Monday, June 04, 2012

To say nothing of Connie Willis

I'm sorry that's there's been a full week between posts, but honestly, late May is such a busy time in my business, I haven't had a free moment. When you work at a community newspaper, everything comes to a head at the end of the school year. But the two local high schools held their graduations this past weekend, so I think the hustle and bustle is starting to die down.

If the Nebula Weekend was either the following weekend or this past weekend, I couldn't have attended. Back in 2004, I accepted an invite to be a panelist at Marcon in Columbus, Ohio. It was a great con, but it was on Memorial Day weekend. I had to cover the local high school graduation on Friday night and then I drove 14 hours to make my first panel. The only reason I was on time was because I picked up an hour heading into the Eastern Time Zone. I'll never do that again.

This will be my last post about the Nebula Weekend. When I last left off, I had left Jim Freund's radio workshop. I realized going into that evening it would be the last of it for me; when I realized my mother was not coming back to Texas with me, I decided to stay in Great Falls Sunday and spend more time with her.

Saturday afternoon I met and chatted with a few people I had never met in person before. The hotel lobby was a good meeting place. I was very happy to meet Andy Duncan and told him how his 2001 Asimov's story "Lincoln in Frogmore" was a big influence my my writing "A Rocket for the Republic" three years later.

I met Walter John Williams, who seemed to be more casually dressed than most, and was wandering around barefoot. I started a collection to pay him to MC the awards barefoot, and I pitched in a silver dollar. I won't tell you where I pitched it.

I caught Sheila Williams and Gardner Dozois together with their programs handicapping the nominees for the Nebulas. I walked up to them and exclaimed, "Are you guys making book on the Nebulas!?" They opined which stories would be favorites on the basis of the authors' popularity and which one would win on merit. Interestingly enough, after the dinner I realized the winners were the ones they said stood highest on merit. I also took the opportunity to have a few beers, but since I hardly ever drink, three beers and I was loaded. Since I don't have a high opinion of hotel food in general, I wanted to make sure I had a square meal before the dinner. I walked a couple of blocks from the hotel and chowed down at an Indian buffet. I wished I hadn't had those beers earlier, because the food was nice and spicy and I would have enjoyed the cold brews then. But I also knew if I drank more I probably would have fallen face down on the sidewalk.

The reception before the actual dinner involved a lot of people jammed elbow to elbow in the lobby. The only way to get deep in the scrum would be to actually talk to someone, and since I know so few people, I spent a lot of time on the fringes. I dashed through occasionally and took some snapshots.

During the dinner, I sat next to Rich White and nominee David Goldman and his wife. I don't recall the other people at the table. The toastmaster Walter Jon Williams admonished all the nominees to repeat the mantra "It is an honor just to be nominated" whenever he snapped his fingers twice.

The keynote speaker was astronaut Mike Fincke, who wowed the groundlings with photos he's taken at the space station and while rambling around space. Bud Webster gave a nice speech on receiving the Service to SFWA Award. He's a nice guy and it also came over during his acceptance speech. I missed the presentation of the Solstice Award, having to hit the men's room (welcome to diabetes) but got back in time for Grand Master Award.

There was a theme running throughout the weekend about Willis - as well it should - and I thought her speech hit a nice balance between humility and impressiveness. She certainly fits the bill as a Grandmaster. I'm still puzzled how such an obvious anglophile grew up in Colorado; I always assumed she was a native Brit. I guess it's one of those things you just learn about.

The Ray Bradbury Award went to the episode of Doctor Who, "The Doctor's Wife" and Neil Gaiman was there in person to accept. He not only gave a nice acceptance but it was fairly short.

Delia Sherman won the Andre Norton Award for "The Freedom Maze" and then the short story Nebula went to Ken Liu for "The Paper Menagerie". He wasn't there to accept. I recall Gardner had said he was impressed with the story when he was handicapping the nominees earlier in the day and he recalled it well.

Rachel Swirsky was the odds-on favorite to win the novelette on the basis of her personal popularity, but the winner instead was Geoff Ryman for "What We Found." Ryman - a Brit - apparently deferred to American-style PC and invited Swirsky to the podium to tell him what to say, which resulted in the bizarre spectacle of the pair reciting some hackneyed "cute" standard thank you speech in tandem. It was bizarre, and real indication of how socially inbred the s-f community has become, at least the members in SFWA. I know a lot of people who watched it on a web feed and went "WTF?"

The novella went to Kij Johnson for "The Man Who Bridged the Mist". She was a no show and John Kessell accepted for her.

I had to leave at 10 p.m. as my ride arrived, but the evening was just about done. As I said, I spent Sunday and Monday with my family in Northern Virginia, and then flew back to Dallas Monday.

It was an interesting experience, but I'm sure glad the Society for the Advancement for Speculative Storytelling (SASS) is on the upswing, it's nice to have a place where I can feel at home and not have to walk on eggshells because of PC, or get snubbed because I'm a straight white Christian male. I doubt I'll have much - if anything - to do with SFWA in the future.

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