2022: A Hugo Odyssey

As you probably know, I won a Hugo. However, because Worldcon was in Chicago this year, the trophy was also in Chicago, while I was in Germany.

Based on observations from previous years, I expected that it would take a while for the Hugo trophy to arrive at my doorstep. Therefore, I was both surprised and thrilled to receive a shipping notification for my Hugo trophy one day after Worldcon ended. The estimated arrival time was Tuesday, September 13.

Because this was one package I was really excited about, I clicked the FedEx shiptrack link daily and followed Hugo’s progress from Chicago to Memphis, Tennessee, site of a (now defunct) Worldcon bid, which led to some jokes of Hugo visiting all the Worldcon bid sites first.

On Monday, September 12, Hugo arrived by plane in Cologne (at least, I assume he travelled by plane and did not teleport). Now experience has shown that once an overseas package has reached German soil, it usually takes a day or two at most for it to get to me. And Cologne is only 312 kilometres or roughly three to four hours by car, depending on traffic conditions, away. So I fully expected my Hugo Award to arrive at my doorstep on Tuesday, September 13, as originally announced.

I made sure to be at home all day, but Hugo did not arrive. And according to the tracking link, the package was still in Cologne. I wasn’t worried at this point, because delays can happen and FedEx doesn’t have as dense a network in Germany as DHL or Hermes. I even made some jokes about Hugo first taking in the sights in Cologne and maybe enjoying the famous local beer Kölsch.

So I waited. I waited Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, while checking the tracking link daily. But no change. Hugo was still in Cologne, 312 kilometres away, and would not budge. Originally, they had updated the arrival time to Friday, but once Friday had passed the tracking link just said, “Delayed”.

By now, “Waiting for Hugo” was gradually turning into Waiting for Godot. Even if FedEx had decided to go green and only deliver packages by bicycle, the package should arrived at that point.

When there was still no change on Monday and Hugo was still in Cologne and there was still no estimated delivery date, I e-mailed FedEx Germany support to ask where my package was. By Tuesday, there was still no change and no answer to my e-mail either, so I called FedEx Germany customer service and explained my problem.

“Did you order this?” the lady at the other end of the line asked me.

I said, “No, I did not order it, I won it.”

“Are you aware this might be a scam?” the lady asked.

I explained to her that no, it’s not a scam, that the Hugo is a legitimate award and that I won it, that she can google it, if she doesn’t believe me and that I’d really like my trophy now.

The lady was still sceptical, so I told her Kat Jones, the sender, was the 2022 Hugo admin, that the reason the package was mailed from Chicago, even though Kat lives in Texas, was because Worldcon was in Chicago this year and the trophies were mailed right after the con. I also told her that Kat (who has been a huge help BTW) would surely be happy to answer any further questions they might have.

The FedEx lady then told me that the Hugo trophy had triggered some kind of fraud alert, probably because of a combination of a very heavy package, unusual contents and the fact that it was mailed at a different place than the sender’s address. Poor Hugo had not gone on a drunken bender in Cologne, he was in jail.

The FedEx lady also asked me to forward Kat’s e-mail announcing that the trophy had been shipped to FexEx Germany, which I did, explaining again what the package was, what a Hugo was and even including a link to the official Hugo website, where my name was listed as a winner.

I figured that would resolve the issue, though I also emailed Kat to explain that the Hugo package had triggered some kind of fraud alert and that FedEx might contact her with questions.

So Kat contacted FedEx herself and learned that first of all, my Hugo wasn’t the only one affected by the issue. The other Hugo that was shipped overseas, Rovina Cai’s Hugo Award for Best Professional Artist, had also been held back for the same reason. Only that Rovina lives in Australia, so she did not expect her Hugo to arrive yet and didn’t notice the issue.

FedEx US also claimed that I had told FedEx Germany that I neither ordered nor wanted the package (which is not true, cause I explained to them in detail what the package was and that I wanted it very much) and threatened to send it and possibly Rovina’s Hugo, too, back. So poor Hugo was not only in jail, but at risk of deportation.

When Kat informed me about this, it was evening and way past the official office hours of FedEx Germany, so I had to wait until morning to call them. So I sent FedEx another e-mail and explained again what a Hugo Award was, that I won it and that I really want my trophy now.  In the meantime, I also had to postpone a newspaper interview, because of course they want a photo of the trophy and there was no trophy.

Mind you, FedEx never contacted me nor Kat with questions regarding the package, which would have cleared up things much quicker. Instead, they only responded when I contacted them, asking where my package was. If I hadn’t contacted them, they might well have returned my Hugo and Rovina Cai’s to Kat without even letting us know. Frankly, this is pretty crappy behaviour from a shipping company, especially since not everybody tracks their shipment as closely as I did, since not every shipment is a Hugo trophy. Never mind that there are companies (looking at you, Mattel Creations) who don’t even provide a shiptracking number, unless you beg them for it and sometimes not even then. Which means that you have no way of knowing if a package is being held or returned.

The next morning, I called the local Bremen office of FedEx, because I had been told to call them instead of customer service, and explained the whole situation again. The gentleman of the Bremen FedEx office was very helpful and explained that not only was the Hugo held back in Cologne, but that the Bremen office had also been explicitly advised not to deliver that package. I also learned that apparently, the Hugo had not just triggered a fraud alert, but an actual security alert, probably because of the fact that it looks like a rocket and can easily be mistaken for a weapon, when the package was x-rayed. So Hugo was actually in jail on suspicion of weapon smuggling rather than mail fraud.

However, the guy from the Bremen FedEx office also told me that the situation had been resolved to everybody’s satisfaction and that Hugo would be released from jail, sent on his way and that he should arrive within one or two days. The FedEx guy also promised to call me once the package arrived in Bremen. So far, so good.

I e-mailed Kat Jones that Hugo was on his way and received notice that Hugo had left Cologne at around 11 PM, which meant that he should theoretically make the 312 kilometres to Bremen overnight. And indeed, the next morning at 8 AM, the guy from the Bremen FedEx office called me to let me know that my package had arrived in Bremen overnight and that he would make sure it was delivered today, i.e. Thursday, September 22, more than two weeks after Hugo was mailed in Chicago.

I was of course on edge and dashed to the door, whenever the bell rang. The first ring was someone asking a question, the second ring was a mail person with a package for me. However, it was not FedEx and not Hugo, but a package containing three brand-new Masters of the Universe Origins figures for my collection. Which is a great thing to receive (there will be more photos of them in another post), but not a Hugo trophy.

200X Skeletor and He-Man and Mantenna

New arrivals: Skeletor and He-Man in the style of the 2002 Masters of the Universe cartoon as well as Mantenna of the Evil Horde.

Then, at 2 PM finally the FedEx truck arrived and the driver handed me a package. A very battered package. Poor Hugo had apparently taken a beating, while in jail.

I signed for the package and remarked, “Wow, that looks badly battered.” The driver assured me it was all right and that the box might be battered, but the package itself hadn’t been damaged.

Battered package

The package, when it arrived at my doorstep.

I very carefully took my very battered package inside and began opening it up. I quickly realised that someone had opened the package, which was not unexpected – after all, I knew that Hugo had a security alert, so it made sense that someone opened the package to inspect the contents. They could have properly taped it shut again, though.

Inside the package, there was bubblewrap and Hugo. However, my poor Hugo had been badly banged up. The base was dented and scratched all over, the rocket was loose and – worst of all – the backing piece had broken off. My poor Hugo looked as if someone had used it as a murder weapon. Which is kind of appropriate, considering that two (faux) Hugo Award trophies can be seen in the background in Knives Out!.

This is what the 2022 Hugo trophy is supposed to look like.

And this is what came out of the box:

Broken Hugo trophy

Hugo unboxed and in pieces. Even in this pic, you can see how battered and scratched the base looks. Mind you, this is a sturdy wooden base. You have to work to bang it up like that.

To say I was disappointed and angry would be an understatement. After all, I had been waiting for more than two weeks for the trophy to arrive and was looking forward to showing it off. And then I get a battered and broken one.

I immediately called FedEx Germany – the regular customer service hotline, not the Bremen station, because a) the Bremen FedEx people were great, and b) the damage had very likely happened long before the package reached Bremen – to report the damaged shipment and ask how to proceed. I was told to e-mail FedEx, report the damage and send them the photos I had taken to document the damage. So I did that and also included a link to what the trophy was supposed to look like, so they could see that what came out of the box was not what was supposed to come out.

I also e-mailed Kat Jones to let her know that the Hugo finally arrived, but was damaged and sent her the photos as well, so she could contact FedEx on her end to get the damage reimbursed. Kat also forwarded the photos to base designer Brian Keith Ellison (who did an amazing job with the base BTW) to check if there was any way to repair the damage.

I strongly suspected that the base could not be repaired, since the backing piece had broken off, and Brian Keith Ellison confirmed this, so I will receive a replacement base and nameplate. The rocket itself is thankfully unharmed.

Meanwhile, I put my battered and broken Hugo togther and placed it in its designated space on the shelf next to the 2021 Space Cowboy Award. It looks all right on the shelf, but if you as much as sneeze on it, the backing piece will come off again.

Space Cowboy Award and Hugo Award on the shelf

The 2021 Space Cowboy Award and the 2022 Hugo Award on the shelf. The books behind the Space Cowboy are anthologies and magazines to which I have contributed. The friendly Matryoshka dolls used to live on this shelf, before I gradually took it over, and I didn’t want to evict them.

Even in its battered stage, the 2022 Hugo base is gorgeous. Designer Brian Keith Ellison has said that the base was inspired by Chicago’s stunning Art Deco architecture and I can absolutely see it. The design reminds me of Art Deco furniture and particularly of wooden Art Deco radios from the 1920s and 1930s. Since I’m a big Art Deco fan, this was really the perfect Hugo trophy for me to win and might be one of my all-time favourite Hugo bases. Though I wish it wouldn’t have arrived looking like a trophy from the 1930s, which has spent twenty years in someone’s attic.

Other observations: Hugo trophies are huge, both with regard to height and footprint. There is no way the trophy would have fit into a regular shelf (and those are large shelves, which can hold coffee table art books), if not for that protruding shelf, which is actually the top of a cabinet intended to house a TV-set, though it hasn’t contained a TV-set in ages and wouldn’t fit a modern TV anyway.  And the Hugo trophy barely fits the protruding shelf. Furthermore, this is far from the biggest or tallest Hugo base ever.

Anyway, Hugo is finally home, though badly battered and in need of a replacement base.

This entry was posted in General, Personal and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to 2022: A Hugo Odyssey

  1. Mike Glyer says:

    At first I expected this security melodrama could be laughed off. But not after they battered the package and broke the base.

    In 1982 I was given a special committee award, not a Hugo rocket but a beautiful sculpture of a dragon on a wood base, with delicate features like talons and a forked tongue. So my friends said they would ship it to me. They made a plywood brace around the award that slid into the shipping box. When it arrived, although the delicate bits were undamaged, the body of the dragon had cracked in multiple places from the forces transmitted from the box through the brace. I was quite upset. However, my father, who was still alive then, and much handier than me, said he could repair it and did. Now you have to know where the cracks were to see any traces.

    • Cora says:

      My amusement also faded once I opened the package and saw the battered and broken base. Also, the base is sturdy solid wood, the sort of wood used to make furniture. Battering and breaking it really takes some effort, though whoever opened the package to check the contents also did not rewrap it properly.

      I’m very sorry to hear about your dragon-shaped award (not a Dragon Award), though I’m glad it could be repaired.

      My Dad is also very handy and managed to make the broken backing piece stand upright, so I can actually display the trophy. However, there is nothing he could do to permanently fix the issue. My late grandfather, who was a furniture maker by trade, also likely couldn’t have done anything.

  2. Pingback: Pixel Scroll 9/24/22 A Click of Scrolling Pixels Are We | File 770

  3. How tall is it, in inches (or I guess you would use centimeters)? It looks at least a foot and a half tall.

    • Cora says:

      The rocket itself is 13 inches or 33 centimetres tall. The base adds 5 or 6 inches – it’s about the same height as a He-Man figure and those are 5.5 inches tall – so the whole trophy is about 18 to 19 inches or 48 to 50 centimetres. So in short, it’s big and I’m really happy I have the protruding TV cabinet, which hasn’t housed a TV in more than twenty years.

  4. Tom Becker says:

    I’m really glad you won the Best Fan Writer Hugo, very well deserved. I’m sorry your award was damaged. It sure feels like the whole security theater thing was because FedEx knew they damaged it and didn’t want to admit it. It is a beautiful and well-made base, and I would expect it to arrive in good shape if it hadn’t been opened and messed with.

    • Cora says:

      Thank you. I suspect someone at FedEx opened the package, maybe even in the US, because the trophy looks like a weapon on the X-ray and did not pack it up again properly, so it was damaged. And the package was likely already badly banged up, when it reached Cologne.

      The base is very sturdy actually and made from the kind of solid wood used to make furniture, so you have to work to damage it.

  5. Estara Swanberg says:

    Going thru hassle with DHL Express needing me to give info THAT WAS INCLUDED IN MY ORDER FROM KOREA already, AGAIN, because they can’t be bothered to send the parcel on to my own customs office here, but want to get extra money to put it thru customs in Leipzig…

    well, I can only call myself lucky that people haven’t destroyed my orders yet. You have my wholehearted commiseration (but also again, congratulations on your HUGO!! woop woop)

    • Cora says:

      International shipping is still a hassle and it really shouldn’t be. Just as IMO there shouldn’t be custom duties paid on products purchased by private consumers. Try collecting toys and you have to pay customs on international orders to protect the domestic toy industry, which does not even produce those products and which has gotten a lot of my money over the years anyway. DVDs can also be a real hassle, when the customs officer decides to throw a fit, because this movie hasn’t been rated by the FSK and who knows what terrible things it might contain? Even though a) I’m an adult and well able to decide what I want to watch, and b) it’s Doctor Who, which is actually classified as family-friendly programming.

      At least no one wanted me to pay customs duty on my Hugo, which happened to Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki for his Nebula Award trophy.

  6. Julia S says:

    Congratulations on your VERY well-deserved win, but how frustrating it must have been to deal with all of that shipping bureaucracy and then get a damaged trophy!

  7. Pingback: Masters-of-the-Universe-Piece Theatre: “Peeping Mantenna” | Cora Buhlert

  8. Lis Carey says:

    That’s quite a saga for Hugo to reach you. I can’t express my anger that your trophy reached you so badly damaged.

    • Cora says:

      Trust me, I’m pretty salty myself, especially since FedEx really had to work to damage the very sturdy base.

    • Lurkertype says:

      What Lis said.

      I wonder if it was damaged along the way and then again by some chucklehead in Cologne FedEx Jail, when poor Hugo was suspected of so many crimes he didn’t commit. Police brutality!

      Still, good for Kat and Brian.

      (And the architecture in Chicago is amazing. Take a tour if you ever get there.)

      • Cora says:

        Oh, I will definitely take a tour of Chicago’s architecture. A pity it didn’t work out this year.

        And police brutality is also a thing in Germany (and the victims are disproportionately often leftwing protesters and people of colour), though not as bad as in the US.

  9. I would very much have preferred if the humour in your story didn’t have such a bad ending. You deserved a healthy Hugo, not an imprisoned and battered and broken one. Thank goodness the people handling the Hugos can sort this out… but they shouldn’t have to.

    • Cora says:

      Apparently at least one Hugo is damaged during shipping every year, though you’re right that neither the winners nor the Hugo admins should have to deal with this.

      Happy Rosh Hashanah to you!

  10. Pingback: S&S Weekly Roundup #23 (9/28/22) – Thews You Can Use

  11. Pingback: Cora is Elsewhere on the Web Today | Cora Buhlert

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *