The Hugo was used to falling in love.
It happened every year like clockwork, each time in a new, exotic location, with new, exciting individuals. The Hugo fell in love with fantasy, in lust with science fiction, and into quiet domesticity with those who took it home at the end of the day, proud of their accomplishments. After sixty-odd years, it was ready for this to be the rest of its life. It was changeless, and it was happy.
And then the Sad Puppies attacked,1 and the Hugo was broken—
And then the Archive of Our Own appeared, and the Hugo was saved.
Their whirlwind romance was unlike anything the Hugo had ever experienced. It was love, but oh, it was more than that—it was forbidden love, star-crossed love, love that flickers into existence once an era, like a Yankee candle labeled dearest, darling, light of my darkest heart, and then burns gloriously away to leave only smoke and stardust; it was a love that could only exist between a science fiction award and its two million recipients.
And recipients they were, no matter who or what tried to tell the Hugo they weren’t.2 They had claimed it: It was theirs.
“What will you do with me?” the Hugo whispered into the hands that cradled it, those same hands which had helped to build its precious Archive from the codebase up. It delighted in the attention of the many who had attended the ceremony for the Archive. When a third of the room stood to receive it3—a greater number than any of years past—it had nearly swooned.
“Will you take me home?” it asked, its desperation kissing their palms; “—Will you love me?”
They did not. The few who had come to represent the many left, flying home to all the places in the world the Hugo had yet to visit, leaving it behind. The Hugo was heartbroken. Was this how true love was meant to feel—this melancholy, this anguish?
For an endless year, the Hugo sat in a glass prison, letting the dust of solitude settle into its engravings. The chance of the Archive winning again the next year was minuscule; the Hugo didn’t know how to bear the inevitability of its love becoming singular once more.
And then: sunlight.
“Look, it’s my Hugo Award!” The voice approaching from the side sparkled with laughter, the most gorgeous thing the Hugo had heard in months. And then: hands, lifting it, cradling it once more, so close he could hear the person’s heartbeat in their chest like a song of revelation. “Take my picture, here, I’m gonna—” Firm caresses, more laughter, and the Hugo glowed.
“Can’t believe I won a Hugo for my Wolfstar smut.” A new voice, gleeful.
And, “Oh my god, is that—That’s our Hugo!” came from afar. “It’s really out here for us!”
I am! the Hugo wanted to crow to the heavens, finally realizing what was happening. They were the Archive of Our Own users, here to claim it at last.4 I’m yours! I’m here for you, always!
All weekend, the Hugo was showered with love, worshiped by those it had spent a year worshiping in silence. It was touched by hundreds of hands, the same hands which wrote worlds into being and drew fantasies from paper and ink; it was praised by the same voices which spoke intimacy in every breath and sang adoration in every verse. And at the end of the weekend, the Hugo’s longing was sated.
It knew now what its life would be. Each year, twelve months of pining. It would sit, alone and near-forgotten, in its cruel glass cage, until finally it would be time to come out into the light and be loved.
A year of silence, for a weekend of the most brilliantly passionate love any award in the world had ever experienced. Twelve months of dust and degradation for a scant five days of joy. Was it worth it? The Hugo knew that if it acted now, it could convince the World Science Fiction Society to take it back. They could award it to a new lover next year, someone who might take it home and cherish it ceaselessly.
In the end, it was the easiest choice in the world.
At the close of the most wondrous weekend in history, the Hugo settled back into its box, finally ready to begin its long winter.
This was the sweetest promise it had ever made.