Hummingbird in Repose

I have to tell you I think this is the first time I have ever seen a live hummingbird not flapping its wings. It was strangely thrilling. And of course, it didn’t last long.


Earthquake in Virginia

And I felt it here in Ohio, although at the time I just thought it might be a little bit of vertigo brought on by my recent lack of sleep. Very odd. Also and clearly, everything fine on this end.

Here’s the latest. Looks like it was a 5.9. That’ll wake you up if you’re near it.


Standard Post-Worldcon Mail Statement

It is:

I didn’t respond to much e-mail in the last week, because I was busy partying my brains out. I will be going through my e-mail in the next couple of days to catch up. If you sent me e-mail in the last week and wanted a response but did not get one, send me a reminder after Wednesday about five pm Eastern. Thanks.


Renovation Recap

Renovation was a lot of fun for me, and here are a few reasons why. I’m not putting these in any chronological order, I’m just dropping them out as they come to me:

1. A whole bunch of my friends made off with Hugos, most notably Mary Robinette Kowal for her short story “For Want of a Nail.” I am serious when I say I couldn’t be happier if I had won a Hugo of my own. Mary is one of my favorite people in the world, period, full stop, but more than that she’s been a consistently fantastic writer, and the Hugo is recognition of that. There are more in her future, I’m sure, but the first Hugo is always especially sweet. Go congratulate her, why don’t you.

Other friends with rocket hardware: Kate Baker, who some of you here may remember watched Whatever for me while I took a break last year, walked off with a Semiprozine award for her work on Clarksworld magazine; Lou Anders, who built Pyr Books into a genre powerhouse, nabbed the Longform Editor Hugo; and Allen Steele took the Novelette Hugo for “The Emperor of Mars.” Allen and I have a thing where we smack each other in the head for luck; he did it to me in 2006, the year I won the Campbell, and this year I did it for him. IT WORKS Y’ALL. Yes, yes, I know. Correlation, not causation. Shut up. We got a thing going.

Overall, a fine year for the Hugo.

2. I wasn’t nominated for a Hugo this last year (not entirely surprising, since my public output last year was three short stories), but don’t feel bad for me, since I did get a major award while I was at Renovation: I was given my Seiun Award (the Japanese equivalent of the Hugo, although the word “seiun” means Nebula), which I had won last year for the Japanese translation of The Last Colony. The award comes with a scroll and two small tokens: An origami rocket and a tiny statue of a goldfish, the latter being a symbol of the Japanese nation science fiction convention. My goldfish has goggles — it’s really kind of adorable. The scroll I’ll have framed; the origami rocket and the goldfish are already up on the brag shelf.

3. Renovation also marked the public debut of this fine fellow: Papa Fuzzy, from Fuzzy Nation (and, of course, Little Fuzzy). I commissioned Papa from Hugo-winning author Mary Robinette Kowal, who also happens to be a professional puppeteer and puppetmaker, because, well. If you could have your own Fuzzy, wouldn’t you? Mary and I walked about the convention a bit with Papa (see here, with Renovation Guest of Honor Tim Powers), and the Fuzzy was also featured in the puppet show Mary presented with friends. In it, Papa and Neil the Pencil-Necked Weasel did a stirring rendition of the epic Paul & Storm ballad “Fuzzy Man.” Stirring, I tell you. I was so very proud.

4. As a convention, I think Renovation was very well done. The folks running the convention were high-end smofs (“smof,” for those of you unfamiliar with the term, stands for “secret masters of fandom,” and in the real world means people who have been running science fiction conventions for years and know how to do the thing) and they had their roles down, so from the outside, at least, everything ran pretty smoothly. I know many of the people who were behind the scenes and I know they were running about constantly, but it was mostly because there was so much to do, rather than things being on fire. The one (mild) criticism I have is that everything in Reno was spread out enough that it was sometimes exhausting to get from one place to another. But then again, I needed the exercise.

As a participant, Renovation was great — all my panels were packed, which is very ego-gratifying, and the response to them was uniformly positive, which is even better. This was particularly the case with my Tour of the Creation Museum slideshow and also of my reading, which was another bit of the upcoming 2012 novel, the title of which I am still not yet publicly revealing (sorry — we’ll be revealing it soon I swear). Mind you, it wasn’t just me with well-attended panels, since many of the program participants I talked to noted the panels seemed particularly well-attended this year. So to all the fans who showed up to hear us all do our thing: Thanks, folks. We appreciate it.

And to put on my SFWA President hat here, I want to give public recognition and thanks to Renovation for working with us to help set up the SFWA suite — a hangout for SFWA members and their guests, which was very well utilized this year — and for all their help with our business meeting, which also went off without a hitch. You made us look good, Renovation, and for that I thank you.

5. One of my favorite things about Worldcons is that they are both large enough that most of the people in the science fiction and fantasy world that I want to see are there, but small enough that I can actually, in fact, find them when I want to see them. So of course the real highlight for me was to just hang about with friends, fans and other writers and catch up on everything that’s happened since I saw them last. I had very late nights. The late nights were totally worth it.

It’s also, you know, still a huge goddamn thrill to be able to walk up to someone like Bob Silverberg or Joe Haldeman or David Brin or Connie Willis — to name just a few — and talk to them as if they are normal people and not writing gods whom I read when I was still hoping to be a writer, striding the earth as they do in their textual seven league boots. One special event that I was happy and humbled to attend was a wedding celebration for George RR Martin and his beautiful bride Parris; any wedding party where the first dance is “The Time Warp” from Rocky Horror Picture Show is one where everyone’s having a good time.

6. With Renovation in the books, we now turn to Chicon 7, the 2012 Worldcon in Chicago. As most of you will remember, I am toastmaster of Chicon 7, which means that in a way it will be my Worldcon. And since it is my Worldcon, allow me to reiterate what I said when I made my toastmaster announcement last year:


Oh, yes, you are. The unspeakable awesomeness of what we have planned will be unspeakably awesome in both its unspeakination and awesomeosity. Just think about that for a minute. This is all I’m going to say about this right now, but be assured that between now and August 30, 2012 (the first day of Chicon 7) I will have many things to say about the next Worldcon and how you are so very coming to it. Be prepared.

Big Idea

The Big Idea: Brenda Cooper

With a title like Mayan December, you would rightfully guess that something about Brenda Cooper’s new novel involves the fabled Mayan calendar and touches on the hoopla which surrounds its termination at the end of 2012. But Cooper’s book isn’t about that — rather, it uses it as a device to explore something else entirely, something that existed long before December 2012, and will (believe it) exist long after. What is it? Cooper’s here with the details.


You’d think the end of the Mayan calendar in December, 2012, would be a big idea all by itself. Well, it is. It’s so big it has acted like a strange attractor. There are countless books about it already and more scheduled to come out. It may be the most storied specific future date. Most often, it’s portrayed as either apocalypse or new age wonder. But I wanted to use Mayan December to explore something else. In our everyday world, we have forgotten how to sense awe in the unknown that surrounds us, even today. Mayan December gave me the chance to rediscover that sense.

My life is both greater and less than I imagined when I was a child. I’ve realized dreams, but they’ve taken time and effort and focus. That takes work—a day job preceded and followed by writing and marketing, with important hours for family sandwiched in. I’ve lost the time I used to have to be entranced by the magic of life: to stare at Queen Anne’s Lace and be amazed at the tiny flowers that create the larger one, to watch sunset clouds through the whole change from day to night, to sit in one place in the forest until the animals forget I’m there.

I suspect I’m not the only one. I wrote this book partly for those of us who have forgotten how to let everything but the moment go.

In Mayan December, I’ve given Alice Cameron a tight hard focus and a strong belief in her avocation as a scientist. Alice has no room in her life for magic, and no reason to believe in it. She’s so busy she can hardly enjoy an afternoon on the beach. But her eleven-year-old daughter, Nixie, isn’t yet so constrained by life that she has given up her sense of the numinous. And in December 2012, Nixie comes face to face with things that Alice has almost no hope of understanding.

This set-up let me play with both what it feels like to be a child confronted with the wonder of the universe, and the typical American adult inability to even see it.

I usually write science fiction, so it was a stretch for me to try and capture the feeling of magic. Writing the book reminded me to stop and appreciate a star, a feather, a friendship. To remember when I felt a bit more connected to nature and synchronicity. This was not—at all—easy. It’s as if I’ve grown old and calcified and separated from the little girl that might have been like Nixie.

This is the first book I’ve written that is mostly a fantasy, but it’s grounded in history. I worked hard for it; I did more research for Mayan December than I have for any of my science fiction books or stories. The Maya culture is still not fully understood; there is mystery there. I read more, talked to more people. I’ve been to the Yucatan twice, which inspired the book. I had to know enough to imagine a hard, stunning past, to describe beauty in a culture where human sacrifice is part of life. And of course, being me, there is a touch of science fiction.

I truly hope Mayan December gives readers a taste of magic, a bit of old Maya, and some hope for our future as well.


Mayan December: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Read chapters 1, 2 and 3. Visit the author’s blog. Follow her on Twitter.

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