Britannia Rules

At last it's come and gone, the event which superstitious fans called The Scottish Convention – the 2005 World SF Convention in Glasgow. I still have the hangover to prove it.

By all accounts it was a damn fine Worldcon, attracting well over 4,000 people and earning praise for tough organisational challenges like the Masquerade and Hugo ceremony. From my unashamedly personal viewpoint there were several treats, beginning with the breakfast ritual of signing contracts for a third edition of the monumental Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, to be co-edited by John Clute, Peter Nicholls and myself. Expect a progress report on this insanely huge enterprise in some future column.

Between visits to the bar, other highlights included: Haranguing a largish audience who laughed in the right places. Signing many copies of my SFX column collection The SEX Column and other misprints, published just in time for Worldcon. Prostrating myself before the glory of this august magazine's editor. Chatting with countless SF notables whose names I would remorselessly drop here if I had room. Watching the real ale run out and be replenished, again and again until: "We drank the brewery dry!"

Perhaps the silliest publishing party was for the tenth anniversary of Voyager, held on Glasgow Harbour's tourist attraction The Tall Ship. As they boarded, guests were issued not only with wine but pirate bandannas, cutlasses, eyepatches, prosthetic hooks ... My timbers were thoroughly shivered, and a lady author said she felt jolly rogered.

The jamboree event was the Hugo Awards presentation, guaranteed to boost the blood pressure of all nominees. I twitched uncontrollably for hours beforehand. Terry Pratchett had actually withdrawn his Going Postal from the Best Novel shortlist (where, otherwise, it would have displaced Iain Banks's The Algebraist) because he felt even he couldn't handle the Hugo-related stress. Terry is a wise man.

Jitters faded as the ceremony began, presented at breakneck speed by MCs Paul McAuley and Kim Newman. According to their merry alternate history, these trophies commemorated not Hugo Gernsback but that pioneering fiction scientifique author Victor Hugo, remembered for space operas like The Jetpack of Notre Dame.

As predicted in my SFX 132 column, there was much British triumphalism as one by one the Hugo results emerged. Fan Artist was taken by our very own Sue Mason, and Fanzine by the British Plokta – several times nominated, never before a winner. Fan Writer ... well, um, some people make bitter jokes about renaming this one as Best Langford, and somehow I won again.

Similarly, Best Semiprozine is often known as Best Locus after the regular US winner, and although Britain's Interzone might possibly score a home win as in 1995, other nominees clearly had no chance. It was therefore a shock of heart-stopping proportions when this Hugo went to my own little newsletter Ansible (which I'd moved from Fanzine, precisely to avoid competing in that category). Blimey!

A fellow-Welshman, Jim Burns, bagged the Professional Artist award. Then it was the Americans' turn. Best Editor is traditionally owned by Gardner Dozois of Asimov's, but Gardner had left that magazine. Instead, Ellen Datlow won for her SciFiction webzine – which also took the special extra Hugo (not a regular category) for Best Website. Dramatic Presentation comes in two flavours: Short, won by the "33" episode of Battlestar Galactica, and Long, won by The Incredibles.

Britain struck again with Best Related Book, awarded to Edward James and Farah Mendlesohn's The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction. America struck back with the Short Story and Novelette Hugos, taken by Mike Resnick for "Travels with My Cats" and Kelly Link for "The Faery Handbag". Then came Novella (longer than a novelette, shorter than a novel), and the winner was "The Concrete Jungle" by that much-acclaimed and much-nominated Brit, Charles Stross. Who marked the Scottishness of the occasion by accepting his first-ever Hugo while garbed in the awesome kilt of The McStross Of That Ilk.

There was no transatlantic suspense over the Big One, the Best Novel Hugo, since all the finalists were British. The hot money was surely on Iain Banks, as both a bestseller and a Scot. In the event, Susanna Clarke took the prize for her first novel, the only fantasy contender, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. Which shows what a positive review in SFX can do.

Afterwards I had to lie down for a while.

David Langford now has 26 Hugo awards, bringing him level with former front-runner Charles N. Brown of Locus. Whatever next?