Robert J. Sawyer

Hugo and Nebula Award-Winning Science Fiction Writer

Anticipation’s Aurora Awards banquet — a significant break from tradition

by Rob - June 16th, 2009.
Filed under: Awards 2009, Conventions.

A few interesting facts about this year’s Aurora Awards and the ceremony at which they will be presented, courtesy of the website for Anticipation, the World Science Fiction Convention in Montreal, which is hosting the Auroras this year:

“Since the Awards will be held in Montreal, we are placing emphasis on access to French works, through translations and other efforts to make the output of French Canada available to international attendees.”

One wonders if the Aurora Awards subcommittee of the 2003 Worldcon — the previous Canadian one — had issued a statement like the above about the Auroras, but with “Toronto” and “English” substituted for “Montreal” and “French,” what the response would have been. Surely all of Canada’s Aurora-Award-nominated works deserve to be highlighted for those coming to the Worldcon from outside Canada.


“The Awards will take place Friday, August 7th. Doors open at 17:30, Dinner and Awards start at 18:00. A cash bar will be available during the Awards.”

Well, that’s nice that they’re having a banquet; those Aurora Award ceremonies that have included a banquet (starting, I believe, in 1997) have been the best.

“Due to time constraints, the Awards ceremony will take place during dinner.”

Time constraints? But Anticipation bid to become the Canadian National Science Fiction Convention: it fought for the right to be the venue at which the Auroras are presented, and fought for the right to be designated not just the World Science Fiction Convention but also the CanVention, this year’s Canadian National SF Convention. Surely they are setting an appropriate block of time aside for the Aurora Award ceremony, no?

“Therefore, open seating after the banquet is not available this year. If you want to attend the ceremonies, you must purchase a ticket. You must be a member of Anticipation to attend the banquet.”

Who in the what now? This is a huge break in tradition. No one has ever had to pay to see the Auroras presented before. When there has been a banquet, it has always been followed by open seating, allowing people to see the awards be presented without having to pay. Indeed, the open seating normally hasn’t even required people to have a convention membership to come in and watch. (I always go to the banquet when there is one, but that’s not the point.)

Also, having often been master of ceremonies for, given keynote speeches at, and participated in many dozens of awards ceremonies and banquets over the years, both in and out of the SF field, I’ll point out that you never give the awards while people are trying to eat. The noise level is too high and there are too many people distracted from paying attention to the presentation of the awards; it ruins both the meal and the awards ceremony.

“Tickets are $40 in advance, $50 on site. This is on top of the registration fees required for voting … If you want to attend the ceremonies, you must purchase a ticket.”

So, if you’re nominated for an Aurora, and you actually want to attend the ceremony at which the winners will be announced, the fee is Cdn$240 for your membership in Anticipation plus Cdn$40 for your banquet ticket, if you buy in advance, for at total of Cdn$290 — or more at the door.

In the past, nominees and others who are interested (even the general public) have been able to attend the actual ceremony for free, since the ceremony has always been held either as a standalone affair or after the banquet was over.

We’ve often had cases in the past where there have been surprise Aurora victories (meaning no one can confidently predict who is going to win in any given category), and many nominees — both pro and fan — will find $40 (for their own ticket) or $80 (the combined cost of their own and one for their significant other) too steep to bear.

It seems to me, therefore, that Anticipation is manufacturing a situation in which there will likely be winners who are attending the Worldcon but will not be able to come into the room to receive their trophies (or their applause) during the ceremony, because they’ve chosen not to (or been unable to) spend $40 on a banquet ticket on the off-chance that they might win.

Given that Anticipation seems unwilling to clear an appropriate block of time in its schedule for the Aurora Awards (and therefore is currently planning on trying to cram all of a cash bar, a sit-down meal, and the actual presentation of the awards into a small window of time), I personally think they’d do better to dispense with the banquet, and have a proper ceremony — one that all of the nominees can attend — instead.

But the real solution is for this year’s Canadian National Science Fiction Convention — that selfsame Anticipation — to find the appropriate amount of time in the schedule for both the banquet and the awards ceremony. The current plan — a rushed affair with a mandatory entrance fee — is unfair to the nominees, to those on a budget, and to the dignity of the awards.

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