Bad choice for toastmaster? Possibly, but who will replace Jonathan Ross?
This year's Hugo Awards, to be held at Worldcon in London this August, is short one celebrity host. Jonathan Ross, comedian and television presenter, volunteered his time gratis but soon withdrew after the announcement of his appointment set Twitter on fire. "If Ross is toastmaster, I can predict that at least one major Hugo nominee/past winner [Seanan McGuire] who was planning to be there won't be present at the ceremony," wrote author Charles Stross, creator of the Laundry Files, "because Ross has past form for using women with weight issues as the butt of his humour. She says she doesn't feel safe, and I believe her."
She wasn't alone. While some fans were willing to accept Ross as host, many felt his past history ruled him out as a candidate. This is, after all, the man who landed the BBC with a £150,000 fine after insulting actor Andrew Sachs in an on-air radio prank call. Two radio executives and Russell Brand resigned over that one, while Ross was suspended for three months.
"It wasn't pleasant having people camp outside my house, and it wasn't pleasant people using me as a whipping boy," said Ross after Sachsgate. "But you know what? You know what? It wasn't a big deal. So what?"
Ross attempted to engage with critics on Twitter, in his characteristic style, but soon tired of it. "I have decided to withdraw from hosting the Hugo's," he Tweets, "in response to some who would rather I weren't there. Have a lovely convention." He went on to say that he had only accepted the role because he was a long-time fan of science fiction, and because Neil Gaiman had asked him.
This leaves the Hugos short one host, with no obvious candidate in sight. If you were wondering about Felicia Day or David Tennant, those suggestions have already been made and more besides. However many potential hosts are already booked solid, and August isn't that far off.