Sober-Dialing My Peeps!

It’s been a tough and contentious year for Science Fiction/Fantasy writers and readers. Morale is a tad low, which is why the wonderful Alyx Dellamonica got us all sober-dialing our peeps to share the love for our wonderful, amazing, weird, fantastic community. You can read her post here.

For my contribution, I’m thinking about the people who first welcomed me into the world of SF/F on a professional level. My very first gig as a freelance reporter of sorts was when I was sent by Smart Bitches, Trashy Books to cover the Nebula Awards in 2013. I often think of how very differently my life would have gone if I had had a terrible weekend – if no one wanted an interview with me, if I hadn’t talked to people, if I had spent all my time in my room. But that’s not the weekend that I had – instead, people sought me out, brought me into conversations, and treated me so much as though I was a real-life professional that I became one.

I was treated with so much respect and kindness by so many people – Jaym Gates, who held my hand (figuratively) through my efforts to figure out how this whole interview thing was going to work, Cliff Winnig, Kyle Aisteach, Alethea Kontis, Sarah Beth Durst, Leah Bobet, Lee Merriweather, E.C. Meyers, and so many more people who reached out to me and said, “Oh, hey, we should introduce you to…”

At that same conference, Connie Willis gave me a NINETY-MINUTE INTERVIEW. It was AMAZING. She was incredibly kind to me and generous with her time and I’m not kidding you guys, your IQ actually increases just by being in the same room as her. If I ever achieve Connie-level status in any field, I hope I remember to treat people the way Connie treated me. On a similar note, I had a wonderful discussion with Mary Robinette Kowal about Austen and dresses and Doctor Who – thank you, Mary; I hope the spa visit was great!

I got to go to one more Nebula Awards Weekend (where I met Francesca Myman and her octopus bling!) but I’m missing the Nebulas for this year and next year, and I’m so sorry not to be there. I want to acknowledge that not everyone has such a great experience. First of all, a ton of people, mostly women, have risked everything in their professional and personal lives to combat harassment and I benefit enormously from their courage and their sacrifices. Thank you to everyone who has reported harassment and fought for safer spaces. I’m also grateful and humble in the presence of writers and fans of color, with disabilities, and who identify as LGBTQIA, because I realize that they do not always feel welcome and safe, and that they face enormous pressure to educate the rest of us when they might prefer to be writing their awesome stuff in peace. The world of SF/F would be so horribly diminished without you. Thank you so much for being part of the world and part of SF/F.

SF/F is a family. Like every large family, it’s pretty dysfunctional and noisy. Like every large family, there are feuds and deep-seated, horrible resentments (the fight over the Hugo’s involves huge personal and cultural stakes but at it’s core it’s remarkably similar to a fight a certain family of which I may or may not be a part of had over a certain deceased relative’s furniture). There are members of this family who I have, frankly written off. YOU ARE OUT OF THE WILL. YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE. Some members of the family are sick and do not want or respond to help. Some are a danger to everyone around them. Some of the feuds are petty and some serious, but when I read about these feuds and vendettas online my heart sinks.

But I never feel that way when I actually go to a convention or a conference of SFF/F writers, even when I go during contentious times (like, say, any time at all, ever). When I attend a convention, I feel like we are all on the same team – mourning rejections, celebrating successes. As a reviewer, my position is pretty weird but at my core I’m a fan – I’m in awe of anyone who writes a book, even if I think the book is shitty. It’s still a book! Be proud! And next time, use spell check! I feel like I’m where I belong – in my weird family, where I hang out with some relatives all the time and others none at all, but we’re still sort of related, even those horrible, horrible people who I’ve written out of the will. I mourn them because I want everyone in my family to get along and I’ll cut them out of the will in a flash if I think they are creating an unsafe space for my other beloved family members but at heart I’d much rather convince them to be as welcoming to others as others have been to me.

Our feuds are loud and noisy but they don’t define us – or maybe they do define us, in the best way, because they show that so many of us will not be refused a seat at the table and will not allow others of our kin to be refused a seat either. We, a family, have to fight to be the best family we can be, and in a very small way I saw that demonstrated at that first Nebula Awards Weekend, on the first day, when I was so shy, and Jaym set up all my interviews, and Cliff and Kyle said, “What do you write? Oh, you are interviewing people this weekend? You should meet this guy – hey, come over here and meet Carrie, she’s a writer for Smart Bitches Trashy Books!”

It was as though they said, “Look, there’s plenty of room at this table! Pull up a chair!” So I did. And I’ll never ever leave, and I have a chair for all of you who are willing to treat others with the same kindness and respect that was shown to me. Thank you, my family!

The Nebula Awards Weekend: Smart People, Good Books, Bacon Donuts

Nebula Award LogoOnce again it’s that time of year where I rave about the Nebula Awards Weekend, hosted by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA).

When I attended the weekend last year, I can truly say that it was a life-changing experience.  Not because of the events or the panels, although they were lovely.  This is a professional convention as opposed to a fan convention, and while the panels were fascinating they weren’t the reason that people were there.  The weekend was life-changing because of how people treated me, not because of any particular thing that I did.

A  year ago, I was already writing but I wasn’t sure how far I would be able to chase this crazy dream.  Last year the authors at the Nebula Awards showered me with so much validation that within twelve months I had started this blog, published one book, and submitted a second to my publisher.  Last year I was so nervous that I was seriously afraid that I might throw up on someone’s shoes and this year I was on a panel.  The assumption people have about me at this event is that I am a peer, and that writing is something that I can do and that I should do.  This assumption shaped my assumptions for myself, just as the work of authors I met reminded me that in order to be a writer, you have to actually sit down and write.

So what’s the weekend like?  Here’s a few highlights:

  • At the Nebula Awards Ceremony, Toastmaster Ellen Klages made us all laugh with her Scary Ham story and made us all cry by reminding us that we are each other’s tribe.
  • At the forensics science panel, we were all reminded that really, you just never should go into a kitchen.  Kitchens are scary.
  • I was able to interview Sofia Samatar, Nicola Griffith, Bennett Madison, and Helene Wecker, all of whom had brilliant things to say, of course.
  • Samuel “Chip” Delaney smiled upon us like a gay, black Santa Claus.
  • Charlie Jane Anders hosted Writers With Drinks and made up elaborate, fictional biographies.  Now we all want one.  I truly feel that if you were to offer me a Hugo, a Nebula, an Oscar, a Grammy, or a bio written by Charlie Jane, I would choose the bio.  No question.
  • At Writers With Drinks, I stayed up until midnight to hear a tattooed woman dressed in black read poetry about horror films beneath this weird tentacle lamp and I leaned over to Helene Wecker and whispered, “I feel so hip!”  Because I’m not, not at all.  The poetry, by the way, was disturbing and moving and haunting and was written and read by Daphne Gottlieb.
  • I missed the bar tending robot this year, although it was in attendance.  However, I did not miss the bacon donuts from Psycho Donuts.  WOW.
  • I sat on a panel about Young Adult fiction with Bennett Madison, Cynthia Felice, Erin Hoffman, and Ysabeau Wilce.  There are few plus sides to having Imposter Syndrome, but one is that when something like that happens, you feel like Cinderella at the ball.
  • I signed my ebook!  I was a signing author at the book signing!  Number of people I signed the book for…one.  Still a fun, fun time.
  • After a year of Internet drama about inclusion in SFWA (the cover of infamy, The Insect Army, etc), it was especially moving to see that the Grand Master this year was a gay black man (Samuel R. Delany) and the fiction winners were all women, including two women of color.  The world is changing, y’all.  As Ellen Klages said, “Keep trying, men!  Someday, if you work hard enough, you can make it!  you may have to publish under  female pseudonym at first, but you can succeed!”

And the Nebula Winners Are (with links!)

Nebula Award LogoThe Banquet is over and we are all taking off in different directions to different things, most of them involving alcohol. Here’s a list of Nebula Nominees and winners.  If I reviewed the book or film, you can click on the blue link to find my review either here at Geek Girl in Love or at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books.

Best Novel:  Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

The other nominees were:

We All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Hild, by Nicola Griffith

The Golem and the Jinni, by Helene Wecker

The Red:  First Light by Linda Nagata

A Stranger in Olondria, by Sofia Samatar

Best Novella: The Weight of the Sunrise” by Vylar Kaftan

The other nominees were:

“Wakulla Springs” by Andy Duncan and Ellen Klages

“Annabel Lee” by Nancy Kress

“Burning Girls” by Veronia Schanoes

“Trial of the Century” by Lawrence M. Schoen

“Six-Gun Snow White” by Cathrynn M. Valente

 Best Novelette:  “The Waiting Stars” by Aliette deBodard

The other nominees were:

“Paranormal Romance” by Christopher Barzak

“They Shall Salt the Earth With Seeds of Glass” by Alaya Dawn Johnson

“Pearl Rehabilitative Colony for Ungrateful Daughters” by Henry Lien

“The Litigation Master and the Monkey King” by Ken Liu

“In Joy, Knowing the Abyss Behind” by Sarah Pinsker

Best Short Story:  “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love” by Rachel Swirsky

The other nominees were:

“The Sounds of Old Earth” by Matthew Kressel

“Selkie Stories Are For Losers” by Sofia Samatar

“Selected Program Notes From the Retrospective Exhibition of Theresa Rosenberg Latimer” by Kanneth Schneyer

“Alive, Alive Oh” by Sylvia Spruck Wrigley

The Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy:  Sister Mine, by Nalo Hopkinson

Other Nominees:

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, by Holly Black

When We Wake, by Karen Healey

The Summer Prince, by Alaya Dawn Johnson

Hero, by Alethea Kontis

September Girls, by Bennett Madison

A Corner of White, by Jaclyn Moriarty

Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation:  Gravity

Other nominees:

Doctor Who:  “The Day of the Doctor”

Europa Report

Her

Pacific Rim

The Hunger Games:  Catching Fire

I’ll be writing more about the Nebula Awards Weekend on Monday after I’ve gotten home and hey, maybe had some sleep.  I’ve been inspired and challenged and seen some friends form last year and made some new ones.  Being in the company of brilliant, kind, funny writers makes me so happy and I can’t wait to tell you all about it!