Some Award Ceremonies are More than Tolerable

I am bored rigid by awards ceremonies. Every single one of them. The Oscars are sort of tolerable, but only if watched with friends while drinking and mocking the frocks with the tellie on mute (because who wants to hear anyone thanking their agent/God/studio/husband/mother/children and blah, blah, blah). I’m baffled that anyone watches the Logies, the Golden Globes, or any of the myriad awards shows that get televised. What on earth compels people to inflect such tedium on themselves?

The only awards ceremonies I’ve attended have been at science fiction conventions, most of which (but not the joyous Tiptree Award) have rivalled the Oscars for brain-numbing length. They remind me of school assembly. In fact, I suspect this is why I loathe them so. Remember school assemblies? Row upon row of listless, cranky students sitting on uncomfortable, prone-to-collapsing, fold-up chairs/hot bitumen/the floor while the teachers and head master on stage took it in turn to drone on about school spirit (or as often our lack thereof), how much money the cake stall raised, our glorious sporting achievements, and how the area behind the demountables was not created for students to illicitly smoke/pash/plot revolution and anyone caught there would get detention until the end of time even if they were back there writing the great Australian novel. Each assembly would end (or was it start? Thankfully it’s lost in the fogs of time) with a droning, spiritless rendition of the school anthem set to the music of "Gaudeamus Igitur" or "Rule Britannia" or "My Bonnie Lies over the Ocean" or "Pop Goes the Weasel".

I went to a lot of different schools, and experienced many different assemblies, but they were all the same: utter utter torture. Same exhortations and lamentations and threats, same lame school anthems (and the school mottoes were even worse. My favourite: Manners Maketh the Man. That’s practically commie. Be polite? Way to inspire the kiddies to go out and make their dreams come true. And what’s with the "maketh"? Lisping is somehow polite?).

There’s only one school assembly that I remember distinctly. A boy two rows in front of me started making strange noises. Loud strange noises. Like a baby dinosaur being strangled. Turns out the noises came from his very unhappy tum-tum. Seconds later he let loose with the most amazing projectile vomit I’ve ever seen (sorry, Ron, but sometimes these stories are necessary). A long arc of it, which managed to cover at least ten rows in front of him. Fortunately, the incident happened on PE day and all those, um, effected, by it had their PE uniforms to change into (and weren’t they overjoyed about that). Even better, it happened at the beginning of assembly. In the enusing chaos, not only did we miss out on assembly, but most of the class immediately afterwards. Most excellent. That boy became a hero.

So every time I go to an awards ceremony and find a seat amongst the row after row of listless, cranky science fiction people, the full horror of school assembly comes rushing back. I am possessed of a need to pass notes, make smartarse comments, and skip out as early as possible without the teachers noticing. Even when friends or myself are up for an award, on those occasions it just adds a little anxiety into the mix. Boredom plus nervousness, not a great combination. Perhaps that projectile-vomiting boy had been up for the post of monitor or something? (Not that such a post exists outside of Enid Blyton novels.)

Saturday’s Aurealis Awards in Brisbane run by Fantastic Queensland (an organisation which fully lives up to its name) was nothing like that. No boredom, no projectile vomiting. Just a very fetching animated alien called Bruce and well-edited, well-conceived short videos introducing each award. They made everyone giggle. The speeches from presenters and winners were short, and either funny or touching, or both. And Scott Westerfeld won, as did Cat Sparks and Sean Williams and Margo Lanagan (whose short story collection, Black Juice, is the best collection I’ve read in ages), which made it even more fabbie.

Aurealis Awards are pretty.

The theme of the night was community. Or as Jeff Fenech once put it: "I love youse all". Winners didn’t just thank individual people who’d helped them, but the whole community. Scott thanked the Australian sf community for welcoming him so warmly, and said that winning for the first book he wrote in Australia, Midnighters: The Secret Hour, was the icing on the cake of that splendid welcome. Sean Williams talked about community too, thanked all the various groups he’s part of, and warmly welcomed the Clarion South students to the fold. Cat did too, and neatly managed to guilt us all into buying copies of every anthology she publishes from now until eternity. I will, I promise. Their graciousness made everyone feel warm and welcome and, well, part of the Oz sf community.

Then we all went to the cocktail party and drank and ate and gossiped with old friends and made new ones (those frisky Clarion kids), and generally carried on like communities do, and it was more than tolerable.

I didn’t think of school assembly, not even once.

Sydney, 24 January 2005