Sunday, November 06, 2005

Madison WFC Sunday 

I forgot to mention the other day that the day I left Los Angeles, there were copies of George R.R. Martin's A FEAST FOR CROWS in a bookshop in Terminal 7 at LAX... five days before the official lay-down date of Tuesday, November 8th (i.e. the date before which booksellers, including Amazon, are not supposed to sell the book). I suspect the reason is simply that airport bookshops are not as careful about these things as are the large chains, and/or that the diligence with which publishers chase down such infractions varies from case to case...

Today I had breakfast with Mark Budz and Marina Fitch in the hotel coffee shop, then perused the dealers room one last time before its closing later in the afternoon. I had a nice chat with Carol Emshwiller, and also met Michael Blumlein (a person I'd never even seen a photo of), Lois Tilton, and Brandon Sanderson. And I bought a couple last books. Doors to the banquet hall opened at 12:30 and people slowly drifted in, found seats, and settled. I sat between Gary Wolfe and Amelia Beamer at a table just behind the HarperCollins table. The food was marginal -- dry chicken or dry pork, covered in either case by a gluey cherry sauce.

The awards ceremony was spirited and efficient. Toastmaster Peter Straub gave a genial introduction that included tantalizing hints about the kind of secret knowledge possessed by people of increasing fame, with examples serving to illustrate how far down Straub is in the fame chain. The other guests of honor -- Graham Joyce, Bob Weinberg, Terry Windling, Kinuko Y. Craft, and April Derleth & Walter Derleth for Arkham House -- made brief statements that varied in polish and tone but which were all sincere expressions of thanks and appreciation for the convention's invitation and the community's support.

Then came the announcements of the awards themselves, notable first in that only two of the winners were not present, and remarkable second for comprising a set of acceptance speeches of almost uniform eloquence, some short and some long, but none veering into incoherence or rambling asides. Of them the highlights were surely John Picacio's impassioned and moving tribute first to the other artists nominated in his category and then to his parents, who were present and stood up for applause, and at the very end Tom Doherty's generous reflection on the people who helped at various steps of a long career that has led to Tor Books.

The photo session went quickly and smoothly, except that I discovered when I returned to my room that only a single photo of those I'd taken was usable, apparently due to a flash malfunction or missetting. (A cute pic of Susanna Clarke holding her award with Colin Greenland's cap perched on top was too blurry to post.) After the photos I hung around to attend the Judges' Panel, with Jeffrey Ford, Kate Elliott, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Tim Lebbon, and Jessica Amanda Salmonson debriefing the process that led to their decisions. Key points: there was no controversy, no e-violence this year; no feuds or resignations. They saw over 300 books total, and there were only about 75 reader ballots in the first round that determined two finalists in each category (which is why John Douglas always urges members to join next year's con and nominate!). Ford created a ranking scheme that combined preferences from each judge into a single combined list in each category to determine both the shortlist and winner, though along the way discussion among the judges caused some of them to reconsider works they'd previously dismissed. And in the 'special' categories, while they made a point of confirming that candidates had eligible work in the award year, they also took into consideration the quality of their long-term work.

After that I trekked back to my hotel to post the winners and salvage what I could from my digital photos, and while I was at it post a few 'blinks' from the day's email.

Then back to the con hotel, where I joined a group in the bar that included Ellen Datlow, Chris Lotts, Ted Chiang, and Paolo Bacigalupi (whom I'd not previously met). Dinner groups were reportedly forming in the lobby to trek to one eating destination or another, but since we missed the early group we ordered a snack and had another drink and chatted. Finally an enormous group gathered in the lobby (the five of us; Walter and Hal and Graham and Jay; Kelly and Gavin; John P and Chris R and Lou A; Mark and Martha, and another dozen at least) and headed out into the chilly evening, along mostly deserted streets and around the capital to a pub called the Great Dane, where tables were reserved for us downstairs. We ordered various shades of ale and pub food, burgers, fish and chips, brats and mash, etc., and at my table compared impressions of Lost, of Battlestar Galactica, of Alias and Doctor Who. Then back out into the night, to the hotel, the group dispersing quickly... some to the dead dog parties; I to my hotel, to update the 'future history' pages on the site (and add one more bit of awards news), and write this blog entry. End of convention... tomorrow morning I drive to O'Hare and then fly home.
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Mark R. Kelly

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