GRRM on the Hugo Losers Party

By George R.R. Martin: We ran into some problems this year at the Hugo Losers Party in Dublin, and it seems there’s been a good deal of online commentary about what happened and why, much of it from people who were not there and don’t know any of the facts, but are outraged and eager to chime in all the same.   There’s been way too much misinformation going around, and a lot more heat than light. 

I do not know that anything I can say will appease those who did not get into the party… but I can at least explain what happened, and why.

Facts first.  At the Hugo Losers Party on Sunday night at the Dublin 2019 Worldcon, for a certain period of time, the venue where we were hosting the party reached its maximum legal capacity, and a number of invited guests arrived at the door and were denied entrance.   Included among them were some nominees from the awards ceremony that had been held earlier that evening (losers largely, I gather, though there may have been a winner or two as well), together with their plus ones.   A few of those who did not get into the party became very irate and took their grievance on line, even as the party was going on.  Others, not present, became irate on their behalf.    And matters have mushroomed from there.   There have been a lot of angry words spoken, and a demand to know who is to blame. 

There were four separate groups involved in this year’s Hugo Losers Party, in major or minor ways: the 2019 Worldcon (Dublin), next year’s Worldcon (New Zealand), the venue (the Guinness Storehouse), and me m’self and I, with my staff.   Everybody played some part in what befell us, but for some that part was very, very small.   I have seen posts blistering both Dublin and New Zealand.  Neither one deserves the criticism they are getting.   If someone must be castigated here, fine, blame me.   It was my party.   Other people were involved, and there were definitely some failures of communication, but the ultimate responsibility was mine.   And while a number of mistakes were made along the way, the biggest was the one I made at the very beginning, months ago, when I chose the venue.  

Since reviving (or reclaiming, if you prefer) the Hugo Losers Party in 2015, I have searched for unique, interesting, off-site venues to hold the festivities.  The party had long since outgrown the hotel suites where it began in the 70s and 80s, and a sterile convention center function room is no place to have a party, in my opinion.   The Guinness Storehouse seemed perfect.   Historic, colorful, interesting, quintessentially Dublin… and they say Guinness is best when drunk at the source.   Many of my guests agreed, and told me during the party how much they loved the venue.  

The problem was, it turned out not to be big enough for everyone that wanted to attend.

That requires a bit more explanation, however.   The Storehouse is a massive old multi-story building.   From the outside, it looks as if it could contain ten parties the size of ours.  And it could have, if we had the whole building.    We didn’t.  We rented the Arrol Suite and adjoining mezzanines on the second floor.  With the set-up we selected (a stage, some comfortable seating, a dance floor, the bar, food stations, tables, and more seating out on the mezzanine, etc), its maximum capacity was 450 people.  

My mistake was thinking that would be enough.

Dublin was the fifth Hugo Losers I have run since reclaiming the party.   In terms of venue size, the Storehouse falls right in the middle.   It was smaller than the Glasshouse in San Jose and the cavernous Midland Theatre we used for the Kansas City party, but larger than Glover mansion in Spokane and way larger than the steampunk bar we used in Helsinki, the smallest of our party sites.   We knew the capacity of the floor we were renting well in advance, and worried whether the 450 limit would be a problem for us.   The possibility was there, we all saw that.    But there was no easy answer, so in the end we decided to go ahead as planned in the hopes that things would work out.   The final decision was mine.   It was the wrong decision.

I will not deny that my team and I had concerns.   This came into sharp focus when James Bacon requested 140 invitations from us, for inclusion in the registration packets.   He wrote, “The figure of 140 invitations, (280 people), includes. Hugo Finalists. Guests of Honour. Featured artists, Special Guests (astronauts)  FF Delegates, the Master of Ceremonies.”  This was a much larger figure than we’d been expecting, though perhaps it should not have been.   The number of Hugo finalists has been growing steadily in recent years.  We now have six finalists in each category where once we had five, and Worldcon keeps adding more and more new categories (this year, the Lodestar) without ever dropping any.  Also, whereas in the past categories like fanzine and semiprozines only had one editor, and therefore one nominee (Andy Porter for ALGOL, DIck Geis for ALIEN CRITIC, Charlie Brown for LOCUS, Mike Glyer for FILE 770, etc.), now most of them seem to be edited by four, five, or seven people, all of whom expect rockets and nominee invitations.  It adds up.    Since each invitation is a plus one, Dublin’s request meant that 280 spots of out 450 were already gone, before I had even invited a single guest of my own.   That made me and my team gulp a bit.   Nonetheless, we complied.  (Later, James requested additional invitations for his own concom and “other worthy people.”  We provided those as well).

Despite our trepidations, I still believed that 450 would be enough.  I had several reasons for that.   A month before the con, I exchanged emails with James Bacon,  asking him for his best estimate of attendance.   Since Dublin had shut off registration, it seemed likely that his estimate would be accurate.   James told me he expected about 5500 people, which turned out to be quite close.   That was smaller than last year’s San Jose Worldcon, and quite a bit smaller than the Helsinki Worldcon, which drew 7900.   A smaller con meant a smaller party, I reasoned; fewer past Hugo losers, writers, editors, and other people normally invited would be in attendance.  (I was wrong).   

I was also misled by our experience at Helsinki (2017).   The steampunk bar that year was easily the smallest of the five venues I’ve used since 2015.   The Hugo Losers absolutely packed the place, to the extent that the by the time I arrived, I could not get into my own party.  Every seat was taken, every booth full, people were lined up three-deep at the bar, the dance floor was packed.  Fortunately, there was an outside seating area with tables and chairs, and lots of sidewalk, so the Helsinki party simply spilled outdoors.   The bar did not seem to mind.   The more people poured in, the more drinks they served, so they were happy.  Ecstatic, even.  They thanked us afterwards.   All that was in the back of my mind when I considered the Guinness Storehouse.   We would have a LOT more room than we had in Helsinki… and I suppose I figured that if we exceeded the 450 limit, we would simply pack in tighter, or spill over to other areas of the building.   The Storehouse had plenty of space.    Foolishly, I assumed the Guinness people would think the same way they had in Helsinki: the more people we had, the more drinks they could move.   (I was wrong about this as well).

A number of the louder Twitterers have stated SOMETIMES IN SCREAMING CAPS that it is simplicity itself to calculate the number of attendees at a party.   That makes me suspect that none of them have ever organized one, at least not one as big as the Hugo Losers Party.   We are not talking about a sit-down dinner with a set number of guests, nor an awards ceremony with fixed opening and closing times.   And while there is certainly a relationship between the number of invitations handed out and the number of guests, it is not one-to-one, as you might think.   Not everyone who receives an invitation actually comes.   On the other hand, every year we have invited guests who turn up with their plus one… and a plus two, a plus three, a plus four, etc.   “They’re with me,” they announce, and some get very indignant if told their extras will not be admitted.  We also get people arriving at the door without an invitation in hand, having forgotten to bring it when they donned their party finery.   Other people may not have received an invite this year, but have attended past parties.    Some never got invited simply because we never encountered them at the con;  if we had known they were there, we certainly would have invited them.  Bottom line, there’s a certain amount of guesstimation going on every year when we try to figure how many guests we’ll have.

Also, parties ebb and flow.   People come, people go.   Some come early and leave early.   Some arrive late and depart at closing.  A few are there when you open the doors and still there when you turn out the lights.   We’d had four years of experience with these affairs, so I had a good idea of the patterns.   A few early birds show up even while the awards are still going on.   After the Hugos, there is a big rush.   Two rushes, actually; one made up of losers and spectators, who leave right after the last rocket is handed out, and a second made up of winners and friends, who tend to linger around the con accepting congratulations and posing for photos.   After that people continue to trickle in, in smaller groups.   Food is served, the band plays, the party gets  larger… until about midnight, which traditionally (if something that started in 2015 can be considered a tradition) is when I present the Alfie Awards.   After the Alfies, dessert is served.   In past years, we’ve had a large cake fashioned in the shape of a rocket ship crashed into a pile of books.   This year, our friends from CoNZealand offered to take care of dessert, so we had small individual cakes of a sort popular in New Zealand (and, because of a lapse in communications, we also had a second sort of small individual cakes arranged by my staff).   After dessert, guests start to depart.   Not all at once by any means — the party usually runs for several more hours —  but midnight is definitely the high point.

Our past experience with party ebb and flow was another reason why I figured a maximum capacity of 450 would be sufficient.   The Guinness Storehouse was a good ways away from the convention center.   Too far to walk; we figured most guests would take taxis.   Knowing that some con-goers would be on tight budgets, however, we also provided free transport; a minibus with twenty seats that would shuttle back and forth between the convention center and the Spencer and the Guinness Storehouse.   It would take some time to make the trip,  so the guests would be arriving in small groups throughout the evening.   Three or four trips into the night, past experience told us that some people would be leaving even as others were arriving.  

In any case, this was how it was supposed to go.   But you know what they say about the best laid plans…

We got the first bad news when we arrived in Dublin and some of my staff went down to the Guinness Storehouse to go over all the arrangements.   It was there that the Guinness people made it very clear to us that the 450 maximum capacity was an absolute hard limit.   There would be no packing more people in, as at Helsinki.  If we went over 450, the party would be shut down immediately.   Also, though there was nobody else in the building that night, we would not be permitted to spill out onto unused floors.   Our guests would be restricted to the Arrol Suite and adjacent mezzanine rooms, the areas we had booked, and there would be security on hand to make certain no one went wandering.   That was… well… firm, but hardly something we could quibble over.   We got what I paid for.    And the Guinness people were extremely accommodating in many other ways, so by no means do I want to blame them for our problem.    They were perfectly correct.

(There will be some, undoubtedly, who are now saying, “well, why didn’t you rent more space.”   Yes, so simple.   But renting more floors would have cost more money.   A LOT more money.  Also, more space meant more guests, which meant a larger bar bill to be paid.   Plus food.   We had an open bar.   The Guinness people also informed us that when you have an open bar, Irish law requires that you provide food for however many guests you are anticipating, as a measure against drunkenness.  Not bowls of pretzels or finger food either, but meals.  And we did just that, with several food stations throughout the party serving sausages and Irish stew and other substantial eats, and waiters circulating with smoked salmon, pigs in blankets, etc.   A larger space would have meant ordering sufficient additional food to feed the new maximum capacity, at substantial additional cost.   And Dublin, we had learned, is an expensive city.   The Guinness Storehouse was not the largest venue we had ever used, but it was definitely the most expensive.   This year’s party cost almost twice as much as last year’s bash in San Jose).

Which brings me, finally, to The Night, and how things went wrong.

The party was on the second floor of the Storehouse.   Just inside the entrance, on the ground floor, was an escalator to the party floor, and an elevator for those unable to use an escalator.   For the past three years, the following year’s Worldcon has assisted me with the Hugo Losers Party.  This year it was our friends from New Zealand.   In addition to a cash contribution to help defray the expenses of the party, CoNZealand provided the desserts (as previously mentioned), and people to man the door.  Guinness had its own people on the door, of course, but as in past years, I also wanted fans there, someone who might recognize a Hugo loser or BNF or editor if they showed up without an invite.   The Kiwis also had gifts for all the Hugo nominees, winners and losers both, a tradition that sprung up some time during the long years when I wasn’t doing the party.   To reach the escalator/ elevator and the party floor, arriving guests had to pass the door just off the parking area, where the Kiwis were checking invitations and Guinness had stationed a man with a counter who was clicking every guest as they entered to keep an exact count.   The Kiwis also set up at the top of the escalator, where they were giving the nominees their gifts as they went by, and putting funny hats on the winners.   (We do allow winners to attend the Hugo Losers Party, but only if they don a conehead or chicken hat so they can be suitably mocked by the losers).   James Bacon and other members of the Dublin concom did attend the party, but had no role there save as guests, and should not be blamed for anything that happened thereafter.   I had four staff members with me at Worldcon… my minions, as I call them.  One minion was solely devoted to assisting my wife Parris, who was recovering from recent surgery and walking with a pair of canes.   The other three were assisting me with various aspects of the party; food, drink, photography, awards, what have you.  

The party was scheduled to open at 10:30 and run until 2:00, but the early birds started to arrive well before we opened the doors.   A few even got there before my staff.   They were turning up earlier than usual because they could not get into the awards ceremony.   (I do find it curious that, with all this Twitter talk about people being “turned away” from the Hugo Losers Party, no one is mentioning the far larger number of people turned away from the Hugos themselves.   I’ve been attending Worldcons since 1971, and in all those years all you ever needed to get into the Hugos was a con badge…  but this year, that was not enough.  You also needed to queue up and get a wristband.   As it happens, some people did not get that message, and others were unable or unwilling to queue).   Turned away from the Hugos, many of these people opted to grab taxis and hop over to Guinness instead.   Their numbers included editors, publishers, writers, long-time fans, past Hugo losers, past Worldcon GOHs, even a Grandmaster.   Some of the angry Twitterers seem to be suggesting that these early birds were cheating somehow or doing something underhanded, that they should not have been allowed at the party, etc.   Nonsense.  Yes, some turned up sooner than expected, but the vast majority of them had invitations, and all of them were welcome.

The awards themselves ran long.   I was the designated acceptor for two nominees who could not attend, but both of them lost, so there was no need for me to linger once the last Hugo had been presented.   I departed immediately, and grabbed a ride over to the Guinness, travelling with John Picacio and several of his ladies from the Mexicanx Initiative.  It was a little before 11:00 when we arrived, by which time the party was already hopping… though by no means overcrowded.   A lot of other guests were turning up as well, most coming straight from the conference center by cab.   The minibus we had chartered made its first delivery around the same time, then turned around and headed back to collect more.   Once on the scene, I went up to the second floor and stayed there for the rest of the night.   I was the host here, people wanted to see me and talk with me, there were a hundred party details to see to… my minions and I were kept very busy over that next hour.   All the while, more and more guests kept arriving, and the security guard down on the door kept clicking and clicking his counter.

Up on the second floor, I had no notion of what was happening down on the door, and even now I am not sure of the timing, but as best as I can determine sometime between 11:30 and 12:00, that counter hit 450, and the venue, as per their previously stated policy, informed us that no one else could be allowed in until some of those presently there left.   I was first informed of this just as I was about to take the stage to present the Alfies.   But even then I had no inkling of the magnitude of the problem.  I imagined a handful of latecomers waiting at the door.  Maybe our minibus had turned up with twenty new guests.  But I knew from past years that once I announced the Alfies, people would start to leave, so I figured the new arrivals would get in soon enough.

But there was something I didn’t know, something I did not find out until twenty/thirty minutes later.   It seems that there was some sort of major sporting event in Dublin that evening (forgive me, I am spotty on the details).   When our friends from New Zealand heard of this, they were concerned that taxicabs might be scarce on the ground, making it difficult for people to reach the Storehouse… so, with the very best of intent, and entirely at their own expense, they chartered two buses to carry guests from the conference center to the Storehouse.   These were not minibuses, like the one I had shuttling back and forth, but full size buses, each capable of carrying 80 people.  My own staff knew nothing of CoNZealand’s generous gesture until far too late… but the upshot was, just as the venue was reaching its maximum capacity, two big buses came lumbering into the parking area and disgorged something like 150 people in rapid succession. 

I was up in the middle of the party during this, so I cannot speak with any certainty as to precisely what happened next.  From what I have been able to gather, a few people from the first bus were admitted before the counter hit 450.  The rest were stopped and told the venue had reached capacity.   Who was on the door at that point?  I don’t have names.  What precisely did they say?  I don’t know that either.   How many people in the crowd at the door did they speak to?  Did someone stand on a chair and make an announcement to the crowd, was it handled more individually?   I don’t know.    I don’t doubt that the people on the door said, “You can’t go in” or some variant thereof.  That was, in fact, the case.  I doubt very much that this was all they said, however.   I would hope that they also added the word “now” and explained the reasons.   “You can’t go in now, we are at capacity, but as soon as some people leave, you will be welcome to enter.”   That’s what should have been said.   With such a large number of people descending on them all at once demanding entrance, however, it is possible that the fans on the door felt overwhelmed and defensive.   If any of them were rude or dismissive, that should not have happened, and I am deeply sorry for it.   By the same token, however, I would hope that the new arrivals were patient and understanding, once the situation had been explained to them, and that they treated the folks on the door with courtesy.   None of this was the fault of the fans who had agreed to man the door.   They were doing what they had to, to prevent the party from being shut down.   They were obeying what we were told was the law.

What happened outside after that gets a bit murky.   Some guests hailed a cab and went back to their hotels, or to a bar, or to another party.   Others waited patiently for admission.   At least one person decided the world needed to hear of this outrage and began to tweet furiously from the parking lot.   Meanwhile, inside the party, I climbed on stage and asked for quiet.  I had the Alfies to present, but before that I made a couple of announcements.   One of the guests had her service animal with her and requested that I ask the partiers not to pet, feed, or step on her dog.   I was glad to do so.  I also reported that we had some people outside who could not get in because we had reached capacity, who would be admitted when space permitted… but I didn’t want anyone thinking I was kicking them out, so I also said that no one had to leave unless they wanted to.   Then I presented well-deserved awards to two giants of British publishing, Jane Johnson and Malcolm Edwards.   Each of them said a few words, then the band began playing again, the party resumed, and the servers started serving cakes.  

And people began to leave.   Just as I had anticipated.   Just as they had in previous years.   Some guests always leave after the cake.  

As they left, the people outside began to be admitted.

Not all at once, no.   There were a lot of people outside.   No one ever gave me a number, but the Guinness guard with the counter was keeping track as guests came and went.   For every person who left, a person was admitted.   If ten people left, ten were let in.   All the time keeping the count at 450.   This was exactly what should have happened, given these circumstances, and most of those waiting for admission were happy enough once the line started moving again… but not everyone.   The finalist who had first started blasting us on Twitter, angry that he was denied entrance, seemed to become even angrier when the door admitted thirty people… on the grounds that more than thirty were waiting, and somehow this was ‘playing Hunger Games.’   Well, no.   I have heard no reports of death matches in the parking lot.   Thirty people had departed, so thirty were admitted.  The rest would also be admitted when more guests took their leave.

And here’s the important thing, the crucial fact that none of the Twitter reports seem to mention: eventually everyone who waited got in.  They had to wait, yes, and I am sorry for that, and it should not have happened, and a number of mistakes were made, most by me.   But my minions and the Kiwis, and even the Guinness folk, did everything they possibly could under the circumstances, and sometime between 12:30 and 12:45, they cleared that parking area.   Yes, a certain percentage of those denied entry had left, some departing with a shrug and others with a snarl, but those who simply waited were all admitted eventually and were able to enjoy the last hour and a quarter of the party.   There was still food, there was still cake, the band was still playing, people were dancing, talking, and mocking the winners in their funny hats.    New guests were still arriving even then by taxi and minibus.   Anyone who arrived after 1:00 am walked right in.    And by the way, some of the people who had to wait were among my oldest and dearest friends.   I’ve known Joe and Gay Haldeman since my first con in 1971.  They arrived, could not get in, and chose to head back to their hotel.   The next day they joked with me about it; no anger, no recriminations, they had seen overcrowded parties before.   Ellen Datlow edited some of my most famous stories during her years at OMNI.   She was stopped at the door, but she waited, and was finally admitted, and I ran into her inside the party around 1:00 am.   She seemed to be enjoying herself.     The same was true of Pat Cadigan, another old friend.   Pat had a cane, and when the folks on the door saw that, she was offered a chair while she waited.    Mary Robinette Kowal did not have to wait.   She arrived late enough that she could just walk right in, once she’d donned her stupid hat.  That was true for everyone who arrived after 12:45 (except for the part about the funny hat).  The circumstances were trying for everyone, but my minions and the Kiwis did their best to make things right.   They do not deserve to be vilified.   A mistake was made, that was all.   There was never any intention to slight or mistreat anyone. 

That’s the story.  Guests who came early walked right in.   Guests who came late walked right in.   Some guests who arrived at the party’s peak, where the crush was at its thickest, had to wait outside for a period of time.  Not fun, I know.   I hate waiting myself.   But the same thing happens every weekend at nightclubs all across the country.  It’s not anything anyone wanted to happen… but it is not the same as saying “droves of nominees were turned away,” as some people are saying on Twitter.  (Mostly people who were not there, repeating third hand tales).   That’s just wrong.   For all its problems, for all the mistakes and miscommunications, the 2019 Hugo Losers Party was overall a great success.   A lot more went right than went wrong.   When all the coming and going is taken into account, we welcomed more than 600 guests, we fed them and plied them with Guinness Stout and other adult beverages (and soft drinks as well). We had Irish dancers, a band, two professional photographers taking pictures, a caricature artist, little cakes, and an Alfie presentation.   We provided free transportation… and CoNZealand provided a lot more of same.    My minions worked for months planning the event, and even harder on the night.   So did the Kiwis.    To see them being pilloried on Twitter just confirms the sad fact that no good deed goes unpunished.   They deserve some thanks instead.  

That being said… I need to clear up some misconceptions.

Some of those in the parking area who were not allowed to enter were finalists who had lost Hugo awards that night.    That made them Hugo losers, certainly.   And as nominees, all of them had party invitations, supplied to them in their registration materials by Dublin 2019.   But much of the outrage about what happened seems to have its root in a mistaken belief that this was their party,  intended to “honor” or “celebrate” them, that it was being staged “for” them, that they should have been given preference over everyone else, an assertion that just reeks of entitlement.  Some Twitterers have even gone so far to suggest which other guests should have been thrown out to make room for them.   Eva Whitley Chalker, for instance, suggests we should have tossed out “Tor’s staff & the herd from Locus.”   No.  Just no.  LOCUS has been part of the Hugo Losers Party since the beginning; Charlie Brown was at the first one in 1976 and wrote after that it was the best party at the con, and I gave LOCUS a well-deserved Alfie in 2016.  I am not tossing out Tor either… nor Orion, nor Voyager, nor Random House, nor any other editor or publisher.   Nor any of my other invited guests.  (And yes, I dared to invite some GAME OF THRONES cast members, an Irish filmmaker and actress, a Broadway producer, and other friends of mine own, some not even members of the con, to the party I organized and paid for.  Shocking, I know.  How dare I).   All of them had just as much right to attend as any of the people on the bus.   They got there earlier, so they got in.   If they had arrived later, they would have been the ones who had to wait outside.  You cannot get more fair than that.

The Hugo Losers Party is not intended to honor or celebrate the current year’s cop of Hugo finalists or exalt them above all others.  

Never has been, never will be, not so long as I am throwing the party.    LOSERS WELCOME.  WINNERS WILL BE MOCKED.   NO ASSHOLES.   That’s how our invitations have read since 2015.   There is not a word about the current year’s nominees or finalists.

Gardner Dozois and I threw the first party at my room at MidAmericon in 1976, with stale pretzels and leftover booze scrounged from other parties, but we’d been Hugo Losers long before that.   The first time I lost, in 1974, Gardner inducted me into the “Hugo Losers Club” by chanting “one of us, one of us” from Todd Browning’s FREAKS.   The next year, when I won, he threw me out (of our fictive ‘club,’ there was no party).    But he let me back in again.   “Once a Hugo Loser, always a Hugo Loser,” he said.  

The party is not just for the 2019 Hugo losers… it’s for the people who lost last year and the year before, or ten years ago, it’s for the guy who was nominated in 1963 and never again.   And it’s for winners too, at least those with a sense of humor (see Alfie Bester, for whom my award is named).  And for editors, and publishers, and the smofs and conrunners who work so hard putting on these cons.   The new losers, the guys and gals who lost for the first time this year, are certainly welcome… but they are joining a community, a battered brotherhood of defeat.  Every year at the party I have a handful of HUGO LOSER ribbons, and I am always delighted to give one to someone who has just lost for the first time.   Most of these virgins (with a couple of exceptions) are delighted to receive it.   There’s a sense, as Gargy put it so long ago, that they are now “one of us, one of us,” welcome at our party.   That does not mean it is now their party, and that everyone else should get the hell out.

For what it’s worth, there IS a party that honors the current year’s nominees, and them alone.   That’s the reception that is held before the Hugos.   Only nominees, presenters, and acceptors are allowed into that party.   I’ve seen multiple Hugo winners, past Worldcon GOHs, even SFWA Grandmasters turned away from these receptions if they were not on the list.   The Dublin reception was very nice.   Lots of drink, some tasty hors d’oevres, nominees were lauded and had their pictures taken and were escorted out to reserved seats in the auditorium.   That was the party for the 2019 finalists.   My party is for them and a lot of other losers, who have just as much a right to be there as they do.   And it is my party.   Gardner and I started it in 1976 and I ran it (in borrowed hotel suites for the most part, since a single hotel room no longer sufficed) for the better part of a decade.   Since Parris and I revived the party in 2015, well… Random House covered the bar one year.   This year, Harper Collins Voyager chipped in some pounds for that, and CoNZealand provided our door staff, the cakes, and some money as well.   The San Jose Worldcon helped in Helsinki, and the Dublin Worldcon helped in San Jose, but mostly it is me and my wife and our minions doing this. 

Parties were once the heart and soul of Worldcon, but more and more they are becoming an endangered species.   Con hotels shut down room parties at the least excuse, or don’t allow them in the first place, or restrict them to a single floor.   Hall parties have become extinct, and publisher parties, what few still exist, are hot, noisy, and even more overcrowded than that Losers Party at Helsinki.   But this field has been very good to me, and I am a firm believer in the idea of giving something back to the community I’ve been a part of for all of my adult life.    That’s something I would like to continue to do, but this year’s experience has made it plain that any future parties face real challenges.   No one wants this to happen again.   But how to prevent it?  

There are two easy, glib answers to that: hire larger venues, or invite fewer people.   But there are problems with both those solutions.   The number of Hugo Losers keeps growing.   Even if we stop adding new categories, this year’s losers will still be around next year… and a whole bunch of new virgins will be joining them.   I cannot just keep booking larger and larger venues, and providing ever increasing amounts of food and drink.   That road ends with me booking the Superdome for some future New Orleans Worldcon.   But inviting fewer people is not so simple either.   Who gets cut?  Yes, we can be harder at the door with the guests who turn up with a plus four instead of a plus one, but that alone won’t make much impact.   Do I drop the two “not a Hugo” categories?   Ban the winners instead of just putting them in funny hats?   Stop inviting my own friends and fans and colleagues?   I don’t think so.

When I revived the Hugo Losers Party in 2015, for some years there had been a “Post Hugo Nominees Reception” run by the following year’s Worldcon.   At LonCon, the party thrown by the Spokane people was so pathetic that I decided to get back in the game.   At Spokane, however, Kansas City still had their party, and at Kansas City, Helsinki threw one.   Those two parties ran concurrently with my own, though mine tended to keep going after the other had shut down.  For Helsinki, however, the San Jose people reached out and suggested we merge parties, and I agreed.  So San Jose helped with our Helsinki party, and Dublin joined me for San Jose, and CoNZealand this year.   But maybe the merger was a mistake.   Maybe, going forward, we should embrace the “two party solution.”   Two parties running concurrently would divide the crowd and make overcrowding much less likely.   It might even spur future Worldcons to put a little more time, effort, and money into the “official” party, so dismal affairs like the LonCon party would not reoccur.   Is that the answer?  I guess I need to talk to Washington, see how they feel.

 One thing you can bet on.   I am not going to rent the bloody Superdome.

102 thoughts on “GRRM on the Hugo Losers Party

  1. Regarding the two party solution. Problem, as I understood it, was that GRRM:s party was the coolest in town and no one really wanted to go to the Post-Hugo Reception, instead skipping for his directly. Separating the two again, would that stop this problem?

    Me being used to less fancy enviroments, I’m thinking more of cheaper and larger space and drink tickets. Or have GRRM:s on another day. The big question for me will always be: How can it be ensured that finalists have a good time and don’t feel shutout? How will a two party solution accomplish that?

    One interesting divide could be a separate more or less non-alcoholic party with food, tea and cakes, lots of places to sit, and at most some piano music. With less alcohol, lower cost and most likely less need for harsh door dragons. I wonder how such a thing would work. Perhaps too boring?

  2. I was thinking that this was merely an extraordinarily clueless attempt at an explanation and apology until this line:

    But much of the outrage about what happened seems to have its root in a mistaken belief that this was their party, intended to “honor” or “celebrate” them, that it was being staged “for” them, that they should have been given preference over everyone else, an assertion that just reeks of entitlement.

    So this isn’t merely a bad attempt at an explanation and apology, it is a hissy fit and pack of excuses. Got it.

    It’s called the Hugo Loser’s Party. The nominees were giving invitations. It is a reasonable conclusion that the purpose of the party is for them. It isn’t merely a reasonable conclusion, it is the most obvious one.

    Remember that “Hugo” is a trademark of the WSFS and they go after people who misuse the name. The invitation is given to the nominees by the convention. A bus apparently provided by the con takes them to the party. All of those things reinforces the notion that this is an official event for the nominees.

    George’s excuse to this specific beef—that the party has always been for all the past losers and how dare you not know that—is classic gatekeeping. It is the kind of information you can only possess if you are in the in crowd.

    It is particularly ironic that George is also the person who was so upset about people having to wait in a long line for the Loser’s Party in 2014 that he took the party back. And that among the things he said then were the goals of the party: “to have a blast, to howl at the moon and dance till dawn and mock the winners and console the losers, the way we used to.”

    Not everything that went wrong that night was George’s fault. But everything in this article, is.

  3. There seem to be a couple people who think I’ll post their anonymous drive-by abuse.

    (If your comment is posted, that doesn’t include you.)

  4. That’s fair, @Chip Hitchcock. My mind leapt to fire code because I read too many true-fire books as a hobby. As you know, it’s not just the physical number of square feet, it’s the number of people you can evacuate in time X.

    I’m still startled at the idea that a venue’s saying “You rented 450 people’s worth of space, that’s what you get” comes as a surprise. The venue costs include security staff, cleaners, servers, water consumption, and on and on, and increasing the square footage at the last moment also increases the needed staff, with no way to summon them out of thin air.

  5. @Ginjer Buchanan, that’s not my recollection. Those are not my words. I wasn’t at that party.

    I was quoting, in that post, though not clearly enough, George R. R. Martin’s own words about and description of the 2014 Losers Party at Loncon.

    (For future reference, my pronouns are they/them, though inevitably that’s not apparent from the lack of an avatar!)

  6. It’s not generally useful to assign blame after the fact in these situations. I will point out, though, that some of the Hugo losers weren’t just at their first Worldcon, they were at their first con at any kind.I know of at least two that have strong cases of impostor syndrome. It would be good if they could get a little more sympathy and support?

    The better question is ‘what could have been done differently?’ There are many things our generous host could not change. What could be done, if the same situation arises again, is to let more people know that there is a problem as soon as it is known about – especially (the then successors to) CoNZealand.

  7. ” What could be done, if the same situation arises again, is to let more people know that there is a problem as soon as it is known about – especially (the then successors to) CoNZealand.”

    And Superdome isn’t even available in New Zealand.

  8. Single person standing ovation to Steve Davidson’s comment.

    It’s easy to personalize events and hard to see them objectively. Things go wrong for a lot of reasons. If you don’t like it, pitch in to help make it better.

    Also: the HLP in this current light actually deepens its prospective value for the SFF community. When it began, it was a hotel room shindig thrown by two writers few people knew. 40 years later, one is a household name. As it stands, it’s a wonderful reminder that this industry requires a longview.

    Or else this will be why we can’t have nice things.

  9. @Hampus: And Superdome isn’t even available in New Zealand.
    Wellington’s version is the ‘Cake Tin’. The only time I’ve been there is with a couple of overseas fans during the NZ NatCon just before AussieCon4!

    There do appear to be Wellington party venues outside the Con venues for 350+.

  10. What’s a worldcon without some fandom mud-slinging? I admit I have ulterior motive of trying to go to the HLPs – to find authors to participate in my Worldbuilders of SF&F photo portrait project, and the one year I managed to go in “after-hours”, I did make acquaintance with a couple authors and people like Betsy Wollheim for future photo-shoots, which was great. However, knowing how difficult it is to get in, we didn’t even try to go to the SJ one even though it’s our home convention and we staffed there.

    In any case, it doesn’t matter what GRRM says, someone will find flaws. Mr. Martin will do as he pleases, until the time when he does something else. Until then, fan will continue to complain that George’s HLP creates a system of haves and have-nots.

    As for reclaiming the name, don’t be silly.

  11. A couple of random thoughts
    1) it’s reasonable for someone who has received an invitation to expect to enter without waiting.
    2) It was a party. A matter of a few hours. Have some sense of proportion, people!
    3) I don’t see anyone offering to step up and run an additional/ alternate party.
    4) Since everyone else wants to tell GRRM how to run the party I’ll join them – drop the open bar.

  12. A party was held. The party was paid for by sponsors, one in particular, and free to those attending.

    Over 10% of those registered for the convention showed up, and were admitted.

    Some who were invited were not given immediate entry, and left.

    Does this really require further discussion?

  13. Lawrence Charters: Does this really require further discussion?

    It must. Yours is comment #64.

  14. I can’t say I’m ready to thank GRRM for his services to current fandom given it was almost exclusively fan category nominees who were shut out, and other fan category nominees who are laughing at the suggestion, never communicated to them, that they can just turn up at future parties without an invite. But sure, go off i guess.

  15. I will absolutely thank GRRM, because otherwise ConZealand would have to have paid for a party. Now they can use the money for bettering the con instead. And I do think every Worldcon member should be recognised as equal part of Fandom.

  16. I have a question that I don’t think has been answered yet…

    Did Martin check his decisions to allow people in early, without invitations, with anyone from Dublin 2019 or New Zealand 2020? While he says it is his party, it was actually supposedly a party organised by him and the two Conventions.

    From my understanding, the site had comfortable space for the number of people actually invited. The problem was solely caused by Martin’s decision to allow people not invited in, because they were his friends or industry figures or capital letter SMOFS. And not only does Martin not apologise for it, insists that it was entirely his right to do so, and that anyone who didn’t know that was who the party is really for is a silly “Hugo Virgin”.

    I find it hard to think that Dublin 2019 or New Zealand 2020 have the same idea as Martin as to if people invited to their party were not the people the party was for.

  17. I am the horrible position of (a) thinking what happened to the people who turned up and had the immediate perception that they were turned away[1] is horrible; and (b) thinking that what happened was somewhat unforeseeable and down to many hands not all knowing what other hands were doing.

    Could it have been handled better? Undoubtedly. Could the problem have been foreseen? Don’t know, if I had a few years experience, I would have a better answer. GRRM has had a few years, and was under the impression that “~450- simultaneous” was a sensible bet given the drip-in nature that was expected.

    Could CoNZealand have informed GRRM that they were putting on buses? Yes. I am not sure why it didn’t occur to them, and I am not sure it would’ve occurred to me either[2]. I mean, it’s just expediting things, right[3]?

    And, with that, I shall continue to sit on this-here fence.

    [1] It doesn’t, really, matter that it was a temporary hold. At the end of a very long day, and an emotional evening (I’ve never been a finalist, but I can imagine a whole armada of feelings from “not actually getting a rocket”). And at that point get a “no, sorry, full” is… probably more stressful than restful. If the magic phrase “one in, one out” had been mentioned at the door, I would probably have been less upset than if it was “no, full”.

    [2] Unless there was an explicit “we’re banking on the drip-drop of people to not run out of space” was part of the pre-game conversation.

    [3] And expediting things is why you have staff.

  18. @Ingvar: Could it have been handled better? Undoubtedly.

    The redoubtable Alex Acks’s blog item (well worth reading) included one particularly excellent and constructive suggestion: George should (please) consider ensuring that future invitations include a statement like: ‘Space is limited and entry not guaranteed.’

    To quote one of my favourite lines from The West Wing: ‘Ah, the rare valid point!’ I certainly hope George adopts the idea, even if no others.

  19. Ingvar: Could the problem have been foreseen?… GRRM… was under the impression that “~450- simultaneous” was a sensible bet given the drip-in nature that was expected.

    It was known for months that at least 120 invitations (240 people) would be allocated to finalists. Based on that, I would have had at the very most 260 invitations (520 people) printed up, and when they were gone, they were gone. But nobody knows how many invitations were actually printed and handed out.

    My observation of the Hugo Loser’s Party from the last 2 years is that most people go and stay for hours. I’m not sure why he would have expected the attendance to do much rolling-over.

  20. And to put my Ops hat on, I’d caution that if you try to both operationally organise a +300 person event at the same time as trying to be a jovial host and participant of that event, you are going to massively screw up the organising part because the host and participant part keeps you occupied.

    Once again, I see no sign from Martin’s statement that he intends to change from this. While I respect Martin as a fan, writer and donator to Worldcon, I think he maybe shouldn’t be allowed to organise any of its official events going forward.

  21. @Steve said: “Thanks for trying, George. Thanks for your support, your great work(s), thanks for being a FAN, keep on doing what you’re doing, we have every faith that you’ll figure things out, if you need some help, let us know”.

    Holy carp! Something I agree with Steve on….

  22. Jay Blanc: I see no sign from Martin’s statement that he intends to change from this. While I respect Martin as a fan, writer and donator to Worldcon, I think he maybe shouldn’t be allowed to organise any of its official events going forward.

    You’ve got a mistaken understanding. He didn’t organize an official Worldcon event. He’s been allowing Worldcon to send their Hugo finalists to his event.

    As I said earlier, while I can understand how and why that happened, I think it was a mistake, and I think going forward that the two events need to be separate.

  23. On the suggestion of including a disclaimer on the invitation (admittance is not guaranteed): will encourage people to go early in order to insure admittance, which may impact other goings-on.

    One thing that could be done (maybe) is to have a list of “guaranteed admittance” (losers+1 and only 1, personal guests of the host) invitations. You subtract that number from your fire marshall’s/venue’s limit and that’s your actual working attendance limit. At some point later on you can take a tally and open the door up again. (Or you can have two clickers counting, one just keeping track of the special invites going through the door.)

    Someone elsewhere suggested that people attending invitation-only parties expect not to have to wait to get in. How so, when, if it is invite only, at the very least invitations have to be checked and there will always be those without invitations (legitimate guests and non-invitees both) who will hold up the line as they are processed. It may be a short wait, almost unnoticable, but there will be a wait.

    The HLP – of which I briefly attended one during the course of con work (Suncon) – is a Worldcon adjacent event. Despite its shifting history, so far as I’m concerned, ever since the puppy kerfuffle, it has been GRRM’s thing. Anyone could go off site from Worldcon, open their wallet, hire a venue and invite people to attend a loser’s party, and Worldcon’s only possible action would be to suggest people don’t go, or schedule a counter-party. The current and next Worldcon’s “help” defray some of the cost – in order to support the party and to help promote their event – they don’t “co-own” the party. I’m pretty sure George can pay the tab himself if no one else wants to help, after all, it’s his party so he decides how much to be on the hook for.
    Ironically, the degree of upset over this party is a strong indicator of how important it has become to the community. I’m also pretty sure that if George decides to host one in New Zealand he will fill to capacity, even if a bunch of folks choose to not attend in protest.
    Not everyone always gets to attend the cool events. (One reason hall parties were so important; ANYone attending could go, not to mention random folks off the street.)

    Being a fan himself, I doubt that there was a plan to keep fan award losers out; I doubt that his mention of the growth of the awards and the number of recipients was intended to be anything other than a statement of fact; those looking for an apology can either accept his statement that it was his responsibility for one, or not as they will, but the piece here was offered as an EXPLANATION of what happened.

    What has happened in fandom? Past fubars and inconveniences used to be met with the impromptu organization of alternatives (we’ll take over a Denny’s), the breaking out of guitars and filk jam sessions, lyrics suitably altered for the occassion, special edition one-page fanzines cranked out as events were unfolding, the creation of customized name badges and a host of people offering suggested fixes, organizational skills & etc. for the future. Accompanied by bitching and moaning, for sure, but the focus seemed to be to be getting on with things.

  24. @JJ

    As mentioned above, this year it was co-run by Dublin 2019 and New Zealand 2020 as a somewhat official event, with invites officially given by Dublin 2019 specifically to that year’s finalists as part of the Hugo awards process. If GRRM did not want it to be an official event, and just his personal private party, he should kept it his personal private party. And if he wants to continue running it as his personal private party, with an open invite to ‘the right kind of people in the know’ that is not actually for the current year’s Hugo nominees, then maybe he can take the ‘Hugo’ part out of the name.

  25. I’m waiting for everyone who wants GRRM to back away and stop using the Hugo name to volunteer to help and finance a separate party.

    I’d prefer to see this as a learning experience and see how it can be avoided next year. I do not believe burn with fire and salt the earth is the best way forward.

  26. @Hampus Eckerman

    That was what was being done previous to 2019, with the incoming Convention organising a Hugo Nominees Reception. For 2019, the Hugo Nominees Reception was merged into GRRM’s Losers Party. This clearly has not worked, and should not be repeated. Next time I suggest GRRM may continue to operate his Losers Party as a private event, and the Convention can operate it’s own Hugo Nominees Reception.

    The whole issue is that this year GRRM was not just running the Loser’s Party, but the official Hugo Nominees Reception as well. And GRRM ran it like it was still his private party, and seems to insist he was entirely in the right to do so.

  27. “That was what was being done previous to 2019, with the incoming Convention organising a Hugo Nominees Reception.”

    No. Previous to 2017. The merge happened that year. In 2017, the party was run by GRRM with staff from San José and in 2018 by GRRM with staff from Dublin.

    And yes, the issue was that GRRM run the party as if it was solely his. Which is why I prefer to see this as a learning experience and hope they will find a way to both accommodate finalists and other guests. That would mean a larger party at a much smaller cost for the cons.

    Again. I do not believe in burn everything and salt the earth. If someone with the money can help beat the cost for the conventions, then I’m grateful for it. My hope is that it will still be possible, in spite of this f*ck-up and non-apology.

    If not, then that is that. But I will not start screaming for something that I think might lessen the experience for many. Not when something still can be worked out. Because a separation would even more clearly separate people into the in- and out-crowd.

  28. @ Jay Blanc: As far as I can tell, Dublin 2019’s involvement was limited to “handing out invitations”[1]. And CoNZealand’s limited to “help out at the venue” and “provide some financial support”[2] (and, lest we forget, renting two full-size buses).

    I think there’s a massive confusion, based on the naming of things[4], that makes people think GRRM’s party is more “official” than it is (but, then tradition makes for the best kind of technically official, I guess).

    [1]

    This came into sharp focus when James Bacon requested 140 invitations from us, for inclusion in the registration packets. He wrote, “The figure of 140 invitations, (280 people), includes. Hugo Finalists. Guests of Honour. Featured artists, Special Guests (astronauts) FF Delegates, the Master of Ceremonies.”

    [2]

    This year it was our friends from New Zealand. In addition to a cash contribution to help defray the expenses of the party, CoNZealand provided the desserts (as previously mentioned), and people to man the door.

    [3]

    hen our friends from New Zealand heard of this, they were concerned that taxicabs might be scarce on the ground, making it difficult for people to reach the Storehouse… so, with the very best of intent, and entirely at their own expense, they chartered two buses to carry guests from the conference center to the Storehouse.

    [4] Well-known as one of the two, or three, hardest things in Computer science (cache invalidation, naming things, off by one errors, [3 minute pause] and latency; if you want the full list of three)

  29. @Hampus Eckerman

    I will absolutely thank GRRM, because otherwise ConZealand would have to have paid for a party. Now they can use the money for bettering the con instead.

    Also @Hampus Eckerman

    And yes, the issue was that GRRM run the party as if it was solely his. Which is why I prefer to see this as a learning experience and hope they will find a way to both accommodate finalists and other guests. That would mean a larger party at a much smaller cost for the cons.

    I was associated with but not directly responsible with 2 out of the 3 times that the following year’s convention teamed up with George. My understanding/belief is that the amount of money they contributed was the same amount of money that they would have allocated to running their own party. Because for so many years the Hugo Loser’s Party was the next con’s first duty, it’s been a standard line item in convention budgets. So teaming up with George doesn’t necessarily save the convention any money.

    Certainly the pooled funds lead to a much grander party than the convention would have been able to run on its own – but not without risks. What if someone that GRRM doesn’t like is a finalist? Like the Puppies or their ilk manage to get on the ballot again? Does George get to say they can’t come? Is it fair for the convention to tell him that he MUST invite them to a party where he’s paying (this is a guess) 90% of the costs?

  30. Ingvar:

    I think there’s a massive confusion, based on the naming of things[4], that makes people think GRRM’s party is more “official” than it is (but, then tradition makes for the best kind of technically official, I guess).

    As a Great American once said, “That’s the best kind of party, little girl.”

  31. @errolwi: what mitigating measures? Was adding space at that point possible? (see @Madame Hardy’s comment about the difficulty of summoning additional staff needed for such space.)

    @Madame Hardy: considering where we are, I can’t say you have a weird hobby — but you definitely have a stronger stomach than I do.

    wrt @Jay Blanc’s

    I’d caution that if you try to both operationally organise a +300 person event at the same time as trying to be a jovial host and participant of that event, you are going to massively screw up the organising part because the host and participant part keeps you occupied.

    I disagree with much of what Jay has said, but to me (as another largely-backstage person and one who couldn’t do jovial on a bet) this seems a cogent point. I know of a number of writers who have personal assistants on the principal that writing well doesn’t say anything about skill at dealing with random hairballs; I’d expect this to be true of GRRM given the money he’s had to put into various good causes (not just HLP but (e.g.) a local cinema), so possibly he needs to draw more on such people. OTOH, this isn’t an easy yield to do with something that was originally the baby of yourself and a close friend.

  32. @Chip Hitchcock: Not only staff, but “summon food to accommodate the increase in the people allowed access to an open bar”.

  33. @Chip, I honestly see it as a cousin to any other sort of true-crime book. The part I enjoy reading is the set of decisions cascading into the fire, and the set of fire-code improvements (hopefully) and sometimes medical improvements resulting from the fire. As the common wisdom goes, “Every word in the building code is written in blood.”

    I highly recommend “Why Buildings Fall Down”, if you like that sort of analysis.

  34. All my reactions to this whole thing come out very long, or very very short.
    …so here’s a whole bunch of the short ones.

    1) Organizing an annual party like this is a tremendous effort. That’s worthy of appreciation and recognition.

    2) It is inevitable that sometimes, when organizing big events (that are recognized and appreciated), Sometimes things will go wrong. Volunteer planning and logistics will not always be the best. Sucks, but true.

    3) All too often, volunteers get their hard worked crapped on, because the good stuff is taken for granted, while criticism is loud and easily-amplified.

    4) GRRM, in this piece, is mostly addressing “Why was there a planning flub.” This unfortunately misses the core of the complaints: the impression that the Hugo Losers Party is, first and foremost, for the fresh Hugo Losers. GRRM only reaches this very late in the piece, and there his response is simply “no it isn’t.”

    5) By “No it isn’t,” GRRM means (and explains) “Sure, I love Hugo Losers. But: This party started as an inside joke in 1974. It’s not about the new Hugo losers.”

    2nd 5) Unfortunately, and this is what GRRM staunchly ignores: It’s no longer 1974. Those who aren’t in on the joke got a very different impression of the party, and for good reason.

    6) Some of those reasons are: Personal invitations as part of the Hugo packet. Direct, official involvement and support by the current Worldcon and the next one. Many online accounts focusing on the fresh Hugo losers. GRRM’s Alfie Awards, which are literally for “fresh” losers from the current nominating round. An official and explicit rebranding of the HLP into precisely what GRRM claims it is not.
    With all that, turning around and saying, “thinking the Hugo Losers Party somehow centers the Hugo Losers — well, that just reeks of entitlement” is pretty disingenuous.

    7) I do not think GRRM should be single-handedly responsible for consoling Hugo Finalists.

    8) I do not think GRRM should feel that he himself (time with him, an invitation to his party) have become a “prize” to which runner-up Hugo Finalists are entitled, year after year.

    9) However, running the HLP in the way he currently does — visible, official, branded — certainly doesn’t do anything to contain those impressions of responsibility and prize-hood.

    10) And anybody who had those impressions?
    GRRM calls them “entitled”. Mocks them as being shocked and affronted that GRRM dare invite any guests of his own. Complains about those who “began to tweet furiously from the parking lot”, but equally about commentary “from people who were not there and don’t know any of the facts, but are outraged and eager to chime in all the same.” Disregards some very serious points about finalists who couldn’t wait outside, in the cold and rain.
    This piece is, quite simply, sneering at any Hugo Finalist who thought the Hugo Losers Party, was, to any extent whatsoever, a fun consolation party for people who had just “lost” a Hugo. Not only was the party not set up in any way for these finalists (except the buses!), this is an explicit avowal that the party isn’t recognizing them, isn’t interested in them, and will take umbrage at even the misimpression that it might be.

    11) As GRRM notes, this is only going to get worse. He notes, quite correctly, that the number of finalists is going up from year to year. With no contradiction, he also writes that the HLP is open to all the losers from previous years. Imagine, then, how fast that number’s going to balloon!

    12) It’s very clear that the HLP is kind of GRRM’s baby. He loves it. He cares about it. He’s made it what it is. He also pays for the whole damn thing.
    With no contradiction, the party’s popular impression and brand is certainly (at least for a significant portion of the crowd) “a party for people who just lost a Hugo.”
    And if that’s not the party GRRM wants to throw, I suggest he give serious thought to what he wants to do about that impression.

    Because leaving things as they are, with GRRM throwing one style of party and Hugo Finalists expecting a very different beast, is only going to make new Hugo losers feel slighted, sneered at, and generally annoyed.

  35. May I just clarify one point? Hugo night in Dublin was cold, but it wasn’t raining at any time while I was outside. It may have rained at some point during the approx. 90 minutes I was inside at the party.

    And while several of those finalists who couldn’t get in were fan category finalists, according to reports there were also fiction and editing finalists left waiting outside. And among the 2019 Hugo finalists who got in there were quite a few fan category finalists. At the party, I saw/spoke to representatives from four finalists in the fanzine category, one fan writer (and I think there were only two fan writer finalists actually in attendance anyway) and representatives of one fancast, who were initially among those left outside, but eventually got in. I also saw at least one fan artist finalist at the party. And this is just who I personally saw and recognised.

    I honestly think who got in at once and who didn’t was more down to luck than active discrimination.

    That said, I agree that efforts must be made to prevent a repeat of the mess at the Dublin Hugo Losers Party. And it needs to be communicated more clearly what the party is and isn’t, because I also assumed it’s a party primarily for the current year Hugo finalists, mainly losers but also winners.

  36. I agree with 95% of what @Standback said, well put.

    @Chip Hitchcock @errolwi: what mitigating measures?
    Primarily an attitude change, what you would do when you receive information that your assumptions are wrong and you have made a mistake. It’s clear from what GRRM says that there was time to both reduce formal (non-finalist) invitations and reduce expectations from those that are part of the ‘in’ crowd but not formally invited.

    On the other hand, every year we have invited guests who turn up with their plus one… and a plus two, a plus three, a plus four, etc. “They’re with me,” they announce, and some get very indignant if told their extras will not be admitted. … Other people may not have received an invite this year, but have attended past parties. Some never got invited simply because we never encountered them at the con; if we had known they were there, we certainly would have invited them.

    Also making sure that those on the door know that more invitations have been issued than the venue capacity (I don’t know if this happened), and that early arrivals were let in without invitations being checked.

  37. I really do feel for people left to wait on the street outside Guinness Storehouse in the cold night air, with or without intermittent rain. Personally, I was able to make do with just a windbreaker/quasi-raincoat during my wife’s and my stay in the Republic and NI, even though our Dublin hotel was 2 km northwest of the CCD, near the corner of O’Connell and Parnell, and I eschewed the tram (because I’m cheap).

    The Storehouse is quite a bit further out of the way, about 4-5 km WSW of CCD on the other (south) side of the River Liffey, in a somewhat industrial area about half a klick west of, well, significant numbers of restaurants and pubs. I’d have been a bit miffed about cooling my heels there, too (leaving aside the perfectly valid ‘Wait, I have a written invitation and yet I’m being kept out on the street?’ bit), even though the reasons a spillover area or Helsinki-style overflow to chairs and tables in an adjoining pedestrian square just wasn’t possible.

    Notwithstanding the confluence of problematic factors onto the HLP, Dublin is IMO a charming, compact, and cosmopolitan place, and in general highly walkable by those of us who’ve the good luck to be able-bodied and not a typical target of street crime. Rather like Helsinki, in that regard.

  38. @Madame Hardy

    I honestly see it as a cousin to any other sort of true-crime book. The part I enjoy reading is the set of decisions cascading into the fire, and the set of fire-code improvements (hopefully) and sometimes medical improvements resulting from the fire. As the common wisdom goes, “Every word in the building code is written in blood.”

    I highly recommend “Why Buildings Fall Down”, if you like that sort of analysis.

    Regarding the strict Irish fire codes, which contributed to both the issues with the Hugo Losers Party and the crowding/queueing issues at the con itself, they are likely a reaction to the devastating Stardust fire, which happened in 1981 at a disco in a Dublin suburb, only a few kilometres from the Guinness Storehouse and the CCD. 48 young people, half of them under 18, died when a fire broke out during a Valentine’s Day party at the Stardust discoteque. The usual issues such as building code violations, locked and inadequate emergency exits, barred windows and flammable furnishings contributed to the disaster. Survivors and families are still demanding a new inquest and justice 38 years later.

    Given this history, it’s understandable that venue operators in Dublin are strict about fire codes.

  39. @Madame Hardy: I’ve owned Why Buildings Fall Down for decades, and still refer to it occasionally — if only to be sure I have the facts straight on the KC Hyatt disaster, which is a historic chain and pool of collective screwups.

    @Cora Buhlert: I’m not entirely surprised that it took a specific event to tighten up the fire codes, but I find the points in common with Cocoanut Grove (ref above) — the flammable materials in public and in private, and above all the exits chained shut — worse than regrettable given the four decades between them. (OTOH, some of the victims probably survived because of what was learned in 1942 about dealing with severe burns; medical people sometimes pay attention to publications.) What makes that story more appalling is the note that there was a similar disaster on that side of the pond and much more recently, providing an example that should have prodded action.

  40. Steve Davidson:

    Someone elsewhere suggested that people attending invitation-only parties expect not to have to wait to get in. How so, when, if it is invite only, at the very least invitations have to be checked and there will always be those without invitations (legitimate guests and non-invitees both) who will hold up the line as they are processed. It may be a short wait, almost unnoticable, but there will be a wait

    The vast gulf between the kind of wait involved when checking invitations and letting in invitees versus the kind of queue that involves standing outside waiting to learn if you get in at all is so blatant I have to start taking your other arguments as equally bad faith. No event that issues limited invitations and checks them against a list should have a queue at the door that involves a clicker counter to.let people in against capacity. If it does it should be for the “plus two… and three” or the crashers.

    Look, I don’t blame GRRM solely. Though this non-pology is not putting out flames, neither did it start them. Nor do I think shutting the whole thing down is the right way to go (nor do I think that’s what anyone else is saying).

    And yes it takes a lot of work, and yes the good work done can be forgotten in the face of a mess-up. But the good work also does not excuse or erase the mess-up, and grovelling gratitude for the party existing at all is neither a useful nor reasonable expectation to put on those who felt hurt or excluded.

  41. @Chip Hitchcock
    I’m also fascinated by fatal disasters and the saddest thing is that the same disasters keep happening again and again, usually on different continents or in different countries. Nightclub and dance hall fires still kill a lot of people in the 21st century, decades after the Coconut Grove, Stardust, Club Cinq-Sept, Beverly Hills Supper Club, Summerland, Upstairs Lounge, Denmark Place and similar fires all over the world. Ditto for fatal crushes, which again still happen decades after Hillsborough and Ibrox and more than a century after the Victoria Hall disaster of Sunderland.

    Disasters do tend to prompt changes in building and fire safety codes, but usually only in a single country. Then, the same lessons are relearned again and again after a similar disaster happens elsewhere. And sometimes, the lessons are not learned at all, e.g. when the victims of the disaster were “the wrong sort of people” as with the Upstairs Lounge and Denmark Place fires of which I learned only recently, in spite of having lived where they happened.

  42. @Cora:

    May I just clarify one point? Hugo night in Dublin was cold, but it wasn’t raining at any time while I was outside.

    My bad — thanks for the correction!
    I thought I’d remembered somebody writing about rain, but skimming back quickly, I don’t see that.

  43. Standback: I thought I’d remembered somebody writing about rain, but skimming back quickly, I don’t see that.

    There were a few people who said that on social media, but I don’t think that any of them were actually there in person.

    It might have rained, but it was dry when I went in and dry when I came out an hour or so later, so I kinda doubt it. It was, however, windy and chilly.

  44. Jay Blanc: George doesn’t organize the party. He pays people to do that. His role is jovial host.

  45. @Standback
    I did see quite a few people, most of them folks who hadn’t actually been there, talking on social media about finalists left standing in the rain, which is why I felt the need to correct those comments. The situation was unpleasant enough for the finalists who couldn’t get in without adding rain into the mix.

    @Steve Davidson
    The Guiness Storehouse was a bit outside the city centre in a commercial/office area, so taking over a random pub/fish ‘n chip shop/fast food restaurant would have been difficult, since there was nothing along those lines in the immediate neighbourhood. And it was a little too cold (though not raining) to just hold a party in the street.

  46. Dublin had the kind of weather that could change in minutes. Sun – cloudy – rain – sun… I myself had a downpour when I walked home from the convention center that night, but I can’t say if the time matched. Most likely not.

  47. I have a few comments to add. While I did read the original post in entirety, I haven’t read all the comments. So, I’m sorry if I’m repeating something. As a bit of background, I was one of the two New Zealand staff at the Convention Centre who were directly people to the buses.

    First, a minor clarification. New Zealand rented ONE bus which made TWO trips only to the Guinness Storehouse to bring people to the event. I believe George’s bus made more trips than were “contracted for” in both directions. I believe what happened was the New Zealand bus and the GRRM bus (on what was possibly an extra trip) arrived at about the same time at just before 11:30 PM. I and the other New Zealand staffer from the convention centre arrived in taxis with a few stragglers who didn’t have rides just after the buses.

    A point of reference. I was one of the last people outside waiting and I got in about 12:30 (after waiting for about an hour – so be it). To one of the comments I did read, it was drizzling off and on during this period.

    A digression. The bus driver for the GRRM bus was great. When people were unable to get in, he made an unplanned trip back to the convention centre with people who wanted to go back to the convention centre. He also returned for a final extra return trip to the Storehouse at about 2:30 AM to pick up the last few returning people. I believe he expected to make 2 or 3 trips back to return people to the convention centre and wound up making 4 or 5.

    Finally, a whine. I find it “odd” that Dublin got invites for the ConCom but not all New Zealand staff at the same level got invites especially since New Zealand was officially helping with the party and Dublin wasn’t.

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