Athena Scalzi

Greatness Adjacent

Athena ScalziFor as long as I can remember, people have asked me, “what is it like to have a famous father?”

Of course, it’s only ever people at conventions, or in my rural town, as my dad is what I like to call “Little League Famous.” This just means he is only well-known within certain communities, and not A-list celebrity famous.

Still, it’s some kind of fame, and that comes with pros and cons. Mostly pros.

What does that look like for me, though?

It looks like strangers telling me they’ve seen me grow up on the internet, in pictures my dad posts of me.

It looks like the kids in my junior high class talking about my dad’s books in our school library.

It looks like getting special treatment at cons because my dad is the guest of honor or has just won the Hugo.

It looks like getting to meet the coolest fucking nerds around.

It looks like me getting to be on stage performing alongside those cool celebrity nerds, on a boat in the Caribbean, even though I’m not a performer, even though I’m not one of them.

It looks like me worrying “how I can ever measure up?”

It looks like me wanting so badly to follow in my father’s footsteps, but thinking I’ll never be as good.

It looks like imposter syndrome.

And for as long as I can remember, I have wanted to do what my father does. I want to write. I want my books to fly off the shelves, my words to enter the hearts and minds of all those who read my work, and for people to be moved by the stories I have to tell.

But what if the torch is too heavy to carry? Can I really be a great writer like my father, or will I just get pity-published and never sell more than a few copies?

I mentioned this kind of thing before, in my post “The Anxiety of a Non-Writer Surrounded By Writers“, but that mainly talked about how I can’t seem to finish any of my writing. Which is still true. But now what plagues me more than writer’s block, is the fear that if I do manage to finish something, it won’t be good. It’ll never be as good as what my dad has put out.

It’s a weird mindset to have, because I’m not trying to compete with my father. I don’t really want to be better than him. I don’t want to sell more, or win more awards than him. So why do I have this fear that if I do end up finally publishing a novel, it’ll never measure up to all the amazing writing he has out?

I just want to be good enough, and I don’t feel like I ever will be.

And that is not at all my father’s fault. Or anyone’s, other than my own. My own insecurities. My own voice in my head telling me not to try, that I can never be like him. My dad has never made me feel that way, though. In fact, he’s the most supportive person to me in terms of my writing. I mean, he lets me write on this blog, he tells me I should submit work to magazines, and gives me writing advice all the time.

I know he believes in me, which makes it all the scarier to think of failing.

I am so proud of my dad, for all he has accomplished. All the work he’s put out, all the people he’s made laugh (or cry), all the book deals, tours, awards, all the support he gives his family, there’s so much to be proud over. And I want to give him a reason to be proud of me, too. To have my own book deals, my own tours, my own awards.

Aside from just wanting to make my dad proud, I do genuinely want to be famous, even if it is Little League Famous. The feeling of being adored, the feeling of being seen, is addicting. Getting recognized is addicting. Some people might think it’s weird, but I like when people know who I am at cons, when people stop me to ask “are you Athena Scalzi?”. Hell, I was elated when the guy helping me at Mattress Firm noticed my last name and asked if I was related to the author.

It feels… nice. It makes me feel like I matter. Or maybe it makes me feel like I’m well-liked, which is what I desperately try to be. I want people to like me, to support me, to care about me. I mean, who the heck doesn’t want that in their life?

Is it wrong to want to be famous? Doesn’t every youngster dream of being a world famous popstar or an actor on the big screen? Bruno Mars sang about wanting to be a billionaire, seeing a different city every night, standing next to Oprah and the queen. And you know who totally rocked that idea before him? Nickelback. Yeah, that’s right, I’m bringing Nickelback into this post and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it.

So, maybe it’s selfish or cliché to want to be famous, but I want it so badly. I want to have book deals, and tour the world, and be the guest of honor at conventions, and have signing lines. It’s all I’ve ever dreamed of. I don’t just want to be famous. I want to be great. But for now, I am just adjacent to so much greatness. Not just my father, but all of the amazing, accomplished, talented people I’ve had the honor of meeting.

I want to earn my place on that stage, not just be put up there because my father let me take his spot. I want to earn that VIP treatment, not just be the tagalong kid I’ve always been. I want to be successful, not just living off someone else’s success.

I am so grateful to all of you that read my posts, follow me on Twitter, and just honestly make me feel valued. Your readership means the world to me, and I hope that I have been at least somewhat enjoyable to read. I want to connect with you. I want to convey my thoughts to you, in a way that makes you feel something, and I’m so appreciative that you’re willing to listen.

I hope someday soon you’ll be able see me become this great person I want to be. For now, though, I will remain adjacent.



2021 Hugo Award Finalists

Spoiler: I’m one! And very happy to be so.

Here’s the full list.

Best Novel

  • Black Sun, Rebecca Roanhorse (Gallery / Saga Press)
  • The City We Became, N.K. Jemisin (Orbit)
  • Harrow the Ninth, Tamsyn Muir (Tordotcom)
  • Network Effect, Martha Wells (Tordotcom)
  • Piranesi, Susanna Clarke (Bloomsbury)
  • The Relentless Moon, Mary Robinette Kowal (Tor Books)

Best Novella

  • Come Tumbling Down, Seanan McGuire (Tordotcom)
  • The Empress of Salt and Fortune, Nghi Vo (Tordotcom)
  • Finna, Nino Cipri (Tordotcom)
  • Ring Shout, P. Djèlí Clark (Tordotcom)
  • Riot Baby, Tochi Onyebuchi (Tordotcom)
  • Upright Women Wanted, Sarah Gailey (Tordotcom)

Best Novelette

  • “Burn, or the Episodic Life of Sam Wells as a Super”, A.T. Greenblatt (Uncanny Magazine, May/June 2020)
  • “Helicopter Story”, Isabel Fall (Clarkesworld, January 2020)
  • “The Inaccessibility of Heaven”, Aliette de Bodard (Uncanny Magazine, July/August 2020)
  • “Monster”, Naomi Kritzer (Clarkesworld, January 2020)
  • “The Pill”, Meg Elison (from Big Girl, (PM Press))
  • “Two Truths and a Lie”, Sarah Pinsker (

Best Short Story

  • “Badass Moms in the Zombie Apocalypse”, Rae Carson (Uncanny Magazine, January/February 2020)
  • “A Guide for Working Breeds”, Vina Jie-Min Prasad (Made to Order: Robots and Revolution, ed. Jonathan Strahan (Solaris))
  • “Little Free Library”, Naomi Kritzer (
  • “The Mermaid Astronaut”, Yoon Ha Lee (Beneath Ceaseless Skies, February 2020)
  • “Metal Like Blood in the Dark”, T. Kingfisher (Uncanny Magazine, September/October 2020)
  • “Open House on Haunted Hill”, John Wiswell (Diabolical Plots – 2020, ed. David Steffen)

Best Series

  • The Daevabad Trilogy, S.A. Chakraborty (Harper Voyager)
  • The Interdependency, John Scalzi (Tor Books)
  • The Lady Astronaut Universe, Mary Robinette Kowal (Tor Books/Audible/Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction)
  • The Murderbot Diaries, Martha Wells (
  • October Daye, Seanan McGuire (DAW)
  • The Poppy War, R.F. Kuang (Harper Voyager)

Best Related Work

  • Beowulf: A New Translation, Maria Dahvana Headley (FSG)
  • CoNZealand Fringe, Claire Rousseau, C, Cassie Hart, Adri Joy, Marguerite Kenner, Cheryl Morgan, Alasdair Stuart.
  • FIYAHCON, L.D. Lewis–Director, Brent Lambert–Senior Programming Coordinator, Iori Kusano–FIYAHCON Fringe Co-Director, Vida Cruz–FIYAHCON Fringe Co-Director, and the Incredible FIYAHCON team
  • “George R.R. Martin Can Fuck Off Into the Sun, Or: The 2020 Hugo Awards Ceremony (Rageblog Edition)”, Natalie Luhrs (Pretty Terrible, August 2020)
  • A Handful of Earth, A Handful of Sky: The World of Octavia E. Butler, Lynell George (Angel City Press)
  • The Last Bronycon: a fandom autopsy, Jenny Nicholson (YouTube)

Best Graphic Story or Comic

  • DIE, Volume 2: Split the Party, written by Kieron Gillen and Stephanie Hans, letters by Clayton Cowles (Image Comics)
  • Ghost-Spider vol. 1: Dog Days Are Over, Author: Seanan McGuire,  Artist: Takeshi Miyazawa and Rosie Kämpe (Marvel)
  • Invisible Kingdom, vol 2: Edge of Everything, Author: G. Willow Wilson, Artist: Christian Ward (Dark Horse Comics)
  • Monstress, vol. 5: Warchild, Author: Marjorie Liu, Artist: Sana Takeda (Image Comics)
  • Once & Future vol. 1: The King Is Undead, written by Kieron Gillen, iIllustrated by Dan Mora, colored by Tamra Bonvillain, lettered by Ed Dukeshire (BOOM! Studios)
  • Parable of the Sower: A Graphic Novel Adaptation, written by Octavia Butler, adapted by Damian Duffy, illustrated by John Jennings (Harry N. Abrams)

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

  • Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn), written by Christina Hodson, directed by Cathy Yan (Warner Bros.)
  • Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Sagawritten by Will Ferrell, Andrew Steele, directed by David Dobkin (European Broadcasting Union/Netflix)
  • The Old Guard, written by Greg Rucka, directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood (Netflix / Skydance Media)
  • Palm Springs, written by Andy Siara, directed by Max Barbakow (Limelight / Sun Entertainment Culture / The Lonely Island / Culmination Productions / Neon / Hulu / Amazon Prime)
  • Soul, screenplay by Pete Docter, Mike Jones and Kemp Powers, directed by Pete Docter, co-directed by Kemp Powers, produced by Dana Murray (Pixar Animation Studios/ Walt Disney Pictures)
  • Tenet, written and directed by Christopher Nolan (Warner Bros./Syncopy)

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form

  • Doctor Who: Fugitive of the Judoon, written by Vinay Patel and Chris Chibnall, directed by Nida Manzoor (BBC)
  • The Expanse: Gaugamela, written by Dan Nowak, directed by Nick Gomez (Alcon Entertainment / Alcon Television Group / Amazon Studios / Hivemind / Just So)
  • She-Ra and the Princesses of Power: Heart (parts 1 and 2), written by Josie Campbell and Noelle Stevenson, directed by Jen Bennett and Kiki Manrique (DreamWorks Animation Television / Netflix)
  • The Mandalorian: Chapter 13: The Jedi, written and directed by Dave Filoni (Golem Creations / Lucasfilm / Disney+)
  • The Mandalorian: Chapter 16: The Rescue, written by Jon Favreau, directed by Peyton Reed (Golem Creations / Lucasfilm / Disney+)
  • The Good Place: Whenever You’re Ready, written and directed by Michael Schur (Fremulon / 3 Arts Entertainment / Universal Television, a division of Universal Studio Group)

Best Editor, Short Form

  • Neil Clarke
  • Ellen Datlow
  • C.C. Finlay
  • Mur Lafferty and S.B. Divya
  • Jonathan Strahan
  • Sheila Williams

Best Editor, Long Form

  • Nivia Evans
  • Sheila E. Gilbert
  • Sarah Guan
  • Brit Hvide
  • Diane M. Pho
  • Navah Wolfe

Best Professional Artist

  • Tommy Arnold
  • Rovina Cai
  • Galen Dara
  • Maurizio Manzieri
  • John Picacio
  • Alyssa Winans

Best Semiprozine

  • Beneath Ceaseless Skies, edotor Scott H. Andrews
  • Escape Pod, editors Mur Lafferty and S.B. Divya, assistant editor Benjamin C. Kinney, hosts Tina Connolly and Alasdair Stuart, audio producers Summer Brooks and Adam Pracht and the entire Escape Pod team.
  • FIYAH Magazine of Black Speculative Fiction, publisher Troy L. Wiggins, executive editor DaVaun Sanders, managing editor Eboni Dunbar, poetry editor Brandon O’Brien, reviews and social media Brent Lambert,  art director L. D. Lewis, and the FIYAH Team.
  • PodCastle, editors, C.L. Clark and Jen R. Albert, assistant editor and host, Setsu Uzumé, producer Peter Adrian Behravesh, and the entire PodCastle team.
  • Uncanny Magazine, editors in chief: Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas, managing editor: Chimedum Ohaegbu, non-fiction editor:  Elsa Sjunneson, podcast producers: Erika Ensign and Steven Schapansky
  • Strange Horizons, Vanessa Aguirre, Joseph Aitken, Rachel Ayers, M H Ayinde, Tierney Bailey, Scott Beggs, Drew Matthew Beyer, Gautam Bhatia, S. K. Campbell, Zhui Ning Chang, Tania Chen, Joyce Chng, Liz Christman, Linda H. Codega, Kristian Wilson Colyard, Yelena Crane, Bruhad Dave, Sarah Davidson, Tahlia Day, Arinn Dembo, Nathaniel Eakman, Belen Edwards, George Tom Elavathingal, Rebecca Evans, Ciro Faienza, Courtney Floyd, Lila Garrott, Colette Grecco, Guananí Gómez-Van Cortright, Julia Gunnison, Dan Hartland, Sydney Hilton, Angela Hinck, Stephen Ira, Amanda Jean, Ai Jiang, Sean Joyce-Farley, Erika Kanda, Anna Krepinsky, Kat Kourbeti, Clayton Kroh, Maureen Kincaid Speller, Catherine Krahe, Natasha Leullier, A.Z. Louise, Dante Luiz, Gui Machiavelli, Cameron Mack, Samantha Manaktola, Marisa Manuel, Jean McConnell, Heather McDougal, Maria Morabe, Amelia Moriarty, Emory Noakes, Sarah Noakes, Aidan Oatway, AJ Odasso, Joel Oliver-Cormier, Kristina Palmer, Karintha Parker, Anjali Patel, Vanessa Rose Phin, Nicasio Reed, Belicia Rhea, Endria Richardson, Natalie Ritter, Abbey Schlanz, Clark Seanor, Elijah Rain Smith, Alyn Spector, Hebe Stanton, Melody Steiner, Romie Stott, Yejin Suh, Kwan-Ann Tan, Luke Tolvaj, Ben Tyrrell, Renee Van Siclen, Kathryn Weaver, Liza Wemakor, Aigner Loren Wilson, E.M. Wright, Vicki Xu, Fred G. Yost, staff members who prefer not to be named, and guest editor Libia Brenda with guest first reader Raquel González-Franco Alva for the Mexicanx special issue

Best Fanzine

  • The Full Lid, written by Alasdair Stuart, edited by Marguerite Kenner
  • Journey Planet, edited by Michael Carroll, John Coxon, Sara Felix, Ann Gry, Sarah Gulde, Alissa McKersie, Errick Nunnally, Pádraig Ó Méalóid, Chuck Serface, Steven H. Silver, Paul Trimble, Erin Underwood, James Bacon, and Chris Garcia.
  • Lady Business, editors. Ira, Jodie, KJ, Renay, and Susan.
  • nerds of a feather, flock together, ed. Adri Joy, Joe Sherry, The G, and Vance Kotrla
  • Quick Sip Reviews, editor, Charles Payseur
  • Unofficial Hugo Book Club Blog, ed. Amanda Wakaruk and Olav Rokne

Best Fancast

  • Be The Serpent, presented by Alexandra Rowland, Freya Marske and Jennifer Mace
  • Claire Rousseau’s YouTube channel, produced by Claire Rousseau
  • The Coode Street Podcast, presented by Jonathan Strahan and Gary K. Wolfe, Jonathan Strahan, producer
  • Kalanadi, produced and presented by Rachel
  • The Skiffy and Fanty show, produced by Shaun Duke and Jen Zink,  presented by Shaun Duke, Jen Zink, Alex Acks, Paul Weimer, and David Annandale.
  • Worldbuilding for Masochists, presented by Rowenna Miller, Marshall Ryan Maresca and Cass Morris

Best Fan Writer

  • Cora Buhlert
  • Charles Payseur
  • Jason Sanford
  • Elsa Sjunneson
  • Alasdair Stuart
  • Paul Weimer

Best Fan Artist

  • Iain J. Clark
  • Cyan Daly
  • Sara Felix
  • Grace P. Fong
  • Maya Hahto
  • Laya Rose

Best Video Game

  • Animal Crossing: New Horizons (Publisher and Developer: Nintendo)
  • Blaseball (Publisher and Developer: The Game Band)
  • Final Fantasy VII Remake (Publisher Square Enix)
  • Hades (Publisher and Developer: Supergiant Games)
  • The Last of Us: Part II (Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment / Developer: Naughty Dog)
  • Spiritfarer (Publisher and Developer: Thunder Lotus)

Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book

  • Cemetery Boys, Aiden Thomas (Swoon Reads)
  • A Deadly Education, Naomi Novik (Del Rey)
  • Elatsoe, Darcie Little Badger (Levine Querido)
  • Legendborn, Tracy Deonn (Margaret K. McElderry/ Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing)
  • Raybearer, Jordan Ifueko (Amulet / Hot Key)
  • A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking, T. Kingfisher (Argyll Productions)

Astounding Award for Best New Writer

  • Lindsay Ellis (1st year of eligibility)
  • Simon Jimenez (1st year of eligibility)
  • Micaiah Johnson (1st year of eligibility)
  • A.K. Larkwood (1st year of eligibility)
  • Jenn Lyons (2nd year of eligibility)
  • Emily Tesh (2nd year of eligibility)

I’ll have more to say later, but for now, this tweet will suffice:

— JS

Big Idea

The Big Idea: Caroline Hardaker

If memory serves correctly, it doesn’t ever really serve correctly. Follow along with Caroline Hardaker as she tells us just what that means in the Big Idea for her first book, Composite Creatures.


The Fallibility of Memory 

Have you ever told a story about something that happened to you, only for a friend to interject and tell you that it didn’t happen that way? They’re sure you have it wrong, and they go on to tell the same story with a different slant. But you’re sure too, absolutely sure, that it all happened your way. So why does your friend remember it differently? Who is right?

Perhaps you both are. Or perhaps you’re both wrong.

The fallibility of memory is something I’m hugely interested in, both in psychology and in storytelling. No memory is perfect. Memories filtered both through the emotional state at the time the event was experienced, and filtered again through distance and experience gained since the event. We remember things in a way that helps us cope with what happened. And sometimes we remember in a way that portrays us as the victor or victim, depending on how accountable we can accept ourselves to be.

Writing in the first person means that our lead protagonist – and in the case of Composite Creatures, this is 32 year old Norah – is telling the reader her story. Often I start a story in third person, but always come back to first. For me, a huge part of storytelling is the why. Why are we hearing Norah’s words? What is she trying to prove?

Writing in first person demands that the author take on a role. It’s like being an actor, without the stage costume. We think like them, we talk like them, and we see the world through their eyes. They only know what they know, and only understand what their intellectual level will allow. They also have emotional reasons for sharing their tale, and when the story is told from a point years down the line, you have to take into account the way time twists all memories. Our lives, real or fictional, are the stories we tell ourselves. And we like the sound of some stories more than others, don’t we? Are we a hero? Are we the villain? Very rarely will we remember ourselves to be the villain. I’m sure even the most fascist dictator would portray himself as the humanitarian star. In Composite Creatures, perhaps if Art, Norah’s fiancé, was to tell their story, it might sound quite a bit different, and we’d learn more about Norah’s choices than we do from her.

So you see, there can be some deliberate deception, too. Why is Norah telling her story at the point she’s at? What does she want you to think? Is she even aware that she twists her tale? Is she twisting her tale? And will we ever truly know? 

Composite Creatures: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Visit the author’s site. Follow her on Twitter.

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