The Doc Weir Award is awarded every Eastercon. It's an old tradition and a good one. It's an award for unsung heroes, people who put in lots of hard work, but who are rarely in the public eye.
Although there are voting forms in every con pack, there's a very low % of people who actually vote. The reason is very simple - unsung heroes are unsung because people don't know who they are. It's hard for anyone who hadn't been to a load of Eastercons and been part of the convention team themselves to know who these people are.
The average member won't know the names of those who work every year to set up the art show, to run green room, to manage the gopher hole, to erect the stage lighting, to manage the accounts, to move chairs/deliver drinks/etc. At least half the membership probably don't even think consciously about what goes on behind the scenes at all - and some first timers probably imagine it's all done by the hotel or by paid professionals.
If you don't know these people exist (and even if you do, you probably don't know their names), then how can you possibly vote for them? Hence the low turnout. Thus, the informal tradition of 'the fix'. Most years, there's an informal agreement arises among the con-running circles to vote for a particular person and when the subject of Doc Weir comes up, the question usually asked is: "Who's the fix for this year?"
I got the word in the usual manner and was all set to vote, when I was approached by another fan (Jessica Yates) who isn't in the normal con-running circles and had a candidate of her own. She asked me to vote for Smudge (a member of the tech team). I said I was already voting for someone else, and wandered on, but several minutes later, I started thinking. The original candidate was a great person who has done a lot for fandom, but is also one of the visible people. They've often been up on that stage as part of the committee and have even been a fan guest of honour at an Eastercon - which is about as good as recognition and thanks get.
I know Smudge slightly - having a daughter as head of tech, it's almost inevitable that I get to know some of the regular perps. The tech team generally arrive on Wednesday or Thursday before the con and work non-stop until about midday on Tuesday. Some of them never go to any programme items at all. Some of them move in other fannish circles and are thus known to the people who tend to kick-start Doc Weir nominations, but some, like Smudge and Boggis, really only do tech. To the best of my knowledge, they've never been involved in fanzines or con-running, they just turn up every year to events like Eastercon/Redemption/Discworld and proceed to work their socks off.
So, I decided to start the 'Vote for Smudge' campaign. Given that the original candidate would have a reasonable number of votes already, that meant I'd have to work pretty hard. I talked to a lot of people - I'm like that. If a job's worth doing, then it's worth doing well. I like to think that I also did a lot to raise awareness of the Doc Weir award itself. I became aware of two other candidates while I was campaigning - one was an excellent candidate who has been doing the newsletter for many years (and whom I wouldn't be surprised to see as a winner some year in the future) and the other was a person who hadn't really been doing the job long enough to qualify for Doc Weir (though very hard-working and talented - I'm told they were a bit embarrassed at being nominated and might have turned it down if they'd won).
In the end, we had a much higher voter turnout than normal. Nearly 10% of the convention members voted for a candidate for the Doc Weir Award, which is really great.
In the closing ceremony, I was sitting not far behind Smudge (who was working the camera filming the stage), when the winner was announced. It's almost always the case that a Doc Weir winner is totally surprised to win (or even to realise they'd been nominated at all) and Smudge was no exception. Uttering the immortal words "I'll get someone for this", he went up and collected the cup.
It was one of my best moments in the whole weekend. (Carrie spilled the beans on my campaign, so I collected a big hug later.) Apparently he not only won, but won by a good margin. Thank you, everyone who voted, no matter which candidate you voted for.
I took a few photos on the Tuesday, when I finally found where I'd packed my camera. Here's what the main hall looks like at the tail end of tech cleardown.
And, here's the man so many of you voted for, so that you can know what he actually looks like:
And to end with the words that Mark read out on stage from one of the voting slips: "That tech guy who does Eastercon and Redemption and Discworld. I think he's called Smudge."
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