And here is the very nice award they gave me there. It is interesting, and perhaps instructional, that the comment I got the most as I was showing it off was “wow, that would be an excellent award for murdering someone with.” Yes, I suppose it would be. Not that I have any plans to do that. Unless, of course, you piss me off.
I’ll tell you a story about getting the award. RT Book Reviews is a magazine that primarily but not exclusively reviews works in the romance genre, and so their Reviewer’s Choice awards are primarily (but, obviously, not exclusively) in the romance genre, which has a largely (but again not exclusively) female authorship. Correspondingly most of the Reviewer’s Choice Award recipients are women; of the thirty or so Reviewer’s Choice awards they gave out at the ceremony, I was one of two men accepting awards (the other being the male half of the “Ilona Andrews” writing team).
With that as preamble, one of the things they do at the RT Reviewer’s Choice Award ceremony is have male romance book cover models escort the award recipients to the stage; they walk them up the ramp in part to help pace the ceremony and keep it moving at a brisk clip — when one recipient was up giving the speech, the next would queue up, and so on (the winners were announced in advance so this was easy to do). On the side of ceremony room I was on there were two of the fellows, who would alternate walking up the award recipient.
When it was my turn to queue up, the two men looked over at me, wondering what they should do; my response was to signal to them that, hells yeah, one of them was going to walk me up. Because damn it, I was an RT Reviewer’s Choice Award recipient, and I wanted the full award winner experience. Which included being walked up to the stage by a hunky male romance cover model.
They both walked me up, each taking an arm. I felt very special.
Beyond that particular moment, I had a very good time at the RT Booklovers’ Convention as a whole. On a practical sense, it seemed a well-run convention — they had a book signing area, with well over a hundred authors of all sorts, that was extremely well run, enough so that I think other con runners should come to this thing to see how they do it. Likewise, I was impressed at how smoothly the awards ceremony went — there were a few dozen award recipients in total yet they got through the entire ceremony in just a couple of hours. As someone at the head of an organization that has its own award ceremony, I was taking notes.
I also have to say that I liked the vibe of the convention, which was (for the authors, at least) relaxed and fun. Everyone seemed to be having a good time and were happy to be sitting around, chatting and sharing notes. I’ll note that as RT is heavily focused on the romance genre — a field which, by the way, has significant crossover into the speculative fiction and YA genres (and often both at the same time) — the author and fan attendance skewed largely female; while men weren’t entirely absent (there were male authors and fans, and spouses of female authors and fans) they were relatively rare. In the evenings, I would be hanging out at the bar with other writers and friends and I would look around and every other person around the table would be a woman. And I would go, huh, and then go back into the conversation.
This is something that I think might be worth noting out loud: At a largely female-oriented convention, as a man, I was never excluded, resented or made to feel unwelcome. There were folks who were surprised I was there, but that surprise was always “Oh! Cool! You’re here!” rather than “Why are you here?” And that, of course, is a salient difference. No one questioned my reasoning for being there, or suggested, say, that I was a Fake Romance Boy, or quizzed me about who my favorite romance author was or if I could recite that author’s bibliography to their satisfaction. I certainly wasn’t skeezed on. On the contrary, people went out of their way to ask me if I was enjoying myself and to let me know they were glad I was there. When I admitted ignorance about certain writers or genre details they were happy to expand my knowledge, and they wanted to know more about what I did and my own experiences as a writer. I met lots of new people and made new friends and in many ways it was one of the best convention experiences I’ve had in a long time.
This leaves wide open and hanging the question of why was it so easy for the folks at the RT Booklovers’ Convention, fans and creators both, to welcome a stranger of the opposite gender into their midst, while other enthusiast communities that skew male still have creators and fans who blow a gasket about women doing their thing in that genre. It’s not difficult to be welcoming and friendly. I wish the genres I am actively a part of could do as good a job of it as romance and the RT Booklovers’ convention did for me (and, I will note, the other men I saw at the convention).
So, in all: An excellent time with excellent people, and, hey, I got an award, too. Not a bad weekend at all.