March 24th, 2008

Serious Thoughts

Silver Swan

I'm sitting here still in mild shock. To my left is a certificate that says, in part, "For making an overwhelming contribution to WA Science Fiction Community."

And it was awarded to me.

There is an award that means the world to me on the years when it's given out - The Mumfan. The Mumfan is basically an award for the people who make the con-going and fan community experience more enjoyable for others. Not by doing big things, obvious things, but by doing small things that are often more important. All those little, unglamourous jobs that never get noticed, supporting people, helping out, welcoming new people... Why it means so much was summed up by one of the winners last night - 'this isn't an award for writing or art, this is an award for who I am, who we are, as people.'

I've always said that what I love about The Mumfan is that it's an award I could never receive. I get noticed, I get accolades and receive recognition for writing, or video-clips, or other things. Hell, over the years in Perth I have been a Fan Guest, Special Guest, and National Guest. You can't say I haven't been noticed.

The Silver Swan has only been awarded twice before in thirty-three years - to Grant Stone, one of the loveliest people you could ever have the good fortune to meet, and a major influence and contributor not only to West Australian fandom, but Australian fandom as a whole - and the other to the team that produced Eidolon, one of the most important magazines in Australian SF history, and naturally enough given the nature of the award, produced in Western Australia.

It's a WA award. I wasn't born here, nor have I ever lived here. I come from the other side of the country. I describe myself as a Perth fan, and I love West Australian fandom, but in strict geographical terms I come from the Eastern States.

It's one of the many reasons this award has so much impact for me. I'm not being recognised for a single achievement or a body of work, but for who I am and how I choose to live my life, and ways in which I try to enrich the community I am a part of.

It's funny writing that because this is the con that has gotten me fired up again. Since the first day I have been planning a handful of pieces on things like the 2010 Worldcon bid, programming, etc. Some are just thoughts and bits of advice, but others are a full-on arse-kicking aimed at those who do claim to be looking after fandom, but are in fact mainly looking after themselves, sometimes at the expense of the greater community.

And upon receiving the Silver Swan, I suddenly thought that maybe it's ungracious to receive a major award, and then go on the attack shortly afterwards. That maybe I shouldn't write anything that is overly critical of the way people handle or approach some of the things I want to talk about.

Except then I realise I don't care about whether it's ungracious or not. Because often the actions of these people are motivated by their own self-agrandisment, and desire to be a part of something big and important, rather than caring about the very people it's all meant to be for.

The speech that was read out before I was presented with the award means a lot to me, because it showed that the folks over here 'get' me. They know where I'm coming from.

At the presentation, Anna Hepworth gave a brief summation of what the Silver Swan is, and informed folks that it had only been given out twice before. She was then followed by Grant and Simon, who gave me their speeches, which I have copied below.

Grant Watson
"Sometimes the biggest impact a person can make is not seen in what they do, but what others do after them.

We all learn by example: we are inspired by others and want to do the things they do, we are enchanted by their talent, swept along by their enthusiasm - they make a difference to their community.

If we're very lucky, these inspirational figures respond to this attention - not with a burst of ego but by enthusiasm and excitement of their own.

The winner of the third ever Silver Swan is exactly that kind of person, not only for their own immeasurable contribution to the WA science fiction community, but in the reflection they leave on the rest of us.

I can say in all honesty that my own drive to participate in this community is inspired by one person's outstanding contribution, example, and boundless enthusiasm.

I'm sure both Simon and Anna would say the same. I'm sure half the room could say the same.

I should point out that Grant was crying so hard by this point that I was sure that someone had died and the Silver Swan was being given to the person posthumously, which I felt was rather a shame. I was also wracking my brain trying to think who had died, because anyone this big in the perth SF scene I should have known of.

Simon Oxwell
A great man once said "Perth fans don't know how lucky they are." But we do know how lucky we are, and that is why the third Silver Swan is awarded to Danny Oz.

Cue me, open mouthed, shambling up to the microphone, squeaking 'you bastards...' in a tiny little voice, and crying continuously for a few minutes while I tried to come up with something to say to do justice to the huge honour I had just been given. I knew exactly what a big deal this was, and there was no way I could ever begin to show just how amazingly touched and honoured I was and still am.

I have cried a few more times today.

Thank you everyone for your kindness and allowing me to do what I do. I may not always get things right, but that so many people recognise my love and passion for this community, one that has given me so much joy over the years, well, I just wish you could all see into my mind for just a moment, to see just how deeply moved and honoured I am.

I shall do my best to continue to be thought worthy of this in the future.

Thank you.

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