So, after some discussions around the horrible MC job done for the Hugo’s this year, several discussions swirled around in my head, and I found myself pumping out 2000 words of real person fan fiction / pastiche about next years award ceremony.
Johnathon White sat nervously, his cloth mask tight against his face. He looked down again at the notecards that were his acceptance speech, fingers running across the tape that held two cards together, hiding the last from his view. He looked around at the crowd of faces, most keeping their attention on the stage. Many were rapt in listening to the MC, but just as many were visibly wincing and rolling their eyes at the ham-handed references and anecdotes.
“And then he, the Prefect of Sci FI, jumped up from under the table, and shouted….” Johnathon, even having heard the story a dozen times from a dozen people, found himself leaning forward for a moment as Ronald JJ Swallow, the MC of the Hugh awards, paused ominously, catching his attention. “OOOGA BOOGA!” RJJS began laughing dryly at his joke, joined by a decent fraction of the audience.
“Ahh, yes. Tales of Globecon past. But now, the final award of the night. The BIG ONE. Best novel. The final Satellite of the Night.” RJJS motioned towards the last award sitting on the table behind him, the mottled silver ball, several other balls around it on long arms. Modelled after the classic Sputnik shape, the Hugh awards had presented them for decades.
“Our first nominee, “Faster Than the Speed of Love”, by Bryony Griffith.” He emphasized her first name, as if parading to the audience his ability to pronounce it correctly. “In the Name of the Mother”, by Arjun Patel.” Wincing and eye rolling commenced as RJJS stumbled awkwardly over the name, a common occurrence both last year as well as this for any Asian or African names. He had even mispronounced two names of nominees who had been up last year, but in different ways than a year before.
Knowing his name was coming up, Johnathon looked around the room, anywhere but at the speaker. His eye caught a brief wave from another table, and he suppressed a frown and groan. Georgy Porgyson winked broadly at Johnathon as he heard his own name and title, “And finally, ‘30 to 50 Feral Hogs; the Devil’s Piglets, by Johnathon White.”
The large wink was an acknowledgement that the fix was in. Working with Georgy and his group, the Societus Canus Lachrymose, or Skulls, as people had taken to calling the right wing group, was a necessary evil, but one that still turned Johnathon’s stomach, as well as the knowledge that he had polluted the honor the Hugh’s.
Johnathon found himself flicking through his note cards again. His fingertip dragged across the shiny slickness of the clear tap, his nail feeling the gap between the two cards. ‘NO! Not yet!’ He yelled at himself internally, determined to keep to the plan. He gather the cards up in his hand, nervously rapping the packet against the table, tap tap tap.
He was numbed as the clapping erupted, realizing he hadn’t even heard his name called as the winner. Hands slapped his shoulders from all sides as he rose, plastering a fake smile on to shine at everyone around him.
He made his way towards the stage, climbing the narrow staircase, and tromping over to the award table. A staffer handed him his satellite. He stumbled for a moment as he recognized the staffer, having not been able to see her clearly from his seat in the audience. She smiled briefly, grimly, and nodded once at him, then pushed him towards the podium. RJJS smiled broadly, and clapped one hand on Johnathon’s shoulder, and another on his head, depositing his now trademark hedgehog hats, prickly head coverings that every winner had been anointed with that evening. Johnathon tried to smile back, failed, and pulled the hat back a bit so that the fuzzy spikes sticking off the brim were out of his eyes. He felt the squirming along the back of his head, and like he’d been coached, froze a moment, then shook his head and stepped to the podium. The squirming turned into a pressure on the back of his neck, then stopped, as the wires woven under his hair stopped it cold.
“Thank you Mr. Swallow. Thank you Globecon! This is an honor.” He paused a moment, holding up the Satellite and looking at it. “One that I have been striving to earn since I was a child, first crafting silly stories for school newspapers, bits of fiction for friends to detail the lives of their online alter egos. And its a great honor to be standing here with RJJS himself! Regaled with the tales of the old guard. Standing in his presence, I can tell you all that the rumors seem unfounded!” A sound of puzzlement filled the crowd, a slight rooba rooba of conversation.
“Oh, don’t pretend you don’t all know!” He set down his Satellite, and peeled back the tape, finally reading the card hidden underneath. “The rumors that RJJS’s slide into racist apologism and misogynistic nostalgia were signs that he’d been replaced. I mean, there’s been a practical ‘Red Alert’ on the bridge in many fandom sites as people have joked about him being a pod person.”
Johnathon emphasized the phrase, printed on his card, and was please to see movement in the crowd as he kept on.
“Why, listening to him ranting and bloviating, I’ve been ticking off the boxes on the wonderful bingo card that I’m sure many of us have saved to our phone. And the only one left is the square in the middle. And honestly, why would the free square be the one labeled, RJJS turns into a tentacled shoggoth on stage? Silly, right?!”
The man under discussion blubbering and popping his mouth, trying to form a word, as his face turned red, not from embarrassment or indignation, but concentration, Johnathon knew. In the crowd, Johnathon could see Georgy staring at him in confused shock. This was not the victory speech he had expected to hear.
“I mean, how low can some people get, to suggest that RJJS hasn’t finished the Monopoly Chair series because he’s not HIM anymore, but a demon from the beyond, intent on sowing discord and hate among humanity to more easily take over and enslave us?”
“But, enough about that, lets talk about the award itself. The Satellite!” Glancing around, he counted one, three, seven figures heading towards the stage. He started to panic. One was missing, the most needed. His panic faded as he heard the pneumatic lift at the edge of the stage, the one installed at the last minute when it was pointed out to Con staff that some of the nominees were physically unable to navigate the stairs on the stage, hiss into life. He felt his resolve steel itself knowing that Alden O’Gairy herself was coming.
“Now, I know that RJJS here, gave us a wonderful, meandering, somewhat ribald history of the first Satellites. Personally, I would have felt much better about holding my own if I hadn’t just learned how many different orifices the original from which the mold was taken ended up in at that drunken orgy at Globecon ‘73. Thanks Ronald, for that image that I’ll never get out of my head.”
“But what he didn’t tell you is that the coating this year is a little different! Just yesterday, all 9 of these beauties were taken to get a special treatment. You see the wonderful watery shine to them!?” Johnathon held his up, twisting it in the spotlight shining down on him, and the crowd could see the balls of the statue distort and waver, an effect much like heat shimmering off a road in the summer. “Well, it turns out that some bright scientists have figured out a way to bombard the Chromium coating, ‘15 microns thick, that coating’, as RJJS told us.” Several members of the audience laughed nervously at the impromptu impersonation of the MC’s earlier discussion of the awards. “Bombarded repeatedly with lead isotopes. Creating this wonderful water steel out of crystals of Seaborgium 275.”
Having given up his mental commands, Ronald had started walking up to Johnathon, hands out to throttle him, but stopped suddenly, backing away, fear twisting his mustached face. “I’m sorry Johnathon… did you say, Seaborgium.”
Still holding the mic in one hand, his award in the other, Johnathon turned towards the red faced figure behind him, holding the Satellite in front him like a cross held to ward off a vampire. RJJS took another step back. “Thats right. Isotope 275. Half life of about 7 hours. So not as strong now as it was when applied, but enough.”
“Thats… thats crazy. The radiation from it…”
Johnathon took another step forward, checked in his movement by the cord of the microphone “Yeah, everyone in this room is probably going to have cancer in the next few years. Sorry folks. But it’s what we needed to do.”
He dropped the mic, and swung the Satellite down hard onto Ronald’s head. The audience gasped, and then screamed as RJJS’s skin burst in a dozen places, followed by his denim coveralls. Green tentacles spread out over the stage, writhing in place, barbed hooks glistening with dark fluids that promised a slow and painful death.
The crowd largely got to their feet, streaming for the doors, but several paused a moment, crossing the final square on their bingo cards with glee. A thick rope of alien flesh swung from the mass at Johnathon’s head, but clanged off another Satellite, held up by the winner of Best Fanzine. They had vaulted the side of the stage, rushing to Johnathon’s defense.
The creature screamed at the contact, a sizzle sound filling his ears underneath the shriek as the alien flesh burned and bubbled from contact with the rare isotope. The winners, having all taken the stage, advanced on it, awards held out in front of them. From behind the beast came a voice. “Hey Ronald!” There sat Alden, one hand on a tire of her chair, the other clutching her Satellite. “Fuck your hats, fuck your shitty racist stories, and fuck your interdimensial invasion!” She swung her Satellite upwards, and crashed it into a large notch between two main tentacles. Johnathon winced momentarily, not sure the creature even had testicles, but still feeling the blow a bit himself. Then all the winners were striking, shimmering chromed orbs rising and falling, flesh melting and burning. Even after the shrieks had stopped, they swung, crushing the green flesh until it ran purple and liquid across the stage.
Johnathon turned away and stooped over, award dangling as he put his fists on his knees, dragging deep ragged breaths from burning lungs. His attention was taken suddenly by a loud harrumph from the side of the stage. Their fury abated, their job done, the entire group of winners turned. Johnathon found himself recognizing the woman standing there more by her own hat, a wide brimmed leather fedora, than any other means. K Beater, known to most as The Gardener, stood at the edge of the stairs, hands on her hips, lips pursed thin and tight.
“Okay Alden, I get it, this is why I had to withdraw from nominations, I can’t keep my mouth shut with a secret this big. You’re forgiven. Good job saving the planet and what not.” She waved a hand over the carnage, green and purple chunks still steaming and melting across the stage. “But for fuck’s sake! With Swallow gone, who the fuck is going to run the loser’s party?”
Alden looked at her for a long minute, leaning her Satellite back over her shoulder like a baseball bat at rest, and gave a long, slow smile.
The Gardener glanced over her shoulder, as if to very that no one was standing behind her, and then looked back at Alden. “Oh fuck me running. Okay, okay, fine. FINE! You owe me a drink though!”