I attended the 2013 Nebula Awards ceremony, thanks to a generous invitation from Sheila Williams, editor of Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, to sit at the Dell magazine’s table.


At the Nebula Banquet with (from left) Jay Lake, Sheila Williams, and Ken Liu

Some random notes:

I took Sheila Williams and Lisa Goldstein for a tour of George Lucas’s Skywalker Ranch in Marin County—home to the most beautiful library I have ever seen—and the Industrial Light & Magic campus in the Presidio, San Francisco.  Lucas’s four billion dollar empire, based as it is on a small handful of SF and Fantasy stories, was a fitting (and ironic) setting for a delightful and enlightening conversation on the grind and gossip of the genre:  the state of short fiction publishing (generally good), the Clarion Writers’ Workshop diaspora (generally successful), etc.  It was a wonderful afternoon!  Lisa posted about the tour (with photos) on her blog.

Gene Wolfe and Connie Willis held a reading and signing session on Thursday evening, hosted by Borderlands Books and Terry Bisson’s SF in SF series.  Sheila Williams and I had driven down from San Francisco in rush-hour traffic and missed the introduction to Connie’s piece, but whatever it was, it had people chortling to the point of drowning out half her words.  Gene started off by saying that he’d spent decades doing these readings starting from chapter one line one, but this time he was going to start where he damn well pleased.  He then read a passage from “An Evil Guest”, where the book drifts into being a sort of sequel to his terrifying story “The Tree is my Hat” and makes a slow subtle shift from farce to foreboding.  There were easily more than a hundred people with handful of books for Gene to sign, which he did with great patience and flashes of a gleeful wit.

Thursday evening, the ever-resourceful Jaym Gates introduced  Sheila Williams, Nancy Hightower, Francesca Myman, and myself to the Single Barrel speakeasy in San Jose.  I had a couple of strange, wicked scotch-based cocktails, which left me delighted at the time and somewhat dazed all through the next day.

Friday night featured a reception and presentation of the Nebula nominees:  a process somewhat confused by Ken Liu’s triple nomination in the short story, novelette, and novella categories, and Aliette de Bodard’s double nomination for short story and novella; the two of them ran laps between the reception hall and the group photographs.

I had breakfast Saturday morning with Gene Wolfe, Kim Stanley Robinson, and (editor and Shared Worlds Special Projects Manager) Therese Goulding, with David G. Hartwell and Robert Silverberg dropping in.  The conversation careened from Fredric Jameson’s critique of Science Fiction to camping in Antarctica.  I also had great conversations with Connie Willis, Jack McDevitt, Nick Sagan, and many other wonderfully witty, gracious, and generous people.

There was a surprisingly successful panel on “Writing the Other” Saturday afternoon with Saladin Ahmed, Aliette de Bodard, Kim Stanley Robinson, and ably moderated by Ken Liu.  The panelists steered clear of the usual ratholes of such discussion, e.g. is writing about other cultures ‘right’ or is it appropriative or dishonest, or if writing about aliens is or is not an effective way to present cultural interactions.  Instead, the panel quickly concluded that speculative fiction requires writing about “The Other” in the sense of other human, and then proceeded to discuss effective ways to do so.  Kim Stanley Robinson suggested that the combination of a common biological basis of emotion and cultural structures of feeling provided a reasoned approach to presenting alternate viewpoints.  Aliette de Bodard and Saladin Ahmed had some interesting exchanges on the strengths and weaknesses of both primary and secondary sources in understanding historical cultures.  There was excellent discussion from all the panelists on language (i.e. patterns of speech, fiction, and particularly poetry) as way to both understand and present other cultures.  There were some good points on the value of writing the other in representing an other culture in the language and culture of the writer, and how those writings also provide a mirror of external perception back to the source culture.  And finally, some comments from the audience brought up the often overlooked divisions of age and social class as other types of otherness. Overall, it was one of the most useful panel discussion I have attended.

You can read some of my comments on the award ceremony itself at Jeff VanderMeer’s Omnivoracious blog.

2 Responses to “The 2013 Nebula Awards Weekend Pt. 1”

  1. Somehow thinking about “writing the other” landed me on the Wikipedia page for Trobriand cricket…

  2. (and I’ll add my standard objection to the wordpress “Your comment is awaiting moderation”–my comment is perfectly moderate already, it is merely waiting to have its moderation recognized!)

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