Hobnobbing... And The Story Of How I Really Won The Campbell...
Anticipation was definitely a productive con in terms of hobnobbing with author and publishing types. I can never remember everyone, but here's a partial list of folks I got to hang out with, in no particular order at all: John Scalzi, Elizabeth Bear, Mary Robinette Kowal, Jay Lake, Melinda Snodgrass, Patrick Rothfuss, Doselle Young, Paolo Bacigalupi, Jim Kelly, Ellen Kushner, Ellen Datlow, Guy Gavriel Kay, Nalo Hopkinson, Neil Gamain (just thought I'd slip that in there), Neal Stephenson (very brief), Catherynne M. Valente, Jetse de Vries, Jennifer Jackson, George RR Martin (and Parris), Ian Tregillis, Gardner Dozois, Lou Anders, John Picacio, Paul Cornell, Cory Doctorow, David Levine, Jonathan Strahan, Geoff Ryman, L E Modesitt, NK Jemison, Cheryl Morgan, Daniel A. Rabuzzi, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Amelia Beamer, Gary K Wolfe, John Kessel, Tobias Buckell, Gregory Wilson, Pat Cadigan, Kate Nepveu, Kyle Cassidy, Niall Harrison, Joe and Gay Haldeman... Geez. Makes me think I know a few people in this business now.
And, of course, I really enjoyed the brief snatches of time I got to spend with the other Campbell Finalists. It was a bit strange at first. Hey, we were all up for the same award. Felix Gilman and I first met when we had a signing together. We didn't do much signing, admittedly. Mostly we were just sitting there a little awkward as an occasional person either 1) stood in front of Felix and told him how great he was while I feigned interest in the length of Cory Doctorow's neverending line, or 2) as (a different person) stood in front of me and said how awesome I was as Felix rearranged the display of his books... Kinda strange.
Aliette de Bodard came and visited. More polite conversation ensued. I knew already that liked all these folks, but that strange award tension/reality sort of hung over everything. First time I bumped into Tony Pi, he stipulated that he wished me exactly as much luck as I wished him. Sort of an even exchange. Fair enough, really.
But still, well... a few drinks can help loosen things up. For example, all tension was gone on the party floor the night before the award ceremony when Tony Pi and Gord Sellar accosted me coming out of an elevator. They had devised a way to cut through all the suspense and predict the winner ahead of time. Easy. All we each had to do was make a paper airplane of our own design, and then compete to see who could throw it furthest. By the time I got involved, Tony and Aliette were already disqualified. It was me against Gord in this round.
We just barely managed to clear enough space in the crowded hallway, but then we tossed... This may have been where my competitors erred. You see, I do have two kids. I have made and tossed airplanes more recently than many. On this occasion, Gord's plane dove for the carpet and mine lofted above the heads of admiring fans... Or something like that. Might be imagining that part, but the result was clear enough. I won. Felix didn't compete and I don't think any of us found him that night, but the dye was cast.
And that, friends, is the true story of how I won the John W Campbell Award. I tossed a paper airplane a few feet longer than my competition. As good a way to decide things as any, I imagine. It's fitting, really, because I don't for a minute think awards like this have anything to do with who is "Best". No chance. It's about being lucky. Yes, some talent is helpful. Hard work is a must. But that's what got us ALL there as finalists. What it really comes down to is being lucky. That's what I was.
I also feel fortunate to have been able to spend time with Aliette, Tony, Gord and Felix. I hope they'll consider me a friend, as I'm absolutely positive they'll be doing great work for some time to come. I know we'll all meet again, and I hope that we'll do so as comrades. I have every intention of following their careers and pointing out their successes every chance I get.
The fact that Gudrun and the kids were there was one of the absolute best parts of the entire Worldcon/Hugo/Campbell experience. Before the ceremony, they were so nervous and excited. At the pre-Hugo party, Maya put her energy into doodling and came up with this funky cat....
Apparently an artist (I'm not sure who) happened by and paused to gawk over it. Cool.
As they sat beside me in the auditorium during the ceremony they kept looking at me, looking at the screen, looking at mom. Sage couldn't stop his legs from wiggling and squiggling. And when they called me name... Ah, man. Sure, I was excited, but the kids were balls of energy. During my speech I mentioned them all by name, and could see Sage's hair bouncing up and down as he jumped. Awesome.
The first photo of me... well, bare in mind that the auditorium was enormous. I mean, they had these two massive jumbo-tron screens on either side of the stage - that's what that first photo is of. It's me with about a ten foot smile on. There were rows and rows of people. I was just trying to make sure they all knew I was happy...
You'll also see me and Maya and Sage on stage at the Hugos. It felt really wonderful to be able to pull these guys up and share the stage with them for a moment. Had the pleasure of introducing them to GRRM also. Was nice because they had a hand in developing my Wild Cards character, and the man himself got to thank them for that and ask them a few questions. I don't suppose it hurt my status in the family to have stood next to Neil Gamain, and to have held his Hugo! The photo of us side by side is pretty blurry, but so was my mind right about then...
It was all so good that after the ceremony Maya developed an instant, pounding headache. They had to leave the after-party early. But still, we all enjoyed it.
Now, let me say this as well. As happy as I am about all of this I also think I have a pretty good grip on what it does and does not mean. No delusions of grandeur here, just joy at all the pieces falling together in my favor for once. I'll post about this soon. I've promised to write on the topic for Suvudu. When I do I'll let you know.
Okay, I'm off to mow the lawn. It's a lot more fun in a tiara...
I just received my voting packet for the Hugos. The deadline isn't until July, but I should get things tied up with my pieces on each of the John W. Campbell Award Finalists. So...
There's only one left: Felix Gilman, who happens to be the other novelist on the ballot! He's the author of Thunderer and Gears of the City. Thunderer got a lot of praise, including stuff like this...
"This masterly first novel is as stunning and unexpected as a thunderclap out of a clear blue sky." --Paul Witcover.
"That thunderous, earth-shattering sound vibrating through the pavement and up-ending your coffee is the harbinger of approaching giants: first-time novelist Felix Gilman's incredibly imaginative New Weirdish urban fantasy Thunderer ... a brilliant new author." --Jeff VanderMeer.
So Mr. Gilman is a contender. I'm pretty sure he agreed to have a beer with me in Montreal, as well, so it's all good.
Other info? Well, there's more info on his website, of course, but Felix was born in London in 1974. That sounds fairly straightforward. I'll put quotes around this next bit, though: "He holds two degrees in history from Oxford, a J.D. from Harvard Law School, a doctorate in Ludology from the Waldzell School of the Order of Castalia, and certain advanced but curiously non-specific qualifications in modern American poetry from the National University of Zembla."
And that concludes my wee collection of posts about my fellow noms. I think that together we're an interesting bunch, happily diverse and stylistically varied. Of course, I'm sure we all want to win the thing, but - regardless - it still means a lot to me to be included in lists like this. So best of luck to Aliette, Gord, Tony and Felix. I'll hold a bit of that back for myself, and then I'll hope to see you all in Montreal - to celebrate. No matter what, it'll be a good time!
It's due to the coordinating work of John Scalzi and many other authors, editors and the various folks involved with the Hugos and Anticipation. What is it? The Hugo Voters Packet. It's a collection of sample works from nominated writers. It comes in various formats, including pdfs of entire novels. (See below for the complete list of available materials.) I know that Doubleday offered a complete pdf of Acacia: The War with the Mein for the Campbell category. You'll find the same offered from all the Best Novel candidates (except for Neal Stephenson). The idea is that it's the best way to make sure voting members of Worldcon have access to the nominated materials of as many of the writers as possible. It's meant to encourage voting, and - better yet - to facilitate informed voting.
Thing is, it's also a pretty big perk to membership. Joining is $195 US/$250 CAD for attending membership (which means you plan on coming to Anticipation this August) or $50 US/$55 CAD for a supporting membership (which allows you to vote for the Hugos). Considering that you get rather unusual access to novels and stories in a rare format... Pretty cool.
Having said that, I should make sure I also say that you're not buying these works. You'd be receiving them as a feature of membership. It remains very important that there be no copyright infringement. These would just be for your use and ownership, and if anyone betrays that it'll likely scuttle the whole thing in future. And you'd run the risk of - at the very least - stirring the ire of some formidable word smiths.
Anyway, you could get in on this yourself, you know? Join up! Read. Vote. Come up to Montreal! It's guaranteed to be great fun. Even if you can't go, though, it's a great way to take a step further into this community. Here's a list of the titles you'd get a look at...
Little Brother by Cory Doctorow (Tor Teen) The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (HarperCollins) Zoe's Tale by John Scalzi (Tor) Saturn's Children by Charles Stross (Ace)
"The Erdmann Nexus" by Nancy Kress (Asimov’s Oct/Nov 2008) "The Political Prisoner" by Charles Coleman Finlay (F&SF Aug 2008) "True Names" by Benjamin Rosenbaum & Cory Doctorow (Fast Forward 2) "Truth" by Robert Reed (Asimov’s Oct/Nov 2008)
"Alastair Baffle's Emporium of Wonders" by Mike Resnick (Asimov's Jan 2008) "The Gambler" by Paolo Bacigalupi (Fast Forward 2) "Pride and Prometheus" by John Kessel (F&SF Jan 2008) "Shoggoths in Bloom" by Elizabeth Bear (Asimov's Mar 2008)
Best Short Story
"26 Monkeys, Also the Abyss" by Kij Johnson (Asimov’s Jul 2008) "Article of Faith" by Mike Resnick (Baen's Universe Oct 2008) "Evil Robot Monkey" by Mary Robinette Kowal (The Solaris Book of New Science Fiction) "Exhalation" by Ted Chiang ( Eclipse Two) "From Babel's Fall'n Glory We Fled" by Michael Swanwick (Asimov’s Feb 2008)
Best Related Book
Rhetorics of Fantasy by Farah Mendlesohn (Wesleyan University Press) What It Is We Do When We Read Science Fiction by Paul Kincaid (Beccon Publications) Your Hate Mail Will be Graded: A Decade of Whatever, 1998-2008 by John Scalzi (Subterranean Press)
Best Graphic Story
Schlock Mercenary: The Body Politic Story and art by Howard Tayler (The Tayler Corporation)
Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form
METAtropolis by John Scalzi, ed. Written by: Elizabeth Bear, Jay Lake, Tobias Buckell and Karl Schroeder (Audible Inc)
Clarkesworld Magazine edited by Neil Clarke, Nick Mamatas & Sean Wallace Weird Tales edited by Ann VanderMeer & Stephen H. Segal - Year in Review
Argentus edited by Steven H Silver The Drink Tank edited by Chris Garcia Electric Velocipede edited by John Klima File 770 edited by Mike Glyer
Best Professional Artist - Art samples by:
Best Fan Writer - Writing samples by:
Chris Garcia John Hertz Cheryl Morgan Steven H Silver
The John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer - Novels and/or writing samples by:
Aliette de Bodard David Anthony Durham Felix Gilman Tony Pi Gord Sellar
Tony was born in Taipei, Taiwan, but moved to Canada when he was eight. He's Canadian, and smart! I definitely get the feeling he's smart. He's got the initials to attest to it. He's got a B.A. and a M.A. in Linguistics at University of Toronto, and a Ph.D. in Linguistics from McGill University, Montreal, Canada. He's a member of SF Canada and the Codex writing group. (Yes, I'll admit. All these Canadian connections make the competitive part of me nervous, considering the location of this year's Worldcon. But being nervous is part of the whole deal, so be it.)
There's also this interview with Suzanne Church on the occasion of Tony's Prix Aurora Award Nomination. It's on a Facebook page, and I kinda dig the format. It may actually be the same as most print interviews, but the Facebook format makes it look just that extra bit interactive.
Following on Mary Robinette Kowal's John W Campbell interview/promotion lead I offer some tidbits on Gord Sellar, one of my fellow finalists.
To start, here's Mary's interview with him. He's got a lot of interesting things to say, including thoughts on living in a non-English speaking country and the ways it effected his awareness of story telling choices and perspectives.
He's a musician too. He's "studied the saxophone, contrabass, jazz and classical music theory, and music composition, and I performed with various big bands and a live ambient-music group, in addition to leading my own ensembles and experimental groups." He even had a band of Australian and American ex pats doing an indie-rock thing. That's cool enough, but doing it in Korea is even better! Here's some video to prove it, from a performance at the Ssamzie Sound Festival. Unless I'm mistaken, that's Gord blowing the sax. Soloing, no less...
Gord is clearly living his life. I respect that very much. Honestly, I love it that these Campbell Nominees seem so bloody interesting. I don't know if I'll meet them all in Montreal at Worldcon. I hope to, but even if I don't I'm still happy to have been turned on to their work.
Aliette lives in Paris. That's in France. Her first language in French, but she writes in English. (Puts me to shame.) In addition to being French, she's half-Vietnamese. She's published stories in Electric Velocipede, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Coyote Wild Magazine, Abyss & Apex, and Deep Magic, just to name a few. She incorporates non-Western cultures into her fiction, including Indian mythology and Chinese and Aztec inspired material. Cool. I think that's terrific - and not just out of desire to see more of the world in fantasy but because those cultures are surely rich in fantastic potential. She was a Writers of the Future winner in 2007. We have, apparently, arrived at the future.
And here's a link to another story by Aliette. There are plenty more available at her website, but I just read and enjoyed this one via Electric Velocipede; it's called The Dragon's Tears.
Mary Robinette Kowal, the current reigning Campbell queen, has started a series of interview features with the rabble that would like to grab her tiara. She sent me some questions a few days ago, I shot them back to her fast, and she's posted them. Take a look here.
As I send you over there, I realize that in one of my answers I made a wee announcement that I hadn't actually made here yet. It's a Kowal exclusive. Perhaps I should say a word about it, though. So, go take a look and then come back and we'll talk.
I'll just look at puppies until you get back...
Okay, so you're back? Right. You may have noticed that I announced over there that I'll be leaving my full-time teaching job at Cal State Fresno. Yep. Crazy, huh? With this economy? Are you loopy, David? (That's me talking to myself. Sorry...)
Well, yes, it may be a bit loopy, but it may also be wonderful. When we moved West three years ago, we were following the teaching jobs that were on offer. Good jobs. Engaging teaching. Grown-up security. But we were also leaving behind a house in the woods in Western Massachusetts, a house and community we really rather loved. We've decided the time away has been enough. We're going back. (There's more to it than that, but that's the short version.)
So what am I going to do for a living at my "house in the woods"? Part time I'll continue to teach for the Stonecoast MFA Program. It's a low-residency program that includes Popular Fiction in its curriculum. I get to hang out with James Patrick Kelly, Kelly Link, Nancy Holder and Michael Kimball (just to name a few folks), and I get to work with material that's often close to my own interests.
But that's just part time. More significantly, my full time job will be... writing. Writing books. Writing stories. Writing blog posts, essays, reviews. Writing stuff. I hope that excites you. It excites me, but it'll only work if I have some help from my friends.
So don't be shy out there. If you like my work buy a title every now and then. Tell friends. Give chunky books as birthday present. Write a blog post or review. I'll appreciate it each and every time, and in return I'll focus on being the best writer I can. And I'll make sure that if you do care about my characters and the worlds they live in I won't make you wait too long between books about them.
Apart from being happy and answering lots of emails, I haven't progressed a lot with my thinking on the Campbell Award and/or the Hugos. I'd like to think I'll have thoughts on both in the weeks to come, and I'll share them here.
One thing I didn't say with the last post is congratulations to all the other Campbell Nominees. You guys are standouts, and I'm glad to be in the mix with you. Let's hang out in Montreal, if not before, and let's be friends moving forward with our writing lives. Sound good? I hope so, because the part of me that wants to win this thing is a close relative to the part that's just glad to be included, that wants to be a part of something and to make friends and allies for the future.
Last year Jon Armstrong, another Campbell Nominee, did a series of interviews with the other nominees for his series If You're Just Joining Us. He did them as audio interviews. Very cool. I'm not quite that tech savvy, but I'd love to post features on each of the other Campbell contenders. We might as well use the occasion to spread the love. Hopefully, I'll soon be able to offer you some quality time with these authors.
So that's that. On another note...
The young lady to the left here is my daughter, Maya Calypso. This evening I watched a rather interesting exchange between her and her mother. I was sitting to the side, so I heard things with a bit more clarity than my wife. I should mention to preface that we rather like nice sweets here in the Durham household. Not generic chocolate bars, but confections with... well, real chocolate and such in them. It's those delicacies, frugally dispensed, that this is about.
It went like this...
Maya (from the other side of the room): "Anviano lafl aoml aif nibubuv caramel?"
Maya (after exhaling with exasperation, and then vocalizing with a speech-therapist's pronunciation): "Can I have three caramels?"
Gudrun (relieved to have finally made sense of her daughter's mumblings): "Yes."
I sat there impressed. One caramel became three, all by the process of limited - and selective - communication. As has happened many times before, I just learned something from my daughter. Not sure how to use this new knowledge, but I'm filing it away for future reference.
The Hugo Finalists have just been announced! I've been looking forward to this for a while, both because I plan on being in Montreal for WorldCon and because... well, I am in my second year of eligibility for a John W. Campbell Award. And, friends, I'm on the list!
The John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer
Aliette de Bodard* David Anthony Durham* Felix Gilman Tony Pi* Gord Sellar*
I'm sad to say I'm not going to be going to WorldCon this year. I'm bummed about it, but some familial stuff has come up that I simply have to deal with. Family first. So this time I'll be missing out on the fun.
I have tapped a friend to be on hand at the Hugo ceremony. On the very off chance that I'm the person called up for the John W. Campbell Award there will be somebody there to pick it up for me and to say a few over emotional words.
If you're going, have a great time! Me... Well, I'll start setting my sights on the next World Fantasy...
Yep, it's my turn on If You're Just Joining Us. Jon has been interviewing all the Campbell Award Nominees. We had a talk a couple weeks back. I quite enjoyed it. We talked for over an hour, I think, but don't worry - the interview is cut down to about 20 minutes. (Ah, one might wonder what tidbits were cut out...)
Thing to remember with Jon is that he doesn't like to ask the standard writerly-type questions. He wants us thinking out of the box a bit, responding to some random promptings like, "I understand you spent four days fasting naked in the Arizona desert... was that by choice?"
This young man has done quite well for himself, as you'll see ample evidence of if you wander over to his website. I encourage you to wander over, because he's always amusing. Got a gift for the humor, he does. (Caveat - you must promise that'll you'll wander back this way before long, too.)
In the interests of offering some Acacia-reading incentives in this Pre-Campbell Award period... I'd like to offer up a free hardback copy (signed, of course) of Acacia: The War With The Mein.
All you have to do is go over to my Forum and visit the Giveaway Thread. To play you'd have to join the Forum, but I swear that nothing bad comes of that. No emails, no public disclosures, no anything strange. I promise. If you do join, just post a note throwing your name in there, and it's done. If you're in the US I'm happy to mail it to the winner via slow mail. If you're overseas we'll have to work something out with the postage. But that's only if you win, and before that you have to play!
This is all rather informal, by the way, and the selection process is hardly scientific. Here's a photo of my son shaking up the entries last time... But it works!
Oh, I'd also be curious as to your opinions on the Hugos, the novel category in particular. I have a Forum post about that, too. It's here. There's a poll you could vote in, if you're so inclined...
I just came across this press release from Pyr regarding the two Hugo and two Campbell Award nominations they scored. (Congratulations, by the way. Well done.) Sounds like a good bunch of folks over there... Or so I thought until Joe Abercrombie let slip that:
"My Uruk Hai hit squad are already on their way to Wisconsin to 'dramatically reduce' the chance of a Scott Lynch victory. They may well stop by David Anthony Durham's house on the way back..."
And I thought this was a refined, gentile company I was entering! Now I'm thinking I might need bodyguards. From my understanding of these things Uruk Hai don't come cheap these days, and my budget doesn't really allow for that sort of expenditure, so I'm looking for volunteers. Anybody willing to defend me from the assassins? (Oh, geeze "Assassin" is the second word in Acacia. That was silly of me to put that juju out there...)
Just so you know, the Campbell is an award for the best new writer whose first work of science fiction or fantasy appeared during 2006 or 2007 in a professional publication. It's sponsored by Dell Magazines, but sort of managed and voted on along with the Hugo Awards. It's named after a prominent science fiction writer and editor of Astounding Science Fiction. He was a major figure in the "Golden Age" of Science Fiction, and he was a quirky character that seems to have riled some people with his opinions on several things. You can check his Wiki page for more information.
For my part, I'm thrilled by the nomination. I think it's quite a testament to the award and to science fiction readers that it's there to welcome such a broad range of writers into the community. (Click here for past winners.) I've got nothing but love for my fellow nominees - so check them out too, if you haven't already. Honestly. Winning would be great, but the nomination is reward enough...
Do you know what this means to me? It wasn't easy to shift from a pretty solid career as an historical novelist to try to break into another genre, seeking a largely new readership. It was risky - my agent and editors made that clear - and I didn't at all assume that I could just breeze in. So far, though, the reception has been terrific. And this award nomination makes me feel welcomed, part of the gang, and even invited to stay for a while. I love that. And, thank you, I will stay for a while. Maybe a long while.
The award winners will be announced at Denvention 3 this summer. Will I be there? You bet.
Oh, and I should mention that the entire Hugo Ballot has also been announced. Check it out here.
They're strange things, aren't they? They're flawed in so many ways. They invariably leave out wonderful books and authors. They can be lopsided, myopic, elitist. (This coming from somebody who has judged the Pen/Faulkner and Hurston/Wright Legacy Awards, by the way - both wonderful experiences - but you should hear some of the stories I heard along the way...) Do the judges read all the books? Do the masses pick more worthy winners than small cabals? Did my publisher even submit my book?...
An author can get a little tied up in knots as the big day approaches. This is made even worse because you don't want to look like you care, like you realize the announcement is coming, like you've given it a bit of thought... "Oh, those were announced, were they? I hadn't noticed..."
But don't be fooled. As flawed as the award process is in all its variations authors want them, need them, cherish them... They can jump start careers, sell books, win friends and enemies in high places... That, you see, is why I put the widget to the John W Campbell Award over on the sidebar here. It'll count down the nomination voting days, least anyone forget.
The Campbell is a wonderful award for new science fiction and fantasy writers. It's not a Hugo, but it's voted for in a similar manner and presented at Worldcon, which is in Denver this summer. It's got a wonderful history of predicting some major authors, think Stephen R Donaldson, Orson Scott Card, Karen Joy Fowler, Mary Doria Russell, Nalo Hopkinson, John Scalzi, just to name a few.
Science Fiction Awards Watch has a wee post up - Campbell Recommendations - which mentions me as one of the "high-profile" authors in contention. That's nice, but up until a few weeks ago I wasn't up on the Writertopia site that has info on the award. I had to contact them to ask if I was, in fact, eligible. Guess what? I am! Those little historical novels don't count in this equation. As far as fantasy goes I'm a newbie, and proud of it. Now I'm on the site!
So, I'll own up. I'll be paying close attention. I'd love to be in the running. I'd be over the moon, honestly, just to squeak in with a nomination. I won't even pretend otherwise. So if you happen to be a Campbell voter... give me a look, yeah?
On another note, you might want to check out Sandra McDonald's ongoing letter to the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America voters for the Nebula. She's made the preliminary list, and she - quite respectfully (and humorously) - knocks her competition off one by one. Give it a look.