Zen And The Art Of Hugo Finalist Maintenance

Vincent Villafranca casting the 2013 Hugo Award base.

[[Editor’s Note: I wanted more people to see Jo’s story, left in comments, about her Homeric efforts on Hugo day, and got her permission to run it as a front-page post.]]

By Jo Van Ekeren: It all started when I made the mistake of whingeing to Mike Glyer about never getting to go to GRRM’s awesome Hugo Losers Parties.

“Well, you did a big favour for my blog,” he said. “If you want, you can be my +1 and go to the parties, as my way of saying ‘thanks’”.

“What a great idea!” I said. “What could possibly go wrong?” I said.

And we made arrangements to meet on Sunday evening outside the location for the Hugo Finalist pre-party.

So on Sunday morning at the WSFS Business Meeting, I got a phone call saying that Mike had been taken from his hotel to the medical centre and could I go see him. “Sure!” I said. “I’m sure that he’ll be up on his feet shortly, and everything will be just fine!” I said.

So I got to the hospital, where a little creative editorialising led the staff to believe that I might possibly be one of Mike’s errant blood relations who just happened to live on the other side of the world, and was delighted when I got to his room and discovered that he seemed to be back to his usual jovial self.

“I’m so relieved to see that you’re doing well!” I said. “It’s a good thing that you’ll still be able to go to the Hugos tonight!” I said.

“Yeah, uh… about that…” he said.

I gave him The Look.

“They want to keep me in the hospital overnight, just to be sure that I’m okay,” he said. “So I’m going to need you to stand in for me at the Hugos tonight,” he said.

< deep breath >

“Okay,” I said. “I can do that, but I’m going to need you to e-mail me a copy of your speech in case you win,” I said.

“Yeah, uh… about that…” he said.

I gave him The Look again.

< another deep breath >

“Okay,” I said. “Tell me what you need me to say if you win.” And he proceeded to toss out his thoughts for an acceptance speech, which I avidly typed into my cell phone’s memo app.

I wanted to stick around until they got him taken from the evaluation area to an actual room. So we got a “here’s what’s going on” post put up on File 770, and I spent a few hours reading Filers’ responses to that to Mike, and relating the content of various tweets, Facebook posts, and the Business Meeting summaries to him. I’d missed the ceremony rehearsal which was early in the afternoon, but I talked to the Hugo staff on the phone, and they promised to give me a quick run-through whenever I got there.

FINALLY they got Mike moved to a room. At that point, it was getting very late in the afternoon, and I really needed to get home and take a shower and get ready for the ceremony. So I called an Uber, and walked out of the ER exit toward the pickup point. The Uber driver arrived, and seemed to have some sort of selective visual impairment, because they were looking at every one of the 16 compass points except at me. I put my arm up and waved it, while walking toward them. They still didn’t see me. So I kept waving and walking.

I never saw the curb that jumped up and hit me. (In my defence, there was construction going on, and the wide sidewalk area there had two sloping areas ramping down flush with the pavement. In between them was a curbed area which was not flush with the pavement.)

The next thing I knew, I was on the ground wondering where the truck that hit me had gone, and two people were urging me to go back into the ER and get my injuries checked. I looked at my watch. It was 5:10pm. The pre-party was supposed to start at 6:00pm. “I can’t,” I said. “I have a ceremony I have to be at in an hour.” So they helped me up, and I hobbled over to my Uber which was 3 fricking metres away — and my Uber driver had missed the entire thing, which had happened right in front of their car. “When did this happen?” they asked. “Just now?” they asked.

I didn’t bother giving them The Look.

Setting aside my perhaps well-founded concerns about their ability to observe possible obstructions and impending collisions in traffic, I had the driver take me back to my hotel. On the way, I called Helen Montgomery, told her what had happened, and said that I was probably going to need some wrangling from the staff at the ceremony. I hobbled up to my room, in a massive amount of pain, wondering how in hell I was going to make it to the ceremony. So I cracked open a cold Mike’s Hard Lemonade, took a few big swigs, and got in the shower. As I was washing my hair, I heard my roommate come in. “Heather?” I said. “What are you doing for the next hour?” I asked her.

“Nothing, as far as I know,” she said.

“Yeah, uh… about that…” I said. “How would you like to be a Hugo Finalist Wrangler?” I asked her. “Because I’ve sprained my ankle and I think I may have broken my arm, and I’m supposed to be down at the pre-Hugo party in half an hour. Would you be willing to help me get ready?” And she graciously agreed.

Heather Rose Jones, folks, is probably the only reason I wasn’t curled up on the bed crying from pain and exhaustion instead of going to the Hugo ceremony Sunday night. She kept talking to me and kept me going while I was getting ready, and helped with all of the things I couldn’t do by myself with a useless hand and arm. The hair and the makeup ended up being, shall we say, close enough only for Government Work. (But at least I had a tiara.)

I got to the pre-party late at about 6:45pm, which at least provided the benefit of allowing me to duck out of being brigaded into the posed finalist photos. I scavenged some food from the buffet, joked with Ursula Vernon about getting into a scuffle with her over something which involved her lying on the floor covered in quacamole, and sat down to write a speech — alternating between typing on my phone with one finger and shoving cheese and red wine into my mouth.

When the time came, the Hugo Ceremony staff ushered me out to the Grand Ballroom, where they had reserved for me a seat up front right by the stairs to the stage. They made sure that I had an arm and a good hand when I needed one, to carry a heavy rocket and avoid falling. Which was a good thing, because being given less than 12 hours of warning to make a speech under blinding lights in front of 3,500 people, which is being livecast to hundreds of fans all around the world, is pretty terrifying.

All I can say is that GRRM’s Hugo Loser’s Party is every bit as awesome as the rumours say — and that copious amounts of Blood Orange Cider apparently make a passable substitution for legal pharmaceutical analgesics, since I managed to stay to the end. And I have to thank Mike for giving me the opportunity to have what will be one of the most special experiences of my life. I am just sorry that he missed the opportunity to pick up his very last Hugo himself.

I figure that I must have some sort of Hugo record for “Trophy Accepter With Untreated Broken Bones”. Perhaps Kevin Standlee will give me a footnote in the official records.

22 thoughts on “Zen And The Art Of Hugo Finalist Maintenance

  1. The fact you got through all that is an endorsement for Mike’s Hard Lemonade. Your acceptance for Mike and File 770 was a worthy sendoff to his retirement from award eligibility.

  2. It occurs to me that I really wouldn’t want to be the third person associated with that Hugo.
    These things happen in threes, after all.

  3. I’m very happy to see that Heather managed to avoid The Curse of Mike’s Hugo. Also, I understand why Mike decided to call it quits. After winning yet another Hugo while in hospital, a wise man knows that too much of a good thing might be dangerous to your health.

    Of course, a Pacemaker of Defense Against the Dark Arts +2 might have helped.

  4. Yes, definitely not something Mike should try again! And Jo should agree to be a Hugo acceptor again only for people who certifiably are not there for travel reasons, not health reasons.

  5. …AND she was the hero we deserved!

    Watched as much as I could of your speech from backstage, when I wasn’t trying to figure out who I should wrangle next, and when. You did great! (And I’m glad you got to go to the party. I hope some day to warrant an invitation…)

  6. I can confirm that the Blood Orange Cider (and the DJ) kept Jo going till they threw us out of the party venue.

    @Mark-kitteh: This is why I was glad we didn’t have a File 770 Order of Succession in which it fell to me to accept Mike’s Hugo! Who knows what new and exciting medical condition I’d have? Heather seemed unscathed, last I saw her, so being adjacent was apparently safe.

    @Greg M: Your wrangling was excellent! You should have been invited. Thanks for taking the goofy pictures of me at rehearsal. It’s the closest I’ll ever get to a Hugo.

    ETA: Greg’s photography skills are fine. I just look like a dork in the pix.

  7. I figure that I must have some sort of Hugo record for “Trophy Accepter With Untreated Broken Bones”.

    Hmm… in order to beat that, we really need to push hard to get James Nicoll a win.

  8. I would like to give special recognition to Rick Moen, who stayed with me for 5 hours in the Urgent Care Clinic on Monday, while I got x-rayed and treated. I could have done it by myself, but having his company made it a lot less tedious. And I have found that when you’re in a lot of pain, just having someone there, even if they’re not actually able to do anything for you, makes it easier. Plus, Rick made several driving trips to the clinic and the hotel, which made things much easier and less expensive than all the Uber-ing I’d been doing.

    Thanks also to Deirdre Saiorse Moen, who was only going to have to wait in the car long enough for Rick and I to pack up Mike’s stuff in the hotel room — but ended up waiting a very long time while we had to convince the desk clerk at the hotel to reactivate Mike’s mistakenly-deactivated room card, an ordeal involving a lot of back-and-forth, a phone call to Mike, and him having to get out of bed and find his credit card.

    My profuse thanks to both Rick and Deirdre for all of their help to me and Mike on Monday.

  9. Oh my goodness, yes, it occurred to me earlier today I had seriously neglected to thank Rick for his selfless efforts, not the least is his help getting all my stuff packed and out of room, into secure storage.

  10. Jo! I had no idea what you meant by the killing yourself comment, but imagined it had to do with overworking or something similarly benign, not accepting a Hugo with broken bones acquired coming out of the hospital.

    Would one of the clever people here create an Order of ___ and bestow it on Jo, please? Because that kind of heroism requires some sort of token.

    Also, to Rick Moen, and you thought arranging Filer meetups was going to be it for you. Hah. Good job! Even here in 4306, we honor your work.

  11. Jo, thanks for that link! Oor Wombat writes so well.

    I confess to not having read Digger til after the win (I have not been a consistent Hugo voter), but I’ve read it several times since, and I sure agree that win was well-deserved.

  12. I do confess that for one very brief moment, I thought about asking Jo if I could inherit the plus-one position, since she had taken over the primary acceptor role. But I immediately realized it would have been both unfair and too distracting to throw that potential complication into the mix at the last minute. (Who knows, maybe some day I’ll be part of those ceremonies in my own right…)

  13. Oh my gosh, that’s what you meant in the speech. I had no idea that you’d injured yourself so badly. After breaking my leg this summer, I’m utterly in awe that you were able to function so well through that level of pain. And you gave an excellent acceptance speech.

  14. Jo and Mike, glad to have been able to help. And it was most commendably efficient of you to both land in the same hospital — notwithstanding which, if we ever do this again, I’m going to bring a skateboard for those interminable corridors at Valley Medical.

  15. We’re also glad we could help in whatever small ways we could (Hi, partner and wrangler of the redoubtable Helen Montgomery here). Jo, the tiara was just the right accent!

  16. Re: Guacamole – I feel like “Neil Gaiman, weeping and covered in guacamole” belongs firmly in that genre of meme from Star Trek that I don’t fully understand, not being particularly passionate about Trek myself, but that I have begun to enjoy and sort of grok at least a little in vicarious kind of way just from watching y’all bandy it around.

    I hope that made even the least littlest bit of sense.

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