Note: my GMail account, through which I route my mail these days, has been down for a couple of hours. I understand I’m not the only one with this problem. If you’ve sent me e-mail since about four or so, I haven’t seen it. I will respond once Google rights itself.
The lovely folks at AMCtv.com, where I do my weekly sf/f movie column, have posted a post-Hugo interview with me (the interviewer this time around is a real other person, not just an iteration of me).
Also, io9.com has a Hugo Awards gallery, which features at least one picture of me making an ass of myself (i know, I know, are there any other kind, yes, yes, you can shut up now), plus more restrained pictures of other sf/f luminaries in their natural environment (i.e., getting tanked at parties). Enjoy!
Clearly, I’m all about the quiet dignity.
(Photo once again by Tom Suter)
I have a few comments to make about Hugos won and lost, so if you’ll indulge me (and you’ll have to, because this is my site), and allow me to do it in an entirely artificial Q&A format:
THE HUGO I WON
So, uh, which Hugo did you win?
Best Fan Writer.
Aren’t you a professional science fiction writer?
Indeed I am.
I sense contradiction.
Not really. In science fiction, nearly all pros are fans, and some fans are pros. One needs to be careful, as Patrick Nielsen Hayden would say, to note that “fan is not the embryonic form of pro”; nevertheless, the streams, as we might say, do cross.
So for what writing did you win this Hugo for?
You’re looking at it. I write about science fiction and the science fiction community all the time here on Whatever, and I try to promote science fiction literature on a regular basis.
Is this is a first?
Sort of. Others have won Hugos for online sites, although technically they were editing awards. In 2004, Cheryl Morgan won the Best Fanzine award for Emerald City, which was online as well as in print, and there was a one-off Best Web Site Hugo in 2005, which was won by late, lamented SciFiction, and given to its editor, Ellen Datlow. And Dave Langford, who has won the Fan Writer Hugo for the 20 years previous to this one, distributes Ansible electronically (I know this because it pops up in my e-mail on a regular basis).
However, as far as I and anyone else I’ve asked can see, this is the first time a writing Hugo, much less a fan writing Hugo, was given out for writing done exclusively on a blog (there was once a Best Novel nominee which was originally published on a blog, but it didn’t win). So in that regard, yup, it’s a first.
How do you feel about this award?
I’m over the friggin’ moon, thank you very much. And more than that, I think it’s entirely in keeping with the frankly weird and Whatever-centric manner in which my science fiction career has developed. You know, I have a science fiction career because of Whatever; it was here I posted Old Man’s War, which is how the book was sold. And at this point, I am equally known as a blogger and as a science fiction writer. The idea that an award from the latter portion of my life is commorating what I do in the former is just six different and tasty flavors of cool. I mean, dude: I get a Hugo for writing on Whatever? What’s not to like?
But it’s not the Best Novel Hugo.
Well, that’s the big one.
Sure, and I’d like to win one. In the meantime, I get to be the first guy ever to win a Best Fan Writer Hugo while being simultaneously nominated for the Best Novel. I get to be the first Campbell Award winner ever to win the Fan Writer Hugo. I get to be the first guy ever to win a Hugo for what he writes on his blog. And I’m the first guy in two decades to win the award who is not the guy who won it the year before. You know, all this is fairly damn cool. Allow me a moment of pure creamery ego to have pulled all this off. Because I feel pretty good about it.
So, go on. Tell me, if you dare, that this Hugo isn’t a hell of an achievement in itself. I’ll laugh, and then beat you with the trophy. And then you will fall. Because the thing is damn huge.
How does it feel to topple Dave Langford?
I didn’t topple him; I believe he still stands upright.
No, I mean he won the Best Fan Writer Hugo for 20 years consecutively until you won.
Well, look. There’s Dave Langford, the absolutely lovely man who writes the absolutely indispensible Ansible, and then there’s the Langford Streak, which is in nearly all ways an entirely separate thing. Am I happy to have broken the Langford Streak? I am; it’s nice to have a Hugo. Am I under the illusion that I’ve somehow replaced Dave Langford in any meaningful way? Don’t be silly. I can’t replace him; he’s irreplaceable. Also, I don’t think his clothes would fit me, and he has more hair. I try to replace him, people would notice. I’ll just continue to be me.
It’s not out of school to note that Dave Langford was one of the very first people to send me good wishes on my win, because he is just that much of a class act. My response to this was to note the singular honor it is to follow in his footsteps. Because it is.
Are you planning to work on a streak?
With a careful caveat that what follows is not a commentary on Dave Langford or his list of consecutive wins: Hell, no. My ambition is not to win Best Fan Writer again; my ambition is to see Best Fan Writer won by lots of different people. Because you know what? There are lots of people writing lots of excellent stuff about science fiction and its community, both online and in the traditional fanzines, and what I think would be excellent is if the Hugo voters would open their eyes to these writers.
In my acceptance speech for the Fan Writer Hugo, I stressed how honored I was that the Hugo voters had connected me to the line of fan writers, because the first pro writers of American science fiction were indisputable fans first, and it was an unfathomable honor to able to stand in that line. And having stressed how genuinely honored I was to have the award, I asked the people in the audience to please not give it to me next year. Instead, they should spread it around. That’s what makes for a vital award category. Repeat winners? From time to time, sure. Dynasties? Really, let’s not.
Now that you have a Hugo, should we expect to see “HUGO WINNER” on the cover of your next novel?
No. Both I and Patrick Nielsen Hayden (my editor at Tor) feel strongly about this. If I am ever lucky enough to get a Hugo for my fiction, then yes, I will put “Hugo Winner” on the cover of some other piece of fiction. Until then, it gets put into the jacket flap bio.
To be clear, it’s not that I think that the Fan Writer Hugo is a lesser award, not to be celebrated. Trust me, people, I’m feeling pretty celebratory, and I don’t intend to be shy about noting my Hugo status when I feel it’s appropriate. But it’s not ethically correct to pimp out the Fan Writer award for my fiction work. There’s also the small matter that if I did, I’m pretty sure that fandom assassins would stab me to death at the next convention. And they would be right to do so. I’d rather not be stabbed.
So, no. To the extent that I have any control over marketing (which, as an author, is not always a sure thing), you’ll not see “Hugo Winner” on my fiction covers until I win a Hugo for my fiction.
THE HUGO I DIDN’T WIN
So, you lost the Best Novel Hugo to Michael Chabon and The Yiddish Policemen’s Union.
I sure did.
By nine votes.
So if just ten more people would have voted for you, you’d have won.
Out of almost 750 voters.
Sounds about right.
So you missed winning by just a little over 1%.
Is this going somewhere?
Well, how do you feel about that?
I feel fine.
Oh, come on. You don’t have to lie to us.
How dare you accuse me of lying, you figment of my imagination!
But, okay then, tell us why you’re not pissed.
THE REASONS I’M FINE ABOUT NOT WINNING BEST NOVEL THIS YEAR
1. Rumor has it The Yiddish Policeman’s Union is a fine novel. Losing to a novel that sucks would suck. Losing to a novel that is excellent is fine. In this regard, I would have been fine with any of my fellow nominees winning over me.
2. So, a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist writes a #1 bestselling novel that receives glowing awards in the national press, sucks up major awards, is nominated for others, and sells hundreds of thousands of copies, and I’m supposed to feel bad about losing to him by single digits? Really? No, really: Really?
3. You know, if I had spent the evening being depressed that I had lost a Hugo award, all the while cradling another Hugo Award I had won in my arms, you know what would have happened to me? I would have been tossed out an eight-story window by an enraged mob. For starters.
4. I think people forget this, but my first novel came out in stores only just a little over three and a half years ago. So in the space of less than four years since the functional start of my science fiction career, I’ve been nominated for four Hugos (including for Best Novel twice), the Campbell and the Sidewise award, and won the Campbell and a Hugo. And, thing is, the books sell pretty well, too.
So, look, people: I do not deserve pity. And if I were to display self-pity in this regard, I should be bludgeoned to death, with hammers, as an object example for every other science fiction writer who ever got astoundingly lucky and then became a miserable bastard about it.
5. This year’s Hugo trophy, while really quite beautiful, is also unwieldy. Carrying two around would have simply been impractical.
So there you have it.
Let me know if you have any questions for me about the Hugos, won and lost; I’ll be happy to answer.
So, how was Denvention 3? Well, you know. I had fun. Let me break it all up into easily digestible categories of personal experience.
1. Panels and Programming: This stuff worked out pretty well for me, I have to say. Unlike the Worldcon in LA, where I was on some panels where I ended up wanting to throttle someone either in the audience or on the panel, all my panels this time around were fun and interesting and not especially throttle-desire-inducing. Here’s how all my programming went down, in order of time:
Schmoozing 101: This was a panel in which I, Mary Robinette Kowal and agent Michael Kabongo tried to give tips to folks about how to handle meeting people they might admire and/or want something from, and also just how to carry on conversations with new folks. I think the audience had a lot of fun with this one; certainly the folks on the panel did.
My Signing: I did my signature over and over and over. Without getting too much into it, I still think it’s wacky that people stand in a line to get me to sign something. I hope I never get over it.
Bleeding Heart Liberals and Military Science Fiction: The panel (Joe Haldeman, Elizabeth Moon, John Hemry (aka Jack Campbell) and me) pretty much quickly dispensed with the panel topic because it was a little bit silly, and talked about military science fiction in a larger sense, especially touching on how folks today are relating to the subgenre. Perhaps not surprisingly, I was the sole panelist who had not been in the military. Given the caliber of the other panelists, it’s also not surprising this panel was (in my opinion) wide-ranging and fascinating.
Making a Living as a Writer – But Not Necessarily a Novelist: I moderated this one, which featured five other writers active in the SF community, but who weren’t making a living writing science fiction. The range of other writing jobs on the panel was impressive: Freelancer reporter, critic, scriptwriter, publicist, medical writer and so on. I think this might have been the most helpful panel I was on, because it made a point near and dear to my heart, which is that other sorts of writing can be nurturing to one’s fiction career, because it gives you security (or, at least, an income) while you’re developing your voice.
Reading: As noted before, Mary Robinette Kowal very graciously split her reading time with me, and we had a lot of fun, alternating between us, reading short stories, topped off by her reading a chapter from “The Sagan Diary,” which reduced me to blubbering tears. This was one of the real highlights of the convention for me, and all things considered, this is saying something.
Sidewise Awards: As noted, I was nominated this year in the “short form” category, for this story. And as I said to Steven Silver, one of the jurists for the award, “I’m really happy to be nominated, but if I win, there’s something wrong with your award.” Fortunately, there’s nothing wrong with the award, since Michael Flynn and Kristine Kathryn Rusch were announced as co-winners of the short form category.
Incidentally, at the Sidewise Awards, I have given that very cool “Editing! Gerunds! Death!” pin you see on my nametag lanyard by Xopher, who comments here from time to time. You are now my favorite person evar, Xopher. Thank you.
Kaffeklatch: Kaffeklatches fascinate me, because it’s ten people who sit at a table with me and watch me babble insensibly for an hour or so. Hey, whatever makes these folks happy, you know. And I did most certainly babble. Nevertheless, a good group at the table, and I think we had fun. It was right before the Hugo Awards, too, so I was pretty wired.
Hugo Awards: I did okay there. I’ll talk more about that in a minute.
2. Denver: I liked Denver, or at least the part of it that I saw, which was the 16th Street Mall, the Convention Center and their immediate environs. I stayed at the Sheraton, which was ostensibly the party hotel, but as it turned out, most of the hanging out action for the pro publishing folks took place at the Hyatt, which was right across from the convention center and also had a big-ass bar capable of handling several dozen drunken authors at a time. Funny how the authors are always at the bar. Anyway, a couple of people I knew noted that they were being affected by the altitude of Denver (it is famously the mile-high city), but I didn’t notice it too much. I did notice that staying up until 4am because I was partying me brains out led me to being tired a lot. They need to make a pill for that, I think.
3. People: I don’t know why anyone else goes to Worldcon, but I go to see many of my friends who aren’t otherwise in the same place at the same time and have a big ol’ ball staying up late and saying terrible, hilarious things. What sort of hilarious things? Well, let me just say this: The moment that I, Ian McDonald, Paolo Bacagalupi and Blake Charlton tried to sell an anthology to Lou Anders at Pyr Books by saying “Two words, Lou: Unicorn Bukkake” was not actually the most disturbingly, howlingly funny moment of the con.
(Also, if you don’t know what “bukkake” means, for God’s sake don’t look it up. Especially at work. For serious, man.)
If I listed everyone I know who I saw it would get really boring fast, so I’ll just run through some of the new folks I got to befriend: Kat Richardson, who shares a hometown with me and is just crazy fun; Ian McDonald, who I had met briefly before, but who I now spent more quality time with (along with his lovely wife); Alethea Kontis, who is smart and sweet and quite gorgeous; Paul Cornell with whom I had some deeply amusing conversations about British pop music; SFWA president Russell Davis, whom I finally met in the flesh and who met up with all expectations of competence and class; Annalee Newitz and Charlie Jane Anders of io9.com, both of whom are as snarkliciously fun in life as they are on their blog; Jon Singer and Jo Walton, whom I’ve known and read online and with whom I share so many friends that in both cases it was simply like meeting a dear acquaintance for the first time, and Diana Rowland, who if all goes to plan will have a most interesting acknowledgement of me in one of her upcoming books. You’ll know it when you see it, folks.
There are of course many other people I met at Denvention and whose company I was delighted to share for the first time, but my brain is still of a flan-like constitution from travel and con-fatigue, so I will ask their forgiveness for not giving them a shoutout at the moment. You know I was delighted to meet you.
4. The Hugo Ceremony: I’d like to say I was all cool and mellow before the ceremony, but I’d be lying my ass off, so let’s just say that while I strove to maintain an outward image of cool, inside my id was running around, on fire, tripping over objects. But in the end it turned out well, and I got namechecked in Denvention Toastmaster Wil McCarthy’s opening speech, and how cool is that.
I’m actually going to discuss my Hugo win and so on in a separate post, but for the moment the short form is, yes, I’m incredibly happy to have won the Fan Writer Hugo, I’m really not at all worried about having missed out on Best Novel, and to diminish the joy of one with grousing about the other would be the height of total loserdom. I had a good night, you know?
My only regret is that my wife Krissy wasn’t able to be there to see me get the award. As consolation, my awesome friend Yanni came as my Hugo date, and aside from wearing the sort of dress that makes most men and some women walk into walls (and being able to rock that dress), she helped keep me grounded and sane, before, during and after the awards. I am blessed with friends who are good for me. Yanni is one of them.
5. My Denvention Highlight: As it happens, I had two of them, and both of them involved Mary Robinette Kowal. One, the reading the two of us did, I’ve already mentioned. As for the other, well:
After the Hugo ceremony (which, to be clear, really was a high point, too), Mary and I and a group of friends began our walk to the Hugo after-party, which was at the Sheraton hotel a few blocks away. The Hyatt was on the way, so I suggested to Mary that we cut through the lobby, so we went in, and as she and I walked through the lobby, toward the huge Hyatt bar which happened to be filled with lots and lots of our friends and con-goers, Jay Lake, who was in our group, said in a loud voice “Ladies and gentlemen, your winners!” or something to that effect. At which point the entire lobby area erupts into huge applause, and people come running up to me and Mary with hugs and yelling and general madness. It’s one thing to be applauded from a stage, and another to be in the middle of all that.
We kept moving (we had a party to go to), but while the parties were a hell of a lot of fun, my big memory of that whole convention will be walking through that lobby with Mary, awards in hand, cheering around us, the two of us having a really big night together. To share that moment with one of my dear friends made it just that much richer. It’s possible that in my professional life I might have bigger moments. But those moments are going to really have to work to be better.
And that was my Denvention.
(Photos from Denvention via Tom Suter, with thanks and much appreciation.)