This is the speech delivered by Garth Nix at last night’s award ceremony. It is followed by the introductory film, “A Review of 2009,” by Mark Slater.
First of all, let me acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which this convention centre is built, the Kulin Nations – and pay my respects to their elders past and present.
Thank you for the introduction, Kathryn. Perhaps those people at the pre-Hugo reception who thought I was their drinks waiter will now believe that I am the Master of Ceremonies. Yes, my name really is Garth Nix and I will be your MC for tonight’s august ceremony. By august I mean time-honoured and highly important, because it is of course September. I just wanted to make that clear for those of you still suffering from jet-lag. Which is probably everyone who has flown in from outside Australia.
Some of you, particularly those people who thought I was their waiter, may be wondering how I came to be Master of Ceremonies tonight. Let me tell you. It all began with a dream. A dream that I had when I was about twelve years old, which as they say, is the Golden Age of Science Fiction. In my dream, I was in a beautiful pastoral scene. I was minding sheep and there were several hobbits nearby, so I guess it was New Zealand.
I was sitting under a tree thinking rustic thoughts when all of a sudden this shining figure came down from the heavens . . . and now that I think about it, it did have a striking resemblance to Perry Middlemiss, the convention’s co-chair, only well, more shiny . . . anyway, this shining figure landed nearby and started to shuffle through a whole lot of huge gold tablets. Eventually, he found the right one and looked at it a couple of times, almost as if he couldn’t believe what was written there, and then he said:
Garth Nix, one day you will be standing on the stage of the Hugo Awards!
Shocked by this pronouncement, I stumbled forward, fell over a sheep, and abased myself. Which is not what some of you are thinking, it means to lower or bring down . . . OK, let’s say I bowed before this shining figure, and I said, “You mean I’m going to be a science fiction and fantasy writer?”
The shining figure said, “Well, I don’t know about that. Maybe you’ll do something . . . more useful. But sometime, who knows where and who knows when, you’re going to be the MC of the Hugo Awards!” and he handed me this huge, heavy gold tablet and there was the running order for the Hugo Awards, with about a dozen names for potential MCs scratched out and mine right there at the very bottom.
Sadly, when I woke up the gold tablet had disappeared. They do that, apparently. But the very next thirty-five years three months and six days later, I got an email inviting me to be the MC for the 2010 Hugo Awards. So my dream came true . . . and here I am.
Naturally, as soon as I accepted the invitation and had to confront the reality rather than the dream, fear and panic set in. Previous MCs or toastmasters of the Hugo Awards have included such giants of the field as Isaac Asimov, Harlan Ellison, Lester del Rey, John Brunner, Robert Silverberg, Neil Gaiman, Connie Willis . . . how could I stand in their shoes and do justice to the role?
Obviously I needed something to boost my confidence, and it was thinking of “standing in the shoes of previous MCs” that helped me work out what I needed. I mean it was obvious once I thought of it.
I needed to get a pair of Isaac Asimov’s shoes.
This proved to be a little bit difficult, but not impossible. So with thanks to the Shoe, Slipper and Exotic Footwear of Dead Authors department of the Museum of Science Fiction in Seattle, I am in fact wearing the cowboy boots that Isaac Asimov wore when he wrote Lucky Starr Space Ranger, and let me tell you that having these on has helped me immensely.
But soon after I got the boots, I started to wonder if that was enough and I soon realized that while it helped, I still didn’t feel confident to tackle the demanding job ahead.
I realised I needed something else, something suitably confidence-building from another great science fiction writer. This time I turned to possibly the largest private collection of Robert Heinlein memorabilia on the planet, and the custodians of the deep vaults in the Oakland hills below Locus headquarters were kind enough to lend me this bow tie. The very one Heinlein wore when he accepted the Hugo for The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, one of my favourite novels.
But even the boots of Isaac Asimov and the bow tie of Robert Heinlein were not enough, not when I became aware there was something that would complete my ensemble for sale on Ebay. Sadly, I couldn’t afford the item in question, and nor would the convention committee give me the $50,000 I needed. So unfortunately tonight I am not wearing one of Neil Gaiman’s hand-knitted woolen singlets.
Without this final confidence-building item of apparel I was almost unable to come out here on stage, but fortunately at the last minute I was able to steal these Facebook-enabled wifi glasses from Cory Doctorow, and so with something old, something new, something borrowed and something … damn it … blue … I became fully equipped to be your Master of Ceremonies tonight.
It is a great honour to be the MC for the Hugo Awards, because the Hugos are the most prestigious awards in science fiction. They were first awarded in 1953, and have been awarded every year since 1955.
As most of you know, the awards are named after Hugo Gernsback, the founder of Amazing Stories, the first major American SF magazine, in 1926. Sometimes called the “Father of Magazine SF” Hugo Gernsback not only has these eponymous awards, he also has a crater on the Moon named after him. Which is almost as good as having a mountain on Mars named after your family and its sporting prowess — which is what I thought Nix Olympica was for many years.
Every year, the Hugo nominees represent a select list of the best in science fiction and fantasy, as voted on by the members of the World Science Fiction society, that floating population of Worldcons that once a year alights on a city somewhere on this earth, and like the travelling court of a medieval ruler, celebrates all that is good and great in this usually dispersed kingdom of like-minded souls.
But as in all such awards, and in as in so many stories and films, though the nominees represent the best in science fiction and fantasy, only one can win. Tonight, we will put our nominees in each category into caged death matches from which only one will emerge alive … oh, actually that’s been crossed out, apparently we already know who’s won from the voting … anyway, tonight we award the winners of the 2010 Hugo Awards and we celebrate all the nominees.
So once again welcome to the 2010 Hugo Awards, and without further ado, let us begin.
To ease me gently into my introducing role, I have been allowed to start not with a difficult author, artist or fan, but with a video, in the hope that it will not bite me, act up or be offended when I mispronounce their name.
This video, by Mark Slater, gives us a look at the Highlights of Science Fiction and Fantasy from 2009.