Bouchercon 2020, the 51st Anthony Boucher Memorial World Mystery Convention, originally slated to be held in Sacramento, happened entirely online October 16-17. Despite the switch to virtual, the organizers presented a slate of over 30 panels, including ones with uniquely-2020 topics, such as “Staying Motivated: Creativity in a Pandemic,” and “Selling Books in a New World: Marketing in a Pandemic,” in which the participants noted that even writing and reading during Covid-19 was challenging.
The event culminated in a virtual ceremony at which the winners of the Anthony Awards were announced, voted on by the attendees. The announcements, complete with the quirky charms of the Zoom era (background pets, family members, unintentionally-muted speakers), were interspersed with presentations about different aspects of Boucher’s life, highlighting his influence as a gifted crime writer, a critic, an editor invariably gentle with new authors, and an iconoclastic Sherlockian.
The winners included Hank Phillippi Ryan for The Murder List (Forge) who may have been the first Best Novel honoree to receive the award on her birthday; Tara Laskowski , whose One Night Gone (Graydon House) was named Best First Novel; Best Critical Non-Fiction winner Mo Moulton for The Mutual Admiration Society: How Dorothy L. Sayers and her Oxford Circle Remade the World for Women (Basic Books); Best Anthology or Collection winner Malice Domestic 14: Mystery Most Edible, edited by Verena Rose, Rita Owen, and Shawn Reilly Simmons (Wildside Press), and Seven Ways to Get Rid of Harry (Down & Out Books), by Jen Conley, which won for Best Young Adult.
The most memorable acceptance remarks were made by Gigi Pandian, who took home Best Paperback Original for The Alchemist’s Illusion (Midnight Ink), who began writing in isolation as she sheltered from the world for a year after chemotherapy left her with no immune system, and Alex Segura. His Best Short Story winner “The Red Zone,” appeared in ¡Pa’que Tu Lo Sepas!: Stories to Benefit the People of Puerto Rico (Down & Out Books); Segura implored the audience to continue to help those suffering from Hurricane Maria’s after-effects by buying the book, predicting that “we’ll get through the pandemic together by continuing to help each other.”
The organizers teased plans to hold the 2021 event in New Orleans, although they noted that some virtual sessions may become a permanent feature of Bouchercon.