Our longstanding author, Larry Ivkovich, kindly sent us a commentary on his experience at the recent Nebula Awards.
Eighteen years ago, the Nebula Awards were held in Pittsburgh at the downtown Marriot City Center Hotel. At that time, the prestigious event hosted by SFWA lasted roughly a day-and-a-half with no real programming to speak of. That’s changed over the years and this year’s Nebulas, held in the same venue, featured a full slate of panels and presentations.
I, like many local SF fans and volunteers from Parsec, Pittsburgh’s premier SF/Fantasy organization, attended this year’s awards held from May 18 – 21. It was pretty dazzling. We all got a bulgingly-full canvas shoulder bag of books at registration donated by TOR Books, one of the con’s sponsors. The panels I attended were informative, fun, and inspiring. At Thursday night’s Beer Tasting, I met Locus Magazine’s editor, Liza Trombi. Throughout the course of the weekend, I met several of the upcoming new generation of SF writers, including Nebula winners and nominees William Ledbetter, Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam, Amal El-Mohtar, Charlie Jane Anders, and Victor LaValle, among others.
I participated in the author mass autographing session Friday night (organized by Diane Turnshek, Pittsburgh author, teacher, and astronomer). Though I didn’t sell much, I had a grand time talking with people and immersing myself in the experience. During the session, I introduced myself to Neil Clarke, editor of Clarkesworld magazine, where I’ve had a few stories rejected. He gave me a business card which read, “This person has officially been rejected by Clarkesworld. Please be nice to him.” Ha! You just wait, Neil.
I shook hands with Connie Willis and spoke to Michael Swanwick and Scott Edelman. Those were high points for me as well as Liza Trombi taking a picture of a few of us holding up skewers of meatballs like barbecue-sauced talismans.
Though I didn’t attend the awards banquet Saturday night, I did go to the reception beforehand and to the ceremony itself afterwards. This years’ toastmaster was NASA astronaut Dr. Kjell Lindgren, who spent five months on the International Space Station for one of his missions in 2015. He was part of the first group to grow and eat a vegetable crop in space – red romaine lettuce. He was very approachable and a terrific speaker with a great sense of humor. He gave all credit to his being an astronaut to the speculative fiction he grew up reading and SF writers in general. He displayed photo images he took of earth and space from the ISS and also ran a video of “Life on the ISS” at his Q&A session on Sunday.
I shook hands with him too and, dare I say it, he seemed very “down to earth.” He talked of what he called “foot-pocalypse” during the ceremony, which either cracked everybody up or grossed everyone out. Because you don’t walk in zero gravity, the foot muscles relax and the calluses on the bottoms of feet loosen up and slough off. The astronauts have to be careful when taking off their socks because all this withered, dried flesh will just start flying around! One of his colleagues on another mission somehow missed the briefing on this and thought his feet were falling apart!
Got to spend time with friends and fellow writers/Parsec and SFWA members Tim Esaias, Mary Soon Lee, Mark Tiedemann, Jamie Lackey, Frank Oreto, Douglas (Pete) Gwilym, Brandon Ketchum, Ken Chiacchia and Heather Houlihan, Diane Turnshek, Lawrence Connolly, Kevin Hayes and Karen Yun-Lutz, Laine Wooliscraft, Josh Bellin, Heidi Ruby Miller and Jason Jack Miller, Stephanie Keyes, Alexander Edmondson, Patrick Ropp, and others.
The award winners in various categories were:
Jim Fiscus – The Kevin O’Donnell, Jr. Service to SFWA Award.
Arrival – The Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation.
Peggy Rae Sapienza (posthumously) and Toni Weisskopf – Kate Wilhelm Solstice Award for making a major, positive difference within the SF fiction field.
David Levine – The Andre Norton Award for YA Science Fiction and Fantasy – short story “Arabella of Mars.”
Jane Yolen – Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award.
Amal El-Mohtar – Nebula for Best Short Story – “Seasons of Glass and Iron.”
William Ledbetter – Nebula for Best Novelette – “The Long Fall Up.”
Seanan McGuire – Nebula for Best Novella – “Every Heart a Doorway.”
Charlie Jane Anders – Nebula for Best Novel – All the Birds in the Sky.
SFWA president Cat Rambo thanked all the volunteers (which included Parsec’s Barb Carlson, Laurie Mann, Greg Armstrong, Lara Van Winkle, Karen Yun-Lutz, J.J Walton, Diane Turnshek, Jim Mann, Kevin Hayes and others) during the ceremony and gave a personal shout-out to Mary Tabasko for managing the banquet. Well done, everyone!
Major SF publisher TOR held an after-party in the con suite Saturday night, which became very, very crowded, very, very quickly. Hotel security asked us all to leave around midnight because of the noise, as if no other convention parties had ever been held! But it was okay. We all moved to the bar.
I’m still recovering from the weekend but it’s a good “hangover.” One of creativity, inspiration, and being part of a community/tribe like no other. Word on the street during the weekend – SFWA will hold next year’s awards in Pittsburgh again.
Did I mention I shook Connie Willis’ hand?