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August 12, 2005

Interaction, the World SF Convention in Glasgow, finished on Monday 8 August and had attracted 4,100 members by Sunday evening. Your columnist still hasn't recovered from all the over-excitement, over-indulgence and general stress. Perhaps my most significant personal moment was the breakfast signing of contracts for the third edition of The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, with co-editors John Clute and myself doing the 'shop-floor work' while Peter Nicholls broods over the enterprise as Editor Emeritus. You will hear more of this. Orbit (Time Warner UK) intend to make the ESF available by affordable on-line subscription rather than as an oversized book or stack of books. Enough of that for now.

Hugo Awards were presented at record speed in a ceremony hosted by Paul McAuley and Kim Newman, whose alternate-history jape was that these trophies commemorated the pioneering Fiction-Scientifique author Victor Hugo, remembered for such FS masterworks as The Jet-Pack of Notre Dame. There was a measure of British triumphalism, and some surprises:

  • Novel: Susanna Clarke, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
  • Novella: Charles Stross, 'The Concrete Jungle'
  • Novelette: Kelly Link, 'The Faery Handbag'
  • Short: Mike Resnick, 'Travels with My Cats'
  • Related Book: The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction ed. Edward James and Farah Mendlesohn
  • Dramatic Presentation, Long: The Incredibles
  • Dramatic Presentation, Short: '33' -- Battlestar Galactica
  • Professional Editor: Ellen Datlow
  • Professional Artist: Jim Burns
  • Semiprozine: Ansible ed. David Langford
  • Fanzine: Plokta ed. Alison Scott, Steve Davies and Mike Scott
  • Fan Writer: David Langford
  • Fan Artist: Sue Mason
  • Web Site: SciFiction ( ed. Ellen Datlow
  • John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer (not a Hugo): Elizabeth Bear
  • Special Interaction Committee Award (not a Hugo): David Pringle, for long toil on Interzone

The Ansible win was a real shock: I'd cunningly manoeuvred it from the Fanzine category to Semiprozine in the belief that Ansible could never defeat the juggernaut of Locus (which in fact placed third, behind Interzone; see final statistics). Oh dearie me, this means that after twenty years I've drawn level with the great Charles N. Brown, each of us now having 26 Hugos.... The Novella winner enlivened the event and the later photo session by appearing awesomely kilted as The McStross Of That Ilk. His later LiveJournal comment has an eloquent dignity: 'OMG! I WON A HUGO!!! W00T!!!!!!!' Reading the nominations for Best Novel, GoH Christopher Priest pretended his eyesight was failing and offered unlikely versions of shortlisted titles, such as Mr Stross's cult novel L. Ron Sunrise. For those not in the know, there was further startlement when nomination statistics revealed that Terry Pratchett would have been a novel finalist -- and indeed would have pushed Iain Banks off the ballot -- if he hadn't declined his nomination for Going Postal.

Terry Pratchett explains: 'When they told me I just thought: I can't handle this, not after all this time, and asked to be let off. That meant I enjoyed the con hugely instead of being a bag of nerves with a blood pressure of 200/95, and when the fateful verdict was given on Sunday night I was eating sushi two miles away. Best worldcon ever!'

As Others See Us. Soundbite from Glasgow taxi driver: 'I've just seen a Klingon in a kilt. You don't see that very often. Not even in Glasgow.' Classic Worldcon press headlines included 'Trekkies beamed in for fantasy festival' (The Herald) and SCI-FI FANS BEAM DOWN (Daily Record), but Interaction received more thoughtful coverage in The Scotsman -- twice.

R.I.P. Mark Simpson, co-founder of the award-winning Nottingham (UK) comics shop Page 45, died unexpectedly on 31 July. Clarecraft, the UK model company best known for its official Discworld® figurines, is to close at the end of October: 'things have been tough for the British gift industry as a whole, during the last couple of years and, of course, Clarecraft in particular has suffered because we have been determined to keep our manufacturing in Britain.' A closing sale is in progress.

World Fantasy Awards novel nominations:

  • Susanna Clarke, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
  • Stephen R. Donaldson, The Runes of the Earth
  • China Miéville, Iron Council
  • Sean Stewart, Perfect Circle
  • Gene Wolfe, The Wizard Knight (The Knight and The Wizard)

See the shortlists for other categories on the WFA web page.

European SF Awards were also presented at Interaction:

  • Publisher: Nature, UK
  • Writer: Marina & Sergei Dyachenko, Ukraine
  • Artist: Sergei Poyarkov, Ukraine
  • Magazine: Galaktika, Hungary
  • Promoter: Alain Le Bussy, Belgium
  • Translator: Kees van Toorn, Netherlands

Science Corner. Apparently we can learn even from reality TV. Strange knowledge has been granted to some chap called Craig in Big Brother: 'The Egyptians had more advanced star-charts than we have now.... They would have to have had 5-dimensional technology to achieve what they did.'

Hugos Again. Traditional tinkering with the rules continues. Chris Barkley's and Patrick Nielsen Hayden's proposal to split the Hugo for Best Editor into magazine and book categories was debated at Interaction. There it mutated into a slightly different split: Editor (Short Fiction) for editorial work on magazines and anthologies, and Editor (Long Fiction) for books. This proposal was passed for ratification at the 2006 Worldcon. See Patrick's account of progress here.

Miscellany. Terry Pratchett pokes a little fun at J.K. Rowling (see also Runcible 182). Lionel Fanthorpe haunts Wales. Rival Scots towns claim to be the birthplace of Star Trek's Scotty. Farmerphile: new Philip José Farmer magazine.

Still More Awards! Booker Prize, for real literary stuff: the most obviously sf item on the longlist is Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go. Prometheus, for libertarian sf: Neal Stephenson, The System of the World. Sidewise, for alternate history. Long: Philip Roth, The Plot Against America. Short: Warren Ellis, The Ministry of Space. James White, for unpublished shorts by new writers: Elizabeth Hopkinson, 'A Short History of the Dream Library'.

Accident & Emergency. Forrest J Ackerman spent the whole Worldcon in Glasgow Royal Infirmary: he expects to be discharged and to return home on the 17th. Reportedly Forry had an accident while showering in his hotel before Interaction began, and was kept under observation by concerned medics. Not wanting to cause alarm, he asked for no mention of this at Worldcon; the word didn't get around until the last day. Christopher Priest had a bad fall on the escalator at the Scottish Exhibition and Convention Centre. Though suffering cuts, bruises, torn trousers and shock in what he called 'my John Brunner moment', he went on to give a scheduled reading before summoning first aid. He's home now, aching all over.

Iain M. Banks's The Algebraist caused a mild stir thanks to London Underground posters inviting readers to 'have your mind blown to smithereens.' It seems that ads printed in June and appearing on 4 July can still be damned by the Advertising Standards Authority as 'not appropriate' in the light of events on 7 July. (Guardian)

Thog's Masterclass. Neat Tricks Dept. 'The animal seemed to have no face until it twisted its head round. Then it opened two enormous lidless eyes.' (Paul Park, A Princess of Roumania, 2005)


He Do the Time Police in Different VoicesDavid Langford is an author and a gentleman. His newsletter, Ansible, is the essential SF-insider sourcebook of wit and incongruity. His most recent books are The SEX Column and other misprints, collecting ten years of columns and essays for SFX magazine; Different Kinds of Darkness, a new short-story collection of horror, SF, and fantasy; Up Through an Empty House of Stars: Reviews and Essays 1980-2002, 100 pieces of Langfordian genre commentary; and He Do the Time Police in Different Voices, a short-story collection that brings together all of Dave's SF parodies and pastiches. (This is a scary thought. Are you ready to laugh that hard?)

Dave lives in Reading, England with his wife Hazel, 25,000 books, and a couple of dozen Hugo awards. He continues to add books and Hugos.

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