OBIR: Occasional Biased and Ignorant Reviews reflecting this reader’s opinion.
The rather splendid bronze trophies pictured above are in fact a single Janus-like piece, conceived by Clint Budd and sculpted by Gideon Hay, featuring back-to-back portrait busts of FANTASY in the guise of a Don Quixote-like elderly knight, and SCIENCE FICTION in the form of a 1930s style aviatrix embodying an old-fashioned vision of the near and shining future. Each Hall of Fame inductee gets their name incised on a metal plate which is glued to the wooden tiers below the sculpture in a fashion similar to the Grey Cup or Stanley cup, though without the accompanying humongous cheques common to those trophies. Each inductee also receives a wall plaque with a photo of the trophy and appropriate info. Up to the recipient to decide if spotlights, garlands and other subtle additional measures are called for. The Hall of Fame trophy is normally on display at various public libraries across Canada in the course of the year between host conventions.
WHAT IT IS LIKE BEING INDUCTED INTO THE CSFFA HALL OF FAME
So, last Sunday, Oct 20th, 2019, I spent all day running around in circles, waving my hands in the air, shouting “Woo! Woo!” and occasionally sitting down at my computer to fire off announcements I had been inducted into the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame during the Aurora Awards ceremony at the Can*Con Convention in Ottawa the day before. I was some excited, believe me.
Fortunately, the dystopian aspects of the Canadian Federal election the following day brought me back down to Earth and thoroughly grounded me in reality once again (more or less). However, Amazing Stories Publisher Steve Davidson kindly invited me to write about my experience, so here is one last effort at self-egoboo (traditional fen know what I’m talking about—ancient fannish slang for “ego boost”).
A little background is in order. The Aurora awards began at Halcon 3 in Halifax in 1980 when the Guest of Honour A.E. Van Vogt (born in Canada) was awarded a lifetime achievement award for the more than 600,000 words of published science fiction he wrote before he moved to the U.S.A. It was meant as a oneshot, was called “The Coeurl Award,” and consisted of a magnificent sculpture of said fictional beastie by Mike Spencer (see below).
Over time the award evolved into the contemporary Aurora awards (English language) and Prix Boréal (French Language Auroras, awarded at the annual Boréal convention in Quebec). The English language Auroras are presented at Canvention, a travelling con tending to alternate between East and West (Canada is a big country) and this year, the 39th Canvention, hosted by Can*Con, featured 8 professional awards and three fannish awards.
Every now and again somebody won on the basis of lifetime achievement in whatever category they were in. So, in 2014, it was decided to create the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association Hall of Fame (CSFFA being the non-profit society administering the Auroras) and start off by inducting all 6 people previously awarded on the basis of lifetime achievement, namely:
A.E. Van Vogt (1980), Susan Wood (1981), Phyllis Gotlieb (1982), Judith Merril (1983 & 1986), Dennis Mullin (2008), and Robert J. Sawyer (2013).
In 2014, in addition, three new inductees were added: William Gibson, Spider Robinson, and Jeanne Robinson (the latter posthumously). As Spider and Jeanne were named together on the one plaque, sources often view them as a single inductee, a team as it were, which is definitely true, but I want to stress the two incredibly creative individuals who made up that loving partnership and so, together with Bill, I list them as three inductees in all.
In 2015 the inductees were Dave Duncan, H.A. Hargreaves, and Michael G. Coney (the latter posthumously).
In 2016 the inductees were Guy Gavriel Kay and David Cronenberg.
In 2017 the inductees were Charles de Lint, Élizabeth Vonarburg, and Lorna Toolis.
In 2018 the inductees were Candas Jane Dorsey, Robert Charles Wilson, and Dr. Jaymie Matthews.
In 2019 the inductees were Tanya Huff, Eileen Kernaghan, and R. Graeme Cameron.
The 2019 ceremonies were held in Ottawa, separate from the Can*Con hotel, in the Great Hall of the Christ Church Cathedral about 14 minutes walking distance from the convention. Well-known author Marie Bilodeau whipped the crowd into a frenzy of enthusiasm (mainly by reminding people the cash bar would be open throughout the ceremony) and then introduced Clint Budd, President of the Canadian SF&F Association, to start things off with announcements of the identity of the three individuals being inducted into the CSFFA Hall of Fame and presentation of plaques to same.
First inducted was Tanya Huff, a prominent Fantasy author with more than 40 books to her credit. It is very cool to note that her first professional sale was to Amazing Stories Magazine in 1985. Also cool that her BLOOD book series, teaming up a detective with a vampire, was made into a CBC television series titled BLOOD TIES. I know that she was nominated for Aurora Awards at least 7 times before winning the “Best Novel” category for her book THE SILVERED in 2013 at Can*Con, no less! Living in Ontario, Tanya was happily present at Can*Con again to receive her plaque from Clint. A prolific and popular author, she is well deserving of her induction into the Hall of Fame.
Next up was Eileen Kernaghan, a west coast author who was not able to attend Can*Con this year. A highly esteemed fantasy author, Eileen has published 10 historical fantasy novels and a book of poetry. She was nominated at least 8 times for Aurora awards, winning four: for her novel THE DROWNED LANDS in 1985, her short story CARPE DIEM in 1990, her novel THE SNOW QUEEN in 2001, and her poem NIGHT JOURNEY: WEST COAST in 2014. I’ve known Eileen for over 40 years and can tell you she is both a wonderful writer and a wonderful person. She, too, very much deserves to be inducted into the CSFFA Hall of Fame. I be happy for her.
And then there’s me. I’ll just mention I’ve been nominated at least 11 times for Aurora Awards (fannish categories) and won twice: in 2001 the “Organizational Fan Achievement” for chairing VCON 25, and in 2010 the “Fan Achievement (Fanzine) ” for putting out 19 issues of WCSFAzine, a zine devoted to Canadian fannish history, on behalf of the West Coast SF Association.
Double-plus now, I’ll explain something that has been bugging you. Why do I keep saying “at least?” When I was a member of the CSFFA board one of my tasks was to research all the nominees and winners right back to the beginning as there were gaps in the official record. I was 99% successful (just a few nominees in fan categories still unknown) up to the final year of my research, 2010. I haven’t updated my personal copy of the file. So, conceivably, Tanya, Eileen and myself may have been nominated more than I know. Memo to self: update the file!
And now I’ll reveal a secret. Clint Budd (my friend for close to four decades) phoned me several months ago to let me know I was going to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Standard procedure for all inductees. First of all, if for whatever reason the inductee doesn’t want to be inducted, the panel of judges can go back to the drawing board and select someone else instead, saving much embarrassment all around. (I don’t know if this has ever happened.) Second, it gives the winner the chance to decide to attend the ceremony if they think they can put aside the money to cover the cost of the trip. Alas, on my limited pension income and urgent necessity to pay down debts, I was unable to do so. At any rate I was admonished not to tell anyone so got plenty of practice keeping my mouth zipped, which certainly helped build anticipation for the day I could start yelling “I won! I won!” Bit of a relief when it came.
It should be noted that CSFFA members are permitted to recommend potential nominees for the Hall of Fame at any time, but the recommendation has to be in the form of an essay detailing the many contributions to the genre in the course of their lifetime to date, the Hall of Fame being in essence the nature of a lifetime achievement award. Every year a panel of 4 judges is chosen for a one year term to peruse the list of nominees and select three individuals for induction. These four judges are recruited from a wide range of professions and activities, including Writers, Artists, Graphic Novelists, Musicians/Filkers, Active Fans, and Scientists. A fifth judge (who can cast any tie-breaking vote required) is a board member elected for a five year term as Chair of the jury. I cannot for the life of me recall if the identity of the judges is ever publicized. I don’t, for example, know who the current judges are. (You may have gathered I wasn’t a very attentive board member.)
So, now you’re asking “What about the Aurora Award winners? Are they notified beforehand?”
Absolutely not. The way it works is this:
First, eligibility lists are compiled through information supplied by CSFFA members. Non-members may request a non-voting CSFFA account (which is free) to offer same. This step is in place both to encourage as many legitimate suggestions as possible as well as to prevent submissions inappropriate to the requirements. All submissions are vetted by board members.
Second, members of CSFFA (it’s only 10 bucks for the year, folks!) nominate in order of preference up to 5 nominees per award category to determine who gets on the final ballot.
Third, CSFFA members vote in order of preference up to 5 potential winners per category on the final ballot.
Clifford Samuels has been the Chair of the CSFFA sub-committee responsible for the Aurora Awards for many years. He runs an exceedingly tight ship. Only the board members and designated assistants who belong to his sub-committee know what they are doing and, ultimately, who the Aurora Award winners are for the current year. Not even the President of CSFFA knows who has won until the announcements are made at the presentation ceremony. As a board member who did not belong to the sub-committee, this made it remarkably easy for me to maintain my general level of clueless ignorance throughout my years of service to CSFFA. All I had to do was the occasional bit of research and publish 22 issues of Auroran Lights, their newsletter. Piece of cake compared to the hard work Cliff puts into processing the nominations and votes, ordering the appropriately labeled Aurora Awards, preparing the “Victory” envelopes and, above all, maintaining a hermetically-sealed lockdown on the information. This is what makes it so exciting for all the nominees on the final ballot. None of them know if they’ve won till seconds after they hear the envelope being ripped open. Nail-biting, that is. I speak from personal experience. Kudos to Clifford Samuels for his superb work in handling the awards process AND consistently and ruthlessly maintaining the veil of secrecy over the whole affair.
By the way, your $10 membership fee (only Canadians can be members, just to be clear) allows you to nominate, download the nominated works for your reading pleasure, vote on the final ballot, and vote at the Annual General Meeting of CSFFA (online in advance if you can’t be present) as well as help fund the physical awards themselves and maintain the web site. Heck of a bargain, actually.
Getting back to the 2019 ceremony, which was livestreamed, Clint Budd, after presenting Tanya Huff with her plaque and also Eileen Kernaghan’s plaque at Eileen’s request, said “There are three inductees. [Since 2017] The third is always a non-writer who has made a special contribution in our genre as an artist, an organizer, can be a lot of different things, and this guy has been a lot of different things. R. Graeme Cameron is the third Inductee.”
Then Clint introduced Clifford Samuels who made the presentation while holding my plaque for all to see. Cliff said “Graeme was one of the board members of CSFFA for many, many years. He did an amazing job. He is a fan who does fanzines. Clint says not a writer–he is a writer. He may not be a professional writer but he does his Borealis magazine. He is phenomenal and this is a great honour for him, as a fan and as a publisher.”
Nice to hear these kind words. Happy to hear some applause. Pleasant to be recognized in the city I grew up in. (My family lived on Olympia Crescent in Elmvale acres in the late 1950s and early 1960s—I mention this in case anyone wants to designate the street as a national monument—sort of along the lines of the groundswell of popular support for me as first Emperor of Canada which I’ve been eagerly anticipating since I was a little kid—but I digress …).
The slight quibble over my status as writer reflects the awkward fact I’ve written a great deal but, apart from a couple of scripts for CBC Radio, never been paid. Sure, I wrote several novels, but they remain unpublished. Why? Well, one editor (for DAW, or maybe Ballantine) wrote back “We don’t like your main character and we don’t think anyone else will either.” That be a bit of a clue, methinks.
Still, I established a bit of a reputation for dry humour in my fannish writing. That be why Steve Davidson invited me to write a column for Amazing stories back in 2013. This be my 158th column but hey, what kind of narcissistic nutbar would keep count? Certainly not me.
More writing stats no sane person would want to throw at you include:
77 issues of BCSFAzine, the newsletter of the B.C. SF Association, from 1989 to 1995. I had a remarkable collection of contributors, including Stan G. Hyde–The Light-Hearted Vituperator and Jolly Reviler, Lisa Gemino–Perspectives, Don H. DeBrandt–It’s All in My Head, Doug Girling– Archaeo-SF-ology, Sidney Trim–Space Report, Robert J. Sawyer–Random Musings, Garth Spencer–ZineScene, Al Betz–Ask Mr. Science, Steve Forty–Authors Update, Donna McMahon & Clint Budd–Hot Gossip Stop, Leather Goddesses–Leather Goddesses of Phobos Advice, Boris Sidyuk & Alexander Vasilkovsky–Zoryany Shlyah Speaks!, to name just a few.
Not to mention the Indefatigable letter of comment writers: Dale Speirs, Lloyd Penney, Brian Earl Brown, Boris Sidyuk, Alexander Vasilkovsky, Joseph T. Major, Harry Andruschak, and above all, the legendary and ubiquitous Harry Warner Jr.
I contributed 77 editorials, 27 film reviews ( of classic films like ‘Nude On The Moon’, ‘Mars Needs Women’ & ‘The Slime People’), & 79 other articles like: Bizarre Technology (on subjects as varied as ancient Roman mining techniques, the Confederate submarine fleet, etc.), Weirds Did It! (the early history of BCSFA), Convention reviews, Elron reports, and diverse essays. I am particularly proud of my three photo collage covers: #253 (Jun 1994) depicting Mr. Science at work in his laboratory with assorted nude female assistants, #254 (July 1994) showing Apollo astronauts discovering numerous alien spacecraft on the Moon, and #258 (Nov 1994) a view of an Ethership approaching the planet Mercury.
Under my editorship, American fan Mike Glyer of File 770 fame, circa February, 1984 declared “BCSFAzine is the best clubzine in the world.” This quote I promptly put on the cover of the next issue. When I retired as editor the club presented me with a magnificent plaque reading “To R. Graeme Cameron, God-Editor of BCSFAzine, in recognition of his creative leadership in producing one of Canada’s best ‘zines.” (Did I mention how humble I am? “God-Editor” was the persona I employed—fact is I remain proud of my BCSFAzine days.)
I also published 26 issues of my personal zine Space Cadet, and numerous assorted issues of other zines (in addition to the previously mentioned WCSFAzine & Auroran Lights) with titles like: Beloved Binema, The Canadian Fancyclopedia, The Canadian Science Fiction Fan, Canfapa, Canfandom, Coruscating Conundrums, The Cosmic Circle, The Daugherty Project, The Ditto Master, Entropy Blues, Fanac Follies, The Fanactical Fanactivist, Fantiquarian Chronicler, FistiCUFF Bulletin, The Frenetical Fanac Review, The Lustful Archivist, Obir Magazine, The Pleasure of Ruins, Weirds Did It! The Chronicles of BCSFA, and Ghu knows what else I can’t remember.
I ran the film program (8mm films!) at VCON 1 in 1971 and followed up with running 24-hour video programs for a number of later VCONS, edited 3 VCON program books, chaired VCON twice (#25 in 2000 and #41 in 2016), have moderated Clarion-style workshops for VCON for the past 15 years or so, appeared on numerous panels, given a few lectures, selected and presented the Elron “spoof” awards for about 25 years, appeared on stage 3 times as the Martian stand-up comedian “Moog the Magnificent,” and most notorious of all, co-wrote and co-performed the infamous “Godzilla Sex-Life skit” with co-writer/performer Stan G. Hyde a dozen or more times.
Plus I was the Canadian Unity Fan Fund winner in 1997 and served for many years as Archivist for BCSFA, CSFFA, WCSFA, and VCON. All in all I was a busy lad.
I confess my primary fanac (traditional slang for “fan activity”) has now switched from promoting Canadian fandom to promoting Canadian Speculative Fiction. Basically, in my retirement years, I’m spending an average of 4 to 6 hours a day researching and writing reviews of Canadian SF&F novels, anthologies and magazines for Amazing stories, and publishing Polar Borealis Magazine, a semi-professional publication which costs nothing for people to download (I have readers in 72 different countries!) but which pays its contributors (out of my limited pension funds). To date I have published 11 issues and more than 100 poems and 100 short stories. The Clubhouse column for Amazing and Polar Borealis explain why I wake up every morning eager to grab my first coffee and get to work!
I further confess that everything I have done and continue to do as a life-long Science Fiction fan is done for a purely selfish reason, because it’s great fun to do. That’s my motivation. Being inducted into the CSFFA Hall of Fame is an incredibly huge slab of icing on the cake. I be very grateful.
So, thank you to all who congratulated me, thanks to Clint Budd and Clifford Samuels for being the core engine that keeps CSFFA going, and a particular thank you to the Hall of Fame judges this year. For some mysterious reason I can’t seem to find fault with your selections. Cheers all!
For complete list of 2019 Aurora Award winners, see: < CSFFA Website >
To watch the 2019 Aurora Awards presentation ceremony, go to: < Can-Con hosting Aurora Awards >
For a glimpse of my research into Canadian Fandom, check out my Canadian Zine (& history) archive website at: < Canadian Fancyclopedia > I haven’t updated it in several years but I plan to get back to it.