiss speak, for example, almost sounding like David Niven, and seeing Harry Turtledove who was not what I expected (a tall, balding, bearded man with a deep voice whereas for some reason I expected a short fat man). Neil Gaiman as host of the Hugos was very cool — he did a very good job and seems a good sort, especially when presented with a Hugo he'd not prepared to accept. I also saw George R.R. Martin, Larry Niven, Joe Haldeman, Nancy Kress, and William Tenn, whose work I'd never read (writing as Philip Glass), several authors I didn't know at the awards, and of course Terry Pratchett. But I think I was most happy at simply seeing Robert Silverberg after all these years, especially when I discovered him standing beside me while looking at a table of books. He's 69 now, white haired but still bearded with the Svengali look, and almost seemed bored. He's been to all 51 world conventions, one of only two people to do so (or perhaps the only one, I can't remember). I've read a lot of his work from the 60s and 70s but since I got out of SF haven't read anything by him in a long time. He gave a humorous speech on his experiences with the conventions at the Hugo Awards (including something about a banquet where the authors were served crabs, with ketchup and hammers, and got unruly, and a description of Asimov's telling everyone to trip and fall on the way up to accept awards when he had not won any — and then won the last award of the night, a special award for the Foundation series which he had to present to himself and cried out, "now you've ruined the schtick!").

I do wish that Harlan Ellison had been there, and that Asimov had not passed away a few years ago. I would have liked to have shaken his hand and reminded him that he sent me a postcard in response to a birthday wish and comment on a book I'd I sent him in 1980, prior to Noreascon II. I told him I had tickets, and he replied, "Thanks for the birthday wishes. Glad you enjoyed 'Extraterrestrial Civilizations.' Hope to see you this year in Boston!"

I finally made it after 25 years.


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